Things to Remember Before Visiting Ghana

Here are some survival tips for those of you planning a trip to Ghana whether first-timers or returners after a long hiatus.

Ghana requires Yellow Fever immunization. All the others are optional. Ask for your doctor’s opinion. Malaria exists in Sub-Saharan Africa. US doctors will prescribe either Lariam or Malarone. Wear long clothing and apply repellent. Malaria has cold-like symptoms and most doctors won’t look for it unless you say you just came from Sub-Saharan Africa.

The better hospitals are 37 Military Hospital and Korle Bu Teaching Hospital; for GP, Dr. Jane Ansafo-Mensah at Philips Clinic, Tel 021-76-86-81 or 0244-32-75-20, located at 12 Adembra Road, East Cantonments. For teeth, Dr. Dennis Ilogu located at Beaver Dental Clinic, Airport Residential Clinic, tel 021-771-785.

Bring your prescription medicines with you. You can get basic medicines here at licensed chemists (drug stores), though the formulations may be different. Don’t drink water from the tap. Buy bottled water (Dasani, Voltic and Aqua-In brands) or pure water sachets (Cool, Aqua-In, Voltic and Little Drops brands).

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Bring your own toiletries especially if you are pale skinned. Most products are very basic here, so bring you preferred brand for personal hygiene. You can shop for American and European products at the Accra Mall, Koala supermarket and the MaxMart.

Choose a cab that appears to be in good condition and a neatly dressed driver that speaks English. Negotiate for half the price a taxi cab offers before getting in the cab, they will assume you are rich, or choose a different taxi. Think twice before driving yourself, any small accident with a foreigner is taken advantage of financially.

Fresh produce is plentiful in Accra. Don’t eat anything fresh that isn’t cooked or peeled in front of you. Consider purchasing some sterilizing powder/tablets/liquid to wash your fresh produce in at home or in your hotel before eating. If you’re not in Accra or Kumasi, consider bringing your own meat and produce.

Try local restaurants Home Touch on the Burma Camp Road, and Asanka Local Chop Bar in Osu. Ghanaian foods are typically spicy but it is usually mild compared to Indian, Korean or Mexican cuisines.

Fast food restaurants to consider are Southern Fried Chicken, Mr. Bigg’s, Pizza Inn, and Nando’s. Condiments and pickles are a foreign concept in Ghana, so bring your own.

Tips are appreciated though there is no need to tip by Western standards. If you really want attentive service, dash your wait person up-front with a few kind words.

Ghana hotels are comparable to prices you’d normally pay in the U.S., U.K. and Europe. Standards however are generally lower than you would expect. Don’t rely on email inquiry option, back up with a phone call and follow-up reconfirmation of your reservation.  Get the full name of the person you are speaking with not just first or last name.

U.K.-based banks Barclays and Standard Chartered can be found here. Most local banks and ATMs give only local currency. Contact your bank or credit card company for this. Don’t use credit cards even in big hotels and restaurants. Use cash or traveler checks to exchange and only exchange at forex bureaus. Counterfeit money is also an issue.

Consider a surge protector; Ghana suffers from occasional power outages. Ghana uses 220V power so make sure your electronics are compatible to this or buy a step down transformer. Check with your cellular carrier to see if you can roam while in Ghana. Alternatively, it’s easier and cheaper to buy a low end phone and SIM card here than to convert your home-based cell phone.