What makes Ghana a unique country to travel to?
Ghana is a developing country on the west coast of Africa. The capital is Accra. Tourist facilities are available in the population centers of the greater Accra region, Kumasi in the Ashanti region, and in the Cape Coast area of the Central region. They are limited in the more remote areas of the country. English is the official language.
Pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, and various types of scams are the most common forms of crime confronting visitors. Travelers have reported these types of theft at crowded markets, beaches, parks, and tourist attractions. Incidences of violent crime, such as armed robbery, are on the rise, including reports of armed robberies in expatriate residential and shopping areas, specifically the Osu and Ablekuma/Dzorwulu neighborhoods after 10 p.m. Victims who resist attackers run a high risk of serious physical injury. Take security measures, such as traveling in groups and avoiding travel at night. Avoid travel in communal taxis. Travelers who limit their display of jewelry and handle their cash discreetly reduce their vulnerability to crime. Pay close attention to those around you or following you, particularly after exchanging money, making a purchase, or withdrawing money from an ATM. Travelers should carry limited amounts of cash and only photocopies of key documents.
Thefts of both luggage and travel documents occur at Kotoka International Airport in Accra and in hotels across Ghana. All U.S. citizens should ensure that documents are kept secure at all times (including when leaving the airport) and that baggage is never left unattended. Travelers should be wary of all offers of unsolicited assistance at the airport unless from uniformed porters or officials. All permanent staff at the airport are issued current ID cards bearing their name and photograph. ID cards without a photograph are not valid. Travelers who are met at the airport should confirm the identity of their driver, either by requesting proper identification or otherwise verifying that the driver is an official from an organization or a hotel. There have been increasing incidences of impostors who approach travelers before the main arrivals area claiming to be the traveler's driver or contact. The impostor will have obtained the traveler's name from the board displayed by the official driver in the arrivals area outside the airport. The impostor then attempts to extort money from the traveler once the traveler is in the impostor's vehicle.
Use of credit cards in Ghana should be avoided if possible, as a growing number of travelers have been victims of credit card fraud.
In recent years, U.S. citizens have reported substantial financial losses from questionable transactions involving gold and other precious metals. The Government of Ghana maintains strict regulations on these natural resources. All agents must be licensed and all transactions must be certified. (See Special Circumstances below.)
Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including U.S. citizens. Such fraud schemes are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Ghana.
U.S. citizens frequently consult the Embassy regarding questionable business offers sent from Ghana. These are scams and typically begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must be paid in order to conclude the transaction, such as fees to open a bank account or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect money from the victim. The Embassy has also received reports of fraudulent charities soliciting contributions through the Internet or direct mail. If you receive such business offers or charity requests, carefully check them out before you commit any funds, provide any goods or services, or undertake any travel. Check with the U.S. Embassy in Ghana at telephone (233)-(030)-274-1443/1449 for an assessment of the offer's credibility.
Another type of fraud is committed by persons claiming to live in Ghana or traveling to Ghana on business, and who profess friendship or romantic interest over the Internet. Once a relationship has been established, the correspondent typically asks the U.S. citizen to send money for living expenses, travel expenses, or visa costs. Sometimes a "hospital"or "doctor" telephones to say that the friend has suffered an "accident" and needs immediate financial assistance to cover medical bills. There are other variations of this scam, but the common goal is to fraudulently obtain as much money as possible from the victim. U.S. citizens have reported losing thousands of dollars through such scams. The anonymity of the Internet means that the victim cannot be sure of the real name, age, marital status, nationality, or even gender of the correspondent. In most cases reported to the Embassy, the correspondent turned out to be a fictitious persona created to lure U.S. citizens into sending money.
Visitors to Ghana should also be wary of overly-friendly locals offering tours, discounted lodging, or other services that seem too good to be true. Tourists are often targeted by touts and scam artists. Some U.S. citizens have been victims of false criminal accusations and have lost time and money as they seek to resolve these difficult situations.
While you are traveling in Ghana, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be significantly different than our own and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don't have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Ghana, your U.S. passport won't help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It's very important to know what's legal and what's not wherever you go.
Persons violating Ghanaian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ghana are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. The use of illegal drugs procured in Ghana may have life-threatening consequences. There have been several deaths of U.S. citizens resulting from the use of narcotics procured locally.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
The official language of Ghana is English. There are movements to make several local languages official as well. The Twi dialect of Akan is the language most commonly used on a daily basis to communicate between ethnic groups. Most Ghanaians are at least bilingual.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical facilities in Ghana are limited, particularly outside Accra, the capital. Travelers should carry adequate supplies of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of their prescriptions, the generic name of the drugs, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications.
Documentation of Yellow fever vaccination is required upon arrival from all countries.
Motor vehicle accidents, drownings, and water-related accidents due to Ghana's rough surf have been reported by U.S. citizens. Muggings, and other violent attacks, as well as the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases - including HIV - are health and safety concerns that have been reported by U.S. citizens and can be at least partially mitigated by using common-sense safety precautions.
Safety and Security
Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and stay aware of their safety at all times.
There are a number of ongoing chieftaincy disputes in Ghana that generally involve competition over limited resources. Several of these disputes have erupted into violence and unrest during recent years, most notably in Yendi in the Northern Region and Bawku in the Upper East Region. Visitors should exercise caution when traveling in these areas and remain alert to outbreaks of unrest.
Travelers should also be aware that the standards of construction are often lower than those found in the United States. These lower standards have contributed to building collapses, fires, and reports of electrical shock, including the death of a Westerner from electrocution at the Stellar Lodge in Takoradi (Ghana's Western Region).
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Ghana is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Primary roads are generally paved and well maintained. However, some side roads within major cities and many roads outside of major cities are in poor condition. The road from Accra to the central region tourist area of Cape Coast continues to be the site of many accidents. Travel in darkness, particularly outside the major cities, is extremely hazardous due to poor street lighting and the unpredictable behavior of pedestrians, bicyclists and farm animals, particularly goats and sheep. Aggressive drivers, poorly maintained vehicles, and overloaded vehicles pose serious threats to road safety.
Another hazard is pedestrians who intentionally bump vehicles and pretend to be hit. They then attempt to extort money from the vehicle occupants. Scams of this nature most commonly occur in congested urban areas.
The safety standards of the small private buses that transit roads and highways are uncertain. Travelers are encouraged to consider this when making travel arrangements.
Armed robbers have targeted travelers following their arrival at Kotoka airport. An increasingly used tactic is to deliberately cause a minor road traffic accident to make a car stop, and to then rob the occupants. If your car is hit by another car it is best to drive to the nearest police station to sort out the incident. Otherwise, all drivers, particularly at night, should remain vigilant, and drive with doors locked.
There has been an increase in incidents of highway robbery on the road from Kintampo to Tamale in the Brong Ahafo and Northern regions. Travelers along this route should exercise due caution.
Travelers are routinely stopped at police checkpoints throughout Ghana, and vehicles and passengers may be searched. Drivers must possess an international driver's license (available from AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance). Foreign nationals should carry documentation of their status, such as a passport and a visa.