Republic. Gained independence from France in 1960.
Head of state:
President Thomas Boni Yahi since 2006.
Head of government:
President Thomas Boni Yayi since 2006.
220 volts AC, 50Hz.
Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, was one of the first countries in the 1990s to successfully effect the transition from dictatorship to a pluralistic political system. Today, it is one of the most stable countries in Africa.
Although Benin has seen economic growth over the past few years, and has a high standing with the international community, it remains among the world's poorest countries. Within West Africa, Benin enjoys stable relations with Nigeria, the main regional power. The only significant problem has been a long-running border dispute with Benin's northern neighbour, Niger, over ownership of islands in the Niger River. This was finally resolved by the International Court of Justice in July 2005, which awarded 16 islands to Niger and nine to Benin. Both countries accepted the ruling.
Last updated: 26 February 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Street crime like robbery and mugging is a problem in Cotonou. You should avoid travelling alone and maintain a high level of vigilance, especially at night and in isolated areas, including beaches. Avoid Dantokpa market after dark. You should be alert to the risk of car-jacking both in Cotonou and on roads outside towns and cities, which have previously resulted in deaths and injuries. In general it’s better not to resist armed attack.
British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists operating in West Africa. The scams come in many forms: romance and friendship, business ventures, work and employment opportunities and can pose great financial risk to victims. You should treat with considerable caution any requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face to face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who lives in West Africa.
Driving standards and road conditions in Benin are poor. Avoid driving outside towns and cities at night as roads are poorly lit. During rainy seasons minor, unpaved roads may become impassable.
Take care when using public transport; driving standards and vehicle maintenance are poor.
There have been incidents of piracy and armed robbery against large vessels in waters off Benin and neighbouring countries. Mariners should take appropriate precautions.
Avoid swimming in the sea as ocean currents are very strong along the coast. Many drownings occur each year.
The EU publishes a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community, including several operating from Benin.
While the overall political situation is stable, you should follow news reports and be alert to any developments, which might trigger public protests or unrest.
You should avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people. If you become aware of any nearby violence you should leave the area immediately.
There is a Community Liaison Officer who can help in emergencies only. Her name is Pauline Collins, address: The English International School, Haie Vive, 08 BP 0430, Cotonou, Benin. Telephone: +229 2130 0976/1274; Mobile: +229 95353494; Fax: +229 30 61 95; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org@gmail.com
Other contacts: French Consulate, Avenue Generale de Gaulle, 01 BP 605 Recette Principale Cotonou (telephone: +229 31 26 38/80). US Embassy, Rue Caporal Anani, 01 BP 2021, Cotonou (telephone: +229 30 06 50).