Ghana Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Ghana, located on West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, is a captivating destination for travelers seeking a vibrant mix of culture, history, and natural beauty. With a rich heritage of ancient kingdoms, colonial influences, and a diverse population, Ghana offers an array of experiences for tourists. From exploring bustling markets and historic forts to relaxing on beautiful beaches and delving into the heart of vibrant cities, Ghana is a destination that showcases the warmth and hospitality of its people while celebrating its past and embracing its future.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Ghana as a tourist largely depends on your preferences and the type of experience you’re seeking, as Ghana experiences two distinct seasons:

  1. Dry Season (November to March): This is generally considered the best time to visit Ghana. The weather is relatively dry and comfortable during this period, with cooler temperatures and lower humidity. This is an ideal time for outdoor activities, safaris, and exploring the country’s cultural and historical sites. Festivals like the famous Ashanti Yam Festival and Christmas celebrations also take place during this season.
  2. Wet Season (April to October): Ghana experiences heavy rainfall during the wet season, which can make traveling more challenging. The rainiest months are usually June, July, and August. However, if you’re interested in lush green landscapes and want to witness the stunning waterfalls in their full glory, this season may appeal to you. Just be prepared for occasional flooding, muddy roads, and disruptions in travel plans.

The coastal regions, including Accra and the Cape Coast, tend to be hot and humid year-round, with less variation between the dry and wet seasons. In the northern regions, there’s more variation in temperature and weather conditions.

Consider your interests and what you want to do during your visit. If you prefer pleasant weather and ease of travel, the dry season is your best bet. However, if you’re interested in unique natural phenomena and don’t mind some inconvenience due to rain, the wet season can also be rewarding.

Remember to check weather forecasts and local conditions before planning your trip, as climate patterns can vary from year to year. Additionally, take into account any specific festivals or events you want to attend when deciding on your travel dates.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Getting around Ghana as a tourist can be an exciting and accessible experience, as the country has a variety of transportation options. Here are some of the best ways to get around Ghana:

  1. Taxis: Taxis are a convenient mode of transportation in most cities and towns. In larger cities like Accra and Kumasi, you’ll find metered taxis, which are generally more reliable and safer. In smaller towns, shared taxis or “tro-tros” (minibuses) may be the primary means of transportation. Always negotiate fares in advance if meters are not used.
  2. Rental Cars: Renting a car is an option if you want more flexibility and are comfortable with driving on Ghana’s roads. Major cities have reputable rental agencies, and the road network is relatively well-maintained. However, driving in Ghana can be chaotic, with erratic traffic and different driving habits to navigate.
  3. Buses: Long-distance buses and intercity buses connect major cities and towns in Ghana. Companies like STC (State Transport Corporation) offer comfortable and affordable bus services. Be prepared for longer travel times due to frequent stops.
  4. Tro-Tros: Tro-tros are shared minivans or buses that serve as the primary mode of transportation for many Ghanaians. They are a cost-effective way to travel short distances within cities and between towns. Tro-tros are known for their colorful paint and often cramped conditions.
  5. Domestic Flights: For long-distance travel within Ghana, consider domestic flights. Airlines like Africa World Airlines and PassionAir operate flights between major cities, reducing travel time and offering convenience.
  6. Motorbikes: In some cities and towns, motorbike taxis or “okadas” are a common and affordable way to get around, especially in congested traffic. Always wear a helmet and negotiate the fare in advance.
  7. Trains: While the train network in Ghana is limited, you can take a scenic ride on the Ghana Railways line between Takoradi and Kumasi. This journey provides a unique perspective on the country’s landscapes.
  8. Boats: In coastal areas and near major rivers, you may have the opportunity to travel by boat. For instance, you can take boat trips on the Volta River or visit the Cape Coast and Elmina castles via boat tours.
  9. Walking: Exploring cities and towns on foot can be a great way to experience Ghana’s culture and interact with locals, especially in urban areas with pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.
  10. Bicycle Rentals: In some tourist destinations, you can rent bicycles to explore the surroundings at your own pace.

When using taxis, tro-tros, or other forms of public transportation, it’s a good idea to ask locals or your accommodation for advice on routes, fares, and safety. Be cautious when traveling at night, keep your belongings secure, and be aware of your surroundings to ensure a safe and enjoyable travel experience in Ghana.

What’s the Official Language?

The official language of Ghana is English. English is widely spoken and used for official, educational, and business purposes throughout the country. Here are some common English phrases and words that may be helpful for tourists in Ghana:

Greetings:

  1. Hello – Hello
  2. Good morning – Good morning
  3. Good afternoon – Good afternoon
  4. Good evening – Good evening
  5. How are you? – How are you?
  6. I’m fine, thank you – I’m fine, thank you
  7. What is your name? – What is your name?
  8. My name is… – My name is…
  9. Please – Please
  10. Thank you – Thank you
  11. You’re welcome – You’re welcome
  12. Excuse me – Excuse me
  13. Yes – Yes
  14. No – No
  15. Goodbye – Goodbye

Common Phrases:

  1. How much does this cost? – How much does this cost?
  2. Where is the restroom? – Where is the restroom?
  3. I need help – I need help
  4. Can you recommend a restaurant? – Can you recommend a restaurant?
  5. I’m lost – I’m lost
  6. I don’t understand – I don’t understand
  7. Can you help me find a taxi? – Can you help me find a taxi?
  8. What time is it? – What time is it?

Numbers:

  1. One – One
  2. Two – Two
  3. Three – Three
  4. Four – Four
  5. Five – Five
  6. Six – Six
  7. Seven – Seven
  8. Eight – Eight
  9. Nine – Nine
  10. Ten – Ten

Directions:

  1. Left – Left
  2. Right – Right
  3. Straight ahead – Straight ahead
  4. North – North
  5. South – South
  6. East – East
  7. West – West

Learning a few basic English phrases can be helpful when traveling in Ghana, especially when interacting with locals and navigating day-to-day situations. Ghanaians are generally friendly and welcoming, and making an effort to communicate in English is often appreciated by the people you encounter during your trip.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Ghana offers a wide range of accommodation options for tourists, catering to various budgets and preferences. Here are some popular types of accommodations and areas to consider when staying in Ghana:

  1. Hotels: Ghana has a variety of hotels, ranging from budget-friendly options to luxury establishments. Major cities like Accra, Kumasi, and Takoradi have a wide selection of hotels, including international chains and boutique hotels. Popular areas in Accra for hotels include Airport City, Osu, and Labone.
  2. Guesthouses: Guesthouses are a common and affordable option in Ghana, particularly in rural areas and smaller towns. They provide a more intimate and local experience. You can find guesthouses in many tourist destinations, including Cape Coast, Elmina, and the Volta Region.
  3. Lodges and Eco-Resorts: If you’re interested in exploring Ghana’s natural beauty, consider staying in lodges and eco-resorts located near national parks, wildlife reserves, and scenic areas. Places like Mole National Park and the Kakum National Park have accommodations that offer a unique experience.
  4. Beach Resorts: Along Ghana’s beautiful coastline, you’ll find beachfront resorts and lodges, particularly in areas like Ada, Busua, and Axim. These destinations are perfect for relaxing by the sea and enjoying water activities.
  5. Backpacker Hostels: Backpacker hostels are available in cities like Accra and Kumasi, catering to budget-conscious travelers. They offer dormitory-style and private rooms and are excellent places to meet fellow travelers.
  6. Homestays: In some rural areas, you may have the opportunity to stay with local families, providing an immersive cultural experience. Homestays are often arranged through community-based tourism initiatives.
  7. Campsites: If you’re an adventurous traveler, camping may be an option in some nature reserves and remote areas. Always check in advance if camping is allowed and if facilities are available.
  8. Airbnb: In major cities and popular tourist destinations, you can find Airbnb accommodations, including apartments, houses, and private rooms. This option allows for a more independent and homey experience.

When choosing your accommodation in Ghana, consider factors like your budget, preferred location, and the type of experience you want to have. It’s a good idea to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons or for popular festivals, as availability can fill up quickly. Additionally, read reviews and check the latest information on safety and amenities to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay in Ghana.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Ghanaian cuisine is known for its flavorful and diverse dishes, often characterized by the use of aromatic spices and fresh ingredients. When visiting Ghana, be sure to try these must-try foods and dishes:

  1. Jollof Rice: Jollof rice is a beloved West African dish, and in Ghana, it’s a staple at celebrations and gatherings. It’s made with rice cooked in a flavorful tomato sauce, often accompanied by vegetables and your choice of protein, such as chicken or fish.
  2. Fufu and Light Soup: Fufu is a starchy side dish made from pounded cassava, yam, or plantains. It’s typically served with a light and spicy soup that may contain fish, goat meat, or chicken.
  3. Banku and Tilapia: Banku is another popular starchy dish made from fermented corn and cassava dough. It’s often served with grilled tilapia fish and a spicy pepper sauce known as “shito.”
  4. Kelewele: Kelewele is a delicious and spicy street food made from fried plantains seasoned with a blend of ginger, pepper, and spices. It’s a favorite snack among Ghanaians.
  5. Red-Red: Red-Red is a hearty Ghanaian stew made with black-eyed peas, palm oil, and fried plantains. It’s usually served with fried fish or shrimp.
  6. Groundnut Soup: Groundnut soup, also known as peanut soup, is a creamy and nutty dish made from groundnuts (peanuts) and vegetables. It’s often served with fufu or rice.
  7. Waakye: Waakye is a Ghanaian dish made from rice and beans cooked with millet leaves, giving it a distinctive reddish-brown color. It’s typically served with a variety of accompaniments, including fried plantains, spaghetti, and a spicy sauce.
  8. Chinchinga (Kebabs): Ghanaian kebabs, known as chinchinga, are popular street food items. They consist of skewered and grilled meat, usually served with spicy peanut sauce.
  9. Tuo Zaafi: Tuo Zaafi is a northern Ghanaian dish made from millet or sorghum flour. It’s served with a savory soup made from vegetables and meat, often goat or beef.
  10. Bofrot (Puff-Puff): Bofrot is a sweet and deep-fried doughnut-like snack. It’s a popular street food and dessert option in Ghana.
  11. Akple: Akple is a traditional Ewe dish made from fermented corn and cassava dough. It’s typically served with soups or stews and is a unique taste experience.
  12. Kelewele: This spicy and flavorful snack consists of fried plantain cubes seasoned with a mix of ginger, pepper, and spices. It’s a popular street food item.
  13. Sobolo: Sobolo is a refreshing hibiscus tea that is sweetened with sugar or honey and often flavored with spices like ginger and cloves. It’s a popular beverage choice in Ghana.
  14. Fresh Coconut Water: Ghana is known for its abundant coconut trees, and you can enjoy freshly harvested coconut water, often served straight from the coconut itself.
  15. Ghanaian Sweets: Try Ghana’s sweet treats like “kibi” (millet candy), “kulikuli” (groundnut cakes), and “taalia” (sesame seed candy) for a taste of local confections.

Sampling these Ghanaian dishes will not only satisfy your taste buds but also provide insight into the country’s rich culinary traditions and cultural diversity. Don’t hesitate to explore local markets and street food stalls to savor the full range of Ghanaian flavors.

What to See? 🔍

Ghana is a country with a rich cultural heritage, diverse landscapes, and a wealth of historical and natural attractions. Here are some must-see places in Ghana for tourists:

  1. Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle: These historical forts and castles along the coast were used during the transatlantic slave trade. They are UNESCO World Heritage sites and offer a sobering glimpse into the dark history of slavery.
  2. Kakum National Park: Explore the lush rainforests of Kakum National Park and walk on its famous canopy walkway, which provides stunning views of the treetops and wildlife.
  3. Mole National Park: Go on a safari in Mole National Park, where you can spot elephants, antelopes, baboons, and various bird species. It’s one of Ghana’s premier wildlife destinations.
  4. Kumasi: Visit Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region, and explore its vibrant markets, including the Kejetia Market, one of the largest in West Africa. Don’t miss the Manhyia Palace Museum and the Adinkra symbols.
  5. Volta Region: Explore the scenic Volta Region, home to the Volta River, the Akosombo Dam, and the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary. You can also visit the Wli Waterfalls, the highest in West Africa.
  6. Makola Market (Accra): Dive into the bustling Makola Market in Accra, where you can shop for everything from textiles and spices to crafts and traditional clothing.
  7. Wli Waterfalls: Hike through lush forest trails to reach the spectacular Wli Waterfalls, a serene and refreshing natural attraction.
  8. Ada Foah: Enjoy the beaches and water activities in Ada Foah, a tranquil town located at the estuary of the Volta River.
  9. Cultural Villages: Visit traditional cultural villages like Nzulezu, where stilt houses are built on a lagoon, and Larabanga, known for its ancient mosque.
  10. Kintampo Waterfalls: Discover the picturesque Kintampo Waterfalls, located in the Brong-Ahafo Region, and take a refreshing swim in the pool below.
  11. Ghana’s Central Region: Explore the Central Region, which is rich in historical sites, including Assin Manso, where enslaved Africans took their final bath before being shipped off.
  12. Koforidua: Attend the vibrant Kente Festival in Koforidua, where you can witness traditional drumming and dancing and learn about the craftsmanship behind Kente cloth.
  13. Boti Falls: Visit Boti Falls, especially during the rainy season when it’s at its most impressive. You can also explore the nearby umbrella rock and hike to the “Three-Headed Palm Tree.”
  14. Paga Crocodile Pond: Interact with friendly crocodiles in Paga, a unique cultural experience in the Upper East Region.
  15. Lake Bosomtwe: Relax at Lake Bosomtwe, a natural crater lake formed by a meteorite impact. It’s a peaceful spot for swimming, hiking, and relaxation.

These are just a few of the many incredible places to explore in Ghana. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, nature, or wildlife, Ghana has something to offer every type of traveler.

What to Do? 📸

Ghana offers a wide range of activities and experiences for tourists, from cultural immersion to outdoor adventures. Here are some must-do things when visiting Ghana:

  1. Visit Historical Sites: Explore the Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle to learn about Ghana’s history and the transatlantic slave trade. These sites offer guided tours and a chance to reflect on the past.
  2. Attend a Cultural Festival: Ghana is known for its colorful and vibrant festivals. If your visit aligns with a festival, such as the Ashanti Akwasidae or the Homowo festival in Accra, don’t miss the chance to participate in the festivities.
  3. Explore Accra: Wander through the capital city of Accra and visit landmarks like Independence Arch, Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, and the Arts Centre for traditional crafts and souvenirs.
  4. Enjoy Local Cuisine: Savor Ghanaian dishes like jollof rice, fufu, and banku at local restaurants and street food stalls. Don’t forget to try kelewele (spicy fried plantains) and fresh coconut water.
  5. Experience Traditional Drumming and Dance: Attend a traditional drumming and dance performance to witness the rhythmic and energetic expressions of Ghanaian culture.
  6. Hike to Waterfalls: Hike to stunning waterfalls like Wli Waterfalls, Boti Falls, and Kintampo Waterfalls for a refreshing dip and scenic views.
  7. Take a Canopy Walk: Challenge your sense of adventure by walking on the canopy walkway at Kakum National Park, which offers breathtaking views of the rainforest.
  8. Explore Craft Villages: Visit craft villages like Bonwire (known for Kente weaving) and Ntonso (known for Adinkra cloth) to see artisans at work and purchase authentic Ghanaian crafts.
  9. Go Wildlife Watching: Embark on a safari in Mole National Park to see elephants, baboons, antelopes, and diverse bird species in their natural habitat.
  10. Visit the Larabanga Mosque: Explore the ancient Larabanga Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in West Africa, known for its unique architecture.
  11. Tour Kakum’s Slave River: Learn about the history of the slave trade at Assin Manso, where you can see the “Slave River” and the “Slave Market.”
  12. Attend a Naming Ceremony: If you’re invited to a traditional naming ceremony (outdooring), it’s a special opportunity to witness a significant cultural event and celebrate with the local community.
  13. Enjoy the Beaches: Relax on Ghana’s beautiful beaches, such as Busua Beach, Ada Foah, and Kokrobite Beach, where you can swim, sunbathe, and enjoy water sports.
  14. Visit Art Galleries: Explore art galleries in Accra and Kumasi, showcasing contemporary Ghanaian art and artists.
  15. Shop for Souvenirs: Browse local markets for authentic souvenirs, textiles, jewelry, and handicrafts. Negotiate prices with vendors for unique keepsakes.
  16. Learn About Adinkra Symbols: Discover the meaning and history behind Adinkra symbols, which represent concepts and proverbs in Ghanaian culture.
  17. Interact with Crocodiles: Visit the Paga Crocodile Pond in the Upper East Region and see crocodiles up close while learning about the local traditions associated with these creatures.
  18. Support Community-Based Tourism: Consider participating in community-based tourism initiatives, which provide opportunities to learn about local customs, traditions, and daily life.
  19. Volunteer: If you have the time and interest, consider volunteering with local organizations to contribute to community development projects.

Remember to be respectful of local customs and traditions, engage with the local community, and prioritize responsible and sustainable tourism practices during your visit to Ghana.

Culture and Safety 🦺

Traveling to Ghana as a tourist can be a rewarding and enriching experience, but it’s essential to be aware of the culture and safety considerations to have a smooth and enjoyable trip. Here are some cultural and safety tips for traveling to Ghana:

Cultural Tips:

  1. Respect Local Customs: Ghana has a rich cultural heritage, and it’s important to respect local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites and rural areas. Greet people with a handshake and be polite in your interactions.
  2. Greetings: Ghanaians place importance on greetings. Always greet people with a smile and a friendly “Hello” or “Good morning/afternoon/evening.” Learn a few basic greetings in local languages like Twi, Fante, or Ga to show respect.
  3. Photography: Always ask for permission before taking photos of people, especially in rural areas and at cultural events. Some Ghanaians may expect a small fee for allowing you to take their picture.
  4. Cultural Sensitivity: Be aware of cultural sensitivities. Avoid public displays of affection, especially in rural areas, as it may be considered inappropriate.
  5. Respect for Elders: Show respect for elders by using proper titles such as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Auntie” and “Uncle.” If offered a seat, accept it as a sign of respect.
  6. Religion: Ghana is a religiously diverse country with a mix of Christianity, Islam, and traditional African religions. Be respectful of religious practices and dress modestly when visiting religious sites.

Safety Tips:

  1. Health Precautions: Consult a travel clinic or healthcare provider before your trip to ensure you have the necessary vaccinations and medications. Malaria is prevalent in Ghana, so take malaria prophylaxis and use insect repellent.
  2. Water and Food Safety: Drink bottled or purified water and avoid tap water. Be cautious about street food; choose vendors with clean and busy stalls to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
  3. Personal Safety: Ghana is generally a safe destination for tourists. However, exercise the same caution you would in any unfamiliar place. Avoid displaying valuable items, be cautious in crowded areas, and keep an eye on your belongings.
  4. Transportation Safety: Use reliable transportation services, and avoid traveling at night whenever possible, especially on poorly lit roads. Be cautious when using motorbike taxis (okadas) and negotiate fares in advance.
  5. Traffic Safety: Be vigilant when crossing the street, as traffic rules and driving habits can be different from what you’re used to. Look both ways and proceed cautiously.
  6. Local Laws: Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs. Possession and use of illegal drugs are strictly prohibited, and penalties can be severe.
  7. Emergency Contacts: Save important phone numbers, including the local police, embassy/consulate, and emergency medical services, in case you need assistance.
  8. Travel Insurance: Consider purchasing comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost or stolen belongings.
  9. Currency Exchange: Use official currency exchange services or banks to exchange money. Be cautious when using ATMs, and avoid withdrawing large sums of money in public places.
  10. Local Advice: Seek advice from your accommodation or local residents about the safety of specific areas or neighborhoods you plan to visit.

By being culturally sensitive and practicing common-sense safety precautions, you can enjoy a memorable and safe trip to Ghana while immersing yourself in its rich culture and warm hospitality.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a visit to Ghana promises an enriching and unforgettable experience. From its welcoming people and vibrant culture to its historical landmarks and stunning landscapes, Ghana offers a diverse array of attractions. Whether you’re exploring the bustling streets of Accra, learning about the country’s complex history at its forts and museums, or simply relaxing on its pristine beaches, Ghana has something to offer every traveler. So, pack your bags, embrace the rhythms of Ghana, and prepare to create lasting memories in this remarkable West African nation.