My most recent (budget) trip took me overland from Lagos to Lome. After trying couchsurfing for the first time in Benin Republic, I decided I would give it another shot during this trip.
[Read: A Journey through 2 Countries on a N20k Budget!]
Rather than create a public trip as I did before (when I was a JJC), I pretty much followed Mark’s advice from this post and crafted a message to my would-be host in Lome. She got back to me quickly, I confirmed my travel dates a day before the trip, packed up a small bag, kicked aside my nervous feelings and prepared for an interesting journey into Lome.
Day One: Lagos to Lome
I set out early and followed the same route to Seme border as I did before. I took a bus from my home to Mile2 and then another into Badagry and later to Seme border. The entire trip cost me N800. The border crossing was a breeze this time. To my surprise, I was asked for nothing on the Nigerian side and they wasted no time in stamping my passport.
When I got to immigration on the Benin side, the lady stamped my passport immediately and then asked for N500. I was in the process of negotiating my way through this when someone walked in to get his passport stamped. I struck off a conversation with him (Chuka* – not his real name) and found out that he was driving to Ghana in a bus with a few empty seats.
He offered to drop me off in Lome – for free! (This would normally cost an equivalent of N5,000 – N7,000, travelling in a shared public taxi from Seme town or N15,000, travelling in a standard bus from Lagos). I eventually got out of immigration without making any payment, checked out the bus and was comfortable to go with it.
We arrived in Cotonou quite early but had to wait for a few hours to fix an issue with the bus. There, I got chatting with new friends. There were two exchange students from Switzerland travelling to Ghana and a Ghanaian woman, who made the wait pass by very quickly.
We eventually arrived in Lome at about 7 pm and I tried without success to get to my host. I probably wasn’t pronouncing her address right, so all the bike guys I asked said they didn’t know where it was. Eventually, I resigned to staying in a guest house recommended by Chuka and that cost an equivalent of N4,000/night.
I later got a sim card (N1,562) to update my host about the situation. She couldn’t locate me either, so we agreed to meet the next day. That evening, the owner of the guest house assigned her brother to take me out to dinner and show me around the day after.
We had acheke and fish which cost the equivalent of N3,500 for the two of us. I probably wouldn’t have paid that much if I knew the costs beforehand. Anyway, w returned to the guest house afterwards to call it a night.
Day Two: Lome and an Impromptu Return to Cotonou
The next day, I woke up late and found out that I couldn’t meet my host anymore or get to Kpalime – a place I really wanted to visit – because it was quite far from Lome. I decided to just walk around the city instead. After breakfast, I set out on my own and visited a few sites around.
First, I went to the Independence square. It was locked but open for a mini photoshoot with the local photographers who helped to take my pictures here. I also got to practice my french and I don’t think I did too badly. In fact, I’m actually proud of myself, haha!
Anyway, I just walked around and enjoyed the scenery.
On my way back to the guest house, I decided to stop over for lunch at the beach. A motor taxi (okada) rider was kind enough to give me a free ride there and also provided his services as my photographer.
I was told the structure in this picture has been in existence since WWII
I walked around some more and eventually headed back to the guest house. To my surprise, Chuka was there, heading back to Lagos. I had originally intended to leave Lome early the next morning but my plans changed with the presentation of a free bus ride out of the city.
I quickly texted Mark (from my first trip to Cotonou) and asked if he could host me for the night. Luckily, he was available, so I packed my bags and jumped on the bus. We arrived in Cotonou by 10 pm and I got yet another free bike ride to Fidjrosse where Mark picked me up from.
He made us a delicious dinner and was the perfect host, the second time around.
Day Three: Ganvie, Cotonou & Lagos
The next morning, we visited Ganvie, a lake village in Benin located about 30 minutes away from Cotonou, took a boat tour around the village – that was pretty cool and then returned to Cotonou to have lunch.
PS: I wrote about my first trip to Benin Republic here: A Journey through 2 Countries on a N20k Budget!