This is the first of a 3 part series as giving full details about the whole trip in one post will be very untidy, so here goes!
First things first, I have been off the blogging radar for a minute now and its solely because work wants to kill your girl. I was lucky enough to be granted leave around the early period of August, so I decided to travel.
I had wanted to go on this trip since last year. In fact, in the beginning of the year, I created a whatsapp group for a Benin republic trip, but that was a burst. Sometime in April, I made up my mind, and I created a budget. I really wanted to visit 3 of their major cities and I wanted to hotel hop.
After creating the budget, It came down to 70,000 NGN per head; this covered accommodation, transportation (to and fro Benin) and inter city trips, breakfast, entrance fees for tours. I put up an ad on all my social media channels and the response was pretty favorable. From a large number of 12, we finally became a cosy, comfortable number of 4.
D-Day: Lagos to Grand-Popo
Using Cross Country Transport:
I decided to use cross country at the last minute, in fact, I initially planned to use ABC motors, but after asking around, I was told about Cross Country deals.
It costs 14,800 NGN for a return ticket to Benin Republic with a valid passport and 18,800 NGN with an ID card. Apparently, it costs even less if your passport has been previously stamped at the border.
I had booked and paid 48 hours before the trip and its advisable to book at least 24 hours before. On the travel day, our passports were collected by the driver as well as the yellow card. However, a sum of 500 NGN was paid if the yellow card was unavailable.
We were advised to arrive at the bus station at 6am, which we did, however, the bus ended up leaving at almost 8am. Our bus ticket covered food and water, and we were given a plate of Jollof rice and bottled water.
Getting to the border:
There are 2 popular borders out of Nigeria to Benin Republic and they are namely:
- Idi-iroko border ( via sango/ogun state)
- Seme border (via badagry/festac)
We went through the Idi-iroko border as the other one has too much “wahala” plus bad roads. It took about 4 hours to get to the border as we had to pass through a ton of immigration and custom officers inclusive of road blocks.
Once we got to the Idi-iroko border, people with “virgin” passport; i.e unstamped passports were asked to come down and enter the immigration office for data capture.
Honestly, its pretty easy; you are asked a couple of questions like purpose of the trip etc. Once all that was sorted, the passports were stamped and handed back to our agent. The agent then takes the passport to the Benin border for stamping as well, however this time, we didn’t have to get off the bus.
There is a clear demarcation of the Nigeria/Benin border tbh. The area with the bad roads reads – “Goodbye to Ogun state” while the area with the good roads is in french. The downside of taking the Idi-iroko border is that, the distance between the Benin border to Cotonou is far, compared to via the seme border.
At the border, I got to change my naira notes to CFA at 1625 CFA for every 1000 NGN. Apparently, our currency used to be better than that, but we still thank God.
I changed 200,000 NGN to 325,000CFA and it was pretty small in size.
Border to Grand Popo;
Now, the bus is expected to drop all Benin Republic passengers at the bus park at Dantokpa market, however, while booking, I had made a special request to be dropped at Grand-popo with my travel buddies. We got to Dantokpa market, used the rest room, stretched our legs and bought munchies. The manager at Dantokpa market wanted us to get off the bus, and get a taxi but I refused. I really wanted to get a sim card at the market, but the bus was going to leave me.
They had no choice than to take us to grand- popo which is another 2 hours from the bus park. Once we got to Grand-popo, we had to look carefully to avoid missing our hotel (which we still missed anyway).
Our driver was kind enough to get us zemmotors to take us back to our proposed destination. We also got our passports and yellow card while getting off the bus
QUICK TIP: A zemmotor is the commonest form of transportation in Benin. Its a motorcycle.
Hotel Awale Plage, Grand-Popo;
I had booked all the hotels via booking.com which made life so easy. Once we arrived at the hotel, wahala started. French everywhere and only the manager could speak a bit of English. The language barrier was overwhelming tbh.
QUICK TIP: Travel with someone who has a good knowledge of french as well as download google translate.
The hotel was beautiful with a pool, a garden, an extensive play area, and a private beach front.
Our was a 2 bedroom cabin which could accommodate 4 people. It had a nice garden view, an AC, an en-suite private bathroom and a balcony, however no complementary breakfast.
There was free WiFi, however, it was only available around the pool and restaurant.
Lunch and Dinner was affordable (range between 4,000 CFA to 10,000CFA). They make the best milkshake I’ve had in ages.
For Lunch, we played safe and had spaghetti bolognese, as well as spaghetti and grilled fish.
QUICK TIP: NEVER ORDER THEIR PIZZA BECAUSE IT IS TRASH.
We spent the rest of the day swimming, taking pictures and relaxing by the beach.
The next day, we had breakfast which cost 3,500 CFA per person and it was really tasty.
We played a bit and one it was check out time (12pm), we had to say goodbye to Grand-popo.
QUICK TIP: The major attraction in Grand-popo is the beaches as well as watching the fishermen on the beach catch fishes.
The ocean doesn’t look safe enough to swim in, so I wouldn’t advice that. There are a couple of hotels in grand-Popo available to be tried out, but I highly recommend Hotel Awale Plage.
See you in Part 2.