Cotonou is the largest city in Benin and the country’s primary port of entry for visitors. The city is located on the country’s coastline, in the south.In the Fon language, the word ‘cotonou’ means “the mouth of the river of death”. The area was settled as a fishing village during the time of the Dahomey Kingdom. The French were given permission to build a trading post, until they were given the region altogether in 1868. The city was used to defend against the British in their conquests.Cotonou grew to become the largest city in the country, right up to independence. Although the capital is located at Porto-Novo, Cotonou is still the nation’s economic and population centre. It also attracts many government institutions and embassies, regardless of Porto-Novo’s status, leading to the city being referred as Benin’s de-facto capital.Cadjehoun Airport is located just west of city centre, and is the primary airport serving the city and the country. It has scheduled services from most African capitals, along with connections to Brussels and Paris. Short-haul flights from nearby Lagos are a popular way of reaching Benin.Buses from nearby capitals Accra, Lagos and Lome are plentiful. Amongst others, ABC Transport offers daily services.There are bus services from Cotonou to every city in the country.There is a train route that goes halfway up the country, from Cotonou to Parakou, run by L Organisation Commune Benin-Niger des Chemins de Fer et Transports (2132 2206). While the train takes longer than a bush taxi, it’s a much more relaxing way of traveling. First class tickets are only slightly more expensive than second class ones and are worth the extra expenditure. The train leaves Cotonou three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) at 8AM precisely, arriving at Parakou about 6:30PM, and returns the next day, leaving at 8AM from the Parakou train station, arriving 6:30PM in Cotonou. First class costs CFA 5600, while second costs CFA 4000.The trains on these schedules will usually stop at Bohicon, which is 4 hours from Cotonou. The fare costs CFA 1400 for first class, and CFA 1100 for second.A tour company also hires out 1920s colonial-period trains for multiple-day touring trips at expensive, but good value prices (CFA 50,000+). The service is called Train d’Ebene and is operated by Voyageur SARL .(As of May 2014 the train to Parakou wasn’t running, “because we are too poor”)The best way to get around is by taxi, although you have to go to a main gare (Etoile Rouge, Dantokpa, etc.) to find them. A cheaper alternative is by ‘moto’, locally called zemidjans which means “get me there fast” in Fon. They are simply moped taxis which are very popular. Fares are negotiable, and there are no meters. The minimum fare is CFA 100 but the fair price is at most half of what the zem originally quotes–negotiate!Swim at one of the pools in town

Airport: COO Cadjehoun Airport Cities in Belize

Country: Benin