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Moving to Ghana

Apart from the heat, some of the first things that new expats moving to Ghana will notice are the friendly people and laid-back atmosphere. Whether moving from North America, Europe or even from bustling West African countries, Ghana is known for its relaxed atmosphere. From Accra, the country's coastal capital, to the dusty northern towns of Tamale and Bolgatanga that border the Sahara Desert, Ghana is relatively quiet and peaceful.

Safety in Ghana generally isn't a huge concern as the country generally suffers less from crime, corruption and political instability than its neighbours and other Sub-Saharan African countries. The country is a mild introduction to what makes Africa tick, and expats are eased into what to expect before moving on to more intense experiences in countries such as Angola, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC).

The expat community in Ghana has grown over the years and become quite diverse. Lebanese traders who have been in the country for generations have been joined by Christian missionaries, diplomats, aid workers and, more recently, professionals from the private sector. That said, the entire foreign community only constitutes a small proportion of the total population.

People move to Ghana for many reasons. Some expats in Ghana want to ‘give back’ by making a difference in a safe part of Africa. Many of these volunteers pay their way to Ghana and exist on a small stipend over their two-month to two-year stay. Conversely, an increasing number of expats are flooding into the country to work as a result of the growing hydrocarbon, telecommunications, mining and transportation industries. Highly skilled foreigners will find that salaries far exceed that of their home countries for the same work and that companies view Ghana as a hardship posting, which brings additional financial benefits.

Schooling in Ghana can be a concern, and most expats will need to ensure that an education allowance is provided by their sponsoring company or diplomatic mission. The local school system is modelled after the traditional British system, and corporal punishment is the norm. There are a limited number of excellent private schools in Accra, but enrolment is limited and tuition is expensive.

Getting used to the weather in Ghana can be a challenge. There are year-round temperatures of between 77°F (25°C) and 100°F (38°C) and an average humidity of 85 percent, with the only distinction in season being precipitation, which is heaviest between March and November.

Many new arrivals also need to get used to the state of public transportation in Ghana, which is not nearly as efficient as some may be used to. Otherwise, water and electricity in Ghana are also not reliable and most expats will need to install generators, water pumps and storage tanks for when the mains supply fails. Life without functioning air conditioning in Ghana is uncomfortable.

There are a few modern hotels and beach facilities in Ghana for expats to cool off, though, and a small but growing list of continental restaurants and nightlife venues are popping up in the main cities of Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi.

With many parts of the Sub-Saharan Africa region emerging as markets of the future, Ghana is proving a favourite destination for expats. In particular, the instability in neighbouring countries has propelled Ghana to the forefront as a viable alternative for families seeking an African experience in a stable, safe environment.

Essential Info for Ghana

Population: About 28 million

Capital city: Accra (also largest city)

Neighbouring countries: Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast to the west, Togo to the east and Burkina Faso to the north.  

Geography: Ghana is a geographically diverse country which encompasses plains, low hills, rivers and lakes. Lake Volta is the world's largest artificial lake. Ghana can be divided into four different ecoregions – the coastline, the forested plateau region consisting of the Ashanti uplands and Kwahu Plateau, the high plains in Northern Ghana, and the hilly Akwapim-Togo range on Ghana's eastern border. 

Political system: Presidential republic

Main languages: English (official) as well as a number of local languages, the most widely spoken of which is Asante.

Major religion: Christianity. All other religions are tolerated in Ghana and people are free to exercise the religion of their choice.

Money: The Ghana Cedi (GHS), divided into 100 pesewas. The US Dollar (USD) is widely accepted in the main cities and tourist areas. Many international banks are represented in Ghana. ATMs are commonplace in the cities but are harder to find in more rural locations. Ghana is a predominantly cash-based economy and due to the prevalence of credit card fraud, it is unwise to use cards too liberally. 

Tipping: While it is not protocol, a ten percent tip for good service is appreciated.

Time: GMT 

Electricity: 230 volts, 50 Hz. 'Type G' flat three-pronged and 'Type D' rounded three-pronged plugs are standard.

International dialling code: +233

Internet domain: .gh

Emergency contacts: 191 (police), 192 or 999 (fire) and 193 (ambulance). Emergency services are somewhat limited outside of major cities in Ghana.

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Ghana. While public transport networks do exist in Ghana, they are generally poorly developed. Within cities, taxis are an inexpensive way to get around.

Weather in Ghana

Ghana has a tropical climate that doesn't experience a vivid array of seasons but is characterised by wet summers and dry winters. The southern coastal region experiences two rainy seasons; one from April to July and the other from September to November. In the north, the rainy season generally lasts from April to September. Rains are heavier and last longer in the country’s central regions.

Temperatures are generally high all year round, and humidity is also high, particularly in the coastal regions. The coldest months tend to be between June and September when minimum temperatures can reach 67°F (19 °C).  

The hottest months are between December and March when the dry and dusty harmattan winds blow in from the Sahara in the northeast. The harmattan lowers the humidity and creates hot days and cool nights, with daily temperatures reaching as high as 95°F (35 °C).  

Embassy Contacts for Ghana


Ghanaian embassies abroad

  • Ghanaian Embassy in London, the United Kingdom: +44 20 7201 5900

  • Ghanaian Embassy in Washington DC, the United States: +1 202 686 4520

  • Ghanaian High Commission in Toronto, Canada: +1 416 848 1014

  • Ghanaian Embassy in Sydney, Australia: +61 2 9299 6650

  • Ghanaian High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 5847

  • Consulate of Ghana in Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 230 3484


Foreign embassies in Ghana

  • British High Commission in Accra: +233 302 21 3250

  • American Embassy in Accra: +233 302 74 1000

  • Canadian High Commission in Accra:  +233 302 21 1521

  • Australian High Commission in Accra: +233 302 21 6400

  • South African High Commission in Accra: + 233 302 74 0450

Public Holidays in Ghana

 

2020

2021

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Independence Day

6 March

6 March

Good Friday

10 April

2 April

Easter Monday

13 April

5 April

May Day

1 May

1 May

Eid al-Fitr

24 May

13 May

African Unity Day

25 May

25 May

Republic Day

1 July

1 July

Eid Al-Adha

31 July

20 July

Founder's Day

4 August

4 August

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day

21 September

23 September

Farmer's Day

4 December

3 December

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

Safety in Ghana

New arrivals don't have to be overly concerned with safety and security in Ghana. Violent crime rates are relatively low and petty crime can often be avoided simply by being aware of one's surroundings. 

Ghana is one of the safest countries in Africa, and as long as new arrivals familiarise themselves with relevant issues and take the necessary safety precautions, they should enjoy their time there.


Crime in Ghana

Despite Ghana's reputation of being a generally safe country, the influx of people into the cities with limited chances of gainful employment have increased instances of pickpocketing, residential burglary and vehicle burglary.

The police and judicial system are both ill-equipped and too corrupt to cope with these crimes. Due to their relative visibility and presumed wealth, foreigners will find themselves targeted more often than locals. It is important to be aware of one's surroundings, especially in crowded marketplaces. 

Although Ghana’s history of equal rights may not be on par with that of a developed country, there is no special concern for women’s safety. Modest dress is advisable yet definitely not adhered to, especially in cities, and harassment is not common. Many local women tend to leave the traditional garb at home in favour of jeans and a T-shirt.

Although some foreigners in Ghana live in guarded gated communities, it is perfectly safe to live in stand-alone houses in most areas. Many expats hire either independent guards and/or set up an alarm system in their house. This is mostly for precautionary reasons, as break-ins are quite rare.

Ghanaians are renowned for being friendly and helpful toward foreigners, but it is best to keep overly-friendly strangers at arm's length, as petty crime and scams are increasingly common.


Driving safety in Ghana

One of the most pressing dangers in Ghana is the poor standard of driving. The country has one of the highest road death tolls in the world, and it is no secret that driving in Ghana can be a stressful experience. 

It's fairly common for unlicensed drivers to charge down the road with little regard for safety. Taxi and bus drivers are also quite reckless and ignore many basic road rules.

Many expats in Ghana hire a full-time driver, though this is a matter of personal preference as many others prefer to use their own skills to navigate the roads. One safety issue that foreigners driving in Ghana should consider is that any crowds that form after an accident often involve themselves in the situation, which can complicate matters. In these cases, an expat can be vulnerable if driving alone without knowledge of the local language. A local driver can take charge in these situations, and a swift exit is usually best.

The roads are also not always lit and may be in a state of disrepair in some areas. For this reason, driving at night should be avoided and those driving on main highways should stay alert in case there are any road difficulties. 

Police in Ghana are known to rarely enforce traffic laws. Traffic lights in Ghana are also usually broken, making for harrowing intersections. Expats driving in Ghana should exercise extreme caution and drive defensively at all times. It is often worth buying (or negotiating as part of a contract package) a large SUV that has a high standard of safety.

As child safety seats are not commonly used by locals, it is a good idea for those with young children to bring a children's car seat from overseas.

Working in Ghana

Ghana abounds with natural resources, from gold and bauxite to cocoa and offshore oil reserves. It has a much higher per capita output compared to the poorest countries in West Africa, but Ghana remains dependent on international financial and technical assistance. The domestic economy still revolves around agriculture, which accounts for a huge portion of its GDP and is the primary source of income for more than half of the workforce in Ghana.

Most people moving to Ghana don't do it for work but to volunteer for a relatively short period. However, those with the right skills and expertise will find that the economic climate in Ghana is bright.


Job market in Ghana

While the prospect of farming is unlikely to tempt foreigners to leave their home and work in Ghana, there are countless private sector opportunities in mining, oil, gas and the shipping industries. There is also substantial diplomatic representation in Ghana, given the relative peace and stability in the country, and expat diplomats are likely to find a place in this sector.

Ghana’s growing service sector is another driving force behind its economy. Tourism is booming because, unlike many of its neighbouring West African counties, it has enjoyed political stability for a long time. This has created a high level of safety and a positive perception of the country among tourists. As a result, there are many secure jobs in the hospitality sector.

Expat expertise is also usually sought in project management, financial control and general management positions. However, employers and organisations assume that, through skills transfer, many of these positions will eventually be handed over to locals, so expats should, therefore, prepare themselves to share their know-how with colleagues.

Otherwise, Ghana’s position as a developing country also necessitates a large government funding and NGO sector, and it follows that many expats travel to the country to volunteer or use their skills in a more meaningful way.


Finding a job in Ghana

Work permits are essential for those working in Ghana, and are arranged by and limited to the company that arranges for the expat’s employment. Foreign companies in Ghana are given a work permit quota based on the amount of money invested in the country. For example, companies who’ve invested more than 500,000 USD are entitled to a quota of up to four expat employees. 

Considering this, most expats find work before arriving in Ghana either through companies they've worked for previously or through international job listings. Networking with contacts in Ghana or other expats already working in the country can also lead to opportunities. 

Doing Business in Ghana

Expats moving to Ghana to take advantage of its healthy economy and wealth of natural resources will need to take the necessary steps to understand the inner workings of Ghanaian business culture and business etiquette.

While Ghana is not the most popular destination among expats looking to set up their own business, entrepreneurs are attracted to the country due to its natural resources, industrious and well-educated workforce, as well as the fact that English is the language of the Ghanaian business world.

Ghana was ranked 120th out of 190 countries included in The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2018. It scored relatively well for getting credit (55th) but fell short in areas such as resolving insolvency (158th) and trading across borders (158th). 


Fast facts

Business language

English is the official language used in business environments. Having some knowledge of local languages can be beneficial.

Business hours

Usually Monday to Friday, from 8am to 5pm.

Greetings

Handshakes are the norm in professional settings. Expats should always address people using their titles unless told otherwise.

Dress

Dressing formally is generally appropriate in most corporate environments. Businesswomen often wear suits with skirts or trousers, while businessmen wear suits and ties. 

Gifts

While gifts are not necessary, they are generally welcome. Gifts need not be expensive as the thought is more important than the value of the item. Gifts should be given using either the right hand or both hands.

Gender equality

Women are gradually gaining more equality in the workplace. However, female representation at senior management levels remains fairly low.


Business culture in Ghana

Ghana's business environment is underpinned by impressive economic growth and steady innovation in the business sector. The work environment is a unique blend of formality and traditional Ghanaian culture. As such, respecting hierarchy and maintaining relationships with colleagues is important to succeeding in business in the country.

Hierarchy

Ghanaian business culture is hierarchical and people gain respect as a result of age, experience, wealth and their position within a company. Older people are viewed as being wise and not addressing seniors appropriately is considered disrespectful in Ghanaian business circles. 

Addressing colleagues

Professional and academic titles are valued in Ghana, so if a business contact has credentials, expats are advised to address them accordingly. Expats should wait to be invited to refer to their colleagues using their first names before doing so. While older people generally prefer to be addressed formally, the younger generations speak to one another more casually.

Flexible timekeeping

The concept of timekeeping in Ghana is far more flexible than it is in Western business culture and punctuality isn't overly important. Expats should leave a time buffer between meetings to accommodate for earlier meetings that start late or run over time.

Networking and small talk

Ghanaians appreciate business associates who take the time to inquire after their health and family before beginning formal business proceedings. It's considered rude to rush initial greetings and move straight onto business. ­­­­­­­

Initial business meetings in Ghana are about business associates getting to know one another and working out whether a future business relationship is likely to work on a personal level. Therefore, expats should expect to spend a fair amount of time on relationship and rapport building and they shouldn't be surprised if no actual business matters are discussed in the first meeting.

Communication style

Expats doing business in Ghana may find that the communication style amongst local business people is somewhat indirect. This means that people take care not to touch on topics that could cause tension. Ghanaians generally avoid turning down an invitation from a business associate, and expats are advised to accept all invitations possible.

The concept of maintaining 'face' or honour is important in Ghana. Ghanaian business people hate to lose face. If expats ever find themselves in a situation where a counterpart could lose face or end up being embarrassed, they are likely to find the room filled with silence.

Silence is a common means of communication in Ghana. If someone is uncomfortable with a question or they do not feel colleagues would appreciate their response, they will rather stay silent to avoid creating an uncomfortable situation.


Dos and don’ts of business in Ghana

  • Do address seniors and those with academic or professional titles with the appropriate address. Hierarchy is an important part of Ghanaian business culture.

  • Don’t expect to get down to business at the first meeting. Ghanaian people enjoy getting to know their colleagues on a personal level before beginning any formal business proceedings.

  • Don’t use the left hand when offering gifts to a business associate

  • Do leave a time buffer between meetings. The concept of time is flexible in Ghana and meetings tend to overrun. 

  • Don't embarrass a business contact at a meeting. Ghanaians value the concept of 'maintaining face' and will try to avoid uncomfortable situations. 

Visas for Ghana

Most expats will need to do some research and ensure that they have the correct visa for Ghana before arriving in the country.

Nationals of certain countries may be exempt from needing a tourist visa for Ghana, whereas others will receive one upon arrival. However, when it comes to moving to Ghana, all expats, regardless of nationality, will be required to apply for a work and/or residence permit.


Tourist visas for Ghana

Most people travelling to Ghana will need to get a tourist visa in their home country before arriving in Ghana. However, nationals of most African Union countries can obtain a visa on arrival in Ghana and do not need to apply for a visa in their home country before travelling to Ghana. Citizens of these countries will instead receive an entry visa stamp upon arrival at the airport in Accra or at one of Ghana’s seaports.

Nationals of all ECOWAS states, including Nigeria and Senegal, are exempt from acquiring a visa altogether. Citizens from most other countries must apply for an entry visa at the Ghanaian embassy or high commission in their respective country.

On the application form, foreigners will be required to specify whether they want a single- or multiple-entry visa, which will be valid for a maximum of three months. However, the time of validity is not the actual permitted duration of one’s stay in Ghana. The immigration officials at the point of entry will stamp a passport stating that any single stay in Ghana may be no longer than 60 days.


Work permits for Ghana

Expats are only able to work within certain sectors in Ghana. The government has immigrant quotas in place that limit the number of foreigners who can be employed by companies operating in Ghana. These regulations aim to reduce unemployment in the country and give preference to the local workforce where possible.

For foreigners who are able to secure a job in Ghana, the next step is to apply for both a work permit and a residence permit. Applications for work permits must go through the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), and most employers should be able to assist with this process.

Work permit applications must be done in person at the GIS headquarters in Accra. In most cases, the employer will submit the documents on a foreign worker's behalf before they arrive in the country.

The processing time for work permits in Ghana is four to six weeks, so expats are advised to apply as soon as possible, as it is not possible to start working until the permit has been fully approved.

Work permits are usually granted for the length of the contract or a maximum of two years. After this period, expats will need to apply for a renewal.


Residence permits for Ghana

Those moving to Ghana for work will also need to apply for a residence permit. This requires both the expat and the employer to work together in supplying the GIS with a variety of documents. Even though some of the documents would have already been provided for the work permit application, they will nevertheless need to be resubmitted.


Permanent residency in Ghana

Expats are only eligible to apply for permanent residency in Ghana if they meet the following criteria:

  • They are married to a Ghanaian citizen who has lived in Ghana for five or more years and they wish to stay in Ghana indefinitely

  • They have resided in Ghana for more than 10 years and can prove that they have made a substantial contribution to the Ghanaian economy

Cost of Living in Ghana

The cost of living in Ghana is higher than new arrivals may expect. Ghana's capital city, Accra, ranked as the 63rd most expensive city to live in out of the 209 cities analysed in the 2018 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. 

The cost of accommodation in Ghana is expensive and will take up most of an expat's budget. Household utilities and communication technology are also costly. Transport costs in Ghana are fairly low, however, even for those who choose to drive.

As the standard of public healthcare in Ghana is poor, foreigners moving to Ghana need to invest in a comprehensive international health insurance policy. Luckily, many expats in Ghana have this expense covered by their employer.


Cost of accommodation and utilities in Ghana

Accommodation is expensive in Ghana and rent will account for a large proportion of an expat’s budget. As the country becomes more developed and international companies set up offices in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, the foreign population is growing quite rapidly. The demand for accommodation is high but there is a short supply of quality and secure housing for expats. 

Due to the relatively undeveloped nature of communications technology in Ghana the costs of telephone line rental, monthly internet and mobile phones tariffs are fairly high and free Wi-Fi is only rarely available.


Cost of transportation in Ghana

Most modes of public transport in Ghana, including trains, buses and tro-tros (informal mini-bus taxis), can be erratic and unreliable. For this reason, most expats living in Ghana opt to drive their own vehicle or hire a driver to transport them on a daily basis. However, the cost of purchasing a reliable car is quite high, and petrol prices are steadily increasing although it's still relatively cheap when compared with other countries. 


Cost of entertainment and eating out in Ghana

The cost of entertainment and eating out vary according to an individual expat's tastes and preferences. Dinner for two at a restaurant which serves local cuisine is highly affordable, while international fare is much more expensive. 

However, Ghana is quite expensive when it comes to entertainment such as cinema and theatre tickets. 


Cost of healthcare in Ghana

The cost of public healthcare in Ghana is low, especially since the introduction of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

However, the quality of treatment offered by public hospitals in Ghana does not meet the standard that most expats are accustomed to. Therefore, those moving to Ghana for work should try to negotiate some kind of allowance towards the cost of health insurance into their employment contracts.

Private healthcare in Ghana is often the best option for expats. New arrivals should ensure that the health insurance policy they purchase covers them for repatriation and treatment outside of Ghana.


Cost of education in Ghana

While English is the official language in Ghana, most schools – especially those outside of Accra – teach in local languages. This, as well as the general standard of education at public schools, means that most foreigners living in Ghana opt to send their children to an international school. Although the fees at these schools vary, they tend to be expensive and expats should try to negotiate an allowance for school fees from their employer.


Cost of living in Ghana chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in Accra for August 2018 

Accommodation (average monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

GHS 6,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

GHS 2,100

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

GHS 17,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

GHS 6,100

Food and drink

Milk (1 litre)

GHS 11

Dozen eggs

GHS 13

White bread 

GHS 5

Chicken breasts (1kg)

GHS 30

Packet of cigarettes (Marlboro)

GHS 8

Public transportation

City centre bus/train fare

GHS 3.50

Taxi rate per km

GHS 6

Petrol/gasoline per litre

GHS 5

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

GHS 30

Coca-Cola (500 ml)   

GHS 6

Cappuccino

GHS 11

Bottle of beer

GHS 6

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

GHS 100

Utilities

Internet (uncapped ADSL per month)

GHS 250

Mobile call rate (mobile to mobile per minute)

GHS 0.30

Electricity (average per month for a standard household)

GHS 400

Hourly rate for domestic help

GHS 15

Culture Shock in Ghana

Most new arrivals in Ghana will be pleasantly surprised by the smiling, helpful locals – once they get through the chaos of the airport, of course. But the degree of culture shock in Ghana may be a lot more intense for those who have never been to Africa.

Many foreigners find the stark differences overwhelming and respond by isolating themselves in small enclaves of expat 'safety'. Though these insular spheres can be comfortable, it often means missing out on all that Ghanaian culture has to offer.

Ghana’s capital, Accra, is developing into a modern city with shopping malls, movie theatres that play the latest Hollywood movies, and restaurants catering to various tastes and budgets. The smaller cities and villages, on the other hand, are much more traditional and culture shock may be much worse for expats living in rural areas.


Appropriate dress

There's no specific appropriate mode of dress in Accra and expats will see ornate traditional Ghanaian outfits alongside casual jeans and T-shirts. Women are encouraged not to wear shorts or short skirts, although this is less of a consideration if living in one of Ghana's urban centres.

In the workplace, the dress code can be quite formal. Westerners melting in the heat will be surprised to see their Ghanaian colleagues dressed up in full suit and tie for work and corporate events, cocktails and receptions.


Meeting and greeting

Ghanaians are generally open and friendly and it is common for locals to strike up a conversation with foreigners who have recently arrived in the country. They are incredibly hospitable and expats should take the opportunity to visit acquaintances and colleagues in their homes whenever possible.

Women may find that Ghanaian men exclaim their love in a first meeting. All of this can be taken lightly and every new arrival must get used to this friendly banter. Any unwanted advances can be deflected through witty conversation and a firm goodbye.


Traditional food and cuisine

Ghanaians love local traditional food. The cuisine is very different from what most expats will be used to, especially if they have not been to Africa before, and some dishes are definitely an acquired taste. Each meal consists of a main starch alongside a, usually spicy, meat, stew or soup accompaniment.

The national dish is fufu, which is a pounded ball of starches placed in a large bowl of soup. Utensils are not typically used and sharing one bowl between friends and family is common. 

Ghanaians love meat, and are not shy about eating every part of the animal, including eyes, bones and skin/hide. 

Overall, there are many tasty and interesting dishes to try, and adventurous new arrivals might enjoy many of the meals that they sample. 


Language barrier

Although there are more than 30 local languages, English is the official language in Ghana. English is widely spoken in the cities, but in some rural areas people may only speak their tribal language. Twi is the most widely spoken local language, and many phrases are quite easy to learn. Expats who learn some Twi will find that the appreciative responses by the locals will make it well worth the effort.


Shopping and bargaining

Bargaining is a cultural institution in Ghana and the social meaning of bargaining is as important as the financial benefits. Expats must master the art of bargaining and engage in the associated banter, particularly when shopping in local markets or hailing a taxi.

The seller announces a price, with the buyer then responding with a remark about how expensive that is and offers a counter (usually less than half the amount). Bargaining then ensues until a price somewhere between the two is agreed. 


Cultural etiquette

Foreigners must familiarise themselves with the cultural etiquette in Ghana, including these important points: 

  • Extending an invitation to someone in Ghana suggests that the host is paying

  • When greeting a group of people, shake hands from right to left

  • It's customary to offer all visitors to one’s home a glass of water as a common courtesy

  • Punctuality is not a strict concept, so a meeting set for 9am might only happen at 11am. This is an aspect of life in Ghana that takes a while to get used to.

Overall, Ghana has a vibrant culture which enriches those who discover it. Once expats grow accustomed to the slower pace of life and nuances of local culture they are sure to have a wonderful experience in Ghana.

Accommodation in Ghana

Finding suitable accommodation in Ghana is often a new arrival’s first priority and will play a significant role in ensuring that they settle into their new life successfully. For expats employed by a national embassy, a large multinational corporation or an international development agency, accommodation is often provided by the employer as part of their employment package.

However, the expat community in Ghana is steadily growing and becoming more diverse, and the country is now welcoming more and more independent workers, entrepreneurs, university researchers and volunteers. These foreigners are often faced with the daunting task of finding safe, affordable housing for themselves in an unfamiliar country where suitable accommodation is in short supply.


Types of accommodation in Ghana

While it is not always easy to find an abundance of property, those moving to Ghana will find that there are a variety of housing options available to them, from large family homes with gardens to luxury apartments in modern complexes.

Many foreigners moving to Ghana only work on short-term contracts, so fully furnished accommodation tends to be the most suitable option. Fortunately, many apartments come furnished in Ghana, but houses may be unfurnished in some instances. Furniture can be sourced easily and cheaply through local suppliers. As most expats do not remain in Ghana for more than a few years, it may be pointless to have goods shipped into the country from home.

The biggest problem is lack of housing stock, especially in popular expat areas. Those who a suitable property will need to act fast to secure it. 


Finding accommodation in Ghana

There are a number of ways to find rental properties in Ghana. Some expats can simply take over their predecessor’s accommodation or have their employer assist them in finding a home.

Those searching for homes on their own should consider using the services of a real estate agent – these professionals will have a better understanding of the property market in Ghana and can help foreigners find properties that may not be listed publically. Relocation companies can also aid in searching for accommodation while offering additional assistance with other aspects of the move such as obtaining a visa and shipping goods.

Otherwise, new arrivals can also find homes through property listings in local newspapers as well as through online property portals. However, expats should be aware that Ghanaian online services are not utilised to their full capacity as internet penetration in Ghana is not as high as it is in Western countries. 


Renting accommodation in Ghana

As high-quality housing is in short supply, rent tends to be expensive and it can be difficult to find a house to rent in Ghana. In addition to the cost of rent, expats also need to consider the cost of hiring security staff and gardeners, as well taking responsibility for the maintenance of generators and water tanks.

Most of these things will be taken care of by the building management for those living in secure apartment complexes. Thus, most new arrivals opt to live in affordable apartment complexes instead of renting a standalone house. Expats living in Ghana’s major cities, such as Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, should expect to pay more than those living in rural areas. 

Although local legislature forbids this, many Ghanaian landlords expect rent to be paid for the whole year in advance in order to secure a lease. Many Ghanaian landlords might also not expect a security deposit, although some may require an amount equal to half a month's rent to serve as a deposit. Despite the trend requiring upfront annual rent payments, many furnished apartments and short-term leases, especially those aimed at foreigners, require monthly payments.

Healthcare in Ghana

The healthcare infrastructure in Ghana is fairly limited. While the Ghanaian government is making progress in improving healthcare, public hospitals remain overcrowded and severely underfunded. Emergency medical services in Ghana are almost non-existent.

Expats living in Ghana almost always use private facilities, which offer a considerably higher standard of treatment and modern medical facilities.

It is best for expats to negotiate private health insurance coverage into their employment package or purchase a comprehensive health insurance policy before moving to Ghana.


Public healthcare in Ghana

Public hospitals in Ghana are generally funded by the government. Religious groups also play a fundamental role in providing the Ghanaian population with medical assistance. Many new arrivals find that the quality of public hospitals and clinics in Ghanaian cities is inadequate when compared to medical facilities in Western countries.

In 2003, the Ghanaian government introduced the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which dramatically improved the health situation in the country and eliminated the need for Ghanaian citizens to pay for their treatment up front. The new system also increased the accessibility of healthcare for Ghana’s poorest citizens.

While expats can access the services of the NHIS for a nominal fee, most prefer to be treated at a private facility and invest in a private health insurance policy.

The standard and availability of public healthcare in Ghana varies. In the major urban centres, such as Accra, there are numerous hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. However, most rural areas are isolated and without modern healthcare facilities. In these areas, locals usually choose traditional African treatments over travelling long distances to access healthcare.


Private healthcare in Ghana

Most expats living in Ghana use private healthcare facilities. Private hospitals in Ghana generally provide a better standard of treatment and contain more modern equipment than public hospitals.

The standard of facilities at private hospitals in Ghana varies, but those in areas with big expat communities are well-equipped and comfortable.

The waiting times are very short at private clinics in Ghana and expats will find that doctors and medical staff speak English fluently.


Pharmacies and medicine in Ghana

Pharmacies can easily be found in any major town or city in Ghana and, although rare, some 24-hour pharmacies do operate in the country. However, only certain pharmacies in Ghana are licensed to dispense prescription drugs.

Expats are advised to check that any medication they are purchasing has been approved by the Ghanaian Pharmacy Council.

There are serious concerns about some pharmacies in Ghana selling fake drugs and low-quality medication. The safest option is to purchase medicine from a pharmacy attached to a reputable medical facility.

Expats suffering from chronic ailments or needing prescription medication should try to bring a supply of the medication with them to Ghana, as well as copies of the prescription and generic names of the drugs.


Health insurance in Ghana

Expats moving to Ghana should ensure that they have taken out private health insurance coverage before starting life in the country. Some expats will have health insurance provided by their employer as part of their employment package.

There are a number of private health insurance companies that operate in Ghana, including First Fidelity Health, Med-X Health Systems and Momentum Africa.  Expats may consider coverage by international health insurance providers, such as Axa PPP, Allianz, Cigna and Bupa.

Private insurance protects expats from a wide range of health issues and covers treatment in private medical facilities in Ghana.

Expats should also consider policies which cover them for medical evacuation and repatriation, which will provide adequate cover should they need to be transported to another country or back home for treatment.  


Health hazards in Ghana

Malaria is a serious health concern in Ghana. It is essential that expats living in Ghana are on a course of anti-malarial medication. As malaria is transferred via mosquito bites, expats should take necessary precautions such as using mosquito repellents and sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Expats experiencing any of the symptoms of malaria, including fever, joint pain, fatigue, nausea and diarrhoea, must seek treatment at a reputable clinic.

Ghana is among the countries with the highest rate of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world and large numbers of people die as a result of the disease each year. However, expats who take appropriate precautions against the disease, such as always using condoms and not sharing syringes, need not be concerned.

Expats should also be aware that food and water can trigger illnesses in Ghana. Expats should avoid drinking tap water and having ice cubes in their drinks. Instead, they should buy bottled water or boil tap water before drinking it.


Pre-travel restrictions and vaccinations for Ghana

The only compulsory vaccination required for those travelling to Ghana is for yellow fever. Expats from certain countries may need to provide a certificate when applying for their visa.

Expats moving to Ghana should ensure they are on a course of anti-malarial medication.

Expats should also ensure that the following routine vaccinations are up-to-date before travelling to Ghana:

  • Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)

  • Tetanus 

  • Diphtheria

  • Hepatitis A and B

  • Typhoid

  • Rabies (for those who plan on visiting rural areas or spending time around animals)


Emergency medical services in Ghana

The standard of emergency medical services in Ghana is poor in most places, and outside the major cities, they are almost non-existent. In the event of an emergency, expats can call an ambulance on 193, the medical emergency number.

However, most hospitals in Ghana, even the private healthcare facilities, only have a small number of ambulances available and waiting times for ambulances in Ghana can be very long, so it may be faster for patients to make their own way to a hospital by car or metered taxi.

Alternatively, many expats rely on private companies that provide emergency services such as medical evacuation as well as private ambulance and clinics. 

Education and Schools in Ghana

When it comes to education in Ghana, most expats find the national curriculum to be limited, teaching methods to be outdated and the standard of facilities to be lower than what they would be used to back at home. For these reasons, expats tend to bypass public schooling options in Ghana and send their children to an international school.


Public schools in Ghana

Although English is the official language in Ghana, the language of instruction at the primary level of public schools in many regions is the local vernacular. In Accra, however, most schools teach in English with only elective courses in local languages. Generally, the teaching focus in Ghanaian public schools is on learning by memorisation and repetition. Although this can be effective for younger children, most expats will find the lack of focus on individual thinking and problem solving somewhat limiting.

Students begin their six-year primary education at the age of six. After primary school, students pass into a junior secondary school system for three years of academic training combined with technical and vocational training. Senior secondary school follows for three more years.


International schools in Ghana

Due to the large expat community in Accra, private international schools that are modelled on the education systems in other countries have emerged. Most of these schools teach the American, British or International Baccalaureate curricula, but there are also French and German schools.

There's only a handful of international schools outside of Accra, so expat parents in other regions often choose to homeschool their children.

Most international schools are expensive. Expats should take care to negotiate tuition allowances in their contract or to negotiate their salary accordingly.

International schools in Ghana

Most international schools in Ghana are in the capital, Accra. The major advantage of these schools is that they follow various foreign curricula that allow many expat students to continue studying from the curricula of their home country. The standard of teaching at international schools tends to be high and facilities are in line with those in Europe or North America.

Here is a list of some of the international schools available in Ghana.


International schools in Ghana

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American International School (AIS)

www.aisaccra.org

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: American

Ages: 3 to 18

 

British International School (BIS)

www.bisghana.com.gh

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: British

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Ghana International School (GIS)

www.gis.edu.gh

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: British

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Liberty American School

www.libertyas.org

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: American, Christian

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Lincoln Community School (LCS)

www.lincoln.edu.gh

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate

Ages: 3 to 18

 

Tema International College

www.tis.edu.gh

Gender: Co-educational

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

Ages: 12 to 19

Transport and Driving in Ghana

Getting around Ghana is always 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

Trains in Ghana are operated by the Ghana Railway Network 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 transportation as they can be subject to severe delays.

Buses 

There are a number of 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.

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 very 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 on a 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.

On some routes, a relatively new tro tro service called the City Express can be found. These tro tros are more comfortable and have air conditioning.    

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, but 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 also other private taxis where passengers can negotiate a price with the driver.

There are also the distinctive line taxis with their bright yellow mudguards. 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.

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 Taxify can also be used in Ghana. Many expats prefer using these apps as it gives them more control over routes and service prices.


Driving in Ghana

Expats moving to Ghana can drive on an international driving licence for up to a year. 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 four passport photos.  

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 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 very vigilant when driving close to a 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.


Domestic flights 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.

Antrak is a reliable domestic airline and flight prices fluctuate on a daily basis. Domestic flights are rarely full and it is possible to buy tickets at the airport. However, booking online in advance does save money.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Ghana

Expats moving to Ghana will find that financial matters in this West African destination aren't overly complicated, as one might initially expect. Banking in Ghana is actually very easy once new arrivals have opened an account in Ghana, and tax laws are straightforward.


Money in Ghana

The Ghanaian currency is the Cedi (GHS) and is divided into 100 pesewas (Gp).

The US Dollar (USD) is widely accepted in restaurants and stores, especially in cities, but smaller notes and traveller's cheques are not always accepted.

  • Notes: 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 GHS

  • Coins:  1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 Gp and 1 GHS

Currency exchange agencies are widely available and usually offer a competitive exchange rate, but will either give a lower rate on small denominations or not accept them at all. Most Forex Bureaux do not require identification, but exchange desks at hotels usually require expats to present their passport. The rates are usually much better at the currency exchange agencies.

It's fairly easy to bring money into Ghana, but strict maximums exist for taking money out of the country. Expats should be careful not to accumulate too many cedis, as they may have problems taking the money out of Ghana.

Credit cards and ATMs

ATMs are commonplace in Ghanaian cities, and most international VISA cards are accepted at these machines. MasterCard and American Express are far less common, so expats planning to withdraw from an international account should make an effort to get a Visa card.  

Ghana is a predominantly cash-based society, and the prevalence of credit card fraud makes it unwise to use cards too liberally. Credit card and ATM facilities are also quite rare in rural areas of Ghana.


Banking in Ghana

All banks in Ghana do business in English, as this is the official language of the country. Most banks offer current and savings accounts, letters of credit and loans to citizens and expats alike, but interest rates on loans can be high.

To open a bank account in Ghana, most establishments require that expats show their passport as identification, a letter of introduction from a bank in their home country, a personal reference from current account holders of the bank and a reference from an employer in Ghana.

For those earning a foreign currency for their work in Ghana, it is best to set up an offshore account with a major bank. The bank will have a financial adviser that can assist expats with this process. The offshore account will be linked to a proper Visa debit card, which can be used internationally at any Visa point of sale, or online with services such as Paypal. It is not a good idea to have foreign currency paid into a local bank account in Ghana, as it will be difficult to take money out when leaving the country.
 
Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered and Stanbic are all international banks that are represented in Ghana and are recommended for expats.


Taxes in Ghana

Foreigners living in Ghana for 183 days or more during a 12-month period are considered tax residents of the country and must pay taxes based on their worldwide income.

Taxes in Ghana are charged on a graduated scale, while non-tax residents are charged a flat rate on their income derived from within the country. Most companies in Ghana cover the applicable taxes for their expat employees and pay either an offshore salary or a combination of an offshore and local salary.

Expats should consult a financial adviser to ensure that they have a full understanding of taxes in Ghana.

Expat Experiences in Ghana

When considering a move to a new country, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Ghana and would like to share your story.

Chris is an Australian expat who moved to Ghana when her husband got a new job opportunity in the Ghanaian capital of Accra. Her interview with Expat Arrivals provides some great insights into the practicalities of living in this West African country. 

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Born in Ghana, David left the country in his late teens to move to the UK. He has since returned to Ghana after many years with a fresh perspective on his home country. Read about his expat experience in Accra.

Carsten spent a year working in Ghana under the auspices of the German Red Cross. He lived in a small village, and taught in rural Ghana. He gained a rewarding and intimate view of life as real Ghanaians live it, and has thus a refreshingly different perspective to the more familiar expat experience of life in Ghana.


 

Nansie, an expat who identifies as American and who lives in Ghana, has spent most of her life on West African soil. She sees the ever-increasing cost of living in Accra as a force to be reckoned with, but otherwise, life in the Ghanaian capital seems simple and enjoyable. Read about her expat experience in Accra.

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Trish, a Canadian expat living in Ghana, has watched Accra grow-up, mature and expand. The capital's evolution from small town to big city hasn't left it devoid of charm, however. Even after a decade Trish still stands by the creative spirit and friendly attitude found in Accra. Read more about her expat experience in Ghana.

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