19 basic things to know before travelling to Ghana

The most important and basic things to know before travelling to Ghana.


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Ghana was the first place in sub-Saharan Africa where Europeans arrived to trade – first in gold, later in slaves. It was also the first black African nation in the region to achieve independence from a colonial power, in this instance Britain.

After independence from British rule, Ghana reverted back to its pride in the Ashanti Empire, renaming itself “Ghana” or “Warrior King” in Soninke language.

Today it is considered the “Gateway to Africa” for its strategic position in the Gulf of Guinea, a few degrees north of the equator. Here are some few basic things to know before travelling to Ghana

Money  

Unluckily, you can’t change your currency into the Cedi which is the Ghanaian currency before coming to Ghana.  Despite this challenge, one or more of the following means can be used to acquire the Cedi Whilst in Ghana: 

  • ATM: Enquiries in relation to if and where your ATM card is received in Ghana can be made from your bank or Credit Card Company even before arriving in Ghana. For instance, a foreign ATM card with a Cirrus or Maestro logo printed on it can be used at some recognized banks in Ghana. These banks has branches in the major cities; Accra, Kumasi, TakoradiTarkwa, Ho, SunyaniTema, & Tamale.  

Nevertheless, a Visa card is required in case you want to use ATM machines from other banks in Ghana if your ATM is not accepted in Ghana. Enquire in advance from your bankwhether your Visa card has an ATM option that works abroad.ATMs from Standard Chartered bank, Barclays bank, Eco bank as well as other smaller banks in Ghana accept Visa Cards.  

Foreign currency in cash (Euros, USD, GBP) can be changed at exchange offices (‘ForexBureaus’) and banks which usually operates from 8:30am to 4pm from Monday-Friday and 9am to 2pm on Saturdays. 

  • Traveler cheques: It is recommended to use traveler cheques in Ghana because of restricted possibilities to cash them and often only small amounts can be cashed.  

  • Credit cardTransactions at some hotels, malls, restaurants among others can be made with your credit card (Visa or MasterCard). However, be vigilant when using your card and keep an eye on it at all times to avoidillegal use of your cardin situations such as internet purchases. 

Visa requirements 

With the exception of visitors from West African ECOWAS countries, it is mandatory for all foreign visitors to Ghana to hold a valid passport with a Ghanaian visa. Upon arrival in Ghana, a tourist visa which is legal for a period of 60 days (2 months) is stamped. 

Apply for a Ghanaian visa to the nearest Ghana Consulate or Embassy. 

• For online visa application (UK nationals only) visit www.ghanahighcommissionuk.com
• For the Ghanaian Embassy in the USA visit www.ghanaembassy.org
• For an extension of your visa (after 2 months) visit www.ghanaimmigration.org 

Schools  

Educational structure in Ghana may differ from elsewhere. There are the initial stages which is the primary education after which you proceed to the Junior and Senior High schools. Anyone who passes the senior High School final exams (WASSCE) and wish to further it then applies and move to the tertiary level. Comparatively, Government schools are usually affordable than Private schools but some people prefer their wards attending private schools as a result of the perception that they offer quality education. Due to this reason, you should definitely expect to pay.        

Safety 

Although Ghana has been noted as a safe country, minor occurrences of crime and theft in the bigger cities such as Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast, Takoradi, & Tamale and its surroundings cannot be overlooked. In the evening and night, theft often occurs from motorbikes.

There is therefore the need for foreigners especially (since they are often the target of criminal elements) to be a little careful in places like Nima, ‘Osu’, Bantama, in and around ‘Kwame Nkrumah circle’, the old city centre and during busy street events as well. It is advisable to use the ATM’s during the day instead of the night and avoid carrying expensive belongings such as mobile phones as much as possible. 

• For official travel information by US authorities visit www.travel.state.gov
• For official travel information by UK authorities visit www.fco.gov. uk 

Health 

www.traveldoctor.co.uk (UK) or www.travelclinicsofamerica.com (USA) provides you with information about tropical diseases, malaria and immunizations. 

Yellow Fever is the only immunization required by Ghanaian authorities whiles all others are non-compulsory.Your doctor or travel clinic can be consulted on which ones are suitable in your situation. 

Sun cream, Imodium to stop diarrhoea, sterile bandages, O.R.S. (Oral Rehydration Salt), mosquito repellent, plasters and Paracetamol are first aid items you might need during your stay in Ghana. 

Traffic 

Probably, you are expected to experience differenttraffic rules and regulations from what you are used to. 

If you need to cross a busy street, at least make a signal to draw the attention of drivers because cars often do not give way to pedestrians due to a lot of traffic in Ghana. Taxis and small buses can unexpectedly stop or park to pick up passengers so be careful when you ride a bicycle or walking by the streets. 

Malaria 

Without protectionagainstmosquitoes, you stand the risk of being infected with malaria which is a health threat in Ghana. Preventive malaria drugs can be used to reduce the possibility and intensity of a probable malaria attack. 

In Ghana, most hotels and guest houses do not provide mosquito nets to guard against mosquitoes so it is recommended to use mosquito nets at night and to purchase them earlier before your arrival in Ghana.Wearing long sleeves and trousers in the evening can minimize mosquito bites as well as using mosquito repellent (containing ‘DEET’: indicated on the product). Inexpensive short term malarial treatments (such as CoartemArtesunate and smaller brands) can be an alternative to taking preventive malaria tablets. Whenever you begin to display malarial symptoms like aches and pains, lack of appetite, profuse sweatinglethargy, high fevervomitingyour treatment is at hand by adopting any of the malaria preventive measures in advance. 

Visit www.traveldoctor.co.uk/malaria for more information about malaria. 

Also read:  7 valuable things you should always wear on a plane

Tipping 

Due to the fact that the average Ghanaian worker lives on a very small wage, tips are really cherished. A tip or gratuity of 10% is most adequate if their service is good, and your needs are attended to quickly and professionally to enhance their salary.  

Current time in Ghana 

 The Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is Ghana’s standard time. Ghana does not operate daylight-saving time.The Greenwich Meridian crosses Ghana. 

 Bargaining 

Unlike shops, bars, restaurants and hotels, prices can be bargained for at the market, Accra’s ‘Arts Centre’ (souvenir market) and moreover in taxi’s and with roadside vendors. Thou there are no clear guiding principle, it’s possible to negotiate 50% off the first stated price. 

Mobile phone 

It wouldn’t be necessary to purchase a new mobile phone in Ghana if you already have one. You can get aninexpensiveGhanaian prepaid sim cards from one of the networks (MTN, Vodafone, GloAirtel and Tigo) which will be activated by registering with your passport and can be used in your own phone provided it is simlock-free. 

However, poor or non-existent network coverage at some parts of the country such as beach or other remote places is inevitable. It’s possible to make relatively cheap calls in and outside Ghana with a Ghanaian sim card. 

Language 

English is the known official language in Ghana as a result of the country being a former British colony.In spite of this, local languages such as ‘TwiGaFanti, Hausa, Ewe’ and several others are almost always been spoken in the communities with Twi noted as the most dominant language. 

Comparatively, English is not as proficient in remote areas and villagesas elsewhere in Ghana. 

Drinking water 

It is best to buy bottles of mineral water since the tap water in Ghana is non-potable. There are a lot of mineral water brands obtainable in Ghana. Purified water being sold in small sealed plastic sachets popularly referred to as ‘pure water’ which are relatively economical can be an alternative. These Sachets of ‘pure water’ is one of the easiest and cheap products to come cross in Ghana. It is common to see it being sold usually for 20 Pesewas by street hawkers at busy crossings and traffic lights. 

Taking pictures 

It is advisable not to take pictures of people without their permission as it is not always welcomed. Moreover, sellers at Accra’s main market, Makola market do not often like being snappedwithout theirapproval, as they normally do not like that.You are likely to pay and even more if you are a white person. 

Taking Photographs of government buildings as well as uniformed persons is outlawed. 

Electricity / Voltage 

Electrical appliances expected in Ghana should function on / or be adaptable to 220 -240 volts. Ghana uses UK-type sockets for 3-pronged plugs.An adapter or a step-down transformer or otherwise a multi-socket which can also be bought locally may be required in order to use your electronic devices. 

You could prepare for unannounced frequent power cuts and fluctuations experienced in Ghana by coming along with a rechargeable lamps, power banks, candles etc. 

Currency 

The Ghanaian currency is the Ghana Cedi. One hundred pesewas (Gp) makes up a cedi. 

The USD to GHS rate is the most popular Ghana Cedi exchange rate according to currency rankings. The currency code for Cedis is GHS, and the currency symbolis GH¢. 

Supermarkets 

Koala in Osu (Oxford street, Airport res. & Cantonments) and MaxMart situated near 37 Military Hospital and their latest store at A&C Shopping Mall in East Legon are some of the biggest supermarkets to come across in Ghana. There are modern designed malls with various outlets that can be found in the other regions of Ghana aside the capital, Accra. 

Hospitals in Ghana 

Korlebu Teaching hospital and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Accra and Kumasi respectively are the two most popular and trusted hospitals in Ghana. There are also private and specialist hospitals. There is a health insurance policy available to ensure medical needs are met but for citizens. 

Climate & Weather 

The climate of Ghana is classified as tropical to sub-tropical with temperatures ranging from 24 to 34 degrees Celsius (75 to 93o F.) but differ with season and elevation. Two rainy seasons occur, from April to July and from September to November in the north. The weather is hot and dry and more humid in the northern and southern parts respectively. Ghana is located on the Gulf of Guinea, only a few degrees north of the Equator, giving it a warm climate. 


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