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Travel & living abroad

Sub Saharan Africa

Ghana

Flag of Ghana
Still current at: 03 July 2011
Updated: 21 June 2011


This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the General - Replacing your passport and General - Consular Assistance Statistics sections. The overall level of the advice has not changed; there are no travel restrictions in place in this travel advice for Ghana.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country

Travel Summary

  • While most visits to Ghana are trouble-free, violent crime can occur at any time.  You are advised to exercise a high level of vigilance in public areas, and when travelling by road. See Safety and Security.

  • Localised outbreaks of civil unrest can occur at short notice due to ongoing local Chieftancy and land disputes particularly in the north of Ghana. See Safety and Security - Local Travel.

  • There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • You need to obtain a visa before travelling to Ghana. Overstaying on your visa without proper authority is a serious matter and can lead to detention or you being refused permission to leave the country until a fine is paid.  See Entry Requirements.

  • You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See the General - Insurance.

Safety and security

Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. See Terrorism abroad.

Safety and Security  - Crime

Most visits to Ghana are trouble-free, provided sensible precautions are taken. However, there are incidents of crime (and violent crime - see below), particularly in and around Accra and the other main urban areas.  You should avoid carrying large sums of money or valuables and be very wary when drawing cash from any of the ATM's in central Accra.  Incidents of fraud involving the misuse of credit cards have been reported (credit card use is relatively rare outside the international hotels). You should exercise vigilance, particularly after dark. If possible, you should avoid travelling alone in taxis after dark because of attempted robberies.

Armed robbery does occur in Ghana. Foreign nationals have been held at gun-point in their homes or when driving in Accra, usually at night. Some of these incidents are opportunistic crimes targeted at foreigners, but in other cases the perpetrators were acting on information about the potential availability of money or goods. We have also received reports of foreigners (including British nationals) being targeted by armed robbers 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 clipped or hit by other 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.

All visitors should be discreet when carrying sums of money or items of potential value, and not draw attention to themselves.

Care should also be taken at public beaches around Ghana. Theft is the main problem, but there have been isolated incidents of foreign women receiving unwanted attention and sexual assaults. See Rape and sexual assault abroad page. If you plan to visit a public beach avoid taking any valuables with you and travel in the company of a group of friends or family.
 
Thefts of both luggage and travel documents occur at Kotoka International Airport, Accra and in the hotels across Ghana. You should ensure your documents are kept secure at all times (including when leaving the airport) and that your baggage is never left unattended.
 
You should also be wary of all offers of unsolicited assistance at the airport unless from uniformed porters or officials. All permanent staff at the airport wear a current ID card bearing their name and photograph. ID cards without a photograph are not valid. If you are being collected at the airport you should confirm the identity of your driver, either by requesting ID or being satisfied that the driver is an official from the organisation or hotel looking after you. There has been a growing incidence of impostors approaching British visitors before the main arrivals area, pretending to be their driver. They will have seen the name on a board displayed by the official driver in the arrivals area outside the airport. We have reported incidents of the impostors threatening their victims for money when they have managed to get them into their car.

British nationals resident in the UK and European nationals are increasingly becoming targeted by scam artists operating in West Africa. The scams come in many forms: romance and friendship (see paragraph below on internet dating scams), business ventures, work and employment opportunities, the facilitation of money and can pose great financial risk to victims.  Relatives or friends in the UK should first check with the person who has travelled to West Africa before becoming involved in the transfer of money.  If you are concerned about a British national who has travelled to Ghana you should contact the Consular Section of the British High Commission, Accra (E-mail: high.commission.accra@fco.gov.uk). Schemes in operation by West African criminal networks are designed to facilitate victims parting with money. 

There is an increase in British nationals being targeted by West African scam artists through internet based dating/relationship sites. The scam artists assume the false identity of a foreign national (sometimes British) working and living in Ghana or use a false Ghanaian identity. In some instances the impostor has informed their foreign friend that they have been hospitalised or arrested and need money quickly. In other cases British nationals have come to Ghana to meet the person with whom they have been in contact only to be kidnapped and become the victim of financial extortion. Homosexual relationships are also exploited by these scam artists - we are aware of two cases where gay British men have been lured to Ghana to meet someone they have been in contact with over the internet, only to be abducted and be subjected to extortion.

The Ghanaian Police have limited resources to deal with these scam crimes. There is no official channel for the transfer of funds, and the police cannot easily investigate these crimes and help retrieve any money that has already been sent. If you have sent money to someone you believe has scammed you and are contacted by a police officer for more money to help get your money back, then this is possibly another part of the scam.

You will wish to treat with considerable caution any requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face to face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who lives in West Africa. For further information on advance fee fraud please see: http://www.met.police.uk/fraudalert.

Scam artists have also been known to use the identity of officials at the British High Commission in Accra in their attempts to make certain types of scams (business ventures, facilitation of money offers) look credible. They use an email address similar to the email addresses of officials at the British High Commission. If you receive an email from someone claiming to be an official at the British High Commission, which you suspect may be a scam, please contact the officer using the phone numbers or contact details for the British High Commission at the top of this webpage. The email format for a BHC official is usually firstname.surname@fco.gov.uk .

See our Victims of crime abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel
As a result of ongoing local Chieftancy and land disputes isolated inter-ethnic violence and civil unrest can occur at any time, including in the Northern, Upper East and Volta Regions. Bawku and Gushegu are subject to a curfew from 2200 to 0400 for an indefinite period to reduce the risk of election-related violence. In addition, the situation in the Tamale municipality and Yendi District of the Northern Region of Ghana remains volatile. The burial of the late king (Ya Naa) took place on 10 April 2006, some four years after his murder, and the installation of a Regent took place on 21 April 2006. There have been isolated instances of inter-ethnic violence since the burial. 

If you are considering travelling to the Northern Region, you should remain alert to the potential for new outbreaks of fighting. We recommend you keep in touch with daily developments through the local media including for information on other potential flash points.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Floods
The rainy season in Ghana is from March to November, flooding is common in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions during this period. You should monitor local weather reports and expect difficulties when travelling to affected areas during this season.

On 22 August 2008, four deaths were reported in the Upper East region (West Mamprusi and Builsa districts) due to flooding.

On 12 September 2007 a state of emergency was declared in Ghana due to severe flooding. Roads and bridges were washed away; 18 fatalities were reported; and some 225,000 people displaced.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
A UK driving licence is not valid in Ghana.  However, an International Driver’s permit, issued in the UK, is valid. If driving, you should carry your driving licence at all times.

Roads are mainly in a poor condition, particularly in rural areas.  Road travel can be extremely hazardous due to poor or non-existent street lighting.  We recommend you avoid travelling by road outside the main towns after dark, when the risk of accidents and robbery is greater.

Safety standards on small private buses, known as "Tro-Tros", and taxis are often low and do not meet UK standards.

We advise against the use of "Tro-Tros" outside of the major towns and cities.

Drivers should be aware that grass or leaves strewn in the carriageway often means an accident or other hazard ahead.

See our Driving abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel
The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community.  You should check the following link to see whether this will affect your travel - European Commission Transport - Air.

Charter flight services continue to operate from the UK to Ghana.  When making travel plans you should ensure that the travel company and airline are able to provide the services booked, or offer appropriate alternative arrangements in case of problems.

The service provided by some regional air carriers is reported to be unreliable.  Flights can be overbooked.  Airlines have altered scheduled stops and cancelled or postponed flights at short notice.  You may experience unexpected delays even after checking in.  We recommend that you reconfirm your seats according to your airline’s instructions and have the seat reconfirmation stamped on your ticket.  You should arrive at the airport at least two hours before the scheduled departure times.

It is wise to reconfirm your flights even if you have been told by your Travel Agent/Airline that this is not necessary.

See Airline security

Safety and Security - Sea Travel
There have been attacks against ships in and around Accra's waters.   Mariners are advised to be vigilant and take appropriate precautions.

See our River and sea safety page.

Safety and Security - Swimming
If visiting any of the beaches along the southern coast of Ghana, you should be aware that swimming is dangerous due to rip tides and undertows.

Safety and Security - Political Situation
The parliamentary and presidential elections held in December 2008 passed generally peacefully throughout Ghana. Political rallies and demonstrations may still occur.  You should avoid any large public gatherings (including political rallies and demonstrations) which although mainly peaceful have the potential to turn violent. You should monitor daily developments through the local media. 

Ghana Country Profile

Local laws and customs

Ghana is a conservative and deeply religious country.  Although modern and progressive attitudes also prevail, respect must be shown for traditional values and morals.  Beachwear should be confined to the beach, and wearing immodest clothing in public is likely to cause offence or attract unwanted attention.  The wearing of military apparel such as camouflage clothing by civilians is prohibited.

The Ghanaian Legal system is very much based on the British system.  You must respect the laws of the land; otherwise you can expect to be dealt with in the same way as a Ghanaian citizen would.

Never become involved with drugs of any kind in Ghana. Drugs are a growing problem in Ghana and the authorities are determined to tackle and control the problem. Penalties for drugs related offences (including class C drugs) are severe including a "no bail" restriction on anyone implicated in any drug related offences. Even possession of small amounts of marijuana can lead to a prison sentence in excess of 5 years, usually after a lengthy and expensive legal process. Class A drugs such as cocaine are likely to be laced with other substances - we have had reports of foreign visitors, including British nationals, dying after taking these drugs.

On arrival in Ghana, you should carry a photocopy of your passport with you at all times, and put the original document in safe-keeping.

Homosexuality in Ghana is illegal.  Although there is a small gay community, there is no "scene" and a large portion of Ghanaian society does not accept that such activity exists.
 
Photography near sensitive sites such as military installations or the airport is strictly prohibited.  Such sites may not be clearly marked and the application of restrictions is open to interpretation.  Photographers should ask permission if they want to take a photograph of a building where there are guards on duty outside.  Where there are not, unless there are notices forbidding photography, there should not be a problem, but caution should be exercised.  Permission should also be sought from people if you wish to take their photograph (a small tip or "dash" may be required).  But beware of self-appointed officials trying to charge fees for tourists to take pictures of well-known sites of interest.

Ghanaian family law is very different from UK law and particular caution is needed when, for example, child custody becomes an issue.  See our Your trip page.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements - Visa
British passport holders require a visa to enter Ghana. Overstaying without the proper authority is a serious matter and can lead to detention or refused permission to leave the country until a fine is paid. For further information contact the Ghanaian High Commission in London.

Entry Requirements - Passport validity
Passports should be valid for at least six months when submitted to the Ghanaian authorities for a visa.


Entry Requirements - Yellow Fever vaccination certificate
You may be asked to produce a yellow fever vaccination certificate on arrival in the country.

Entry Requirements - Travelling with children
For information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Ghanaian High Commission in London.

Health

Medical facilities are poor outside urban areas in Ghana. Emergency facilities are extremely limited.  For serious medical treatment, medical evacuation would be necessary.  

Malaria and some water-borne diseases are common in Ghana. The risk of cholera and other water-borne disease outbreaks are high both during the seasonal floods (April-August) in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions, and across Ghana (including in major urban areas) during the dry season (December-March).

As of 18 March we have received reports of 636 cases of cholera, including seventeen deaths, in Accra since January 2011.

You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.  Food purchased from local street vendors may not meet adequate hygiene standards.  If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Ghana you should seek immediate medical attention. For further information on how to avoid cholera see the National Travel Health Network and Centre page for Ghana.

In the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 240,000 adults aged 15 or over in Ghana were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 1.8% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS See our HIV and AIDS page.   

The latter part of 2008 also saw isolated cases of polio.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Ghana and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

See our Travel health page. 

General

General - Insurance
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. See our Travel insurance page.

If things do go wrong when you are overseas see our When Things Go Wrong page.
 

General - Volunteer programme work
If you are coming to Ghana to work in a volunteer programme or for work experience you must be fully aware of the terms and conditions of stay and be sure that you will be working for a reputable organisation before you commit yourself to travel.

On the whole Ghanaians are very welcoming and friendly toward foreign visitors.  You may be besieged with insistent offers of help, friendship guidance etc. or may be left alone to do your own thing.  It is wise to be aware of, and cope with both scenarios.  Be friendly but firm if you are not happy with arrangements or any situation you find yourself in.  


General - Registering with the British High Commission
You should register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.

General - Dual nationality
Ghana recognises dual nationality.  In order for Ghanaian/British Nationals to avoid visas fees, they should register with the Interior Ministry in Ghana and be issued with a Dual Nationality card.  Production of this card at point of entry into Ghana will indicate that a visa and the corresponding fee are not required.  There are strict limitations on UK consular assistance available to dual nationals. 


General - Replacing your passport
Although the British High Commission no longer issues Full Validity Passports, applications can still be made there. Passport applications from Ghana are now processed at the British High Commission in Pretoria. For further information please see click on the following link - http://ukinghana.fco.gov.uk/en/help-for-british-nationals/passports/applying-in-ghana1.  It should be noted that passports cost more overseas than they do in the UK. Emergency Travel Document issuing facilities are available in Accra.

General - Money
In large urban areas such as Accra and Kumasi, ATMs are commonplace and will accept most UK cash cards - but not Switch.  Credit cards are accepted at many hotels, guesthouses and some shops, but credit card fraud is commonplace and you should exercise caution when using them. You should contact your bank if you intend to use you credit cards in Ghana as many banks do not honour any transactions attempted here either in hotels or at ATMs due to the possibility of fraud.  MasterCard is not widely accepted for use in Ghana particularly at ATMs. Travellers' Cheques can be exchanged in large hotels, banks and Forex bureaux. However, Travellers Cheques from some UK banks are not accepted: check with your bank prior to travel. The Government of Ghana has introduced new banknotes (Ghana cedi) and coins (Ghana pesewa). 10,000 cedis = 1 Ghana cedi = 100 Ghana pesewas. The old currency is no longer legal tender as of 31 December 2007. The Government of Ghana has established a website to inform the public about the currency redenomination at:  http://www.ghanacedi.gov.gh/.

General - Consular Assistance Statistics
Around 70,000 tourists from the UK visit Ghana every year (Source: Ghana tourist board). 59 British nationals required consular assistance in Ghana in the period 01 April 2010 – 31 March 2011 for the following types of incident; ten deaths; eight hospitalisations; and  six arrests, mainly for drugs. During this period assistance was also requested with regard to lost or stolen passports (72 cases).

Contacts

Ghana, Accra, British High Commission

Address:

British High Commission
Osu Link
off Gamel Abdul Nasser Avenue
PO Box 296

Telephone:

(00) (233) (302) 213 250
(00) (233) (302) 213 200

Fax:

(00) (233) (30) 2213 274
(00) (233) (30) 2221715 Visa Section

Office hours:

Main Office:
Monday – Thursday: 0730 to 1530
Friday: 0730 to 1300

Consular section opening hours:
Monday to Thursday: 0900 to 1400
Friday: 0900 to 1200

Website: http://ukinghana.fco.gov.uk/en/

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