The road trip from Lagos, Nigeria to Seme Border was the least exciting part of the Wakaholic Adventure to the Republic of Benin.
Wakaholic Adventure is a group travel event where we select bucket-list destinations and explore these destinations together. In June 2017, we explored the Seychelles Islands, off the east-coast of Africa. Read our story here.
In September 2017, we embarked on a journey to the Republic of Benin. The road from Festac to Seme Border isn’t just horrendous, it is also fraught with numerous corrupt officials of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Police Force, as well as officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, shamelessly extorting money from travelers, especially commercial bus drivers.
We set out at 9am and arrived Seme border by noon. At the border, we spent an hour dealing with border control between Nigeria and Republic of Benin. Once we hit the express in the Republic of Benin, it was a joy ride. There were no checkpoints with greedy officials and we made it to Cotonou in less than an hour.
Upon arrival in Cotonou, we continued on to this beautiful European styled restaurant tucked away at the edge of the lagoon in Cococodji (11km from Cotonou). After a hectic road trip, this place provided the peace and calm required for a mental reset.
Find out more on Bab’s Dock here.
After dining, we hit the freeway by 6pm to locate our hotel resort in Ouidah. The drive took another hour because we were not familiar with the route.
Upon arrival at the stunning beach resort, we could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Casa del Papa was going to be our home for 2 nights and we couldn’t wait to soak it all in.
Read my review of staying in Casa del Papa Resort and see more photos of this stunning resort.
Some of the attractions in Ouidah include;
- The Slave Route, including the Door of No Return – a memorial arch sited where slaves were transported and forced to leave their homeland;
- The Basilica of Ouidah- which was built in the 20th century;
- The Python Temple; and
- Ouidah Museum of History, where we learned about the interesting history of Ouidah.
The road trip back to Lagos was easier because we knew what to expect, so we set out by 1pm. The journey from Ouidah to Seme Border took 1:30 minutes and by 7pm I was safe home.
Note that under normal conditions, the journey from Seme Border to Festac (I use Festac for ease of reference) can be achieved within an hour. Delays are caused by the terrible roads, checkpoints, unruly commercial bus drivers as well as traders on the highway.
Tips before you go
- If you are a frequent traveler, I advise you obtain an Ecowas Travel Certificate to use within the West African region. This is because you may become a target to such greedy officers who may judge you to be rich based on the activities (visas and stamps) on your passport. My colleague and I were singled out to be interrogated by officers of the NDLEA in a bid to intimidate us to part with some money. The interrogation ended when they discovered we were lawyers.
- You can exchange naira for central African franc at the border.
- If you are driving a private vehicle, ensure you fill your tank at any fuel station before you cross to Benin as fuel is scarce in Benin.
- The following are the requirements for private vehicles crossing the Seme Border border;
Additionally, you will be required to pay a one-time fee of CFA 65,000 (approximately N40,600) if it is the first time the car is crossing the Seme Border. This money is paid to the Benin authorities even though the official receipt you will be issued will bear CFA 6580.On subsequent trips across Seme border, you will be required to show your old documents as evidence that the vehicle has crossed the border before. If you do not carry your old documents together with the new ones, you will be made to pay another CFA 65000.
- International drivers license, valid for one year – NGN7500
- International car registration, valid for one year – NGN10000
- ECOWAS Brown Card (ECOWAS insurance) valid for 3months – NGN25000
Have you traveled to the Republic of Benin by road? Leave your comments here and tell us about your experience.
Wouldn’t you love to travel with us?
Omg! Nice post. I remember my first time crossing the seme border in 2005 on my way to Togo. It was a rough experience. Immigration trying to extort money from me. Infact, once you get there, no car was allowed to pass. All passengers must disembark and cross by foot. If you didn’t want to cross by foot, okada will take you through the bush just so you avoid customs and immigration, but that was very risky. After 2005, I have been going to Cotonou to buy stuff to sell, especially when I was still job hunting. Last time I went to cotonu was in 2015 and I saw the whole boarder had changed. I crossed in a car with no one harrasing me (I was with some force guys thou). The border had so changed that it was almost a free way. Regarding the festac-seme boarder route, that is the den of customs and immigration. Again this is a route I used to frequent some 7 years back on public transport so I understand the ordeal. (My aunt lives just before the French village). I don’t quite havr those bad delays from them since I now ply that route in a private vehicle. The sufferers are the commercial buses. Again, how does one obtain the ECOWAS travel certificate? It’s much needed. Maybe this is one reason people never want to present their passport at seme border for stamping. They prefer the bush route! 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂
Hahaha… I didn’t even know the bush route existed. I also noticed the main border gate (which appeared newly constructed) was closed. And we were made to drive through very bad narrow roads to get across to the other side.
There is so much much to be done here to enhance free movement of persons especially within the ECOWAS region.
The ECOWAS travel certificate (the light blue passport) can be obtained from the same place you obtained your international passport. I got mine in less than 24 hours.
In this part of the world, ”extortion” is our middle name. A big shame indeed. Smh, wonder if it will ever stop.