Ghana… the Land of contrasts. There is this old saying that you cry twice when you come to Ghana…once when you arrive and then again when you have to leave. The locals are very polite. They are beautiful and graceful. They sing while they work. They laugh and cry with abandonment. If they like you they name their children after you and bring you gifts and invite you to their homes and cook special foods for you.

Ghana… the Land of contrasts. There is this old saying that you cry twice when you come to Ghana…once when you arrive and then again when you have to leave. The locals are very polite. They are beautiful and graceful. They sing while they work. They laugh and cry with abandonment. If they like you they name their children after you and bring you gifts and invite you to their homes and cook special foods for you.

The scenery is something out of a movie set, with all its swampy areas and dense forests and bamboo bushes.

Amazing people like Fanta and her husband, owners of a small resort called Fanta’s Folly outside Takoradi, spend almost all their money to pay the locals for sea turtle eggs (to prevent them from eating the eggs or turtles). They hatch them and guide the babies into the sea.

Ancobra beach resort where a buck will come to eat out of your hand, Lou Moon Beach resort where some crazy Belgium built the most stunning resort, or the slave forts along the coast contribute towards making Ghana a worthy tourist destination.

Here you will find endless beaches with lukewarm water and tumble-drier waves! Accra has little French restaurants, 5 star beach resorts and polo clubs (horses), nightclubs, malls and cinemas.

Ghana encompasses plains, waterfalls, low hills, the largest man-made lake (Lake Volta) in the World, unique forests and remote villages built on stilts. It is the African Country that has the most diverse International heritage – Portuguese, Dutch, German, Iranian, Russian, Lebanese, Chinese, British – you will find bits of all of these cultures in Ghana.

population groups: Ghana is divided into 10 Kingdoms, each with their local governance and leader. Most people live in the major Cities, which in turn are constructed around the availability of jobs. In recent years large oil deposits have been found near Takoradi, which have resulted in a massive influx of expats to the City. The Ashanti region is considered to be the richest, due to all the mining activity in the area. A strong Portuguese influence is still noticeable around the Coastal areas, where slavery used to be the main trade. Forts were built by the Portuguese, Swedish, Dutch and German merchants and to this day they form a part of the Ghanaian History and tourism industry. Ghana is located on the Gulf of Guinea. It has a coastline of 560 Km. Geographically Ghana is closer to ‘the centre of the Earth’ than any other country in the World.

Religion is a strange combination of Christianity (65%), Muslim (35%) and the occult.

Tropical, hot, hot, and hot! Humidity is intense, especially along the coastal regions. During the month of October the sand from the dessert storms in Northern Africa create a white powdery dust that settles on everything like snow (it is called Hammatan); there are two season: the wet and dry season (as opposed to winter, summer, etc). During the wet season, more rain falls in the space of 2 months than what falls in England in 1 year!

a. Short term accommodation – not much available and very expensive

b. Long term accommodation – all types and styles available; prices in USD and very expensive;

c. Types of houses – houses will be called villas or bungalows and apartments

d. Rental – preferred for expats

e. Sales – not possible to afford for expats

f. Tips on renting: agents commission – must be negotiated, there is no fixed rate but usually 1 month payable by the Lessee; duration of lease – 1 year will be enforced; deposits – 1 year rent up front is the norm, get a reputable local agent to assist you because there is normally quite a lot amiss in all types of accommodation; additional costs – tips, household staff, cable t.v and electricity will be for your cost

g. Renting fully furnished – possible in all housing compounds, villas and hotel apartments

h. Because of the heat and humidity, try to get accommodation with a swimming pool and check that all aircons are in a working condition

i. Power failures occur often. Potable water is an issue. Therefore make sure that you have a generator and enough water tanks on the property you intend to rent. Tap water is reasonably safe to drink, but rather run it through a filter.

j. Many buildings are built to near completion, with only the roof that needs to go on. As a matter of fact, it will even be occupied for many years in this seeming half-built state. The reason for this is the heavy taxes that are charged on a fully completed building.

a. How to recruit – agencies are available in Accra only. Word of mouth or people will recommend staff.

b. What to pay – salaries for locals are very low and there is huge poverty in Ghana, so ‘gifts’ and food is acceptable.

c. Conditions of employment – Try to get a contract signed as soon as possible, because even to fire casual staff can become a political issue (everybody is ‘connected’…)

a. How to import – difficult and with long quarantine periods. Be sure that if you bring a dog to Ghana it is kept in a very secure yard.

b. Vaccinations – it is best to check with the authorities because the requirements change quite often

a. International – only available in Accra. There are a few to choose from

b. Private local

c. Public – not very well rated

d. Entry requirements – depends on the school

e. Availability – The International schools are very popular with expats and quite expensive. There might be a waiting list. Your alternatives are South Africa or Europe.

f. Home schooling – very popular and you will find a lot of support if you choose this option

g. Universities – not very well rated

h. Courses – stick to on-the-job courses presented by your company

Lack of proper hygiene is probably the biggest safety risk because it brings so many other problems with it. Quite often you will hear about strikes at the Mines and there will be flare-ups between the Government and the illegal Miners. If you steer clear of the affected areas, it will not be a problem. Be aware that this is a poor country and therefore bribery and corruption is a huge income supplement.

a. Travel: the roads are not in a good condition. Driving at night on the national roads can be a security risk.

b. Safe driving: the drive on the Right here…or is it the left… or is it in the middle of the road LOL. Road signs will often face the wrong direction. Traffic lights and signs are largely ignored. Road blocks are everywhere.

c. Do not hand over original documentation; always have copies available to give to the officer.

d. Beware of massive potholes and hectic City traffic. If your journey is 300km long, plan for it to take between 6 and 8 hours. Always have spare tyres, 2 triangles, a fire extinguisher and your insurance papers in the vehicle

e. Vehicles, purchase, lease, rent – vehicles will normally be supplied by your company and it will include a driver. To lease or rent a vehicle can be massively expensive. It would be a better option to buy a ‘new’ second hand import from Japan (the term will become familiar once you are in Ghana)

f. Public transport is an exercise in nerves of steel…not advisable.

g. Taxis are very expensive. Check with colleges/other expats who have been in Ghana for a while, because they will have a taxi driver that they have come to trust and will recommend

h. If you travel long distances, make sure your vehicle is filled up as often as possible, because the next town might not have a fuel station

i. Minibus taxis with people inside (but no seats so that there is space for more), all their goods stacked on top of the taxi, livestock tied to the top of this pile (yes, they are still alive and swinging by one foot tied to a railing!) run between towns at break neck speed in the middle of the road.

Key facts
  1. Capital: Accra
  2. Major towns and cities: Takoradi (on the west coast, large oil discoveries recently), Kumasi, capital of the Ashanti region (mining area, inland); Tamale (northern region); Tema (near Accra) Sekondi (artificial harbour) and Vape Coast (university city on west coast)
  3. Languages: official and widely spread: English (official) and more than 70 dialects including Mole-Dagbani, Fante, Akan, Ga and Ewe
  4. Population: about 27 million people of whom at least 20% live in and around Accra
  5. Currency: Ghana Cedi (GHC)
  6. Time zone: GMT (UTC +0)
  7. Dialling code: +233
  8. Popular sport: soccer (polo and golf for the select few who can afford it)
  9. Economy: Ghana is largely dependent on Mining, Oil and to a lesser extent the export of cocoa beans and rubber. Imports and exports are hampered by long delays at Ports – of course, if you show them the money, it all happens much quicker
Health care
  1. Compulsory vaccinations – you must have a yellow card
  2. Good to have vaccinations – Hepatitis A and B, cholera, bilharzia and typhoid
  3. Health risks
  4. Public healthcare – in Accra you will find good hospitals and specialists who had their training overseas. Dentistry is quite good. However, it is expensive.
  5. Private healthcare – there are a few private hospitals, but it is advisable to rather be evacuated to South Africa if you have a serious condition
  6. Medical aid (insurance) – your company will provide this and it is compulsory
Additional tips for Expats
  1. On arrival at the airport, what to expect: if you are a new expat, you will be called into a separate office for your paperwork to be approved and stamped. In general, if you stay cool and calm, it is a painless process.
  2. Do you travel with cash – it is advisable to have some USD with you to exchange into Cedis ASAP. You will need to pay upon entry, as well as taxi fare (possibly), the porter who will kindly offer to take your bags, etc.
  3. What to pack: medical kits – especially insect repellent, good headache tablets (placebos are often sold over the counter at pharmacies); sun block and cough syrup; documents, work contracts and passports; cool, cotton or linen clothing, a good hat – ladies, there is no hard and fast laws about what to wear, but it is advisable to cover your shoulders and knees.
  4. Do you need to register with a local authority on arrival? It is not a necessity to notify your local Embassy or Consulate of your arrival, unless you prefer to do so
  5. Post office – rather use DHL, the postal system is not reliable at all
  6. Internet – can be interrupted due to bad weather and broken cables for days on end
  7. Any potential dangerous activities – please, do NOT swear at people or call them any derogatory name. Do not stop at an accident scene, rather drive to the nearest branch of your company and ask them to assist. Cattle, people walking in the middle of the roads and children are all over the roads
  8. Culturally you always greet older people first; men will walk through doors ahead of women; public displays of affection between men are common; you always greet and receive items with the right hand; eating with your hands is completely acceptable – most restaurants will bring around a bowl and water to wash your hands before eating; when you beckon somebody to come to you, use your right hand, palm DOWN.
  9. Funerals and coffins are the most extraordinary things and have become a tourist attraction – coffins creations in the shape of a snake, limousine, double story house, etc and funerals can take up to 2 years to arrange due to the cost of it and to get all the family members together. Be careful if you accept an invitation (much like a wedding invitation with an rspv date!) to a funeral, because the expectation is that you will also contribute towards the cost.
Immigration information
  1. types of visas: visas must be organised by your company before you arrive or within 3 months of your arrival if your status changes once you are in Ghana. If you don’t have a work permit you will not be allowed to work legally
  2. types of permits – you are allowed a business permit, which is different from a work permit, or a visitors’ permit, but depending on which Country you originate from, the terms and duration might differ. It is best to check with the authorities and your company and immigration advisor what your best options are
  3. Only the main applicant will be allowed to work. Spouses/partners and dependants must be included on the main applicants’ application.
  4. Spouses/partners will not be allowed to work unless they are individually employed and their visa is arranged by their employer. Women quite often partake in volunteer activities, which are ample in Ghana

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