Accra, Ghana Report of what it's like to live there - 11/16/22
Personal Experiences from Accra, Ghana
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I previously lived in Latin America, Europe, and a little bit of time in a different West African country.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
USA. There are direct flights to Accra from Dulles (United) and JFK (Delta) and both about 12 hours. You can also transfer through Amsterdam, London, Brussels, or Dubai. There are also direct flights from Accra to Lisbon, Addis Ababa, and Istanbul.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What years did you live here?
2019 to 2021.
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most housing is in compounds or standalone houses in the Cantonments neighborhood. I lived in one of the few apartments. I generally liked my housing except for the showers. It was a common topic of conversation at the embassy to compare how many of your showers were working at any given time. Either the hot water lasted about three minutes, or the shower didn't drain quickly enough and you'd have water all over the floor in about three minutes. Basically I didn't take longer than a three minute shower for two years. Otherwise my place was spacious with a nice layout and had a reasonably well-maintained pool, and was less than a ten minute walk to the embassy in one direction and a variety of stores/shops/restaurants in the other direction.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Most name brand or western things are imported from the middle east and can be pricey but not ridiculous. You often have to go to multiple stores to find the best things, but it can be enjoyably old school to go to the butcher for meat, the fish monger for fish, then the greengrocer for produce.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I didn't ship anything and never really felt like I regretted it. You can get almost anything in Accra if you don't mind about getting a specific brand.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
American chains include KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, and Burger King. You can find lots of Lebanese and Chinese, along with Mexican, Ethiopian, sushi, burgers, and chicken joints. Fancy gasto-pub/cocktail places are popping up all over too. There are a few popular food delivery apps, and you should definitely get into the local food (jollof, wakye, etc).
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I battled ants for two years, and the ants mostly won. Fruit flies were a constant issue, too. It took a lot of kitchen cleanliness lifestyle changes on my part to keep the bugs under control. I also encountered a few cockroaches and one huntsman spider in my housing, but they are harmless.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I received mail though the embassy via diplomatic post office (DPO).
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is plentiful and easy to find in the embassy community. I had a one day a week cleaner and paid her 500 cedi per day which is about $35.00. I didn't have kids, a car, or any green space to take care of so I didn't have any other help, but many of my colleagues did. Cooks are popular, too.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are local tennis and golf clubs, and a Crossfit studio close to the embassy. The embassy compound also has a gym, pool, tennis courts and basketball courts. I can't speak to the cost of private gyms as I used the facilities at the embassy. There was also a sizable running group at the embassy.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
I used credit cards at the larger grocery stores and restaurants, cash everywhere else. The embassy has an ATM on compound and there is a strip of bank branches in the Cantonments neighborhood with guarded ATMs.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Christianity is the majority religion in Ghana, mostly of the Pentecostal, gospel of wealth fire and brimstone variety. There is also a sizable Muslim population. Religion is very important in Ghana and churches are plentiful.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is the official language. Learning some greetings and phrases in Twi will get a lot of laughs and appreciation from locals. The local Alliance Francaise offers Twi classes.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. I don't remember seeing any ramps, and many surfaces are rough and uneven.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Uber and Bolt are cheap and work well, as do local taxis but they can be riskier. Embassy personnel are not permitted to use the local minibuses.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
I did not have a car. I got around just fine from walking and using Uber, but in hindsight a car would have been a huge convenience. A crossover with relatively good ground clearance would be ideal, but I also knew people with sedans and minivans who got on just fine.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
I had high-speed internet through Vodafone. It was hooked up and working before I arrived (thank you, social sponsor!). I think it went out twice in two years, though once for about a month over the holidays which was fun. Generally the service was as good as I had been getting in the U.S. You can pay the bill via a payment app, but set up can take some doing. You can also visit the local Vodafone store every month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Vodafone mobile service was extremely spotty in Cantonments, but MTN worked great. I had a local pay as you go SIM and maintained contact with home via Whatsapp. Google Fi never worked for me in Ghana, though I know of one person who used it after several days of working with their customer service to get it working.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
There is one vet who's name/number is passed around the embassy. He does house calls and is very nice. Ghana does not have a quarantine requirement for pets. Pet food is available locally.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There are several jobs available for EFMs at the embassy, and working remotely for a company in the U.S. is always a good option if you can arrange it.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
I'm sure there are, but I never looked into it.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Depends on the setting. Local dress is very common. Dress code at the embassy is more relaxed than other parts of the world which is typical for African posts.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I would say the main concern is harassment on the street: people coming up to hassle you or ask for something. Petty crime is always a risk, but using enhanced caution when out can mitigate that. The troubles from Burkina Faso to the North have not spilled into Ghana.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There are several good clinics and hospitals in Accra. The main health concern is malaria. Most people medevac to give birth.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air is generally pretty good. The main annoyance is the seasonal "harmattan" from November to March. The air gets very thick/hazy with dust blown south from the Sahara.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Ghana is a tropical country, with a few rainy reasons throughout the year. For the most part, it is hot and humid.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There is a large expat community, mainly through foreign embassies. There are also large Lebanese and Chinese communities. Morale at the embassy is generally pretty good.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Socializing within the embassy community usually happens at Community Liaison Office (CLO) events, BBQs, school events (I'm guessing), and outings to local bars/restaurants. I don't know of any specific activity clubs but I'm sure they exist.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Accra is generally a family post, though there are a good amount of singles. I never had a chance to date locally but I know several who did with varying degrees of success.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Ghanaians are generally friendly and welcoming. I became close with several local embassy employees and my domestic employee.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
LGBT is not generally accepted in Ghana.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The local food is very good, and exploring for local bars/dives can be fun. There are nice beach resorts to visit outside of Accra (Lou Moon and Royal Senchi for example), Kumasi has a lot of sites to see, and Tamale is exciting and a gateway to the excellent Mole national park.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Makola Market in Accra is the largest in West Africa and an exciting place to visit, though it's best to go with a local who knows how to navigate the craziness. Next Door Beach Resort is also a charming local place to enjoy a beer and some grilled meat on a stick.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Tons! Baskets, ceramics, woodcarvings, furniture, textiles, brass castings, beads, clothing, the list goes on. There is a monthly market at the WEB Dubois center, lots to buy at Makola Market if you know where to look, and the Artist Alliance Gallery is fun to explore.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Accra is not as crazy and hectic as other African capitals. I would generally describe it as "sleepy", which can be an advantage from certain points of view.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Get a car. There are few sidewalks in the city which makes walking difficult.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Not unless I was assigned there for work as there are too many other places to go!
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes, heavy bedding.
4. But don't forget your: