Getting around Ghana is quite an adventure for new arrivals. The public transport infrastructure in Ghana is relatively underdeveloped but ongoing work is gradually improving and expanding the country’s railway network.
Driving in Ghana can be just as challenging. The quality of the road network is not on par with the standards that those from Europe or North America would be accustomed to, so expats that do choose to drive in Ghana need to do so with caution.
Public transport in Ghana
Public transport in Ghana isn't very well developed and most people in Ghana opt to travel by bus rather than train. Although buses are more comfortable, both modes of transport can be unreliable and delays are common. Patience and a sense of humour are essential when travelling around Ghana.
Trains in Ghana are operated by the Ghana Railway Corporation and link Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, as well as some smaller towns and villages. Trains in Ghana are slow and are not much cheaper than motorised transport.
A passenger service runs between Accra and Kumasi each day, a journey that takes around 12 hours.
Travelling by trains in Ghana is not particularly comfortable and they are not the most reliable form of transport as they can be subject to severe delays.
There are several bus companies in Ghana but the most comprehensive bus services are provided by the State Transport Corporation (STC). STC has standard and luxury buses that operate over long distances between Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, Tamale and the Cape Coast.
VIP and Metro Mass are other bus companies that run along major routes and have flexible schedules. Metro Mass also operates along additional routes and travels slower as they may pick up passengers anywhere along their route if they have seats available.
Expats should opt to travel on express or air-conditioned buses as these are faster and a lot more comfortable than ordinary services. While buses in Ghana are quite reliable, delayed departures are common.
Travelling by bus in Ghana is relatively safe and quick, especially when compared to other modes of transport.
It is best to purchase tickets in advance as seats on the more popular routes fill up quickly. Passengers are also charged for their luggage based upon its weight but this rarely comes to more than 30 percent of the price of a ticket.
The fares for bus travel in Ghana are reasonable but vary depending on the route and the bus operator.
Tro tros in Ghana
Tro tro is the name given to a shared taxi in Ghana. These minibuses run along fixed routes and charge a flat fare for any stop on a given route.
Travelling by tro tro is certainly an experience. Passengers are squashed into the vehicle along with large pieces of luggage and even items of livestock. Tro tros do not run on any fixed schedule and rarely start moving until the vehicle is full.
Travelling by tro tro in Ghana is the cheapest mode of transport. Despite the cost benefits, tro tros have a questionable safety record and frequently break down. Tro tro drivers often work long hours and this can result in risky driving behaviour.
While travelling by tro tro in Ghana is an excellent cultural experience and a great way to interact with the locals, they aren’t recommended for long journeys.
Taxis in Ghana
Taxis are readily available in all cities. There are different types of taxis in Ghana and new arrivals in the country will benefit from familiarising themselves with what is available. Firstly, there are metered taxis that have fixed prices per kilometre. There are private taxis where passengers can negotiate a price with the driver.
There are also the distinctive line taxis with their bright yellow/orange mudguards and corners. These taxis run shared and hired services. On shared services, they pick up and drop off passengers along a particular route. On a hired service, a passenger can negotiate a fixed price with the driver to take them directly to their destination.
If using any form of private taxi in Ghana, be sure to settle on a price before embarking on the journey.
Expats can flag a taxi from the street, which is known as "dropping" taxis. Although dropping taxis do also wait at various locations to pick up passengers, this may be more expensive than catching a taxi that is driving by.
Alternatively, some rideshare and taxi apps have begun operating in major urban centres such as Accra. Local apps include Yenko, Uru Passenger and Enshika, while international apps such as Uber and Bolt can also be used in Ghana. Many people prefer using these apps as it gives them more control over routes and service prices.
There are also options for sharing taxis. Both fuel- and cost-efficient, some normal taxi vehicles can be shared by up to four or five passengers who then split the fare. For new arrivals concerned about the cost of living in Ghana, this is a good way to stick to a budget.
Driving in Ghana
New arrivals to Ghana should obtain an International Driving Permit which translates any foreign licenses into English and is normally valid for one year. These can often be applied for from one's home country.
For those who plan on being in Ghana for over a year, the process of obtaining a Ghanaian driving licence is fairly straightforward and simply requires presenting a valid international driving licence along with passport photos. Driving licences or international driving permits must always be carried when driving.
The standard of roads in Ghana is variable. Expats will find that the quality of roads on the major routes between big cities such as Accra, Kumasi and Sekondi are fairly good. However, away from the urban centres, the roads become dirt tracks and driving conditions can be dangerous. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is required for those who plan on driving into rural areas and in the north of the country.
New arrivals in Ghana should always drive defensively, especially on highways. Be vigilant when driving close to tro tros as they have a habit of driving erratically with little regard for other road users.
Those driving at night need to be extra cautious because of poor visibility due to lack of adequate street lighting and badly potholed roads.
Carpooling is another common option and colleagues who live nearby each other often ride together, sharing a car or a taxi. This environmentally-friendly option saves people from always needing to drive and face the traffic, and can be a great way to get to know one's co-workers.
Hiring a chauffeur in Ghana
Due to unfamiliar roads and traffic culture in Ghana, many new arrivals prefer to rent a car with a driver. This may be organised by the company the expat works for, but they can privately organise car rental too. The prices vary across rental companies although can be compared to those in Europe.
Cycling in Ghana
Cycling is a common means of travel in Ghana amongst the general population, especially in the north of the country. Car travel has created much pollution, is expensive and congestion makes it time-consuming and frustrating. These are some of the reasons why cycling is preferable. However, expats in the south, especially in Accra, may find cycling dangerous provided chaotic traffic, no bicycle paths and poorly maintained roads in some areas.
Riding a bike may not be a preferred choice of transport for a daily commute, although it is perfectly feasible for exercise, leisure, a personal hobby, or travelling and experiencing Ghana from a different perspective.
Walking in Ghana
Many people walk in Ghana, although, for expats in large cities, this may be more out of leisure and to get a feel of the environment. When walking, there are several things that new arrivals should be aware of. Not only do some areas not have well-maintained pavements but also traffic can be unruly and so it's advised to walk facing oncoming traffic.
Another factor to consider is the heat – walkers may get fatigued or sunburnt easily and so should always have a bottle of water handy.
While muggings are uncommon, one should always be vigilant and take normal precautions they would in other areas of the world, such as not walking alone at nighttime.
Air travel in Ghana
Flying is the fastest way to travel between the major cities in Ghana. There are scheduled domestic flights two to three times a day between Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi and Tamale.
Africa World Airlines is a reliable domestic airline and flight prices fluctuate daily. Domestic flights are rarely full and it is possible to buy tickets at the airport. However, booking online in advance does save money.
To travel abroad, many international airlines fly into Accra, including British Airways, Emirates and KLM. Therefore, travel between one's home country and Ghana is unlikely to be problematic for new arrivals.