On the west coast of Africa, Ghana is a thriving democracy. It has often been referred to as an island of peace in one of the most chaotic regions on earth. It shares boundaries with Togo to the east, Cote d’Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north and the Gulf of Guinea to the south.


Time zone: GMT
Plugs: Three-prong flat
Dialling code: +233
Currency: Ghanaian Cedi – $1=3.2GHS
Language: English


In 1957 Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence. After leading the country for nine years, the nation’s founding president Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in a coup d’état in 1966. After Nkrumah, Ghana was ruled by a series of military despots with intermittent experiments with democratic rule, most of which were curtailed by military takeovers. The latest and most enduring democratic experiment started in 1992 and is what has gained recognition for Ghana as a leading democracy in Africa. It is one of the most stable nations in the region, with a good record of power changing hands peacefully.

Ghana’s population of over 25 million people is drawn from more than 100 ethnic groups, each with its own unique language. English, however, is the official language.

The country’s economy is dominated by the agriculture industry, which employs about 40% of the working population. Ghana is one of the world leading exporters of cocoa. It is also a significant exporter of commodities such as gold and lumber. A recent discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea could make Ghana an important oil producer and exporter in the next few years.


In addition to rail and port upgrades, rehabilitation of the domestic airports at Kumasi and Sunyani is currently underway. The upgrade of Tamale’s current airport will bring the number of international airports in the country to two. Tamale Airport will serve as an alternate to Kotoka International Airport in Accra.

In May 2014, fastjet announced its decision to suspend Fly540 operations in Ghana. Fastjet had earlier announced that the loss-making Angola and Ghana businesses were being restructured with the objective of increasing shareholder value. The Fly540 businesses operate on a traditional airline model and not the fastjet low-cost model.

In other 2014 airline news, Air Namibia and Royal Jordanian both ceased operations into Ghana. Air Namibia terminated its Windhoek-Accra route from 26 June. According to the airline, limited traffic on the route was the main reason for the termination.
More encouragingly, Medview Airlines announced in September that it had concluded plans to commence flying from Lagos (Nigeria) to Accra, offering passengers from Nigeria an additional flight choice on the route.

A national 1% tourism levy has been introduced to improve funding for the country’s travel and tourism marketing.

The development of the Airport City, with its several hotel projects, is gradually accelerating to complement others within the city scheduled to begin operations soon. Much is expected of Kempinski’s ‘downtown’ project, the 5-star Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City, which will feature 269 rooms including 22 luxury suites and two presidential suites. That is expected to open in the first half of 2015 and will provide the Moevenpick Ambassador, currently the dominant player in that area, with some competition.

Also on the hotel front, Marriott announced plans for a 130-room Protea Hotel Select Takoradi, four hours’ drive from Accra. This followed the Marriott acquisition of the Protea Hotel Group earlier in 2014.

Meanwhile, Carlson Rezidor announced that the 207-room Radisson Blu Hotel Accra Airport, The Exchange is set to open in 2017, and will form part of the 75,000m2 mixed use office, hotel, retail and residential complex.


The capital of Accra hosts 10% of Ghana’s total population. Kumasi is the capital of the Ashanti region. Sekondi has an artificial harbour and was the first modern port built in Ghana. Other major cities include Tema, Tamale, and Cape Coast. Urban dwellers account for 37% of the population.

Accra is an important commercial, manufacturing and communications centre. It is the site of an international airport and the focus of the country’s railroad system, including a link to nearby Tema which, since 1962, has served as the city’s deepwater port. Industries include vehicle and appliance assembly, petroleum refining and the manufacture of foodstuffs, textiles, metal and wood products, plastics and pharmaceuticals.


Kotoka International Airport is currently served by 22 carriers with over 170 weekly passenger aircraft movements to more than 36 international destinations worldwide.

It’s a small airport, but a functional one, with passport control and baggage collection well managed, despite not being exceptionally big spaces. Kotoka International has an open-air front concourse with seating and a coffee shop or two, whilst taxi pick-up takes place to the right, through a short passage, as you exit the terminal.

There’s also a user-friendly drop-off zone, making the start of one’s departure fairly seamless. Once checked in, security, curio shops, duty free and lounges are upstairs.

As far as lounges go, you’ll find the Adinkra and Akwaaba lounges airside in the international departures terminal, with the latter closer to gate one. The Akwaaba lounge is charming, with a great view of the departing planes on the tarmac, comfortable seating, coffee tables and plenty of plug points. It also has a bar counter in the corner, also looking onto the tarmac, plenty of newspapers, a fridge with cold alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, filter coffee, snacks on offer, clean and convenient toilets, and most importantly, a speedy Wi-Fi connection.

The Akwaaba Lounge is home to the following airlines: Arik, KLM, Turkish Airlines, ASKY, Alitalia, Kenya Airways, Air Cote d’Ivoire, Air Burkina and RwandAir, as well as Priority Pass, Diners Club International and No.1 Traveller members.

There’s also a State Protocol Lounge for arriving and departing senior government officials, diplomats and select VIPs.


The Moevenpick Ambassador opened in mid-2011, and is the gold standard for international business travellers. Located in Accra’s downtown business district, this 5-star hotel has all of the amenities business travellers need, including a 24-hour business centre and complimentary wireless internet. The hotel has multiple dining locations, as well as 24-hour room service.

Downtown also has a Novotel adjacent to the Moevenpick, and the Alisa Hotel in North Ridge, which prides itself on its conferencing offering.

Accra’s only other 5-star hotel, Legacy’s Labadi Beach Hotel, is also recommended and offers something quite different from the Moevenpick. While it is located on the beach, it is within a short, but not always quick, drive of the city and airport. The hotel provides a business centre, several on-site restaurants, and Wi-Fi in the common areas. It also beefed up its conferencing offering in 2014.

A few hundred metres up from Labadi Beach Hotel you’ll find La-Palm Royal Beach.

The Golden Tulip Accra, a standard and very good business hotel, is located five minutes from Kotoka International Airport, and is one of a host of hotels in the area that include Preferred Hotel Group’s 4-star Fiesta Royale, the Holiday Inn Accra Airport, the Best Western Premier Accra Airport, the newish African Sun, the more established African Regent Hotel, and a delightful boutique property called Villa Monticello.

The latter is best suited to those travellers who value a smaller, high-end boutique experience, along with their privacy. It is equipped with a business centre and complimentary wireless internet in all rooms. Guests have the on-site dining options of the restaurant, the lounge, and 24-hour room service. The Villa Monticello also has a fitness centre.

That covers the three main areas of Accra – the beach, downtown, and the airport – and because traffic can be a problem, it’s recommended that you select a hotel that’s conveniently located for your meeting(s).


Ghana’s currency is the cedi which comes in denominations of GHC 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. Coins come in denominations of 1 GHC and also 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p and 1 pesewas. Foreign currency can be freely exchanged at any forex bureaux, as well at some commercial banks.

Banks are normally open from 08h30 to 16h00, Monday through Friday. Some banks also operate on Saturdays from 09h00 to 14h00. Most large commercial banks will also have automatic teller machines located outside and available during and after hours. Most will take Visa and a few other cheque cards.

All banks and forex bureaux accept traveller’s cheques, although the rate of exchange may be slightly lower than for cash transactions.

The most widely accepted credit cards are Visa and MasterCard. These cards are accepted in major hotels, restaurants, banks and businesses.


Foreign nationals of the following countries can enter Ghana visa-free: ECOWAS countries, plus Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Singapore, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Otherwise, unless in direct airside transit through a Ghanaian airport, all other foreign nationals require a visa to enter Ghana, and it is recommended that these are obtained prior to arrival. There is no such thing as a visa on arrival for Western countries.


Mobile phone penetration is very good with over 25 million registered numbers and good coverage even in remote areas. Visitors can obtain a local sim card from any of the six providers – Vodafone, MTN, GLO, Expresso Telecom, Airtel and Tigo. With a valid identity card/passport, you can acquire a sim card from any of the providers.

You can make long distance telephone calls within the country. Collect calls to the USA, Europe and Asia are also available. USA direct dial is 019900 and UK is 0194.
Make sure you contact your local service provider before your departure, to ensure you have arranged international roaming, should you wish to use your cell phone while travelling.


Compulsory vaccination: yellow fever.

Recommended vaccinations: hepatitis A, typhoid, tetanus, meningitis. A malaria risk exists. Medical facilities are poor outside urban areas in Ghana. Emergency facilities are extremely limited. For serious medical treatment, medical evacuation would be necessary.

Travellers 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.

Health insurance is also essential, preferably with cover for emergency evacuation. Medical facilities exist in all the regional capitals as well as in most towns and villages, however emergency medical facilities are extremely limited.


Ghanaians are a conservative people and visitors should respect local customs, traditional courtesies and dress codes.

Ghanaians should always be addressed by their formal titles unless they specifically request otherwise. Handshaking is the usual form of greeting. It is customary in much of West Africa not to use the left hand for touching food.

Greeting is an important social function that marks an open heart and mind. It also expresses one’s concern for the other. Refusing or failing to greet another person may indicate that you do not care for the other’s welfare.

A handshake is a popular way of greeting in Ghana, especially among males. When you shake hands, apply the same hand pressure as is offered. When you are shaking hands with a number of people, start from the extreme right and proceed towards the left.

Women are advised not to wear shorts or trousers. Avoid receiving or giving things, pointing, waving and gesticulating with the left hand.

Visitors to remote villages, shrines or palaces should visit the local elder or priest and take a small gift such as a bottle of local schnapps, gin or money. Always seek permission before taking photographs of people.

Permission should be sought before photographing military installations, government buildings or airports.

Roads are generally in good condition, but can be in poor condition outside of the towns. Traffic in Accra at peak times can result in big delays, which one should bear in mind, should one be trying to get to the airport or a meeting in the morning or evening.

Service charges are rarely added to restaurant bills and tipping for quality service is only expected in up-market establishments (usually about 10%). For other services, tipping is discretionary.

The official language is English. Local Ghanaian languages are widely spoken, including Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe and Ga.

The voltage in Ghana is 220 volts. The plug type is British-style with two flat blades and one flat grounding blade.

The majority of the population is Christian (70%), with Muslim (15%) and traditional African religions (15%) making up the balance.

While most visits to Ghana are trouble-free, violent crime can occur at any time. Travellers are advised to exercise a high level of vigilance in public areas and when travelling by road. Localised outbreaks of civil unrest can occur at short notice due to ongoing local chieftaincy and land disputes.

The tap water is safe, but it is advisable for visitors to drink bottled water, available for sale in supermarkets, and most hotels offer it free of charge.


Ian Engelbrecht 
African Partner Network – American Express Travel Services

I have travelled to Accra at different times of the year, and one thing that never changes is the humidity. It really strikes you when you disembark from the aircraft, but fortunately all buildings are equipped with very effective air-conditioning. 

Aircraft parking bays are also a bit removed from the terminal buildings, so either get a bus transfer or you’ll need to walk from and to the terminal buildings. Immigration queues can be long depending on the number of flights arriving, and once through passport control, luggage can also take a while to appear on the carousels.

Kotoka International Airport facilities include shops and duty-free shopping, snack bars, restaurants and bars, a business centre, post office, information desk, a bureau de change and 24-hour ATM. There are also 24-hour medical care and immunisation services available. A business centre in the domestic flights area provides communications and secretarial services. Wi-Fi internet access is also available in departures. Card phones are located at several points throughout the terminal, and cards are available from the post office and some shops. Disabled facilities are limited.

Even if you transit through KIA, you need to go through all the passport and immigration procedures again. Be patient, as people are generally not in a hurry. 

From arrivals, it’s a quick walk to the outside of the terminal building to meet the transfer company – usually a shuttle service to the hotel you are staying at. I have stayed at the Moevenpick, which is very business orientated, with a number of meeting and conference rooms.

On another occasion I stayed at the La Palm Royal Hotel, situated on Labadi Beach. La Palm caters to the business and leisure markets with its three restaurants and bars, a casino, health club, hair salon, and pub, plus a large swimming pool for adults and children.

I would strongly advise hiring a car with a driver. This is a more expensive option, but provides a level of comfort in the Ghana traffic, which can become quite busy during peak hours.

People in Ghana are friendly. Handshakes are the most common business greeting, but men should wait for a woman to extend her hand first. Rushing a greeting is extremely rude. It’s important to maintain eye contact and to enquire about people’s health, family and jobs. Make appointments and be on time for meetings, even though you may end up waiting.

Although I would not classify Accra as a holiday destination, you can expect to experience a warm and friendly stay in Ghana, no matter what the reason for your visit is.

This profile was supplied by American ExpressTravel Services
Contact: +27 11603-9000

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