There is a train route that goes halfway up the country, from Cotonou to Parakou, run by L’Organisation Commune Benin-Niger des Chemins de Fer et Transports 2132 2206. While the train takes longer than a bush taxi, it's a much more relaxing way of traveling. First class tickets are only slightly more expensive than second class ones and are worth the extra expenditure. The train leaves Cotonou three times a week Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8AM precisely, arriving at Parakou about 6:30PM, and returns the next day, leaving at 8AM from the Parakou train station, arriving 6:30PM in Cotonou. First class costs CFA 5600, while second costs CFA 4000.
The trains on these schedules will usually stop at Bohicon, which is 4 hours from Cotonou. The fare costs CFA 1400 for first class, and CFA 1100 for second.
A tour company also hires out colonial-period trains for multiple-day touring trips at expensive, but good value prices CFA 50,000+
By Bush Taxi
Bush Taxi is possible between most cities, every day in major cities, periodically for the more remote ones. The total price for long distances will be a little higher than by bus, and comfort and security are significantly lower. Drivers are often trying to maximize the number of people in the car so one can expect an intimate experience with the local population. However, bush taxis do offer flexibility that the bus systems do not; you can always find a taxi fairly quickly at the autogarres. For trips of 3 hours approx 150km or less, a bush taxi might be a more flexible and reasonable option. Unlike the buses though, prices MUST be discussed in advance. Cost depends on the destination and price of gas. Ask other passengers what they are paying and always try to pay on arrival, although the latter is not always possible. A decent option for travelers not trying to go on the cheap is to buy up all the seats in a bush taxi, or at least all the seats in one row. It not only avoids having to wait until the taxi driver has filled up every seat, but it's much more comfortable than being crammed in with lots of sweaty people! If you do this, you'll typically need to give the driver some money up front so he can buy petrol along the way.
The cheapest way to travel within a city or village is by motorcycle taxi moto, zemidjan or zem. They are cheap and the drivers usually know the city well. An average ride costs 500-1,000 CFA, and they are easily recognizable by their matching colored shirts with their ID numbers on them. Prices must be discussed beforehand, and payment is made upon arrival. Remember the driver's ID number as you would a taxi driver's ID in New York City, just in case. Choose your driver carefully, drinking and driving in Benin is very common and moto drivers are sometimes involved in crime rings in major cities.
Motos have colors for different cities for example:Cotonou: yellowNatitingou: green with yellow shoulders or light blue with yellow shouldersKandi: light blue with yellow shouldersParakou: yellow with green shouldersKérou: green with yellow shoulders
There is an extremely timely and reliable bus system that runs your average tour-style bus through every major city in Benin everyday, and even some in and out of Benin. There are many major lines with a range of quality of buses. The main systems are Confort Lines and Benin-Routes. Confort Lines seems to provide more of a variety of routes, and you even get some water and a little sandwich for long trips. Reservations for Confort Lines can be made in advance for 500 CFA at any regional office or by calling 001 229 184.108.40.206. Bus lines run through: Porto-Novo, Cotonou, Calavey, Bohicon, Dassau, Parakou, Djougou, Natitingou, Tanguieta, Kandi, and even all the way up to Malanville.
Buses run on the two major paved roads running north and south, and you can have the bus stopped at any point you would like to get off at, and for differing rates. No discussion of prices is needed with the bus, as they used fixed rates. To give you an idea of prices, buses running from Cotonou to Natitingou or vice versa costs 7,500 CFA one way, and Cotonou to Parakou or vice versa costs 5,500f CFA. These are examples, because there are also buses that go as far as Tanguieta and Malanville.
Traffic is insane and the rules on the road are almost never enforced. If you are planning on driving yourself in Benin, an International Driver's license is required. Traffic flows on the right hand side of the road as in the US and Canada.
Hiring a local guide is recommended.
Police roadblocks at night occur regularly and traveling alone with a driver especially if you are a woman may put the driver in an awkward position explaining and/or bribing the police.
Traveling by car is recommended only between major cities. For example, to travel from Cotonou to Porto Novo or Cotonou to Abomey etc. Most of the time, you would be required to share the car with many other travelers who are going it the same direction as you. Expect to be cramped and hot as most bush taxis are in hard shape and drivers try to cram as many people as possible into the car to make the trip as financially rewarding as possibly. However, if you want to throw the extra money, you can hire a car to take you personally where ever you want to go with no stops. The price would depend on the driver and you would definitely need a local to help you to negotiate the price. For example, a 3 hour car ride from the South Central region along the main highway would cost you about 30,000 - 40,000 CFA if only 2 passengers are present, whereas if you share the ride and pick people up on the way you would only spend about 5000 - 10,000 CFA. Traveling by car within the city is not recommended at all due to the fact that it is simply unnecessary and uneconomical. The best way to travel in any city or village is by motorcycle taxi. Also, driving yourself around in a car is not a good idea. The roads are mostly of hard packed sand, with a few paved main roads in the cities and on the highways between the major cities.