Benin - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel and Etiquette

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel. 

Last published date: 2021-09-29

Business Customs

Business relations are often conducted in person in Benin.  Proper attire is a suit or clothing of a similar formality regardless of the weather.  Business cards are normally exchanged in initial meetings.

Travel Advisory

Please note the State Department consular information sheet for Benin at Benin International Travel Information (state.gov) (may need to use Chrome browser).

Visa Requirements

U.S. visitors require visas to travel to Benin.  Visas may be obtained at the nearest Benin Embassy or Consulate prior to travel or viaan online system at https://evisa.gouv.bj/en/.  

The Embassy of the Republic of Benin (https://beninembassy.us/benin-consulate.html )in the United States of America is located at

2124 Kalorama Road, N.W., Washington, D.C. 2008,

Telephone: (202) 232-6656

Email:  ambassade.washington@gouv.bj.  

Travelers using passports issued by African countries are exempted from the need for a visa for stays under 3 months.  

 U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the State Department Visa Website”  All travelers to Benin should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to automatically receive current security and health messages that may affect travel

Currency

Benin is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).  Benin’s currency is the CFA Franc, issued by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).  The CFA Franc is fixed to the Euro at CFA 655.957/Euro.  The currency exchange rate as of August 2021 is approximately CFA Franc 560 for $1.00.  The U.K. pound sterling and the U.S. dollar are sometimes accepted in hotels and banks, but need to be converted into CFA Francs for other purchases in the country.  Debit cards and traveler’s checks are also accepted and most local banks’ ATMs are readily accessible to U.S. ATM networks. 

Telecommunications/Electric

  • There is only one landline telephone provider in Benin, the parastatal Benin Telecoms S.A.  Potential subscribers to this service are required to send completed requests for a landline connection to Benin Telecoms S.A. with relevant supporting documents including copies of identity cards, resident permits, and property tax receipts or copies of the lease agreement.
  • High-speed internet connections, Wi-Fi, and fax are available at hotels.  Residential and office internet services are readily available.
  • Mobile phones and social networks are widely used; many Beninese carry two or three mobile phones at a time.  In 2021 over 10 million mobile phone subscribers were using the services of five mobile phone providers.  Approximately 28,615 Beninese were connected to fixed line Internet in 2020 and over 4,600,961 to mobile internet. Mobile social media platforms, particularly Facebook, WhatsApp, and twitter, are important communication tools.
  • U.S. calling cards that include AT & T through roaming may be used locally for international calls.
  • Electricity voltage is 220 volts and it is highly recommended that U.S. travelers to Benin carry along their converter and adaptor.

Transportation

Transportation options in country include bush taxis or buses for intercity transportation and motorbike taxis or car taxis within Cotonou and most other cities.  Chauffeured cars may also be rented in Cotonou.  Travelers on motorbike taxis are encouraged to wear helmets to reduce the risk of head trauma in case of an accident.

Language

French is the main language spoken in Benin, which has multiple ethnicities with distinct languages.  English is not commonly used.

Health

Benin is a tropical country where malaria is endemic.  Hepatitis B and C and upper respiratory infections are common.

  • Sanitation is poor and people burn trash in urban areas.
  • The only vaccination required to enter Benin is yellow fever. All visitors must have a valid international health certificate (WHO Yellow Card/Carte Jaune de L’OMS) with proof that they have been vaccinated for yellow fever.   Visitors are currently required to undergo a Covid-19 test upon arrival at the airport. Malaria prophylaxis and vaccines for hepatitis B and C, typhoid, and rabies are strongly recommended for visitors.  For additional information see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s page about travel to Benin.
  • Major health clinics are in Cotonou are not up to U.S. standards and they take neither credit cards nor foreign health insurance cards.  Only cash payment is accepted, often in advance of treatment.

Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays

The local time is GMT+1.  The official workweek in Benin is Monday through Friday.  Most offices close for two s at mid-day but remain open until 17:30 or later.  Some private businesses and banks operate on Saturdays.

National holidays:

  1. January 1 - New Year’s Day
  2. January 10 - Traditional Religion Day
  3. April - Easter Holiday
  4. May 1 – Labor Day
  5. May  - Ascension Day and Whit Day, precise dates vary
  6. Date varies – End of Ramadan / Eid-al-Fitr
  7. August 1 - Benin Independence Day
  8. August 15  - Assumption Day
  9. Date varies – Tabaski / Eid al Adha
  10. November 1 - All Saints Day
  11. Date varies – Maouloud
  12. December 25 - Christmas Day

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

Benin allows the temporary entry of material and personal belongings, subject to customs inspection.  Customs officers may decide to levy duty on these belongings depending on their use.  Temporary importation of commercial samples and professional equipment is subject to payment of seven percent  of the normal import duty after a formal request is addressed to the customs office.