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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 culture. Whether moving from North America, Europe or even from nearby West African countries, newcomers seem to enjoy Ghana's relaxed atmosphere. From Accra, the country's coastal capital, to its dusty northern towns bordering the Sahara Desert, Ghana is relatively quiet and peaceful.

Safety in Ghana 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. However, healthcare in Ghana is of variable quality and private health insurance is a must.

The expat community in Ghana has grown over the years and is 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 in 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 volunteering and making a difference in 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 transport industries and attractive jobs in the service sector. Highly skilled foreigners will find that salaries often exceed those in their home countries for the same work and that companies often 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 was only recently banned. However, there are some excellent private international schools in Accra and other large cities 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. The only distinction in seasons is precipitation with heavy rainfall during summer.

The state of public transport in Ghana also takes some getting used to, and it's highly unlikely to be as efficient as some expats may be used to. Otherwise, water and electricity in Ghana are not reliable and most expats living in standalone houses might need to install generators, water pumps and storage tanks for when the mains supply fails. Life without functioning air conditioning in Ghana is difficult. However, accommodation in Ghana is varied and can be quite comfortable.

There are a few modern hotels and beach facilities in Ghana for expats to enjoy, and a small but growing list of continental restaurants and nightlife venues 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.

With a little patience and time to get to know the local culture and customs, expats should settle into Ghanaian life quite well.


Fast facts

Population: About 31 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 as well as its Southern regions along the coast. 

Geography: Ghana is a geographically diverse country which encompasses plains, low hills, rivers and lakes. Lake Volta is the world's largest artificial reservoir. 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: Unitary presidential constitutional republic

Main languages: English (official) as well as many local languages, the most widely spoken of which is Akan.

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 10 percent tip for good service is appreciated.

Time: GMT +0

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: 112 hotlines for police, fire and ambulance, although older numbers of 191 or 18555 for police, 192 for fire, and 193 for ambulance emergencies still function. 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 and traffic can be chaotic. Within cities, taxis are an inexpensive way to get around.


Fun facts

  • The country is the second largest producer of gold in Africa.
  • Ghana is the world's second largest producer of cocoa beans.
  • The colourful national costume is made from handwoven cloth called kente.
  • Farmers in the Shai Hills spray the chickens bright neon pink, which for some reason deters the baboons from attacking them!

Weather in Ghana

Ghana doesn't experience a vast array of seasons, and has a tropical climate typified 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 generally heavier and more prolonged in the country’s central regions.

Temperatures and humidity are generally high all year round, 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 95°F (35 °C) and higher. The rest of the country, particularly further south, feels the harmattan winds in January.

 

Embassy Contacts for Ghana


Ghanaian embassies

  • Ghanaian Embassy in London, the United Kingdom: +44 20 7201 5921

  • 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 78 7657

  • South African High Commission in Accra: +233 302 74 6211

Public Holidays in Ghana

 

2021

2022

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Constitution Day

7 January

7 January

Independence Day

6 March

6 March

Good Friday

2 April

15 April

Easter Monday

5 April

18 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Eid al-Fitr

13 May

3 May

Eid al-Adha

20 July

10 July

Founder's Day

4 August

4 August

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day

21 September

21 September

Farmer's Day

4 December

2 December

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

*Public holidays that fall over a weekend are observed on the following Monday.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Ghana

Moving to this West African country will no doubt come with many challenges and opportunities. On top of culture shock, expats have to struggle with visas, finding affordable accommodation and integrating their children into a suitable school. On the other hand there are plenty of upsides, and life in Ghana, with the right attitude, can be quite wonderful.

Here is a list of some pros and cons of moving to Ghana.


Culture in Ghana

+ PRO: Friendly people

Ghanaians are warm and friendly. They are happy to help and like to get to know each other, socialising before getting down to business and having lighthearted chats when haggling in local markets. Expats will be happy to know they are welcome in Ghana and are encouraged to learn local customs such as the Ghanaian handshake – an interesting click of the fingers while shaking hands.

- CON: Traditional food may be a culture shock

Standard Ghanaian cuisine involves starch alongside a stew or soup. Meat is an important part of traditional meals and eating the meat of animals that are considered pets in many cultures is not uncommon. This can undoubtedly be off-putting and a major element of culture shock.


Safety in Ghana

+ PRO: Relatively safe

Expats need not be anxious about their safety living in Ghana. While neighbouring and nearby countries experience political unrest, Ghana remains relatively peaceful. Expats living in compounds have the luxury of security staff as an added, but not strictly necessary, measure of protection.

- CON: Be aware of pickpocketing and scams

That is not to say that Ghana is crime-free. Expats should be aware that they may be targeted if they appear to be a new arrival, unaware of customs, confused in their new environment and not paying attention to their belongings. Everyone should be sensible, vigilant to their surroundings and take usual precautions such as not walking alone at night.


Getting around in Ghana

+ PRO: Excitement in travelling by tro tro

Of course, travelling by tro tro is both a pro and a con. These minibus taxis are a cheap way to whizz around town and for foreigners to get familiar with the local way of life and experience some excitement; on the other hand, expats should take note that road rules are hardly obeyed, which means taking a tro tro is not always the safest option. Taxis and ride-hailing services are a safer alternative.

- CON: Hectic traffic congestion

Being stuck in traffic is nothing new in Ghana’s major cities like Accra. Rush hour sees gridlock traffic jams stressing out drivers and impacting their arrival times to and from work and school. Poorly designed roads and high numbers of car ownership contribute to this, although, there are plans to improve existing road networks.


Visas for Ghana

+ PRO: Expat businesses organise visas

Fortunately, foreigners moving to Ghana with employment already secured are likely to receive much support from their employing company. Companies must process work permits themselves and can help with visas and residence permits to get their expats settled.

- CON: Complicated, time-consuming procedures

Expats will face many bureaucratic procedures in Ghana when applying for visas, work permits and residence permits. Different governmental institutions need to be contacted, going through various departments. Patience is key and expats should consult their embassy for advice.


Accommodation in Ghana

+ PRO: Various housing options

Expats moving with families can find large homes with gardens while others can settle in luxury apartments. The housing stock is indeed in short supply and high demand, however, expat companies often extend their support to accommodating employees in high-quality housing with air-conditioning.

- CON: Landlords expect heavy rent advancements

Oftentimes, securing a lease for accommodation is dependent on paying several months' rent in advance – and although contrary to legislation, this could even extend to three years’ worth of rent. Fortunately, the legislation is changing to support the tenant along international standards.


Cost of living in Ghana

+ PRO: Employment packages are negotiable

Despite high costs, many employment contracts can be negotiated in favour of the expat employee. This can include accommodation, tuition fees, insurance as well as visa and travel costs. It's important to discuss these matters with the employer when securing a job in Ghana.

- CON: Costs are higher than expected

Expats should drop the conception that that things will be cheap because it’s Africa. Plush accommodation and quality education often come with heavy fees. The accommodation that meets western standards is expensive, especially in Accra, and prices are often set based on the US dollar then converted into Ghanaian cedi, which may fluctuate. International schools with high tuition fees also contribute to the cost of living in Ghana.


Schools in Ghana

+ PRO: Fantastic international schools

Expat children from America, Canada, France, Germany and the UK will have few issues settling in provided the range of quality international schools to choose from. Those with a certain religious background or preference for Montessori education will also have their needs met, especially in large cities such as Accra.

- CON: Limited support for children with special needs

Despite Ghana’s Inclusive Education Policy, public schools provide limited help for children with disabilities and special needs. International private schools are more likely to provide inclusive education, but these should be contacted directly to find out the level of support available.


Working in Ghana

+ PRO: Business language is English

Although there are many languages spoken in Ghana, English is the official language and is spoken in business settings. This eases culture shock and language barriers for many English-speaking expats.

- CON: Work opportunities for expats are limited

Work opportunities for expats are limited because they are largely quota-based. Companies must apply for a work permit to employ foreign workers and this is dependent on their capital investments in Ghana. However, the job market remains open to all with possibilities for company transfers to branches in Ghana and even starting up a new business. 


Healthcare in Ghana

+ PRO: Private health insurance is beneficial

Expats should organise private health insurance and though this can be costly, many expat companies include this as part of their employment package. Health insurance can cover a range of health issues, treatment in higher-quality private medical facilities as well as medical evacuation and repatriation in case of emergencies.

- CON: Health concerns like malaria are serious

Mosquito-related illnesses such as malaria and yellow fever have been major issues in Ghana. Yellow fever vaccinations are compulsory for everyone moving and living there, so this is unlikely to be a major concern. Still, mosquito repellent and mosquito nets are necessary precautions, and expats should be well-informed of the diseases, and which hospitals provide quality healthcare.

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 vigilant. 

Ghana is fairly safe compared to other African countries, and as long as new arrivals familiarise themselves with relevant issues and take the necessary safety precautions, they should enjoy a safe existence.


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, and residential- and vehicle burglary.

Unfortunately, the police and judicial systems are often both ill-equipped and too corrupt to cope with many crimes.

Petty crime and general safety

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 and when withdrawing cash from ATMs. Walking at night should be avoided where possible.

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. Pickpocketing and opportunistic crime are on the rise and there are certain risk areas, such as along George Walker Bush Highway, where one should be careful. When in a vehicle, doors should be locked and windows kept wound up.

Home burglaries

Although some foreigners in Ghana live in guarded gated communities, it is considered quite safe to live in stand-alone houses in most areas, but doors should be kept locked when leaving one's house and at nighttime. Many expats hire independent guards and set up an alarm system in their house, but this is mostly for precautionary reasons.

Scams

Expats should do some research and be clued up on possible scams. Common sense should be employed, particularly when receiving suspicious emails from supposed known individuals asking for money to be transferred to them. Scams can be financially devastating, so individuals should always be wary, and always verify the identity of senders before replying by checking the address, phone number and other details.


Terrorism in Ghana

There have been no recent terrorist attacks in Ghana and the country remains relatively peaceful and safe. However, terrorist groups are a threat in the West African region and foreign nationals should monitor reputable news and media sources regarding this, especially if they will be travelling around the region.

Kidnappings

Kidnappings are on the increase in Ghana. Targets may be individuals working in commerce, tourism, aid work and journalism. However, the rate is still low and only a minority of people may be at risk of this sort of violence.


Gender issues in Ghana

Although Ghana’s history of equal rights may not be on par with that of a developed country and some gender-based violence issues remain, there is no drastic concern for women’s safety. Modest dress is advisable yet definitely not always 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.


Demonstrations in Ghana

The capital city does occasionally face protests, but these are generally peaceful and policed well. Still, disruption to normal travel routes may occur, and it is wise to stay away from demonstrations and pay attention to reliable news media.


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 speed down highways 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 and many others prefer to navigate the roads themselves.

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. This is an instance where a local driver would be useful, as they will know how to handle the situation.

The roads are not always well-lit and some are in a state of disrepair. Driving at night should therefore be avoided and those driving on main highways should stay alert in case of road difficulties. 

Police in Ghana rarely enforce traffic laws, and traffic lights are often out of order, making crossing intersections rather harrowing at times. Expats driving in Ghana should exercise extreme caution and drive defensively at all times. It is often worth considering a large SUV that has a high clearance and a good 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 their home country.


Swimming safety in Ghana

Ghana's beautiful beaches make for popular tourist and leisure destinations and swimming is the perfect way to cool off in the heat. But swimming can be dangerous and swimmers should be aware of rip tides and undertows in the current which could pull them out to sea. There is a small risk of drowning and necessary precautions should always be taken, especially regarding the supervision of young children.


Floods in Ghana

Certain regions in Ghana are prone to flooding, including in Accra as well as the northern regions. Ghana's climate sees the rainy seasons bring heavy rainfall which increases the flood risk. The associated consequences are not only damage to infrastructure but also waterborne diseases and drowning risks.

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. Still, Ghana has a fast-growing economy, competing and engaging in international markets.

The service sector largely contributes to Ghana's GDP along with manufacturing, while agriculture remains the primary source of income for many Ghanaians.

Many people relocating to Ghana move to volunteer for a short period rather than work. 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 shipping industries as well as construction, trade and finance. There is also substantial diplomatic representation in Ghana given the relative peace and stability in the country, and foreign diplomats are likely to find a place in this sector.

Ghana’s large service sector is a driving force behind its economy. Tourism is booming because, unlike many of its neighbouring 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 and, as a result, there are many secure jobs in hospitality and tourism.

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

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

Expats can set up a business in Ghana, but should do research on the types of businesses they're allowed to build. Each organisation type comes with its own requirements and investment fees. It's advised that newcomers starting out should seek the assistance of a professional advisor with full knowledge of business, banking and tax law in Ghana.


Finding a job in Ghana

For expats fluent in English, language barriers are unlikely to be a problem when finding a job in Ghana. Those with good qualifications and experience as well as personal referrals are likely to succeed in the job market.

Work permits are essential and are generally organised by and limited to the company that arranges for the expat’s employment, though new arrivals can seek guidance from their respective embassies. Several institutions issue work permits, including Ghana Immigration Services (GIS), Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) and the Ministry of the Interior (MOI). Generally, companies are given a work permit quota based on the amount of money invested in Ghana. 

Considering this, most foreigners find work before arriving in Ghana either through companies they've worked for previously or through international job listings. Online job portals such as LinkedIn are a great tool for finding employment in Ghana. Networking with contacts in Ghana or other expats already working in the country can also lead to opportunities. 


Work culture in Ghana

English is Ghana’s official language and as such it is used in the corporate environment. Work culture in Ghana is hierarchical with elders being respected and addressed appropriately.

Business hours are from 8am to 6.30pm during the week although banking hours are shorter. Shops and some banks are open on Saturdays from 8am to 1pm and most are closed on Sundays.

Doing Business in Ghana

While Ghana is not the most popular destination among expats looking to set up their own business, entrepreneurs are attracted to the country mainly owing 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 118th out of 190 countries included in The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020. It scored relatively well for getting credit (80th) but fell short in areas such as resolving insolvency (161st) and trading across borders (158th).

For new arrivals interested in starting a business, there is much research to be done, and expats will need to take the necessary steps to understand the inner workings of Ghanaian business culture and business etiquette to avoid culture shock.


Setting up a business in Ghana

Expats can set up a business in Ghana through the Registrar General's Department (RGD).

Expats must do their research on the types of business they can set up, including a limited liability (local) company or an external company or branch. Each organisation type comes with its own requirements and investment fees. Most requirements include information on the name of the company, its directors, and the shares and capital investments.

Directors or the local branch managers require a Tax Identification Number (TIN) to register a business. 

Every company that is at least partially foreign-owned must be registered with the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC). These could be joint ventures, foreign-owned entities or trading entities. Conditions are subject to change and so the GIPC website should be visited to see exact capital requirements based on the type of entity.

Expats should seek the assistance of a professional advisor with full knowledge of business, banking and tax law in Ghana if they wish to set up a business.


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 6.30pm, though this varies. Banks are open from 8.30am to 3pm while government institutions often run from 9am to 5pm. Shops and some banks are open on Saturdays from 8am to 1pm, though most are closed on Sundays.

Greetings

Handshakes are the norm in professional settings. Expats should always address people using their titles unless told otherwise, such as Madam and Sir or Mrs and Mr.

Dress

Dressing formally is generally appropriate in most corporate environments. Businesswomen often wear modest suits with skirts or trousers, while businessmen wear suits and ties. African print material is also worn, often on Fridays.

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 or run late.

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 among 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 businesspeople hate to lose face. If new arrivals 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 in the appropriate manner. Hierarchy is an important part of Ghanaian business culture.

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

  • 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 or when receiving them.

  • 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

Expats will need to do some research and ensure that they have the correct visa before arriving at a Ghanaian point of entry.

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 many 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 require a single- or multiple-entry visa which will be valid for a maximum of three months. 

Applicants for tourist visas must include a copy of the return ticket or their travel itinerary. A pre-travel vaccination for yellow fever is required and individuals should check with their embassy if they must submit proof of this.


Study visas for Ghana

Many foreigners wish to move to Ghana to study. They must apply for a study visa valid for the duration of their course. The visa is likely to be multiple-entry to allow students to return home during holiday periods.

These visas are processed by the GIS who may require proof of acceptance into the tertiary education institution in Ghana as well as evidence of financial means during the stay.

Students can seek further advice from the embassy in their respective country as well as the school they are accepted into.


Work permits for Ghana

Expats are only able to work in 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 can secure a job in Ghana, the next step is to apply for both a work permit and a residence permit. Most employers should be able to assist with the work permit application process.

Work permits are issued by Ghana Immigration Services (GIS), Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) and the Ministry of the Interior (MOI). Most often, companies go through GIS. Whichever entity the company works with, there are varying periods for which permits are valid and documents required from the expat applicant.


Residence permits for Ghana

Those moving to Ghana for work will also need to apply for a residence permit. When looking for accommodation and hoping to rent in Ghana, a residence permit is important. This requires both the expat and the employer to work together in supplying the GIS with a variety of documents. Where expats are moving with children, birth certificates may be required.

Even though some of the documents would have already been provided for the work permit application, they will nevertheless need to be resubmitted. While this seems redundant and unnecessary, it means that much of the documents will have already been organised and are easily accessible.

Residence permits for dependants

Expats with a residence permit for Ghana are entitled to apply for a similar permit for their dependants, including their spouse, children under the age of 18 and parents over the age of 60.


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

* Visa and work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats should consult their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for Ghana

To obtain a work permit in Ghana, individuals must find a job and secure a contract.

For foreigners who can secure a job in Ghana, the next step is to apply for both a work- and a residence permit. 

The process is complicated and tedious. Fortunately, most employers assist with the work permit application process, as the onus is also on the company to organise and hold a valid permit allowing them to hire foreign employees.

Whilst the employing company must organise this, there are certain requirements of expats. Work permits are issued by Ghana Immigration Services (GIS), Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) and the Ministry of the Interior (MOI). Depending on the route taken, the company will inform the applicant on necessary documents they must provide and the implications of each permit.


Work permits through the GIS

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 it is advised to apply early as it is not possible to start working until the permit has been fully approved.

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

The company applies for the work permit on behalf of the applicant with certain company-specific documents, but it also requires certain personal details and particulars of the expat. These are subject to change, but often include passport-sized photos, a curriculum vitae and a copy of their passport.

Organisations in the mining and petroleum sector and those registered as Ghana Free Zone Board entities have additional and separate bodies to report to. Fortunately, expats will not have to worry as the company arranges this on their behalf.

Work permits through the GIPC

The GIPC can issue an automatic expatriate quota (AEQ) dependent on the foreign equity capital investment capital made by the company the expat works for. Companies with foreign participation must register with the GIPC and thereafter can apply for work permits in this way. The higher the capital investment band, the more foreign nationals the company can employ. 

However, with negotiation and discretion, a company may be granted a short-term or temporary quota from the GIPC. These permits are valid for no longer than five years.

Work permits through the MOI

Companies can also go through the MOI to obtain an immigrant quota (IQ). These have a maximum period of three years and foreigners staying for a shorter period can be replaced by another foreign employee when they leave. Once the IQ is received, the expat does not need to apply for a work permit. They must, however, apply for a residence permit through the GIS.

* Visa and work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats should consult their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

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 expat destination out of the 209 cities analysed in the 2019 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. 

Accommodation in Ghana is particularly expensive and will take up most of an expat's budget. Household utilities and communication technology are also costly. Transport expenses 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 opt for private healthcare and will 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 in Ghana

Accommodation is expensive in Ghana and rent will account for a large proportion of an expat’s budget, especially in Accra. As the country is developing and more international companies are setting 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. This pushes up prices.

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


Cost of transport in Ghana

Most modes of public transport in Ghana, including trains, buses and tro-tros (informal minibus taxis), can be erratic and unreliable. For this reason, most expats living in Ghana opt to drive or hire a driver to transport them daily. The cost of renting a car and hiring a driver depends on the rental company.

Compared to rental prices, the cost of purchasing a reliable car is fairly high and petrol prices are constantly flutuating. That said, these costs are still relatively low when compared with other countries. 


Cost of entertainment and eating out in Ghana

The cost of entertainment and eating out in Ghana 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 more expensive. 

However, Ghana is quite expensive when it comes to entertainment such as cinema and theatre tickets, although there are often promotions and deals as well as discounts offered by some telecommunications service providers.


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 is unlikely to 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 emergency or necessary transport 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 April 2020.

Accommodation (average monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

GHS 2,200 - 5,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

GHS 1,000 - 2,800

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

GHS 7,500 - 12,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

GHS 3,000 - 4,500

Food and drink

Milk (1 litre)

GHS 11.50

Dozen eggs

GHS 12

White bread 

GHS 6.30

Chicken breasts (1kg)

GHS 30

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

GHS 12

Public transport

City centre bus/train fare

GHS 5

Taxi rate per km

GHS 5.50

Petrol/gasoline per litre

GHS 5.20

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

GHS 35

Coca-Cola (500 ml)   

GHS 3.70

Cappuccino

GHS 15

Bottle of local beer

GHS 7

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

GHS 75

Utilities

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

GHS 300

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

GHS 0.40

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

GHS 400

Hourly rate for domestic help

GHS 48

Culture Shock in Ghana

Most new arrivals in Ghana will be pleasantly surprised by the smiling, helpful locals. 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 a modern city with shopping malls, movie theatres 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.


Dress in Ghana

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 and modest for women. Westerners melting in the heat will be surprised to see their Ghanaian colleagues dressed up in a full suit and tie for work and corporate events, cocktails and receptions.


Meeting and greeting in Ghana

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. Ghanaians also appreciate conversations about themselves and their family, and this comes across in business settings, where getting to know one another is valued.

Elders are respected in Ghanaian culture and when greeting people, especially those who are older, appropriate titles such as Sir or Madam should be used.

Shaking hands is a common way of greeting and there is a special friendly Ghanaian handshake involving snapping one's finger while shaking hands. This is easier understood when shown in person and new arrivals may be excited to learn it.

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


Traditional food and cuisine in Ghana

Ghanaians love local traditional food. The cuisine is very different from what many expats will be used to, especially if they have not been to Africa before, and some dishes are an acquired taste. Each meal consists of the 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. What may shock expats the most is that eating insects and meat of animals that are considered pets in many cultures is not uncommon in areas of Ghana. This reality may likely be unsettling to those unfamiliar with these customs.

Wasting food is not appreciated and so expats are encouraged to share – which may be a relief if certain items on their menu are not to their liking.

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


Languages in Ghana

Although there are more than 30 local languages, English is the official language of Ghana, which means expats fluent in English are unlikely to experience major language barriers. That said, while English is widely spoken in the cities, some rural areas might see people only speak their tribal language.

Akan, with its various dialects, is the most widely spoken local language, and many phrases are quite easy to learn. Expats who do take the time to learn some of these phrases will find that the appreciative responses by the locals make it well worth the effort.


Shopping and bargaining in Ghana

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 haggling and negotiation, and engage in the associated banter, particularly when shopping in local markets or hailing a taxi.

The seller announces a price. The buyer then responds with a remark about how expensive that is and offers a counter amount, usually less than half the original fee. Expats should be friendly and smile, engaging in some banter and a chat. Bargaining then ensues until a price somewhere between the two is agreed.


Cultural etiquette in Ghana

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

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

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

  • Using the right hand is important for giving and receiving gifts

  • 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

New arrivals to Ghana should make finding suitable accommodation their first priority, as it will be play a significant role in deciding the quality of life in their new country. For those 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 country is welcoming more and more independent workers, entrepreneurs, university researchers and volunteers who, without the help of a company, 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

Accommodation in Ghana might not be overly abundant, but 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 popular. Many apartments come furnished in Ghana, but houses may be semi-furnished or unfurnished – fortunately, 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.

While the standard of housing is decent, the cost of utilities to meet western standards can be high, pushing up the cost of living. Due to electricity cuts and water shortages, one should invest in a generator, power inverters and a water tank or find a property with an existing borehole. Air-conditioning is another important factor to consider for Ghana's climate.


Finding accommodation in Ghana

There are several 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 publicly. 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 may also find homes through property listings in local newspapers as well as through online property portals such as meQasa.


Renting accommodation in Ghana

Once suitable accommodation has been found, potential tenants should ensure they fully understand the lease agreement and the complexities of deposits and utilities.

Rental law in Ghana does little to protect tenants so foreigners should take care not to be exploited. Landlords have been known to inflate rent and adjust the lease agreement in their favour when renting to expats. It is advised to sign a detailed inventory of furniture and equipment, and record the general condition of rooms and features.

Expats living in Ghana’s major cities, such as Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, should expect to pay more than those living in rural areas. Rents are often asked for in US dollars, as a more stable currency, which must then be converted to Ghana's currency of the cedi.

Leases

What may shock foreign tenants are the unusual lease agreements. Often, six months' rent is expected in advance to secure a lease. This is likely to be impossible for many people, especially given the high rental costs in the first place. Those who can afford it may prefer this option, giving the rent upfront to ensure the payment is secure.

In fact, some Ghanaian landlords may expect a whole year or even up to three years' advance despite contradictory legislation, but the law on lease agreements is changing to be aligned with international standards of ensuring rent payments on a monthly basis as opposed to excessive advancements.

Lease duration is often dependent on the advance payment and tends to be two to five years, allowing for negotiable renewal. Despite the trend requiring upfront annual rent payments, many furnished apartments and short-term leases, especially those aimed at foreigners, require monthly payments.

For tenants who wish to terminate the lease early, three months' notice is normally required as well as finding another tenant to take over the lease.

Deposits

Due to large rent advancements, many Ghanaian landlords might not expect a security deposit, although some may require an amount equal to half a month's rent. Landlords are known to delay repaying deposit money, especially in the event of terminating leases early, so expats should be aware of this possibility before signing the lease and do research on the legal routes to follow if it does happen.

Utilities

In addition to the often high cost of rent, expats also need to consider the cost of utilities, hiring security staff and gardeners, and take responsibility for the maintenance of generators and water tanks.

For those living in apartment complexes, most utilities will be taken care of by the building management, and for this reason most new arrivals opt to live in such complexes instead of renting a standalone house.

While water is often included in the rent, most buildings have separate electricity meters and so electricity, mainly prepaid, is an additional cost. Where parking is available, it is normally free or inclusive in the rent.

Healthcare in Ghana

The healthcare infrastructure in Ghana is limited. While the Ghanaian government is making progress in improving healthcare, public hospitals remain overcrowded and severely underfunded. Emergency medical services in Ghana are generally agreed to be of reasonable quality although ambulances may not always arrive so fast.

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

It's advised that expats should 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, while 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.

The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Ghana’s universal healthcare system for all residents, dramatically improved the health situation in the country. It eliminated the need for Ghanaian citizens to pay for their treatment upfront and increased the accessibility of healthcare for Ghana’s poorest.

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

The standard and availability of public healthcare in Ghana vary. In major urban centres, such as Accra, there are numerous hospitals, clinics and 24-hour pharmacies, while most rural areas are isolated and lack 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 much shorter at private clinics in Ghana and new arrivals will find that doctors and medical staff speak English fluently.

Because insurance and private healthcare are necessary, this must be taken into account when considering the cost of living in Ghana.


Pharmacies and medicine in Ghana

Pharmacies can easily be found in any major town or city in Ghana and, although sporadic, some 24-hour pharmacies do operate in the country. Expats should however take note that only certain pharmacies in Ghana are licensed to dispense prescription drugs. It's also advised to check that any medication they purchase has been approved by the Ghanaian Pharmacy Council.

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

Expats suffering from chronic ailments that require 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, as this covers a wide range of health issues and treatments in private medical facilities in Ghana. In some cases, health insurance is provided by the employer as part of an employment package.

There are private health insurance companies that operate in Ghana, including Acacia Health Insurance Limited, Premier Health Insurance Company Limited and Phoenix Health Insurance. Coverage by international health insurance providers, such as Allianz, Aetna International, Cigna and Bupa, may also be considered.

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


Health hazards in Ghana

Malaria

Malaria is a serious health concern in Ghana, and new arrivals in Ghana must take a course of anti-malarial medication. They should speak to their GP about this before leaving their home country. 

As malaria is transferred via mosquito bites, there are 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 immediate treatment at a reputable clinic.

HIV/AIDS

Ghana is among the countries with the highest rate of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, and the death toll owing to the disease is high. However, those who take appropriate precautions against the disease, such as always using prophylactics and avoiding shared syringes, need not be concerned.

Food- and water-related health concerns

Expats should also be aware that food and water can trigger illnesses, and floods are a safety risk in Ghana, as it brings with it waterborne diseases. It's advised to avoid drinking tap water and having ice cubes in drinks, and instead buying bottled water and boiling or filtering tap water before drinking it. 


Pre-travel vaccinations for Ghana

Apart from the advised course of anti-malarial medication, 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 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)
     
  • Meningitis
     
  • Polio

Emergency services in Ghana

The standard of emergency medical services in Ghana is quite poor in most places, especially outside of major cities, where they are almost non-existent.

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 prolonged. In some cases, 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 ambulances and clinics. 

Emergency numbers in Ghana

In the event of an emergency, expats can call the emergency hotline number 112, where they'll be connected to an ambulance, fire service and the police. The hotline is relatively new but old numbers are still in use. 

  • Emergency hotline: 112
     
  • Ambulance: 112 or 193
     
  • Police: 112, 191 or 18555
     
  • Fire service: 112 or 192

Education and Schools in Ghana

When it comes to education in Ghana, most expats find the national curriculum to be limited, teaching methods outdated and the standard of facilities lower than what they might be used to back home. For these reasons, expats tend to bypass public schooling options in Ghana and rather 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 tends to be the local vernacular. In Accra, though, most schools teach in English with only elective courses in local languages.

Often, 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.

The academic year is from August to May.

School is divided into three stages: basic education, secondary education and tertiary education.

Basic education

  • Preschool ages three to six
  • Primary school ages six to 12
  • Junior secondary school ages 12 to 15

Public primary schools and junior secondary schools are free and compulsory in Ghana.

Students graduate from junior high school with the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE). 

Senior secondary school

Upper secondary education (from ages 15 to 18) includes normal high school classes, technical training and vocational education such as business and agriculture.

The school-leaving examination includes four core subjects namely English, maths, integrated science and social studies, as well as three or four additional chosen subjects. When passing these, students receive the West African Senior School Certificate.

Tertiary education

Tertiary education in Ghana includes universities, colleges and polytechnics. Universities and tertiary education institutions have varying entrance requirements that may be specific to each faculty.

For students who wish to continue higher education outside of Ghana and have the Ghanaian school-leaving certificate, a foundation year may be required, including at many universities in the United Kingdom. This may be a contributing factor in deciding whether new arrivals will send their children to a public high school or international high school.


Private schools in Ghana

Public education remains largely underfunded and cannot cater to the entire population, which means a lot of expats choose to enrol their children in private schools, which receive both governmental and private funds. There are public-private partnerships with international organisations, private institutions and individuals, and churches and NGOs contributing to funding, infrastructure maintenance, furniture and technical assistance. Communities and parents participate, paying tuition fees, and organising food and transport for their children.

These schools tend to offer the same national curriculum but at a slightly higher standard provided the additional private funding and backing.


International schools in Ghana

Due to the large expat community in Accra, the city has a range of private bilingual international schools with international accredidation. Most of these schools teach the American, British or International Baccalaureate curricula, and there are also Canadian, French and German-Swiss schools.

Some schools are rooted in religion with a Christian-based academic environment, and there are also opportunities for Montessori education.

For families in larger cities such as Accra and Kumasi, finding an international school is unlikely to be a problem. However, those based further from these cities may opt for a boarding school option, or homeschooling.

Most international schools are rather expensive and expats should take care to negotiate tuition allowances in their employment contract or to negotiate their salary accordingly. On the other hand, the fees may be worth it. International schools offer many extra-curricular activities, learning of foreign languages, and better quality facilities and teachers. They can provide great opportunities for further study and career development.

They also ease the transition for expat children allowing them to make friends with students from various cultures and nationalities but in similar situations to them, allowing a diverse environment to grow up in. Similarly, this provides opportunities for parents of comparable circumstances to meet up and expand their network.


Tutors in Ghana

For parents who require extra tuition for their children, there is no shortage of tutors in Ghana. There are many private tutoring companies, especially in and around large cities. Schools will often be able to suggest good tutors in the area, but tutor companies can be found with a quick look on a search engine, through social media or by word of mouth. Some older students commonly offer extra support at little or no cost to younger children.

Tutoring can be centre- or home-based, and can help students who struggle with particular subjects, build self-confidence or just assist in maintaining focus, and it can be a great benefit close to exam time. 


Homeschooling in Ghana

Homeschooling is legal in Ghana and although the numbers of families who opt for this are low, they are growing. There are several reasons for expats to choose this option.

Public schooling is of low quality and private education is limited and expensive. International school fees are exorbitant and much higher than what most parents can afford on top of their normal living expenses. Transport to and from school is another downside with heavy traffic and fuel costs. Additionally, traditional schooling, in general, may not meet the needs of each child and may not be sensitive to their learning style.

If parents themselves are capable to provide the educational support and learning experiences for their children, they can do this at little cost. It will only cost time to learn and present the chosen curriculum effectively, and some financial costs pertaining to books, stationery and other resources.

Involving an additional tutor could be beneficial, in order for children to learn from various individuals, and gain different perspectives.

Over time, parents in Ghana who choose to homeschool may network and provide support to each other, including advice and activities that their children could join and do together. In this way, expats teaching their children from home won’t isolate them from any social experience.

Of course, homeschooling requires a certain level of empathy, patience and expertise. When debating on teaching one’s own children, parents must put in the effort, do the necessary research and decide on what option works best for them.


Special needs education in Ghana

Ghana's Inclusive Education Policy envisions a path for all children to receive a fully supportive and inclusive educational experience. The government, private sector and NGOs are working towards inclusive education and providing assistive devices and training opportunities for teachers.

However, the main support for children with disabilities is in physical impairments, with limited but growing support for learning impairments.

Despite the push for mainstream education, many children with special needs are placed in segregated special schools, and some of these schools provide specialised support to both children and adults.

More inclusive options may be preferred and some schools accommodate a diverse range of educational needs for children with and without a disability.

International schools may provide varying levels of support for children with disabilities and expats should get in contact for specific information. The Montessori education method can also be beneficial as it puts the child first and allows learning to adapt to the child's needs.


Nurseries in Ghana

For parents with children who are not yet of school-going age, daycare may be a concern. The first few years are an important part of early childhood development for physical growth, emotional needs and learning stimulation. Daycares provide a fantastic opportunity for young infants to build their confidence and start to communicate with other little individuals outside of their immediate family. Daycare also allows for parents who work and wish to have some extra hours during the day. 

There are many daycare centres in Ghana, especially in large cities. Many of these are Montessori-based and provide an alternative child-first style of care. Teachers and carers at daycares have broad expertise and qualifications which is assuring to parents.

Choosing a suitable daycare may be influenced by cost, location, schedule and daycare style.

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 where they left off in 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.

Many of them allow bilingual learning experiences as well as additional foreign languages. Some schools are Montessori or Christian-based which may be preferred by some expat families, and several schools offer care and educational services for children of just a few months old to 18 years of age.

Of course, international schools carry hefty fees but the higher quality facilities, better education and schooling are worth it. Expats may be able to negotiate tuition allowances with their employers to help them.

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


International schools in Ghana

American International School (AIS)

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.aisaccra.org

British International School (BIS)

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British
Ages: 1 to 18
Website: www.bisghana.com.gh

Canadian International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian
Ages: 6 months to 15 years
Website: cisghana.org

Ghana International School (GIS)

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.gis.edu.gh

German Swiss International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum
Ages: 1 to 18
Website: gsis-accra.org

Liberty American School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American, Christian
Ages: 3 months to 18 years
Website: www.libertyas.org

Lincoln Community School (LCS)

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 4 to 18
Website: www.lincoln.edu.gh

Lycée Français d'Accra Jacques Prévert

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: lfaccra.com

Tema International College

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.tis.edu.gh

Transport and Driving in Ghana

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

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.

Buses 

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.

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 very easy once new arrivals have opened an account, 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: GHS 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200

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

The 1 pesewa is largely out of circulation.

Money can be exchanged at currency exchange agencies, banks, the airport and in major hotels. Most forex bureaux do not require identification, but exchange desks at hotels usually require expats to present their passport. Currency exchange agencies are widely available and usually offer competitive exchange rates, but will either give a lower rate on small denominations or not accept them at all. Bank exchange rates are also becoming more favourable.

Expats must not exchange cash with strangers on the street as this is often a scam part of the illegal black market currency exchange involving counterfeit money.

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 cash out 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, and letters of credit and loans to citizens and expats alike, but interest rates on loans can be high.
 
Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered and Stanbic are all international banks that are represented in Ghana and are recommended for expats. Internet, telephone and cellphone banking are also available as banks strive to compete locally and internationally, and provide support and services online.

Banking hours in Ghana are Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30 or 5pm, although some banks close earlier on Fridays and others are open on Saturday till 12pm. 

Opening a bank account

The best way to access and deal with money in Ghana is to open up a bank account. To open a bank account in Ghana, most establishments require that expats show their passport as identification. Necessary documents vary across banks. Some may require proof of residence, 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 their employer in Ghana.

For those earning 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 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.

Credit cards and ATMs

ATMs are readily available in Ghanaian cities and most international Visa cards are accepted at these machines. Mastercard and American Express are 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.


Taxes in Ghana

Foreigners living in Ghana for 183 days or more over 12 months are considered residents of the country and must pay taxes based on their worldwide income.

Taxes in Ghana are charged on a graduated scale while non-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 refer to the Ghana Revenue Authority website and consult a financial adviser and tax specialist to ensure that they have a full understanding of taxes in Ghana.

Social Security

Taxpayers must contribute towards the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT). There are several situations whereby individuals may be exempt. Expats who reside in Ghana for less than three years may obtain an exemption as well as those who provide evidence that they contribute to a similar scheme in their country of origin.

Expats who are permanently leaving Ghana and make social security contributions may be reimbursed. This is if they have complied with tax regulations and have sent a letter to the Ghana Immigration Service formally declaring that they are permanently emigrating from Ghana.

Tax relief

Ghana has double taxation agreements with a number of other countries, including South Africa, Italy, and the United Kingdom. In such cases, expats may be entitled to tax relief.

Several situations allow deductions and tax relief, including a dependent spouse, dependent children, if the taxpayer is disabled, over 60 years old or supports a relative over 60 years old.

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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