Ghana On a BudgetLocated in West Africa, just south of Burkina Faso, Ghana is one of the friendliest, and perhaps easiest countries in Africa to travel. It is often referred to as "Africa for beginners" and is a great country for first time travelers to the region. While most West African countries use French as their second language, English is the predominant language here, making communication relatively easy. Most people you meet in Ghana will be eager to help you out and answer any questions you might have. Ghana's government is also very stable, and tourism continues to grow in the area as many people add this fascinating country to their "wish list" of destinations.
Ghana's history is also closely intertwined with the western world in that it was a primary center for the slave trade. There is still historical evidence that serves as painful reminders of the ill effects this period had on this country and its people. Many sights have been preserved as memorials to this sad past and remain today for tourists and locals visiting the area.
Ghana is divided into several regions that are each interesting to explore for their own reasons. The Coastal Plain area by the Gulf of Guinea is where you will find the country's capital, many of the area's historically significant forts, and the best preserved rainforest in the country. Just to the north, the Ashanti-Kwahu area is filled with forested hills and the ancient Ashanti kingdom. To the east is the Volta Basin which has the large Lake Volta and the impressive river system that feeds the area. The Northern Plains make up the northern part of the country. This area is noted for its traditional trade routes with Burkina Faso.
West Africa is a more expensive region to travel in than you might expect. Prices in Ghana are high by African standards, but the accommodation is often better than you would expect elsewhere in Africa as well. To save money, eat where the locals eat and travel how the locals travel. Public transportation can be uncomfortable but is cheaper than any other alternatives. Local restaurants that serve traditional food are easily your best option as western style restaurants are not always the best and the prices can be dramatically higher. Outside of the major cities and tourist destinations they are also in short supply.
At A Glance
- Visiting Ghana is about experiencing the culture. There are only a limited number of specific sights and attractions in the area, but there is a culture that is rich in music, history, and art. Ghana is also not the best place to see African wildlife. West Africa in general is more about culture than it is about game animals. If you are specifically hoping to do a safari, you are better off going to either East or Southern Africa.
- If you do want to see some animals and are based in Accra, your best bet is to take a day trip to Shai Hills Reserve. There you will see baboons, parrots and antelope. It's also possible to take a tour of the reserve while on horseback.
- There are a good number of international flights into Accra so you should not have trouble finding a reasonable route. In particular, there are flights on Delta Airlines from New York City. Other cities that connect to Accra include Istanbul, Amsterdam, Dubai, and Frankfurt, as well as many different places within Africa. The cheapest flights often come from London, but it is best to compare prices across airlines.
- STC is the main bus company in Ghana. They offer transportation between many different cities, but it is best to buy tickets at least a day in advance as they do tend to sell out. It's not uncommon for the bus to break down, but generally the trip is safe and reliable. You will likely have to pay a fee for your luggage based on its weight. It shouldn't be more than about a third of the price of you bus ticket.
- Whether you're looking for a lake or a beach you will find no shortage of natural beauty in Ghana. There are many places to relax by the waters edge and watch people pass by. There are also some interesting forest and savannah areas that are worth visiting. The best way to experience the natural landscape throughout the country is to head for one of the area's national parks.
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Top Tourist AttractionsLarabanga Mosque: This historic sight is believed to be the oldest mosque in Ghana, although the true age is unknown. It's located in the village of Larabanga and is built with the Sudanese architectural style. It receives funds from the World Monuments Fund for continuing restoration.
Cape Coast Castle: Originally built for the slave trade, this is one of the largest forts in Ghana. It was originally constructed in 1653 and is now included on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List because of its historical significance.
Kakum National Park: Located in southern Ghana, this is a fascinating and dense tropical forest. It is made up mostly of undisturbed virgin rainforest, making it a unique and rare place to visit.
Popular FoodsFood in Ghana is generally cheap and good. The staples, like elsewhere in West Africa, include yams, potatoes, rice, and cassava. Some meals can be quite starchy and heavy with carbohydrates but there is plenty of cheap street food available, particularly in the cities. If you're looking for a quick snack you can get one off the street for about GH₵1.50 to GH₵2.50.
Kenkey: Kenkey is a fermented corn ball that is similar to sourdough. It's wrapped in a plantain leaf and served with stew or sauce. It's a staple food in southern Ghana and due to the fermentation process can take several days to prepare.
Fonfom: Fonfom is another staple dish that is made from maize. It's a popular option in southern Ghana as well and is most commonly associated with the Ahanta and Nzema people.
Omo Tuo: This is a form of powdered rice that is used as a staple throughout Ghana. It is often prepared into balls and added to soups.