11 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My First Trip To Ghana

11 Things I Wish I had Known Before Visiting Ghana || #explore #ghana #africa

After 18 days in Ghana, I can happily say I’d love to make a trip back! The weather was heavenly, the people were beyond kind, and it was so affordable. BUT it would have gone a lot smoother if I had known these now-obvious tips. Every single issue I had was 100% preventable and now you can be sure the avoid the same mistakes I made. Overall, Ghana is way easier than the majority of places I have traveled to.

 

1. You must get your yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days prior to travel.

Get Your Yellowfever Shot- 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Ghana #africa #explore

As I mentioned previously, I was unaware of this until after I had waited too long to get my vaccination. Luckily, the CDC or WHO states that the vaccination will be effective seven days prior to departure. So I went ahead to Ghana with a premature vaccination and got stopped at border patrol. I’ll go into detail a little later on the post, but just know that Ghana is quite known for “corruption” in the form of bribery. Unfortunately, I only had a $20 bill on me when I probably could have given a $5 bill and been completely safe.

2. Bribing happens everywhere.

Bribes Everywhere in Ghana - 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Ghana #africa #explore

Ah yes. My first encounter with Ghana was literally bribing to get through the vaccination check. Police will try to get a bribe from cab drivers who do not keep their inspection stickers present. Even the president has been accused of (and struggles to deny) bribery during power. The only benefit to this applies to the airport, even though it’s probably wrong. The line for the ticketing counter was atrocious, but plenty of people popped over to the side with 10 or so cedis and skipped the whole line. To each his own.

3. There is no WIFI at the airport.

No Wifi in Airport - 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Ghana #africa #explore

Make all of your accommodation plans ahead of time! When my ride got my flight time and local address wrong (oh yeah, it was reallll bad- after about 26 hours of traveling from California to Africa my ride showed almost two hours late!) I was held by border patrol until she showed up… An hour and a half after my flight had landed. There wasn’t wifi for me to simply look up hotel to provide another address to write down.

4. … Or really anywhere.

There isn't much wifi in Ghana #travel

Unlike Europe and other tourist friendly areas, Ghana has very limited public wifi. From my understanding, data is a little costly and most people use those little personal wifi boxes. After nearly three weeks I was ecstatic and baffled upon finding a café that provided free wifi. Of course, it didn’t actually work. Consider bringing an unlocked smart phone (check with your provider as to not break any contracts), buy a cheap smart phone upon arrival, or download one of these amazing map apps that work without service.

5. Expect to get told the “Obroni Rate” or as I call it, “Tourist Tax.”

Pay The Tourist Tax- 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Ghana #africa #explore

Obroni, sounds like “oh-bro-knee”, is the word for foreigner and in particular, white person. Ah yes, the ole haggle with the cabbie task. There are a million and one taxis in Ghana, and Accra specifically. Of these, 9/10 will offer you an outrageous price on the first try. Before this can happen, ask a friend (or anyone standing near you, people are SO helpful) how much the price of the cab should be from point A to point B. No clue? Simply offer half of what the taxi offers and gage their reaction. Even if it’s a fair price, some will still pressure you to pay more. Just step back, say no thank you, and wait for another cab. If they drive away, you know you offered too little. If they wave you over, you now know your pricing. Note: Not to tell you what to do buuuut, consider what an extra 5 cedis is to compared to a taxi driver in Ghana. Let them know it’s not cool to price gauge, but throw in a tip.

 

 

6. Food is available 24/7 on nearly every road. 


People hawk for the majority of the day, everything from towels to USBs to puppies. After two weeks of crepes and eggs I got pretty invested in the street hawkers. Have to mention that some of them are children, and usually are hawking until they get enough to pay for their school fees. Call me a sinner but I’ll usually just through them a cedi or two and not take what they are selling. Generally I’ve been warned a million times to not give to child beggars and have heard horror stories of people “renting” babies and children to illicit sympathy only to keep the majority of the money for themselves and pennies for the parent (who may or may not use that to the child’s benefit). The best bet for that is to keep a pack of grapes, plantain chips, or other semi-healthy snack to give to the children.

 

 

7. The people are extremely friendly.


It took me a minute to understand that when someone gives me directions, they don’t want a tip. Generally while traveling, I have to constantly swipe away handsy men who think they will get some cash if they carry my suitcase a few blocks. The only time we had a situation like that was in Cape Coast where a guy basically just tried to ride around the cab with us giving us “advice” even though we knew where we were going. And we tried to tell him that. He didn’t even really ask for anything but I could tell he was hoping for it. Besides strangers, all our neighbors were chatty and one lovely lady would pop by the house to visit with us.

8. Using your left hand is considered rude. 

Use Your Right Hand In Ghana- 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Ghana #africa #exploreEven though this applies to a large portion of the world, I still forgot until I messed up and someone corrected me. When greeting, there is this little handshake thing that involves snapping your fingers. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do it with your left! You’ll most likely get a tt-tt-tt noise and a disapproving headshake. This also includes when you’re exchanging money for goods. Sort of a pain in the ass, but when in Rome…

 

 

9. The food is spicy and CHEAP.


As someone who enjoys rice for breakfast and spices, I was in heaven for a few weeks. Usually a road-side stand would give me pork or chicken and yam chips (fries) for around 8-12 cedis or $2-$6. Expect grilled tilapia, chunks or pork, and seasoned grilled chicken. My favorite dish was the Goat Lite soup, which was sooo salty and usually a little spicy. No matter how much I loved watching the little goats jump around town, I didn’t think twice about ordering goat lite soup. Sorry kids 😉 (get it? Baby goats are called…)

10. Public transportation is extremely affordable (tro-tro!) but cramped and slow.


For under 1 cedi you can pretty much get anywhere in Accra. The photo was taken on one of my many tro-tro rides- notice the bagged water? You can get it pretty much anywhere. Circle is the rightfully named circular area where you can catch tro-tros around the city. Honestly don’t think there is an actual schedule or a way to figure out your path. Ask anyone in your path, and you can be certain you are headed in the right direction. It can be a little overwhelming for some people, so if you don’t want to be touched or talked to, just walk around with bitch-face and no one will mess with you.

 

 

10. Accra is a happenin’ town.


Like many capital cities, Accra has plenty to do. Being there less than a month still provided me with a huge book fair, arts + music festival, and the Homowu Festival. There is SO much to do! One of my favorite spots that I stumbled upon pretty briefly was the +233 Jazz Bar. When I popped by, a beautiful woman was singing so beautifully I almost teared up. And people were dancing everywhere! My kinda place 😉 We also made it out to Tea Bar, a really  hip little spot with phenomenal food. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had the BEST salad in the city. Best part? They have TIPSY tea. Oh yeah. Get the peach + rum.

 

 

11. You have to exchange to another currency if you have more than 500 Cedi upon departure. (That’s about $130.00)


As briefly mentioned, corruption is rampant in Ghana. The only thing that will happen to you is getting your money confiscated. Since it is a small amount of cash in the grand scheme of things, it can be easy to show up at the airport with too many cedis only to have them snatched. Don’t let it ruin your trip at the very end!

Have you ever been to Ghana? What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to you on a trip?

Laughing to Keep From Crying: Kakum National Park in Ghana

Visiting Kakum National Park #travel #explore #africa

 

Okay, I’m being slightly hyperbolic here. I was totally fine swinging 100 feet up in the air. Not to mention, we were slipping all over the place thanks to the rain that had been steadily drizzling for a few hours. I peaked down to the distant land below and gulped. Kakum National Park was a first-time thrill for me. The bridge starts swaying. I clutched my go-pro arm and attempted to twist my head just enough to see the group behind me.  But there was no turning back… How did I get myself into this predicament?

 

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

We arrived at Kakum National Park by hopping on a tro-tro in Accra, and driving a little under two hours to Cape Coast! Then, we hopped on another tro-tro and headed straight for Kakum National Park. The streets were lined with goats of all sizes, as we quickly turned from semi-paved roads to full on swerving-left-and-right-and-more-left to avoid the massive potholes in the roads. Nevermind, our driver chuckled, and picked the speed up to 100 km/hr. As the person sitting next to the massive open window, I had to laugh to keep from thinking of popping out of the window and rolling down the hills. But don’t worry. I’m typing you today, so clearly, I’ve survived.

We came screeching along with a couple other dozen, maybe fifty people trickled up the entrance. Be warned, foreigners have a little bigger of a fee. Personally, I think that’s how it should be in every country- your right to your own national parks. But I did overhear other visitors complaining, so you’ve been forewarned. The park itself cost a mere 2 cedis to enter, but what you want is the canopy walk! It’s only an additional 50 cedis (little over 10 USD) for an exhilarating adventure.

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

Most of us hadn’t eaten all day, other than some amazing road-side plantains, and by the time we arrived it was nearing 3:00 in the afternoon. At the same time, it was starting to drizzle. Probably not safe to do the canopy walk while it’s wet and on an empty stomach. Simply unsafe, to me. *Rubs empty belly* Just to our luck, there was a perfect little open-air restaurant INSIDE of the national park. And they sold CLUB BEER. I sat my happy little ass down and order my favorite Ghanian dish- Goat Lite Soup and rice. Disclaimer- do not order the pizza! All my pals tried to get pizza and it was quite similar to the elementary public school plastic excuse for dining. Save yourself and order something local!

If you can manage, you should try to get there early to avoid the last minute rush. To make it easier, I let the pushers push up ahead, and our group hung out by the back. That way, we didn’t have to feel rushed. Once you get going, you can’t really turn back. This proved to be a little intense for some people, children and grown-ass men included. There were tears. Prayers. Cries and whimpers.

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

But it was absolutely beautiful!

The air was refreshing, the trees were a million shades of emerald and green. Birds fluttered about, singing to each other. Did you know there are over 250 species of bird in Kakum? I didn’t either until I visited. Honestly, the rain made it a little more surreal. The canopy was just long enough to enjoy it, without feeling like you need to do it again.

 

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

 

After the canopy, you can walk through the park and explore the different species. Most animals will be hiding by noon, so get in early if you want to see any elephants!

There is even an option to SPEND THE NIGHT on the canopy walk! Bring a mosquito net and proper shoes though, you have to be there early for this option.

Visiting Kakum National Park in Ghana #travel #explore #africa

Overall, Kakum National Park was a great day trip and I highly recommend it. Nothing is better than fresh air and friends! Have you ever heard of the park or been on a canopy walk?

Is Ghana Safe For Tourists?

Is Ghana Safe For Travelers? || a tipsy gypsy life #travel #Ghana #Africa…was something I tried to Google before deciding if I was going to make the trip or not. I didn’t know “diddly-squat,” as they say down south, about the country. In fact, I really wasn’t even certain if it was in West Africa or southern Africa elsewhere. There wasn’t much information on the matter and I truly feel it is my obligation to let everyone know the answer to such a pressing question.

Is Ghana safe for tourists?

Yes. Si. Oui. Ja. Can’t think of any other languages so I’ll give a hell yes!

Seriously. You can walk around at 2 a.m. with no streetlights, and not be scared. If you look even remotely distraught, someone will happily figure out how to cure your sadness. Lost? No such thing! Everyone helps each other out.

Ghana has been the only place that I’ve visited and I didn’t feel the need to take a photo of each cab that I hopped into. Any time someone asked for my number, I knew that they wouldn’t harass me. Men don’t whistle at you or try to grab your tush as you walk by.

If you’re uncomfortable with how fast the taxi or tro tro is going just speak up. The nicest aspect was not being made to feel silly when I admitted I was a little scared of going to Ghana all alone.

The Worst Thing That Happened to Me In Ghana Was 100% Preventable…

When I arrived at the airport and tried to go through immigration, the officer realized the address I was given was not a real address. No worries! I have a phone number for the host.

*Le Ring- BEEP BEEP BEEP. WE’RE SORRY, BUT THE PERSON YOU’RE TRYNG-*

I shuffle my papers around with the copy of my yellow fever card (which I did end up having to bribe my way in), address and contact info of my host, and New Lens Travel info, and try to act like I don’t notice how concerned the guard is getting. “One moment, miss.”

*Le Ring- BEEP BEEP BEEP. WE’RE SORRY, BUT THE PERSON YOU’RE TRYNG-*

They knew it was my first time in Ghana and that I was meeting with someone I had met online (yes, really). No worries, I thought, my girl is probably waiting for me outside. 

I let them know that I had someone waiting for me, probably worried since I had gotten held up at the vaccination area for 15 minutes and then another 10 at the immigration place. They happily supplied someone to walk me outside to help me check out where people gather to pick up their visitors. My girl, we shall call her J-Baby, was no where to be found. WEIRD. “She’s got to be here!” I swear.

They shoot each other worried glances.

Don’t forget, I had been traveling for about 30 hours without a shower or so much as a nap. Running into J-Baby’s arms and being whisked to a shower was all I had been fantasizing about for days. But she wasn’t there!

*Shivers nervously as the last passengers in the last flight in for the night waltz past me and lights start turning off*

SHE HAS GOT TO BE HERE! I start twitching. Stinky, sad, and downright HUNGRY, I prayed she would arrive.

20 minutes pass by. Now my concerned immigration crew has grown from one grown-ass man to four grown-ass men and one woman. We continue to search the building while the officers try to look her up on Facebook to contact her.

SHIIIIIT. What if everyone has been right my whole life? What if leaping before I look will ultimately lead to my demise?! What if this was a plot to get me kidnapped at ransomed?!

By now, I’m starting to cry, and whimper, and drop the “f-bomb” enough to make all my angels shake their heads in heaven. Please, I beg. please just let me see her little beautiful face.

Over two hours later, I friggin hate myself for making these wonderful people stay late. I beg to just let me go to a hotel, but they were genuinely concerned for my safety. That amazed me. One last time, I say, we shall check outside.

And of course, there she was, a little frantic because I was surrounded by guards.

What was the issue? She had gotten my flight time wrong. If I had been anywhere else, I would’ve been rejected OR had to deal with sleeping at the airport.


Overall, my biggest advice is to simply trust your gut and listen to the locals. I’ll write soon about my friend getting robbed in Cape Coast and how that was also 100% preventable. 

Remember people, fear is the thief of dreams!

My First Voluntourism Trip to Africa… I’m Ghana Miss Y’all

my first trip to Africa... I'm Ghana Miss Y'all! #travel #explore

Things have been a little quiet around A Tipsy Gypsy Life, and for good reason. I didn’t want to spoil a surprise that I wasn’t certain was going to happen! This year, I promised I would personally explore a legitimate voluntourism venture and report back to my little spot on the interwebz, but with less than a month to get vaccines, a visa, and international bank transfers, I had my doubts. Before the drumroll, let’s catch up a little. 

Where Have I Been This Summer?

After my exhilarating trip to Hawaii, I spent some time over in the scorching Southeastern U.S.  First, I had the opportunity to watch my cousin get his Eagle Scout award in Tri-Cities, Tennessee. It was such a lovely party and needless to say, I was beyond proud of his accomplishments. Tri-Cities is a gorgeous little area in Eastern Tennessee that comprises of Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol. The communities are nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a stunning little portion of the Appalachian Mountains. If you make it over, be sure to get in camping and a visit to Dollywood, located a little under 2 hours drive away.

After Tennessee, I went straight to St. Petersburg for a few days of rest and relaxation. While visiting my hometown, I had to stop by the gem of the city- the Dali Museum. The collection never ceases to amaze, and the new building is the perfect setting for a post-tour rosé. I highly recommend grabbing the free audio tour- Dali had a mind worth exploring.

Last but definitely not least, I popped by New Orleans for a few days of sunshine and comfort food. No matter where I travel to, waltzing around the French Quarter on a Saturday is still one of my favorite past-times. Of course I had my favorite dish, pecan-crusted gulf fish, and a monsoon (or two). If you get the chance to visit, be sure to get at least a few of the city’s best drinks. Not much of a drinker? No worries, the food is what keeps people crawling back, anyways.

And the whole time I was worried because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make my trip to (drumroll please)….

Ghana in August!

As we’ve discussed once or twice, voluntourism is a little like U.S. lawyers- it’s either really, really good or really, really bad. Good intentions can so easily be twisted to long-term negative impacts, like displacing locals from jobs. A wonderful documentary I highly recommend is “Poverty, Inc.” The film offers a staggeringly honest look into the industries that have fueled the global poverty cycle.

Luckily, I put it out in the universe that I really really really wanted this voluntourism experience in August, and of course, you always get what you expect. From August 3-23, I’ll be working with local media professionals in Accra, Ghana to make a portfolio as part of New Lens Travel. Not only does the fee go to the expert leading the individual session, it also funds a youth newspaper. As of now, I’m between a blog editor, head of news at a radio station, and the creator of an online satirical publication. I’m ready to learn a thing or two.

While I’m in Ghana, I’ll be posting about everything I can get my hands on, from food, to nightclubs (yes, they have a rocking nightlife!), to nature explorations. If there’s anything you want to know about Accra, let me know and I will scope it out. That’s what travelers do, yeah?

Fun Facts About Ghana

I’m not going to lie, I knew literally NOTHING about Ghana prior to hooking up with the founder of New Lens Travel. Here are just a few of the things that excited me about the trip. 

They Speak English!

My Spanish is “get by-able” but not comfortably conversational. And any other languages? Maybe one day. But not today. And tomorrow doesn’t look too good either.  Although I love the feeling of disorientation in a new country, creating a legitimate media portfolio might be a little difficult if I can’t communicate! I’ve been told Ghana is a perfect entry country for a first-time visitor to Africa, but each community in each country is extremely unique. How unique? Ghana’s official language may be English, but they have over 250 additional languages and dialects!

Chocolate Galore.

Everyone has their weaknesses, and mine is definitely chocolate. I’ll shamelessly eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I thoroughly believe at least 30% of my joy in life comes from chocolate. And just my luck, West Africa produces significantly more cocoa than the rest of the world. And most importantly? Ghana is the number 2 exporter world wide. Unfortunately, the country gets a measly portion of the $100 billion industry. I’m planning on visiting a cocoa farm, time-willing, in hopes of supporting a legitimate, slave-free cocoa production and learning the tricks of the trade getting to know the people who make my favorite treat.

The Capital City Is On The Coast.

Y’all already know I’m a little mermaid! Even though I am *slightly* nervous about hanging out on a beach when I know it tends to be the target of plenty of terrorists attacks. As I’ve said before, I really am a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to traveling, but that’s why we do it… Right? Not only do the beaches mean sunbathing and swimming, but the tropical weather makes for perfectly plump fruit like mangoes!

How has your summer been? If you’re not in this hemisphere, how’s the weather down there?