Sunday 11 August 2013

Viven : How we crossed from Benin to Togo

Dear Viven,

Sadly, Togo was an entirely transitory experience for us. We crossed the border from Grand Popo, Benin, in the early afternoon and went straight to the bus station in Lomé, Togo’s capital. Despite the hours of delay, our bus left for Abidjan in the early evening, and crossed into Ghana minutes after departure, which meant all we got to see of Togo was the beachfront by the station.

This crossing was originally intended as part of our route from Paris to Tanzania. Because of a visa issue with the DR Congo and then a car accident in Grand Bassam, our plans changed; this crossing instead formed part of the circular route we took from Abidjan, through Burkina Faso to Benin, and returning via Togo and Ghana.

Our previous crossing was from Burkina Faso to Benin, and in Lomé we got on a long-haul bus which took us into Ghana, and then from Ghana to the Ivory Coast. This letter is accurate as of the day we entered Togo, on Saturday 10 August 2013.

Visas are required to visit Togo, but not necessarily in advance. Seven-day visas are available at the border, but we acquired our 30-day visas in advance toavoid the potential trouble of opportunistic border guards, and time permitting, to allow for a longer visit.

We visited the Consulat de Togo in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, at 10:30am on 4 July 2013. The consulate, like those of Benin and Ghana, is located in the Deux Plateaux area outside the city centre, just off Rue des Jardins. We were sent inside to a man at a desk who was a little pissed off that we were interrupting his morning newspaper read. We waited while he finished with the sports section, and then supplied the required documents (passport photocopies, two photos each, hotel name), filled out the application forms, and were told to return that day at 2pm.

We returned at 2pm and the passports were ready, with 30-day single-entry visas.

Togo’s official language is French, and as far as we could ascertain, it is widely spoken and commonly used. English holds the same rare status as in Benin and Burkina Faso.

Togo is part of the West African monetary union, and uses the West African franc (CFA). We saw, but did not use, banks which accept Visa and Mastercard in Lomé.

The Route
After arriving in Natitingou in north Benin on 31 July we spent a few days exploring Pendjari National Park.  On 4 August we made our way by shared taxi to Cotonou (CFA 3,000 each, about eight hours), and after a few days in the country's de facto capital we visited the royal city of Abomey and the Voodoo-infused, former Dahomey slave port of Oudiah.

Our Means of Travel

We departed our hotel (the Auberge Diaspora), on the beach about 7km outside of Ouidah, at around 11am on 10 August. We caught a ride just a few minutes after walking with a Belgian-Beninois couple in a yellow truck, who took us all the way to Grand Popo, where we arrived at around 12:30pm. We waited at the ‘taxi rank’ (side of the road) for about ten minutes, until a shared taxi came to give us a lift to the border for CFA 400 each. We arrived at the Benin-Togo border at Hilla Condji at 1pm, changed over to another shared taxi which would take us straight to Lomé for CFA 2,000 each, left our bags in the car and walked through the border. The driver, anxious by how long we had to take to be processed (citizens of Pays de l’Entente and ECOWAS states, both of which include Benin and Togo, merely need to display their identity cards to move through). The taxi driver brought us straight to the STIF bus station, where we arrived at 3pm.

The Border

We arrived at the border at 1pm and waited in the Benin exit-stamp queue until 1:35. The border guard entered our details into a logbook by hand, and asked for the names of our hotels in both Benin and Togo. After receiving our stamps we were sent through the gate which marks the border, and spent five minutes with Togo officials to be logged in by hand once more, asked for the name of our hotel in Togo (we had one in mind, not expecting to catch the Abidjan bus the same day), and stamped to enter. We got in our shared taxi on the way to Lomé and were off by 1:45. The whole process from arrival to departure took 45 minutes. No bribes or cadeaux were requested, or even hinted at.

What We Needed
In Abidjan

  • Money: CFA 50,000 (25,000 each)
  • One photocopy of the first three pages of each passport
  • Two passport photos
  • Name of hotel in Togo
  • To fill out a straightforward one-page application form
  • Three and a half hours to process visas
For transport
  • Ride from Ouidah to Grand Popo: luck, 1.5 hours
  • Taxi from Grand Popo to Hilla Condji border: CFA 800 (400 each), 15 minutes
  • Taxi from Hilla Condji border to Lomé : CFA 4,000 (2,000 each), two hours
At the border
  • Passports with Benin and Togo visas
  • Names of hotels in Benin and Togo
  • 45 minutes

Whether because it’s the Pays de l’Entente customs-free zone of Africa, or because we’re no longer traveling in our own vehicle, borders have become a lot easier.

Happy trails,


The border, entering Togo
Visa application form,
Togo embassy in Abidjan