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 Travelling To Ghana

 

 

Ghana is perfect for those travelers who wish to visit Africa for the first time, or for those who would prefer a less predictable holiday. While the region of West Africa has a reputation for being somewhat volatile, Ghana is a stable, democratic country, with a Constitution & Presidential Elections that are held every four years, a fact that has led to the visits of four successive US Presidents - Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

 

It is no coincidence that Ghana's stable political climate has led to the development of one of the strongest performing economies in West Africa. Ghana has rich mineral resources, and is the second-largest producer of cocoa in the World, with other important exports include timber, and kola nuts. Electricity is sold to neighbouring countries that is produced from the Akosombo Dam, a hydroelectric dam constructed in the 1960s by producing the largest man-made lake on Earth, Lake Volta. Ghana will shortly commence producing oil, after reserves were discovered in the Western Region, west of the regional capital, Takoradi.

The combination of improved political & economic conditions in Ghana have led in turn to growth in one particularly noteworthy industry - tourism.

 'Obroni'

'Obroni, Obroni !' - A westerner walks along 'Oxford Street' in busy Osu (January 2007)

 

 

Previously visited almost exclusively by those with business interests, or African-Americans with the desire to visit their roots courtesy of Ghana's tragic link with slave trade, modern Ghana's tourism industry now receives a yearly influx of tourists from all over the World. It is relatively common to join an official tour group in Ghana that includes tourists from countries such as Canada, France, The Netherlands, South Africa, The United States Of America, Japan, New Zealand, or Germany.

Accra's Kotoka International Airport subsequently receives scheduled flights from some of the biggest names in commercial aviation today - apart from the national carrier, Ghana International Airlines, airlines like British Airways, North-West Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Egyptair, Alitalia, South Africa Airways, Kenya Airlines, and South Africa Airways all have regular routes, and indeed, several of these airlines have daily flights.

A good system of national roads link the neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Togo. The road between Accra and Côte d'Ivoire is particularly noteworthy for it's excellent surfacing, and much of the road system north to Burkina Faso a little more dated, but still very good. Heading east of Accra to the Togo border, much of the road is very good, except for the atrocious 40km stretch between Akatsi & Denu in the Volta Region, which is due for a massive upgrade that seems tedious in being completed, and adds around 45-60 minutes to any trip between the capital and the Togolese border.

(For more on Ghana's road system & driving in Ghana, visit our special topic - Cars/Roads/Driving In Ghana)

A streetside seller hawking bananas

 A street vendor selling bananas by the bunch near the bustling Makola Market in the Victoriaborg district of central Accra.

(January 2007)

 

 

Ghana offers international travelers an excellent introduction to the African continent. The capital, Accra, provides an amazing contrast between traditional & contemporary styles of living, and even simply hiring a taxi and touring the streets provides a fascinating insight Ghanaian life, as well as limitless photo opportunities.

 

Pre-Departure Checklist

GHANA

ENTRY

VISA

If you are not a citizen/permanent resident of Ghana, you are notpermitted to enter Ghana without a visa, and it is recommended that one is obtained from the Ghanaian Embassy/Consulate/High Commission in your home country prior to departure. While you can obtain a visa on arrival at Kotoka International Airport if you are arriving by air, it is recommended that you start this process around 3 months prior to leaving.

Generally, you will be required to send your passport by registered post, and you will have it returned in around 2 weeks with the Entry Visa attached.

Doing this simple process will also save you much time at KIA, particularly if you make it to the front half of the queue to pass through the arrivals checkpoint. Many people arrive at this point with no Entry Visa, and will have to apply for a Visa on arrival, which can make this process very tedious, especially if you have the correct documentation.

Immigration checkpoints are also at all major road crossings, and there are also some isolated stations in country areas that do check visa conditions. It is therefore recommended that copies of your visa identification page, and Entry Visa, should be carried at all times on the off chance that they are requested.

Vaccinations

&

Health

Entry to Ghana requires a valid vaccination against Yellow Fever, and this should be clearly stamped on the vaccination booklet that you carry with your passport. It is also recommended by travel vaccination clinics to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A & B, Polio, Typhoid, & Rabies, which are all administered by injection. Cholera prevention is done usually by liquid form, but as an unusually large percentage of people seem to experience illnesses upon taking the Cholera prevention, it is often disregarded.

You may also wish to take precautions by taking anti-malaria tablets with you. It is also highly recommended to obtain a mosquito repellent, although you will also find these in some supermarkets in Ghana. Malaria remains a major killer disease throughout Africa even today, and while local Ghanaians may be used to the odd bout of malaria, it can be a devastating illness for a first time traveller. While some vaccinations are required, others are precautionary, and you should consult a travel vaccination clinic in your home country prior to travelling.

One thing that is recommended is to obtain all prescription pharmaceuticals prior to leaving. While Ghana has many well-stocked pharmacies, most pharmaceuticals are imported, and may either be out-of-stock, or simply not available when you need them.

You should get relevant documentation from your General Practitioner confirming all your prescribed pharmeceuticals & non-prescription treatments so as to avoid any issues on arrival.

Clothing

Ghana's conditions are typical of a tropical location, with the temperature hovering at around 25-33 Degrees Celcius with minimal variation throughout the year. There are two rainy seasons, in May/June & September/October.

However, Ghana experiences extremely high humidity, generally around 100%, and this should be considered when selecting clothing to be worn during your trip. Clothing made of cotton is recommended, however, some synthetics are very uncomfortable.

Despite these conditions, Ghanaians themselves seem to rarely wear shorts or low-cut dresses, and while these varieties don’t offend locals, they do seem to prefer trousers & denim. There seems to be no specific preference between long and short sleeved clothing.

Most forms of clothing are generally accepted, Ghanaians are occasionally known to frown upon women who wear clothing that is ultra-revealing, despite such fashions being generally accepted in Western countries, and have been known to remark on it in extreme instances. Generally speaking, Ghanaians are very forgiving of issues such as wardrobe malfunctions & lapses !

Visitors should also be aware that despite clothing patterns consisting of a camouflage (military) pattern being popularized in many fashion cultures, certain patterns of military camouflage may attract the attention of local authorities.

Power

Adaptors

Ghana uses the same kind of power plug as the United Kingdom (type G / BS 1363 / 3 pin plug) and the voltage is 220-240. Most electronics stores will stock a power converter that will adapt your power plugs to connect with Ghanaian electrical sockets. The price of such adapters is usually less than $20us each.

It is recommended to take at least one of these adapters, and while some people may get several, it is perhaps a better idea to buy a powerboard with several sockets in your home country to use in conjunction with the converter.

In some cases, small electrical outlets may sell cheaply-imported powerboards that are universal.

Phones

Ghana has a modern telecommunications network, and global roaming for your cell phone is invaluable for keeping in touch with friends & family in your home country.

While this is the case, it is also recommended to buy pre-paid SIM cards & credits in Ghana if you wish to make calls home, as calls from a cell phone can be quite expensive through an overseas telecommunications company using roaming, whereas local SIM cards are at very reasonable rates by comparison.

The ability to use the instant message facility is an excellent & inexpensive way to maintain instant contact with your home country, especially if you are unable to access internet facilities.

During peak-hours, the network does experience overload, and sometimes calls cannot be connected temporarily.

Local landlines are available in Ghana, although public phones are generally confined to places such as shopping malls & hotels, and there are few pay phones that work to be found, even in the regional capitals.

Banking

&

ATM Facilities

Tourists & visitors are advised to check ahead of their arrival as to whether their ATM cards will work in Ghana.

Most banks are aligned with Visa credit, so those with the Visa facility should have little problem in accessing cash via their credit account. Generally, the cards marked with the Cirrus logo will work in foreign countries, and we have heard of no cases where a Visa card could not be used for cash redraw in Ghana.

At the time of writing, the only financial institution that is aligned with Mastercard in Ghana is Stanbic Bank, and while there are many outlets in Accra & the major regional cities, it is important to plan ahead if travelling to more remote towns.

However, while a town may have a financial institution outlet, not all outlets have an ATM facility, especially in towns outside of the regional capitals. It is very important to take this into account with any planned journeys outside of the capitals.

Accommodation

It is strongly recommended to at least arrange the accommodation where you will base yourself in the initial days following your arrival in Ghana.

Ghana-pedia lists a selection of hotels & hostels of various ratings, and many of these references have contact details and hyperlinks to their websites.

This is important if you are arriving at Kotoka International Airport, as you will most likely be asked where you are staying as part of processing your visa/passport by immigration officials. If you don't have an answer, you could experience major difficulties in passing the arrivals checkpoint (you may even experience an early case of attempting to solicite your first bribe to smooth things over !).

As usual, you should consider aspects such as affordability, and proximity to the areas you would like to visit, and also to local transport. 

 

Arrival

Firstly, prior to landing, it is recommended that you change into summer-weight clothing. This is because when you arrive, you will find that even in the dead of night, the conditions are quite humid.

 

Furthermore, when you are bused to the immigration area at Kotoka International Airport, the hall is either not air-conditioned, or is at least very badly air-conditioned, and is oppressively humid (it is even recommended to take a bottle of water along in case you start to dehydrate).

 

Secondly, beware of scammers - around the airport, you will often be bailed up by people, often with KIA identification, who don't actually have an official function at KIA, but they will "assist" you, and subsequently insist on a payment at the end. This is not restricted to the outside area, but even around the Arrivals area. Appear confident, as though you know what you are doing, and unless you really, really need it, do not accept any assistance from unknown people (they might want $10us for providing the 'service' of guiding you to the closest taxi stand !).

 

If you have people meeting you on the ground, they will be waiting in a large throng of people outside. You should warn them that they may be in for a long wait, as it can take up to 2 hours from exiting the aircraft to getting to meet your contacts. The area where people wait is somewhat congested, even chaotic, so you may want to get them to have some kind of visual identification to assist in you locating them.

 

 

Transportation in Ghana

The best way around is by taxi or tro-tro. Foreigners are generally charged somewhat more for a taxi than Ghanaians, although compared to taxi prices in Western countries, are still cheaper by far. Taxi rates in Ghana are negotiated prior to the journey, also unlike Western countries.

 

An alternative is to travel by tro-tro or by metro bus within larger cities such as Accra & Kumasi, and this is an extremely cheap way to travel if not fast (metro bus travel in Ghana costs about 10 US cents per trip). While many roads within the Accra & the regional capitals are generally sealed, there are also many exceptions. Traffic signals also operate, but are somewhat rarer than can be found in Westernized countries, with many road junctions serviced by roundabouts.

 

Traffic conditions can be quite hectic, particularly in the peak hours.

 

 

Food & Drink

Food in Ghana is very cheap in comparison to many other nations, particularly the Americas & Europe, and both Ghanaian & non-Ghanaian dishes are quite good quality. Places like Chop Bars are very cheap, with great meal & a beverage costing around $3-$4us (sometimes cheaper !).

 

Western-style food outlets are also plentiful, with dishes reproduced to a very good standard, so if Ghanaian cuisine isn't your bag, you certainly won't starve.

 

In Osu, one of the major social centres of Accra, a large variety of specialist restaurants, which serve World cuisines such as Chinese, French, Italian, Indian, and Middle Eastern, with remarkable quality.

 

Roadside vendors also sell fruit & vegetables at very reasonable prices, and many stores & service stations sell many varieties of confectionery, ice cream, and beverages, many that will also be recognized instantly as global brand names.

 

Drinks are no problem either - if you are looking for liquor, there are any number of bars & clubs in Ghana, ranging from small 'spots', to world-class nightclubs visited by the elite. Beer is brewed in Ghana, with the most popular varieties being the Club and Star Lager varieties.

Bottled and canned drinks available at Housemart

 Housemart supermarket's selection of drink varieties

(February 2008)

 

 

Any number of carbonated drinks and other soft drink varieties exist. Anything that can be imported from America, Europe, Asia or the Middle East seems to make it onto the shelves in Ghana. Small local stalls sell common brands, particularly those lines produced by Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola. Malt flavoured drinks are particularly popular, as are various fruit juices. Petrol stations often have a large range of drinks available, although supermarkets arguably give the best range.

 

Bottled water is easily obtained at local stalls, with Voltic and Dasani being the most popular brands. Satcheted water is sold at most vendors, and street sellers wander the roadsides hawking "pure water" at as little as 5 Ghp per satchet.

 Ghana-pedia's Australian co-administrator, Peter Morris, enjoys a coconut near the Nungua police barrier in eastern Accra.

 Ghana-pedia's Australian co-administrator, Peter Morris, enjoys a coconut along Labadi Road, near the police barrier in the Nungua district of eastern Accra. Peter usually drinks around 6-8 coconuts a day when in Ghana - a much cheaper & healthier alternative to carbonated drinks.

(February 2008)

 

 

Even better - coconut vendors are everywhere in Accra and the coastal areas of Ghana, and they can even be found in places like Tamale, capital of the Northern Region. Generally, a fresh coconut on the roadside will cost around 30 Ghp (about $0.20us), and vendors just strip them of their outer skin with a machete, and then cut a hole in the top. It is very cheap and refreshing, particularly if you've been out in the tropical heat all day.

 

 

Utilities

Electricity supply in Ghana is often alternated, with certain districts shut down to take pressure off the national power grid, with only places that have an alternate power source maintaining electricity supply. Districts generally have their allocated power shutdown once every 4-7 days, although occasionally, additional cuts do occur.

 

 Despite this, many business do resort to a power generator, and the concept of solar energy is also being embraced by many businesses & private homes.

Telephone & internet services are readily available, and internet cafes have developed all over the major cities & towns. Broadband connections are now relatively common, and internet access is quite inexpensive. Telephone calls can usually be made from internet cafes at cheaper rates, and the caller simply has to dial 00, then your country code, area code, and finally the telephone number.

  

Water is also allocated, with the allocation stored on the property in tanks for later use. The infrastructure for sewerage is a mix of open & covered sewers, and as a result, you should watch your step, particularly at night in poorly lit areas.

 

 

Money 

ATM machines are common in Accra and the major centres, although you may want to withdraw in advance before you head to the smaller towns & settlements. Ghanaians accept US dollars, although the primary currency is the Cedi. The most you can generally withdraw from an ATM in one transaction is 800,000 Cedi, or approximately $80us, so you will have to do several withdrawals if you need to access a large amount of cash, although this may be solved with the redenomination of the Ghanaian Cedi from July 2007.

 

Bartering

Outside of businesses that have 'signposted' prices (ie, hotels, restaurants, etc), a system of bartering exists. Foreigners are usually pretty easy to spot for the average Ghanaian vendor, and it is almost certain that the price that a foreigner will pay will differ from that of what a local might pay.

There is a definite knack in bartering, and these transactions have the same 'market' stigma that is as common to Ghana as to any country with that environment.

There is a definite knack to bartering - some people don't have the patience, while some people are prepared to barter extensively. Regardless, it is almost certain that you will overpay for an item or service during the trip, and rather than be discouraged, you should take it as a learning experience.

If you are one of the former, it is probably advisable that you befriend a local to represent you, as they know the 'system' and will almost certainly save you from paying an over-inflated price.

For those is the latter category, one piece of advice is to learn some of the local language, as it may be enough to convince a vendor that while you are a tourist, you are not fresh off the plane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Readers have left 7 comments.
No.7  Entering the Internet
Hi Pete, It was a real pleasure to get information from you.There is another information coming your way.Does getting onto the internet expires after a certain period,and when it does do you have to pay $200dollars to get back on.
fred hughes (Unregistered) • 2009-04-02 10:57:46
No.6  email imap hosting server
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Twercabbeva (Unregistered) • 2008-06-09 02:30:45
No.5  Hmmmm
Hey Obroni Peteeerrrrrrrrrr. When are you going to creat the Dating site on Ghana-pedia for me?
Paul (Unregistered) • 2008-04-04 02:46:27
No.4  You're welcome
Hi Eric, you can email me or Peter at [email protected] and we shall do our best to make your visit interesting. Peter is in Australia and visits Ghana often and I am here in Accra, Ghana. You can reach me personally on [email protected] and Peter on [email protected]
Eli Evans Kallulu Jr.
Kallulu Jr. (Unregistered) • 2008-03-22 10:39:05
No.3  Comment From The Co-Administrator
As the co-administrator of this site, author of this reference, and an 'Obroni' that has traveled to several cities, towns & regions in Ghana, that "Monkey" is certainly more correct than "King Faisal". Despite his negative & quite misleading comments that may convince a prospective tourist to stick to traditional tourist destinations that offer little in regards expectation, I have allowed "King Faisal" to retain his feedback on the site, although it must be stressed that this attitude is definitely in the overwhelming minority from my experiences in Ghana.

Ghana is not perfect - no country is - but it is stable, and is seeing more & more tourists every year. While there are bad elements in every country in the World (even here in Australia !), people for the most part are very friendly in Ghana.



In regards to this page, much of it is based on experiences from myself & others, and a generalization of what a traveler would expect when traveling to Ghana. From what I have read from several tourist guides to the region, my experiences seem quite consistent.

"Monkey", you are correct - there are inexpensive chop bars around, a normal meal + drink is normally around 30,000 or perhaps 40,000 cedis, although in some cases, the prices may also vary either side of these amount.



Regards

Peter
[email protected] (Unregistered) • 2007-11-26 17:33:53
No.2  I guess your comment is wrong!
King Faisal, I think you're wrong there. with even $1.00, you can enjoy a good mean at a chop bar!! I guess you need to travel to see how blessed we are in Ghana. Yes, may be Ghana standard, its expensive, but I guess the writer wrote those tips for people visiting Ghana.
Monkey (Unregistered) • 2007-11-26 13:22:12
Please keep your comments brief and on topic, and remember that this is not a discussion thread.
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{mospagebreak}
No.1  Mr.
Ghana people are lier's. Am a Ghanaian our food the cost too much and everything in Ghana here you will pay big money.bad leader's in Ghana....
King Faisal (Unregistered) • 2007-11-23 13:51:40
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