Ghana travel guide
Formerly a colony known as the British Gold Coast, Ghana became the first black African nation south of the Sahara to achieve independence in 1957. It is a relatively small country on the west coast of Africa, situated between Togo and Côte d'Ivoire, and remains a somewhat unexplored tropical gem; an untapped destination that abounds in history, culture, wildlife and beautiful scenery, with a wide variety of tourist attractions. Throughout Ghana's 10 regions visitors will be greeted with the warm-hearted smiles of its welcoming people.
Nature has been extremely generous to Ghana and the country's large national parks and reserves provide a sanctuary for the native flora and fauna. The grasslands of Mole National Park in the north are home to a variety of large animals, while birds and butterflies are particularly numerous in Ghana's forests. Rainforests such as that of Kakum National Park in the southern central region, where there is a canopy walkway and wonderful nature trails, provide a haven for eco-tourists. Miles of unspoilt beaches, waterfalls, rolling forested hills, rivers and lakes complete the portrait of a country that is a nature lover's delight.
The diverse ethnic groups of Ghana and the ancient traditions of its people have shaped one of the richest cultural environments in Africa and a holiday in Ghana might well include wonderful traditional festivals, dancing and music, and a wide variety of arts and crafts. The cultural heartland of the country is the Ashanti region, home to the nation's dominant tribe, the Ashanti, who are most famous today for their craftwork and ancient artistry in fabrics, particularly the colourful kentecloth.
Ghana's vibrant capital city, Accra, is the gateway to the country for tourists and is located in the smallest, yet most populated region on the Gulf of Guinea. This modern city is becoming increasingly popular with expats and has excellent accommodation, restaurants and nightlife, colourful markets, and is a good base from which to explore the Atlantic coast west of Accra, which boasts many fine palm-fringed beaches, resorts, ancient forts, castles, and fascinating fishing villages. The forts and castles along the coastline date back to the 15th century and have an intriguing history of European occupation, fierce battles and slavery. The Cape Coast Castle, Fort St Jago and Elim Castle are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Monuments.
The official currency is the Cedi (GHC), which is divided into 100 pesewas. Foreign currency can be exchanged at any forex bureau as well as at some commercial banks; banks and foreign exchange facilities are available at the airport and in all major towns. It is advisable to keep currency exchange receipts in order to be able to re-exchange when departing. Banking hours are usually from 8.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday, and most large commercial banks have ATMs located outside, although only limited amounts of Cedis can be drawn at a time. The most widely accepted credit cards are American Express, Diners and Visa, and cards can be used for payment at major hotels and shops, although this can be risky as credit card fraud is very common. The best currencies to bring are US dollars, British Pounds or Euros as other currencies exchange at poor rates. Travellers should be aware that larger Cedi notes can usually only be used in larger establishments such as hotels and restaurants as smaller enterprises will often not have change.
Language : English is the official language, but many other African languages are spoken including Twi, Fante, Ga, Ewe, Hausa and Dagbani. French is spoken in the north.
Electricity : Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Both round and flat three-pronged plugs are commonly used.
Entry Requirements :
US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A 30-day visa can be obtained on arrival for South African citizens.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.
Passport/Visa Note :
All foreign visitors to Ghana must hold a return or onward ticket, as well as the necessary travel documentation for their next destination; OR a letter from their employer guaranteeing repatriation. If passengers do not have these documents, then they are required to make a deposit, with the Immigration Office, equal to the amount of a return fare. The citizens of most countries can obtain visas on arrival, but most nationalities have to apply for pre-approval to gain these visas upon entering the country. Consent must be given by the Director of Immigration, a minimum of 48 hours before arrival in the country; travellers must ensure they print out their their visa-on-arrival approval document and that it contains their passport and visa numbers, as well a copy of the bio data and photo page from their passport. Applications can be made by the visitor's host, business or sponsor; or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visa exemptions apply to holders of Dual Nationality Cards issued by Ghana. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Ghana. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travel Health :
Health regulations in Ghana require that visitors be in possession of a current medical vaccination certificate for yellow fever. Prophylactics against malaria are recommended for all regions of Ghana and travellers should protect against waterborne diseases including cholera, especially during the rainy season. Visitors are advised to buy bottled drinking water, which is widely available. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid when travelling to Ghana. A meningococcus vaccination is also recommended if you are there in the dry season (November to June). If you are going to be spending a lot of time outdoors and may be at risk of animal bites then a rabies vaccination may also be a good idea.
Decent medical facilities can be found in major cities and towns, but facilities outside main urban areas are poor and emergency services are limited. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised and should cover medical evacuation. If you need certain prescription medication, it is advised that you take it with you, along with a signed and dated note from your doctor explaining what it is and why you need it.
A service charge is rarely added to restaurant bills and tipping for quality service is only expected in restaurants (usually about 10 percent). For other services tipping is discretionary but note that if someone offers to help, whether it is with directions or to carry a bag, they usually expect some kind of payment.
Safety Information :
Safety in Ghana is generally not too much of a concern but it is wise to be vigilant in public areas, particularly in and around Accra, and to avoid walking at night and travelling in taxis alone after dark if possible. Visitors should avoid carrying large sums of cash or valuables on them and be vigilant when drawing money from ATMs. Theft of luggage and travel documents has occurred at Kotoka International Airport. Visitors should also be vigilant in and around Tamale and Kumasi where there has been an increase in crime including muggings and attacks on foreigners. There is a potential for outbreaks of violence between rival political factions, fighting between ethnic groups and civil unrest; travellers are advised to stay up to date with daily developments and to avoid protests. Visitors to the Northern Region should be alert to the possibility of renewed outbreaks of inter-ethnic fighting. When travelling along the Ghanaian coastline, please exercise caution given the occurrence of strong tidal waves striking the coast.
Local Customs :
Ghanaians are generally a conservative people and visitors should respect local customs, traditional courtesies and dress codes, particularly in the villages. Ghanaians do most things with their right hand, including eating, touching food, taking and receiving things, waving, shaking hands etc. The left hand is used for 'dirty things' and it is regarded as rude to use the left hand for the aforementioned things. If in doubt, use the right hand. Greeting is an important social function and handshakes are common. There is no particular dress code, but women will be expected to cover up in the north of the country. No civilian may wear camouflage clothing as it is reserved for the military. Visitors to remote villages, shrines or palaces should visit the local elder or priest and take a small gift such as a bottle of local schnapps, gin or money. Always seek permission before taking photographs of people; it is not permitted to take photographs of military institutions or the airport. Homosexuality is illegal.
Ghana is a very relaxed and friendly country; however, in business, a formal dress code is expected, and punctuality is essential. The exchange of business cards is common. It is important in all meetings to greet and shake hands with each person and acknowledge their presence. The person is to be addressed as Mr, Mrs, or Ms, followed by their surnames, unless otherwise specified. Gifts are unnecessary though greatly appreciated. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken over lunch.
The international dialling code for Ghana is +233. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). Accra's area code is 21. The telephone system is relatively reliable, but most people use mobile phones. Telephone, fax and telex services are available in all main towns, and hotels. Most major hotels also have business centres, which provide secretarial and courier services. Internet cafes are on the increase throughout the country, but connection speeds are usually slow. There are several GSM cell phone operations across Ghana that have roaming agreements with most international networks, and phones can be rented in Accra.
Duty Free :
Travellers to Ghana over 16 years do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 250g of tobacco, or a proportionate mix of these items; two litres of wine and one litre of spirits; and 50ml of perfume and 250ml eau de toilette. Gifts and souvenirs are subject to duty.
Kotoka International Airport
Location: The airport is situated seven miles (12km) from Accra city centre.
Time: Local time is GMT.
Contacts: Tel: +233 21 776 171.
Transfer between terminals: The terminals are connected by a walkway.
Getting to the city: Taxis are the best option for getting to the city centre and can usually be found in the car park outside the arrivals exit. The journey to the city centre can take anything between 25 minutes and an hour, depending on traffic. It is also possible to rent a car at the airport.
Car rental: Car rental companies have booths outside the arrivals hall.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available from the stand outside the terminal and usually park just outside the arrivals exit. They are unmetered so the fare should be agreed upon in advance.
Facilities: Facilities include shops and duty-free shopping, snack bars, a restaurant and bar, a business centre, post office and information desk. Currency exchange services and a 24-hour ATM are located in the arrivals hall. There are also 24-hour medical care and immunisation services available.
Parking: There is plentiful parking at the airport, and a designated drop-off area in front of the terminal.
Ghana lies just above the equator, and therefore enjoys a typical tropical climate, the only marked season being a rainy season. Temperatures in the country are constantly high with little diurnal or seasonal fluctuation, ranging from a low of 70°F (21°C) in the coolest month of August to a high of 100°F (38°C) or more in March. Humidity adds to the discomfort index during the rainy season, which lasts from April to October in the north of the country, and is felt most in the months of April, May, June, September and October in the south. The harmattan, a dry desert wind, affects northern Ghana from December to March, lowering the humidity and creating hot days and cool nights. The harmattan is felt in the rest of the country in January. The best time to visit Ghana varies depending on desired activities and region, but generally speaking the dry months between November and April are the best because they are slightly less hot and humid, the roads are in better shape, and there are fewer mosquitoes. During these months the hamattan may blow but the wind helps reduce humidity which can be a relief.
Ghana Tourist Board, Accra: +233 302 238330 or
United States Embassy, Accra: +233 (030) 274 1150.
British High Commission, Accra: +233 (302) 213 250.
Canadian High Commission, Accra: +233 (030) 2211 521.
Australian High Commission, Accra: +233 (302) 216 400.
South African High Commission, Accra: +233 302 740 450.
Embassy of Ghana, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 686
Foreign Embassies in Ghana
Ghana High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 (0)20 7201 5921.
Ghana High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 0871.
Ghana High Commission, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6290 2110.
Ghana High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 342 5847.
191 (Police); 193 (Ambulance); 192/999
Ghana Emergency Numbers
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