What you need to know before traveling to Ghana

Ghana, located along Africa's Gold Coast, is nestled between the Ivory Coast, Togo and Burkina Faso. This nation of around 27 million inhabitants features prairie-like savannas, dense rain forests and uncrowded Atlantic beaches. Ghana was a major trading center of Portuguese, Dutch, German and Swedish merchants from the 16th century to modern times and was a British colony from the mid-19th century until the country's independence in 1957. Many influences from these cultures can still be found in the country's art, cuisine, language and architecture. More than one million international travelers visit the country each year.

  • Key facts
    Accra, the capital of Ghana, is the most popular tourist destination in the country. Located along the southern coast, this bustling city of around 2.27 residents, is home to the National Museum of Ghana, the historic Jamestown lighthouse, the National Theater and Labadi Beach. However, as fascinating as this diverse city can be, Accra isn't all there is to see in Ghana. Just a few of the other places you'll want to consider when you travel to Ghana include:

    • Cape Coast -- Located along the Atlantic coast, west of Accra, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to Cape Coast Slave Castle, one of the many slave forts along the Atlantic coast.

    • Mole National Park -- Ghana's largest national park, home to a variety of wildlife, including lions, elephants, monkeys and buffalo.

    • Shai Hills Reserve -- A smaller game preserve, accessible as a day-trip from Accra.

    • Kokrobite Beach -- A lovely Atlantic beach, located about 20 miles outside of Accra.

    English is the official language of Ghana, although there are more than 40 distinct native languages spoken by the people of this country.
    Ghana has more than 40 different indigenous peoples, the largest group of which are the Ashanti.
    The official Ghanaian currency is the Ghanaian cedi. American dollars are accepted at some hotels and restaurants; however, since American bills issued before 2007 are rejected by Ghanaian banks, only more recent bills will be accepted by merchants.
    Ghana has one of the most stable economies in Africa and is noted for its friendly people, diverse landscape and many historic sites.
  • Weather & when to go
    The best times to visit Ghana are in July and August and from December through April. These periods avoid the rainy seasons and the Islamic holidays when many stores and restaurants may be closed. However, winter is also the hottest season in Ghana, with average high temperatures in Accra exceeding 85 F (31 C) degrees.
  • Getting around
    Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive for getting around the major cities. "Tro-tros" are a unique Ghanaian form or transport. These are usually old VW buses and are used by locals to carry everything from people to livestock. For travel between cities, bus and rail transportation is available, but used mainly by local commuters. Flying between cities is often the best alternative for international travelers.
    The primary airport in Ghana is Kotoka International Airport in Accra. This two-terminal facility, located just west of the city, handles more than 2.5 million passengers annually and features non-stop flights to cities throughout Africa and Europe as well as New York City in the United States.
  • Know before you go
    It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the public holidays in Ghana before planning your trip since virtually all government buildings and offices as well as most retailers and attractions are closed on these public holidays. Public holidays in Ghana include:

    • January 1 -- New Year's Day

    • March 6 -- Independence Day

    • The Friday before Easter (March/April) -- Good Thursday

    • March/April -- Easter Sunday

    • The day after Easter -- Easter Monday

    • May 1 -- Labour Day

    • May 25 -- Africa Day

    • Three days after the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan (June/July) -- Ramadan Feast

    • July 1 -- Republic Day

    • Four days at the end of the Islamic month of Dhu'l-Hijjah (fall) -- Sacrifice Feast

    • September 21 -- Founders Day

    • The first Friday in December --Farmers' Day

    • December 25 -- Christmas Day

    • December 26 -- Boxing Day

    To reach emergency services while traveling in Ghana, dial 999. In addition, you can reach the police by dialing 191, the local fire department by dialing 192 and emergency medical services by dialing 193.
    You need to carry a valid passport to visit Ghana. In addition, citizens of most western countries, including the United States, Canada, the UK and the countries of the European Economic Community, are required to obtain a visa from a Ghana consulate or embassy before arriving in the country.
  • Travel tips & recommendations

    • Shop hours vary in Ghana, but most are open between 9:00 AM and 5:30 PM daily, even on the weekends. Muslim-owned stores generally close for prayers on Friday afternoons.

    • Traditional Ghanaian cuisine features a lot of root vegetables, plantains and rice, flavored by a little meat. Traditional dishes include fufu, boiled mixture of yams, plantains and cassava rolled into a dough; banku, a verison of fufu made with fermented corn; "light soup," a tomato and palm nut soup; and "red-red," a bean stew. Bread is served with these dishes and diners dip the bread in the soup to eat the chunks of meat and vegetables.

    • Tap water is generally not safe to drink in Ghana. You should use bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth.

    • Credit cards are often not accepted in restaurants and stores in Ghana, particularly outside of the major cities. In addition travelers cheques are difficult to cash, expect in a bank.

    • It is considered disrespectful when you travel to Ghana to eat or greet someone with your left hand.

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