Ghana Travel Guide
Africa’s first country to break out of the shackles of colonialism – the 50th anniversary of which was celebrate with much fanfare in March 2007. Situated in western Africa, Ghana is a surprisingly stable country given the situation in the rest of the region, with very warm and friendly people. The capital Accra is a spread out city of modern buildings and shanty towns situated right on the Gulf of Guinea, featuring the up-and-coming district of Osu with its selection of sophisticated restaurants and nightlife, a world away from the rainforests and plains that make up the majority of the country. Not the sort of place tourists flock to, but one of the better places to go to if you insist on travelling in West Africa.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Taking the canopy walks at Kakum National Park; visiting the slave castle at Cape Coast; wining and dining in Osu, a trendy suburb of Accra, and chatting to the locals, who are some of the warmest people in Africa and speak very good English.
What’s Not: Being told you can get a visa on arrival when you often can’t, corruption, the high prevalence of meningitis in the north and the awful quality of the road between Bole and Techiman.
When to Go
The weather is hot and tropical year-round.
In Accra and the rest of the south, temperatures rarely drop below 77°F (25°C) in the day. February and March are the hottest months and August the coolest. There are two rainy seasons in the lower half of the country, from April to July and then again from September to November. A desert wind blows in the north from December to March, which makes the area drier and hotter in the day, but cooler at night.
Getting There & Away
Flights to Accra take off from all over the world including New York, London, central Europe and the Middle East, some of which touch down in Lagos, Nigeria en route. Accra is therefore very well connected, and from here flights go domestically to Kumasi and Tamale, but overland travel is much more cost-effective and therefore popular. The trains are slow, running from the capital, Takoradi and Kumasi. Locals tend to share vehicles, known locally as tro-tros, both inner city and between more remote areas of the country. Needless to say, they are extremely cheap, if a little bumpy and cramped.
Health & Safety
Ghana does not suffer from a horrendously high rate of HIV/AIDS as many other countries in the region do, but it is still high compared to the rest of the world. Blood transfusions are therefore not advised, but vaccination against various diseases including hepatitis A and B is. Meningitis is also a problem in the north, as it is in surrounding countries. Ghana is very safe and the people are friendly, meaning travelers will be hard pressed to get themselves in difficult situations with the locals. Don’t be afraid of the police; they may stop you all the time, but they just want money.
Food & Hospitality
Eating out in Ghana is superb value in most parts of the country, and along the coast, the seafood is tasty and cheap. Western and Far Eastern restaurants in the most part are confined to the more developed areas of Accra, particularly Osu. Accommodation in Ghana goes up to the very best and most expensive, but it’s generally the mid-range places that will get you the best deal. Unsurprisingly, the plushest hotels are all located in Accra, but Cape Coast also has decent rooms facing out to the sea.
For a real feel for the place, visitors should plan on a minimum of 10 days in Ghana.
Three days in Accra taking in sites including Christianborg Castle.
Two days in the rainforests of Kakum National Park.
Three days at Cape Castle Coast and the slave castle.
Two days on elephant watching in Mole National Park.
A two-day stay at an eco-village by Lake Volta and the nearby mountains.
Three days in Kumasi, the seat of the Ashanti king.
Two days in Tamale, the capital of Northern Ghana.
Kakum National Park: get a monkey’s eye view walking on the ropeways in the rainforest canopy 40 meters above ground.
Cape Coast: part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, see the slave forts along the coast and then hit the palm-fringed beaches to cool off.
Kumasi: take a tour around the palace grounds of the Ashanti king, a figurehead monarch of the Ashanti people who live in the centre of the country.
Accra: Danish castles and shanty towns sit side by side in the Ghanaian capital, a safe city on the coast with trendy hangouts and a bustling fishing harbour.
Volta Lake: stay in an eco-hut by the lake, the largest manmade reservoir in the world, bordered by mountains.
Mole National Park: lions are no longer seen here, but there are still plenty of elephants in this supposedly protected area.
Tamale: visit the nearby Bongo moon landscape – we kind you not, this is the popular name - and head to the local market for bargain knick-knacks and artwork.
Walking: get a feel for the jungle high in the canopy and down at ground level with a guide in Kakum National Park.
Relaxing: when the weather gets too hot, retreat to the beaches on the Gulf of Guinea around Cape Coast.
Sailing: hit Lake Volga for a boat ride all the way along the reservoir.
Shopping: haggle at the markets on main street and at the cultural centre, or indulge in some sophisticated shopping in Accra.
Partying: restaurants, bars and discos aplenty in Osu, Accra’s entertainment epicenter.
Festivals & Events
Ghana has some interesting festivities throughout the year where you can experience traditional dancing and costume.
April: the DIPO puberty rites festival in Krobo Land near Accra sees the local women parade themselves to womanhood.
August/September: the Fetu Afahye harvest festival, a colorful parade of local chiefs at Cape Coast.
September/October: the two-day Damba festival, originally linked to Islam, includes horseback riding.
December: the Siok War festival, a loud affair in Sandema.