Benin Part I
From Lagos to Cotonou
This article is part of a sequence of posts about my experience traveling by bus in West Africa.
Price: 12500 NGN (22.50€)
Duration: From 8:00am till 1:30pm – Total: 5:30 hrs
Bus company: ABC
After 3 and half weeks spent in Nigeria, I then made my way by bus from Lagos in Nigeria to Cotonou in Benin. My first border crossing in West Africa!!!
Although it’s only a 5-6 hours journey it costs more (almost the double) than my previous longer trips (13-15 hours) inside Nigeria because now we were crossing a border to another country. Hmmmm.
This trip was very easy. It’s a “short” trip and the road is not so bad like other parts of West Africa. The bus is big, has air conditioning and it’s very comfortable.
During this trip I experienced something that I saw later in other borders but this one was of course my first time. The assistant of the bus driver collects all the passports and goes alone to the migration office at the border to stamp all passports out of the country (Nigeria) and in to the next country (Benin). For this service they charge you an extra 1000 NGN (less than 2€).
I was surprised, then I always though that migration officers have to double check if the person holding the passport is the same person in the picture but apparently here it’s not so important if it’s you crossing the border or a friend using your passport. Hmmm.
I was wondering how they can really control that everyone in the bus is giving his passport to the control check. Well… Do they check?
So…while everyone remained waiting in the bus during the passport control, myself had to go out of the bus and talk in person with the migration officer.
Why? Because of 2 reasons:
1- Visa issues: exactly the same reason that I already mentioned in my previous post West Africa overland III on my way from Calabar to Lagos. They though (here again) that my visa has already expired but actually my visa allowed me to enter the country between 22 Sept and 22 Dec and to stay for a month after my date of entrance. I got my official stamp at the airport on 15th December allowing me to stay until the 15 of January. So I had to explain one more time that the date hasn’t expired (they always only look at the 22 of Dec, they don’t see the 15th January). But fortunately they agreed.
2- Passport issues: because my Nigerian visa was in one passport and my visa for Benin was in the other passport (Yes, I’m traveling with 2 German valid passports that I was lucky to get from the German government after proofing that I travel too much, haha). That was, of course, weird for them and I had to explain it too.
But all this took me only few minutes and few smiles to the officer to accelerate the process, haha. Then we continued traveling.
Let me point out that the border Nigeria-Benin is very small and hidden. I actually couldn’t even find where is the migration office on the Nigerian side of the border. You can easily walk away without seeing the sign. Maybe that´s why they collect all the passport? Hmmm.
When I drove from Cotonou to Porto Novo few days later in order to visit the capital of Benin, I used the opportunity to drive back to the border which is very close. In this way I could change the money (NGN) that I still had from Nigeria that was difficult to change in Cotonou and I could take this picture of the border that I missed few days ago. Haha
For this reason here my advice to you: don’t take Nigerian Nairas NGN to Cotonou. They don’t like it there and it will be difficult for you to change it. If you still have some Nairas better to change it at the border (in case you do see the sigh on the Nigerian side and realize on time where is the border. Haha)
And that’s how my first West African overland solo crossing borders happened. It was sooo easy. I was just disappointed that I almost missed the border from the Nigerian side, haha and I actually have no picture there. Not even a “Welcome to the Republic of Benin“-picture 🙁
After crossing the border the drive was not long anymore. I arrived to Cotonou faster than I though. I saw that the bus stop and I asked the driver but his French was so strong that I didn´t understand exactly where we were and I though we still have to drive a bit. Then I decided to go to the toilet before the bus continue driving but on the way to the toilet I saw my friend Steve Deogratias, the organizer of the Benin Salsa Congress where I had the opportunity to teach some salsa lessons. He was waiting for me at the bus station and I was like: “What are you doing here?”, and he was like: “Welcome to Cotonou”, haha.
You can check my daily summary of my travel adventures in Africa on my Instagram account.
For more adventures check my next post coming soon.
Enjoy it and stay tuned!!!