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Travel logistics guide - aug 2008

Information for Link Travellers
This advice is based on the experiences of Link travellers to Sekondi-Takoradi (ST). The guide is writtenby Dudley Tolkien, updated from his last visit in April 2008, supplemented by contributions from othertravellers as shown. Observations made are from the author's personal experiences, and other travellersmay have a different take on some items.
Contents
5. Arrival in Accra and transport to Sekondi-Takoradi (ST).
12. Tourism options in the Sekondi-Takoradi area.
1. Your Pre-Travel Information.
Travellers are advised to complete a Pre-Travel Data Sheet (see Appendix A), and send a copy to one orboth of Brian Dixon (tel. in Ghana 0243 420506, email brian.dixon@cnrinternational.com ) andBob Baldry (tel. in Ghana 0244 322144, email bob_rob2020@yahoo.co.uk ) in Takoradi, and to copy it toJill Bailey (email jill.bailey@plymouth.gov.uk )of the Plymouth Link Committee. This is to make thingsrun more smoothly if something unforeseen happens to you on your trip, in particular if you have anyhealth problems. Brian runs the local operation for CNR International, which has a whole network ofcontacts to cover such eventualities, and they have all been tested before. Bob is the UK HighCommission's local representative in Takoradi. An example of how this can help you is that if you get sick,and go your own way and it isn't the best way, you can have a real problem extricating yourself - Brian orBob will get you in the right place to start with.
It is also recommended that travellers register their details using the Foreign & Commonwealth Office'sLocate service :- http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/Locate/ 2. Flights.
British Airways (BA) is the only airline which flies to and from Ghana directly on a daily basis. KLM,Lufthansa and Alitalia also fly most days with one short flight change. Visitors from Ghana have used theLibyan airline Afriqiyah, changing in Tripoli - this flies about 3 times a week.
Scheduled flights.
Several of us have experience of BA ( www.ba.com ), which has been trouble-free. We have also usedKLM ( www.klm.com ), which changes in Amsterdam, and problems have been experienced in somecases, but not others. The European scheduled airlines use Heathrow. Afriqiyah (www.afriqiyah.aero ) usesGatwick - delays can be expected sometimes.
BA leave Heathrow around 1400, arriving in Accra in mid-evening. The return journey leaves late in theday, arriving at Heathrow around 0630. Flight time is about 6½ hours. KLM leave Heathrow earlier in themorning. Check the websites for up to date information.
Prices vary widely according to time of year, most notably in the late summer / early autumn, but can evenvary wildly from day to day, so check frequently. A return trip can cost anything between £400 and £900.
Increasingly airlines are offering the facility of booking on-line and getting an e-ticket, so having printed itoff at home there is nothing further to do, and you cannot lose it if you print duplicates, and email it toyourself as further cover.
BA take bookings using credit cards, but KLM only accept bank transfer because of problems with cardfraud associated with the route. BA now allow two 23kg items of luggage in the hold.
Getting to and from the airport.
All National Express (www.nationalexpress.co.uk) buses to/from London stop at Heathrow. There is also aconnection to Gatwick via both Heathrow and Victoria. Time-tables and booking facilities are on-line,including the e-ticket facility. Where it is necessary to travel to London the previous day because of anearly departure, there are bus/hotel packages available. For Heathrow the cheapest hotel offered is theComfort Inn in Hayes (functional but perfectly adequate) where the combined bus fare and hotel will be£80 or less. There are shuttle buses to and from the airport that cost £3 each way.
3. Visas.
All UK citizens require a visa. It lasts for 3 months, is single entry only, and costs £50. There is a multi-entry 2 year option for £70, which can be difficult to obtain but has been achieved twice by one Linkmember. There is also a 1 year multi-entry option for £60. The visa can be obtained directly from theGhanaian High Commission and you can download an application form from the Ghana High Commissionwebsite, http://www.ghana-com.co.uk/VisaForm.pdf.
In applying for a visa, you should obviously choose a time when you don't need your passport. Send it in
your application accompanied by your passport and the fee. You can pay only with a banker’s draft (more
complicated) or a postal order, not with a cheque. It is wise to send it in by RMSD, with a self-addressed
RMSD envelope for its return.
You can also use a visa service which costs extra, but they are on hand in London and know theidiosyncrasies and how to manage them, and will be able to trace progress if necessary. If your passportgoes astray at the High Commission (which has happened) you are in a much more advantageous positionwith an agency. One of the agencies we have used is Travcour. Contact - tel. 0207 223 5295, email(Amanda) amanda@travcour.com. For Link members, their normal fee of £35 is discounted to £30, or £20each for 5 or more people together.
4. Medical.
The article below was written after the October 2004 visit by Dr Mike Inman, a retired anaesthetist.
Health Advice for visitors to Ghana.
I could not better the advice given by the Masta Health Brief (www.masta.org). It is up to date andauthoritative. Clearly the way to stay fit in Ghana is to take all sensible precautions. Well beforeleaving, see your doctor and get all the jabs. Yellow fever is available in the Lisson Grove surgery inMutley: expect to pay around £40. Other injections should be available free through your GP. Find outabout which anti-malarial is recommended, and if it’s Lariam, start taking it well before you are due toleave. It does not suit everybody and you may need time to change. The sun is fierce, so cover up, takea hat, plenty of sunblock, and drink plenty of water, bottled water advised. Take insect repellent, longsleeves and trousers for the evenings, and you may wish to take a mosquito net, and other anti-mosquitodevices, depending on where you will be staying. HIV/Aids is endemic.
People in Takoradi just about all have suffered from malaria, regarding it as about as inevitable as weregard the common cold, but it's much more serious and can kill. Even if you are not consciously aware ofthe mosquitoes, as one Ghanaian friend told me 'they're waiting for you!’ During the October 2004 visit, we only had one sore throat between the 15 of us, but if you do get sick Isuggest the Port Clinic which is run by two GPs, and is held in the Ghana Ports and Harbours AuthorityHospital just near the entrance to the port in Takoradi. The charges are modest, £5 for registration, £3per consultation, and £10 per night for a bed plus medical costs. If necessary specialists are brought inif you need specialist care, and arrangements can be made to fly you to Accra or home. For this youwould need to be insured.
The simplest most important medical advice we would give anybody new to a hot African country is toalways have bottled water available, and to drink lots of it. Dehydration is the biggest risk until you areacclimatised, and if you wait until you are thirsty you have probably left it too late.
5. Arrival in Accra and transport to Sekondi-Takoradi (ST).
If you arrive in the evening you will need to stay overnight in Accra. There is an advantage to makingarrangements before you leave: the taxi drivers at the airport are very insistent and compared with Accraprices are generally very expensive - in April 2008 a fare of 3 GH¢ was normal.
There are obviously many hotels in Accra, and we mention below ones that members of the Link haveused. Except for the Penta, most recent experience of the other hotels dates back to 2004. The cost ofaccommodation in Ghana has rocketed up in the last year. A number of cheap hotels can have mosquitoproblems, so take care.
• Penta Hotel in Osu: tel. 021-760812. Cost now c.$100 per night. This is right in the heart of lively Accra at night, so there is a vast choice of good restaurants (the Dynasty Chinese is expensive, butmagnificent). Also very handy for getting a sim card for your mobile phone, as MTN's HQ is just 200metres along the road.
• Paloma Hotel in central Accra, which includes in the cost airport pick-up / drop-off.: tel. 021- 228700 / 228723. They also will change money at a good rate, and accept payment in sterling. Breakfasts aregood, and there is a constant toing-and-froing of volunteers and young travellers. (You can also changemoney at a Forex about 400m to the west – across the road.) • Linnhurst Lodge in Link Road (!) is close to the airport in very quiet residential area. However, getting a meal there requires a rather rigid, advance booking regime, which can be tiresome.
• The Pink Hostel, where we have negotiated NGO rates because of the Link (Link-headed notepaper helps). They have been known to make a room for the night available at 8.00 am.
Getting to Sekondi-Takoradi. There are two options – to use public transport or arrange for some form ofprivate hire/taxi. One of the cheapest is to use an STC bus, the Ghanaian equivalent of National Express.
They travel several times a day and are reasonably comfortable, effectively the equivalent of NE withoutthe on-board toilet. Nowadays most coaches are air-conditioned, and the cost is under £4. You have to payextra for your luggage, which has to be weighed. Don't lose your bus ticket or luggage ticket: you need theluggage one to reclaim your case on arrival.
Using a taxi for this trip will not only cost about 10 times as much, but unless you know who you'redealing with, it's rather unwise from a personal safety standpoint. STC is safe, cheap, reliable andcomfortable, and the road is now tarmac the whole way, so a 4 hour trip is now the norm, but traffic isheavier on a Saturday because lots of people are doing trips to funerals.
Getting back to Accra. The key message is, if you're travelling back on the same day as your night flighthome, leave ST in good time, ideally before midday.
6. Money.
The unit of currency is the cedi. However, in July 2007 the currency went through a re-denomination
process, so now people speak in both old and new money (until the old money passes from memory) !
Transitionally, the old money is called the cedi (written as ¢ ) and the new money is called Ghanaian cedi
(written as GH¢ ). The conversion is
1 GH¢ = 10,000¢ and very close in value to 1 US dollar.
1 GH¢ is made up of 100 pesewas.
1 pesewa = 100¢ Ghanaian cedis are all notes (1,5,10,20,50) and pesewas are all coins.
However, people's conversation doesn't quite fit the conversion time-table of the banks ! People still say 1million for 100 Ghanaian (or new) cedis, and may say (as they always have done) 400 for 400,000. Apartfrom the last example, the number of 0s should make this rather obvious, and this doesn't seem to beintended as a way to deceive, but be careful all the same. In fact, the change has gone rather smoothly, andas a traveller it is such a relief no longer to be burdened with the similarity of carrying money to carrying aloo roll around ! Furthermore, currency exchange is now a quick operation, as a large number of smalldenomination notes no longer have to be counted. Thankfully, the old notes are totally out of circulation.
Take your money to Ghana in British pounds in CASH, which can be exchanged anywhere. If you havesome travellers' cheques then by all means bring them as back-up, but they are a hassle to change and theexchange rate will be noticably worse.
There are several Forex booths around which are the best places to exchange money. Around TakoradiMarket Circle one can be descended upon by guys offering money exchange - sometimes one can get avery marginal improvement on the Forex rate, but unless you know the individual concerned, ignore theseguys - they are not a threat, but do tend to mess one about and are just a general pest, and you don't reallywant to be doing this in the public gaze anyway. Furthermore, they often offer a rate BELOW Forex - youhave to go into the Forex bureau to get the rate as it isn't displayed outside.
Credit cards can be used in a number of more up-market outlets, but you will generally pay an exchangerate over the odds, as they will argue their need to recover bank handling costs. The transaction will usuallybe charged in US dollars, but if you have a choice whether to use credit card, ask them first about theexchange rate they apply, and whether they also apply a handling charge, then work out whether the overallcost is acceptable - it really does vary. Ghana's economic activity at the personal level is overwhelminglyconducted in cash.
7. Telephones.
Phoning Ghana from UK
Using a provider such as BT for this will cost you 10 or more times what it need cost ! In fact, phoningGhana is usually cheaper than phoning a British mobile number ! There are two sensible options.
The cheapest option is by using one of the many international calling cards. This can be done by buying aphysical card, or by buying the credit on-line. Either way, you will be provided with a choice of accessnumbers (an 0845 one which will probably attract the cheapest charge, an 0800 number which may carryan 0800 premium, and an 020 number for people with mobile contract credit), and a PIN number unique toyour card purchase. The process is to phone the access number, then you are asked to enter your PINnumber when they will tell you your credit balance, then you enter the phone number you wish to dial.
Recent experience has shown the best card for Ghana to be 'Mad for Minutes', accessible on-line thus http://www.1st-phonecards.co.uk/cardpages/mad.htm What you must do with any of these cards is find out the rate you are actually being charged, as it is nearlyalways more than what is advertised, and often double (still a tiny fraction of BT's rates). 'Mad for Minutes'advertises 3p per minute to a Ghanaian mobile and 1.5p to a landline (using 0845 access). The real costseems to be a little more, but not by much. Note that using a payphone attracts typically a 20p per minutesurcharge, and the access number charges apply whilst you're connecting also. Cards with an additionalconnection fee are bad news, as connection blips are quite frequent. Customer Services for these cards tendto be overseas call centres, who will sort out a locked PIN number for you, but experience has shown thatcontacting them for anything else to be a wasted effort.
A second option is VOIP via the internet. This is more expensive than using a card, but the line qualitytends to be better. Using Skype, it costs 10.9p per minute to a Ghanaian mobile, and 10p to a landline.
Furthermore, with Skype you are always charged exactly according to the tariff. These are theirinternational rates to everywhere http://www.skype.com/prices/callrates/?currency=GBP Dialling codes. The international code for Ghana is 00233. The STD code for Accra is 021, for Sekondi-Takoradi is 031. Cell phones all start with 02 - MTN is 024 and OneTouch is 020. In all instances strip offthe leading 0 when calling internationally.
Using your mobile in Ghana to phone locally
If you use your British number to make phone calls, they will be routed through UK and be very expensive,
although text messages remain cheap. An alternative is to buy a SIM card for use in Ghana, and not doing
so is likely to burden your stay with unnecessary inconvenience. There are numerous cell-phone operators,
but the dominant one is MTN (formerly Areeba and before that Spacefon), as that is the network always
found when one switches one's phone on. The MTN office in Takoradi is on Dixcove Hill, next door to
Captain Hook's restaurant, and in Accra there is a main office in the main street of Osu. In one of these
offices you can buy an MTN SIM card for 1 GH¢ to put in your phone plus some credit, but note that your
mobile must be unlocked.
Charges are fairly reasonable, and even to phone UK it will only cost around 25p per minute, a good dealcheaper than some mobile to mobile calls in UK ! You will, of course, get a Ghanaian telephone number,which expires three months after use unless you have it renewed within another 6 months after that at anMTN office - useful if you plan to return, as then you can give your UK contacts your Ghanaian phonenumber before you go.
You will find that Ghanaian contacts will often 'flash' you - this means phoning you for one ring only, so
you can phone back and they leave you to pay for the call - just get used to it !
8. Food and Accommodation.
A key issue in making your choice is whether or not you want air-conditioning (AC). The climate is hotand humid and gives some people a problem sleeping properly. Others dislike AC but without it even witha fan going at maximum speed all night you will not get the temperature in your room below 30°C.
The humidity is high enough for someone with glasses going from an AC environment to non-AC to findtheir specs steam up instantly. If you use AC a lot it can delay the time it takes to become accustomed tothe heat and humidity, and can give rise to a dryness in the throat, but it is very much a personal choice.
We recommend that you wear cotton rather than denim: Ghana is much hotter than Plymouth all the time,and takes some getting used to (see the medical section below).
Most, if not all, of the comfortable hotels are in Takoradi, and A/C will always be available. Check priceswhen booking, as prices have risen steeply recently.
At Planters Lodge (tel. 031 22233) one gets a suite which is half a chalet, the ambience of the place is
extremely pleasant, and it is quiet. The restaurant is in a delightful setting, overlooking the swimming pool.
Africa Beach (tel 031 25148) is cheaper and much busier with lots of locals who are keen to chat. The
rooms again are chalets, and this is the only hotel in Takoradi by the beach. It also has a swimming-pool.
It's a personal choice if one wants it to be quiet or lively, and of course these are just two hotels of many.
The highest rated is the Hillcrest, but this would appear to be targeted more at business customers and
looks like a bland block of flats. The Takoradi Beach is similar.
Guesthouse Maggi (tel 031 22575) is down a quiet road opposite Planters, has comfortable rooms with
huge double beds, and there is a small restaurant and bar in the compound. It is cheaper than the other
hotels listed here The Link negotiated a 10% discount on their rates a few years ago – you will need to
remind them of this before you book.
There are plenty of other hotels, but if you're looking for something cheap, beware that some cheap hotelswill pose a mosquito, and therefore malaria, risk. The better hotels have mosquito protection built into theirrooms. Mosquitos are always around, and the locals accept getting malaria just like we accept getting thecommon cold, but it's much more serious.
Eating well in Sekondi-Takoradi
Colette Gregory spent two days in Ahantaman School, and the kitchen staff there made sure she tried the
best local food. The following is her account of food and drink, with comments on some local eating
places:
There is a whole multitude of different foods that I would class as “must-try” when you travel to Ghana.
Care should be exercised at all times when it comes to what you eat but as long as you follow the adage,“Cook it, peel it or leave it!” then you should be fine.
The first speciality I tried was red red and beans with plantain. Red red and beans is a spicy stew with –unsurprisingly – kidney beans in it. Stews seem to be a normal meal when accompanied by some kind ofstaple crop. In this case it was the plantain, which are like large savoury bananas which are cut in halfwidthways and fried (palm oil is often used for this). My favourite way to eat plantain though was aplantain chips. For this they are sliced thinly lengthways and then fried till they resemble crisps (butthey’re sweeter). Keep an eye out for them when you’re travelling in a taxi or STC bus because they areone the most common things people bring to you on their heads to sell.
Another common staple crop accompaniment I enjoyed is called kenkae. This is maize that is fermentedin water for three days, then mashed and blended with more unfermented maize to form into a ball thatyou rip pieces off with your fingers. The technique was to soften these pieces by kneading them with yourindex and middle fingers and your thumb and then dip it in your stew. I warn you: it’s harder to masterthan it looks! One day for breakfast I was served gari. This you have got to try – it was my favourite! It’s cassava that’sbeen roasted and grated. You add warm water or milk (depending on what you can afford), sugar andIdeal (condensed) milk. It tastes just like rice pudding but with finer lumps. Sometimes it’s made as asavoury accompaniment, minus the sugar and milk of course. Ghanaian people refer to gari as theirsaviour because it’s cheap, widely available and eaten all the time.
Sekondi-Takoradi is a port so fish is a local favourite. One evening a group of us went to Captain Hook’s,a restaurant that specialises in seafood. We had a generous meal – for example I had lobster spaghetti –for ¢100,000 each, including a tip, i.e about £6.20. Bear in mind that this is probably the most expensiveplace in town. Other places for eating out that I would recommend are the Africa Beach Hotel (greatatmosphere, sometimes live music, always has stalls by the gate selling souvenirs) and Joy’s ChineseRestaurant, if karaoke is your thing.
When drinking in Ghana you should avoid alcoholic drinks because (a) it’s frowned on and (b) it coulddangerously dehydrate you in such a hot climate. What seems to be popular as an alternative to beer isGuinness Malt, which tastes like liquorice. My favourite drink was Fanta: it tastes much nicer than Fantayou buy in the UK somehow. Note that when you buy Fanta, Coke or an equivalent in a glass bottle, theseller will expect the bottle back once you’ve finished so don’t try and walk away with it as we did the firsttime. Water should be drunk by the gallon but always check that the bottle caps are sealed beforedrinking to avoid a health problem.
Ghana is a centre for Fair Trade chocolate. The best brand, I was advised, is called “Kingsbite”. It’s verygood in Ghana but be warned that when you bring it back to the UK for a gift for somebody it turns rockhard in our climate.
Updating the position for 2008, Captain Hook is still clearly best in town. Africa Beach is good, and this isa nice outdoor experience, as is Planter's Lodge. Valley Beach Hotel is also good. A wonderful ambienceby the sea, seeing the surf highlighted by lighting, is the Joy Chinese, but sadly the cuisine nowadays is amajor disappointment.
Although the climate should lend itself to the growing of copious quantities of green vegetables and freshfruit, they are not easily found, and seem not to appeal much to the average Ghanaian. The local dishes arecertainly tasty, but very heavy with a high starch content. On the main road you may see people holding upa large dead rodent trying to catch the custom of passing traffic - this is a type of bush meat called a grass-cutter.
9. Miscellaneous Advice.
www.ghanaweb.com offers a good range of information on Ghanaian life.
Don't take pictures in the Harbour Road approaching the port, if you want to avoid getting in hot waterwith the police.
People don't have specific addresses, and only the important roads seem to be named. Addresses involvePO Box numbers. Takoradi's centre is symmetrically organized around the Market Circle, which is fairlyeasy to follow.
Tipping - the Ghanaian expression is to 'dash'. Most people are very short of money, so being dashed isalways welcome. If you want to show a Ghanaian your appreciation, always do it in cash - much moreappreciated than a box of chocolates or whatever.
Ghana is a very safe place, and generally much safer than Britain regards street crime, but it is still wise tobe vigilant, as applies to anywhere in the world. You are likely to be many times richer than most peopleyou encounter, but they just regard you as a good person to do business with, but in a friendly way andnothing nasty. Probably the worst thing you will encounter during your stay is exasperation at the almostuniversally appalling standards of punctuality - very irritating when you're on a tight schedule, but youwon't change it ! They are cheap and plentiful, about a quarter of the equivalent cost in Plymouth. However, fuel costs haverisen three-fold in the last 2 years or so, so they are not as cheap as they were not so long ago. It's alwaysbest to agree the price before you get in, and haggle by all means, or ask the next driver who comes alongto compare prices. After a short time you'll get an idea of the going rates - there are always some taxidrivers ready to rip off an 'obruni' (white man) for a couple of cedis, but they'll do it with a smile. Gettingto and fro to town can be done cheaper still by using a shared-taxi - there's a fixed fare applying once thetaxi is full.
Internet
Internet is available in Takoradi very cheaply - 50p will get you a fair chunk of time. Response times aren't
great, but OK generally. There are quite a few cafés around.
Guide books Probably the best is the Bradt guide to Ghana. The 4th is the latest edition (2007), ISBN
978-1841622057. The photograph of the guide in Kakum in the earlier edition is Still Alive (that’s his
name) who showed us around in 2004. There are no other guide books that are exclusively on Ghana. The
closest Lonely Planet come is West Africa, covering a multitude of countries. The Link has copies of older
versions of both books for travellers to browse or borrow.
Maps The only exclusively Ghana map is ITMB. The latest version (2007) is of larger scale than before,
1:500K, ISBN 978-1553412267. Cost is £7.50 from Amazon. Jane Murray has very useful 1:50,000
Japanese maps of Sekondi-Takoradi, two sheets covering the whole city and surrounding area. For
Sekondi-Takoradi there are no street maps available locally. The Bradt guide has maps of the main areas of
Takoradi, and scanning these on to single sheets for walking around when there is very handy.
Sporting options
To play tennis, give Margaret a ring on 0244 659644. She is a handy player. Ask if she can fix you up witha racquet.
Football is played at Gyandu Park in Sekondi, from Premier League through to school events. Hasaacasplay in the Premier League, Eleven Wise and Sporting Metro play in Division 1, the level below. Oftensomething is going on there, but you need to ask around. Hopefully there will soon be matches at the newSekondi Stadium. Phone Malik on 0244 978453.
Georgina is ladies' golf captain at Beach Road Golf Club. Contact her on 0244 454359 if you'd like a gameof golf.
Dressmaking
Georgina is also a dressmaker. If you want an African dress made you can buy material in the market andask Georgina to make it up. Another excellent source of ready-made or personally tailored outfits is StopOver African Wear House (sic) opposite the Police Reserve, not far from the Africana Roundabout.
10. Life for the ordinary Ghanaian.
Ghanaian people are enormously friendly and welcoming, and this will undoubtedly be stamped on yourtravel experience. However, this is despite life for most Ghanaians being enormously tough, primarily foreconomic reasons. Annual income for something like 80% of Ghanaians is under £500, and naturally thismassively impacts on their life-style. What's more, if anything this is getting tougher, the recent tripling offuel costs over the last couple of years being a prime example. Also, very recently Ghana has discoveredoil, which will affect the Takoradi region in particular - one can only hope it doesn't prove the poisonchalice which it has done in so many other countries for ordinary people.
The economy is very different to UK. Unlike UK, it is POSSIBLE to live on such a tiny income, butstrangely that doesn't mean everything is cheaper. Until very recently, identical consumer goods were 2 to4 times their price in UK, although that is now changing - the cheapest new DVD player 2 years ago wouldcost £90, but now they can be bought for £30. Also mobile phones have gone much the same way, althoughsomehow nearly everybody you met still had one ! However, these are luxury items, and the price ofessential goods is rising. The difference with UK is that there are a lot of very cheap goods around, but thequality of these is not good at all. The other major difference with UK is the cost of services. People's timeis very cheap, so paying somebody to do something is more acceptable for a poor Ghanaian than it is for a(as seen by a Ghanaian) relatively rich westerner. For instance, there is no DIY presence in Ghana, asemploying somebody to do something is so cheap, and hearing that I lived alone, somebody once asked meif I employed a cook (assuming that would be cheap !) Another example of people's time being cheapinvolves the long hours many women spend in a salon getting their hair fixed, all for £3 or so, which is along labour-intensive process. In Ghana, people don't really see time as money, as it doesn't pay much - thismay largely account for the generally awful standards of time-keeping. Ghanaians refer to subsistenceexpenses as 'chop money', a derivation from the cheap eateries called chop-bars.
Also, there is no state social safety net for Ghanaians, and with that goes a lack of direct taxation for mostpeople. One has to pay for school fees, medical attention, and even a postal address. If we are unwell, wego to the doctor, and if it's sufficiently serious, he/she refers us to go to hospital. In Ghana, this works inreverse - there's no local surgery to attend, one just goes straight to hospital. There's no such thing ashospital food, your friends or family bring it in for you.
For people old enough to remember, in many ways life today in Takoradi reminds one of life in Plymouth50 years ago - e.g. deference (e.g. people are reluctant to ask a doctor 'what's my problem ?'), less traffic,safe for children to go out and play, the waterfront basically unused, policemen at liberty to give the old'clip around the ear', and no 'nanny state'.
Ghana is a most overtly Christian country. Church-going on Sunday's is pretty universal, and in any built-up area you are unlikely to go more than 100 metres or so without seeing a sign with a religious meaning,be it the name of a business, a sticker on a car, or whatever. However, Sekondi-Takoradi also hassomething like 100,000 Muslims, but everyone gets along together very peacefully in harmony. A very bigsocial occasion is a funeral - they last all week-end, with Saturday the big day. People's dress is basicallywhite, and they have a big party, as long as the person who died had a decent innings. Even the anniversaryof someone's death is celebrated.
Descriptions of relatives - for aunt, uncle, niece, nephew one is often told they are mother, father, daughter,son respectively. Family ties are very close in Ghana, and what we find confusing is very natural to them.
Women's hair is wholly different to what one would typically find in Plymouth. Nearly all the ladies' hair-dos are 'weave-ons', meaning artificial hair attached to a short base of their own hair. This allows a level offlexibility for appearance not generally available with one's own hair, but it can make it confusingrecognising somebody you know ! This option is not available to girls in school (no doubt not to theirliking !), where they have to keep to their natural hair, which is invariably very short. Unsurprisingly allthis fun over hair doesn't extend to Ghanaian men ! 11. Motoring in Ghana.
This is something few travellers are likely to experience, unless they hire a car. However, I can also relatemy experience from the standpoint of car ownership. Most of you will only be making a short visit, sousing taxis locally, and using the STC bus for longer trips will probably suffice. However, if your stay islonger, and you wish to explore further afield, other options may be worth considering.
To do some touring, one will probably want the use of a car for a few days. If one is going to do thedriving, an option is a hire car. If not, you will need somebody reliable to take you around. Either way, thiswill prove expensive.
The hire car business is not well developed in Ghana through very low usage, so rates are higher thanEurope. The small print is also worth close attention, particularly on insurance matters, as car insurance isalso much less well developed than at home. Few people insure their cars with comprehensive insurance, asthe annual premium tends to be around 7% of the value of the car. An International Driving Permit isn'tobligatory, but very advisable, and have some photocopies. The reality is that if your skin is white, you willget stopped by policeman exponentially more than if you are black. My Ghanaian friend went monthswithout being stopped, then I come along and it happens 3 times a day. Sometimes they just want a back-hander, sometimes they're just being officious, but that's the way it is.
Hiring someone to do your driving is also expensive, to a degree that is totally out of kilter for what onewould pay a taxi driver for a long trip. In addition to paying for the fuel and chop money andaccommodation (only £3 a night or so) for the driver, you will likely be asked to pay a daily rate for the useof the car which is at least double the entire cost of a return taxi day trip from Takoradi to Accra - nobodyhas ever convinced me of the logic of this, but that's the way it is ! Because of the vulnerable position onewould be in under such an arrangement, it is vitally important that you find out beforehand that your driveris clearly known to be trustworthy.
Driving is getting easier on the main roads now the surfaces are being improved. However, on bad surfacesbeware of potholes - they can really mess up your suspension, cause punctures and bend wheel frames.
This is not helped when one wants to be careful, and big trucks and 4x4s with big wheels, that deal withpotholes easily, hound you with aggressive driving, overtaking in such a way to restrict your slalom course!Night driving is rather stressful, because of poor street lighting. Driving in Accra is pretty horrid. Peopledrive aggressively, and the road signs aren't very good, but worst of all are the tro-tro drivers. Tro-tros arethe cheapest form of public transport, usually mini-buses. The key thing to remember is that they use theinside lane, and keep cutting out - don't use that inside lane. Driving in ST is fairly civilsed, the onlydifficult place really being Takoradi Market Circle.
Buying a second-hand car is expensive, the market value of a decent car being up to 3 times the cost athome. Cars that have been used in Ghana have a reputation for being beaten up wrecks, so what is soughtare cars that have been imported from Europe, paradoxically referred to as 'home use' ! One has to displayan insurance disc as well as a tax disc. There is a rather gentle MOT equivalent required when renewing atax disc, but seeing some of the foul exhaust emissions that one finds themselves following sometimes,there must be ways of getting anything through ! When your car needs repairing, the market in spare partsis almost entirely second-hand, whereas in UK this is basically limited to scrap merchants. Also, labourcharges are very cheap. If one breaks down, helpful people just seem to appear, happy to help you for whatwe would regard as a pittance. However, there is one different way of operating in Ghana that one mayencounter at a garage, which applies not just in the motor trade. If you've arranged some work with theboss man, make sure he's there when the work is done. The problem is that in Ghana there isn't such aposition as foreman, so if the boss is away (they say 'he has travelled'), nobody else will take responsibilityfor the work, to one's great frustration.
12. Tourism options in the Sekondi-Takoradi area.
ST itself has a lot of tourism potential, but as yet it hasn't been developed (the Link is trying to help withthis), but it is still interesting to look around. Takoradi is the modern, commercial city, where you are morelikely to stay as it offers more creature comforts. Market Circle is the centre of town, from which the mainroads fan out. The Beach Road area is the most affluent part and where the best hotels are, effectively aleafy suburb by the sea. One can take a nice walk along the beach from Africa Beach Hotel. Sekondi ismuch more traditional African in nature, with the extra character of an old town. It is also much morevisibly Muslim, and there are several mosques there. It is an interesting place to walk around. Sekondi isthe naval port, and Takoradi the commercial port. The two cities are about 5 miles apart, and the coastaldrive between them is quite picturesque. The Sekondi football stadium, built by the Chinese for the 2008African Cup of Nations, is outside Sekondi, just off the link road to the main road to Accra.
Here is a selection of day trip options from ST :-• Cape Coast and Elmina. These are on the way to/from Accra, just over 1 hour's travelling away. They both have castles which were used for the transportation of slaves, and tours around the castles areunderstandably moving experiences. Cape Coast is a substantial town and the transport hub for thearea, Elmina a very small town.
• Kakum. This is one of only 8 rain-forest canopy walks in the world, a few miles north of Cape Coast. It may look scary, walking along suspended up in the tree-tops, but it is perfectly safe as the chest highsides are impossible to fall through.
• Shama. This is a small seaside town about a dozen miles east of ST. It is very African, and you will see fisherman making nets, and other fishing activities. There is also a fort.
• Dixcove. This is similar to Shama in nature, but also has an interesting fort, which also gives an elevated view of the village. It is less than 20 miles west of Takoradi.
• Busua. This is a nice beach resort within 20 miles west of Takoradi. One can walk for a mile or more along a wide expanse of sandy beach.
• Axim. Another beach resort west of Takoradi, but about twice the distance of Busua, and similar.
• Nzulezo. This is a jewel in the crown to rival Kakum. It is a fishing village on stilts, and in mid- afternoon you see the children returning from school in rowing boats. You go there by an hour longdug-out canoe ride from near the town of Beyin, about 70 miles west of Takoradi on the coast.
13. Learn the Local language
Barry Harding contributes this short guide to Fanté
I asked the hotel and restaurant staff for help in learning some basic Fanté vocabulary. I struggled with thespellings but had great fun with the staff as I tried my pronunciation based on very poor phonetic spelling.
They were very patient with me!! Try it for yourself, just say what you see, bearing in mind that I do have a Yorkshire accent!!!! Whatever else you say, try “Otiden!” when you meet a Ghanaian – they’ll be delighted that you made theeffort! There are several Ghanaian languages, the other most common one in ST being Twi. Speakers of Twi andFanté seem to have no problem understanding each other. There are also people around from the Voltaregion - these are the Ewe, who have their own language, but they all speak Twi / Fanté OK.
You will find that most Ghanaians in towns and cities speak good English, good enough for you to enjoy areal conversation with them. It is often so good that one forgets that they aren't speaking to another Brit,and then speak too quickly. Remember that you are speaking in your first language to somebody who isspeaking remarkably well in their second language, and what's more, your British accent seems verystrange to them, as they usually hear English spoken in a West African accent (which will test yousometimes ! ).
PRE TRAVEL DATA SHEET
Details of any Medical Conditions (see Note 1) Contact persons in an Emergency (see Note 2), who will be available during your stay in Ghana - pleasegive phone numbers for all times if possible.
Please supply a Link contact and a personal contact if possible.
Travel Insurance Company and Policy Number Contact Number(s) for Insurance Company 24/7 (see Note 3) Details of Air Ticket. Give details of travel agent with contact details 24/7, if booked that way. If booked by e-ticket,email details to Link contacts in Plymouth and Ghana.
Address(es) whilst in Ghana, with dates at each address if possible.
Contact telephone number(s) whilst in Ghana. If you buy a sim card in Ghana, text details once you have them.
Travelling Companions, with phone numbers if appropriate.
Brief Timetable in Ghana, including arrival / departure date, details of intended onward travel, andanything else foreseeable as relevant should you need help.
Note 1: Traveller could be fit for travel, but may be, for example, asthmatic, diabetic or hypertensive, and details of
medication being taken for the condition could be of assistance to those giving treatment in a medicallyrelated emergency. Note 2: Folk traditionally use 'Next of Kin' without thought as to whether they will be readily available - not much
help if they are abroad on holiday, or whatever ! It is important that the contact declared is someone whocan be readily available whilst the traveller is in Ghana, and can contact the traveller's immediate family /friends in the event of an emergency or mishap. Note 3: Insurers and Travel Agents are giving out 087 / 084 UK numbers for emergency contact, but these numbers
cannot be called from Ghana.It is important to provide a UK landline number which can be called fromGhana - ask the company concerned to provide you with this, explaining the reason.Ways can usually befound to get around this, this is error-prone and essential time is likely to be lost. Many of these 087/084numbers can be 'translated' by looking them up on www.saynoto0870.com/search.php .

Source: http://www.duds.org.uk/ghanatravelguide.pdf

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