Travel Guide: Ghana, Africa
When my old coworker/sister-friend asked me to help her put together a vacation for she and her family, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! I love to organize and plan travel and the somehow enjoy the thrill of price shopping and comparison for plane tickets. I know, I'm a strange one!
During the planning, she asked me if I wanted to join them in part of their travels and when I found out it was to include Ghana, I was even more excited and my answer jumped from a yes to an absolute hell yes! I have been considering travel to Africa for some time now and didn’t know where I wanted to start. My lineage on my dad’s side comes from Madagascar and I have already put together an entire trip there for the future. Because I have roots there, I know it will be more of an experience of connecting to my past and really soaking up the culture and traditions so I want to give myself a bit more time there.
Now, having traveled Ghana, I can confirm that is it indeed the perfect beginner country to start Africa travel. The majority of the of the population speaks English in addition to their native language, it’s easy to get around and it’s considered extremely safe and peaceful — which I felt the entire time I was there. Plus there is the perfect mix of stuff to do including tourist attractions, nightlife, city exploring and beautiful beach escapes! Ghana was the perfect mix of everything I envisioned about Africa but far exceeded my expectations. There were days of highs and just complete happiness of being in the Motherland and other emotional low days just soaking in more about how my ancestors were treated and trying to cope with that heartache.
So let's jump into all there is to know about Ghana from my eyes! As always, if you have any questions after reading this feel free to reach out to me! :)
There are quite a few things that are needed before you venture off to Ghana!
Valid Passport: needed to travel pretty much anywhere outside of the US
VISA: 2 types of visas are available: single entry ($60) or multiple entry ($100), you must have a passport to obtain the visa and it can be acquired via the Ghana Embassy by sending your visa application with passport and payment to the embassy for processing. I would give yourself at least 4 weeks for this process.
Immunizations: yellow fever is a required immunization in order to travel into Ghana; there is a shortage of these shots in US that they are importing from France so we ended up having to pay $200 for the immunization as well as a $75 consultation fee which can be split by however many people are receiving the consultation at the time. You should see your doctor or a travel clinic before you plan on traveling to see if there are any other immunizations that they require or recommend for you personally!
Packing: I recommend a variety of light, cotton clothing, sandals and sneakers because there is a lot of walking to be done! It's extremely hot and humid in Ghana (think east coast summer!) so breathable clothing is best. Bring a hat, a backpack or small cross body bag for market days and some bathing suits if you plan on hitting the beach!
Other important items: Malaria pills (to be taken before, during and after your travel), diarrhea meds, pain meds, bug spray with deet (I make a homemade one without deet but I do recommend this if you tend to get bit often), high SPF sunscreen, a travel iron or blow dryer if you think you'll need either because most hotels only have one they lend out and not one in each room, a plug adapter - this one was perfect
TRAVEL PLANS //
In planning for the flights, 2 of us flew directly from Los Angeles and the rest of the group flew from LA to London and then met us in Ghana. I was able to find them flights from London to Accra in the $200 range. So if you've been eying a trip to London, it could be fun to break it up that way and see London for the low on the way! The 2 of us that flew directly from Los Angeles found tickets for about $1200 on KLM and enjoyed the flight and service we received. Our flights were broken up into 2 parts: 10 hours to Amsterdam, a 3-hour layover and then another 7 to Accra, which I found comfortable and pretty easy to do. We were fed 2 meals and free beer and wine on each flight and I will note that KLM offered 2 free bags while the same exact flight route on Delta did not. No clue why not!
PS. A little flight trick of mine is to select veggie/lactose free meal selections because I don't prefer the fake-ish meat served on international flights, but also because if you have a special food selection, you get your food first!
GETTING AROUND //
While there we broke our trip up into 3 parts of the country: Accra, Kumasi and Elmina. This was the best way to see the highlights of Ghana!
Money: When you arrive in Ghana, it is best to take money out at the airport or an ATM close by so that you get Cedi to spend while there. Depending on what type of stuff you'll be doing, I would say to budget about $50 USD per day for moderate spending on food, drinks and trinkets; more if you plan on buying bigger gifts. Most local places do not accept card or USD. Cedis go really far in Ghana and in a lot of the markets, it is okay and expected to barter and most people told us that if you find something you really love/want, try to get it down to a third or fourth of the price that they are offering it to you for. They will offer a price and you will offer one much lower, they will say no, start to walk away and watch them ask how much you want to pay! lol Practice on those skills starting NOW!
Safety: I saw a ton of articles around the web saying that Ghana is unsafe which I just want to clear up pronto! I never once felt unsafe as a Black Woman traveling in Ghana. Obviously like anywhere in the world, stay alert and don't wear flashy things or carry all of your cash or money in one place, but isn't that a DUH moment?! When I go out, I typically plan out the amount of cash I want to bring for the day and leave the rest and my passport in the safe in my hotel room. While out and about, especially on busy streets or markets, people are going to haggle you to buy things -- you need to have a firm "no thanks" and even then, they will continue to ask. You have to just keep walking and ignoring them as you move through the market and even then sometimes they may follow you so just be ready! They are trying to make a sale, even sometimes flirt but at no point did I feel unsafe moving around the city.
Transportation: We had a driver for the duration of our trip, however it is super easy to get around and they even now have Uber there! Some of the time when we wanted to venture out without our driver, we used local Taxis or Uber and had no issues!
Food: Ghana is rich in many types of dishes including jollof rice, fufu, red red and goat. I will warn that the food service is extremely slow because everything is made fresh and from scratch, which I personally appreciate but some find frustrating. It is best not to wait until you are super hungry to eat, so keep snacks around and be patient because it will be a while but it'll be worth it! Only drink and brush your teeth using bottled water, even in the hotels. Another note is do not expect things to be the same as they would be in the states. For example: a friend of mine ordered chicken shawarma and was highly disappointed at how it came because it was not what we would expect here in the states. Go in with an open mind or keep it simple and safe and just order chicken/beef skewers, jollof or fried rice and plantains everywhere you go :) lol
WHERE TO STAY //
We stayed in hotels for the duration of our trip which we found to be pretty comfortable overall. One thing I cannot stress enough is to take the American standards out of your head in terms of the level of what 5-star means in the states versus in places like Ghana. The hotels we stayed at were rated as 4-5 stars, but sometimes the toilet didn't flush on first go around, the wifi may have been a bit spotty or the water may have not been the hottest during our whole shower... but being in this beautiful place where so much life changing history has happened will truly put all of these things into an American perspective for you. Trust me!
Midindi Hotel - located in Accra, about 15 minutes from the Kotoka Airport. Loved this hotel and the staff were absolutely amazing and helped us out with a ton of things while there. There is a restaurant located in the hotel with really great food and a bar as well as a pool on site. The wifi was great as well!
Sir Max Hotel - in Kumasi, about 2 miles from Baba Yara Stadium. This hotel was really large with comfortable rooms as well as a rooftop bar/restaurant that overlooked the pool. The food and drink was pretty good and the bar even had hookah!
Coconut Grove Beach Resort - this beachfront resort on the coast of Elmina was by far my absolute favorite and I cannot wait to return. The property is huge and features all types of things including a golf course and a mini zoo as well as a span of beautiful palm trees and the beach is literally 30 feet away. We loved everything about this place from the pool to the bar and restaurant!
MUST SEE + DO //
We stayed in 3 different parts of Ghana, all of which had their own charm and magic so I will break down what we did based on where we stayed:
Accra is the main city in Ghana and so full of life! We stayed in Accra for 3 nights and did a variety of things and hit up most of the touristy must-see spots. On the first day in Ghana, I got my hair braided for... *drum roll please*... 70 cedi, aka $15! That's right! Only $15 and I was so obsessed with them and wish I could have my hair braided like this all the time. I had plans to visit Auntie Alice Braiding Salon, but a sweet girl we met at our hotel the first night took us to her village instead and got her sis to hook it UP! While getting my hair braided, we mentioned that we wanted to have some clothing made and within 5 minutes, the fabric lady pulled up with a trunk full of fabric for us to plow through. Not only did we get to purchase directly from her, the seamstress of the village also came through, measured us and took our style options and by the end of the trip, we each had a variety of authentic African outfits for under $40, including fabric! Man, this alone was the highlight of Ghana for me! While in Accra we also visited: W.E.B Du Bois Museum, Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and museum, Black Star Gate Independence Square, Makola Market, Oxford Street and a restaurant that Jermaine's friend owns called The Cove 117 which had really good music, food and hookah.
Obo and Kumasi:
After Accra, we ventured out for a 4-hour (total) drive to Obo and then Kumasi where we did some of the coolest stuff I've ever done on a vacation before. We were invited into the Aduamoah village where we were able to visit the home of the family and King. We took part in a traditional naming ceremony and were given Akan names: Hi my name is now Ama Dedaa :) It was truly the most welcoming feeling... lots of tears were cried! We were also able to visit a local school and interact with the teachers and students who were so sweet! That night, we came back to the village with our new family and learned to cook a few Ghanaian dishes with the local women. It was beautiful to see how all generations of the family just worked together to get things done. It reminded me of going to church and then dinner at my Granny's house every Sunday and how important the simple moments with family and community truly are.
In Kumasi, we went through the Ashanti Empire - the largest ruling empire in Ghana. When I say that we are STILL Kings and Queens in Africa, it is not a lie. To see first hand and learn about how the kingdoms are still ruled to this day, gave me so much life. Colonizers truly tried (and continue to try) to take the precious resources of our land, but we persevere. We also visited Manhyia Palace and Prempeh the 11th Museum as well as the Kumasi Central market which is the largest open air market in West Africa! I will warn you, this is a huge market, with very narrow space to move through, so be prepared for the smells of everything, which we were not ready for! (lol) Also in my opinion, this market is more for the locals versus the market in Accra for tourists who are looking to buy things we cannot find in the states. But it was definitely a sight to see!
As mentioned, this was by far my favorite part of the trip, but also the most emotional! On the way to Elmina, we stopped at 2 craft villages which were amazing to see. We went to the Bonwire village, where Kente cloth weaving has been done by hand for over 400 years and then Ntonso to see Adinkra dyeing cloth where dye is extracted from the bark of a tree and used to make beautiful stamped cloths. That night, Brazil was playing England and everyone was going crazyyyy! I forgot how big soccer is overseas, so we went out to a local bar in the area called Pitch. We had just missed the game but the bar was still packed! We grabbed drinks and danced our asses off then ventured to a local club called Ol Lady which was so fun! It was full of locals, played a mix of top 40s and local music and everyone was dancing and enjoying themselves. Let me just say, it felt so good to be in a place where WE were the majority!
While in Elmina, we also visited the Slave River; the place where slaves took their last bath as well as the Elmina and Cape Coast slave castles. This is where I just broke down! We stood in the same rooms where my ancestors were housed, naked and chained and were brutally beaten, raped and sometimes killed and then forced on boats to never be seen again. It was just the most indescribable and life-changing feeling I have ever had. We stood overlooking the ocean and had lots of moments of peace and reflection of just how much our people have been through, where it's taken us, where we are now and just honored them and their legacy. For me, it was definitely a moment to remember where we've come from and the fact that no one should ever tell me (or anyone else) to "forget" or "get over" slavery because it is truly still affecting us today.
I truly hope that everyone and I mean... everyone gets to experience this beautiful land at some point in their lives. From the beautiful and friendly people to the experiences that forever changed my life, I will never forget my first trip here and I'm already planning the next. Have a purpose before you go to Ghana and get ready to just soak up all of the moments because there will be lots of them. Reach out to me with any questions you may have!
Thanks to Naa from Sunset African Tours who helped us arrange the perfect tour around everything we envisioned doing in Ghana. If there were things they suggested that we weren't into, we could remove them and if there were things we thought about, she knew just the thing! I highly recommend checking them out!