The West African country of Ghana is one of Africa’s less-explored gems. The Ghanaian people are renowned as the friendliest in Africa and welcome tourists with open arms. Though the country has experienced rapid growth in recent years, its cities are still basic, compared to larger African countries, and there is mile open mile of stunning countryside to explore.
Accra, its main city, is in the South and the point of arrival for all flights to Ghana. A busy, overcrowded and lively place, it can be initially overwhelming, but many travellers quickly fall in love with its energetic pulse. Every street corner blares out Bob Marley songs from tinny stereos and as night falls street braziers fire up and the (surprisingly delicious) smell of roasting chicken feet spreads across the town.
But most holidaymakers book Ghana flights not for its cities but for the wildlife and nature. The Southern coast, once home only to the Western slave trade, is now dotted with stunning white sand beaches and the old slave forts are popular tourist attractions. Most of the wildlife reserves are in the north, with Mole National Park the most popular, where sightings of elephants, gorillas and wart hog are inevitable. At Kakum National Park tree canopies and walkways stretch out for acres and visitors can spend the night sleeping high up in the trees’ branches.
Ghana has a rainy season that lasts from April to October. The south gets a break from the rain in July and August. The humidity is high and temperatures can be anywhere between 21 and 32 degrees. It dries out the rest of the year, and temperatures climb up to 38 degrees. March is the hottest time of year and August the coolest.
When to fly to Ghana
Ghana is still relatively undeveloped for tourism so there is no specific peak season. The rainy season can be cooler, but temperatures are always high. If you don’t like humidity, stick to the coast.
Off peak season:
The winter months are less popular with holidaymakers and flights to Ghana arrive emptier. This can be the time to find the best deals.
Getting around Ghana
Roads are very bad throughout most of the country and the easiest way to navigate them – especially if travelling far – is by hiring a 4WD. However, be prepared for Ghanaian drivers, who feel no compulsion to stay within the confines of the road, let alone their own lanes, if potholes are in the way.
Tro-tros are a cheap and interesting way to travel. These minibuses cover almost all destinations you could wish to travel to. They leave when they are full – however long it takes to fill up – stop wherever anyone wants to get off, and often transport animals, certainly a chicken or two, along with the passengers. They are slow, but an essential experience for anyone wanting to really see the country and its people.
Normal buses are available for longer trips. Again, schedules, if existent, are rarely adhered to. It is not unusual for a bus that is meant to leave at 6am to still be waiting in the depot for more people to get on at midday. Take a good book, plenty of food and patience if you’re travelling by bus. As with tro-tros, however, travelling by bus is an excellent way to meet Ghanaians – often said to be the friendliest people in Africa.
Ghana insider information
- The roads in Ghana can appear a terrifying obstacle to tourists. Crossing roads in town, driving (especially in Accra) or simply being a passenger on a bus take some getting used to. In Accra the traffic is horrific and it is not unusual for cars to physically nudge other vehicles in order to get ahead.
- Roads between towns are poorly maintained, often without edges, and tro-tros and buses often decide to head off the road to avoid potholes, and travel instead at the dirt alongside. Most buses and tro-tros have Christian phrases on the front or back, such as “Jesus Saves”. Drivers believe that this protects them against accidents. You may not feel the same.
- The Mole Game Reserve in the north of the country is hardly one of Africa’s finest, but worth a visit if you have time to spare. The park doesn’t have a huge amount of visitors, which means that the animals have become rather bold. You're as likely to see a warthog rifling through the rubbish, or a gorilla at the window of your hut as you are to see them in the reserve. An early morning trek to watch the elephants bathing is strongly recommended.
- Accra is the capital and by far the biggest and most vibrant city in the country. It has undergone extensive modernisation recently, but parts are still incredibly poor. It can feel intimidating upon arrival, but if you’re lost just ask a local for directions. Ghanaians are incredibly friendly and will be happy to help.
- Don’t be alarmed if you are hissed at in the street – this is a local means of greeting and not a sign of disapproval.
- Kumasi, in the centre of the country, is the second-biggest town and the seat of the old Ashanti region. The town is much more laid-back than Accra and often preferred by tourists. It was also the centre for the gold production of the gold coast. There are a couple of museums which are fascinating to explore for its history.
- The coast itself is a mixture of idyllic beaches and old slave forts. Cape Coast and Elmina both have well-preserved forts where you can see the horrendous conditions that slaves were kept in before being shipped out of Africa.