Warning & Advice
[Updated 03.04.2013] Ghana is a very safe country. The hospitality of Ghanaians will amaze you! However, the following advice should be kept in mind:
- Incidences of armed robbery seem to be on the rise with both the British and US governments changing their travel advice in February 2013 to warn visitors about the risks of being targeted by armed robbers. In March 2013 a Dutch national was shot and killed in broad daylight in Tema, a major city east of Accra. Visitors are advised not to travel alone at night or carry large sums of money.
- Petty theft occurs in markets and transport stations. It is advisable to keep your belongings close and be alert when travelling.
- Business fraud stemming from scam operations target foreigners, and pose a danger of financial loss and physical harm. Persons contemplating business deals in Ghana with individuals promoting investment in Nigeria, especially the Central Bank of Nigeria or the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, are strongly urged to check with their countries Department of Commerce before providing any information, making financial commitments, or traveling to Ghana.
- Wear light summer clothing, preferably in cotton. Avoid synthetic fabric in all seasons.
- Boil water before consumption or stick to bottled water. Sachets of drinking water are widely available but because of poor regulation the safety of the water cannot be guaranteed.
- Avoid street food and water - cholera, typhoid and other illnesses can be contracted through unclean, poorly prepared food. Avoid salad in particular as it may not have been washed properly and can make you very sick.
- Be wary of prostitutes, and remember that AIDS is real, so do protect yourself if you must entertain them.
- Ghana is malaria endemic so it is advisable to take a course of anti-malarials prescribed by a doctor before your trip and make sure you complete the course. Once in Ghana, sleep under a mosquito net, use mosquito repellent on exposed skin and if you feel dizzy and flu-like or start vomiting, consult a doctor immediately. Malaria is easy to detect and treat if caught early.
Budget & Money Exchange
- Ghana is among Africa's costlier destinations, though travel here is still very cheap by western standards. Travellers intent on stretching their cedis to the limit can easily get by on less than US$10 per day, staying in substandard hotels and eating meals from street vendors. A moderate hike in standards might bring the total to US$20-30 per day, including comfortable bedding, running water and regular restaurant meals. Luxury items like air conditioning and fine French cuisine are available only in the big cities, and you should plan on spending at least US$150 per day for the experience.
- The best currencies to bring to Ghana are US dollars, euros and British pounds; other currencies - even Canadian dollars and Japanese yen - exchange at extremely unfavourable rates.
- There are foreign exchange bureaus (Forex) in all the major towns and cities, but many outside Accra won't accept traveller's cheques. Forex bureaus tend to give better rates for large-denomination bills than banks do, but otherwise bank rates are slightly better.
- A few banks give cash withdrawals against Visa and MasterCard, minus a commission and a fee for the approval telex. In theory, all branches of Barclays Bank (but most reliably in Accra and Kumasi) give cash advances against Visa and MasterCard, but charge a hefty commission for their trouble.
- Change your foreign money at the forex bureaux. No matter the amount, count before leaving premises. Good bureaux have counting machines. In a big town or city avoid the roadside money changers. They'll cheat you. You'll realize this only when you get home.
- Don't exchange more money than you need at a time (not more than 5 days time).
- Avoid Saturday night exchange of money... the rates are terrible!
- To be a good sprinter like Ghana inflation, make sure that whatever you want to buy is at hand before you exchange your foreign currency.
- Always travel on STC buses whenever possible. They are more comfortable and a lot safer. Minivans called 'trotros' serve as the country's main mode of transport but they are regularly involved in fatal crashes on Ghana's busy roads. There is no reliable train service connecting Ghana's major cities at this time. Several domestic airlines operate in Ghana, connecting the major cities. Tickets can be bought from the regional airports and from travel agents.
- If you are a foreigner, it helps to shop with a "proper" Ghanaian with you. Alternatively, let somebody you trust shop for you otherwise you'll pay double the price.
- If you have to do the shopping yourself first check the prices in the shops. If you have to shop outside (bargain) first check the prices at the shops. Then you'll never pay more than it costs in the shops.
Mind Your Ghanian Manners
- Dashes (tips) are a way of life in Ghana. Rather than calling it a bribe, a dash is a tip that may be requested by anyone from train conductors who seat you to youngsters who may run errands for you. Seen as gifts, dashes will ease your way through Ghana immensely, and are usually about GHS1.
- When taking photos, always ask the person beforehand, and you may be asked to give a dash as well.
- Always shake hands and pick up food with your right hand, since the left is used to perform other personal functions.
- When traveling with another person of the same sex, you are often required to rent separate hotel rooms. However, unmarried mixed-sex couples have no problem.
- When meeting a chief or village elder, always lower yourself or bow with your knees to show respect. Learning a few words of Twi (akwaaba means welcome) will make you a big hit among Ghanaians. Be sure to always smile and wave to strangers-everyone loves it and invariably waves back.
- Do not swim in the LAKES or RIVERS
- Many people/institutions will frustrate you but keep your cool. Never engage in arguments unless your vital interests are at stake.