Benin & Togo – frequently asked questions
What photographic equipment is suggested?
This, of course, is very subjective and depends on many parametres. As a standard equipment we suggest in any case a (digital) SLR camera. In order to save weight, to be as flexible as possible in most situations without the need to change lenses in adverse surroundings we suggest a high quality travel zoom lens (for example 24 – 120 mm) and in case a prime lens of 35, 50 or 85 mm. Also a wide angle could be interesting. For the festivals a long telelens (up to 400 mm) has been proven as very useful. Don’t forget sufficient memory cards (2 x 32 GB, 1 x 64 GB or even more). A polarizing filter for the landscapes is often useful. A tripod might be useful but since this trip takes us more to people photography and much less to landscapes it’s up to you whether you want to carry it with you or not. An extra camera body is always very useful.
What am I going to learn during this trip?
The trip is accompanied by an experienced travel photographer, Catherina Unger, who will assist with every photographic problem and is always ready to give advice for picture composition, camera adjustments and some tips and tricks. The intensity of the photographic assistance depends on the interest of the group members. After the daily activities there is time to discuss problems and situations with the photographer and the other group members. Please keep in mind that the philosophy of Catherina Unger is a “low impact” photography – therefore there will not be many arranged “settings” – the aim is to tell a story of a country and its people by “seeing” situations not setting them.
Do I need to bring a PC (laptop, macbook)?
No, you don’t need to. But you could do it – in order to make first copies of your memory cards and start with a postproduction in case there is any time left although our trip is quit “full”.
May I participate even if I’m not a photographer and my interest in photography is limited?
The tour has been created as a photographic adventure and is accompanied by a professional travel photographer. However it is so unique and spectacular that also non-photographers will enjoy it fully and will be stunned.
A health insurance is compulsory for this trip, but not yet included in the price. Please let us know if you need any assistance and we will be happy to help you and suggest an appropriate travel insurance company in your country.
Insurance for photographic equipment:
In the packages of most travel insurances include a luggage insurance but this is limited to a certain amount and does not cover the photographic equipment. However there are existing some insurance companies that are specializing in photographic insurances.
Westafrica – climate, equipment, health, people
Because of its location near to the equator the climate in westafrica is tropical. It is warm throughout the whole year with low temperature variation during the year and even during the day. There are roughly two climate zones in Benin and Togo – one in the South and one in the North. In the South, near to the coast and up to 200 km to the north there is a humid-hot climate with two dry and two rain periods and about 26 – 30 °C all year round. Also the temperature of the ocean is about 24-29 °C in the Golf of Guinea. The dry period lasts from December to April and from July to mid September. The Northern part is influenced by the Sahel zone on the southern end of the Sahara desert. There is only one rain period in the year from June to September. During the dry period from November to May in this region there is often blowing the famous Harmattan, a hot wind from the Sahara. In the North there are huger temperature variations. Except the months July and August the average temperature is always above 30°C, in March and April even more. During the nights in April to October it cools down to 20 – 25 °C, sometimes even below.
Which cloths will I need?
We suggest comfortable, light clothing made of Merino, Cotton or other natural breathing material that is possible to launder quickly. For some evening and night also a fleece jacket or a wind jacket might be necessary. For the daily activities we suggest comfortable footwear (or even trekking sandals), for the walks in the bush sturdy shoes are more appropriete because of the thornes. Don’t forget a headgear. You will not need elegant clothing except you want to dress up for some dinner. There are some hotels with a pool – don’t forget your swim wear. In Africa it is a sign of respect to be always dressed neatly. Shorts or too short skirts ending above the knees for the ladies and shorts for the gentlemen will not meet a great appreciation by the locals. In some parts of the countries it is advisable that ladies cover also the shoulders.
Which other items are important?
A good sunscreen, sun glasses – the african sun burns! A torch – some hotels do not always have electric light and we will need a torch for our night walks in case we take night pics. In some hotels there are no blankets to cover yourself, just bring a simple allround cloth. Also a little extra towel could be a good idea. Soap and moisture body lotion – african hot air makes dry skin! Remember to bring all your cosmetics with you – it might be difficult to find everything. Don’t forget any of your medicines – often we will be far away from the closest pharmacist… Insect repellent is also very important!
Is this tour physically demanding?
Of course this is not a relaxing holiday – it has been created for curious and adventurous explorers even if we have included as much comfort as we could. However the long drives in the car or the bus will be tiring – but the spectacular moments and the breaks on the most beautiful spots will compensate! On some days we offer walks. Some aspects of this tour might be unfamiliar for your body – the temperatures, the way of moving around the whole day, the daily change of hotels and the unfamiliar cuisine. This tour is made for people with a bit of flexibility, adaptability and curiosity. This should be considered before booking.
How are we accommodated?
The two West African countries belong the poorest countries of the world. Of course they do not feature the same complete and comfortable perfect organized touristic infrastructure as we know it from the western hemisphere or from some of the southern African countries with their wonderful luxury lodges. Of course, for this tour we have chosen, among the possible solutions, the most cozy and charming ones. This journey is made for curious travelers who are broad minded to accept some imperfection and understand the shortage of resources. Some of the hotels will not have Wi-Fi and some no hot water (which normally with the tropical temperatures is not a big problem). Also the breakfast is much less of variation than in Europe. In change we often enjoy a heart warming hospitality, a cozy atmosphere, tropical gardens and tastefully prepared diners.
Everything that runs on electricity will rarely be found: you will have to survive without tv and without landline phone. Not all hotels will have air-conditioning but in change they have a tricky architecture to cool down the rooms. Of course there will be enough occasion to charge mobile phones and camera batteries. In most areas of the countries there is mobile reception and sometimes Wi-Fi.
Which kind of food should I expect?
Besides some very tasty local specialties you will find also a lot of French influenced dishes. In most hotels you will find an international menu and can choose between rice and pasta with vegetables and meat. However you should not miss to try the local cuisine. Many dishes are made with corn and manioc, but also couscous and rice are very used and part of the main dish. They come with several sauces with vegetables and meat, beans and peanuts. Very often the dishes are quite spicy. On the coast you will find delicious seafood and fish.
Please let us know in any case if you are vegetarian or suffer of some allergies.
The breakfasts often consists in coffee, tea, milk, bread or baguette and butter.
The lunches are not included – so how does this work?
It depends – we will decide together with the group: sometimes the hotel can prepare a lunch box for us, other times we will stop at a market or a local bar or restaurant where we find some local freshly cooked food.
Benin & Togo – safe places to travel?
Compared to other African countries Benin and Togo are relatively safe countries for travelers with a low crime rate. It is however not advisable to walk around in the dark and carry jewellery and expensive goods. The whole journey is accompanied by two guides – one local, authorized guide and our travel photographer Catherina Unger who has travelled to Africa many times. However we suggest to keep yourself informed before the tour by the Department of foreign affairs of your country and check the updated information about safety.
How flexible are we with the daily programs, are there options?
Our program is quite full because we have included many highlights in a relatively short time and also the driving distances should be considered. However, there are opportunities for spontaneous stops or longer stays in special places in order not to miss the most important moment to take wonderful photos.
The CFA-Franc BCEAO (Franc de la Communauté Financière d’Afrique) is used in the whole west African area Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
There is the fix exchange rate of 655,957 CFA-Franc for 1 Euro
credit cards (Visa oder Master) are accepted in many hotels. ATMs are existing in the bigger towns.
Your passport must be valid at least 6 month after the journey. Benin and Togo require a Visa before entering the country. The conditions depend on your country of origin. The visa for Benin can be arranged via e-visa, the Togo visa is theorically possible at the entrance of the country but we would suggest in any case to arrange it prior departure: we are crossing the border at a minor border post where not always Visas can be issued without problems. Please contact your department for Foreign Affairs for updated information.
Arrival and departure
Since our clients arrive from all over the world our journey does not include international flights. We are however happy to assist you to find the best flight connections for you. In our experience the best airline to reach Benin as well as Togo is Air France, but arriving from US also other solutions with a stop in Ghana could be an option. Our journey begins with the arrival transfer in the afternoon of the arrival day and ends with the departure transfer after the program of the last day. We are happy to assist you also with extension stays in one of the countries as well as in the neighbouring countries.
How much tip should I give?
Tips are always optional and should be given only if you are very satisfied with the received service. In the restaurants a tip of 5/10 % is common. Also the guides and drivers of the journey will appreciate a tip at the end of the trip.
Medical issues and malaria prophylaxis
Benin and Togo are two very poor countries. The health standards and the conditions of the hospitals are very poor. The best way for a safe journey throughout the country is a good prevention and a well-equipped first-aid kit. Don’t forget painkiller, tablets against diarrhea, disinfectant, plasters and dressing material. Also a broad-spectrum antibiotics could be a good idea to bring along.
Vaccinations and malaria: We will stay in a malaria risk area during the complete journey and prophylaxis is highly recommended. Please inform yourself with your doctor or the competent local centre for travel vaccinations which other prophylaxis and vaccinations are most appropriate for you.
We will not take any responsibility for the safety and health information!