Once the hub of the West African slave trade, Ghana has shrugged off its shady past and now garners praise for being one of the continent’s friendliest and most stable countries.
What it lacks in natural wonders it makes up for with a rich history and an infectious joie de vivre – chaotic cities throb with colour, beaming locals dish out marriage proposals and life takes place against a backdrop of Afro-jazz rhythms.
While it can’t claim to have Africa’s best mountains, waterfalls or game viewing, it does have some noteworthy natural attractions. Battered castles overlook a raw coastline, elephants and monkeys roam the national parks, and twitchers will be in seventh heaven tracking some of the 750 bird species.
Take a sheet to sleep under as most places won’t provide you with one. Take your own toilet paper. Bear in mind that penalties for drug related crime are very harsh. Be aware: scams are commonplace
Tropical Ghana is hot year round with temperatures of around 30-35ºC. The drier north has one rainy season running from April to October whereas the more humid south gets rain from April to June and September to October.
The dry season between October and April is a good time to visit with lower humidity, less mosquitoes and easier travelling conditions. You’re also more likely to spot game and birds at this time of year although the Saharan winds in December and March bring poor visibility – bad news for hikers and bird watchers.
Kokota International Airport (ACC) in Accra.
This is taxi country; in fact, the majority of Ghana’s vehicles seem to be cabs. There are both private and shared taxis, with private taxis charging a negotiable rate and shared cabs operating on an inexpensive fixed-fee basis. Buses are a safe, cheap and relatively reliable option. Tro-tros abound but they’re slow and nowhere near as safe as hopping on a bus.
Cycling is possible given the flat landscape but the far north and the far south offer the best terrain. Car hire is available and most of the country is now accessible by road. It’s worth noting that some rural roads are poor, there is barely any lighting and Ghanaian drivers are rather carefree. Driving after dark is not a great idea due to the risk of robbery and accidents.
If you’re looking to stay in Accra, Kumasi or one of the coastal resorts then you will be able to take your pick from a range of options – modern skyscrapers, church hostels and friendly resthouses to name but a few. In the rest of the country hotels are generally simple but decent. Most, unless you pay rock-bottom prices, will offer air conditioning and en suites. Camping facilities are limited although sleeping under canvas may be a good option for those moving between remote parks.
Ghanaian food means spice. Lots of it. The adventurous cuisine evolved from tribal nosh and usually consists of something starchy and a spicy sauce or soup strewn with snails, meat, fish or wild mushrooms. Starchy staples include rice, fufu (mashed cassava, plantain or yam), banku (fermented corn/cassava dough) or kenkey (balls of fermented maize cooked in plantain leaves). Even the dessert sugar kenkey is eaten with a fiery pepper sauce. Red red (bean stew cooked in red palm oil) is another popular dish.
Snack-wise you’ll be spoiled for choice: fried plantain and fried yam is sold on the street, exotic fruits abound and the local chocolate is really quite good. Vegetarians can find it a struggle to eat well. Ice water, coconut juice and lager beer are widespread.
Ghana is relatively safe, especially compared to many other African countries. Armed robbery does sometimes occur in Accra and other urban areas – take the usual precautions and try to avoid travelling in taxis after dark. Tourists have fallen prey to theft and unwanted sexual advances on beaches, especially women. Swimming can be risky due to tides and undertows. Road travel can be dangerous.
Outside the main urban areas medical facilities leave a lot to be desired. Malaria and some water-borne diseases such as cholera are common. You should also guard against meningitis, tetanus, bilharzia and tickbite fever. About half of all visitors will suffer from some form of travellers’ diarrhoea.
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