Bargaining is a way of life in Ghana and prices at craft stalls and in markets are definitely negotiable.
Dangers & Annoyances
Ghana has proved to be a stable and generally peaceful country. Take care of your valuables on beaches and avoid walking alone at night. If swimming, beware of strong currents; ask locals before diving in.
Bilharzia is present in many of Ghana's freshwater lakes and rivers, so take the necessary precautions, such as applying DEET repellent before going into the water.
Electricity is 230V and three-pin British-style plugs are used. Power cuts remain frequent.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Ghana's country code||233|
Entry & Exit Formalities
You need a yellow-fever vaccination certificate to enter Ghana.
- You'll need a permit from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to bring/take out plants or plant products.
- Absolute prohibitions include raw coffee, pornography and 'scandalous' or 'defamatory' literature.
- Residents and nonresidents arriving in Ghana are permitted to carry up to US$10,000
Visas are required by everyone except Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) nationals. Visas upon arrival are rarely issued.
Though it's technically possible to pick up a visa upon arrival, they only get granted in rare cases so it is highly advisable you get one ahead of travelling. Single-entry three-month visas (US$60) and multiple-entry six-month visas (US$100) are standard. You can get a visa extension at the Immigration Office in Accra near the Sankara Interchange.
Visas for Onward Travel
Most nationalities need a visa for onward travel throughout West Africa.
The embassy issues visas for three months (C146), usually in 24 hours. You need three photos and a yellow-fever certificate. Three-month tourist visas are also available at the border at Dakola, costing CFA94,000.
A three-month visa costs €50 and requires a hotel confirmation. See full list of requirements at www.snedai.com.
The embassy issues visas for one month on the same day. Alternatively, you can get a visa at the border at Aflao (CFA15,000), but it's only valid for seven days and you'll need to extend it in Lomé.
- Ghanaians are an affable lot and greetings are of paramount importance. You will always be welcomed, greeted and asked how you are and it is expected you do the same in return.
- Humour is entrenched in Ghanaian culture and always the best way to deal with tricky situations.
- In Muslim areas, remember not to pass food or shake hands with your left hand.
- People will often try to get your attention by hissing or making a 'tsssss' sound – this may sound impolite to your ears but it's a perfectly acceptable way of doing things.
Homosexuality is illegal in Ghana and attitudes towards gays and lesbians are for the most part conservative. In many instances same-sex couples will not be allowed to share a room.
You can get online pretty much anywhere in Ghana these days. Most hotels and many restaurants offer wi-fi, all mobile phone networks have 3G and there are internet cafes in every town and city (connection costs C5 to C10 per hour).
- Newspapers Accra’s best dailies are Daily Graphic (www.graphic.com.gh) and Ghanaian Chronicle (http://thechronicle.com.gh/).
- BBC World Service Listened to widely; in Accra it’s 101.3FM.
- Radio Local Ghanaian stations include the excellent Joy FM (news and music; 99.7FM), Choice FM (102.3) and Gold FM (90.5).
- TV Ghana’s biggest TV stations are GTV, Metro TV and TV3. Satellite TV is available in almost all top-end and many midrange hotels.
ATMs are virtually everywhere, with almost all accepting Visa (Stanbic's taking MasterCard and Maestro). Exchange bureaus are found in most major towns.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
Tipping is not common in chop houses or cheap eateries, but is more expected in upscale venues (a tip of 10% to 15% should suffice). Porters or bag handlers at the airport and bus stations will often expect or ask for a tip. A cedi or two should be fine.
The best currencies to bring are US dollars, UK pounds and euros, in that order. Foreign-exchange bureaus give lower exchange rates for small US$ denominations, so pack your $50 and $100 notes.
Barclays is the only bank to exchange travellers cheques; there is a maximum of US$250 per transaction.
Midrange and top-end hotels tend to accept credit cards, but at a surcharge.
Administrative buildings 8am to 2pm or so; embassies tend to keep similar hours.
Banks 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday; some additionally run until noon on Saturday.
Markets 7am to 5pm; in predominately Muslim areas, Friday is quieter; in Christian areas, it's Sunday.
Shops 9am to 5pm or 6pm every day except Sunday, when only large stores open.
Accra's main post office is in Ussher Town, but your post will get to its destination much more quickly if you mail it from Kotoka International Airport.
New Year's Day 1 January
Independence Day 6 March
Good Friday March/April
Easter Monday March/April
Labour Day 1 May
May Bank Holiday 1st Monday in May
Africa Unity Day 25 May
Republic Day 1 July
Founders Day 21 September
Christmas Day 25 December
Boxing Day 26 December
Ghana also celebrates Muslim holidays, which change dates every year.
- Smoking The prevalence of smoking in Ghana is quite low, and smoking is banned in all public places.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added-tax (VAT) is a 17.5% charge levied on most goods and services. In addition, the government charges tourist sector hotels, restaurants and other private businesses a 1% Tourism Development Levy. Restaurants and hotels usually include both VAT and the development levy in their prices.
Mobile phone service is good and so popular that landlines are disappearing.
- Mobile (cell) phones are ubiquitous in Ghana and the network coverage is virtually universal and excellent value.
- If you have an unlocked phone, SIM cards (C10) can be picked up in shopping centres and communication centres.
- MTN, Vodafone, Tigo and Airtel are the main networks; all have 3G.
Ghana uses GMT.
Public toilets are generally not in great condition – your best bet is midrange to upmarket bars and restaurants where you'll find clean, modern flush toilets. Bus stations usually have decent facilities, though you'll need to pay a small fee. In rural areas toilets tend to be of the squat variety.
As a rule, tourist information is pretty useless in Ghana, with staff working in tourist offices having little understanding of what travellers need. The Ghana Tourism Authority has an office in Accra, and the brand new Accra Tourist Information Centre looks like a good bet.
No Worries Ghana (www.noworriesghana.com) Published by the North American Women's Association, this guide (both paper and electronic) is more targeted at people moving to rather than travelling to Ghana; nonetheless, the dozens of eating, drinking, and entertainment listings as well as the information on shipping, transport and so on is very useful.
Touring Ghana (www.touringghana.com) Ghana's official tourism portal; worth a look for inspiration and general information.
Travel with Children
Aside from the daily struggle of getting them to swallow malaria tablets, travel with children in Ghana needn't be difficult. There are plenty of child-friendly restaurants in Accra, offering high chairs, kids' menus and even small play areas. Many of the larger hotels and beach resorts have a kids' pool and/or a playground and can provide cots or extra beds for children.
Narrow, uneven pavements and open drains mean that Ghana is not remotely buggy friendly, so bring a sling or infant backpack if you're travelling with a baby or toddler. Nappies are available in supermarkets and general stores throughout Ghana, though designated baby-change facilities are a rarity.
Ghanaian waters are rough, so it's best to stick to splashing in the surf, unless you are lucky enough to be at Lou Moon Lodge, which has a sheltered beach with calm water, perfect for swimming.
There are few facilities for travellers with disabilities in Ghana, though more upmarket chain hotels sometimes offer lifts and wheelchair-friendly rooms. Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Ghana is one of Africa’s top volunteering spots, and you’ll find literally hundreds of organisations that arrange short-term and long-term placements. Popular options include teaching, conservation and media placements.
Some guesthouses can help arrange short-term placements within their communities. The government-sponsored US Peace Corps and UK Voluntary Service Overseas are both active in Ghana.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Ghana uses the metric system.
Most expats in Ghana work for international NGOs, in the mining or oil and gas industries, in financial services or as volunteers. You'll need a pre-arranged position in order to secure a work visa.
It is illegal to photograph any government buildings or military installations. Penalties for drug possession and drug smuggling are severe.