Ghana Tips for Travelers from a Local Tripper

The following is a guest post by Huiling Zhao, a Chinese native and Ghanian transplant with a voracious appetite for travel.

I am, just like many of you, one of the slaves behind my computer from 9-5pm, making the bills for the boss. But traveling is one of the things that make me feel ALIVE. I was born in Shanghai, China. At the tender age of 10, my father quit his 12+ years of corporate career and left to Ghana for a summer vacation. At the end of his trip, he asked if we could move there — the rest is history. I lived in Ghana for 8 years and came to Philadelphia for my undergraduate studies. I’m currently living and working in NYC. Aside from English, I’m also fluent in Manadarin and Shanghainese.

Ghana, formerly known as the “Gold Coast” is on the west coast of Africa. People
often ask me, “Do you live in trees; did you drive; did you have tigers as pets…etc?”
I’ll take a leap and blame that on Discovery’s extreme depiction. Ironically, the truth
is actually the opposite. From posh restaurants to luxurious resorts, the nation is
fighting to preserve its cultural practices and values while remaining on the
forefront of economic developments. The tempo of life here is relaxing; so relaxing
that everyone follows GMT (Ghana-man time), which is 2-3 hours behind events’
official start time;) The weather is tropical, and the people are just as warm as the
weather. Music is an integral part of the culture; I hope you’re not shy to dance!

Where to go:

-Elmina Castle (Cape Coast, GH): Cape Coast is about 2-3 hours drive from Accra,
with the original castle that was used to house slaves before they were shipped off.
The castle offers an important piece of history. I visited
the castle at the age of twelve; the cells’ ceiling was a few inches above my head.
This is where the slaves spent most of their time, crouched.

-Ada (Ada, GH): Ada is on the eastern region of Accra, about a 3 hour drive.
Unlike most of the beaches in Accra and Tema, this is where the locals go on
vacation. Its spreads of white sandy beaches and lush plantations house adventures
you won’t find in the city- zip lining such as jet skiing and boat excursions to nearby islands.
If you do get on a boat, take a trip to the Volta River. The river is one of the most
important water bodies, supplying electricity for the country through Volta Dam.

-Makola Market & Osu Market: The Ghanaian markets are integral to the
preservation of the local culture. Makola market is a day market in Accra that sells
every thing imaginable. Osu Market is more vibrant during the night, illuminated
with local vendors’ lanterns and candles.

-Nightlife: Ghanaians love to party; the festivities do not stop until you hear
roosters crowing. Osu is a great start to your first night out in Accra, if you’re on
your own. The neighborhood is concentrated with bars and clubs. Rhapsody, Twist,
Champs, and Citizen Kofi are a few popular destinations. Make friends with the locals;
that is your gateway to afterhours spots! Did I mention – there’s no drinking age in
Ghana?

What to eat:
-Asanka Local (Osu, Accra): Chop bar is a great way to meet people and live like a local.
Asanka is a popular one, offering a variety of national favorites- with ice cold STAR
beers always ready to serve. If you’re the daring kind, sample some Akpeteshi, a
locally brewed palm wine.

-Frankies (Osu, Accra): Going to Frankies for my friends and I used to be a social
event. The food there is mostly western and Lebanese items, nothing to write home
about. BUT its location and its outdoors seating make it one of the most entertaining
places for people watching. You might just spot a celebrity!

-Labadi Beach (Labadi, Accra): Labadi Beach is 10 minute drive from the city.
Agriculture accounts for 70% or more of the employment in this country. You won’t see
much industrial fishing in the city; most fishermen go into the sea with a wooden
boat, a nylon line and hopes to be able to put food on the table. On the weekends,
you’ll see fresh catch for sale. If you’re lucky, take the fresh catch to any chop bar on
the beach and the chef will be sure to whip up some delicious dishes.

-Street food: My heart sings, heavenly music when it comes to Ghanaian street food.
My favorites are fried yam with grilled fish, wakkye and fried plantains. For those
adventurous eaters, I say onto you, go ahead – sample one tasty morsel at a time.

Check out our current Ghanaian accommodation options and start planning your trip now! For more tips and to connect with Huiling, check out her Tripping profile and to connect with other travelers with questions about Ghana, check out our designated Q&A section!