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Getting around

Bus & tram

Bush taxi, minibus & bus

Minibuses and bush taxis are the principal means of transport between towns. A bush taxi from Cotonou costs CFA600 to Ouidah, CFA2000 to Abomey and CFA6500 to Parakou, while minibuses cost about 25% less and take longer. There is sometimes a surcharge for luggage.

Confort Lines (21 32 58 15) runs daily buses between Cotonou and Natitingou via Savalou (CFA7500, 10 hours), stopping in all major towns en route. Benin Routes has daily buses between Cotonou and Parakou (CFA5500, five hours).

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Car & motorcycle

Petrol costs CFA300 to CFA600 per litre, with prices generally rising as you travel north. Nigerian petrol is sold on the black market at prices slightly below the official rate. Just look for the guys along the roads with 1L to 5L bottles.

For private transport, organise a taxi through one of the major hotels in Cotonou, though this can prove costly. The taxis outside the Hôtel du Port are better value than those outside the Novotel Orisha and Benin Marina Hotel.

If you’re driving, you need an International Driving Permit (IDP). Roads are in good condition throughout Benin.

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Run by L’Organisation Commune Benin-Niger des Chemins de Fer et Transports (21 32 22 06), Benin’s railway line links Cotonou with Parakou via towns including Bohicon (for Abomey). Cheap but frustratingly slow, the train leaves Cotonou at 8.30am on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, arriving in Parakou at 7pm and returning south at 8.42am the following day. Get to Cotonou’s train station before 8am to buy tickets.

Tickets cost CFA1400/1100 in 1st/2nd class from Cotonou to Bohicon (about four hours), and CFA5600/4000 to Parakou (about 11 hours). It’s well worth paying the small extra fee and travelling 1st class.

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Tours in restored colonial railroad cars are run by La Train d’Ebene (21 31 38 62). Two- and seven-day trips (CFA50, 000/CFA250, 000) depart from Cotonou on Thursday morning.

For ecotourism, CPN Les Papillons (22 54 07 13; cpnlespapillons@yahoo.com), an NGO based near Dassa Zoumé, hosts groups of tourists and offers trips to other parts of Benin.

A recommended guide is Cotonou-based Franck Tok (95 05 61 04; tokfranck@yahoo.fr).

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Local transport

In all towns, you’ll find zemi-johns (scooter taxis). While they are by far the fastest and most convenient way of getting around, they are not as safe as regular taxis. The typical fare is CFA150 to CFA250 – be sure to agree on a price before the journey.

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