Ghana

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Introduction to Ghana

If an award were given for the country with the friendliest people in West Africa, Ghana would be a strong contender. Spend a few hours in the breezy capital at Accra, and you'll swear the wind and waves off the Gulf of Guinea have infused the land and people alike with equatorial warmth.

Even Ghanaians might admit that Accra's not the most beautiful place, but it's theirs. For a country that's borne the brutality of colonisation - from the stripping of its mineral wealth to the enslaving of its people - Ghana retains a remarkable sense of self.

Its craftspeople have a long, rich cultural history to draw from, and their work is thick with that tradition - be it the colourful kente cloth of the Ashanti or any of the stools, icons, beads or baskets you'll find in the major markets. Even the leftover forts and castles, recalling five centuries of European influence, today seem less like Ghana's ghosts than players in her narrative.

Caution

Travellers to Ghana's north should check the latest developments first and remain sensitive to potential flare-ups. The border with Togo is at the time of writing an uncertain area where travellers should excercise caution.

Full country name: Republic of Ghana

Area: 238,540 sq km

Population: 19.7 million

Capital City: Accra

People: Akan (44%), Mole-Dagbane (16%), Ew (13%), Ga (8%), Guan, Gurma, Gonja, Dagomba

Language: English, Ewe, Ga, Twi

Religion: Christian (60%), Muslim (15%), traditional African religions (25%)

Government: parliamentary democracy

GDP: US$22.6 billion

GDP per capita: US$1,310

Major Industries: Mining, lumber, cocoa, light manufacturing

Major Trading Partners: US, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea

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Traveler Facts

Visas: All visitors are required to have a visa, except for citizens of countries belonging to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Health risks: cholera (Due to heavy flooding in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern regions, there was an outbreak of cholera with 1500 cases reported in late 1999), malaria, yellow fever, schistosomiasis (bilharzia)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +0

Dialling Code: 233

Electricity: 220V/240V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

The 42 day cycle of the Ashanti religious calendar culminates in Kumasi - the 'City of the Golden Stool' - with Akwasidee, a public ceremony at the palace involving the main chiefs and priests. The Aboakyer, or Deer Hunt Festival, is held in May in Winnebah. Elmina's Bakatue Festival, celebrating the beginning of the fishing season, is held the first Tuesday of July, with local chiefs parading through town in full regalia, followed by singers, dancers and stilt walkers. On the first Saturday in September, a raucous carnival called the Fetu Festival takes place in Cape Coast, featuring an all-day parade of local chiefs. The Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival (Panafest) - a spectacle-heavy cross-cultural dramafest - is held across Ghana in December of even-numbered years. National holidays include Independence Day on 6 March, Republic Day on 1 July and Revolution Day on 31 December.

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Best time to Visit

There really is no 'best' time to visit Ghana, as the temperature is always Africa-hot and if rainfall doesn't soak you, then the humid air will. If you prefer your soaking tropical in nature, stick close to the beaches. Whatever the season, the weather gets more arid the farther inland you go. Village-specific festivals and events occur throughout the year.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Cedi

Meals

Budget: US$1-3

Mid-range: US$3-10

High: US$10-20

Deluxe: US$20+

Lodging

Budget: US$4-12

Mid-range: US$12-15

High: US$15-20

Deluxe: US$20+

Ghana is among Africa's costlier destinations, though travel here is still very cheap by western standards. Travellers intent on stretching their cedis to the limit can easily get by on less than US$10 per day, staying in decrepit hotels and eating all meals from street vendors. A moderate hike in standards might bring the total to US$20 per day, including comfortable bedding, running water and regular restaurant meals. Luxury items like air conditioning and fine French cuisine are available only in the big cities, and you should plan on spending at least US$50 per day for the experience.

The best currencies to bring to Ghana are US dollars, euros and British pounds; other currencies - even Canadian dollars and Japanese yen - exchange at extremely unfavorable rates. There are foreign exchange bureaus (Forex) in all the major towns and cities, but many outside Accra won't accept traveller's cheques. Forex bureaus tend to give better rates for large-denomination bills than banks do, but otherwise bank rates are slightly better. A few banks give cash withdrawals against Visa and MasterCard, minus a commission and a fee for the approval telex. In theory, all branches of Barclays Bank (but most reliably in Accra and Kumasi) give cash advances against Visa and MasterCard, but charge a hefty commission for their trouble.

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Attractions

Accra

Ghana's seaside capital is a savoury blend of big-city bustle and African ease. At once sprawling and accessible, rambunctious yet friendly, it's a city run by native Ghanaians, and their pride in their product shows. Best of all you won't trip over Westerners at every third step.

Makola Market, at the heart of central Accra, brims with bead and batik sellers. To the west of the city Kaneshie Market is the place to go for mouthwatering foods and spices. James Town, on a short peninsula south-west of the centre, is a handsome if dilapidated neighbourhood also worth a look.

Atlantic Coast

Travellers rave about the coastal area west of Accra, which boasts old slave-trading forts and fishing villages, a new nature reserve and low prices. Here, along a 250km (155mi) stretch of sand, you can visit 15 forts and castles and actually sleep in several, quite cheaply.

Some 60km (37mi) west of Accra, the village of Senya Beraku boasts some great beaches and friendly folk. Its big attractions are Fort Good Hope (1706), where you can shack up cheaply for the night, and the surfing beaches at nearby Fete.

Kumasi

The ancient capital of the Ashanti kingdom, Kumasi is still the heart of Ashanti country and the site of West Africa's largest cultural centre, the palace of the Ashanti king. To add to the appeal, it's surrounded by rolling green hills and has a vast central market as vibrant as any in Africa.

Manhyia Palace is the seat of the highest Ashanti ruler. Local kings have never lived in luxury, and visitors are surprised by how sparse and unpretentious the palace is. The current king lives directly behind the old palace, and if you bring a gift and enquire politely, you may be able to meet him.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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