Gap Years, Backpacking & Travelling in Benin

Benin is located in West Africa and is certainly an off the beaten track destination where you will get the authentic experience away from the tourist crowds. Expect a mysterious voodoo culture and colourful festivals throughout the year where you can learn more about the country and local people. 


Benin Travel Ideas, Gap Year Programs & Experiences

Get inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to go travelling, backpacking or take a gap year in Benin.

Benin Travel Guide

Benin Travel Guide

  • Capital: Porto-Novo
  • Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)
  • Country Size: 112,600 km2
  • Population: 7,863,000 (approx)
  • Language: French + local tribal languages
  • Dailing Code: +229
  • Religion: 42% Christian, 24% Muslim, 17% Voodoun, 15.5% Other
  • Language: French is official language. Fon & Yoruba is spoken widely in the South, six major tribal languages in the North
  • Poverty Line: -37% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line
  • Interesting Fact: You can marvel at the nation’s most striking and best-known practice, one that has gained significant social and political power—Voodoo. On a visit to Pendjari park, see one of the last habitats of the Painted Hunting Dog, Lycaon pictus.

History of Benin

Originally, Benin was under the reign of Dahomey, an affluent West African empire. In 1872, the region was colonized by the French until it became an independent nation in 1960. By 1972 a sequence of military governments collapsed and Mathiew Kerekou came into power instilling a government with a strong base in Marx and Lenin philosophies. 

The country was named Dahomey, after the tribe, until 1975 when it was renamed the Republic of Benin. Steps towards a representative government started in 1989, and a couple of years later a free election occurred and Prime Minister Nicephore Soglo was ushered in, establishing a transition of power from a dictatorship to a democracy. 

Kerekou eventually stepped down, and Thomas Yayi Boni took over; although Yayi was a political outsider and an independent he has made the fight against corruption a priority and has been committed to the country’s economic development. If you would like to visit and want an authentic experience our holidays will appeal to you.


Weather & Best Time to Visit

Benin is tropical, hot and humid in the South, and semi-arid in the North. Dry season is from December to April.


Passport/Visa Requirements

  • Is a visa required?: Yes
  • Allocation of Tourist Visa: Before you depart
  • Duration of Tourist visa: Up to 3 years
  • Cost of Tourist Visa: Varies, but you can expect to pay $100
  • Tourist Visa Extension: No
  • Cost of Tourist Visa Extension: Not Applicable
  • Passport validation: 6 months required before expiry
  • Return/onward flight ticket: May be required
  • Confirmation of Funds: May be required



  • Currency: West African CFA (XOF)
  • Inform Banks: Give the dates of travel and destinations to prevent security blocks on your bank and credit cards.
  • Cash: Always take enough cash to cover your expenses for the first week in case there is a problem with your bank cards or access to ATM’s is limited.
  • Credit Options: Good idea to have at least two different credit/debit card options i.e. MasterCard, Visa, Maestro, or Cirrus.
  • Travellers Cheques: Not recommended as they will be difficult to cash.
  • Western Union: If at any time you have any problems in accessing money you can use Western Union transfer. Money can be sent from your home country and received in Benin the same day.


Top Things to See & Do in Benin

  • Visit the National parks of Pendjari (in the North West) and The ‘W’ National Park (in the North).
  • Hang out at the beaches, Grand Popo and Ouidah.
  • Browse local markets in Cotonou (the Dan Tokpa), as well as in Boukombe in the northwest of the country; in the latter market you will find extraordinary pieces made by the Somba people, who live in this region.
  • Ganvie is a lake village 11miles northwest from Cotonou; many of the houses there were built on stilts. Be sure to check out the water-market.
  • The Temple of the Sacred Python and an old Portuguese fort, both worth seeing, are located in the town of Ouidah.
  • Trek Mount Sokbaro, the highest peak at 658 metres


Travelling in Benin

If you would like to travel to Benin search our ideas for things to do including sightseeing, eco tourism & special interest activities.


Benin Gap Year

Benin is a safe destination to visit on a gap year but always keep up to date with latest news and check vaccinations prior to departure.  We have a selection of programs which can be joined on a gap year - this will be the experience of your life if you are open to a new country and culture which is probably like nowhere you have been before. 



  • Vaccinations: Yellow fever (and proof of vaccination) is required. All other vaccinations are recommended. You must contact your local health clinic or family doctor for any medical advice.
  • Malaria medication: Recommended
  • Other Medications: Before leaving you should visit your travel clinic or family doctor for information on other medications you may need while travelling.


View our Africa travel guide.



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