. OnHiatus.com > Journal 1 > Day Index > Journal Entry: December 19, 1998

Saturday, December 19, 1998
Outside Cotonou, Benin to Benin City, Nigeria
Benin's FlagNigeria's FlagCotonou's Flag

Benin City, Nigeria:
Latitude: 6° 19' 41" North
Longitude: 5° 38' 10" East
Altitude: 185 feet
From Seattle: 8462 miles
Lodging: Hotel - Blue Beach Hotel

Today's Travel:
Countries: Benin, Nigeria
Regions: Cotonou, Ondo, Edo
Route: Land Rover: Cotonou - Porto Novo - Idiroko (Nigeria's Border) - Benin City
Path:Outside Cotonou, Benin - Benin City, Nigeria
Linear:225 miles
Weather: Overcast

Click on map to Zoom in...
Trip Stats to Date:
Day: 618
Linear Dist: 131045
Countries Visited: 45
Regions Visited: 177
More stats...
Hotels: 189
Friends / Family: 155
Camping: 67
Hostels: 145
Transit: 55
Other Lodging: 6
Beers: 2141

Journal Entry:
Big driving day and we wanted to get off early so we could cross the border early. Got off before dawn, but managed to get a bit lost. The good thing was we found a tele boutique that could make international calls so I was able to call home. I requested some goodies be sent to South Africa (mostly toys - a new camera and H/PC) and let them know my itinerary through Nigeria. Spent ten minutes and nearly $50.

Finally got to the border around 9:30. Used the crossing North of the Cotonou - Lagos crossing (recommended by the guidebooks and other travelers). The crossing procedures were ridiculous. First we talked to two immigration officers and each had to fill out a set of forms. Then we talked to the Health department and had out yellow cards inspected. Next up was the Visa control officer with another set of forms. He didn't like my visa because it wasn't issued at the same place as the others - and it was scary for about 40 minutes while he said he couldn't let me in unless I had a receipt to prove the visa was real. In hindsight it's obvious that he was fishing for a bribe - but it didn't even occur to me and we were all very patient and eventually he stamped my passport. Then it was an interview with two National Drug Enforcement officers - the one conducting the interview replied "that's interesting" to every answer, and tried to trip us up with our answers. Finally it was a chat with three customs officials and a thorough search of the car. The custom official gravely looked through each camera and said "this is no good, that's a long site camera, they are illegal here" - these are all the small point and shoot camera, all the real equipment was hidden. We just kept on telling him they were normal cameras and eventually he accepted that we weren't going to give him money or a camera and left us alone. And we were in Nigeria - only two and a half hours at the border. Definitely the most bureaucratic and corrupt border I've crossed, but at least they're friendly corrupt, and no problems that couldn't be conquered with patience.

Got stuck in massive Lagos traffic, even though we were way out in the suburbs - 20 km north of the city proper! Most of the gas stations don't have fuel, those who do have lines a kilometer long (we were told 6 to 8 hours wait) so we ended up buying black-market at over three times the legal cost (though still only about the same as we paid in Benin). The roads are actually very good (four lanes in some places), but the traffic is chaotic (people driving on the wrong side - even on the divided highway). The police checkpoints are a bit hellish (nine today) and at each one the ask for a bribe. Things are actually much better than we expected though - everyone has been polite and smiled and wished us a safe trip when we said no. Got to Benin City a couple hours after dark (despite our plan to avoid driving after dark) - no problems though. Easily found an acceptable hotel with secured parking.

Related Sites:
US State Department ConsularInformation Sheets: Nigeria
CIA World Fact Book: Nigeria

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