In Ghana life is public. People evacuate their homes and apartments every day to escape the stifling heat. And much like the kente cloth worn by market women, the disparate parts and peoples somehow mix and weave together into a cohesive whole. Ghana is home to a number of diverse peoples and cultures, all finding ways to coexist in a rapidly modernising country. You’ll see men and women in traditional clothes text messaging friends and suited... Read more...
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Cities and Destinations in Ghana
In Ghana life is public. People evacuate their homes and apartments every day to escape the stifling heat. And much like the kente cloth worn by market women, the disparate parts and peoples somehow mix and weave together into a cohesive whole. Ghana is home to a number of diverse peoples and cultures, all finding ways to coexist in a rapidly modernising country. You’ll see men and women in traditional clothes text messaging friends and suited businessmen taking offerings to tribal chiefs.
Ghana has no iconic calling card like Victoria Falls or Kilimanjaro, but one look at a map reveals a geographic blessing: hundreds of kilometres of coast shared by beautiful beaches, like those at Busua & Dixcove, ruined European forts, such as Cape Coast Castle, the poignant reminders of the country’s importance as a way station for African slaves, and the battered shacks of lively fishing villages. Accra is the commercial and cultural motor of the country, while Kumasi is the traditional home of the Ashanti, and is famous for its crafts. In the Volta region to the east, where the geography was given a facelift by the Akosombo dam, you can still find substantial swathes of forest crawling up mountains along the Togo border. And finally the North, which offers opportunities for wildlife viewing up close and personal, stretches across the horizon like an overcooked pancake to the Burkina Faso frontier.
Compared to other countries in the region, Ghana is stable and prosperous, but this valuation is in part founded on hopes for the future. The country is often labelled ‘Africa for beginners’, and while you’ll likely be welcomed by the people in a hot, sweaty clinch, the same way the sun grabs hold of you the second after you step outside, getting around is by no means easy.
Roughly from South(west) to North(east):
Western GhanaCentral GhanaGreater AccraEastern GhanaVoltaAshantiBrong-AhafoNorthern GhanaUpper West GhanaUpper East Ghana
While visas on arrival are supposed to be available for visitors from countries without Ghanaian embassies or consulates, in practice this works spottily if at all and some travellers have not been able to even board the plane without a visa. It's thus best to play it safe and get a visa in advance.
Travelers that are staying longer than their entry visa (a maximum of 30 or 60 days are usually granted for tourists) are advised to bring their passport for visa extension to Immigration Service early and expect delays in getting their passports back. Two weeks are provided as the guideline for processing time, but this can often take much longer. If you don't want to go through the hassle of Immigration Service, you may consider going to Togo and back to get a visa stamp at the border.
All International flights are through Kotoka International airport at Accra, it is very central and there are always lots of taxis available, a taxi ride anywhere in the city shouldn't cost more than 40, 000 cedis (August 2006)eqv of $4.35. North American Airlines flies non-stop once a week from New York City (JFK) and Baltimore (BWI) through May 20th, 2008. Delta Air Lines serves Accra from New York City (JFK) with four flights per week. British Airways flies from London London Heathrow, and Ghana International Airlines and Astraeus fly from London London Gatwick. The Royal Dutch airlines (KLM) flies daily from Schiphol, Amsterdam. Lufthansa and Alitalia maintain daily direct flights from Frankfurt and Milan respectively, with a short stop in Lagos, Nigeria. Emirates flies daily non-stop from Dubai in the Middle East (with connections to Asia and the Far East). Ethiopian Airlines flies four weekly non-stops from Addis Ababa (with stopover, you can visit another African country). Also, South African Airways flies four times a week non-stop from Johannesburg--though this will involve substantial backtracking (an extra 10, 000 km each way!) unless you live in Australia or somewhere down under. If coming from Brazil or nearby, the flight from Rio to Luanda, Angola on Angola Airlines would be the shortest. From there, you can go non-stop to Accra.
The lowest fares to Ghana outside of Africa are usually from London, but that doesn't necessarily mean British Airways is the cheapest (i.e. a transfer inside continental Europe may be required). Afriqiyah Airways is one of the cheapest airlines maintaining flights to Accra, from London Gatwick via Tripoli. Those living in North America might be able to save by getting a cheap ticket to London from their home country. (Beware that there are two separate international airports, Gatwick and Heathrow, and allow lots of connection time.)
No international rail connections exist.
The border at Aflao with Togo is an entertaining scene. It appears very disorderly and human traffic seems to flow freely. However it is unlikely that a white person can pass through without all the formalities. The process of filling out forms and checking visas can take quite a while for non-diplomats. Soldiers on the Togo side are likely to ask for a bribe but need not be paid if all of your documents are in order. Border officials on the Ghanaian side in contrast are much more difficult to bribe. A visa into Ghana can be bought at the border at double the normal cost (because of the speedy delivery) for some GH₵110.
The border with Cote d'Ivoire at Elubo takes less time to cross but Ivorian guards seem much more keen on the rules.
Ghana's national bus company, Metro Mass Company, run services within the capital city, Accra, and within other regions in Ghana. STC run bus services to & from cities within Ghana and some nearby countries.
ABC Transport http://www.abctransport.com, based in Nigeria has a daily air conditioned bus to Lagos for about GH₵45.
There are scheduled domestic flights 2-3 times a day between Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi and Tamale in the north including flights by Antrak Air. There are also filghts to destinations outside the country.
There are rail links between Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi. The train is very slow and it travels at night so you won't see much, but with the ghana train system currently undertaking rehabilitation it will be vastly improved with new stations and faster more frequent trains.
Roads are variable. In Accra most are fairly good. Significant improvements are being made on the main road between Accra and Kumasi. Most of the roads outside Accra apart from the major ones are dirt tracks. The road between Techiman and Bole is particularly bad and should be avoided if possible. For travel on most roads in the North of the country a 4x4 is required, a saloon car will cope with some of them in the dry season but is not recommendedAlso it should be noted that cars with foreign registration are not allowed to circulate between 6am and 6pm. Only Ghanaian registered vehicles are allowed on the road at this time. Non compliance can result in fines and the impounding of the vehicle for the night
STC is the main coach company. They operate long distance domestic and international services. Probably the safest way to travel long distance, and are also pretty quick compared to other options, although even on these services breakdowns are reasonably frequent. STC operate between Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, Tamale, Cape Coast and other main cities. 'Express' or 'Air-conditioned' services are quicker and a lot more comfortable than the ordinary services and are now available on the Accra-Kumasi, Accra-Tamale, Accra-Bolgatanga routes. Buy your tickets a day in advance though, often times they will be full if you wait until the day of travel. Also, expect to pay for your luggage based upon its weight. It should rarely be over 1/3 the price of the ticket.
Several other companies also operate bus services between the major towns, these include OSA and Kingdom Travel, their service is marginally more reliable than tro-tros but there isn't much in it.
A 'Tro-tro' is a term that covers almost any sort of vehicle that has been adapted to fit in as many people, possessions, and occasionally livestock, as possible. Tro-tros are typically old, 12-passenger VW vans. Similarly to 'shared' taxis, tro-tros will run along fixed routes and have fixed fares, and will rarely run with less than capacity [so be prepared to wait]. They are inexpensive (cheaper than shared taxis and STC buses) and fares should reflect distance traveled, however they have a questionable safety record and frequently breakdown. Breakdowns however are usually not too much of a problem since they will break down in a route where other tro-tro's run, so you can just grab another one. Although they generally run point to point they will usually pick and drop on route if required. They make runs within the city (i.e. Circle to Osu for GH₵.20) as well as intercity routes. They are often the only option between remote towns but are not recommended for long journeys. Tro-tros are an excellent way to meet Ghanaians, and are always great for a cultural adventure. Sometimes they will make you pay extra for luggage, and occasionally they will try to overcharge, so try bargaining
Taxis are prevalent, and as a tourist you will find they find you quick enough if you need one. To charter a taxi is more expensive than to share one, but prices are negotiable and can be bartered over. Always settle on a fare before getting in. A taxi for a very short route should be no more than GH1.00, longer GH2.50-5.00 and GH7.00 should be enough for anywhere in the city. Fares continue to fluctuate with the fuel prices on the international market. About 1 in every 10 taxi drivers will probably try to cheat you for a higher price if you're a foreigner. In Accra and the major cities most taxis that will stop for you assume you require a charter taxi and unless you are on a very strict budget it's usually easiest to do this. In more remote areas, shared taxis are most common.
When to go
Ghana is currently a very safe, stable country with relatively low crime levels compared to other West African countries. Take sensible precautions but be assured it is quite safe.
Bywel's bar in Osu is a frequent hangout of expats on Thursday nights meaning that it is target for muggings. Be sure to leave in a large group and enter a taxi immediately upon exiting the bar.
Cases have also been reported of people snatching cell phones in the streets. Avoid using your cell phone out in the open if you do not absolutely need to. You may run the risk of having someone snatch it from you.
Be aware that chloroquine-resistant malaria is widespread and you must take sufficient malaria protection including mosquito avoidance, mosquito repellants, and chemical prophylaxis. Yellow fever vaccination is required for entry into the country. Hepatitis A&B, Cholera and Typhoid fever innoculation is also recommended.
Risk of Meningitis is high in the northern third of Ghana which is a part of the Meningitis belt of Africa. This applies especially during the dry windy periods from December to June. A polysaccharide vaccine is available for Meningitis types A, C, Y and W135.
Although the AIDS/HIV rate is lower than other sub-Saharan African countries, do not have unprotected sex. Receiving a blood transfusion while in Ghana greatly increases your risk of acquiring HIV. Also you should avoid contact with still freshwater as there is a risk of schistosomiasis.
Some restaurants will approach European health standards, but be prepared to pay for this. Smaller restaurants, often called chop bars, will likely not meet these standards.
Because of the tropical climate near the coast, travelers will need to stay hydrated. Bottled water is available everywhere. Voltic Water has been a reliable brand, but do check to make sure the seal has not been broken.
Quick Facts about Ghana
22,409,572 (July 2006 est.)
English (official), African languages (including Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, and Ga)
Country Dialing Code