Ghana opens a window of sunlight over long lines of beachfront, a rich coastal patch where history merges with the present, music weaves into patterns of tradition all the way to green mountains bursting with youthful waterfalls and Saharan shea-dominated shrublands up north. And backpacking is totally recommended for the Black Star country’s diverse and dazzling landscape.
A growing middle class and politically stable, as well as terrorism-free atmosphere means tourism gains for the West African country.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
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3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
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1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
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The backpacker scene
Ghana has a bit of everything, from the social to the ritual spiritual, the high-end party style to the grassroots raw experience, the clean-cut cosmopolitan to the colorful traditional. It doesn’t take much to get acclimatized, since the journeys and destinations are always refreshing and the people are naturally warm to encounter. Keep note that yellow fever vaccination is required for travelers.
You might want to start from Cape Coast and Elmina, where Ghana’s colonial history leaves castles and forts sprinkled along the clean beaches. Kakum is a thorough natural experience, with a canopy walkway and tree houses looking over virgin evergreen forests. Maybe the most intriguing bit could be canoeing through Butre’s mangroves and experiencing living on water at Nzulenzu, or surfing at Busua. Also, eating fufu with the natives in Yaa Asantewaa’s Ejisu on the way to Kumasi before jumping to the dancing and drumming meet-ups in Koforidua, Ho, or Sunyani might just do it for you. Or perhaps you prefer to go mountain climbing in the Volta and wake up at Mole to a gathering of elephants and antelopes.
You can also choose to simply take it easy by lodging in the stone buildings at Asutsuare, or watching the Boti Falls course down into the memorable abyss of time. If your sociable bug hits, you might want to get into conversation with fishing and farming families in Sehwi, or drink into the night at Osu or Kokrobite. Let’s break down how exciting the Ghana backpacking life can get from here.
Making the most of it
What, where, which and why
There are hundreds of ideas all over the internet which could suit your tastes if you’re traveling alone or not. Ghanaians are super-friendly and willing to help you put your schedule together even before you ask. SIM cards are super-cheap on every street corner, and they come with mobile data. If it’s your first time, you might want to package your own food or order warm from restaurants for the road since cold street food, especially in unkempt neighborhoods, might be a bit tricky for your stomach.
Explore outside the norm
Usually visitors aim their compasses at direct post-colonial structures, for example Cape Coast castle, but there’s much more to Ghana. Depending on your itinerary, there are engaging activities and spaces that will leave indelible memories on and off the coasts. English is widely spoken, and Pidgin (broken form of English with local languages sprinkled in) is also very popular. Other major languages include Akan, Ewe, Ga and Hausa.
Find the magic as you go
Cheap gem experiences are available on the street, on the road, and online. Transportation is easy to set up by picking taxis or trotros running on almost every street corner or connecting to the few mobile apps, especially in the major cities.
It’s mandatory for all foreign nationals resident in Ghana to register with the National Identification Authority (NIA) and get a non-citizen Ghana card. Local travel in Ghana is generally safe and there are barely any records of assaults on tourists, but in places with thick human traffic you’d have to keep an eye on your phones and laptops if you’re not intending to give it out to a ‘second owner’ adept in bag snatching, petty theft, or pickpocketing. Be ready for vehicular traffic, especially in the city center. Localized outbreaks of civil unrest can occur at short notice in the north, but local police impose curfews to contain such situations.
Food and accommodation
In central cities, booking.com can be helpful with recommendations but usually with touristic lodging. Away from the guidebooks, beach huts are available at beach resorts. In the streets and on intercity buses, if you ask around, you’ll always find the most appealing family-run guest houses or less costly nature-intimate settings. The Ghana Tourism Board runs the grading system from hotels to inns. Camping is possible, but local support goes a long way.
You might need a log of local phrases for your tongue to roll better in Ghana, and an attitude for bargaining keeps your wallet from losing weight. Also, fellow backpackers, an adventure-loving spirit and group activities might spice up the happenings, as such the importance to make friends. Here are a few popular words and phrases that you are bound to hear when in Ghana: 18 Twi Phrases and Words to Know When Visiting Ghana.
Money, money, money
There are a number of interesting things to shop for in Ghana. The local currency is the Ghana cedi ($1USD equals 4,5 Ghana cedis). Cash goes around here and mobile money is common. Cards on the other hand are accepted in just a handful of larger outlets. Do your foreign exchange in Accra or the regional capitals, otherwise it might be difficult to find someone to exchange your money elsewhere.
Here’s a breakdown of what you should expect to pay:
1 meal ($1–$5USD)
1 beer ($1–$2USD)
1 night at a backpacker hostel ($10–$20USD)
1 cheap mode of transport for inner-city travel (e.g. trotro, motorbike taxi, taxi) ($1–$3USD)
1 hygiene/medical essential (at a local shop) ($5–$10USD)
1 affordable experience ($5–$10USD)
Where to go
The estimated terrain elevation above seal level of Accra Plains is 21 metres. The grassy and scrubby coast goes for miles, then rises with jutting hills, for example Mount Krobo. It’s a great place for off-trail hikes and backpacking on the vast savanna terrain. The grassland, thicket, and forest vegetation of the Accra Plains comes with 350 species of vascular plants with floristic distinctness. Also, there are hundreds of bird species. Although the majority of species are of Guinean affinity, the plant communities of the Accra Plains are unique in the context of African tropical vegetation.
The Atewa Range Forest Reserve, measuring 58,472 acres, is being considered for the status of national park by the government and wildlife parties. It is one of two of such forests left remaining in Ghana, also providing the headwater for three major river systems, the Ayensu, Densu and Birim rivers. As part of the Upper Guinea biodiverse ecosystem, it is one of Ghana’s 30 Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas, and in 2001 was listed as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International. Atewa is home to the critically endangered frog species Conraua derooi, whose presence in Atewa may represent the last viable population in the world.
Bucket list experiences
Experience Jamestown’s beach barter and bliss
The expanse of Jamestown—the first settlement built in Accra—is memorable. The Atlantic shore, dotted with traditional fishing boats without radars and a beach packed with squid, barracuda, mackerel, flounder, and bass-filled pans and smiles is heart-warming. The shacks, murals, and Bukom boxing gyms are unforgettable things Jamestown has to offer.
Trek to the heart of Volta’s summits
Volta’s peaks average 1,500 feet, continuing eastward to the Niger River. The Togo precipices to Atakora in Benin are just magnificent highlands. The most thrilling part is to visit spots where the Volta river cuts through the green lands all the way to waterfalls at Wli.
Make symbolic prints with Ntonso’s Adinkra
In the Kwabre East district in Ashanti Ghana, visual symbols that represent concepts or aphorisms are popular and impactful. Experience how Adinkra, used extensively in fabrics, tattoos, and pottery among the Ashantis of Ashanti Kingdom of Ghana and Baoulés of Cote D’Ivoire can be stamped with calabash and natural dye.
If the backpacker trail has you worn out, bag yourself an oceanside stay in our rundown of the top beach resorts in Ghana – all bookable on Culture Trip.
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