Benin is a developing West African country. Its capital city is Porto Novo; however, the city of Cotonou is the main port and largest city; the site of the international airport and most government, commercial, and tourist activity. Tourist facilities in Cotonou are available, but are not fully developed elsewhere.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A visa is required. Travelers should obtain the latest information from the Embassy of the Republic of Benin, 2737 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 232-6656. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Beninese embassy or consulate.

Medical Facilities: Medical facilities in Benin are limited. Not all medicines are available, and doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid or accepted outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside the United States. Travelers have found supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas and medical evacuation coverage to be useful. For additional health information, travelers can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at 404) 332-4559. Internet:

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Street crime, especially within Cotonou, continues to rise. Most robberies and muggings occur along the Marina Boulevard and the beach near the hotels frequented by international visitors. Some of the incidents reported involve the use of force, often by armed persons, with occasional minor injury to the victim. Isolated areas are best avoided.

Business fraud stemming from Nigerian scam operations targets foreigners, including Americans, and poses a danger of financial loss and physical harm. Persons contemplating business deals in Benin with individuals promoting investment in Nigeria, especially the Central Bank of Nigeria or the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, are strongly urged to check with the U.S. Department of Commerce or the U.S. Department of State before providing any information, making financial commitments, or traveling to Benin.

The Department of State has issued a brochure for business travelers to Nigeria; single copies are available at no charge from the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818. Please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to the local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The pamphlets "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa" provide useful information on protecting personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

Road Safety and In-Country Travel Conditions: Travelers should exercise caution when traveling in Benin as the roads range from fair to very poor. Travel at night, outside of population centers, poses a risk principally because of poor road conditions. There are paved roads in Cotonou, along the coast and one paved road north to Niger. Other roads are hard packed sand. All roads, paved or not, are pot-holed and narrow. Motorcycle traffic is very heavy, and trucks are usually overloaded.

Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

Embassy Location/Registration: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou at Rue Caporal Anani Bernard, and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Benin. The U.S. Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 2012, Cotonou, Benin. The telephone numbers are (229) 30-06-50, 30-05-13, and 30-17-92. The fax numbers are (229) 30-14-39 and 30-19-74.

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