Ghana travel info

Electricity

Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Both round and flat three-pronged plugs are commonly used.

Language

English is the official language, but many other African languages are spoken, including Twi, Fante, Ga, Ewe, Hausa and Dagbani. French is spoken in the north.

Money

The official currency is the cedi (GHS), which is divided into 100 pesewas. Foreign currency can be exchanged at any bureau de change as well as at some commercial banks; banks and foreign exchange facilities are available at the airport and in all major towns. Visitors can easily exchange US dollars and euros. ATMs are common in larger towns and credit cards are accepted at many hotels, guesthouses and some shops. Banks and businesses may not accept credit cards other than Visa; credit card fraud is common. Visitors should take care when using their cards and contact their card issuer to make sure their cards will work.

Tipping

A service charge is rarely added to restaurant bills and tipping for quality service is only expected in restaurants (usually about 10 percent). Tipping for other services is discretionary, though travellers should note that if someone offers to help them, whether it is with directions or to carry a bag, they usually expect some kind of payment.

Health

Visitors to Ghana must have of a current medical vaccination certificate for yellow fever. Medication against malaria is recommended for all regions and travellers should protect against waterborne diseases such as cholera, especially during the rainy season. Visitors are advised to buy bottled drinking water, which is widely available. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid; a meningococcus vaccination is recommended if visitors are there in the dry season (November to June). A rabies vaccination may also be a good idea for those who are going to be spending a lot of time outdoors.

Decent medical facilities can be found in major cities and towns, but those outside main urban areas are poor and emergency services are limited. Comprehensive travel health insurance is advised and should cover medical evacuation. If visitors need certain prescription medication, it is advised that they bring it, along with a signed and dated note from their doctor explaining what it is and why they need it.

Safety

Most visits to Ghana are trouble free but it is wise to be vigilant in public areas. Travellers should be particularly careful in and around Accra, and should avoid walking at night and travelling in taxis alone after dark. Visitors should avoid carrying large sums of cash or valuables on them, and should be vigilant when withdrawing money from ATMs. Theft of luggage and travel documents has occurred at Kotoka International Airport. Visitors should also be vigilant in and around Takoradi and Kumasi, where there has been an increase in crime that includes muggings and attacks on foreigners. There is a potential for outbreaks of violence between rival political factions, fighting between ethnic groups and civil unrest; travellers are advised to stay up to date with daily developments and to avoid protests. Visitors to the Northern Region should be alert to the possibility of renewed outbreaks of inter-ethnic fighting. Coastal waters can be dangerous, as riptides are common.

Local customs

Ghanaians are generally a conservative people and visitors should respect local customs, traditional courtesies and dress codes, particularly in the villages. Ghanaians do most things with their right hand, including eating, touching food, taking and receiving things, waving, and shaking hands. The left hand is used for 'dirty things' and it is regarded as rude to use the left hand for the aforementioned things. If in doubt, visitors should use the right hand. Greeting is an important social function and handshakes are common. There is no particular dress code, but women will be expected to cover up in the north of the country. No civilian may wear camouflage clothing, as it is reserved for the military. Visitors to remote villages, shrines or palaces should visit the local elder or priest and take a small gift such as a bottle of local schnapps, gin or money. Travellers should always seek permission before taking photographs of people; it is not permitted to take photographs of military institutions or the airport. Homosexuality is illegal.

Doing business

Though Ghana is a very relaxed and friendly country, a formal dress code is expected in business, and punctuality is essential. The exchange of business cards is common and it is important in all meetings to greet and shake hands with each person. Meeting attendees should be addressed as Mr, Mrs, or Ms, followed by their surnames, unless otherwise specified. Gifts are unnecessary, but greatly appreciated. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, with an hour taken for lunch.

Duty free

Travellers to Ghana over 18 years do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars, or 250g of tobacco; two litres of wine and one litre of spirits.

Communications

The international dialling code for Ghana is +233. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). The telephone system is relatively reliable, but most people use mobile phones. Local prepaid SIM cards can be purchased as a cheaper alternative to using international roaming. Most major hotels also have business centres, which provide secretarial and courier services. Free WiFi is available in many hotels, restaurants, and cafes in tourist areas.

Passport & Visa

All foreign visitors to Ghana must hold a return or onward ticket, as well as the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. The citizens of most countries can obtain visas on arrival, but most nationalities have to apply for pre-approval to gain these visas upon entering the country. Consent must be given by the Ghana Immigration Service, a minimum of 48 hours before arrival in the country; travellers must ensure they print out their visa-on-arrival approval document and that it contains their passport and visa numbers, as well a copy of the bio data and photo page from their passport. Visitors should note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Ghana.

It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.

British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.

Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.

South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa can be obtained on arrival for South African citizens.

Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival with prior arrangement.

Useful contacts

Ghana Tourist Board, Accra: +233 302 682 601 or www.touringghana.com

191 (Police); 193 (Ambulance); 192 (Fire)

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Embassy of Ghana, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 686 4520.

Ghana High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7201 5921.

Ghana High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 0871.

Ghana High Commission, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6290 2110.

Ghana High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 5847.

Embassies / consulates in Ghana

United States Embassy, Accra: +233 30 274 1000.

British High Commission, Accra: +233 30 221 3250.

Canadian High Commission, Accra: +233 30 221 1521.

Australian High Commission, Accra: +233 30 278 7657.

South African High Commission, Accra: +233 30 274 0450.

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