Benin is a French-speaking nation in West Africa. Albeit being known as the birthplace of voodoo, there is much more about this country. From the Royal Palaces in Abomey to the must-visit market in Dantokpa Market. Do not forget about the Pythons Temple or the Royal Palace in Porto-Novo. There is enough to see and to do in Benin.
What you may not want to do, however, is to roam with your provider in Benin. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers want to buy local SIM cards, including in Benin. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Benin. Let's do this.
Telecom Providers in Benin
Benin has 2 telecom providers: MTN Benin and Moov Benin. MTN Benin is run by Spacetel Benin, while Moov Benin is run by Maroc Telecom. Both operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
You may have read articles recommending or discussing BBCOM, Libercom, or Globacom Benin (Glo Benin). None of those operators are active in Benin anymore, so the country has only two operators left.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Benin? If you want to buy a SIM card in Benin, I would recommend going with either MTN or Moov. Both providers have similar coverage in the country, and speeds are comparable. The same counts for the prices for packages.
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Just like other countries in Africa, you have to show your passport when buying a SIM card in Benin.
Do note that broadband access is still spare in the country and that most of the communications go through cellular antennas. Although access has expended in recent years, it is not prevalent in the Benin yet.
However, the development of broadband access has encouraged the two operators to develop their networks, which is why mobile data is good and relatively cheap compared to other countries in the region.
From 2018, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Benin established free roaming between the nations. When making outgoing calls from any of these countries to Benin, for example, are billed at local rates, and incoming calls are free (max. 300 minutes per month). Unfortunately, there is no free data roaming within those countries, but that may change in the future.
With all of that covered, let’s see what MTN and Moov have to offer to us.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
MTN offers 4G in populated areas, such as Cotonou, Abomey, and Ouémé. MTN SIM cards are sold for 200 CFA ($0.35) in MTN stores and at Cotonou Airport. The following data packs, referred to as Forfaits VOLUME, can be added:
- 100 CFA: 40 MB for 24 hours
- 150 CFA: 200 MB for 24 hours
- 200 CFA: 300 MB for 24 hours
- 250 CFA: 450 MB for 24 hours
- 400 CFA: 200 MB for 48 hours
- 500 CFA: 1 GB for 48 hours
- 500 CFA: 100 MB for 7 days
- 1000 CFA: 300 MB for 30 days
- 2000 CFA: 500 MB for 7 days
- 2000 CFA: 750 MB for 30 days
- 2500 CFA: 2 GB for 7 days
- 4000 CFA: 2.4 GB for 30 days
- 6000 CFA: 4 GB for 30 days
- 9000 CFA: 6.5 GB for 30 days
You can also get unlimited data with MTN Forfaits ILLIMITÉS that will give you 4G/LTE speeds, where available, until you have reached your monthly quota. Afterward, your speed will be throttled to 256 kbps, which is slow for most modern browsing. The following monthly packs are available:
- 15 000 CFA: 6 GB high-speed data
- 25 000 CFA: 30 GB high-speed data
- 45 000 CFA: 60 GB high-speed data
You can also get MTN packs to be used from midnight to 6 AM called Forfaits NUIT, which are mentioned below:
- 750 CFA: 1 GB for 1 night
- 1000 CFA: Unlimited data for 1 night
- 5000 CFA: Unlimited data for 1 week
Moov Benin, just Moov, has always been MTN’s main competitor, even when there were more operators in the country. The operator grew a lot when the regulator moved 1 million former Glo customers to Moov. However, that was not enough for them to become the largest operator in Benin.
Some independent reports claim that Moov has better coverage than MTN. However, the difference is small, meaning that you will not see a major benefit for choosing Moov over MTN if you only take coverage into consideration.
Moov SIM cards are sold for 250 CFA. However, you can get it for cheaper at times when promotions are going on. Sometimes, as low as 100 CFA, even at Cotonou airport.
The following Moov data packages can be added to your plan:
- 100 CFA: 50 MB for 24 hours
- 150 CFA: 200 MB for 24 hours
- 200 CFA: 300 MB for 24 hours
- 300 CFA: 500 MB for 24 hours
- 500 CFA: 1 GB for 48 hours
- 500 CFA: 100 MB for 7 days
- 1500 CFA: 500 MB for 30 days
- 5000 CFA: 3 GB for 30 days
You can also get Moov’s Forfaits Ilimites packages, which are data packages that get throttled after going over your allowance. The throttled speeds range from 1 Mbit/s to 3 Mbit/s, which is not fast, but you can still browse the web normally compared to MTN’s 256 kbps. The following Moov unlimited packages can be bought:
- 750 CFA: 1.5 GB high-speed data (then 2 Mbit/s) from 11 PM to 6 AM (one time)
- 15 000 CFA: 6 GB high-speed data (then 1 Mbit/s) for 30 days
- 30 000 CFA: 25 GB high-speed data (then 2 Mbit/s) for 30 days
- 45 000 CFA: 50 GB high-speed data (then 3 Mbit/s) for 30 days
- 75 000 CFA: 100 GB high-speed data (then 3 Mbit/s) for 30 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Benin
I have discussed the relevant providers in Benin in this article because using a Beninese SIM card would be much cheaper than roaming with your provider… in most cases. However, buying a local SIM card is not the only way to stay connected in Benin. You can buy an international SIM card, use a mobile hotspot, or use free WIFI connections. Below, I will discuss the alternative options to use your phone in Benin.
Roaming in Benin with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is Djezzy from Algeria, then you would be roaming with Djezzy in Benin.
The issue with roaming is that it can be expensive. There have been many horror stories where people had to pay thousands in roaming fees when coming back from their holidays, which is just a shame, in my opinion. However, roaming does not always have to be expensive, especially when visiting a neighboring country.
Many providers offer roaming plans. Some allow you to roam for free in Benin, while others would offer you a roaming bundle with a set number of minutes, SMS, and data. Finally, several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee.
As you can see, there are many options out there, so be sure to explore the roaming options your provider has. Conveniently for you, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers (and many more to come) and discussed everything you need to know about roaming with your provider. If you are lucky, you may not even have to buy a SIM card in Benin and can roam for free there.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
One thing I would not recommend doing is to Roam As You Go. Just like prepaid cards where you can buy bundles or Pay As You Go (as in, charged per minute, SMS, or MB), Roaming As You Go can be insanely expensive (that is how people get expensive roaming bills). So far, there are a handful of providers I have reviewed that offer affordable Roam As You Go rates. But generally, avoid it. Get a roaming plan if you can or buy a SIM in Benin.
Using an International SIM Card in Benin
International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.
The number of international SIM card providers is too many to count, but international SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. A few providers I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.
They allow people to call you at one number instead of five in case you are exploring multiple countries in one trip. Moreover, you do not have to deal with multiple SIM cards you will never use again. In short, international SIM cards have been made for the international traveler in mind.
Although this sounds fabulous, international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Benin. Some international SIM card providers charge ridiculous fees (sometimes, even more than roaming with your provider), while others offer awful service. It is, therefore, important to go with a reputable company so that you do not have to deal with surprised when traveling around the world.
On the other hand, international SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Many countries in Africa require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
Using Portable Hotspots (Pocket WIFI) in Benin
Portable hotspots, also referred to mobile hotspots or pocket WIFI, are routers small enough to bring with you everywhere you go. They are portable, battery-powered wireless routers that allow you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Just like with the number of international SIM card providers, there are so many mobile hotspots out there that it is challenging to keep track of them all. Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
The first time I used a portable hotspot was when I was in Bangkok, Thailand, with my dad. He uses the Dutch telecom provider called KPN, which does not let you roam for free in Thailand. I was with 3 Denmark (3 Danmark), which also did not allow me to roam for free. The router was offered for free by our Airbnb host. Let me tell you how convenient that thing was!
I do not remember the exact brand router we used, but we could connect our phones to it, explore Bangkok, and upload highlights of our trip on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp without the need of connecting to unsecure and slow connections in Thailand.
That is why I often recommend those who are traveling in groups or with families to consider getting a pocket WIFI device so that each individual does not need to buy a local SIM card and data packages. In some countries, the cost of getting a local SIM card or packages is so low that it is not even worth getting a mobile hotspot. In others, it could save you money.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
Connecting to Free WIFI Networks in Benin
Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected in Benin which is using free WIFI networks.
Using WIFI networks should not cost you any money (unless you are connecting to premium hotspots), which is why it is a popular option for travelers. Go to a local café, buy a coffee, connect to their WIFI, and post your pictures to Facebook or Instagram. Straightforward, right? Well, let’s see if that is indeed the case.
First, you need to find hotspots. In some regions, they are readily available. In others, you cannot find any, require you to give your personal details (for commercial purposes), are restricted for those who are a subscriber of an operator’s, or are so slow that you wished you never connected to them.
In the case of Benin, you will not find many hotspots throughout the country.
Public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription now or learn more about NordVPN.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Benin
Getting a SIM card from either Tigo or Moov would do you well when considering a Beninese SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in Africa? Check out my Africa SIM card buying guide, covering other African countries, such as Algeria, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Benin
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Benin. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Benin drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Benin
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Benin. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Beninese hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Benin
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Benin, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to US dollars for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!