After 18 days in Ghana, I can happily say I’d love to make a trip back! The weather was heavenly, the people were beyond kind, and it was so affordable. BUT it would have gone a lot smoother if I had known these now-obvious tips. Every single issue I had was 100% preventable and now you can be sure the avoid the same mistakes I made. Overall, Ghana is way easier than the majority of places I have traveled to.
1. You must get your yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days prior to travel.
As I mentioned previously, I was unaware of this until after I had waited too long to get my vaccination. Luckily, the CDC or WHO states that the vaccination will be effective seven days prior to departure. So I went ahead to Ghana with a premature vaccination and got stopped at border patrol. I’ll go into detail a little later on the post, but just know that Ghana is quite known for “corruption” in the form of bribery. Unfortunately, I only had a $20 bill on me when I probably could have given a $5 bill and been completely safe.
2. Bribing happens everywhere.
Ah yes. My first encounter with Ghana was literally bribing to get through the vaccination check. Police will try to get a bribe from cab drivers who do not keep their inspection stickers present. Even the president has been accused of (and struggles to deny) bribery during power. The only benefit to this applies to the airport, even though it’s probably wrong. The line for the ticketing counter was atrocious, but plenty of people popped over to the side with 10 or so cedis and skipped the whole line. To each his own.
3. There is no WIFI at the airport.
Make all of your accommodation plans ahead of time! When my ride got my flight time and local address wrong (oh yeah, it was reallll bad- after about 26 hours of traveling from California to Africa my ride showed almost two hours late!) I was held by border patrol until she showed up… An hour and a half after my flight had landed. There wasn’t wifi for me to simply look up hotel to provide another address to write down.
4. … Or really anywhere.
Unlike Europe and other tourist friendly areas, Ghana has very limited public wifi. From my understanding, data is a little costly and most people use those little personal wifi boxes. After nearly three weeks I was ecstatic and baffled upon finding a café that provided free wifi. Of course, it didn’t actually work. Consider bringing an unlocked smart phone (check with your provider as to not break any contracts), buy a cheap smart phone upon arrival, or download one of these amazing map apps that work without service.
5. Expect to get told the “Obroni Rate” or as I call it, “Tourist Tax.”
Obroni, sounds like “oh-bro-knee”, is the word for foreigner and in particular, white person. Ah yes, the ole haggle with the cabbie task. There are a million and one taxis in Ghana, and Accra specifically. Of these, 9/10 will offer you an outrageous price on the first try. Before this can happen, ask a friend (or anyone standing near you, people are SO helpful) how much the price of the cab should be from point A to point B. No clue? Simply offer half of what the taxi offers and gage their reaction. Even if it’s a fair price, some will still pressure you to pay more. Just step back, say no thank you, and wait for another cab. If they drive away, you know you offered too little. If they wave you over, you now know your pricing. Note: Not to tell you what to do buuuut, consider what an extra 5 cedis is to compared to a taxi driver in Ghana. Let them know it’s not cool to price gauge, but throw in a tip.
6. Food is available 24/7 on nearly every road.
People hawk for the majority of the day, everything from towels to USBs to puppies. After two weeks of crepes and eggs I got pretty invested in the street hawkers. Have to mention that some of them are children, and usually are hawking until they get enough to pay for their school fees. Call me a sinner but I’ll usually just through them a cedi or two and not take what they are selling. Generally I’ve been warned a million times to not give to child beggars and have heard horror stories of people “renting” babies and children to illicit sympathy only to keep the majority of the money for themselves and pennies for the parent (who may or may not use that to the child’s benefit). The best bet for that is to keep a pack of grapes, plantain chips, or other semi-healthy snack to give to the children.
7. The people are extremely friendly.
It took me a minute to understand that when someone gives me directions, they don’t want a tip. Generally while traveling, I have to constantly swipe away handsy men who think they will get some cash if they carry my suitcase a few blocks. The only time we had a situation like that was in Cape Coast where a guy basically just tried to ride around the cab with us giving us “advice” even though we knew where we were going. And we tried to tell him that. He didn’t even really ask for anything but I could tell he was hoping for it. Besides strangers, all our neighbors were chatty and one lovely lady would pop by the house to visit with us.
8. Using your left hand is considered rude.
Even though this applies to a large portion of the world, I still forgot until I messed up and someone corrected me. When greeting, there is this little handshake thing that involves snapping your fingers. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do it with your left! You’ll most likely get a tt-tt-tt noise and a disapproving headshake. This also includes when you’re exchanging money for goods. Sort of a pain in the ass, but when in Rome…
9. The food is spicy and CHEAP.
As someone who enjoys rice for breakfast and spices, I was in heaven for a few weeks. Usually a road-side stand would give me pork or chicken and yam chips (fries) for around 8-12 cedis or $2-$6. Expect grilled tilapia, chunks or pork, and seasoned grilled chicken. My favorite dish was the Goat Lite soup, which was sooo salty and usually a little spicy. No matter how much I loved watching the little goats jump around town, I didn’t think twice about ordering goat lite soup. Sorry kids 😉 (get it? Baby goats are called…)
10. Public transportation is extremely affordable (tro-tro!) but cramped and slow.
For under 1 cedi you can pretty much get anywhere in Accra. The photo was taken on one of my many tro-tro rides- notice the bagged water? You can get it pretty much anywhere. Circle is the rightfully named circular area where you can catch tro-tros around the city. Honestly don’t think there is an actual schedule or a way to figure out your path. Ask anyone in your path, and you can be certain you are headed in the right direction. It can be a little overwhelming for some people, so if you don’t want to be touched or talked to, just walk around with bitch-face and no one will mess with you.
10. Accra is a happenin’ town.
Like many capital cities, Accra has plenty to do. Being there less than a month still provided me with a huge book fair, arts + music festival, and the Homowu Festival. There is SO much to do! One of my favorite spots that I stumbled upon pretty briefly was the +233 Jazz Bar. When I popped by, a beautiful woman was singing so beautifully I almost teared up. And people were dancing everywhere! My kinda place 😉 We also made it out to Tea Bar, a really hip little spot with phenomenal food. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had the BEST salad in the city. Best part? They have TIPSY tea. Oh yeah. Get the peach + rum.
11. You have to exchange to another currency if you have more than 500 Cedi upon departure. (That’s about $130.00)
As briefly mentioned, corruption is rampant in Ghana. The only thing that will happen to you is getting your money confiscated. Since it is a small amount of cash in the grand scheme of things, it can be easy to show up at the airport with too many cedis only to have them snatched. Don’t let it ruin your trip at the very end!