Getting there & away
There’s at least one bush taxi a day along the 97km of tarred road from Natitingou to Porga (CFA1500, two hours), where you can cross to Tindangou in Burkina Faso. Monday, Porga market day, is a good day to find a ride.
From Malanville, a zemi-john or shared taxi can take you across the River Niger to Gaya in Niger (shared taxi/zemi-john CFA500/1000). The border is open 24 hourly and it’s quite straightforward to pick up visas there for both countries.
Heading south, get to Gaya and walk or moto-taxi (motorcycle taxi) it to Malanville, from where bush taxis head south. Alternatively, EHGM (227-74 37 16), STN (227-74 03 69) and SNTV (227-73 30 20) are among the Niger-based coach lines that ply the route between Cotonou and Niamey. SNTV’s buses leave Niamey at 4am daily (CFA20, 000, 13 to 15 hours) and EHGM’s leave at 4am on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (CFA18, 700, 13 to 15 hours). Again, these buses are normally full.
In Cotonou, bush taxis and minibuses leave for Lagos throughout the day from Gare de l’Ancien Pont (CFA3000, three hours), as well as from Gare de Dantokpa. You could save money by taking a taxi to the border crossing at Kraké and changing there, as Nigerian taxis are cheaper than those in Benin. If you do this, you will need to get some naira at the border or on the black market in Cotonou. There are also taxis to Lagos from Porto Novo (CFA2700, 2½ hours).
Avoid arriving or leaving Lagos at rush hour (between 6am and 10am and 3pm and 7pm) – it’s a mess. If you’re heading to Ibadan (Nigeria), Lagos can be bypassed by crossing at Kétou, though there is less public transport available.
You may have to grease a few palms at Kraké, although asking for a receipt is a good way to discourage corrupt officials. If hiring a taxi across the border, check whether the price includes bribes.
Cotonou and Lomé are connected by frequent bush taxis (CFA3000, three hours), which regularly leave Cotonou’s Gare Jonquet for Lomé. Alternatively, pick up a taxi to the border point at Hilla-Condji and grab another taxi on the Togolese side of the frontier. There is also a daily STIF bus service from Cotonou to Lomé (CFA3000, three hours).
Other crossings are at Kémérida, northeast of Kara in Togo, and between Nadoba in Togo and Boukombé in Benin. The latter crossing takes you through spectacular countryside, but you would need your own 4WD.
The main airport is on the western fringe of Cotonou, in Cocotiers.
Air France offers the most reliable and frequent services running between Benin and Europe.
For flight information, ticket sales and reconfirmations, the following airlines have offices in Cotonou:
Air Gabon International (GN; 21 31 21 87; Blvd Steinmetz) Hub: Libreville.
Air Ivoire (VU; 21 31 86 14; Blvd Steinmetz) Hub: Abidjan.
Air Togo (YT; Route de l’Aéroport) Hub: Lomé.
Ghana International Airlines (GH;21 31 42 83; Blvd Steinmetz) Hub: Accra.
Virgin Nigeria Airways (VK; 21 31 58 24; Blvd Steinmetz) Hub: Lagos.
Departure tax is included in the ticket price.