Things To Know + Helpful Tips When Traveling To Ghana
Are you traveling to Ghana soon or are thinking about it? I have put together all of the information that I gathered prior to leaving and also after going, Here are some helpful things I learned.
You must get a visa before you arrive and it’s not that simple. On my way to Kenya, I was able to just pay for my visa when I arrived to the airport with no hassle. For Ghana, the experience is a little deeper. You must have a letter of invitation- and I don’t think it can just be “I want this person to come visit me”…but maybe so. You have to find someone you know to write you a letter and you have to mail your physical passport in, 2 passport photos + the fees and a pre-stamped packaging so they can send it back to you. They need your actual passport so they can actually attach the Visa in your passport. You can find all of the information here on the Ghana embassy website.
Tip: I did not pay the expedited fee and received my passport/Visa back in the same time mentioned for expedited. Also, if you have international travel in the time you need to send off your passport, you are allowed to have 2 valid passports. You would just pay for a second one. There are many places you could travel that require a Visa and for your passport to be sent to them. Your passport could be potentially held up for weeks so if you travel alot, pick up that 2nd passport.
You will need a Yellow Fever vaccination. Good thing they last awhile! The pricing can range depending on your city but don’t count on your insurance to pay for it. When you arrive at the airport they may or may not ask for your yellow card vaccination even though it IS required. When I arrived, they did not ask for my yellow card. When my friend arrived, they did ask for hers. It really depends on the day of the week or whoever is there I guess. It could be that my friend’s flight came in from Europe and not the US. Who knows…
You should definitely get anti-malarial pills. I took Malarone. Malarone you take 2 days prior to your trip, every day of your trip and 7 days when you get back home. You have to take these with food in order to avoid getting sick. Tip: Bring bug spray with the highest deet you can. Also, use GoodRX.com for your pills. It saves a ton of money. The price per pill for Malarone is expensive so if you need 20 pills, you may look at almost $200. GoodRX.com gives you a coupon and shows you the cheapest places in your area. I got my pills both trips to Africa for under $40. Again, your insurance most likely will not cover.
So Delta apparently flags tickets to West Africa because of the high amounts of fraud ,so they say. When I arrived to the Atlanta airport, I was told I needed my original credit card to prove it wasn’t fraudulent. I mean..clearly it wasn’t fraudulent if I made the purchase myself with my Delta credit card + used some of my skymiles AND the ticket was in my name. The messed up thing for me was..my wallet was stolen a week or two after I purchased the ticket. Their solution- to refund me the skymiles and money (Only $274) I already purchased it on and make me repurchase the ticket but at full price !?!?!. I was already low on money and I was not prepared to have to pay almost $1,000 that morning as I should be almost boarding my flights. I used some of my miles in the first place so I wouldn’t have to spend almost $1000 on a ticket, so why would I want to pay that now?? I was totally upset and stayed there for an hour as I argued them down telling them I’m not paying for another ticket at full price. I would’ve been fine if they refunded me my miles and money and then they just redid it- so I would still only have to pay the $274 again…but almost $1k??…Not Today DELTA!!! I was totally disappointed in Delta for this. Eventually after I literally cried because I was exhausted and they weren’t trying to help me out, they decided they would override it if they could talk to my American Express customer service…I guess the Delta reps there didn’t believe me when I said it was stolen. But either way, STILL, how is is potential fraud if I am physically at the airport trying to get on the flight, the ticket was in my name, on my skymiles account, I used my skymiles AND I used my Delta credit card…everything in my name. They still didn’t get me an explanation which sucks. Delta has to do better. * Apparently they do this when you are flying to Haiti as well other West African countries.
* Tip: Don’t forget your credit card you make the purchase on..and God forbid if your card gets lost or stolen in the meantime OR if your card expired. Let’s not forget to mention if someone else purchased your ticket!! This only applies to Delta from my understanding by the way…
When you arrive, they have a screener that will check your body temperature to see if you might possibly have Ebola. They had this when I went to Kenya as well. It basically scans each person that walks from off the plane.
The airport isn’t really huge so it’s pretty easy to get around when you arrive and go through customs. When you get outside, you can get a taxi or whatever ride you have planned.
Right outside of baggage claim, you can exchange your money.
Inside the airport on your way back, for some reason things are based in USD so beware. I definitely purchased some items at the cafe and was surprised when they gave me the price because I automatically assumed the price was based in Cedis.
Also, I (and possibly my driver- can’t really confirm :sigh:) were extorted at the airport. That was a really disappointing moment for me. When we were dropping off my friend at the airport for her journey home, we all got out the car to help her get her stuff, etc… All of this was maybe literally 1 minute. They do have rules like at all US airports…no car can stand unattended, it’s for pick up and drop offs. My friend gives him his tip for the entire week. I get in the car and notice that the tour guide isn’t back in the car. I look around and finally see him what looks like to be arguing with an airport police officer (or security guard..not sure which). He gets back in the car and says that they tried to arrest him for SITTING….and that the officer wanted 500 cedis which is $132 USD which is ALOT of money there. He claimed he talked them down to 100 cedis and he then proceeded to ask me for 40 to pay the guy. (That’s around $10 USD) It definitely wasn’t my responsibility but at this point I was pissed off so I gave him the money and the stupid officer literally hops in the car with us and we have to drive to the other end of the airport for him to count the money and then he hops out. I was totally upset that that happened. Yes, it was only $10 on my end, but it’s still MY money. I really feel like the officer saw my friend give him multiple bills and then he probably told the tour guide to ask me for money too. Sooo I’m just saying that to say, be careful.
When you get there, convert your money at the airport and ask for smaller bills (10’s are perfect) Anything larger then you probably won’t be able to get change anywhere. I had a bad enough time trying to get change with a 10 or a 5..so you already know anything higher was basically impossible. NOBODY had change.
*On your way out, if you don’t have at least $100 USD worth of cedis left, I wouldn’t bother trying to get it exchanged back (at least at the airport). They said everything they could when I arrived at the airport to head home to not exchange my money back. I unfortunately just had to spend it at the airport since I didn’t want to bring it home. I do understand they do this at most exchange places and have a minimum, however, every place told me they only had $100 dollar bills….I didn’t believe that..but whatevs.
It is actually VERY cheap to do everything in Ghana..like super cheap. Even though I would bargain everyone down, at the end of the day I was paying $5-7 USD for shirts, bags, purses, shoes, etc… To get my hair braided it was $14 USD. I can’t argue with that. For food, if you don’t eat at lavish restaurants, you can spend about $15-20 USD all day. Breakfast for $3-4, Lunch $5-7, Dinner $6-10 (all in USD). I spent basically no money on food. The only places it was “expensive” were at the nicer hotels but the price was STILL good for what you got. Taxis in Accra to get around were maybe $1-5 USD. I’m sure it was more if you go further out. Basically, you are fine with a budget of $40 a day or even less.
To get into most of the tourist attractions, it was generally around $8 USD for guided tours. Look out for an upcharge for taking pictures/video, even if its for non-commercial use. They do charge for that. There were a couple of places that we took pics and video and they didn’t charge us even though it said they would. Definitely go for the guided tours. For the prices, you can’t beat it.
You may want to opt for a tour company. We used a tour company for 5 days while in Cape Coast and Kumasi. It was helpful to have a driver (with air conditioning) to take you all over from place to place. It gave us an extra sense of protection to have someone who lived there and spoke Twi to help us out everywhere. He was with us the entire 5 days and accompanied us on all of the tours.
Travel Beyond Accra
Travel all over Ghana. Get a true sense of what the country has to offer by traveling around. I went to Kumasi, Cape Coast, random villages in between AND Accra. It’s great to explore all over so you can get a different experience. I really loved driving around versus flying from place to place. The drive was the best part to me- people watching and going through and stopping at some local villages. Buying fruit on the side of the road, buying a ton and ton of water, and looking at vendors items, I had a blast.
The Black Outs
Alot of Ghana has black outs. That means that ALL electricity goes out in certain areas. Yep..that means no hot water, no wifi… ( I had only 2 hot showers my entire time in Ghana) Some of the restaurants/hotels that have the money have generators. One night while we were walking to a restaurant in Accra, we literally walked in pure blackness with only the light of the moon and I was definitely scared even though people were around. I wouldn’t have done this by myself of course but the black outs are real. When selecting a place to stay- make sure it’s a place that has a generator. One of the places my friends stayed outside of Accra – a known US chain hotel too- even had a black out. Just be prepared.
What’s App is my favorite app when I am out of the country. I can text my family back home for FREE as long as I have wifi. You can even make calls. Definitely download What’s App..it’s free.
Google Maps..Google Maps helped us out a couple of times in a pinch where we didn’t know where we were or how to get to where we were going.
Convert App- This conversion app converts money and distance which is two things I needed. I could never figure out how far we were from places because everything was in kilometers lol. Also, the Convert was even more helpful for money. When it came to figuring out how much I was willing to pay for items, I had to convert their Cedis to USD. I really liked this app because you didn’t need service or wifi to use it.
There is no public wifi anywhere so don’t get upset and compare it to America. Just be prepared for this. It was very hard for me to communicate with people while there. I had to stay at my hotels until I communicated everything up until the last minute. I couldn’t make any changes at that point because I wouldn’t have wifi access. The best bet is to bring a jailbroken phone and get a local SIM card. It will make your life easier.
As soon as you ask about pricing and they know you are a tourist, they will upcharge you sometimes more than 100%. They know alot of people will pay the first price they offer. I, on the other hand, am not the one lol. I argued with the taxi driver on my last morning there after he tried to charge me 200% more than the price I knew it SHOULD be based on the miles.
When you are in the markets, they will always give you a super high price. Bargain down a lower price–lower than what you are willing to pay because they will counter your offer. If they start off with 20 Cedis…tell them 7..eventually you all will land at $13 or $14. It also helps if you do a bundle package by purchasing multiple items. It’s easier for me to say “I will give you all of this for 100” for 8 items, versus paying 90 for 5 items. Just go for it and see what they say. If the price isn’t right..walk away..most likely they will tell you to come back and give you the price you were willing to pay. Also, don’t feel pressured to buy at one spot…every single vendor has the exact same things lol!
*Don’t worry. You are not cheating them. They will tell you upfront that in Africa you bargain. They tell you this themselves before the bargaining game begins.
Everyone will claim everything in their store they MADE lol. That isn’t the case at all but they think it helps in the sales…which I’m sure it does to certain foreigners. I prefer to spend money with the actual artisans because they put a ton of work into it. If you are looking for true artisans, most of the markets are not the place for that- unless you actually see them working on it. If that is something important to you, look out for that. If not, have fun in the markets. You will notice every single stall sells the EXACT same items which few variations. Whenever I did find something different, I jumped on it and purchased it. I couldn’t find “typical” souvernirs though. I only found 2 magnets the entire time but no “Ghana” shirts or anything. So in Ghana I would suggest getting jewelry or clothing items since “typical” souvenirs items I really did not see anywhere.
I felt very safe in Ghana the whole time. I never worried about my physical safety. It is a very peaceful country. I generally did worry about my camera getting snatched or my purse so I didn’t take out my camera or iPhone much as I was told prior to going that I have to watch out for people snatching. I did grip my stuff tighter when too many people would come around me at the markets because I know how people (all over the world) will distract you to grab something. Most of the time they were just in awe about my hair or wanted to talk to me because I was American. The only time I really was nervous about my stuff being taken was in Accra in Osu when male children- maybe 8-10 years old would come up to you to ask for money and they would grab your arm. I HATED that. I was in some very “poor” areas and that never happened earlier on in my trip, but when I got into the city center, I didn’t like the fact that children would grab me..so once again, I did hold my stuff tighter when children came around and started touching. Besides that, I didn’t feel any physical threat the entire time.
*Always have a money belt underneath your clothes. I did this the entire time and spread out my money in various places just in case.
That’s all I have for now. I hope this helps you on your journey to Ghana.