Benin in West Africa is a country that will arouse interest in any traveller. This 19th-century Cotonou Cathedral is a must visit. Picture: Afro Tourism.

Benin is one of those places that one has to visit to experience it.. Here is a guide to help you book your trip to this West African country.

Why visit?

Did you know that Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, is one of the most popular countries for Europeans to visit in Africa? The French speaking West African country that borders Burkina Faso and Republic of Niger, is known as the birthplace of vodun (or “voodoo”) religion and home to the former Dahomey Kingdom from circa 1600–1900. Benin is a place to find rich history and diversity. The African country has a population of 10.87 million as recorded last year by the World Bank.


Flights: The flight from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, to Cadjehoun Airport in Cotonou, is around 7 hours. Ticket prices start from R5000.


Visa: A visa is required when visiting Benin. For more information, visit  http://www.beninembassy.us/index.html

Food: The food in Benin are different, but worth a try. People who visited raved about the street food. Some must try dishes include Yovo Doko, a pastry made with yeast, flour and sugar, fried yams and potatoes with a delicious red sauce and massa, a form of pancake.


Places to see:

Cotonou

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Cotonou is a large port city on the south coast of Benin. The mix of activities and places of interest makes it a great place to chill for a few days. It helps that the airport is located within this place. Visit the Dantokpa Market near central Boulevard St. Michel, which features religious items and spices. The 19th-century Cotonou Cathedral and the Fondation Zinsou museum are great places to spend an afternoon.

Porto-Novo

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The capital city of Benin, Porto-Novo is rich in colonial buildings and museums. Popular spots include Brazilian-style Great Mosque that was once a church, the Ethnographic Museum  and the Musée da Silva recounts Benin’s history and celebrates Afro-Brazilian culture. For the younger crowd, visit Le Magnum, a bar and nightclub.

Voodoo market

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The official religion is voodoo, like Haiti in the Caribbean. The market showcases their beliefs, but if you pay it a visit remember it is not for the faint hearted. Besides seeing the sacrifices of chickens on the street,the market showcases the strange, from gorilla hands, dried elephant trunks to crocodile heads.