Akwaaba means welcome in Twi, the Ashanti language. It’s a popular greeting all over Ghana and you will probably hear it more than once in Accra. Ghanaians are very hospitable people eager to connect with visitors. As long as you treat them with respect, people in Accra will help you out as much as they can and make your stay there as welcoming as possible. Being a collectivist culture, don’t be surprised to find people wishing to take an interest in you and your affairs, more than you are probably used to. It’s all in good faith.
The official language in Ghana is English, which most people understand, so you should be able to get by with that alone. The local people in Accra are the Ga, however, being the capital, Accra is home to people from many other ethnic groups, who speak languages such as Twi, Hausa and Pidgin English. A few short phrases in Twi such as ‘Wo ho te sεn?’ (pronounced Woho te-sain), meaning ‘How are you?’ will endear you to locals who will gladly reply ‘Me ho ye’, meaning I am fine.
Osu is the main cultural hotspot in Accra, attracting young people to the many boutiques, clubs and restaurants in the vicinity. It is a good place to get in touch with locals as many spend nights and weekends there, recovering from the stress of the week. Take a stroll along Oxford Street, the main artery that runs through Osu and find stallholders selling traditional crafts such as jewellery, dashikis and drums. The Accra Art Centre is a better place to purchase such items, as it is the largest art market in the city. You could visit Tea Baa, a small and cosy restaurant for the best cold teas in the city or the Republic Bar and Grill for live highlife music and great cocktails made with locally-brewed alcohol. There are also many contemporary galleries showcasing the work of local artists such as Bright Akwerh, Serge Attukwei Clottey and Zohra Opoku. Visit Gallery 1957 or Brazil House for an insight into the contemporary art scene.
There is street food aplenty in Accra. Take the plunge and try some jollof rice, grilled tilapia, kelewele, waakye or banku. Waakye is a national treasure and is eaten for breakfast or lunch all over the country. It is a filling rice and bean dish served with spaghetti, and a meat stew. Most of these street foods are served with shitor, a super spicy black pepper sauce. Its name literally translates as pepper in Ga but it’s widely used to refer to any sauce, regardles or colour (green, black or brown) and recipe that is based on pepper. Shitor tends to be harsh on the palate especially to those unfamiliar with its imposing taste.
There are many options available for getting around the city. Trotros are the main commercial minibuses that ply the streets and link up Accra’s various districts. Opting to use these buses will help make navigation simpler, especially if you are on a budget, as they are affordable and cover the entirety of the city and beyond. Uber, Taxify and regular taxis also ply the streets giving a wide range of services to get you from place to place.
Travellers should generally feel safe in Accra as there are no major security concerns to worry about. Having said that, it can be stressful and intense for some, and the company of a trusted guide or a groups of friends can help alleviate anxiety. Paying attention to how the locals behave will help you understand how things work in Accra and minimise misunderstandings.