The Margouilla's Advice on Nightstopping in Cotonou



What airfield can I expect?

Cotonou Cadjehoun is the only major international airport in Benin, open H24. Jet A-1 is available at all times either from state-owned Sonacop which uses fuel hydrants scattered around the tarmac, or from private MRS which has tanker trucks. Kerosene runs at $1.16 a liter with either operator (06/2011, cash payment). Security on the airport is decent, especially when parked right next to the terminal near which the Police and Gendarmerie offices are located.

Flight plan filing is done in the building just south of the terminal. Airport & overflight charges are also paid there to the Asecna cashier, and the met office is located upstairs. The local handling company is Menzies, they are not mandatory but can be pushy at times. Prices are unrealistic, with a toilet service going for $190 for instance...

The airport is located in the Western part of town, at about 10 minutes from the city center. Rates are pretty steep, at 4000 XOF for a ride out of the airport. However, once in town, it is possible to grab a cab for 1500 XOF to get around. The other (and cheaper) way to get around in Cotonou is using the moto-taxis, which are called ‘zémidjan’ or ‘zém’ (literally: “bring me there!” in Fon language). Fares are negociable, from 100 to 500 XOF depending on the distance. If you feel unsafe, the taxi driver will often accept to let you drive for a 100 more francs!

Where am I?

Despite leaving the title of state capital to nearby Porto Novo, Cotonou is Benin's largest city and economic capital. With an estimated population of about 1.2 million, the city lives mostly from the trade generated by its deep-water port. In the early 19th century, Cotonou was a mere fishermen's village, buillt around the estuary leading to Lake Nokoue. In 1868, the local king signed a treaty with the French, who turned Cotonou into their first settlment on the coast of Benin. Later on, Cotonou and the rest of Benin (then Dahomey) became part of French West Africa, until independence was granted in 1960. After several decades of communist rule under President Kerekou, Benin has become one of the most stable democraties in West Africa.

Central Police Station: +(229) 21 31 58 99

Hospital (CNHU): +(229) 21 30 46 52

Pharmacies (Camp Guezo): +(229) 21 31 55 52 ; (Jonquet): +(229) 21 31 20 82

Banks: Ecobank and Banque Atlantique have ATMs


Where do I sleep?

Benin Marina Hotel (5mn from the airport)

PO Box 1901 – Cotonou, boulevard de la Marina
Tel: +(229) 21 30 01 00
Fax: +(229) 21 30 11 55

This former Sheraton is still the best place to stay in Cotonou. Rooms have all the amenities expected from a four-star hotel, and the swimming pool is a great  place to hang around. Catering services are available 24/7. Free cable internet in the rooms. The Benin Marina is also the closest hotel to the airport, and has a free shuttle service. Rooms from 90,000 XOF per night, including breakfast. (2011)

Novotel Orisha (10mn from the airport)

PO Box 929 – Cotonou, boulevard de la Marina
Tel: +(229) 21 30 56 62
Fax: +(229) 21 30 41 88

Very clean mid-range chain hotel. The rooms have been refurbished recently. The swimming pool and terrace are somewhat dull, unfortunately, but the staff is extremely friendly. The restaurant isn't great, yet they are quite flexible when it comes to order catering. Free in-room wi-fi. Free airport shuttle service. Rates are 92,000 XOF a night without breakfast. (2011)

Hotel du Port (15mn from the airport)

Cotonou, boulevard de la Marina
Tel: +(229) 21 31 44 44

An independent hotel closer to the town center. The building dates back from the 1970's, yet it is nicely set up around the swimming pool complete with palmtrees and buckaroos. Rooms are clean and comfortable. Fitness center. A bargain at 45,000 XOF a night. (2011)

Hotel Ibis Cotonou (10mn from the airport)

PO Box 929 – Cotonou, boulevard de la Marina
Tel: +(229) 21 30 56 77
Fax: +(229) 21 30 56 78

Not so comfortable, yet not so cheap... This Ibis hotel is brand new and very clean, yet it is more expensive than equivalent independent hotels in town. In room wi-fi charged separately. 60,000 XOF a night, without breakfast. (2011)


Where do I eat?

Les Trois Mousquetaires

Avenue Clozel, Cotonou

Tél: +(229) 21 31 38 62

One of the more refined restaurants in Cotonou. Excellent fish. Prices per person 15,000 XOF and up. (2011)

Le Sud Ouest

Haie Vive, Cotonou - Next right after the Livingstone

A cosy restaurant in a trail off Haie Vive, run by a French guy from Senegal. Specialties from the south-west of France (cassoulet, confit de canard, etc) and loads of other choices. Good food at an affordable price - expect 12,000 XOF per person at the most. (2011)

Le Sorrento

Boulevard Saint Michel, Cotonou - Next to Hall des Arts

Tél: +(229) 21 30 37 79

French bistro with a Marseille atmosphere. Clean service, varied menu, good food (pizzas & fresh pastas specialties). Expect 10,000 XOF per guest. (2011)

Le Livingstone

Haie Vive, Cotonou

Tél: +(229) 21 30 27 58

Mostly an outdoor restaurant and snack. Good place to hang out and have a pizza or a sandwich. Live music on occasions. The street is a bit noisy. Eat for 7,000 XOF. (2011)

Le Pili Pili

Boulevard Saint Michel, Cotonou - Quartier Zongo

Tél: +(229) 21 31 29 32

A more African alternative. Nice "maquis" in the shade, good place to eat grilled chicken or fish. Expect 5,000 XOF. (2011)


What can I visit?

A must see if you have a day off in Cotonou is the floating village of Ganvier, located north-west of town on Lake Nokoue. That village, entirely made up of houses on pilotis, has a population of 30,000 people. Their ancestors came there in the 17th century, to escape the warriors of the Abomey kingdom who tried to capture them to sell them as slaves. The village is massive, and is definitely worth a sight. To get there, grab a regular taxi in Cotonou and ask to go to Abomey-Calavi where the embarcadero is located - 4,000 XOF is normally enough, even though hotel taxis may ask up to 25,000 XOF!!! There is a little African market, in the mud surrounding the embarcadero, and a boat ride can be arranged from the nearby tourist office: a round-trip seat in a motorised pirogue costs about 6,000 XOF - regular pirogues are cheaper, but the 2 hour visit then ends up taking half a day. Guides normally charge an extra 5,000 XOF for the group, but they are not mandatory.

Those who enjoy beaches can grab a taxi to Fidjrosse Beach, about a kilometer West of the airport. It is a popular place to hang out on weekends. Lots of food stalls, possibility to rent a beachside buckaroo for the afternoon. The beach is nice, yet beware of the sea, which is pretty rough and dangerous.

Other places worth visit are the Marché Artisanal, on Boulevard Saint Michel near the Hall des Arts, and the Marché Dantokpa, the local African market which claims to be the largest in West Africa.

Where can I go out?

Le C17 

Boulevard de la Marina, Cotonou - Next to Hotel du Port

Probably the best club in Cotonou right now, spread over two stories. Great crowd, good music, the place to be. Beware, the party doesn't start before 1AM.

Le New-York New-York

Boulevard Saint Michel, Cotonou - Next to Hall des Arts

The reference in town: dark, loud and full of wild women. Shabbier atmosphere than at the C17. Great club, though.

Le 2001

Avenue des Cheminots, Cotonou - Quartier Jonquet

Very similar atmosphere to the New-York, but in a much smaller, cosier setting.

VIP Club

Rue 840, Cotonou - Next to the Ancien Pont

Karaoke & night club.

Coco Cocktail

Haie Vive, Cotonou

A stylish lounge bar & dancing where the upper crust goes to dance & have a drink.

Le Chevalier

Cotonou - Quartier Jonquet

Bar lounge & karaoke.

Le Teke

Boulevard de la Marina, Cotonou - In the Benin Marina Hotel

The Benin Marina night club, mainly crowded on weekends.

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