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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tips on Seme Border Crossing to Cotonou, Benin Republic

For most people in Nigeria, traveling to Cotonou, Benin Republic means smuggling contraband goods, bringing in used vehicles of more than ten years old or as an emergency getaway for wanted coup plotters, human rights activists and corrupt politicians on the run.

Well, Benin Republic has assumed a new international status with flurry of business and leisure activities (especially in its commercial city of Cotonou). Relative security and safety of lives coupled with an enabling business environment has contributed to the surge. Now, Nigerians and foreign residents desirous of a quiet and exciting weekend with family drive to Cotonou. Many are locating their offices there too.

Most times, these business and getaway trips turn to nightmares as you reach Seme, the border crossing between Nigeria and Benin Republic. A journey that should take an hour becomes three or more hours, as you are questioned by law enforcement agents on both sides.

If you want a relatively stress- free crossing, note the following tips:

• Check that your international passport is valid for at least six months
• Obtain a permit from the Benin Embassy in Lagos if traveling in your own car or if you need a visa
• If driving, make sure you obtain the brown card and insurance cover from an insurance company. Make sure that the documents are stamped by the Customs.
• Ensure that you have a yellow vaccination card
• Cross check that your international passport is stamped by the Immigration.
• If staying overnight or for several days, ensure that you book a hotel
• Be ready to tell the officials the reasons for your travel, where you are staying and the duration of stay.
• If you are a regular traveler on the route, get a protocol officer.
• Make sure you leave on time to avoid snarling traffic.

Beware of touts and ‘border crossing facilitators’. Ensure that your belongings, especially your carry-on baggage are with you at all times. If you have any concern, do not hesitate to contact the most senior Immigration/Customs Officer on duty.

In recent years, a growing number of Bus Companies using air-conditioned vehicles travel along this route, up to Accra, Ghana. Patronizing these bus companies would save you a lot of hassles. On the other hand, Virgin Nigeria flies to Cotonou a couple of times in a week. Check schedule and rate with the Airline.

If these tips have been helpful as you plan to make that business or leisure trip to Cotonou, Benin Republic, email us on ibgnigeria@gmail.com. Our blog is http://ibgnigeria.blogspot.com.

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