Ghana is often considered to be one of the friendliest and easiest African countries to navigate, especially if you want to go alone. While this may be true, traveling in Ghana still comes with its ups and downs. You often won’t know what you don’t know in Ghana until you are confronted with it. While these incidents come with great stories to tell later, it can be a huge hassle! After visiting Ghana for the first time in 2019, then moving to Ghana in 2021 for two years while I do my Master’s degree, I’ve picked up some great tips that will make navigating travel in Ghana easier.
Here are 18 things to know before visiting Ghana!
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You should always carry cash with you
Ghana is a very heavy cash-using country. You will always need cash for something, especially street buys. For this reason, you want to always make sure that you are carrying cash with you so you are able to pay for things as you need to while traveling around Ghana.
Over the years, many establishments have begun to incorporate credit and debit card payments. However, the constant Wi-Fi issues in Ghana often lead to the POS systems being out of service.
Technology is not the most reliable thing in Ghana, and you do not want to be in a situation where you thought you could pay with a card, so you didn’t bring cash, only to find out that the card option was not available at that moment.
This has happened to me on several occasions, and I’ve had to run out of a store and quickly go to an ATM, then return to make payment.
It is good practice to make sure that you always have at least 200 cedis on you when visiting Ghana. If you are planning on visiting a place where you want to use your card to pay, it is worth calling that place ahead of time and ensuring that their card system is working.
Use Instagram to search for and find businesses
Many businesses in Ghana do not have formal websites. They tend to instead, set up Instagram pages and that is where they post all of their business updates, store hours, what services are products they have available, etc.
Unless the business is very formal or well established, I have found that it is rare for businesses to have websites or ones that they update regularly.
If you are looking for a certain type of service or product in Ghana, utilize hashtags and similar pages to see if you can find it.
Google has done a great job at identifying businesses that are nearby for what you may need even if they don’t have websites, but this is good to know so that you are not going down a pointless search online trying to look for websites that do not exist.
Don’t be naive to romantic advances
Coming to Ghana, especially as a woman, you will feel like you’ve entered a whole new world. One where the romantic advances don’t stop.
You will be approached at the grocery store, market, tourist attractions, while in your Uber, etc. Anywhere where you are around people, you are bound to get an advance made.
While this is nice, it’s important not to be naïve to these romantic advances. If you just met someone and the first thing they are saying is that they want to marry you, that may not be the best thing to pursue.
Be careful not to give anybody money that you just met or do too much for people that you don’t know much about. Now I’m not one to be sweet-talked into doing these things, but I have heard plenty of stories to know that it is important to include in these things to know before visiting Ghana!
Use landmarks to direct your drivers
Unless you plan on driving while in Ghana, you will have to deal with a lot of drivers and dispatch riders. While these may sound like very convenient methods, Ghana does not have a very well-developed address system, so you may have to use landmarks to direct your drivers to where you are.
This won’t be an issue if you are staying in, again, a very well-established place like a popular hotel, but if you find yourself staying in an Airbnb that doesn’t have a formal address, you will have to direct your driver by using things like restaurants and pharmacies that are nearby so that they know where you are.
Delivery and ride-sharing apps like Uber and Bolt also have a current location feature that you can select that are often helpful. If you know that you are not staying in a place with an address and it may be difficult for them to find you, start looking for those landmarks or ask the owner of the house how they describe the place to drivers.
Don’t forget to greet others
Greetings in Ghana are a big deal, and it’s considered rude not to greet others. When you enter a room, you should say hello, good morning, good afternoon, or good evening.
I feel like this is part of the community-oriented spirit that Ghana has and is something I’ve grown to really love about Ghana. It allows you to acknowledge people and feel acknowledged in passing.
The WiFi can be a hit or miss, and can get expensive
The WiFi in Ghana can really test your patience. There are several different WiFi networks in Ghana, but the way they work and how strong they depend on your physical location. For example, my WiFi may work great in one neighborhood, but in another is very slow and has zero signal.
If you are used to unlimited WiFi, you may want to adjust your expectations accordingly before your arrival. It is rare, from what I’ve seen, that places have unlimited WiFi unless it is a very popular hotel.
If you are staying in an Airbnb, be prepared to have to” top-up,” which is a term used in Ghana that means adding more money to the balance of the WiFi account to get more WiFi.
There are several issues with WiFi here. Mainly due to network issues that happen almost daily. For this reason, I do not recommend doing last-minute work in Ghana, as it is a huge risk. As a student here and an online business owner, I try to make sure I never do anything at the last minute because I don’t know how the WiFi is going to behave!
Bring a portable fan
Even if you don’t listen to anything I’ve mentioned in this blog post, I promise you will want to listen to this. Do not come to Ghana without bringing a portable fan.
The transportation methods available rarely use air conditioning, you will be outside for an extended period for some sort of activity that you have planned, and it will be hot as hell.
There are even some restaurants that you walk into that don’t have air conditioning on.
Investing in a portable fan was one of the best things I ever did while living in Ghana because it has saved my life on so many occasions and will save yours.
It also comes in handy in case you experience a power outage! Use my link above from my Amazon store and I’ll earn a small commission on this product.
Download multiple ride sharing apps and never depend on just one
In Ghana’s main cities like Accra and Kumasi, ridesharing is a very important part of how people get around daily.
However, there is an art to using these services in Ghana, and they come with their own issues, as I share in my Ghana transportation guide.
Drivers on these platforms tend to cancel out of nowhere, will rarely allow you to use your card as payments, and can really delay your plans if you aren’t careful.
Downloading multiple ridesharing apps allows you to compare how many drivers are available in an area, which platform is cheaper for the destination you are trying to get to, and overall gives you more options and flexibility.
Be sure to use my discount link for Bolt, Uber, and Yango! Use my Yango code xot75j93 and get 50% off (maximum 10 GHS)!.
Learn the right hand rule to avoid being unintentionally disrespectful
In Ghana, actions like eating, waving, and handing an item to someone is to be done with your right hand only.
From an early age, many Ghanaians are taught that their left hand is to be used for cleaning themselves in the bathroom. Therefore, your left hand is considered filthy and should not be used for eating and other activities. Using your left hand for gestures and main tasks can be considered highly disrespectful.
I will say that in Accra, this rule has become very relaxed compared to when I was last year in 2019. A lot more foreigners are here, so I feel that people have taken less and less offense.
However, this doesn’t mean disregarding these cultural customs. If you are out eating at a local eatery, you will find that if you use your left hand, people will stare at you often in disgust. What it means instead is that if you forget or find it hard to remember, grace will be extended.
But when you are handing things to someone, use your right hand!
Brief police stops are common, especially at night
Police stops in Ghana occur frequently, mainly at night, but they can happen throughout the day. A typical police stop involves your driver coming to a rolling stop as the police officer flashes a flashlight in the car and then tells the driver they can proceed past the checkpoint stop.
A longer stop may mean that your vehicle can be randomly searched by officers. They may ask for ID and search your bag. These searches usually last for about five minutes, and it is best to comply.
Bribery is common in Ghana, and you may be asked to “dash” officers, which means tip. You can choose to give it or not, but it may, unfortunately, make the difference between a five-minute stop and a 40-minute one.
Police encounters in Ghana are generally nothing to worry about. The officers are usually friendly. They may have a “tough guy” attitude, but as you talk to them more, the guard comes down.
I’ve included this as an important thing to know before visiting Ghana because many of us are from countries where the fear of police officials is real. While the police officers in Ghana have their own corrupt ways, I can say that there’s a sense of relief in knowing that I’ve never feared for my life during one of these police stops that happen almost every day.
Don’t feel the need to bargain that hard as a tourist
Bargaining is often a tip that is given when people talk about coming to Ghana. In my humble opinion, I really don’t think you need to bargain that much as a tourist if you are coming to Ghana with a currency where the exchange rate will be significantly higher, like the U.S. dollar.
Ghana‘s economy is currently struggling, and many people are fighting to make ends meet. Even as an American living in Ghana, I can say that this economy has been rough on me in different aspects, even though my currency is stronger.
You will need to bargain at places like the art center and other tourist-attracting markets, but if you know that you can afford to pay for something and it won’t leave a dent in your wallet, just pay for it. The reality is you may be helping someone drastically by doing so.
I want to make it clear that I’m saying that you will need to bargain in touristy places that are known for trying to upcharge foreigners and tourists, but when it comes to buying regular items every day on the street or from roadside shops, that is not the time to be bargaining.
These merchants have their established rates for a reason and while it is often negotiable, be respectful of what is happening among the local community and economy.
Be kind and patient
I mainly say this in relation to merchants and just locals that you may interact with while traveling in Ghana. Coming from an individualistic country like the United States, the way we navigate is often done in a way that places ourselves at the center, and we are only focused on getting things done for ourselves, even if it is at the expense of others.
Ghana is a very community-oriented place. This means that while you’re grocery shopping, you may have people that you don’t know come up to you and try to strike up a conversation while you are in a rush to leave. So be patient in situations like this, take the time to speak with people, and remember what is important.
Ghanaians are generally very warm and inviting people. I have found that many will go out of their way and their regular routine to accommodate you, even if they have no idea who you are or where you come from. As a guest in Ghana, I think it’s important to be open to this and willing to do the same when appropriate.
Do not underestimate the traffic in Accra
The traffic in Accra is absolutely nothing to underestimate. Places that should take me 15 minutes to get to will often take me 30 to 45, and that is on a good day. During December, that 15-minute ride can easily turn into an hour and a half.
A lot of the roads in Accra are very narrow, and a lot of people have cars in this city. When you add construction work to this mix, you can expect to be delayed if you do not consider your time when making plans.
For example, if you know that you have a lunch reservation at a certain time, ideally, you may want to start getting ready or preparing to get there 1.5 hours in advance unless you are super close to the place.
If you can help it, I wouldn’t even set reservations because you truly can’t predict what the traffic will be like. I’m not kidding when I say the traffic is probably some of the worst you will experience in your life.
You will need a SIM Card
There are some destinations where you can get by without needing a SIM card to get a local phone number, but know that Ghana is not one of those places.
You will quickly learn that you have to talk to people verbally in order to get things done in Ghana. It’s not a place where you can use texting or the chat feature on apps to get what you need.
Many people would rather get on a phone call before they text. Drivers will call you to ask where you are when picking you up, and you will need to call establishments to find out information. Having a Ghana number will make your life easier.
You can get a SIM card from Vodafone at A&C mall or any other phone network establishment. Don’t forget to bring your passport.
Ghana is more than Accra
“Ghana is not Accra” is one of my favorite sayings and one that I’ve truly gotten to really know during my time living in Ghana. Accra is an amazing introduction to Ghana. I think even if you visit Ghana and only stay within Accra, you can still get a very well-balanced trip and insight into Ghanaian culture.
However, with 16 regions to explore in Ghana, this country is truly beautiful and diverse. If you can, try to visit at least two other regions on your trip.
Cape Coast is one that is usually visited by visitors because of the Cape Coast Castle, but also consider stopping in Kumasi.
Each region has something new to offer and its own culture within being Ghanaian. My favorite region is the Northern region, and it’s a completely different world from the Greater Accra region, where Accra is. In Northern Ghana, the Muslim population is the majority, you’ll see women riding motorbikes, and Uber and Bolt are not as widely used, so tuk-tuks are available.
I only know this because I decided to get out of Accra and see what else Ghana has to offer, and I encourage you to do the same!
Be mindful of your phone at all times, especially while in transit
It is a thing in Accra for a motorcyclist to ride past cars with windows that are down and snatch phones out of the hands of people.
This has even been reported to happen while people are walking down the streets and have their phones in their hands. So please be mindful of your phone at all times. If you don’t have to be carrying your phone, I would keep it in a purse or in your pocket out of sight.
Trust me when I say you do not want to have to replace your phone here. I have found that electronics are a lot more expensive in Ghana, so it’s easier to take precautions.
Never stick your phone out of a moving car’s window, and if you do because you want to get video footage, make sure no motorcyclists are coming from behind and that you have a firm grip on your phone.
Customer service is almost nonexistent, the standard you may be used to will not be given here
Ghana is known for a lot of great things, but unfortunately, customer service is definitely not one of them. In fact, for many visitors, customer service is one of the huge cons of this country.
It’s good to know this prior to coming so that you can adjust your expectations and not be as frustrated when you arrive.
When going to restaurants, you may find that no one attends to you, you have to wait over an hour for your food to come, etc. You may go into a shop and find that the owner is more focused on talking on the phone than helping you find what you came in for.
As Ghana continues to grow in tourism, it honestly does not seem like the customer service has improved at all, so this is a really good thing to know before visiting Ghana when you arrive so you can adjust your patients accordingly.
Know that drivers prefer cash more than anything, card payments are generally not accepted
Uber and boat drivers strongly prefer that they be paid with cash and generally do not accept trips that will be paid with card.
If you are paying with a card, you’ll find that your ride will constantly be declined, and it will take you a very long time to find a driver that is accepting card payments.
After speaking to several drivers, I’ve learned that this is because they like to have cash on hand and ready in case they need to buy something, and with card payments, they do not get the money right away and may have to wait up to a week until it is available.
If you want to avoid having issues with getting a ride, just make sure to select that it is a cash trip, and that will take care of many of your issues!
One thing you can also do if you are low on cash but need a ride is ask your driver to stop by an ATM before reaching your destination. This is something that I do all of the time, and they usually don’t have a problem with it!
Ghana may become one of your best travel experiences
Maybe this isn’t an official thing to know before visiting Ghana, but it is one that makes me happy to include.
Ghana is truly a fascinating and incredible country. I have had the privilege of exploring Ghana both from the lens of a tourist and a resident. Ghana is my favorite country. One trip to Ghana and you will be exposed to a beautiful culture, warm people, and a unique destination that just keeps giving.
It’s not without reason that most people who come to Ghana want to move here or feel led to stay longer. Ghana does that to you. Ghana has that kind of impact.
Now that you know some important things before visiting Ghana let me know if you found any of these to be surprising or shocking! And don’t forget to come back to let me know how your trip to Ghana went. I love hearing about your personal experiences.