Street crime is a significant problem in Cotonou. Robbery and muggings occur along the Boulevard de France (the beach road by the Marina and Novotel Hotels), on the beaches near hotels frequented by international visitors, and within the Haie Vive and Les Cocotiers neighborhoods (where many bars and restaurants frequented by expatriates are located), in addition to other parts of the city. Most of the reported incidents involve the use of force, often by armed persons, with occasional minor injury to the victim. Travelers should avoid isolated and poorly lit areas and should not walk around the city or the beaches between dusk and dawn. U.S. diplomatic personnel are prohibited from visiting the Dantokpa market between the hours of dusk and dawn. Even during daylight hours, foreigners on the beach near Cotonou are frequently victims of robberies. When visiting the beach, travelers should not carry valuables, and should carry only a photocopy of their passport. If you are a victim of crime, you should contact the U.S. Embassy immediately.
There has been a continued increase in the number of robberies after dark, both within metropolitan Cotonou and on highways and rural roads outside of major metropolitan areas. Motorists are urged to be wary of the risk of carjacking in both urban and rural areas. Keep the windows of your vehicle rolled up and the doors locked, and stay alert for signs of suspicious behavior by other motorists or pedestrians that may lead to carjacking, such as attempts to stop a moving vehicle for no obvious reason. Motorists should be aware of obstacles or obstructions, such as a branches, tires, or ropes, that would-be robbers place in the roadway in an effort to ambush victims. Travelers should avoid driving outside the city of Cotonou after dark and should exercise extreme caution when driving inside of Cotonou after dark (see Traffic Safety and Road Conditions below). Overland travel to Nigeria is dangerous near the Benin/Nigeria border due to unofficial checkpoints and highway banditry.
Travelers should exercise extreme caution when using credit cards and automated teller machines (ATMs) in Benin due to a high rate of fraud. Perpetrators of business and other kinds of fraud often target foreigners, including U.S. citizens. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Benin, and are more frequently perpetrated by Beninese criminals. Business scams are not always easy to recognize, and any unsolicited business proposal should be carefully scrutinized.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
Over the previous three years, there have been numerous pirate attacks off the coast of Benin. The attacks have been focused on oil tanker ships, not container ships or other types of vessels. It is unlikely that any tourist would become a victim of piracy, but be cautious if approached by an unknown vessel while at sea. If you spot any suspected pirates, do not approach them; immediately contact port officials, local police, and the U.S. Embassy.
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