Location: West Africa
Time zone: GMT/UTC plus 1 hour
Daylight savings time: no
Current time: 19:40
Currency: West African CFA franc
Dialling code: +229
Internet suffix: .bj
Benin is a small West African country notable for its ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity as well as its long-standing musical traditions. However, crime and corruption rates are high, infrastructure is underdeveloped and transport safety measures are poor.
Overall security situation: mostly secure with some issues of concern
Crime rate: moderate
Murder rate: moderately high
Gun ownership levels: moderately low
Kidnapping hotspot: no
Maritime piracy hotspot: yes
Do landmines/unexploded munitions pose a significant risk in parts of the country: no
Benin suffers from a moderate crime rate, with both opportunistic petty crime and occasional violent crime posing a concern. The level of risk is higher in urban areas such as Cotonou, especially after dark.
Socio-economic development levels are low, police coverage is poor and the judiciary and penitentiary systems are underdeveloped, confounding crime trends even further. In general, institutions are under-developed and lack resilience. They would struggle severely in the event of any future shock, crisis or disaster in the country.
There are also a number of grievances amongst the country’s population, mostly due to under-development and low standards of living. As such, there are occasional protests and demonstrations by members of the public, particularly in urban areas. Some of these can be large but they are normally non-violent.
There is a low risk of terrorism, but threats and activity have been detected in recent years and incidents by radical Islamist groups have occurred in the wider West African region.
Aviation safety levels: grounds for concern
Annual road fatality rates: very high
Vehicles drive on the: right
Infrastructure quality: very poor
Urban ATM availability: very limited
Electricity supply: 220V 50Hz
Electricity supply reliability: very poor
Plug types: C and E
Plug type C (2 round pins, not grounded/earthed)
Plug type E (2 round pins with 1 round hole to accommodate a round pin from the socket, grounded/earthed, socket compatible with plug types C and F)
Is tap water drinkable: no
Healthcare quality: room for improvement
Infectious disease prevalence: high
Travellers should consult a medical practitioner prior to their trip but the following vaccines may be considered before travelling to the country, depending on factors such as specific destination, planned activities, intended time and length of stay as well as personal medical conditions (in some cases no additional vaccines may be required at all):
- Cholera (usually only recommended for aid workers or those spending time in at-risk areas)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B (not always needed)
- Meningococcal meningitis
- Rabies (usually only for long-term stays, or for those spending time in isolated areas or coming into contact with animals)
- Yellow Fever
- Standard vaccinations (ie those commonly used in the developed world, such as diphtheria, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tuberculosis and tetanus)
Malaria risk: high
Yellow fever presence: yes
Dengue fever prevalence: sporadic cases
Rabies prevalence: high risk
HIV prevalence in society: high
Hepatitis A prevalence: high
Hepatitis B prevalence: high
Hepatitis E prevalence: not highly endemic
Cholera status: periodic outbreaks
Chikungunya virus presence: present
Zika virus presence: not recently reported
Japanese encephalitis presence: no
Cutaneous leishmaniasis presence: non-endemic
Visceral leishmaniasis presence: non-endemic
Onchocerciasis presence: endemic
Schistosomiasis presence: moderate
Tick-borne encephalitis status: low/non-existent risk
Chagas disease presence: none
Typhoid fever presence: strongly endemic
African trypanosomiasis presence: endemic
Plague status: not thought to be present
Rift Valley fever status: not present
Lassa fever status: periodic outbreaks
Polio status: not endemic
Ebola outbreaks: no
Meningococcal meningitis hotspot: yes
Climate: tropical; hot, humid in south; semiarid in north
Terrain: mostly flat to undulating plain; some hills and low mountains
Natural disaster risk: moderately high
Natural hazards: hot, dry, dusty harmattan wind may affect north from December to March; flooding and storms
Tropical storms: few/none
Volcanic activity: low/none
Previous earthquake(s) with over 1,000 fatalities: no
Government type: republic
Socio-economic development score: 3/10 (low levels of socio-economic development)
Adult literacy rate: 38.4%
Unemployment rate: one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world
Civil liberties: some restrictions, usually mild
Investment rating: sub-investment grade / speculative grade / junk status
Corruption levels: fairly high
Same-sex sexual activity: legal
Death penalty: abolished
Languages: French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north)
Ethnic groups: Fon and related 39.2%, Adja and related 15.2%, Yoruba and related 12.3%, Bariba and related 9.2%, Peulh and related 7%, Ottamari and related 6.1%, Yoa-Lokpa and related 4%, Dendi and related 2.5%, other 1.6%, unspecified 2.9%
Beliefs: Catholic 27.1%, Muslim 24.4%, Vodoun 17.3%, Protestant 10.4% (Celestial 5%, Methodist 3.2%, other Protestant 2.2%), other traditional religions 6%, other Christian 5.3%, other 1.9%, none 6.5%, unspecified 1.1%
- The following advice has been compiled by travel safety specialists and ex-special forces personnel.
- However, please note that it is of a general nature only and may not reflect the reality of your circumstances.
- Ensure you have proper insurance cover in place.
- Select good quality accommodation and properly prepare for any tasks, excursions or other activities you have to undertake.
- Be mindful of local laws and cultural norms, bearing in mind that they might be different to what you are accustomed to.
- Consider conducting or obtaining a risk assessment specific to you, your profile and your trip, task or operation.
- This should take into account the likelihood of potential risks affecting you, as well as the likely impact they will have, and will help you decide, depending on your risk appetite and implementable risk mitigation measures, whether or not you should proceed.
- Research and familiarise yourself with your destination in advance of travel.
- Find out what the local criminal trends are and identify any potential hotspots, such as certain neighbourhoods.
- Note than crime levels can often be higher around public transport, shopping areas and crowded places.
- In higher risk areas exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.
- Try not to overtly display your belongings or anything that could make you appear wealthy.
- Ask yourself if you need to show off your jewellery, watch, mobile phone or other items or equipment.
- Try to keep your wallet or cash hidden.
- It also helps to avoid appearing vulnerable in at-risk areas so try to display confidence and purpose as you move around.
- Avoid consulting a map in public as this will mark you out as both unfamiliar with the environment as well as being potentially vulnerable.
- Familiarise yourself with local maps and directions before wandering around.
- Identify routes to your accommodation and other safe havens (such as police stations, embassies, commercial areas with a police presence or quieter, safer neighbourhoods for example).
- Familiarise yourself with landmarks so you can orientate yourself and find your way out of trouble spots if you need to.
- Note that crime trends can change, and the level of risk can become higher, after dark.
- It might be advisable to avoid wandering around at night.
- Avoid dark alleys in urban areas.
- It is might also be advisable to travel in pairs or in a group.
- It may also be preferable to drive or be driven around certain areas rather than walking around in the street, even for going relatively short distances.
- In general, use your gut instincts and be prepared to avoid situations, places or people that seem suspicious, odd or wrong in some way.
- Consider obtaining specific insurance that covers the loss or theft of the amount of cash you are likely going to have to carry around with you.
- Consider the logistics of storing and carrying large amounts of cash with you.
- Try to use a reliable safe or other secure storage place for the cash, such as in your accommodation (although note that safes in accommodation might not be secure either).
- When carrying large amounts of cash be as discreet as possible.
- Avoid making it clear to other people how much cash you have on you.
- Be prepared for potentially poor-quality roads and other forms of transportation.
- This can make it difficult to get around.
- Consider obtaining a high-quality vehicle that can handle difficult terrain if you intend to travel anywhere with particularly bad-quality roads.
- Bear in mind that traffic safety conditions may be poor.
- Try to ensure that any accommodation or workplace is located in a good quality building.
- Bear in mind that in the event of an accident or emergency, the emergency response services may have very limited resources available.
Road traffic accident
- Be aware of local driving conditions and hazards.
- Drive defensively and adhere to speed limits to minimise the risk of being caught up in an accident, or request that your driver(s) do the same.
- If using a taxi or local driver, ensure that they are qualified and competent and that their vehicle appears well maintained.
- Ensure that vehicles are in good working order before travel.
- Perform regular checks on your vehicles for oil, fuel, tyres and seatbelts.
- Consider taking additional equipment such as a jack, spare tyres, water, blankets, torches and a first aid kit, especially if travelling to more rural or isolated areas.
- Consider using four-wheel drive vehicles for particularly poor road conditions.
- Car users should know how to perform emergency repairs.
- Try to use reputable airlines.
- Check the safety records of any companies you use to charter flights.
- Check the weather forecast in advance of travel – particularly for domestic flights.
- Consider delaying your trip or using an alternative means of transport rather than taking a risky flight.
- Bear in mind that healthcare facilities and services may be significantly less extensive than more developed countries.
- There may be very limited facilities, staff, techniques and medications available, especially in more isolated or underdeveloped areas.
- There may not be adequate reliable blood supplies in local hospitals.
- Pharmacists and other sources of even basic medical products may be difficult to find.
- Aim to be as medically self-sufficient as possible, taking basic medical supplies.
- Research whether or not certain medications are legal in your destination(s).
- Take extra supplies of any routinely-taken medicines.
- It may also be advisable to have them accompanied by a note from your doctor.
- Avoid carrying medication for other travellers.
- In the event of serious illness or injury it may be necessary for a patient to be evacuated out of the country.
- Ensure that there is sufficient medical insurance in place to cover such an event.
- Find out what specific diseases are present in your intended travel destinations.
- Research the specific measures you should take to lower the risk of infection, bearing in mind that the disease(s) in question could be water, air or insect-borne.
- It might be useful to seek medical advice prior to your trip.
- If possible, do this several weeks in advance of your travel, in case you need to obtain specific vaccinations, some of which can take time to be administered properly.
- Be aware of any potential outbreaks which may be taking place in the country.
- Be careful with any cuts and grazes which might be more susceptible to infection in your travel destination than at home.
- Hygiene will be very important, but it can be more challenging to maintain good standards of hygiene in some parts of the world where sanitary products, cleaning products and even clean water can be hard to obtain.
- It might be advisable to bring extra supplies with you.
- It would be better to take them and not use them than to leave them behind and then need them in a challenging situation.
- You may also encounter challenges over where and what you want to eat.
- Try to avoid venues which appear unsanitary.
- Be very aware of any medical symptoms which might arise, both when you are travelling and for up to a month after you return home.
- Seek medical assistance if you have any concerns.
- Bear in mind that local doctors in your home country might not be familiar with certain tropical diseases.
- If you become ill on your return, inform your doctor where you have been and ensure that unfamiliar tropical diseases are taken into consideration as a possible diagnosis.
- If rainfall, flooding, extreme temperatures or other types of severe weather are a concern, check the local weather patterns to find out if there are times of the year where the risk is much higher.
- Consider avoiding travel to at-risk destinations during these times.
- Try to stay in good quality accommodation.
- Take appropriate clothing and footwear.
- Take appropriate protection for any sensitive equipment you wish to bring.
- Note that storms, flooding and other types of harsh weather can overload infrastructure, lead to traffic jams and power cuts.
- Flooding and heavy rainfall can also raise the risk of landslides, as well as insect- and water-borne diseases in some parts of the world.
- As such, be prepared to delay, alter or even cancel travel plans to affected or high-risk areas.
- Civil unrest can lead to road closures and even curfews, which can affect your travel plans.
- Be prepared for delays and route alterations.
- Avoid demonstrations as they can turn violent.
- If demonstrations take place on a frequent basis, research the trends which tend to accompany them.
- Where do they tend to take place? Do they tend to turn violent? Do attendees target specific types of building or representative interests associated with a specific nationality, industry, political group (such as party political offices, state buildings or foreign-owned businesses)?
- Once you have identified the sorts of risks, trends and areas of higher risk to be avoided you can start planning to minimise your exposure.
Religious or conservative attitudes
- Exercise sensitivity in societies which place a high value on perceived morality, even if it goes against personal beliefs and values.
- Research what local cultural practises, attitudes, values and laws you will need to be mindful of before travelling.
- Note that some behaviours, interactions and attire may also attract unwanted attention, cause offence or trigger a hostile response.
- Note that some subjects may be taboo so avoid discussing them with people if you think it might cause offence.
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