If you travel to Ghana by airplane, you will always arrive at the only international airport of the country: Kotoka International Airport in Accra. It is situated at only a few kilometres away from the city centre, to the northeast. There are a few important things that are useful to know:
- A very big problem at the airport are all the taxidrivers who try to fool you when you get out of the airport. The arrival hall officially is closed for public, but even inside the airport there are people who try to take money from you. Don't trust anyone you don't know inside or outside the airport.
It's the best to arrange someone to pick you up at the airport, but if that is not possible, you should bargain a lot with the taxidrivers before you enter their taxi. When I once tried to take a taxi back to Accra from the airport, the driver that wanted to take began with the ridiculous price of 160.000 cedis ($16,-)! He made his own list with prices to show me he was honest with me, but after 10 minutes of bargaining I only had to pay the REAL price of 30.000 cedis!
- The other way, from the city centre to the airport the prices are the same as when you leave from the airport. Again, taxidrivers try to get you to pay much more then that, but a price between 30.000 and 40.000 cedis really is the maximum you should pay for a trip like that!
- And the final thing you need to know about the airport is that when you leave the country, most airlines ask you to show up up to four hours before departure! And that while there is almost nothing you can do at the airport: uncomfortable seats and hardly any shops. And to be honest: it is absolutely not necessary to be there that early. If you arrive three hours before departure, it is more then enough.
In Ghana there is a huge difference between so called "drop taxi's" and "shared taxi's". In most cities and towns there are shared taxi's that have fixed routes through the city. To know these routes however, you really need to know the way around. If you don't, it is much easier to take the more expensive drop taxi.
Any taxi that is empty will be happy to bring you anywhere you want, simply because the driver make more money being a "drop taxi" than with a shared one. A drop taxi doesn't have fixed prices though, so you really should start with bargaining before you get in. Don't let them fool you by asking too much, because even though drop taxi's are more expensive then shared ones, they still are very cheap in Ghana.
For example a random trip through Accra, that takes 30 minutes, will never cost you more then 20.000 cedis ($ 2,-) and even if you leave the city centre, you should never pay more then 40.000 cedis.
Ghanaian taxi's are old, mostly Opel, and they (almost) all have cracked windows, a damaged gear system, and a very smelly and dirty interior. But no matter how bad they are, they do drive, and that is the most important...
Another way of transportation by bus is Metro Mass. This is a bus company with less luxurious busses then the STC, with cheaper rates and with routes that, unlike STC, also cross bad, bumpy roads. They also connect the bigger cities of the country, but with more connections and more often than the STC ones.
The Metro-Mass busses most of the times depart from a Tro-Tro-station, but in other places they sometimes have their own station. All the busses are easy to recognise: they are all orange. The rates are more or less the same as the rates of the Tro-Tro, but as disadvantage that they only leave once or twice a day to most destinations, and that they charge luggage-fees.
Metro-Mass sells their tickets starting a day before departure, and it is often wise to buy them as soon as possible, because otherwise you take the risk of having to stand all the while. Metro Mass doesn't see it as a problem to sell 80 tickets for a bus where only 45 people can sit in. Sometimes people have to stand for 5 hours in these busses.
One last thing: be prepared that these busses (as far as I can tell) ALWAYS leave too late. Waiting for two hours is normal...
The most comfortable way to get around in Ghana are the STC Busses. These busses normally are fully airconditioned and have good, comfortable seats. STC is one of the most decent companies in the country, with clear schedules of when the busses are driving, and what everything costs, but like everything in Africa, it is not as perfectly organised as it seems: the busses ALWAYS are delayed (sometimes up to 6 hours!) and it is possible to get on board by just paying the staff illegally.
But besides that, the busses are good value and the connections are fast and efficient. There are connections between almost all major cities in the country like Accra, Kumasi, Tamale, Cape Coast, Takoradi, Tema, Ho and Wa, but also some international connections to Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. Schedules of when and where these connections are available are in every STC station.
These STC stations are in a private space in every city, but NOT in a Tro-Tro station. At the station you can do your reservations of the tickets, which should be done at least a day on forehand to be sure of a seat. You have to be present an hour before departure, and your luggage has to be weighed and paid fore extra.
Trips with the STC Busses are more expensive than with a Tro-Tro, but with a rate of about 20.000 cedis ($ 2,-) an hour it is still quite cheap.
The most important way of transportation in Ghana is the Tro-Tro. A Tro-Tro is every vehicle that is bigger then a normal car and smaller then a bus. It can be anything: vans, pick-ups, small busses...
Every trip in a Tro-Tro is an adventure. The vehicles always are at least 20 years old, they are extremely uncomfortable, and very, very packed. In a small van they can fit at least 18 people. But the Tro-Tro is the cheapest possible way of transportation, often it is the only way to get somewhere, and it is the perfect way to get to know the real Ghana and the real Ghanaians.
Every town in Ghana has its own Tro-Tro, or Lorry-station. There often is some structure in the station, but the easiest way to find the correct tro-tro quickly is by asking. Once you get to the tro-tro you have to buy your ticket, that is very, very cheap. The average price for an hour is about $ 1,-, or 10.000 cedis. Once you have your ticket you can get in and the tro-tro will leave as soon as the vehicle is completely packed. There are no schedules of the departure times, if there are no passengers, it does not drive. Most of the times though, it will leave within an hour after arriving at the station.
The connections of the Tro-Tro's are endless. There are active on mainroutes between the biggest cities in the country, as well as between the smallest town in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes you will have to change Tro-Tro's before you can get somewhere, but there is always some local around to help you with it.
These huge trucks, known locally as a lorry (as is any large vehicle used to carry passengers) are found all over the country. Usually they were travelling at speed in the opposite direction when I saw them, so I was unable to take a photograph of them, but this one was just leaving the market (which also doubled as the bus station) in Yendi just as we were entering on foot as luck would have it. I was jolly glad we had our own tourist transport! I shouldn’t think the lorry would be very comfortable, it would be hot and very dusty with no protection fro the sun! It is undoubtedly cheap though.
Many local good are transported by bicycle. Reasonably priced to purchase and even cheaper to run, they are very useful for moving smaller items from one place to another. Occasionally you do see some very large items being transported by bicycle too. They are of course, a very good means of transport for the people and are very common.
There were 15 of us in the group and we travelled in two mini buses. One bus offered far greater leg room than the other, and was much more modern, but strangely enough, the air conditioning unit was actually less effective than that of the older, more cramped bus.
We carried with us all our luggage and supplies such as bottled water, tent, mats and mattresses. There was a further ‘food truck’ which carried all our lunch supplies as it would have been difficult to find restaurants along the way who would be able to cater for 15 foreigners at short notice. Or as someone else said, finding restaurants where 15 foreigners would feel comfortable eating. Diners were also provided on the three days we were camping.
If you are interested in covering a lot geographically and also go to Togo or Benin, best to rent a Jeep and a knowledgeable driver. We were very lucky and we could visit all the out of the way places.
We decided to hire a 4 wheel drive vehical and a driver while we were travelling in Ghana.
We were advised to go to a reputable company as unreliable transport is can spoil a trip. If you break down or get lost in the bush the conditions could be very uncomfortable & unpleasant.
We managed to negotiate a deal with AVIS (LAND TOURS GH. LTD) for a weeks hire.
They supplied us with a wonderful driver "ISSAC".
This guy was a gem. He was a very good knowlegable safe driver. We had many interesting conversations about his country. He had a extreemly good sence of humor and we found him easy to live with for a week.
We gave him 5 stars for a wonderful trip to the north of Ghana
Just returned from Ghana in August 2006 and travelled extensively within Accra, from Accra to Kumasi and from Accra to Elmina & Cape Coast. STC still runs to Kumasi from Accra and the fare is currently C 75k. The STC no longer runs to the west coast i.e. Cape Coast. Our taxi journey to Elmina cost us C 600,000 and took about 4 hrs. Our 'Ford' journey to Cape Coast (Ford being slightly better than a Tro Tro) took 3 hrs. Other air conditioned coaches to Kumasi cost around C 50k. STC is the most comfortable but the staff at the depots can be quite rude and very often the coach is late. Note that seats are allocated. Probably best to book your ticket before. Be aware that they ask for quite alot of details when purchasing the ticket such as next of kin etc. (a constant reminder of the dangerous driving on Ghana's roads). From Cape Coast you can take a taxi to the famous or infamous Kakum National Park - a return trip will cost around C 300k and it takes about 1hr. Finally the taxi ride from the Airport to Baatsoonna (off the Spintex road)(8km) is roughly C 60k. Note the Spintex road suffers regularly from congestion. I feel so sorry for those children and other hawkers who sell goods in traffic - breathing in those fumes cannot be good for their health
if you're up to it, trotros are the way to go. they can be fun, in a way, and are super cheap. if you must take a taxi however, whenever taxi drivers see foreigners, they assume they want a "drop in"--that is, custom service, for which they charge a lot more. Otherwise, they'll fit some 4 or 5 people in the car, and itll be a lot cheaper. If you dont want the former, make sure to tell the driver "no drop in", especially if there arent other passengers already in the car. he'll either say yes or no. bargaining is acceptable :)
Ghanaians consider it respectful to dress decently for social functions especially for visits to the palaces. It is considered disrespectful to attend such functions in crumpled dirty clothes, T-shirts, unkept hair.
Our old folks are also not very happy to see a woman or lady dressed in shorts or trousers (slacks). When sitting in the presence of eminent people or elders, please do not sit cross-legged. Visitors are held in very, very high esteem in our society and we expect that you exhibit an acceptable standard of dressing and decorum.
If you are wearing a hat or cap, please remove it when speaking with an elderly person. That shows your outward respect for our traditions.
Our chiefs enjoy receiving foreigners and interacting with them. We have already told you about dressing to the palace. There are other etiquettes that you need to observe. When you are invited to greet a chief or the king, for example, move up towards him and stop short a point from where he is seated, stop and bow. He may graciously invite you to come for a handshake.
On formal occasions, we do not speak directly to the king, or chief, for that matter communication at the royal court is a three-way affair through a spokesman (linguist) called "Okyeame" who replicates the conversation. The visitor faces the Okyeame and delivers his message to the chief. The chief gives his reply or response to the Okyeame who renders it to the visitor. It is that simple and interesting. This has been our practice from time immemorial.
N.B. Normally, visitors to our palaces have to make customary offerings of friendship to their royal hosts. This consists entirely of drinks: Aromatic Schnapps, Gin and or money, the amount and quantities depending on the size or enthusiasm of the group.
pointing the index finger of your right hand skyward means 'to Accra Central'. Pointing the right index finger toward the ground and making a circular motion (with your finger) means 'Kwame Nkrumah Circle', a major circle in Accra.
There is also a large lorry park, Neoplan, where you can get transport to many places in Accra. Close to Obetsebi Lamptey Circle is Kaneshie, where transport can also be obtained, especially to coastal areas. On major routes, stand on the side of the road and point the direction you are going with the right index finger. When the vehicle stops (or slows down), shout out where you are going.
This is always an option, although not to be recommended if you can avoid it. Pedestrians in Ghana give whole new meaning to the phrase 'the quick and the dead.' Also, it is hot, and usually a long way to anywhere. If you are desperate enough to walk at night, at least wear light, bright clothing (preferably decorate with reflectors) and a big smile. Be very careful of the many pedestrians along the roads when you are driving,especially at night.
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