Ghana has long been a preferred African travel destination for many visiting the continent for the first time. With the Year of Return, Ghana 2019 invitation, it is becoming even more popular. A year-long initiative by the Ghanaian government, Year of Return commemorates 400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia. It is primarily geared at African descendants in the Diaspora who want to (re)discover their African roots in a meaningful way. With about 500,000 African Diasporans expected to visit Ghana, the Year of Return has also put Ghana’s tourism and travel sector in the limelight. With many tourists planning to visit Ghana in the last quarter of 2019, travel logistics can be a nightmare – especially if you’re a bit late in the game. In this Circumspecte guide, you’ll find useful information to prepare your Ghana travel, from getting a Ghana visa to figuring out accommodation. We also share practical insights and tips to help you make your stay relatively hassle-free and enjoyable.
Ghana Travel Logistics: Visa, Flights, & Schedule
Getting Your Ghana Entry Visa
Obtaining an entry visa to visit Ghana is a pretty straightforward process. You will need to apply for your entry visa at the Ghanaian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate closest to you, prior to travel. A regular tourist or holiday visa (B-2) is valid for about 60 days. Basic application requirements include:
- relevant application form(s), completed and signed
- passport or travel document valid for at least six months
- two to four current passport-sized photos (3.5 x 4.5cm color with white background)
- copy of a return trip itinerary or ticket confirmation
- copy of an international yellow fever certificate valid at least 10 days before travel to Ghana and within the last 10 years
- requisite visa processing fees – generally starts at $50 per Ghana Immigration 2015 fee schedule
- supporting documents – evidence of financial support and accommodation, letter of invitation from Ghana-based host
Traveling on short notice or don’t have a Ghana mission or consulate near you? Consider the Ghana visa on arrival or emergency entry visa, which usually takes about seven days to process with a 14-day validity. Citizens of African Union member states which require a visa can obtain a 60-day entry visa upon arrival. As part of the Year of Return, the Ghana government announced in July 2019 that the visa on arrival cost has been reduced from $150 to $75. This makes it a relatively cheaper option for Diasporans looking to visit on short notice. To obtain a visa on arrival however, a request must be made by a Ghanaian host, on the visitor’s behalf, addressed to the Comptroller-General of Ghana Immigration, with the following:
- a letter from the host stating the invitee’s travel intent and purpose of visit – on letterhead for companies or organisations acting as hosts
- accommodation and contact details in Ghana and abroad
- travel dates and port of entry
- copy of passport biodata pages of invitee and host
- supporting documents – for instance, company incorporation documents or bank statement if host is an individual
- visa on arrival fee of $150 – we recommend confirming the announced Year of Return reduction of $75 with immigration authority
If you do need to apply for a Ghana visa before you come, you’ll want to consider the price variations for single and multiple entry as well as the specific consulates which would be more convenient for your application. We recommend checking with the nearest Ghanaian consulate on your specific visa requirements. It is however important to note that the yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into Ghana by all visitors.
Visa-Free Travel to Ghana
ECOWAS citizens can visit Ghana visa-free for up to 90 days, alongside citizens of Egypt, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Singapore, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. South Africa is due to join Ghana’s visa-exemption list by 2020. Holders of diplomatic, official and service passports from different countries may also be entitled to Ghana visa exemptions. African national interested in more travel within Africa? Find out where you can travel visa-free travel in Africa.
Booking Your Flight To Ghana
Ghana is pretty accessible by air, with numerous airlines offering regular fights through the country’s main Kotoka International Airport in Accra. While Ghana doesn’t have well-defined on and off seasons for tourism, it is generally advisable to book flights at least two months in advance of your trip. Typically, flight fares to Ghana from key Diaspora cities in the United States and Europe are pricey between the October – January period. You should completely rule out booking tickets mid-December unless you are willing to dole out major cash and join the last minute end of year holiday travel frenzy. The good news is that Year of Return management is partnering with some airlines – British Airways, KLM, Delta Airlines , Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, Brussels Air and Egypt Air – to provide special Year of Return, Ghana 2019 rates and packages. Flying regionally? South African Airways and RwandAir are other options for continental travel, with Air Côte d’Ivoire being one of the more reliable West African airlines. Of course, go with an option that best satisfies your budget, comfort and safety needs.
Climate: The ‘Best Time’ To Visit Ghana
Ghana is located near the equator and as such has little variation with temperature. You’ll want to pack light and breezy clothes for Ghana’s tropical climate, with average daily temperatures ranging from 30°C / 85°F during the day to 24°C/75°F at night. Humidity ranges between 77% and 85% probability and there are generally two main seasons – wet and dry. Most of Ghana has two rainy seasons – the first from April to June and the second from September to November. Depending on who you ask, you will get differing viewpoints on the best time to visit Ghana. That said, many Diasporans travel to Ghana from November to March; during the winter season in the Northern hemisphere. During this period, the harmattan or dry season sets in with its dry, dusty winds from the Sahara desert. There is generally little to no rainfall across Ghana, making in-land travel more accessible, however you will need to prepare for lower visibility and extreme dryness. Pack some moisturising lotion and lip balm to avoid ashy skin and cracked heels, or save on your luggage space and get some quality local shea butter – we recommend Kaeme – once you arrive. The weather in July and August generally tends to be fair with cool temperatures and medium heat, however key tourist sites are likely to have many summer vacationers. Looking to travel beyond Accra? Consider a trip up north during the rainy season when temperatures are cooler. The dry season is a better time for wildlife exploration and sightings at safari locations like the Mole National Park.
Accommodation in Ghana: Things to Consider
When it comes to accommodation in Ghana, the question is less about what kind of accommodation you would like, and more about how much you would like to spend. Between average to high-end hotels, guest houses, home stays and even AirBnB, there are plenty of options for you to choose from. Besides price, you’ll want to consider comfort, amenities, and safety. Confirm details regarding security (burglar proof bars on windows), curfews, generators and any other house rules in order to ensure your stay is comfortable. In order to secure moderately priced and comfortable accommodation within Accra for December and January, plan to make arrangements by mid-October.
Depending on when you’re visiting and how long you’re staying in Accra, traffic may be another thing to keep in mind when choosing your accommodation. Like most capitals, traffic is a fact of life in the Ghanaian capital. Accra becomes particularly chaotic with traffic jams from December to mid-January as many Ghanaians in the Diaspora return home for the holidays. Planning to be in town for December in Accra festivities? You may want to reconsider paying for cheaper places on the outskirts of town as most events, restaurants and entertainment are found ‘downtown’ in areas like Osu, Cantonments, and Airport. You may end up spending more money and time commuting if you opt for the outskirts. If If you do decide to put up in these prime areas, be prepared to plan ahead in order to be on time and save on your transportation budget. With the exception of trotros prices which generally stay the same, other means of transport – Uber and taxis – can skyrocket during heavy traffic.
To get you started, take a look at the The Dann Residence. AirBnB is another option, although it seems great offerings get booked up fast. Thinking of a hotel? Check out the Year of Return website for special packages and rates from hotel partners like Accra City Hotel. Alternatively, you may want to consider a serviced luxury apartment with Accra Short Stay. Planning on exploring Ghana beyond Accra? The Coconut Grove, Best Western Premier, Protea and Golden Tulip hotels have locations in Accra and other key cities. You can also check out Gariba lodge and Zaina lodge when visiting Tamale. Affordable accommodation is a key tourism challenge for Ghana, however, don’t be afraid to stray off the conventional path and explore guest houses and hostels like Hostel Accra. You may have to be more flexible on the customer service front, but you will probably gain returns both in terms of cost and an authentic Ghanaian lifestyle experience. TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Homestay.com are great places to begin your search.
Travel in Ghana: Getting Around
Once you arrive in Ghana, you will have a couple of options for moving around. Ride hailing services like Uber, Bolt (Taxify) and Yango are up and running in Accra, Tema and Kumasi. We recommend reading our guide with useful tips for requesting rides. Though there are many saloon cars available, the majority of cars used for these services are small city cars like the Kia Picanto or Daewoo Matiz. Raba Rides is an option if you want to consider carpooling or ride sharing services. There are also normal taxis which are a good mix of saloon and city cars – but take note that many drivers may hike up prices once they determine that you are a tourist. Apart from “loading or carpool taxis’’ which have a fixed rate for a specific route, normal taxi fares are based on a driver’s estimate and not metered. Be alert if you choose to go with a loading taxi as many small theft incidents occur in such vehicles during the holiday season from December to January. Always ask anyone familiar with the area you plan on visiting for the reasonable price range you should expect to pay and be prepared to bargain on your hailed taxi fare. The last option is the trotro which is the cheapest and least reliable on the comfort front. Trotros are usually sprinter or mini vans that carry about 18-24 people through various stops along a particular route. Rates are fixed from GHC1 upwards, so make sure you have some change ready.
Exploring Ghana by Road, Air & Rail
Looking to take things on the road and explore other parts of Ghana on your own terms? There are several car rental services which will provide you with a comfortable vehicles for a time period depending on your needs. Here are a few locally preferred options to check out: Kayak Car Rentals, Avis Ghana, Autofrica.com, Hertz and Yoks Ghana. For transportation between Ghana’s 16 regions you can also opt to travel by bus with any of these generally preferred options: Intercity State Transport Company, VIP Jeoun Transport Service or Metro Mass Transit. It is also advised that you book your dates ahead of your intended travel in order to get the most comfortable buses, especially to key tourist cities like Cape Coast. Metro mass generally has the cheapest prices because buses pick up passengers along the way depending on the number of empty seats. STC and VIP buses on the other hand only pick passengers at their designated stations, usually at Circle in Accra.
If you are not one for taking long bus rides you can get on a plane with airlines like Africa World Airlines, Passion Air and Unity air to regional airports in Kumasi and Tamale. Domestic flights can range upwards from GHC150 but it also depends on when you book your flights. Again, it’s better to book flights well in advance especially during December otherwise you risk not getting any flights at all or paying unnecessarily high fares. Make sure to double check that your flight is still on schedule as cancelations and delays do occur.
Another hassle free option would be choosing a tour group to organize your entire itinerary for your stay in Ghana with a tour group that will have various activities ready for you in Ghana. The Year of Return website features eight partner tour groups, but there are several others such as Tichama Tours, Wango Wango, See Afrique , Sunseekers Tours and Tastemakers Africa. Also check out the official Ghana Tourism Authority’s website and social media platforms for details on tourist sites of interest.
Security in Ghana: Staying Vigilant
Ghana is generally considered to be a safe country, and is revered for its ‘peace’ with little to no civilian unrest. That said, it is best to err on the side of caution where security is concerned. Incidents of small theft and pickpocketing may occur in crowded places like markets, concerts or festivals, particularly in busy cities like Accra and during the last quarter of the year. With many tourists and visitors expected in Accra and Ghana in the last quarter of 2019, it is especially important to take security seriously and remain alert and vigilant, even as you explore and enjoy the festivites. Simple things like taking note of your closest police station and saving the number; double-checking security offerings for your place of accommodation; letting a friend or trusted person know where you are; checking into places via social media after you leave the vicinity; and being aware of your environment and belongings will go a long way.
More recently, there has been some kidnapping reports in Accra, alongside a growing trend of thefts in moving vehicles, particularly shared or carpool taxis. Some of these incidents have happened in broad daylight and in parts of the capital generally regarded as affluent, well-lit and safe. Women especially should remain alert when using taxis or ride hailing services, as there have been reports of women being drugged and robbed in shared taxis. Where possible, take a taxi alone or with people you know, and keep the windows at least halfway up to prevent phone snatching. For Uber and Bolt rides, confirm the vehicle number before getting in, keep tinted windows rolled half-way, and share your ride tracking details with a friend or someone you trust. If the driver decides to pick up an unknown passenger along the way, it may be safer to leave and find or wait for another vehicle.
Got other Ghana travel planning tips to share? Leave a comment below and stick around for our article on things to do in Ghana; the final in our ‘Year of Return’ series
Written by Circumspecte intern Germaine Bombande and editor Jemila Abdulai. Originally published by Circumspecte.com.
Circumspecte is a digital platform and company dedicated to capturing meaningful insights, teaching digital skills, spurring interaction and inspiring creative action on/for/by Africa(ns). Created in 2007, we offer business and digital marketing services, create projects, and embark on partnerships which influence the experience and narrative around Africa and Africans. We also create offline experiences geared at sparking conversations, connections, and social impact.