Difference between revisions of "Ghana"
Revision as of 18:19, 28 October 2004
Ghana is a very friendly country, ideal for first time travellers to Africa, the people are generally very helpful and welcoming. While their laidback attitude and lack of organised tourist sights/trips can be a little annoying to begin with, before you have been there for very long you realise that it is one of the delights of this country.
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 25,000 cedis (July 2004). British Airways and Ghana Airways fly from London Heathrow. And The Royal duch airlines (KLM) fly daily to Schiphol, Amsterdam. Lufthansa maintains a connection from Frankfurt via Lagos in Nigeria to Accra.
No international rail connections exist.
Ghana's national bus company STC run services to/from capital cities of some nearby countries.
There are scheduled domestic flights 3 - 4 times a week between Accra, Kumasi and Tamale in the North.
There are rail links between Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi. The train is slow, but can be better than road between Takoradi and Kumasi.
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 recommended
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.
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 as possible. They along with 'shared' taxis 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 (should be about 500-1500 cedis, or $.55-1.65), but have a questionable safety record and frequently breakdown, (this is however not 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 are often the only option between remote towns but are not recommended for long journeys.
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. Always settle on a fare before getting in. A taxi for a very short route should be circa 10.000 cedis ($1.10), longer 15-20.000 ($1.65-2.20) and 25.000 ($2.75) should be enaugh for anywhere in the city. 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.
Ghanaians are generally taught in English, and as a tourist you will find few who can't speak at least some English. English is the official language and, along with the Twi dialect, unites different language groups around the country. If you are white you will get used to the standard call of "Obrunee", which means anyone of that is not-black, including all whites,mongolians,indians et cetera. From children and sometimes adults as you walk down the street - it is not meant to be offensive in any way and is generally accompanied by 'how are you'
The local currency is the Cedi (GHC) and is used everywhere, US Dollars are accepted by some of the major tourist hotels but you shouldn't rely on this. EURO in cash are the most useful currency to take with you and you will sometimes find that bars/restaurants will be willing to change them for you if you need Cedis outside banking hours.
Approximate exchange rates as of September 2004 are:
British Pound: 1 - 16,400 Cedi US Dollar: 1 - 9,000 Cedi EURO: 1 - 11,000 Cedi
There are many Forex Bureaus in Accra, and a few in the other major cities. It is very difficult to change travellers cheques and certainly almost impossible outside Accra and Kumasi. VISA cards are accepted at major hotels and there are ATMs in Accra and Kumasi which accept VISA. At the main branch of Barclays Bank in Accra you can get a cash advance on your VISA or MasterCard provided you have your passport with you.
Food is extremely cheap in Ghana. A great African meal in a restaurant can cost as little as $2-3 (20,000-30,000 cedis). For instance, a lobster and shrimp dinner can cost a mere $3.
A softdrink can be had on the beach for 2000 cedis (25 cents).
Cheap, decent hotel rooms can run as low as 50,000 cedis ($5). A better room can go as low as 130,000 cedis ($14).
Ghana is currently a very safe country, stable and relatively low crime levels compared to other West African countries. There is an increase in armed robbery, some of which targetting tourists and ex-pats. Take sensible precautions but be assured it is quite safe. However, corruption is absolutely rampant. There are police checkpoints everywhere and the cops usually just want money.
The AIDS/HIV rate is high as in many sub-saharan African countries. Do not have unprotected sex. Be aware that malaria is widespread and you must take sufficient malaria protection. Also you should avoid contact with still freshwater as there is a risk of bilharzia.
Do try and pick up on respectful practice (such as not eating or offering with your left hand), but in general Ghanaians are quite accepting of tourists getting it wrong. Ghana is a very conservative Christian country in an odd 1900 holy-roller Presbyterian way in their own African style. Ghanians are often shocked at seeing such things as Western women in bikinis at hotel pools. Going topless on the beaches is not advised. A 5000 cedi (50 cent) tip for the usual tipping services will be much appreciated.
Telephone and postal services can be unreliable within Ghana itself but international post, at least to and from Accra is reasonably reliable (approx a week either way to the UK for example). The mobile network is good in urban areas.