Our alternative plan, flying into Benin, means that we have to arrange a visa for Benin in advance. With the group, we would have obtained our visa on the way, maybe at the border, or in some other way, not yet specified, but now we are on our own.
So I brace myself again, for the next ordeal. I check the website of the consulate in The Hague, and the process actually seems quite straightforward. Just to make sure, I call the consulate in advance, to clarify a few issues, to check I have everything right. The Honorary Consul himself answers the telephone, an amiable Dutchman, who tells me first that I can actually arrange the entire process online. So I don’t need to hand over my passport? No, no, everything is handled by email. He warns me for the pitfalls in the online application process, which are minor issues, really, and then goes on lyrically about Benin, nice country, very safe, oh, and you shouldn’t miss this, and you really have to see that, and a nice hotel is Hotel du Lac. Woh. What a difference!
After another 15 minutes relaxed chat with the consul, about more of Benin, about our trip, and about his view on some of the neighbouring countries, I set myself to the online visa process. I get to a really attractive website – illustrated with lots of fabulous photographs -, very user-friendly, which asks me for some basic data about my passport, my person and my plans for visiting Benin. I can apply for both my visa and Sofia’s at the same time, no need to upload all kinds of documents and fake hotel reservations, just pay by credit card, and 29 minutes later I have both visas in my email. Twenty-nine minutes!! Woh. What a difference.
And to top it off, today we also got our Ghanese visa back, with our passports. Took 12 days – working days! But then, the people were actually very nice, here, and that, too, counts, no? With two-and-a-half weeks to go, the necessary advanced paperwork is complete; the rest we’ll do along the way. Time to focus on the trip itself, now. (see 18 Feb.)