This West African country last year celebrated its 50th year of independence from Britain, with which it still maintains excellent relations. Economic reforms over the past few years are now being felt and the capital, Accra, is once again a bustling, thriving city.
It is home to Holiday Inn Accra Airport, the latest addition to the expanding African Sun Stable.
What you need to know about travelling in Ghana
Additional Information about
1. General Information
Ghana - The Golden Experience
The name ‘Ghana’ originates from an African empire centered around the River Niger from 400 to 1240 AD. In the 15th century trading posts were established byEuropeans along what was then known as the ‘Gold Coast’, the name being derived from the country’s huge wealth of gold.
Ghana gained it’s independence under it’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, on 6th March, 1957.
The country has a rich resource base and is also noted for timber, diamonds, bauxite and manganese production. It’s population of about 24 million, is principally concentrated along the coastof the Gulf of Guinea and the major cities.
The country depends mainly on agriculture and the majority of it’s people are engaged in farming. Cocoa is the main cash crop providing asubstantial percentage of export revenue, although non-traditional agricultural products for
export include pineapples, black pepper and bananas.
Fish and chicken are important dietary staples. In joining the world of tourist nations, Ghana offers beaches, wildlife, distinctive craftwork and a proud and colourful culture unique to this part of west Africa.
Known for its gold in colonial times, Ghana remains one of the world's top gold producers. Other exports such as cocoa, timber, electricity and diamonds are major sources of foreign exchange. The economy continues to rely heavily on agriculture which accounts for 35% of GDP and provides employment for 60% of the work force.
Ghana is a conservative and deeply religious country. Although modern attitudes prevail, respect is shown for traditional values and morals. However, the pace of life is not conservative. Ghanaian culture is characterised by a bustle and vibe of social gatherings, which is always colourful and often musical. The celebration of festivals is an essential part of life, whether for child-birth, rites of passage, puberty, marriage or death. Many types of traditional and modern music and accompanying dances vary by ethnic group, region and occasion with several distinct musical instruments, such as drum ensembles, incorporated.
Textiles are significant to Ghanaian culture, with locally woven cloths used to make traditional and modern attire. The Kente is the most famous of all the Ghanaian cloths. The Ashanti style is typified by geometric design and the Ewe style characterised by animal or human symbolic patterns. Kente, formally the privilege of kings and chiefs, is now largely available to everyone, yet remains expensive to produce, so is a sign of wealth and / or special occasion.
Football is the most popular sport in the country. The national team, the Black Stars, are the only African team which made it into the Quarter Finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. National culinary delicacies such as char grilled guinea-fowl and the delicious fish, Tilapia are regular items on the local ‘chop-house’ menu, typically accompanied by ‘fufu’ – crushed cassava or yam. Kenkey or Banku (fermented maize meal) served with fried fish and hot peppers are specialities of Accra. Tipping is not necessarily expected, so judge the quality of service you receive.
What should tourists bring?
- Passport valid for at least six months
- A photocopy of your passport - carry this with you at all times and put the original document in safe-keeping
- Yellow fever vaccination certificate
- Medical insurance documents (see section below)
- Sun tan cream & sunglasses – the sun is intense
- The import of local currency is limited to the amount previously taken out of the country and declared. The import of foreign currency is unlimited, but must be declared upon arrival.
- The export of local currency is limited to cedi Â¢1,000. The export of foreign currency is limited to US$5,000 or equivalent.
- An International Driver’s permit – necessary for all driving and should be carried with you at all times
- Credit cards - mainly American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted by leading hotels, restaurants, banks, businesses
- Traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling - can be exchanged in large hotels, banks and foreign exchange bureaux
- Light washable, casual, cotton clothing. There are no formal dress requirements, so dress to maximise your comfort in the heat and humidity
- Beachwear should be confined to the beach, and wearing immodest clothing in public is likely to cause offence or attract unwanted attention
- The wearing of military apparel such as camouflage clothing by civilians is prohibited
- Adapter plugs – sockets take the 3 rectangular-pronged, British type plugs or the Indian type 3 round-pin plug. These are different from the sockets of USA, Europe, South Africa & Australia
- Insect repellent – mosquitoes and other biting insects are common, even in the cities
Location & Climate
Ghana is located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. The Volta Basin takes up most of central Ghana, which extends through large portions of eastern Ghana. Southwest and south central Ghana consists of the Ashanti uplands and the Kwahu Plateau. The hilly Akuapim-Togo ranges are along the eastern border, with the highest point being Mount Afadjato. The north features high plains.
Ghana has a tropical climate, but with regional variations. The eastern coastal belt is warm and dry, whilst the southwest is hot and humid. The south, including the capital Accra, experiences its main rainy season from April to June and again during September and October. From December to March it is completely dry. Average temperatures are 28 degrees, although July to September is the coolest with temperatures in the low twenties.
The northern regions are hot and dry with a rainy season from March to November, the peak wet months being May to October when severe flooding can occur. From November to April temperatures rise over 30 degrees. The highest temperatures of 40 degrees are at the end of the dry season, accompanied by the hot Harmattan wind.
People & Languages
Like many African countries, Ghana has a history of colonisation. The Portuguese, Dutch, British and Spanish were largely drawn to Ghana for its gold, between the 15th and 19th centuries. After the Dutch withdrew in 1874, Britain made the Gold Coast a protectorate, which until Ghana’s independence in 1957, included British Togoland. Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African nation to achieve independence, under the leadership of President Kwame Nkrumah, who played an instrumental part in the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, now known as the African Union.
Ghana has a population of about 24 million people of more than 100 different ethnic groups. The main ethnic groups are the Akan (49.3%), the Mole-Dagbon (15.2%), the Ewe (11.7%) and the Ga-Dangme who make up 7.3%. Ghana has 47 local languages that divide into two linguistic subfamilies. Languages belonging to the Kwa subfamily, spoken by about 75% of the country, are found predominantly to the south of the Volta River, while those belonging to the Gur (is this Ga?) subfamily are found predominantly to the north. Hausa is the lingua-franca spoken among Ghana's Muslims who comprise about 16% of the population.
In addition to local languages, English is widely spoken and is the country's official language, which predominates in government and business affairs. Religious divisions are broadly divided into 68.8% Christian, 15.9% Muslim and 8.5% holding traditional beliefs.
Currency and Exchange Rates
Since December 2007 new banknotes (Ghana cedi) and coins (Ghana pesewa) have replaced the previous ‘cedi’ currency. As such 10,000 cedis = 1 Ghana cedi in the revised currency and the old currency is no longer legal tender. Ghana Cedi = 100 Ghana pesewas. Notes are in denominations of ¢50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denominations of ¢1 and 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 pesewas.
All major foreign currencies are acceptable and easily negotiated either by cash or card. There are an abundance of currency changing outlets in Accra and ATMs are commonplace in large urban areas such as Accra and Kumasi. Travellers should avoid carrying large sums of money or valuables and be wary when drawing cash from ATM's in central Accra.
Banking hours are Mon-Thurs 0800-1400; Fri 0800-1500.
2010 exchange rates are typically:
- 1 GBP = 14000 GHC
- 1 USD = 9300 GHC
- 1 EUR = 11680 GHC
Attractions and Airports
Ghana has three international airports; Accra, Kumasi and Tamale, although Kumasi only receives international flights from Namibia. The domestic airports of Takoradi in the Western region, Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo region and Wa in the Upper-west region have direct connections with Accra. Wa also has regular connections to Tamale.
Accra (ACC) (Kotoka) is 10km north of Accra. 25 airlines currently fly into Accra Kotoka International Airport from 36 international destinations. Most people travel to & from Kotoka International Airport (Accra) in private vehicles, such as transfers arranged by your hotel. However, the airport is also served by a metered airport taxi, public pool taxis and notable car rental companies such as AVIS, Budget and Rent-A-Car amongst others. Journey time to central Accra is about 20 minutes.
- Barter at Makola Market - a large and busy open-air market
- Browse around the Osu Night Market - illuminated by hundreds of lanterns and candles
- Watch a performance at Accra's National Theatre - a Chinese architectural showpiece
- Attend a Ghanaian festival - enjoy drumming, dancing and feasting
- See a large collection of Ghanaian art in the National Museum
- Stand in Independence Square - dominated by the Independence Arch
- Look up to the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier
- Indulge in Ghanaian history at Cape Coast Castle and Fort St Jago
- Go fishing for barracuda and Nile perch in a local fishing boat at the mouth of the Volta
- Visit Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum - the last resting place of the first President of Ghana - the Centre consists of a museum of his life and works
- Buy traditional handicrafts from all over Ghana and West Africa at the Centre for National Culture - arts and crafts bazaar for clay, wood, leather, metal and textiles
- Relax at the New Coco Beach Resort - at Teshie-Nungua, east of Accra
- Camp at Cocoloco Beach - at Ada Foah - natural paradise and breeding ground for a variety of sea turtles and an array of birds – traditional thatch bungalows available
- Walk the forest trails and Canopy walkway of Kakum National Park - 357km² of undisturbed virgin rainforest – see much of Ghana’s indigenous plant life, rare butterflies, birds, monkeys, antelopes, water buffalo and forest elephant from the canopy walkway
- Join the bustle of Traditional Fishing Villages - visitors will be welcomed with traditional Ghanaian hospitality: Winneba – famous for its fishing fleet, masquerade festival and local ceramics; Mankessim – well known for its Posuban Shrine and busy market
- Examine the ruins of the Manhyia Palace and the Royal Mausoleum – the final resting places of Ashanti Royalty
- Visit the Prempeh II Jubilee Museum - a fascinating collection of Ashanti History and memorabilia of Okomfo Anokye, including the 300 year-old antique treasure bag
- Browse around the Kumasi Fort & Military Museum - exhibits of the British - Ashanti war of 1900, World War II and Ghana’s recent military history - maps, old photographs, and military regalia on display
- Bird enthusiasts should go to the Owabi Forest Reserve and Bird Sanctuary – created from the damming of the river - the resulting reservoir and forest have since become the natural habitat for many species of the region's wildlife, including migratory birds
- Marvel at the Komfo Anokye Sword (Claire, here, you’ve missed out the O as above where its spelt Okomfo. Please confirm if it’s the same or is it two different names)- the 'unmovable' Sword of the Komfo Anokye remains in the grounds of the Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital
- Shop for Crafts of Ashanti: Bonwire for Kente weaving; Pankrono for pottery; Ahwiaa for Wood carvings; Ntonso for Adinkra cloth making; Asuofia/Asamang for bead making; Ampabame Krofrom for brass smithing; Kumasi for Goldsmiths and Silversmiths
- Visit the Patakro shrine, Pankrono renowned for distinctive and colourful pottery
Tamale International Airport (TML), in the Northern region receives domestic flights by Air Shuttle to Accra on Fridays and Sundays and regular flights to Wa. Antrak Air also flies to Kumasi and Accra. CTK City Link will be reintroducing flights to Accra in the near future. International status was given in 2008, but largely due to the world-wide recession airlines have not created any new routes here as yet. However many airlines who operate international flights to and from Accra are considering using Tamale in the future.
- Mole National Park - 4840km² of savannah and rocky outcrops, home to herds of elephant, buck, the occasional lion and leopard and over 300 species of bird life
- Larabanga Mosque – dating back to the 13th century, one of the holiest sites in Ghana
- Larabanga Mystery Stone - a mysterious boulder, the subject of a splendid local legend
- Daboya - 16th century town from the Gonja Kingdom - known for handmade textiles
- Nalerigu Defence Wall - built in the 16th century to protect Nalerigu from raiders - now recognized as part of the slave route
- Salaga – site where the Trans-Sahara slave caravans paused in Salaga market - leg pegs can still be seen in the market place
Medical & Health
The following vaccines and medications are recommended for travel to Ghana:
- Yellow Fever vaccine – for all travellers over 9 months of age
- Typhoid vaccine
- Hepatitis A vaccine
- Hepatitis B vaccine
- Polio vaccine – check the date of your last vaccination - boosters are required every 10 years
- Rabies vaccine - recommended for travellers spending a lot of time outdoors, especially in rural areas and for long-term travellers and expatriates living in areas with a significant risk of exposure
- Meningococcal meningitis vaccine - recommended for visits to northern areas of the country during the dry season (December through June)
- Malaria prevention medicine, but note that Chloroquine is NOT effective in Ghana
- African Sun hotels purify their own water although visitors are advised to take bottled water. Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes.
- Bear in mind that not all medication that you have access to at home may be available here. If you are taking regular medication take care to pack efficient supplies. Private healthcare facilities are of a good standard, but often request immediate cash payment, therefore medical insurance is essential, preferably with cover for emergency evacuation. Medical facilities exist in all the regional capitals as well as in most towns and villages, but emergency medical facilities are limited. The Accra Military Hospital is available to visitors and is internationally accredited.