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Overview

Ghana

Formerly a British colony known as the Gold Coast, Ghana was the first black African nation to achieve independence in 1957. It is a relatively small country on the west coast of Africa, situated between Togo and Côte d'Ivoire, and remains a somewhat unexplored tropical gem; an untapped destination that abounds in history, culture, wildlife and scenery, with a wide variety of tourist attractions. Throughout its 10 regions visitors will be greeted with the warm-hearted smiles of its welcoming people.

Nature has been extremely generous to Ghana with its national parks and reserves providing a sanctuary for the native flora and fauna; the grasslands of Mole National Park in the north are home to a variety of large animals, while birds and butterflies are particularly numerous in Ghana's forests. Rainforests such as that of Kakum National Park in the southern central region, with its canopy walkway and nature trails, provide a haven for eco-tourists. Miles of unspoilt beaches, waterfalls, rolling forested hills, rivers and lakes complete the portrait of a country that is a nature lover's delight.

The diverse ethnic groups of Ghana and the ancient traditions of its people have shaped one of the richest cultural environments in Africa and a holiday in Ghana can include wonderful traditional festivals, dancing and music, and a wide variety of arts and crafts. The traditional and cultural heartland of the country is the Ashanti region, home to the nation's dominant tribe, the Ashanti, who are most famous today for their craftwork and ancient artistry in fabrics, particularly the colourful kente cloth.

Ghana's vibrant capital city, Accra, is the gateway to the country and is located in the smallest, yet most populated region on the Gulf of Guinea. The modern city has excellent accommodation, restaurants and nightlife, colourful markets, and is a good base from which to explore the Atlantic coast west of Accra, which boasts many fine palm-fringed beaches, resorts, ancient forts, castles, and fascinating fishing villages. The forts and castles along the coastline date back to the 15th century and have an intriguing history of European occupation, fierce battles and slavery. The Cape Coast Castle, Fort St Jago and Elim Castle are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Monuments.

Basics

Time
The time in Ghana has no GMT offset.

Electricity
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50 Hz. Both round and flat three-pronged plugs are commonly used.

Language
English is the official language, but many other African languages are spoken including Twi, Fante, Ga, Ewe, Hausa and Dagbani. French is spoken in the north.

Health
Health regulations in Ghana require that visitors be in possession of a current medical vaccination certificate for yellow fever. Prophylactics against malaria are recommended and waterborne diseases are prevalent, including outbreaks of cholera during the rainy season. Visitors are advised to buy bottled drinking water, which is widely available. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid when travelling to Ghana. A meningococcus vaccination is also recommended if you are there in the dry season (November to June). If you are going to be spending a lot of time outdoors and may be at risk of animal bites then a rabies vaccination may also be suggested. Bird flu has been confirmed in Ghana, but the risk to visitors is considered to be very low; as a precaution it is advisable to avoid close contact with live birds and ensure all poultry products are well cooked. Good medical facilities are found in all the cities and major towns, but facilities outside urban areas are poor and emergency services are limited. Medical insurance is advised and should cover medical evacuation. If you need certain prescription medication, it is advised that you take it with you, along with a signed and dated note from your doctor explaining what it is and why you need it.

Tipping
A service charge is rarely added to restaurant bills and tipping for quality service is only expected in restaurants (usually about 10 percent). For other services tipping is discretionary but note that if someone offers to help, whether it is with directions or to carry a bag, they will expect some kind of payment.

Safety
Safety in Ghana is generally not too much of a concern but it is wise to be vigilant in public areas, particularly in and around Accra, and to avoid walking at night and travelling in taxis alone after dark if possible. Visitors should avoid carrying large sums of cash or valuables on them and to be vigilant when drawing money from ATMs in central Accra. Theft of luggage and travel documents has occurred at Kotoka International Airport. Visitors should also be vigilant in and around Tamale and Kumasi where there has been an increase in crime including muggings and attacks on foreigners. There is a potential for outbreaks of violence between rival political factions, fighting between inter-ethnic groups and civil unrest; travellers are advised to stay up to date with daily developments and to avoid protests. Visitors to the Northern Region should be alert to the possibility of renewed outbreaks of inter-ethnic fighting. When travelling along the Ghanaian coastline, please exercise caution given the occurrence of strong tidal waves striking the coast.

Customs
Ghanaians are generally a conservative people and visitors should respect local customs, traditional courtesies and dress codes, particularly in the villages. Ghanaians do most things with their right hand; eating, touching food, taking and receiving things, waving, shaking hands etc. The left hand is used for 'dirty things' and it is regarded as rude to use the left hand for the aforementioned things. If in doubt, use the right hand. Homosexuality is illegal. Greeting is an important social function and handshakes are common. There is no particular dress code, but women will be expected to cover up in the north of the country. No civilian may wear camouflage clothing as it is reserved for the military. Visitors to remote villages, shrines or palaces should visit the local elder or priest and take a small gift such as a bottle of local schnapps, gin or money. Always seek permission before taking photographs of people; it is not permitted to take photographs of military institutions or the airport.

Business
Ghana is a very relaxed and friendly country; however, in business, a formal dress code is expected, and punctuality is essential at all meetings. The exchange of business cards is common. It is important in all meetings to greet and shake hands with each person and acknowledge their presence. The person is to be addressed as Mr. Mrs., or Ms., followed by their surnames, unless otherwise specified. Gifts are unnecessary though greatly appreciated. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken over lunch.

Communications
The international dialling code for Ghana is +233. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). Accra's city code is 21. The telephone system is relatively reliable, but most people use mobile phones. Telephone, fax and telex services are available in all main towns, and hotels. Most major hotels also have business centres, which provide secretarial and courier services. Internet cafes are on the increase throughout the country, but connection speeds are usually slow. There are several GSM cell phone operations across Ghana that have roaming agreements with most international networks, and phones can be rented in Accra.

Duty Free
Travellers to Ghana over 16 years do not have to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes, or 100 cigars, or 454g of tobacco, or a proportionate mix of these items; 1 litre of wine and 1 litre of spirits; and 237ml of perfume and eau de toilette. Gift items are dutiable.

Currency

The official currency is the Cedi (GHC), which is divided into 100 pesewas. Foreign currency can be exchanged at any forex bureau as well as at some commercial banks; banks and foreign exchange facilities are available at the airport and in all major towns. It is advisable to keep currency exchange receipts in order to be able to re-exchange when departing. Banking hours are usually from 8.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday, and most large commercial banks have ATMs located outside, although only limited amounts of Cedis can be drawn at a time. Travellers cheques are accepted at banks and forex bureaux in the capital Accra, but the rate of exchange may be lower than for cash transactions. The most widely accepted credit cards are American Express, Diners and Visa, and cards can be used for payment at major hotels and shops, although this can be risky as credit card fraud is very common. The best currencies to bring are US dollars, British Pounds or Euros as other currencies exchange at poor rates. Travellers should be aware that larger Cedi notes can usually only be used in larger establishments such as hotels and restaurants as smaller enterprises will often not have change.

GHS 1 = US$ 0.58£ 0.38C$ 0.59A$ 0.56R 4.87EUR 0.45NZ$ 0.73

Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Health

Health Overview
Health regulations in Ghana require that visitors be in possession of a current medical vaccination certificate for yellow fever. Prophylactics against malaria are recommended and waterborne diseases are prevalent, including outbreaks of cholera during the rainy season. Visitors are advised to buy bottled drinking water, which is widely available. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid when travelling to Ghana. A meningococcus vaccination is also recommended if you are there in the dry season (November to June). If you are going to be spending a lot of time outdoors and may be at risk of animal bites then a rabies vaccination may also be suggested. Bird flu has been confirmed in Ghana, but the risk to visitors is considered to be very low; as a precaution it is advisable to avoid close contact with live birds and ensure all poultry products are well cooked. Good medical facilities are found in all the cities and major towns, but facilities outside urban areas are poor and emergency services are limited. Medical insurance is advised and should cover medical evacuation. If you need certain prescription medication, it is advised that you take it with you, along with a signed and dated note from your doctor explaining what it is and why you need it.

Visa

Americans
US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival.

UK nationals
British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival.

Canadians
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival.

Australians
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival.

South Africans
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival.

Irish nationals
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival.

New Zealanders
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upon arrival in Ghana. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival.

Passport/Visa Note
Foreign visitors to Ghana must hold a return or onward ticket, as well as the necessary travel documentation for their next destination; OR a letter from their employer guaranteeing repatriation. If passengers do not have these documents, then they are required to make a deposit, with the Immigration Office, equal to the amount of a return fare. Visas can be obtained on arrival, provided passengers have applied for prior consent from the Director of Immigration, a minimum of 48 hours before arrival in the country. The visa fee is USD 100, and travellers must ensure that their visa-on-arrival approval document contains their passport and visa numbers, as well a copy of the bio data and photo page from their passport. Applications can be made by the visitor's host, business or sponsor; or directly by fax (+233 21 258249), or email (director@myzipnet.com). The host or applicant will require copy of the fax or email in order to pay for the visa. Visa exemptions apply to holders of Dual Nationality Cards issued by Ghana. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Ghana. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.

Contacts

Ghana Tourism
Ghana Tourist Board, Accra: +233 302 238330 or www.ghanatourism.gov.gh

Foreign Embassies in Ghana
United States Embassy, Accra: +233 (030) 274 1150.
British High Commission, Accra: +233 (302) 213 250.
Canadian High Commission, Accra: +233 (030) 2211 521.
Australian High Commission, Accra: +233 (302) 216 400.
South African High Commission, Accra: +233 21 764 500.


Ghana Embassies
Embassy of Ghana, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 686 4520.
Ghana High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 (0)20 7201 5921.
Ghana High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 0871.
Ghana High Commission, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6290 2110.
Ghana High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 342 5847.


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