11 ways to see Benin on a budget


Already one of the most budget-friendly destinations in Africa, there are still plenty of ways to make your Benin trip even cheaper.

From flopping on a sunbed on palm-fringed beaches of the Atlantic coast and learning about Vodou to swimming in lakes and spotting elephants, lions, and cheetahs in Parc National de la Pendjari, it’s easy to make some lifelong memories in this small West African country – and all for next to nothing.

Here is how to see Benin on a budget.

Daily costs in Benin

  • Hostel room: $30–50 per night
  • Hotel room: $95–460 per night
  • Basic room for two: $50–150 per night
  • Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): $40–150 per night
  • Public transport ticket: from $5
  • Coffee: $2–5
  • Sandwich: $5–7
  • Dinner for two: $30–50
  • Beer/pint at the bar: $5–8

Average daily cost: $75 per day including three meals, accommodation, transportation and modest activities. 

Start planning your trip to Benin with this guide to the country’s top experiences

There’s a full range of different accommodation types to suit all budgets in Benin © Yuan Jianglei / Getty Images

1. Book your accommodation directly and in advance

Benin has accommodation to suit every budget – from beach resorts to guesthouses. Swanky hotels are confined to Cotonou and, to a lesser extent, Ouidah and Natitingou. Most have restaurants and bars, offer wi-fi, and have air-con.

If you want to save money, book in advance and try to book directly. Cheaper accommodation options are usually located on the outskirts of the cities but you’ll then spend more on transport getting into the center. If you don’t have your own wheels or a driver, you’re likely to be catching zems (zemi-johns; motorbike taxis). A typical fare within a town costs $0.25 to $0.75.

Luxury travelers will enjoy a stay at Nature Luxury Lodge, a high-end hotel in Ouidah, where you should expect to pay around $458 per night. Golden Tulip le Diplomate Cotonou is a midrange choice, costing from $132 per night. A budget option, such as the Millennium Popo Beach Hotel in Grand Popo, costs roughly $97 per night. 

2. Camping is a cheaper way to see the country 

Cut your accommodation costs even further by camping in Benin. Stay at Camping Le Paradis Du Soleil in Cotonou from $35 per night, where you can sleep near the beach surrounded by palm trees. Save more on food costs by cooking in the kitchen or at the cool barbecue spot. With just two lakeside tents surrounded by 24 acres of greenery, Glamping Lakeview Ouidah is more of an exclusive experience, costing from $80 per night. It’s the perfect budget spot if you’re looking to get away from the crowds. Guesthouse Bambou Beach in Grand Popo is one of the most luxurious glamping getaways in Benin. It costs $94 a night to sleep in one of the fancy huts right by the pristine beach with Atlantic Ocean views.

3. Fly directly to Benin – in January if you can…

The cheapest month to fly to Benin is January and it can cost around a whopping 40% less than July and August. Despite more flights from Europe to neighboring Nigeria and nearby Ghana, it’s still cheaper to fly directly to Benin – and that’s without the cost and hassle of making your way overground from either country or Togo.

4. …but March to May is the cheapest time to visit

March to May is the springtime in Benin and the best time for budget travelers to visit. Temperatures tend to drop to a more manageable 25°C (77°F) and moving around the country feels a little less intense. Accommodation prices tend to fall as well.

Ready to go to Benin? Plan the best time for your visit with our seasonal guide

People walk past a market stall selling fruit
Local produce is the cheapest choice in Benin © Yannick Tylle / Getty Images

5. Beninese cuisine is the cheapest food to eat

Beninese grub is unquestionably among the best in West Africa and is very similar to Togolese food, the main differences being the names: fufu (a starchy staple from ground plantain or cassava) is generally called igname pilé here, and djenkoumé (a savory cornmeal and tomato cake) is called pâte rouge, for example. In southern Benin, fish is a highlight of local cuisine. It’s usually barracuda, dorado or grouper, and is usually served grilled or fried.

For cheap meals, eat in local restaurants serving Beninese food. In Cotonou, Leadicious Cafe serves some excellent djewo (a traditional Beninese dough); La Cabane du Pêcheur on the beach at Cotonou is known for its Dahomey fish stew (fried fish with onions and tomatoes); and Food’in sells some great Beninese pastries like kuli-kuli (sweet peanut fritters) and yovo doko (similar to donuts).

6. Forgo pools and go wild swimming instead

Whilst the beaches along the coast are not safe for swimming because of strong currents, Benin has plenty of places to cool off. Many hotels have swimming pools (some charge for day access for non-guests) but it’s also possible to splash about in the lagoons of Southern Benin and Lake Ahémé.

For an even more refreshing dip head to the Kota Falls, 15km (9 miles) southeast of Natitingou, off the main highway. You can swim in the pool at the bottom of the falls or just sit down and chill in the cool shade of the undergrowth.

7. Explore Cotonou’s markets for a taste of Beninese culture 

The Grand Marché du Dantokpa is the vibrant life force of Benin’s bustling city, Cotonou. You can purchase anything you need or want in this enigmatic area, such as clothes, pirated CDs, soap, plastic sandals, and even livestock. Look out for traditional items, including Dutch wax cloth and batiks, inside the market building.

The Fetish Market is bound to peak your curiosity. This is the main area to buy any Vodou-related items, which include dried animal parts like heads, skins, and hoofs. You’ll also find dried plants and tree barks which are used for traditional medicine. Benin relies more on its ancient customs rather than Western culture and these markets provide a uniquely fascinating insight into Benin’s national religion.

A herd of elephants in grassland
Pendjari National Park has a very reasonable charge for wildlife watching © Gilles COMLANVI / Shutterstock

8. Go wildlife spotting in Parc National de la Pendjari 

Whilst there is no way of saving money to visit the wonderful 2750 sq km Parc National de la Pendjari itself, it’s still a steal to visit one of West Africa’s best places to spot wildlife. You can seek out lions, leopards, baboons, hippos and elephants here for around US$16 a day. The entry fee alone for the Masai Mara or Serengeti is US$70. Even Kruger National Park charges US$25.

9. Use buses to get between towns…

Buses are the cheapest, most reliable and comfortable way to get around Benin, especially between cities in southern Benin and Natitingou to the north. ATT and Confort Lines buses are better maintained and more reliable than those of other companies. They also have air-con. 

Buses almost always operate with guaranteed seating and fixed departure times; arrive early or book the day before to ensure you have a seat on your preferred service.

10. …and hire bush taxis where buses don’t go

Bush taxis, generally beaten-up old vehicles, cover outlying communities that large buses don’t serve. There is sometimes a surcharge for luggage but they are cheaper than hiring a car. Most leave from the gares routières; morning is the best time to find them.

11. Use zems to get across cities and towns

The cheapest way to get around Benin’s towns and cities is through a zem (motorbike taxi). While they are by far the fastest and most convenient way of getting around, they can also be dangerous: most drive like lunatics and helmets are not available. Always bargain on the price to avoid being overcharged.





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