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Moving to Ghana

Apart from the heat, one of the first things that new expats moving to Ghana will notice are the friendly people and laid-back culture. Whether moving from North America, Europe or even from nearby West African countries, newcomers will find plenty to explore and experiences in Ghana. From Accra, the country's coastal capital, to the dusty northern towns bordering the Sahara Desert, Ghana is relatively quiet and peaceful.

Living in Ghana as an expat

The expat community in Ghana has grown over the years and is diverse. Lebanese traders who have been in the country for generations have been joined by diplomats, aid workers and, more recently, professionals in the private sector, as an increasing number of expats are flooding into the country to work in the growing hydrocarbon, telecommunications, mining and transport industries.

Cost of living in Ghana

The cost of living in Ghana is higher than what expats may expect of a West African country. Water and electricity in Ghana are not reliable. Expats living in standalone houses might need to install generators and water storage tanks for when the mains supply fails, and life without functioning air conditioning in Ghana is difficult. These extra utilities are additional costs on top of the price of accommodation, which is in short supply and therefore expensive.

Healthcare in Ghana is of variable quality and private health insurance is a must, adding another expense to the monthly budget, though some expats will have this taken care of by their employer.

On the upside, highly skilled foreigners will find that salaries often exceed those in their home countries for the same work, and that companies often view Ghana as a 'hardship posting' which brings additional financial benefits.

Expat families and children

Schooling in Ghana can be a concern and expats should do their best to ensure that an education allowance is provided by their sponsoring company to cover the high fees. There are some excellent private international schools in Accra and other large cities, but enrolment is limited and tuition expensive.

While entertainment in Ghana can be difficult to find, particularly outside of Accra, parents can make great use of Ghana's natural bounties. Lush forests, rushing waterfalls, vast lakes and great beaches are all fantastic for a day out in the sun.

Climate in Ghana

Sunshine is plentiful in Ghana, but getting used to the weather can nevertheless be a challenge, with year-round temperatures of between 77°F (25°C) and 100°F (38°C). The only noticeable distinction in seasons is precipitation with heavy rainfall during summer, which can be a welcome break from the heat.

With many parts of the Sub-Saharan Africa region emerging as markets of the future, Ghana is proving a favourable destination for expats. In particular, the instability in neighbouring countries has propelled Ghana to the forefront as a viable alternative for families seeking an African experience in a stable, safe environment. With a little patience and time to get to know the local culture and customs, expats should settle into Ghanaian life quite well.


Fast facts

Population: 32 million

Capital city: Accra (also largest city)

Neighbouring countries: Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast to the west, Togo to the east and Burkina Faso to the north.

Geography: Ghana is a geographically diverse country which encompasses plains, low hills, rivers and lakes. Lake Volta is the world's largest artificial reservoir.

Political system: Unitary presidential constitutional republic

Main languages: English

Major religion: Christianity

Money: The Ghana Cedi (GHS), divided into 100 pesewas. The US Dollar (USD) is widely accepted in the main cities and tourist areas. Many international banks are represented in Ghana. ATMs are commonplace in the cities but are harder to find in more rural locations. Ghana is a predominantly cash-based economy and due to the prevalence of credit card fraud, it is unwise to use cards too liberally. 

Tipping: A 10-percent tip for good service is appreciated but not mandatory.

Time: GMT+0

Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. 'Type G' flat three-pronged and 'Type D' rounded three-pronged plugs are standard.

International dialling code: +233

Internet domain: .gh

Emergency contacts: 112

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Ghana. While public transport networks do exist in Ghana, they are generally poorly developed and traffic can be chaotic. Within cities, taxis are an inexpensive way to get around.

Weather in Ghana

Ghana doesn't experience a vast array of seasons, and has a tropical climate typified by wet summers and dry winters. The rainy season arrives in March in the central regions of Ghana, and begins one month later in the north. Wet weather continues until October or November.

Temperatures and humidity are generally high all year round, particularly in the coastal regions. The coolest time of year is from June to September, but even then temperatures tend to hover around 83°F (28°C).

The hottest months are between late November and mid-March when the dry and dusty harmattan winds blow in from the Sahara in the northeast. The harmattan lowers humidity drastically and creates hot days and cool nights. Daytime temperatures reach 95°F (35°C) and higher.

 

Embassy Contacts for Ghana


Ghanaian embassies

  • Ghana High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 203 302 2288

  • Embassy of Ghana, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 686 4520

  • Ghana High Commission, Toronto, Canada: +1 416 848 1014

  • Ghana Consulate, Sydney, Australia: +61 2 9299 6650

  • Ghana High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 5847

  • Ghana Consulate, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 230 3484


Foreign embassies in Ghana

  • British High Commission, Accra: +233 302 21 3200

  • US Embassy, Accra: +233 302 74 1000

  • High Commission of Canada, Accra:  +233 302 21 1521

  • Australian High Commission, Accra:+233 302 21 6400

  • South African High Commission, Accra: +233 302 74 0450

Public Holidays in Ghana

 

2022

2023

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Constitution Day

7 January

7 January

Independence Day

6 March

6 March

Good Friday

15 April

7 April

Easter Monday

18 April

10 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Eid al-Fitr

2 May

21 April

Eid al-Adha

9 July

28 June

Founder's Day

4 August

4 August

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day

21 September

21 September

Farmer's Day

2 December

2 December

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

*Public holidays that fall over a weekend are observed on the following Monday.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Ghana

Settling into life in a new country comes with many challenges and opportunities, and Ghana is no exception. On top of culture shock, expats have to endure the red tape surrounding visas, finding affordable accommodation, and integrating their children into a suitable school. On the other hand, there are plenty of upsides, and life in Ghana, with the right attitude, can be quite wonderful.

Here is a list of some pros and cons of moving to Ghana.


Culture in Ghana

+ PRO: Friendly people

Ghanaians are warm and friendly. They are happy to help and like to get to know each other, socialising before getting down to business and having lighthearted chats when haggling in local markets. Expats will be happy to know they are welcome in Ghana and are encouraged to learn local customs.

- CON: Different style of eating

Standard Ghanaian cuisine involves starch alongside a stew or soup. Meals are often eaten from a communal dish with the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand being used to pick up food. This style of eating can be a bit of a culture shock for those unused to eating with their hands.


Safety in Ghana

+ PRO: Fairly safe

Expats need not be anxious about their safety living in Ghana. While neighbouring and nearby countries experience political unrest, Ghana remains relatively peaceful. Expats living in compounds have the luxury of security staff as an added, but not strictly necessary, measure of protection.

- CON: Be aware of pickpocketing and scams

While safety is not a major issue, opportunistic petty crime does occur in Ghana. Expats should be aware that they may be targeted if they appear to be a new arrival, unaware of customs, confused in their new environment and not paying attention to their belongings. Remain vigilant and take common-sense precautions like not walking alone at night and keeping valuable items out of sight.


Getting around in Ghana

+ PRO: Excitement in travelling by tro-tro

Of course, travelling by tro-tro is both a pro and a con. These minibus taxis are a cheap way to whizz around town and can be lots of fun for foreigners looking to get familiar with the local way of life and experience some excitement; on the other hand, expats should take note that road rules are hardly obeyed, which means taking a tro-tro is not always the safest option. Taxis and ride-hailing services are a safer alternative.

- CON: Hectic traffic congestion

Being stuck in traffic is nothing new in Ghana’s major cities like Accra. Rush hour sees gridlock traffic jams stressing out drivers and impacting their arrival times to and from work and school. Poorly designed roads and high numbers of car ownership contribute to this, although there are plans to improve existing road networks.


Visas for Ghana

+ PRO: Expat businesses organise visas

Fortunately, foreigners moving to Ghana with employment already secured are likely to receive much support from their employing company. Companies must process work permits themselves and can help with visas and residence permits to get their expats settled.

- CON: Complicated, time-consuming procedures

Expats will face many bureaucratic procedures in Ghana when applying for visas, work permits and residence permits. Different governmental institutions need to be contacted, going through various departments. Patience is key and expats should consult their embassy for advice.


Accommodation in Ghana

+ PRO: Various housing options

Expats moving with families can find large homes with gardens while young and single expats might enjoy renting a luxury apartment. The housing stock is indeed in short supply and high demand, but expat companies often extend their support to accommodating employees in high-quality housing with air-conditioning.

- CON: Landlords expect heavy rent advancements

Oftentimes, securing a lease for accommodation is dependent on paying several months' rent in advance – and although contrary to legislation, this could even extend to two years’ worth of rent. By law, the maximum amount to be paid in advance is six months' rent, but this isn't always kept to in reality.


Cost of living in Ghana

+ PRO: Employment packages are negotiable

Despite high costs, many employment contracts can be negotiated in favour of the expat employee. This can include accommodation, tuition fees, insurance as well as visa and travel costs. It's important to discuss these matters with the employer when securing a job in Ghana.

- CON: Costs may be higher than expected

Expats should drop the conception that that things will be cheap because it’s Africa. Plush accommodation and quality education often come with heavy fees. The accommodation that meets Western standards is expensive, especially in Accra, and prices are often set based on the US dollar then converted into Ghanaian cedi, which may fluctuate. International schools with high tuition fees also contribute to the cost of living in Ghana.


Schools in Ghana

+ PRO: Fantastic international schools

Expat children from America, Canada, France, Germany and the UK will have few issues settling in provided the range of quality international schools to choose from. Those with a certain religious background or preference for Montessori education will also have their needs met, especially in large cities such as Accra.

- CON: Limited support for children with special needs

Despite Ghana’s Inclusive Education Policy, public schools provide limited help for children with disabilities and special needs. International private schools are more likely to provide inclusive education, but these should be contacted directly to find out the level of support available.


Working in Ghana

+ PRO: Business language is English

Although there are many languages spoken in Ghana, English is the official language and is spoken in business settings. This eases culture shock and language barriers for many English-speaking expats.

- CON: Work opportunities for expats are limited

Work opportunities for expats are limited because they are largely quota-based. Companies must apply for a work permit to employ foreign workers and this is dependent on their capital investments in Ghana. There are other options available, however, such as possibilities for company transfers to branches in Ghana or even starting up a new business. 


Healthcare in Ghana

+ PRO: Private health insurance is beneficial

Expats should organise private health insurance and though this can be costly, many expat companies include this as part of their employment package. Health insurance can cover a range of health issues, treatment in higher-quality private medical facilities, as well as medical evacuation and repatriation in case of emergencies.

- CON: Health concerns like malaria are serious

Mosquito-related illnesses such as malaria and yellow fever have been major issues in Ghana. Mosquito repellent and mosquito nets are necessary precautions, and expats should be well informed of the diseases and which hospitals provide quality healthcare.

Safety in Ghana

New arrivals don't need to be overly concerned with safety and security in Ghana. Violent crime rates are relatively low and petty crime can often be avoided simply by being vigilant. 

Ghana is fairly safe compared to other African countries, and as long as new arrivals familiarise themselves with relevant issues and take the necessary safety precautions, they should enjoy a safe existence.


Crime in Ghana

Despite Ghana's reputation of being a generally safe country, the influx of people into the cities with limited chances of gainful employment have increased instances of pickpocketing, and residential- and vehicle burglary.

Due to their relative visibility and presumed wealth, foreigners will find themselves targeted more often than locals. It's important to be aware of one's surroundings, especially in crowded marketplaces and when withdrawing cash from ATMs. Walking at night should be avoided where possible.

Ghanaians are renowned for being friendly and helpful toward foreigners, but it is best to keep overly-friendly strangers at arm's length, as petty crime and scams are increasingly common. Pickpocketing and opportunistic crime are a concern and there are certain risk areas where one should exercise extra care. When in a vehicle, doors should be locked and windows kept wound up.


Driving safety in Ghana

One of the most pressing dangers in Ghana is the poor standard of driving. The country has a high road death toll and it's no secret that driving in Ghana can be a stressful experience. Many expats in Ghana hire a full-time driver, though this is a matter of personal preference and many others prefer to navigate the roads themselves.

One safety issue that foreigners driving in Ghana should consider is that any crowds that form after an accident often involve themselves in the situation, which can complicate matters. In these cases, an expat can be vulnerable if driving alone without knowledge of the local language. This is an instance where a local driver would be useful, as they will know how to handle the situation.

The roads are not always well-lit and some are in a state of disrepair. Driving at night should therefore be avoided and those driving on main highways should stay alert in case of road difficulties.

Working in Ghana

Ghana abounds with natural resources, from gold and bauxite to cocoa and offshore oil reserves. It has a much higher per capita output compared to the poorest countries in West Africa, but Ghana remains dependent on international financial and technical assistance. Still, Ghana has a fast-growing economy, competing and engaging in international markets.

The service sector largely contributes to Ghana's GDP along with manufacturing, while agriculture remains the primary source of income for many Ghanaians.

Many people relocating to Ghana move to volunteer for a short period rather than work. Those with the right skills and expertise, however, will find that the economic climate in Ghana is bright.


Job market in Ghana

While the prospect of farming is unlikely to tempt foreigners to leave their home and work in Ghana, there are countless private-sector opportunities in mining, oil, gas and shipping industries as well as construction, trade and finance. There is also substantial diplomatic representation in Ghana given the relative peace and stability in the country, and foreign diplomats are likely to find a place in this sector.

Ghana’s large service sector is a driving force behind its economy. Tourism is a strong industry thanks to the country's poltical stability. This has created a high level of safety and a positive perception of the country among tourists and, as a result, there are many secure jobs in hospitality and tourism.

Expat expertise is usually sought in project management, financial control and general management positions. Employers and organisations assume that many of these positions will eventually be handed over to locals through skills transfer from expats to Ghanaians. Expats should therefore prepare themselves to share their know-how with colleagues.

Ghana’s position as a developing country necessitates a large government funding and NGO sector. It follows that many expats travel to the country to volunteer or use their skills in a more meaningful way.


Finding a job in Ghana

For expats fluent in English, language barriers are unlikely to be a problem when finding a job in Ghana. Those with good qualifications and experience as well as personal referrals are likely to succeed in the job market.

Work permits are essential and are generally organised by and limited to the company that arranges for the expat’s employment, though new arrivals can seek guidance from their respective embassies. Several institutions issue work permits, including Ghana Immigration Services (GIS), Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) and the Ministry of the Interior (MOI). Generally, companies are given a work permit quota based on the amount of money invested in Ghana. 

Considering this, most foreigners find work before arriving in Ghana either through companies they've worked for previously or through international job listings. Online job portals such as LinkedIn are a great tool for finding employment in Ghana. Networking with contacts in Ghana or other expats already working in the country can also lead to opportunities. 


Work culture in Ghana

English is Ghana’s official language and as such it is used in the corporate environment. Work culture in Ghana is hierarchical with elders being respected and addressed appropriately.

The communication style in Ghana is often indirect as locals value harmony and tend to skirt around outright rejection of a business proposition. Saving face is important as personal dignity is highly valued. Criticising or contradicting a colleague in public will likely create a poor impression and an uncomfortable environment.

Doing Business in Ghana

While Ghana is not the most popular destination among expats looking to set up their own business, entrepreneurs are attracted to the country mainly owing to its natural resources, industrious and well-educated workforce, as well as the fact that English is the language of the Ghanaian business world.

For new arrivals interested in starting a business, there is much research to be done, and expats will need to take the necessary steps to understand the inner workings of Ghanaian business culture and business etiquette to avoid culture shock.


Fast facts

Business language

English.

Business hours

Usually Monday to Friday, from 8am to 6.30pm, though this varies.

Greetings

Handshakes are the norm in professional settings. Expats should always address people using their titles unless told otherwise, such as Madam and Sir or Mrs and Mr.

Dress

Dressing formally is generally appropriate in most corporate environments. Businesswomen often wear modest suits with skirts or trousers, while businessmen wear suits and ties.

Gifts

While gifts are not necessary, they are generally welcome. Gifts need not be expensive as the thought is more important than the value of the item. Gifts should be given using either the right hand or both hands.

Gender equality

Women are gradually gaining more equality in the workplace, but female representation at senior management levels remains fairly low.


Business culture in Ghana

Ghana's business environment is underpinned by impressive economic growth and steady innovation in the business sector. The work environment is a unique blend of formality and traditional Ghanaian culture. As such, respecting hierarchy and maintaining relationships with colleagues is important to succeeding in business in the country.

Hierarchy

Ghanaian business culture is hierarchical and people gain respect as a result of age, experience, wealth and their position within a company. Older people are viewed as being wise, and not addressing seniors appropriately is considered disrespectful in Ghanaian business circles.

Addressing colleagues

Professional and academic titles are valued in Ghana, so if a business contact has credentials, expats are advised to address them accordingly. Expats should wait to be invited to refer to their colleagues using their first names before doing so. While older people generally prefer to be addressed formally, the younger generations speak to one another more casually.

Flexible timekeeping

The concept of timekeeping in Ghana is far more flexible than it is in Western business culture and punctuality isn't overly important. Expats should leave a time buffer between meetings to accommodate for earlier meetings that start or run late.

Networking and small talk

Ghanaians appreciate business associates who take the time to inquire after their health and family before beginning formal business proceedings. It's considered rude to rush initial greetings and move straight onto business. ­­­­­­­

Initial business meetings in Ghana are about business associates getting to know one another and working out whether a future business relationship is likely to work on a personal level. Expats should expect to spend a fair amount of time on relationship and rapport building and they shouldn't be surprised if no actual business matters are discussed in the first meeting.

Communication style

Expats doing business in Ghana may find that the communication style among local business people is somewhat indirect. People take care not to touch on topics that could cause tension. Ghanaians generally avoid turning down an invitation from a business associate and expats are advised to accept all invitations if possible.


Dos and don’ts of business in Ghana

  • Do address seniors and those with academic or professional titles in the appropriate manner. Hierarchy is an important part of Ghanaian business culture.

  • Do leave a time buffer between meetings. The concept of time is flexible in Ghana and meetings tend to overrun.

  • Don’t expect to get down to business at the first meeting. Ghanaian people enjoy getting to know their colleagues on a personal level before beginning any formal business proceedings.

  • Don’t use the left hand when offering gifts to a business associate or when receiving them.

  • Don't embarrass a business contact at a meeting. Ghanaians value the concept of 'maintaining face' and will try to avoid uncomfortable situations. 

Visas for Ghana

Expats will need to do some research and ensure that they have the correct visa before arriving at a Ghanaian point of entry.

Nationals of certain countries may be exempt from needing a tourist visa for Ghana whereas others will receive one upon arrival. When it comes to moving to Ghana however, all expats, regardless of nationality, will be required to apply for a work and/or residence permit.


Tourist visas for Ghana

Most people travelling to Ghana will need to get a tourist visa in their home country before arriving in Ghana, but nationals of certain countries can obtain a visa on arrival or can enter visa free.

Those who don't qualify for visa-free entry or a visa on arrival will need to apply for an entry visa at the Ghanaian embassy or high commission in their respective country. On the application form, foreigners will be required to specify whether they require a single- or multiple-entry visa which will be valid for a maximum of three months.


Residence permits for Ghana

Those moving to Ghana for work will need a residence permit as well as a work permit. The residence permit application process requires many of the same documents as those needed to apply for a work permit. Once granted, residence permits are valid for between one and four years and are renewable.

Expats with a residence permit for Ghana are entitled to apply for a similar permit for their dependants, including their spouse, children under the age of 18 and parents over the age of 60.


Permanent residency in Ghana

Expats are eligible to apply for permanent residency in Ghana if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • They are married to a Ghanaian citizen who has lived in Ghana for five or more years

  • They have resided in Ghana for more than 10 years and can prove that they have made a substantial contribution to the Ghanaian economy

* Visa and work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats should consult their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for Ghana

Expats are only able to work in certain sectors in Ghana. The government has immigrant quotas in place that limit the number of foreigners who can be employed by companies operating in Ghana. These regulations aim to reduce unemployment in the country and give preference to the local workforce where possible.

For foreigners who can secure a job in Ghana, the next step is to apply for both a work permit and a residence permit. Most employers assist with the work permit application process.


Work permits for Ghana

Work permit applications must be done in person at the Ghana Immigration Services headquarters in Accra. In most cases, the employer will submit the documents on a foreign worker's behalf before they arrive in the country.

Work permits are usually granted for one year, the length of the contract or a maximum of two years. After this period, expats will need to apply for a renewal.

The company applies for the work permit on behalf of the applicant with certain company-specific documents, but it also requires certain personal details and particulars of the expat. These are subject to change, but often include passport-sized photos, a curriculum vitae and a copy of their passport.

* Visa and work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats should consult their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Ghana

The cost of living in Ghana is higher than new arrivals may expect. Ghana's capital city, Accra, ranked as the 87th most expensive expat destination out of the 209 cities analysed in the 2021 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. 

Accommodation in Ghana is particularly expensive and will take up most of an expat's budget. Household utilities and communication technology are also costly. Transport expenses in Ghana are fairly low, however, even for those who choose to drive.

As the standard of public healthcare is poor, foreigners moving to Ghana typically opt for private healthcare and will need to invest in a comprehensive international health insurance policy. Luckily, many expats in Ghana have this expense covered by their employer.


Cost of accommodation in Ghana

Accommodation is expensive in Ghana and rent will account for a large proportion of an expat’s budget, especially in Accra. As the country is developing and more international companies are setting up offices in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, the foreign population is growing quite rapidly. The demand for accommodation is high but there is a short supply of quality and secure housing for expats. This pushes up prices.


Cost of transport in Ghana

Most modes of public transport in Ghana, including trains, buses and tro-tros (informal minibus taxis), can be erratic and unreliable. For this reason, most expats living in Ghana opt to drive or hire a driver to transport them daily.

Compared to rental prices, the cost of purchasing a reliable car is fairly high and petrol prices are constantly flutuating. That said, these costs are still relatively low when compared with other countries. 


Cost of entertainment and eating out in Ghana

The cost of entertainment and eating out in Ghana vary according to an individual expat's tastes and preferences. Dinner for two at a restaurant serving local cuisine is highly affordable, while international fare is more expensive. 

That said, Ghana is quite expensive when it comes to entertainment such as cinema and theatre tickets, although there are often promotions and deals available if one knows where to look.


Cost of healthcare in Ghana

The cost of public healthcare in Ghana is low, but the quality of treatment offered by public hospitals in Ghana is unlikely to meet the standard that most expats are accustomed to. We advise that those moving to Ghana for work should try to negotiate some kind of allowance towards the cost of health insurance into their employment contracts.

Private healthcare in Ghana is often the best option for expats. New arrivals should ensure that the health insurance policy they purchase covers them emergency or necessary transport and treatment outside of Ghana.


Cost of education in Ghana

While English is the medium of education at Ghanaian public schools, most foreigners prefer to send their children to an international school. International school fees are notoriously pricey, but expats moving to Ghana for work may be able to negotiate an allowance for education expenses from their employer.


Cost of living in Ghana chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in Accra for November 2021.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

GHS 4,500

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

GHS 1,000

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

GHS 7,500

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

GHS 2,000

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

GHS 11

Dozen eggs

GHS 12

White bread 

GHS 6

Chicken breasts (1kg)

GHS 25

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

GHS 12

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

GHS 50

Coca-Cola (330ml)   

GHS 5

Cappuccino

GHS 13

Bottle of local beer

GHS 7

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

GHS 200

Utilities

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

GHS 300

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

GHS 0.40

Utilities (average per month for standard household)

GHS 400

Hourly rate for domestic help

GHS 48

Transport

City centre bus/train fare

GHS 3.50

Taxi rate per km

GHS 6

Petrol/gasoline per litre

GHS 5.20

Culture Shock in Ghana

Most new arrivals in Ghana will be pleasantly surprised by the smiling, helpful locals. But the degree of culture shock in Ghana may be a lot more intense for those who have never been to Africa.

Many foreigners find the stark differences overwhelming and respond by isolating themselves in small enclaves of expat 'safety'. Though these insular spheres can be comfortable, it often means missing out on all that Ghanaian culture has to offer.

Ghana’s capital, Accra, is a modern city with shopping malls, movie theatres and restaurants catering to various tastes and budgets. The smaller cities and villages, on the other hand, are much more traditional and culture shock may be more severe for expats living in rural areas.


Meeting and greeting in Ghana

Ghanaians are generally open and friendly, and it is common for locals to strike up a conversation with foreigners who have recently arrived in the country. They are incredibly hospitable, and expats should take the opportunity to visit acquaintances and colleagues in their homes whenever possible. Ghanaians also appreciate conversations about themselves and their family, and this comes across in business settings, where getting to know one another is valued.

Shaking hands is a common way of greeting. Elders are respected in Ghanaian culture and when greeting people, especially those who are older, appropriate titles such as Sir or Madam should be used.


Traditional food and cuisine in Ghana

Ghanaians love local traditional food. The cuisine is quite different from what many expats will be used to, especially if they have not been to Africa before, and some dishes are an acquired taste. Each meal consists of the main starch alongside a meat stew or soup accompaniment.

The national dish is fufu, which is a pounded ball of starches placed in a large bowl of soup. Utensils are not typically used and sharing one bowl between friends and family is common. Eat only with the right hand, using the thumb and first two fingers to scoop up food.


Languages in Ghana

Although there are more than 30 local languages, English is the official language of Ghana, which means expats fluent in English are unlikely to experience major language barriers. That said, while English is widely spoken in the cities, some rural areas might see people only speak their tribal language.

Akan, with its various dialects, is the most widely spoken local language, and many phrases are quite easy to learn. Expats who do take the time to learn some of these phrases will find that the appreciative responses by the locals make it well worth the effort.


Shopping and bargaining in Ghana

Bargaining is a cultural institution in Ghana and the social meaning of bargaining is as important as the financial benefits. Expats are sure to enjoy mastering the art of haggling and negotiation, and engaging in the associated banter, particularly when shopping in local markets or hailing a taxi.

The seller announces a price. The buyer then responds with a remark about how expensive that is and offers a counter amount, usually less than half the original fee. Expats should be friendly and smile, engaging in some banter and a chat. Bargaining then ensues until a price somewhere between the two is agreed.

Accommodation in Ghana

New arrivals to Ghana should make finding suitable accommodation their first priority, as it will be play a significant role in deciding the quality of life in their new country. 

For those moving to Ghana to work for a national embassy, a large multinational corporation or an international development agency, accommodation is often provided as part of their employment package. Independent workers, entrepreneurs, university researchers and volunteers, on the other hand, are often faced with the daunting task of finding safe, affordable housing for themselves in an unfamiliar country where suitable accommodation is in short supply.

Expats living in Ghana’s major cities, such as Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, should expect to pay more than those living in rural areas.


Types of accommodation in Ghana

Accommodation in Ghana might not be overly abundant, but those moving to Ghana will find that there are a variety of housing options available to them, from large family homes with gardens to luxury apartments in modern complexes.

Many foreigners moving to Ghana only work on short-term contracts, so fully-furnished accommodation tends to be the most popular. Apartments often come furnished in Ghana, but houses are usually semi-furnished or unfurnished – fortunately, furniture can be sourced easily and cheaply through local suppliers. As most expats do not remain in Ghana for more than a few years, it may be pointless to have goods shipped into the country from home.

While the standard of housing is decent, the cost of utilities to meet western standards can be high, pushing up the cost of living. Due to electricity cuts and water shortages, one should invest in a generator, power inverters and a water tank or find a property with an existing borehole. Air-conditioning is another important factor to consider for Ghana's climate.


Finding accommodation in Ghana

There are several ways to find rental properties in Ghana. Those searching for homes on their own should consider using the services of a real estate agent – these professionals will have a better understanding of the property market in Ghana and can help foreigners find properties that may not be listed publicly. Relocation companies can also aid in searching for accommodation while offering additional assistance with other aspects of the move such as obtaining a visa and shipping goods.

Otherwise, new arrivals may also find homes through property listings in local newspapers as well as through online property portals such as meQasa.


Renting accommodation in Ghana

Once suitable accommodation has been found, potential tenants should ensure they fully understand the lease agreement and the complexities of deposits and utilities.

Rental law in Ghana does little to protect tenants, so foreigners should take care not to be exploited. Landlords have been known to inflate rent and adjust the lease agreement in their favour when renting to expats. It's advised to sign a detailed inventory of furniture and equipment, and record the general condition of rooms and features.

Leases

What may shock foreign tenants are the unusual lease agreements. Often, six months' rent is expected in advance to secure a lease. This is likely to be impossible for many people, especially given the high rental costs in the first place. Those who can afford it may prefer this option, giving the rent upfront to ensure the payment is secure.

In fact, some Ghanaian landlords may expect a whole year or even up to three years' advance despite contradictory legislation, although six months is the maximum permitted by law.

Lease duration is often dependent on the advance payment and tends to be two to five years, allowing for negotiable renewal. Despite the trend requiring upfront annual rent payments, many furnished apartments and short-term leases, especially those aimed at foreigners, require monthly payments.

For tenants who wish to terminate the lease early, three months' notice is normally required.

Deposits

Due to large rent advancements, many Ghanaian landlords might not expect a security deposit, although some may require an amount equal to half a month's rent. Landlords are known to delay repaying deposit money, especially in the event of terminating leases early, so expats should be aware of this possibility before signing the lease and do research on the legal routes to follow if it does happen.

Utilities

In addition to the often high cost of rent, expats also need to consider the cost of utilities and maintenance.

For those living in apartment complexes, most utilities will be taken care of by the building management, and for this reason most new arrivals opt to live in such complexes instead of renting a standalone house.

While water is often included in the rent, most buildings have separate electricity meters and so electricity, mainly prepaid, is an additional cost. Where parking is available, it is normally free or inclusive in the rent.

Healthcare in Ghana

The healthcare infrastructure in Ghana is limited. While the Ghanaian government is making progress in improving healthcare, public hospitals remain overcrowded and severely underfunded. Emergency medical services in Ghana are generally of reasonable quality although ambulances may not always arrive timeously.

Expats living in Ghana nearly always use private facilities which offer a considerably higher standard of treatment and more modern medical facilities. We advise that expats negotiate private health insurance coverage into their employment package or purchase a comprehensive health insurance policy before moving to Ghana.


Public healthcare in Ghana

Public hospitals in Ghana are generally funded by the government, while religious groups also play a fundamental role in providing the Ghanaian population with medical assistance. Many new arrivals find that the quality of public hospitals and clinics in Ghanaian cities is inadequate when compared to medical facilities in Western countries.

The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Ghana’s universal healthcare system for all residents, dramatically improved the health situation in the country. It eliminated the need for Ghanaian citizens to pay for their treatment upfront and increased the accessibility of healthcare for Ghana’s poorest. While expats can access the services of the NHIS for a nominal fee, most prefer to be treated at a private facility by investing in a private health insurance policy.

The standard and availability of public healthcare in Ghana vary. In major urban centres, such as Accra, there are numerous hospitals, clinics and 24-hour pharmacies, while most rural areas are isolated and lack modern healthcare facilities. In these areas, locals usually choose traditional African treatments over travelling long distances to access healthcare.


Private healthcare in Ghana

Most expats living in Ghana use private healthcare facilities. Private hospitals in Ghana generally provide a better standard of treatment and contain more modern equipment than public hospitals.

The standard of facilities at private hospitals in Ghana varies, but those in areas with big expat communities are well-equipped and comfortable. The waiting times are much shorter at private clinics in Ghana and new arrivals will find that doctors and medical staff speak English fluently.

Because insurance and private healthcare are necessary, this must be taken into account when considering the cost of living in Ghana.


Health insurance in Ghana

Expats moving to Ghana should ensure that they have taken out private health insurance coverage before starting life in the country, as this covers a wide range of health issues and treatments in private medical facilities in Ghana. In some cases, health insurance is provided by the employer as part of an employment package.

There are private health insurance companies that operate solely in Ghana, though using an international health insurance provider may be better suited to expats, especially if they travel outside Ghana frequently.

Expats should also consider policies that include medical evacuation and repatriation services. These will provide adequate cover should they need to be transported to another country or back home for treatment.  


Pharmacies in Ghana

Pharmacies can easily be found in any major town or city in Ghana, some of which are open 24 hours a day. Expats should, however, take note that only certain pharmacies in Ghana are licensed to dispense prescription drugs.

There are serious concerns about some pharmacies in Ghana selling fake drugs and substandard medication. The safest option is to purchase medicine from a pharmacy attached to a reputable medical facility.

Expats suffering from chronic ailments that require prescription medication should try to bring a supply of the medication with them to Ghana as well as copies of the prescription and generic names of the drugs.


Health hazards in Ghana

Malaria is a serious health concern in Ghana, and new arrivals in Ghana should take a course of anti-malarial medication. They should speak to their GP about this before leaving their home country. As malaria is transferred via mosquito bites, expats should take precautions such as using mosquito repellents and sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Expats should also be aware that food and water in Ghana can trigger illnesses. It's advised to avoid drinking tap water and having ice cubes in drinks, and instead buying bottled water and boiling or filtering tap water before drinking it.


Emergency services in Ghana

The standard of emergency medical services in Ghana is quite poor in most places, especially outside of major cities, where they are almost non-existent.

Most hospitals in Ghana, even the private healthcare facilities, only have a few ambulances available and waiting times can be prolonged. In some cases, it may be faster for patients to make their own way to a hospital by car or taxi.

Alternatively, some expats rely on private companies that provide emergency services such as medical evacuation as well as private ambulances and clinics. 

In an emergency, expats should dial 112.

Education and Schools in Ghana

When it comes to education in Ghana, most expats find the national curriculum to be limited, teaching methods outdated and the standard of facilities lower than what they might be used to back home. For these reasons, expats tend to bypass public schooling options in Ghana and rather send their children to an international school.

School is compulsory and free for children aged between four and 15. School is divided into four phases:

  • Preschool: ages three to six
  • Primary school: ages six to 12
  • Junior secondary school: ages 12 to 15
  • Senior secondary school: ages 15 to 18

Public schools in Ghana

As the language of instruction in Ghana's public schools is English, expat children are unlikely to face a language barrier.

Often, the teaching focus in Ghanaian public schools is on learning by memorisation and repetition. Although this can be effective for younger children, most expats will find the lack of focus on individual thinking and problem-solving somewhat limiting. Resources in public schooling are limited and may not be meet the standards that new arrivals might expect.


Private schools in Ghana

Private schools in Ghana receive both governmental and private funds. There are public-private partnerships with international organisations, private institutions and individuals, and churches and NGOs contributing to funding, infrastructure maintenance, furniture and technical assistance. Communities and parents participate, paying tuition fees, and organising food and transport for their children.

These schools tend to offer the same national curriculum but at a slightly higher standard provided the additional private funding and backing.


International schools in Ghana

Due to the large expat community in Accra, the city has a range of private bilingual international schools with international accreditation. Most of these schools teach the American, British or International Baccalaureate curricula, and there are also Canadian, French and German schools.

Some schools are rooted in religion with a Christian-based academic environment, and there are also opportunities for Montessori education.

Most international schools charge hefty fees and expats should take care to negotiate tuition allowances in their employment contract or to negotiate their salary accordingly.

Though fees are high, international schools ease the transition for expat children allowing them to make friends with students from various cultures and nationalities but in similar situations to them, allowing a diverse environment to grow up in. Similarly, this provides opportunities for parents of comparable circumstances to meet up and expand their network.

International schools offer many extra-curricular activities, learning of foreign languages, and better quality facilities and teachers. They can provide great opportunities for further study and career development.

For families in larger cities such as Accra and Kumasi, finding an international school is unlikely to be a problem. Those based further from these cities may need to settle for a boarding school option, or homeschooling.


Homeschooling in Ghana

Homeschooling is legal in Ghana and although the numbers of families who opt for this are low, they are growing. Expat parents may find homeschooling an ideal solution to low-quality public schools and extremely pricey international schools.

Numerous associations and parent groups can be found in Ghana. Parents should ideally connect with these networks to make use of resources and first-hand advice.


Tutors in Ghana

For parents who require extra tuition for their children, there is no shortage of tutors in Ghana. There are many private tutoring companies, especially in and around large cities. Schools will often be able to suggest good tutors in the area, but tutor companies can be found with a quick look on a search engine, through social media or by word of mouth.

Tutoring can be centre- or home-based, and can help students who struggle with particular subjects, build self-confidence or just assist in maintaining focus, and it can be a great benefit close to exam time. Tutors can also help expat children to pick up a new language faster, or to maintain their mother tongue.


Special-needs education in Ghana

Ghana's Inclusive Education Policy envisions a path for all children to receive a fully supportive and inclusive educational experience. The government, private sector and NGOs are working towards inclusive education and providing assistive devices and training opportunities for teachers.

Despite the push for mainstream education, many children with special needs are placed in segregated special schools, but parents may prefer more inclusive options. Most often, these can be found in private schooling. International schools may provide varying levels of support for children with disabilities and expats should get in contact for specific information.

International schools in Ghana

Most international schools in Ghana are in the capital, Accra. The major advantage of these schools is that they follow various foreign curricula that allow many expat students to continue where they left off in their home country. The standard of teaching at international schools tends to be high and facilities are in line with those in Europe or North America.

Many of them allow bilingual learning experiences as well as additional foreign languages. Some schools are Montessori or Christian-based which may be preferred by some expat families, and several schools offer care and educational services for children of just a few months old to 18 years of age.

Of course, international schools carry hefty fees but the higher quality facilities, better education and schooling are worth it. Expats may be able to negotiate tuition allowances with their employers to help them.

Here is a list of some of the international schools available in Ghana.


International schools in Ghana

American International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.aisaccra.org

British International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 1 to 18
Website: www.bisghana.com.gh

Ghana International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.gis.edu.gh

German International School Accra

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: German
Ages: 1 to 18
Website: gsis-accra.org

Lincoln Community School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 4 to 18
Website: www.lincoln.edu.gh

Lycée Français International Jacques Prévert d'Accra

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: lfaccra.com

Tema International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.tis.edu.gh

Transport and Driving in Ghana

Getting around Ghana is quite an adventure for new arrivals. The public transport infrastructure in Ghana is relatively underdeveloped but ongoing work is gradually improving and expanding the country’s railway network.

Driving in Ghana can be just as challenging. The quality of the road network is not on par with the standards that those from Europe or North America would be accustomed to, so expats that do choose to drive in Ghana should do so with caution.


Public transport in Ghana

Public transport in Ghana isn't very well developed and most people in Ghana opt to travel by bus rather than train. Although buses are more comfortable, both modes of transport can be unreliable and delays are common. Patience and a sense of humour are essential when travelling around Ghana.

Trains

Trains in Ghana are operated by the Ghana Railway Corporation and link Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, as well as some smaller towns and villages. Trains in Ghana are slow. Travelling by trains in Ghana is not particularly comfortable and they are not the most reliable form of transport as they can be subject to severe delays.

Buses 

There are several bus companies in Ghana but the most comprehensive bus services are provided by Intercity STC, which has standard and luxury buses that operate over long distances. Other major bus companies include VIP and Metro Mass.

Expats should opt to travel on express or air-conditioned buses as these are faster and a lot more comfortable than ordinary services. It is best to purchase tickets in advance as seats on the more popular routes fill up quickly. Passengers are charged extra for large items of luggage. The fares for bus travel in Ghana are reasonable but vary depending on the route and the bus operator.


Tro-tros in Ghana

Tro-tro is the name given to a shared taxi in Ghana. These minibuses run along fixed routes and charge a flat fare for any stop on a given route. Travelling by tro-tro in Ghana is the cheapest mode of transport. Despite the cost benefits, tro-tros have a questionable safety record and frequently break down. Tro-tro drivers often work long hours and this can result in risky driving behaviour.

Travelling by tro-tro is certainly an experience. Passengers are squashed into the vehicle along with large pieces of luggage and even items of livestock. Tro-tros do not run on any fixed schedule.

While travelling by tro-tro in Ghana is an excellent cultural experience and a great way to interact with the locals, they aren’t recommended for long journeys.


Taxis in Ghana

Taxis in Ghana are readily available in all cities. There are different types of taxis and new arrivals in the country will benefit from familiarising themselves with what is available. There are metered taxis charge according to distance travelled as well as private taxis where passengers can negotiate a price with the driver. If using any form of private taxi in Ghana, be sure to settle on a price before embarking on the journey.

Some rideshare and taxi apps have begun operating in major urban centres such as Accra. Local apps include Yango and Dropyn, while international apps such as Uber and Bolt can also be used in Ghana. Many people prefer using these apps as it gives them more control over routes and service prices.


Driving in Ghana

New arrivals to Ghana should obtain an International Driving Permit. These are usually valid for one year.

For those who plan on being in Ghana for over a year, the process of obtaining a Ghanaian driving licence is fairly straightforward and simply requires presenting a valid international driving licence along with passport photos. Driving licences or international driving permits must always be carried when driving.

The standard of roads in Ghana is variable. The quality of roads on the major routes between big cities such as Accra, Kumasi and Sekondi are fairly good. However, away from the urban centres, the roads become dirt tracks and driving conditions can be dangerous. Those driving at night need to be extra cautious because of poor visibility due to lack of adequate street lighting and badly potholed roads.

New arrivals in Ghana should always drive defensively, especially on highways. Be vigilant when driving close to tro-tros as they have a habit of driving erratically with little regard for other road users.

Due to unfamiliar roads and traffic culture in Ghana, many new arrivals prefer to rent a car with a driver. This may be organised by the company the expat works for, but they can privately organise car rental too.


Cycling in Ghana

Cycling is a common means of travel in Ghana among the general population, especially in the north of the country. Car travel has created much pollution, is expensive and congestion makes it time consuming and frustrating. These are some of the reasons why cycling is preferable. However, expats in the south, especially in Accra, may find cycling dangerous provided chaotic traffic, no bicycle paths and poorly maintained roads in some areas.

Riding a bike may not be a preferred choice of transport for a daily commute, although it is perfectly feasible for exercise, leisure, a personal hobby, or travelling and experiencing Ghana from a different perspective.


Walking in Ghana

Many people walk in Ghana, although, for expats in large cities, this may be more out of leisure and to get a feel of the environment. When walking, there are several things that new arrivals should be aware of. Not only do some areas not have well-maintained pavements but also traffic can be unruly and so it's advised to walk facing oncoming traffic. Another factor to consider is the heat – walkers may get fatigued or sunburnt easily and so should always have a bottle of water handy.


Air travel in Ghana

Flying is the fastest way to travel between the major cities in Ghana. Domestic airlines include Africa World Airlines, Passion Air and Gianair. The two major airports are Kotoka International Airport and Kumasi International Airport.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Ghana

Expats moving to Ghana will find that financial matters in this West African destination aren't as overly complicated as one might initially expect. Banking in Ghana is very easy once new arrivals have opened an account, and tax laws are straightforward.


Money in Ghana

The Ghanaian currency is the Cedi (GHS) and is divided into 100 pesewas (Gp).

  • Notes: 1 GHS, 2 GHS, 5 GHS, 10 GHS, 20 GHS, 50 GHS, 100 GHS and 200 GHS

  • Coins: 1Gp, 5Gp, 10Gp, 20Gp, 50Gp, 1 GHS and 2 GHS


Banking in Ghana

All banks in Ghana do business in English, as this is the official language of the country. Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered and Stanbic are all international banks that are represented in Ghana and are recommended for expats. Internet, telephone and cellphone banking are also available as banks strive to compete locally and internationally, and provide support and services online.

Banking hours in Ghana are Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30 or 5pm, although some banks close earlier on Fridays and others are open on Saturday till 12pm. 

Opening a bank account

The best way to access and deal with money in Ghana is to open up a bank account. To open a bank account in Ghana, most establishments require that expats show their passport as identification. Necessary documents vary across banks. Some may require expats to submit a letter of introduction from a bank in their home country and a reference from their employer in Ghana as well as proof of residence.

Credit cards and ATMs

ATMs are readily available in Ghanaian cities and most international credit cards are accepted at these machines. Ghana is a predominantly cash-based society, however, and the prevalence of credit card fraud makes it unwise to use cards too liberally. Credit card and ATM facilities are also quite rare in rural areas of Ghana.


Taxes in Ghana

Foreigners living in Ghana for 183 days or more over 12 months are considered residents of the country and must pay taxes based on their worldwide income. Taxes in Ghana are charged on a graduated scale while non-residents are charged a flat rate on their income derived from within the country.

Ghana has double-taxation agreements with a number of other countries, including South Africa, Italy, and the United Kingdom. In such cases, expats may be entitled to tax relief.

Expats should refer to the Ghana Revenue Authority website and consult a financial adviser and tax specialist to ensure that they have a full understanding of taxes in Ghana.

Expat Experiences in Ghana

When considering a move to a new country, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Ghana and would like to share your story.

Chris is an Australian expat who moved to Ghana when her husband got a new job opportunity in the Ghanaian capital of Accra. Her interview with Expat Arrivals provides some great insights into the practicalities of living in this West African country. 

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Born in Ghana, David left the country in his late teens to move to the UK. He has since returned to Ghana after many years with a fresh perspective on his home country. Read about his expat experience in Accra.

Carsten spent a year working in Ghana under the auspices of the German Red Cross. He lived in a small village, and taught in rural Ghana. He gained a rewarding and intimate view of life as real Ghanaians live it, and has thus a refreshingly different perspective to the more familiar expat experience of life in Ghana.


 

Nansie, an American expat who lives in Ghana, has spent most of her life on West African soil. She sees the ever-increasing cost of living in Accra as a force to be reckoned with, but otherwise, life in the Ghanaian capital seems simple and enjoyable. Read about her expat experience in Accra.

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Trish, a Canadian expat living in Ghana, has watched Accra grow up, mature and expand. The capital's evolution from small town to big city hasn't left it devoid of charm, however. Even after a decade, Trish still stands by the creative spirit and friendly attitude found in Accra. Read more about her expat experience in Ghana.

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