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Honeymoon in Ghana

Ghana's attractions range from the warm sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast, to spectacular landscapes to the rich tropical forest and unique wildlife.

Ghana is a very friendly country, ideal for first time travellers to Africa, the people are generally very helpful and welcoming. While their laidback attitude and lack of organized tourist sights/trips can be a little annoying to begin with, before you have been there for very long you realize that it is one of the delights of this country.

Tourism in Ghana is growing very quickly, and more tour operators are seeing increased requests for Ghana as a travel destination. Ghana is also rich in gold. This is a stable country with great potential for growth.

Cities

  • Accra — capital and largest city
  • Bolgatanga — largest city in the north and the gateway to Burkina Faso
  • Cape Coast — cape coast slave castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Elmina — coastal town with a quite harrowing slave fort
  • Koforidua
  • Kumasi — traditional centre of the Ashanti Kingdom
  • Obuasi — mining town
  • Sekondi-Takoradi
  • Tamale — gateway to the Mole National Park

Rainforest canopy walk at Kakum National Park

Other destinations

  • Kakum National Park — rainforest with a canopy walk to view rare monkeys as well as forest elephants and antelope.
  • Eco Village Sognaayilli (Meet Africa) — a holiday with the local people in a traditional village in the Northern part of Ghana.
  • Mole National Park — savanna with buffalo, monkeys, antelope, and reintroduced lions & elephants; both driving and walking safaris are popular, you can even camp for the night on the savanna.
  • Nzulezo — a village of buildings built on stilts.
  • Paga — a town in the north home to "sacred crocodiles" which are tame and live in several pools.
  • Shai Hills Reserve — a great daytrip near Accra home to baboons, parrots, & antelope; you can tour the reserve on horseback.
  • Wli Falls — in the lush Agumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary near the Togo border.

Shopping

Ghana Cedi was redenominated in July of 2007. The new "Ghana Cedi" (GHS) equals 10,000 old cedis. During the transition period of six months, the old cedi is known as "cedi", and the new cedi is known as "Ghana Cedi". The word "cedi" is derived from the Akan word for cowry shell, as cowry shells were once used in Ghana as a form of currency. Be aware that most Ghanaians still think in old currency. This can be very confusing (and costly). Ten thousand old cedis are habitually referred to as ten (or twenty, or thirty). This would, today, be one, two, or three "new" Ghana cedis. So always think whether the quoted price makes sense before buying or agreeing on a taxi fare. If in doubt ask whether this is new cedis.

US Dollars are accepted by some of the major tourist hotels, but you shouldn't rely on this. As in all West African countries, older dollar bills will be rejected by banks and Forex bureaus. If you intend to take dollar notes make sure that they are all from the 2007 series or above. EURO in cash are the most useful currency to take with you and you will sometimes find that bars/restaurants will be willing to change them for you if you need Cedis outside banking hours.

Approximate exchange rates as of May. 1, 2009, are:

  • 1 British Pound = GHS 1.9
  • 1 US Dollar = GHS 1.4
  • 1 Euro = GHS 1.8

A village market near Lake Volta

There are many Forex Bureaus in Accra, and a few in the other major cities. It is very difficult to change travelers cheques and certainly almost impossible outside Accra and Kumasi, unless you change them at a major bank. Barclays has branches in Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast, and even Tamale where you can change travelers cheques. Expect lines. VISA cards are accepted at major hotels and there are ATMs in Accra, Kumasi and Cape Coast which accept VISA. Be aware that the Cape Coast cash machine is frequently empty. At the main branch of Barclays Bank in Accra you can get a cash advance on your VISA or MasterCard provided you have your passport with you.

Bargaining is very much expected in the markets. Large cities such as Accra have markets open every day, but travelers get the true flavor of the country if they have the opportunity to visit a village market on the day of the week that it is open. Most goods will be staple goods, but cloth, beads, musical instruments, bags, and even CD's are usually available.

Kente cloth, drums and wooden designs, such as masks and "sacred stools" can be found on almost any street in any tourist area in Ghana.

The Accra Mall is a first class commercial shopping centre situated on the Spintex road of the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange.(www.accramall.com).

Adinkrah Symbols & Sacred Stools

The sacred stools have tradional Adinkrah "motif" designs in them that can mean many things having to do with God, love, strength, community, and much more. Finding a guidebook which will tell you what each symbol means is advisable to prevent the possibility of buying a stool that doesn't mean what you think it is.

Gye Nyame is by far the most popular Adinkrah symbol. It means "Only God". Other popular stools are the "Wisdom Knot" and the one with the character holding many sticks together, which cannot be broken, to symbolize the strength of community.

Eating

Food is extremely cheap in Ghana, however food in restaurants is not cheap. Traditional food is fun to try and easy to enjoy. Fufu, the most widely served traditional dish, consists of pounded balls of yam, plantain, or cassava served with soup, and a side of goat meat or fish. Soups are typically made of groundnuts, palm nut, okra and other vegetables. Banku is a fermented corn version of the dish typically eaten with grilled tilapia fish or okra soup.

Rice dishes are also typical, but not considered a "real" meal by many Ghanaians, males especially. Jollof rice is a dish as varied as its chef, but generally consists of white rice cooked with vegetables, meat pieces, spices in a tomato based sauce. Waakye is a mix of beans and rice, typically served with gari, a powder of ground cassava. Often rice dishes are served with shredded lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes on the side with a dollop of Heinz salad cream or mayonnaise. Such meals are extremely cheap from street vendors and come as little as GHS 1.50 to GHS 2.50.

Plantains, yams, and sweet potatoes are prepared in various ways and serve as small snacks. Kelewele, a spiced fried plantain snack, is especially delicious. Fresh fruits such as pineapple, mango, papaya, coconut, oranges, and bananas are delightful when in season and come when applicable by the bag for as little as 10 cents.

A great African meal in a restaurant can cost as little as GHS 3.00 to GHS 7.00. For instance, a lobster and shrimp dinner can cost a mere GHS 6. There are also a number of Western and Chinese style restaurants available especially in Osu, a trendy suburb of Accra.

Drinking

Drinking water from the tap is not generally considered to be safe, so choices include plastic bottled water (eg. Voltic, 1.5l appx. GHS 1.00), boiled or filtered tap water, and "pure water" sachets. These sachets are filtered and come in 500 ml. portions. Many foreigners prefer bottled water. Water in sealed plastic sachets is generally not considered safe. Athough easily accessible and an unique experience, small studies have shown varying amounts of fecal bacteria suggestive the source may be tap water. If you want to play it safe, stick with carbonated beverages or bottled water.

In Accra's expat visited bars, a beer will cost between GHS 2.00 and GHS 3.00. Fruit juices GHS 1.50, water GHS 1.00 to GHS 1.50. Star and Club are two of the more popular beers served. For a more interesting and rewarding experience, visit a "spot," a bar signified by the blue and white stripes on the outside of the building. They are cheaper and you will undoubtedly be able to meet some local Ghanaians as well as hear the newest hip-life songs.

A soft drink such as Coke, Fanta, 7UP (called "minerals" by locals) are widely available for GH?0.50.

Be aware that the bottles that minerals or beer is served to you in are owned by the bottling company-if you do not return it to the seller, they stand to lose GHS 0.50 cedis-more than you most likely paid for the drink. If you are not going to consume the drink at the "spot" or at the roadside stand, make sure you let the seller know. Often, you will be asked for a deposit which will be returned upon the return of the bottle. Ryan's Irish pub is a popular bar situated on the Oxford street in Osu.

Sleeping

There are many wonderful places to stay in Ghana. There are many options including lavish hotels or more rustic places to stay. Cheap, decent hotel rooms can run as low as GHS 12.00. A better room can go as low as GHS 20.00, however prices can be higher than a comparable hotel in the USA.

For longer stays (a few months) it is possible to rent a house. Houses for rent are advertised in local newspapers and also in those places frequented by expats - Koala supermarket, Ryan's Irish pub etc.

Climate

There are two main seasons in Ghana, the wet and the dry seasons. Northern Ghana experiences its rainy season from March to November while the south, including the capital Accra, experiences the season from April to Mid-November.

History

Early times

There is archaeological evidence which shows that humans have lived in what is present day Ghana from about 1500 BC. Nonetheless, there is no proof that those early dwellers are related to the current inhabitants of the area. Oral tradition has it that many of Ghana's current ethnic groups such as the multi-ethnic Akan, the Ga and the Ewe arrived around the 13th Century AD. However, the Dagombas are believed to be the first settlers, having been fully established by 1210 AD, before the arrival of other ethnic groups. Modern Ghanaian territory includes what was the Empire of Ashanti, one of the most influential states in sub-Saharan Africa before colonial rule.

Colonial era

Early European contact by the Portuguese, who came to Ghana in the 15th century, focused on the extensive availability of gold. By 1548, the Dutch had joined them, and built forts at Komenda and Kormantsi. Other European traders joined in by the mid 17th century, largely English, Danes and Swedes. British merchants, impressed with the gold resources in the area, named it the Gold Coast, while French merchants, impressed with the trinkets worn by the coastal people, named the area to the west "Côte d'Ivoire", or Ivory Coast. The Gold Coast was known for centuries as 'The White Man's Grave' because many of the Europeans who went there died of malaria and other tropical diseases.

After the Dutch withdrew in 1874, Britain made the Gold Coast a protectorate. Following conquest by the British in 1896, until independence in March 1957, the territory of modern Ghana excluding the Volta Region (British Togoland), was known as the Gold Coast.

Many wars occurred between the colonial powers and the various nation-states in the area and even under colonial rule the chiefs and people often resisted the policies of the British. Moves toward de-colonization intensified after World War II and after an intense struggle, on March 6th 1957 elected parliamentry leader Kwame Nkrumah declared Ghana as "free forever". The nation thus became the first sub-Saharan African country to gain its independence.

Modern era

Kwame Nkrumah was a champion of pan-Africanism and his popularity was a major concern for the West. It was no surprise that Nkrumah was subsequently overthrown by the military while he was abroad in February 1966. A series of subsequent coups from 1966 to 1981 ended with the ascension to power of the flamboyant Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings in 1981. These changes resulted in the suspension of the constitution in 1981 and the banning of political parties. The economy suffered a severe decline soon after, and many Ghanaians migrated to other countries.

Rawlings changed many old economic policies and the economy soon began to recover. A new constitution restoring multi-party politics was instigated in 1992, and Rawlings was elected as president then and again in 1996. In 2009, John Atta Mills took office as president marking the second time that power had been transferred from one legitimately elected leader to another, and securing Ghana's status as a stable democracy.

Source: Wikitravel.org

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