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Living in Cotonou

Destination Benin: Cotonou, economic capital.

A comprehensive guide about living well in Cotonou

Cost of living in Cotonou, prices and what it is like, quality of life/hardship, and compare the cost of living for 2021. Comprehensive guide for students.

Living in Cotonou is something unique that words can hardly explain: it is a city bursting with music, colorful clothing, great food, and an affirming way of life. All the multiple facets of Cotonou make life in the city an adventurous and rewarding experience.

Life in Cotonou

Cotonou is the largest city and the economic center of Benin in West Africa. The name ‘Cotonou’ literally means ‘by the river of death, which is a fitting name for a country that boasts the origins of ‘vodun’, or voodoo.

Economy: Cotonou is Benin’s largest city and houses many of its government and diplomatic services. The city is a major port and is also home to an airport and a railway that links to Parakou.

Inflation: 4.6% for Benin as of June 2021.

Cotonou Population: 779,000 (2020 est.)


Cost of Living

The cost of living for expatriates in Cotonou as of July 2021 is low in comparison to other places in the world, with an overall Cost of Living Index (COLI), for all 13 basket groups, of 63.17 (New York =100). We have collected prices for the same items, worldwide, based on Expat spending norms, in or closest to the location, and converted them to $USD so that we can compare the cost of 13 different baskets in 780 global locations. For each basket, compared to New York, the equivalent cost in Cotonou is as follows:

1) Alcohol and/or Tobacco: Cost is low for items such as beer, spirits, wine, and tobacco-related products such as cigarettes. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$560. The average price in a store for a midrange bottle of wine is USD$6.79, domestic/local beer (500ml) USD$0.97, imported/international beer (330ml) USD$1.61 and a pack of 20 cigarettes is USD$1.21.

2) Clothing: Cost is very low for items such as business, casual, and children’s clothing and footwear. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$530. The average price for an international brand of men’s jeans is USD$16, a quality international brand of running shoes USD$49, men’s leather shoes suitable for office wear USD$57 while a medium-size international summer dress from a global chain store is USD$24.

3) Communication: Cost is high for various communication costs such as home telephone rental, internet subscription, mobile service provider tariff, and data costs. A basket costing USD$200 in New York costs USD$252. The average price for a monthly standard plan internet subscription is USD$38, while the benchmark mobile tariff is USD$0.07 per minute.

4) Education: Cost is average for items such as creche / pre-school fees, primary school fees, high school fees, and tertiary study fees. A basket costing USD$30,000 in New York costs USD$26700. Average annual private international school fee (excluding extras) is USD$17,326 for Primary School, and USD$19,280 for High School.

5) Furniture & Appliances: Cost is average for items such as dining table and chairs, home entertainment, kitchen appliances, and sofas. A basket costing USD$2,500 in New York costs USD$1900. The average price for a 6kg front loader Washing Machine is USD$670, and USD$575 for a 46+” LED UHD TV.

6) Groceries: Cost is average for items such as consumables, cleaning products, dairy, fresh fruit & vegetables, general food products, snacks, soft drinks. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$780. Average grocery prices in a major international retail store for 1 kg apples is USD$3.70, 1 kg oranges USD$1.99, 1 head lettuce USD$0.82, 1 kg potatoes USD$1.71, 1 kg boneless, skinless, chicken breast USD$6.88, 1 kg cheddar cheese USD$3.60, 1 dozen large eggs USD$1.90, 500g loaf white bread USD$1.40, 1 L full cream milk USD$2.36, and 1.5 L water USD$0.77.

7) Healthcare: Cost is low for general health care, doctor visits, hospital stays, non-prescription medicine, and medical insurance. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$550. Average healthcare cost for a private practice doctor visit for an uninsured patient is USD$45, and a private hospital stay per day including nursing care, medications, diagnostic tests, food, and related costs is USD$1,373.

8) Household Accommodation: Cost is low for items such as apartment rent, house rent, property purchase, mortgage rate, and utilities. A basket costing USD$5,000 in New York costs USD$1700. The average house/apartment rent for a secure upmarket unfurnished apartment (3 bedrooms) is USD$1,565 in a central location, and USD$985 in a suburban location, per month, excluding utilities.

9) Miscellaneous: Cost is very high for items such as dry cleaning, linen, magazines, newspapers, office supplies, and postage stamps. A basket costing USD$500 in New York costs USD$660. The average price for dry cleaning (1 min 2 pcs suit) is USD$12.83, while an international newspaper is USD$3.95.

10) Personal Care: Cost is low for items such as cosmetics, hair care, and toiletries. A basket costing USD$500 in New York costs USD$235. The average cost for a men’s haircut and blow-dry is USD$19, while a women’s hair color, cut and blow-dry – medium length is USD$94.

11) Recreation & Culture: Cost is low for items such as books, cinema, sport, and theatre tickets. A basket costing USD$500 in New York costs USD$290. The average price for the latest release international cinema ticket (average of on and off-peak where applicable) for one adult is USD$5.20, and an international fitness, recreation or sports club membership cost for one adult is USD$53 per month.

12) Restaurants Meals Out and Hotels: Cost is average for items such as hotel daily room rates, meals, and beverages in a restaurant, and take away food and beverages. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$490. The average cappuccino price (regular, medium) is USD$2.66, coke/Pepsi (330ml) USD$0.75, burger meal (international franchise or similar) USD$10.72, and a mid-range international restaurant meal for 2 USD$29.94.

13) Transport: Cost is average for items such as fuel (petrol/gasoline), car hire, public transport, vehicle purchase, and maintenance. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$800. The average price over the last year for the highest available octane petrol/gasoline (1L) is USD$0.61, while the benchmark car sedan purchase price including taxes/duties for a compact/small / economy vehicle (1.4 L) is USD$13,086.

How does the cost of living in Cotonou compare?

Cotonou is 0.4% more expensive than Houston TX for groceries, -14.9% cheaper for household costs than Kuala Lumpur, and 28.2% more expensive for transport costs than Dubai.