There is a lack of cultural homogeneity within Benin, which makes Cotonou a diverse and interesting place to live. As a result of a history steeped in migration, European commercial relations and competition between pre-colonial kingdoms, there is no singular majority religion or set of customs, and instead a number of belief systems, such as Christianity and Islam, coexist.
The city is located in the south-east of Benin in West Africa, and is rapidly expanding westwards. The population is around 1.2 million and the official language is French, however Fon, Mina, Aja and Yoruba are also spoken.
English is emerging within the financial and education realms of the country, and French lessons are readily available for those who do not speak the language already.
Cotonou boasts a humid tropical climate, with temperatures ranging between 25–30°C all year round. There are two rainy seasons per year — one from April to July and the other from September to October. While the rainy seasons provide a welcome relief from the heat and are essential to the plant life, some of the unpaved dirt roads in and out of the city often become waterlogged and impassable. This makes getting around by road difficult in these seasons.
All expatriates moving to Cotonou or elsewhere in Benin will require a long-stay visa as well as a work permit. These require a visit to a Beninese embassy, a list of which can be found here. Nationals of several African countries and China can stay in Benin for up to 90 days without a visa but they will need to apply for a long-stay visa if they wish to remain in the country and/or work there.
Visa for Benin usually require a valid passport, photographs, application forms, proof of financial support, a letter from your bank, proof of vaccinations (usually yellow fever), and often a fee (which varies depending on your nationality). Visas for Benin can take a long time to process and may require a number of visits or interviews, so it is advisable to apply for your visa as soon as possible.