Ghana has an estimated population of 20 million of Africa’s most welcoming and hospitable people, waiting to wish you Akwaaba – welcome to our country! About 10% of the population live in and around the principal city of Accra, which is known for being one of the safest and most colourful cities to visit in Africa. Ghana’s second city is Kumasi, capital of the former Ashanti Empire and today the cultural hub of the country.
Today the Ashanti tribe of the Akan ethnic group (the population is made up of more than 6 ethnic groups) form the largest percentage of the population. More than 70 distinct languages or dialects are spoken in Ghana, but Twi is probably the most widely used. Once the Ashanti Empire was renowned for the splendour and wealth of their rulers, but today they are known for their crafts, especially their hand-carved stools, fertility dolls and the colourful kente cloth which the men specialize in weaving in the most intricate designs.
Ghanaians are particularly fond of festivals and music and almost every little village or community celebrates at least one annual festival, so you are sure to get the opportunity to see one in progress. Music plays a most important part in everyday life and is used to celebrate all occasions, from funerals and rites-of-passage to weddings and festivals. There are several musical instruments unique to Ghana, most of which are percussion instruments and types of rattles made from local gourds.
The people of Ghana were subjected to incredible hardships from the 1500s to the 1800s, when the need for slaves became almost insatiable in the New World. It is estimated that over 12 million slaves were shipped across the waters from West Africa. Today you can visit some of the remaining coastal fortresses from where they were dispatched – a grim testimony of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.
Several International airlines offer flights into Accra’s Kotoka airport from the UK, New York and Europe. You can also get a direct flight to Accra on Emirates Airlines, via Dubai, from just about anywhere in the world.
Everyone travelling to Ghana must be in possession of a valid Passport, and nearly all nationalities will need a Visa to visit the country. You can apply for your Visa from your nearest Ghanaian Embassy or High Commission. Since Visa requirements change from time to time it would be worth your while to check with the official website for current regulations.
Ghana has plenty of tourist accommodation to suit everyone’s tastes and budget in the main centres. There are several international standard hotels and resorts along the coast, particularly on the most popular beaches. In the cities there are also many hotels although grading standards are somewhat different to what you may be accustomed to – a 5 Star Ghana hotel is probably on the same level as a 4-star establishment in Europe or the USA, and 3-star hotels can be quite basic!
Accommodation in the National Parks is extremely limited and most visitors stay in nearby villages and enter the Parks on a daily basis. Mole National Park does have a motel with a few different accommodation options ranging from dormitory-style back-packer rooms, standard twin-bedded hotel rooms and self-catering cottages with air conditioning overlooking a water hole. Camping is also available.
Ghana has a few domestic airlines which offer regular scheduled flights between Accra and the other major cities in the country. Getting around by public transport is quite adventurous - there are comfortable and regular inter-city bus services as well as the less reliable Tro Tros or mini-bus taxis, which you should probably avoid if you can since not all the drivers are licensed and neither are their vehicles!
You can also travel the length of the Volta Lake by scheduled ferry, or book a trip on the Dodi Princess, a pleasure boat which offers cruises on the lake including a buffet lunch – a most pleasant way to see this lovely lake.
Before leaving home check that your Health Insurance covers international travel. If not, you will need to buy Travel insurance. It is also advisable to ensure that your travel insurance covers emergency evacuation, in the unlikely event of accident or a serious medical emergency.
Ghana’s situation on the Gulf of Guinea, just a few degrees north of the Equator, ensures that the weather is tropical and warm for the most part. The eastern coastal areas are warm and largely dry while the south-west part of Ghana is really hot and humid. The northern parts, which are closer to the Sahara, are hot and dry. The highest temperatures occur in March, while the lowest can be experienced in August.
There are two rainy seasons (except in the north) from April to July and again from September to November. The northern parts get their rain all the way through from April to September. The Harmattan, a dry desert wind blows from December to March, helping to ease the humidly and creating hot days with pleasantly cool nights in the northern regions.
All visitors need to check that they have had all the necessary vaccinations: MMR(Measles-mumps-rubella), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio and your annual flu vaccine. You will be required to have proof of Yellow Fever vaccination in order to enter the country, while it is also wise to consider hepatitis A and B, typhoid, meningitis and rabies vaccinations. Malaria prevention is recommended and, if applicable, protection against STIs, including HIV-AIDS is important.
Although the tap water in the cities is considered to be hygienic, you are advised to stick to bottled water everywhere. Ghana has quite good health services with good hospitals in all the major centres, but you should bring all your own medication in case it is not locally available. You also need to bring your own favourite toiletries as choices are limited in Ghana.
The local currency is the Cedi (GHC) and foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks or Currency Exchanges in the main cities and at the airports. Travellers Cheques are accepted and most hotels and restaurants will accept your credit card (but don’t let it out of your sight as credit card fraud is widespread; in fact, it is safer to restrict all payments to cash wherever possible). There is no restriction on how much money you bring into the country but you must declare it on arrival.