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Visas, Embassies & Border Crossings

Ghana Visa: US$12 for a transit visa (2 days), requested in the embassy in South Africa (Pretoria) and delivered the following day. If you want to extend it once in Ghana Airport you have to spend at least US$100. Officers are very rigid and not so friendly.
Patrizio Luntini, Italy (Feb 03)

Travel Tips

Ghana is a special case, in that cash machines are sort of silly to use. The problem is the Ghanaian currency, whose largest bills were, until recently, worth less than one US dollar. In the same way that you need to ask bank tellers for a plastic bag to carry your stacks of bills, cash machines simply can't deal with the reams of paper that they'd have to dispense. As such, there's an unexpectedly low cap on the amount that you can take out per transaction. When I was there, it was roughly 39 Canadian dollars, which meant that I had to stand at the machine, doing transaction after transaction, watching as my pockets filled to bursting point with 5000 cedi bills. Thankfully, just as I was leaving, the government announced new 10,000 and 20,000 cedi bills, which should be in use by now. This has probably affected the total limits per transaction.

Ghana has a far greater selection of net cafes, most of which are far cheaper than those in Burkina Faso. Unfortunately, their telephone networks appear to be worse, with sustained connection speeds of something like 14,400 bps. That single line is often shared by a room full of computers, meaning that you'll wait three minutes for Hotmail to load, another five minutes to accept your password, and usually at least a minute or two to load even the smallest text-only email. The connections often drop entirely, stranding your unsent email. It's not fun. The best thing to do is to find a place that's fairly reliable, and keep going back. Until Ghana fixes up its admittedly shoddy telephone network (they're accepting bids, apparently), most net cafes around the country will be mediocre at best. Expect to pay somewhere in the range of 6000 cedis per hour, or 9000 at some of the better, more reliable places. Ask about the prices before sitting down at a terminal. There are plently of Ghanaian net cafe owners quite prepared to rip off "rich" foreigners.
Iain Ilich, Canada (Feb 03)

Since Ghana is a very safe country it might be a good idea to have plain US dollars instead of travellers cheques, which are quite hard to change and you get a bad rate. You can change US dollars in most places and you get a good rate. Paying with a credit card is the most expensive way since they charge you in dollars and give you a bad rate from cedis to dollars. You will lose around 15% by using credit instead of cash.
Gustaf Lorentz & Ingrid Teige, Sweden (Jan 03)

Around Bolgatanga there is a village called Sirigou, where you can see very nice decorated huts. Expect to pay a little bit to enter the village. Close to this village there is a building where you can buy very nice pottery. This has been created by an organisation called SWOPA, which encourages the women of the village to start their own business. Sirigou is an hours drive from Bolgatanga by taxi. You can see it on the way to Paga.
Heleen Snoep, Netherlands (Nov 02)

Travellers cheques get a better rate at Standard Chartered Banks in Accra than at Barclays.

At the university in Legon are two internet cafes where you can browse at an acceptable speed. They are both open daily and have great music.

Those wanting to stay in the vicinity of Accra without all the hustle and bustle of a big city, could try to stay in a village named Abokobi, 8 km north of Madina. The only hotel in Abokobi is the Guest Villa.
Bart Goossens, Belgium (Oct 01)

In Accra you can get money from ATMs but only 200,000 cedis at a time. If you do want to take money out across the counter in the banks, you do need your passport as well as your credit/bankers card. You cannot get US dollars from the banks, you have to use Forex bureaus, unless you have a US dollar account - very frustrating as you have to get cedis and then convert them into dollars and hence losing out twice on commission.

Trying to change cedis into US dollars was nigh on impossible in Kumasi. It only took us an hour to get cedis across the counter in the bank using our credit cards, but they will not exchange into dollars at the bank either. We wandered around for a good 4 hours before we could find a forex with US dollars - highly advise that travellers get their dollars in Accra.
Karen Espley (Jul 01)

Moving About

The ferry along Lake Volta rarely takes less than 24 hours. It took us 50 hours. Bring a lot of water and food with you. It is possible to eat a simple meal on board (rice, alloco) but they run out of food and the kitchen is not open for very long. If you don't get 1st class, sleep on the upper deck, it is less crowded and less noisy.
Genevieve Campbell, Canada (Mar 03)

The sharetaxi is very cheap and not crowded. They leave from one specific spot in each town (ask around and the locals will show you) but can drop you anywhere you like within the town it is going to. A sharetaxi from Cape Coast to Elmina is C1500. So, you can have a taxi by yourself for C6000. There are also good sharetaxis from Agona to Busua for C1500.

It is not at all that easy to get to Mole National Park. It is a long and painful trip if you have to rely on tro-tros, which you might since the bus tickets are often sold out. It is a trip worth making though because Mole is excellent, at least by Ghana standards. The bus from Tamale to Mole broke down on our visit and they crammed all the passengers in a bus half the size. The Tamale to Mole trip is quite bad. Bring a hanky to strap around your face for dust protection. If you leave from Kumasi, take an early, 7am, Benzbus from the tro-tro station at the market. That way you get to Tamale in time for the Mole bus and don't have to stay over in Tamale if you don't want to. Buy a bag of water and bring it to Mole and you'll save a lot of money.
Gustaf Lorentz & Ingrid Teige, Sweden (Jan 03)

We covered some distance on our trip. I do remember a T-shirt saying "I survived the potholes of Jamaica", but you ainít seen nothing yet. Ghana is definitely a greater challenge in this regard. Please, do not drive in the dark. The police with their road barriers are also a problem, particularly in the Eastern Volta and the Southeastern regions where we got stopped at each police barrier and on one occasion got arrested by an angry policeman. The good news is that they always abandoned their idea of putting us into jail after we had bribed them with a small amount of money.
Ralph & Ute Kettritz, Germany (Jan 03)

Scams & Warnings

The road back to Larabanga from Mole is extremely dangerous. There have been several machete attacks along the road, one leaving a visitor seriously injured. Do not walk this road, catch the bus back instead. Unfortunately, this bus leaves at 5:30 am...and there isn't another one all day! You can, however, catch taxis back from Larabanga as far as Dagombo, then a collective taxi back to Tamale or the main road. It is possible to get a collective taxi to Mole from Tamale, just ask around at one of the trotro stations in Tamale.
Eithne Bradley, UK (May 05)

Corruption is absolutely the WORST part of a stay in Ghana. Police roadblocks are everywhere, where the only "papers" that they demand are cedis. Taking a bus trip is a great way to see the corruption first hand. Watch out the front window as the driver's helper passes a folded piece of paper to the man with the uniform and the gun. Watch as a note glides carefully into the hand of the officer. Watch how quickly the bus is back on its way. At borders, I find that it's best to plead ignorance. Just play "dumb tourist", and they'll usually just leave you alone. If you feel like playing along, give them a small gift. I found peppermints work nicely. I bribed one border guard with a cold bottle of Pepsi once. Worked like a charm.
Iain Ilich, Canada (Feb 03)

Gems, Highlights & Attractions

Ada Foah is a little village in the Volta region that is a great place to relax for a few days. There are very few people here and the beach is virtually deserted aside from fishermen who drag nets from the shore. When we went there in December we went out in the night at about 11pm to search for leatherbacks. Do not go much earlier or you will not see any. We found THREE of them laying eggs on the beach. A good thing is to hire a driver and have him drive you to the Presbyterian church and from there walk left on the beach. This way you avoid the villages and their toilet beach and there are no people to disturb the turtles.

From Ho take a tro-tro or taxi for around C25,000 to Helekpe to climb the Adaklu mountain. If you take a taxi, be sure that the driver takes you all the way to Helepke and not only to the first village on the way from Ho. Once there, the villagers will arrange a guide for you, and you will pay a fixed price of C15,000 per person. The earnings go to the village as a whole, not only to the guide although an additional tip to the guide will be appropriate. It is possible to stay at the village, they will arrange a room with some light and water for you. They will also cook food for you on request. On the way up to the mountain you will pass a second village where it is also possible to stay. Here you will probably also meet the chief of the village. If so, you are supposed to give a gift to him, money is ok. The climb up the mountain is quite strenuous but the view from the top is rewarding.

If you plan to visit the small national park nearby be sure to be there at dawn if you want to see any animals. It is always a nice walk but you will not see much life otherwise. The rangers are very friendly and it is possible to stay at the ranger station.
Gustaf Lorentz & Ingrid Teige, Sweden (Jan 03)

The Military Museum was a very pleasant surprise. There are some fascinating historical photos of the old Ashanti leaders, the British military commanders and the first Ghanaian officers, as well as a few amusing curiosities like the itinerary for Queen Elizabeth's 1961 visit.