Customs regulations and required documents
Personal effects import regulations
Customs regulations can change at any time with or without notice. This document is provided as a guide and for information only. While IAM has exercised reasonable care in publishing this document, IAM makes no representation, either expressed or implied, as to its accuracy or applicability.
A one-stop-shop for customs clearance, the Societe d’Exploitation du Guichet Unique (SEGUB), has been operational in Benin since 2011. SEGUB issues a receipt/slip (Bordereau de Frais Unique, or BFU) to the clearing agent once the required clearing documents have been submitted. Once issued, the BFU enables agents to remove cargo from the port within twenty-four hours.
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Benin is a member of the World Customs Organisation and does comply with the harmonised customs system.
The documents required to import goods into Benin generally include:
Benin is not part of the Carnet ATA convention. Products allowed for temporary admission are not subject to custom duties. After their use, they must be re-exported or destroyed, with the process being certified by a custom agent.
Benin is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has a common external tariff scheme with 5 tariff rates, as follows:
According to data by the World Bank, the applied average tariff in Benin was 11.57% (2017, latest data available).
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Street crime such as robbery and mugging is a problem in Cotonou. You should avoid travelling alone and maintain a high level of vigilance, especially at night and in isolated areas, including beaches. Do not walk on the beach alone, at any time of day.
Pickpocketing occurs in areas visited by international travellers (hotels, ports, railways, beaches, bars and restaurants). Avoid Dantokpa market after dark. Be alert to the risk of carjacking both in Cotonou and on roads outside towns and cities. When you’re driving, lock vehicle windows and doors.
In general, it’s better not to resist armed attack. The national police emergency number is 117 and fire is 118. You should get a police report if you report a crime.
British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scam artists operating in West Africa. The scams come in many forms: romance and friendship, business ventures, work and employment opportunities and can pose great financial risk to victims. You should treat with considerable caution any requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face-to-face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who lives in West Africa.
Voodoo day is an annual public holiday celebrated by the majority of Benin’s population in early January. Make sure you’ve arranged suitable travel and accommodation as options are limited during the festival and watch out for pickpockets.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advise against all travel to:
There is a threat of kidnapping by groups operating in the region. There is a heightened risk of kidnap in Benin’s northern border region. On 1 May 2019, 2 French tourists and their Beninese guide were kidnapped from Pendjari National Park. Local authorities confirmed that a body found on 4 May 2019 was that of the guide. On 11 May 2019 the hostages were rescued in Burkina Faso.
You should be aware of the risk of kidnapping and should ensure you have carefully considered the threat.
You should remain alert to the risk of changes in the security situation. In the early hours of 9 February 2020, a police outpost at the edge of the W Park and Mekrou river was attacked and set alight by a group armed with machetes and firearms. Remain vigilant and follow the advice of local security authorities.
You can drive in Benin with an International Driving Permit (IDP). You can only get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. Conversion to a local Benin driving licence is not required, although it is possible.
Driving standards and road conditions in Benin are poor. Avoid driving outside towns and cities at night as roads are poorly lit. During the rainy season (April to mid-July and mid-September to October in the South, and from June to September in the North) there are potential rain bouts which cause flooding, particularly in rural areas. Fuel shortages are common in rural areas of northern Benin. Police sometimes carry out vehicle checks at temporary road blocks in an effort to improve road safety and reduce the number of car-jackings.
There’s no reliable public transport in Benin. Take care when using public transport; driving standards and vehicle maintenance are poor. Avoid taxis and long distance buses as they’re poorly maintained and often overloaded.
There have been incidents of piracy and armed robbery against large vessels in waters off Benin and neighbouring countries. Mariners should take appropriate precautions.
Avoid swimming in the sea as ocean currents are very strong along the coast. Many drownings occur each year.
You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
The FCDO cannot offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes lists of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices – IATA Operational Safety Audit and IATA Standard Safety Assessment. These lists aren’t exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation has carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Benin.
You should avoid any political gatherings or demonstrations and listen to advice from the media and local authorities. There were violent protests and at least two deaths related to the legislative elections which took place in April 2019.
Entry visas are restricted. Entry and exit at border crossings is limited to “extreme necessity” and authorised in liaison with bordering countries.
The land border with Togo is closed.
Cotonou Cadjehoun International Airport has reinforced measures in place for visitors arriving in Benin. All arriving passengers must undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing – one test on arrival and a second test 14 days after the first negative test result. These tests are at passenger expense; fees are 100,000 FCFA (approximately £136) inclusive for two tests, payable to airlines at the time of booking flights. Passengers will be required to leave their passports with Immigration Police for 72 hours until the first test results are received.
All departing passengers must undergo testing at Cotonou Cadjehoun International Airport or Palais des Congres. Fees are 50,000 FCFA (normal service) or 75,000 FCFA (premium service). There is an online guidance page (in French) which explains the steps for arriving and departing passengers.
All passengers must complete a health form online.
Those who test positive for COVID-19 will be subject to government-mandated isolation measures and will receive treatment free of charge. Quarantine areas will be guarded by defence and security forces to ensure that quarantine regulations are strictly adhered to, and the government of Benin will retain passengers’ passports until all testing and isolation requirements are met to ensure compliance.
British passport holders need a visa to enter Benin. You should get a short stay or multiple entry e-visa by applying and paying online. The visa will then be issued on arrival at the airport in Cotonou.
Non-resident British nationals in Benin who wish to travel to Nigeria and Ghana cannot get entry visas in Benin. You should apply for these before travelling to Benin. You can get a visa for Togo at the Togolese Embassy in Cotonou or at the Togo/Benin border.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. You do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, and exit from Benin.