For me, Cotonou was a slightly under-rated city. I didn’t plan much time here, and the truth is that there’s not a whole lot for tourists to do or see, but the capital of Benin is extremely pleasant. Most of the tourists flock to the area around Piste Amalco which is strewn with international restaurants, internet cafes, and hotels. There’s a good chance that you’ll find yourself down here as well. It’s more European than African, in many ways, but it’s a nice place to chill out and enjoy the easy life in Cotonou.
Time Needed: 2-3 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: $40-50USD
Things to Do and See in Cotonou
Cotonou doesn’t really pride itself on being a tourist town. However, more tourists do end up here than you’d expect. Thus, there are a couple worthy activities in and around the city.
- Notre Dame de Apotres: Beautiful Catholic Cathedral is well worth checking out.
- Voodoo Tour: Benin is the home to VooDoo, so you can actually organize trips to the fetish market and some of the other related areas.
- Ouidah Day Trip: Not far from Cotonou, the town of Ouidah has some interesting things to do and see such as a slavery and voodoo museum.
Where to Eat in Cotonou
- Le Resto Lebanese: On Piste Amalco, serves pizza and other Lebanese food. Very good, but a bit expensive at between $6-15 per meal.
- Wasabi Sushi: Also on Piste Amalco, this is one of very few sushi places in West Africa and significantly cheaper than the one in Accra, although the quality isn’t as good. Still, good value.
- Maquis: If you want local grub, hit up the maquis.
Where to Stay in Cotonou
- Guesthouse Cocoletiers: Just off of the main tourist strip, this place is nice and a nice backpacker’s hangout. I had a 4 bed dorm to myself for $11. Private rooms run around $30.
- Le Chant Oiseaux: Just down the road away from Amalco, this huge hotel is a bit like a conference building. It’s bit over-priced, but rooms have air conditioning and hot water. Prices between $25-45 a night.
Getting out of Town
The central bus station runs in all three directions away from Cotonou. You can catch a long distance bus to the west that goes to Accra while making a stop in Lome. You can also head up to Bohicon – where you can get transport to Abomey – and farther north. Heading east, there are buses direct to Lagos.
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