Formerly a colony known as the British Gold Coast, Ghana becamethe first black African nation south of the Sahara to achieveindependence in 1957. It is a relatively small country on the westcoast of Africa, situated between Togo and Côte d'Ivoire, andremains a somewhat unexplored tropical gem. This untappeddestination abounds in history, culture, wildlife and beautifulscenery, and has a wide variety of tourist attractions. ThroughoutGhana's 10 regions, visitors will be greeted with the warm-heartedsmiles of its welcoming people.
Nature has been extremely generous to Ghana and the country'slarge national parks and reserves provide a sanctuary for thenative flora and fauna. The grasslands of Mole National Park in thenorth are home to a variety of large animals, while birds andbutterflies are particularly numerous in Ghana's forests.Rainforests such as that of Kakum National Park in the southerncentral region, where there is a canopy walkway and wonderfulnature trails, provide a haven for eco-tourists. Miles of unspoiltbeaches, waterfalls, rolling forested hills, rivers and lakescomplete the portrait of a country that is a nature lover'sdelight.
The diverse ethnic groups of Ghana and the ancient traditions ofits people have shaped one of the richest cultural environments inAfrica and a holiday in Ghana might well include wonderfultraditional festivals, dancing and music, and a wide variety ofarts and crafts. The cultural heartland of the country is theAshanti region, home to the nation's dominant tribe, the Ashanti,who are most famous today for their craftwork and ancient artistryin fabrics, particularly the colourful cloth.
Ghana's vibrant capital city, Accra, is the gateway to thecountry for tourists and is located in the smallest, yet mostpopulated region on the Gulf of Guinea. This modern city isbecoming increasingly popular with expats and has excellentaccommodation, restaurants and nightlife, and colourful markets.It's also a good base from which to explore the Atlantic coast westof Accra, which boasts many fine palm-fringed beaches, resorts,ancient forts, castles, and fascinating fishing villages. The fortsand castles along the coastline date back to the 15th century andhave an intriguing history of European occupation, fierce battlesand slavery. The Cape Coast Castle, Fort St Jago and Elim Castleare recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Monuments.
Ghana is a beautiful country, often affectionately called'Africa for Beginners' because of its friendly locals andcomparative stability and prosperity. It is the ideal destinationfor first-time travellers in Africa. However, this does not meanthat travel in Ghana is always without complication, particularlyas the tourist infrastructure is only well developed in certainpopular areas.
Visitors tend to spend their time in the capital city, Accra,the historic royal stronghold of Kumasi (traditional home of theAshanti people), and in various picturesque coastal villages. Oneof the best ways to enjoy Ghana is to explore the coastline, whichboasts both incredible tropical beaches and a number of historiccolonial forts, many of which are UNESCO-listed.
There are two alluring National Parks in the country, wherevisitors can seek out Ghana's wealth of wildlife. Kakum NationalPark is a rainforest reserve with some amazing canopy walkwayssuspended above the forest, while Mole National Park is a massivewildlife reserve, consisting mainly of savanna, and containing morethan 90 mammal species.
Visitors should note that in the rainy season, between April andOctober, many roads in Ghana become so muddy and flooded that theyare impossible to traverse, making some attractions, like thenational parks, very difficult to access.
Located in the northwest of the country, Mole National Park isGhana's largest reserve and the best place to do some game viewing.The terrain is mostly flat savanna, which is ideal for spottinganimals. Visitors are likely to see baboons, hippos, monkeys,warthogs, buffalos, crocodiles, elephants and assorted antelope,among other animals. Indeed, the park is home to more than 90mammal species. Predator sightings are rarer, though visitors mayencounter hyenas, leopards and lions. Travellers should note thatthe park's infrastructure has never been developed for tourism, andthey should not expect much in the way of amenities. That said, atrip to Mole is still very much an adventure. The best time tovisit is in the dry season between November and April. Rainy seasontravel is less appealing, as rain often makes roads impassable, andwildlife more difficult to track down. The best spots to findanimals during the long dry season are the watering holes leftbehind when the park's ephemeral rivers slowly dry up. The parkentrance is close to the town of Larabanga.
Kumasi is the traditional home of the Ashanti people and is arich cultural centre. Some call it 'The Garden City', inrecognition of its diverse flora. Historically speaking, this oldand proud African city rose to prominence in 1695, taking on theBritish in several Anglo-Ashanti wars. It has an active king tothis day. Travellers will find many cultural and historicalattractions and landmarks in the city and some great traditionalmarkets to explore. The Manhyia Palace is well worth visiting.Built in 1925, it was used as a royal Ashanti residence until 1974and now houses an interesting museum. It still contains theoriginal furnishings and a collection of royal artefacts. TheNational Cultural Centre Complex is set in lovely grounds andincludes a model Ashanti village, craft workshops where visitorscan watch local artisans at work, an art gallery, a souvenir shopand a number of other small attractions. The Armed Forces Museum inFort St George (1820) is a delight for those who like militaryhistory and paraphernalia. The massive Kejetia Market is a must forvisitors, but they should go prepared for an overwhelming ocean ofcolour and commerce. Other attractions include the Okomfo AnokyeSword, the Asantehene Palace and St Peter's Cathedral.
Ghana is blessed with hundreds of miles of pristine coastlineand the country's beaches are some of its greatest attractions.Some of the best beaches can be found at Busua and Dixcove, tworustic fishing villages conveniently close to Accra. The beachesare long and sandy, great for walking and swimming and sometimeseven suitable for some decent surfing. The Ghanaian coastline isalso notable for the historic colonial forts that dot its shores.They're reminders of the region's onetime importance as an outpostin the slave trade. Nowhere is this more evident than in the formerBritish colonial capital of Cape Coast, a now flourishing moderntown that was once the largest slave trading centre in West Africa.It contains the massive Cape Coast Castle. The first lodge built onthe site was erected by Swedish traders in 1653. The Cape Castleand its spooky dungeons, where thousands of slaves were locked awayin terrible conditions, were restored in the 1920s and are now aUNESCO-listed tourist attraction.
The castle houses a moving museum detailing its brutal history.Eleven of the colonial forts and outposts in Ghana have beendeclared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Fort Coenraadsburgand Elmina Castle in Elmina, Fort Metal Cross in Dixcove, and FortAmsterdam in Kormantin. Tourists exploring the coast can thereforeenjoy stunning equatorial beaches as well as some fascinatinghistorical sightseeing.
Accra lies just above the equator, and therefore enjoys atypical tropical climate. The only marked season is a rainy season.Temperatures in the country are constantly high, ranging from a lowof 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 during therainy season, which is in April, May, June, September and October.The 'harmattan', a dry desert wind, affects Accra in January. Thebest time to visit Accra varies depending on desired activities,but generally speaking the dry months between November and Aprilare the best because they are slightly less hot and humid, theroads are in better shape, and there are fewer mosquitoes. Duringthese months the harmattan may blow but the wind helps reducehumidity which can be a relief.
Accra lies just above the equator, and therefore enjoys atypical tropical climate. The only marked season is a rainy season.Temperatures in the country are constantly high, ranging from a lowof 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 during therainy season, which is in April, May, June, September and Octoberin the north of the country, and is felt most in the months ofApril, May, June, September and October in the south. Theharmattan, a dry desert wind, affects northern Ghana from Decemberto March, lowering the humidity and creating hot days and coolnights. The harmattan is felt in the rest of the country inJanuary. The best time to visit Ghana varies depending on desiredactivities and region but, generally speaking, the dry monthsbetween November and April are the best because they are slightlyless hot and humid, the roads are in better shape, and there arefewer mosquitoes. During these months, the harmattan may blow butthe wind helps reduce humidity which can be a relief.
The official currency is the Cedi (GHC), which is divided into100 pesewas. Foreign currency can be exchanged at any forex bureauas well as at some commercial banks; banks and foreign exchangefacilities are available at the airport and in all major towns. Itis advisable to keep currency exchange receipts in order to be ableto re-exchange when departing. Banking hours are usually from8.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday, and most large commercial bankshave ATMs located outside, although only limited amounts of Cediscan be drawn at a time. The most widely accepted credit cards areAmerican Express, Diners and Visa, and cards can be used forpayment at major hotels and shops, although this can be risky ascredit card fraud is very common. The best currencies to bring areUS dollars, British Pounds or Euros as other currencies exchange atpoor rates. Travellers should be aware that larger Cedi notes canusually only be used in larger establishments such as hotels andrestaurants as smaller enterprises will often not have change.
English is the official language, but many other Africanlanguages are spoken including Twi, Fante, Ga, Ewe, Hausa andDagbani. French is spoken in the north.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Both round andflat three-pronged plugs are commonly used.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival inGhana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival withprior arrangement.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrivalin Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival withprior arrangement.
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid uponarrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained onarrival with prior arrangement.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid uponarrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained onarrival with prior arrangement.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid uponarrival in Ghana. A visa can be obtained on arrival for SouthAfrican citizens.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrivalin Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival withprior arrangement.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival inGhana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival withprior arrangement.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid uponarrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained onarrival with prior arrangement.
All foreign visitors to Ghana must hold a return or onwardticket, as well as the necessary travel documentation for theirnext destination; or a letter from their employer guaranteeingrepatriation. If passengers do not have these documents, then theyare required to make a deposit, with the Immigration Office, equalto the amount of a return fare. The citizens of most countries canobtain visas on arrival, but most nationalities have to apply forpre-approval to gain these visas upon entering the country. Consentmust be given by the Director of Immigration, a minimum of 48 hoursbefore arrival in the country; travellers must ensure they printout their visa-on-arrival approval document and that it containstheir passport and visa numbers, as well a copy of the bio data andphoto page from their passport. Applications can be made by thevisitor's host, business, or sponsor; or by email email@example.com. Visa exemptions apply to holders of DualNationality Cards issued by Ghana. Note that a yellow fevervaccination certificate is required to enter Ghana.
It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have atleast six months' validity remaining after the intended date ofdeparture from their travel destinations. Immigration officialsoften apply different rules to those stated by travel agents andofficial sources.
Health regulations in Ghana require that visitors be inpossession of a current medical vaccination certificate for yellowfever. Prophylactics against malaria are recommended for allregions and travellers should protect against waterborne diseasesincluding cholera, especially during the rainy season. Visitors areadvised to buy bottled drinking water, which is widely available.Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B andtyphoid. A meningococcus vaccination is also recommended ifvisitors are there in the dry season (November to June). If theyare going to be spending a lot of time outdoors and may be at riskof animal bites, a rabies vaccination may also be a good idea.
Decent medical facilities can be found in major cities andtowns, but facilities outside main urban areas are poor andemergency services are limited. Comprehensive medical insurance isadvised and should cover medical evacuation. If visitors needcertain prescription medication, it is advised that they take itwith them, along with a signed and dated note from their doctorexplaining what it is and why they need it.
A service charge is rarely added to restaurant bills and tippingfor quality service is only expected in restaurants (usually about10 percent). For other services, tipping is discretionary but notethat if someone offers to help, whether it is with directions or tocarry a bag, they usually expect some kind of payment.
Safety in Ghana is generally not too much of a concern but it iswise to be vigilant in public areas, particularly in and aroundAccra, and to avoid walking at night and travelling in taxis aloneafter dark. Visitors should avoid carrying large sums of cash orvaluables on them and be vigilant when drawing money from ATMs.Theft of luggage and travel documents has occurred at KotokaInternational Airport. Visitors should also be vigilant in andaround Tamale and Kumasi, where there has been an increase in crimeincluding muggings and attacks on foreigners. There is a potentialfor outbreaks of violence between rival political factions,fighting between ethnic groups and civil unrest; travellers areadvised to stay up to date with daily developments and to avoidprotests. Visitors to the Northern Region should be alert to thepossibility of renewed outbreaks of inter-ethnic fighting. Whentravelling along the Ghanaian coastline, travellers should exercisecaution given the occurrence of strong tidal waves striking thecoast.
Ghanaians are generally a conservative people and visitorsshould respect local customs, traditional courtesies and dresscodes, particularly in the villages. Ghanaians do most things withtheir right hand, including eating, touching food, taking andreceiving things, waving, shaking hands etc. The left hand is usedfor 'dirty things' and it is regarded as rude to use the left handfor the aforementioned things. If in doubt, visitors should use theright hand. Greeting is an important social function and handshakesare common. There is no particular dress code, but women will beexpected to cover up in the north of the country. No civilian maywear camouflage clothing as it is reserved for the military.Visitors to remote villages, shrines or palaces should visit thelocal elder or priest and take a small gift such as a bottle oflocal schnapps, gin or money. Travellers should always seekpermission before taking photographs of people; it is not permittedto take photographs of military institutions or the airport.Homosexuality is illegal.
Ghana is a very relaxed and friendly country; however, inbusiness, a formal dress code is expected, and punctuality isessential. The exchange of business cards is common. It isimportant in all meetings to greet and shake hands with each personand acknowledge their presence. The person is to be addressed asMr, Mrs, or Ms, followed by their surnames, unless otherwisespecified. Gifts are unnecessary though greatly appreciated.Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, with anhour taken for lunch.
The international dialling code for Ghana is +233. The outgoingcode is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 forSouth Africa). Accra's area code is 21. The telephone system isrelatively reliable, but most people use mobile phones. Localprepaid SIM cards can be purchased as a cheaper alternative tousing international roaming. Most major hotels also have businesscentres, which provide secretarial and courier services. Free wifiis available in many hotels, restaurants, and cafes in touristareas.
Travellers to Ghana over 16 years do not have to pay customsduty on 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 250g of tobacco, or aproportionate mix of these items; two litres of wine and one litreof spirits; and 50ml of perfume and 250ml eau de toilette. Giftsand souvenirs are subject to duty.
Ghana Tourist Board, Accra: +233 302 682 601 orwww.touringghana.com
Embassy of Ghana, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 6864520.
Ghana High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsiblefor Ireland): +44 20 7201 5921.
Ghana High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 0871.
Ghana High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 3425847.
Ghana High Commission, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6290 2110.
United States Embassy, Accra: +233 30 274 1000.
British High Commission, Accra: +233 30 221 3250.
Canadian High Commission, Accra: +233 30 221 1521.
South African High Commission, Accra: +233 30 274 0450.
Australian High Commission, Accra: +233 30 278 7657.
Taxis are plentiful in Accra and can be hailed directly from thestreet. They're unmetered, so travellers should be prepared tonegotiate the fare before getting into the vehicle; taxi driversare notorious for trying to overcharge foreigners. Shared minibustaxis (tro tros) travel along set routes around the city. They'rethe cheapest and most popular means of getting around Accra, butnot always the safest due to poorly maintained vehicles and erraticdriving habits. Tro tro drivers will usually have an assistant whowill yell out the destination as the tro tro approaches a stop. Carhire is available at the airport, and it's possible to hire avehicle with a driver, which is often the best way of travellingaround the city.