Accra, Ghana Report of what it's like to live there - 09/22/23
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?
Been around for a long time. This is tour number seven. Several Asia, S. America, and second tour in Western Africa.
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?
DC. Direct 10 hour flights from both Dulles and JFK. Lots of great transit options through the EU as well.
3. How long have you lived here?
Three years. Extended to a fourth (very few extend).
4. What years did you live here?
2020-current, three years.
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?
All housing, minus the DCM, Ambassador and DAT are within a five mile radius of the embassy. Commute times are amazing. Many officers can walk to work, some as close as across the street. Housing is a mixed bag for sure, and can really be a damper on morale. They are moving away from stand alone houses and moving towards more and more compounds.
The default is any major maintenance issue to the landlord. So if you luck out with a strong landlord the housing issues will be manageable. If you end up with a penny pitching landlord that brings in the least qualified workers you will end up begging the embassy for help. This was our lives, on repeat, for three years.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Imported items can be quite expensive. Most things are available here, but often takes several trips to various stores to find what you need. Certain seasonable fresh fruits like watermelon and pineapple and vegetables are cheap and plentiful. This is currently a consumables shipment post.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Anything in glass and liquid that you can’t get shipped through DPO.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Food delivery services are available, reliability is hit or miss. American chains include Pizza Hut, Dominos, Burger King, and KFC. Lots of great local restaurants of all types.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes, ants, roaches, geckos–the usual for the tropics. I have NEVER seen ants like this and my house was a battle zone. They even infiltrated our clothing dressers and linen closets. Mosquitoes are a problem in some houses and rare in others. It’s mixed bag if people need nets for sleeping.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch services through the embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Many families have a housekeeper and/or nanny. Drivers and gardeners are also plentiful. Hardworking staff for a very affordable price.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a gym. There are a lot of classes offered weekly. It’s easy to hire instructors for small group classes as well. Prices are reasonable.
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?
Credit cards are fine at higher end restaurants and the big chain grocery stores. We used ATMs without problem and the cashier at the embassy.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Accra has many mosques, including a beautiful national mosque which is breathtaking. I do not know if there are any Hindu temples or Jewish synogagues. However, there is a large Israeli population, so I suspect there might be. There are many Christian churches. My family attends mass at the embassy of the Holy See. One of our children received their first communion and the other their confirmation with a wonderful international group of children.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Ghanaians speak English. Most will also either speak Twi or Gaa. I believe Twi is the one more widely spoken.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, it would be difficult to navigate living here with a physical disability.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Bolt is safe, mostly reliable, and cheap. I have never taken a bus or train.
2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?
Something that can (and likely will) get a little banged up. High clearance is a nice to have, but not a necessity.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, it’s not a bad service here. Expensive and the prices have increased significantly since we arrived. You will pay prices comparable to the US, but the service is not as good. Pay your bill on time, or they shut it off the second it is over due.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Google Fi is hit or miss. My husband’s worked fairly well, but mine never did. I have a local SIM card and prices are cheap. Since they instituted the Ghana card, it has been increasingly difficult for US diplomats to get a local SIM card (since we don’t carry a Ghana card and cannot give biometics). Those of us that had one before the Ghana card rule were able to keep them with the embassy’s intervention. Mine was frozen until the embassy intervened.
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?
Yes. We used to have the vet do house visits, but he is very busy. Now we just go to his office on the military base and see his staff. Overall we are very pleased.
Our dog got very sick and a couple of families had their dogs die. The vet suspects our dog was getting poisoned from the frogs on our yard. We stopped letting him go out unsupervised at night. Others suspect the bats as possible risks to dogs.
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 many jobs at the embassy, many of which don’t get filled, it seems. Some spouses telework and one that I know of works for the international school.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Tons. Ghanaians are welcoming and I am sure many organizations would love volunteers.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Professional wear at the embassy, with a Ghanaian fabric twist. You should have at least a couple Ghanaian print shirts/dresses.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I have heard there have been several break-ins with embassy housing. It seems the compounds get targeted more frequently than stand alone housing. In my opinion, most break-ins could be avoided by keeping windows shut, keys out of reach, and setting house alarms (we have alarms for a reason). All houses are guarded 24-7. Bag snatching and car break-ins on the rise. Be mindful of motorbikes rushing by. I have never felt in danger here, but even the locals will tell me to put my phone away or hold my bag tightly if I am in place such as a busy local market.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The embassy backed hospitals and doctors are pretty solid. We were welcomed to post with an appendectomy for one of my children within a few months of arriving, dealt with a broken arm, and have seen an ENT and audiologist. The embassy HU has strong contacts, but expect to navigate this on your own. With an embassy this size the HU generally does not go with you.
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?
There are two rainy seasons, hot and humid otherwise. Harmattan can be the real deal and air quality can get dangerously pour. Harmattan can start around December and go through February. This is a dry, dusty season when the sands from the Sahara blow in. The sky is hazy, almost pink, and a layer of dust covers everything.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Harmattan reduces air quality a lot. Trash burning can bother people as well.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Not that I know of. Does low morale count?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot. Humid. The coolest months are June-August when most families are not at post. Be prepared to sweat.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most embassy families send their children to Lincoln Community School (LCS). A few go to GIS (Ghana International School). There are a couple other international schools that compete with GIS and LCS as well. Our children are very happy, the main reason we extended. We are in the middle school and elementary school. While there have been recent embassy students to graduate from LCS, several families have chosen boarding school at the highschool level. Some stating academics and others stating social reasons. We would have no reservations seeing our children graduate from LCS.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
LCS tries. They do the best with what they have, but do not come here expecting the same resources that are available in the US. If the learning needs are severe, this is not the place for you.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes, plenty of preschools to choose from and families are happy. I believe most are half days.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, tons. Tennis, horseback riding, dance, soccer etc. LCS has a robust after school activities program as well as a summer camp.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
US Expat community is large. The embassy has the Regional USAID office and the Ghanaian one. This is large embassy. Morale ebbs and flows. I would say more people are unhappy than happy, but I suspect that is more because of their jobs (or a bad house) than actually living in Ghana. There are many expats in Ghana of all nationalities.
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?
Night life can be busy here if one chooses. Restaurants are plentiful.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think anyone can make Accra work with the right attitude and expectations.
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 welcoming. It is possible to integrate into the local culture.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Ghana seems dangerously close to passing an anti LGBTQI+ bill. There are a few LGBTQI+ families at post currently and we are hopeful the bill will not pass. The situation for Ghanaian LGBTQI+ people is generally bad and getting worse, unfortunately.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not to my knowledge.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Resorts to escape the city, fun cultural stuff in the city. Direct flight to Sao Tome (a must do!), and many direct flights to desirable holiday destinations.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Batik fabric printing, African drumming and dancing, beading classes, having a personal tailor come to your house, canopy walk in Kakum national park, transatlantic slave castles, Kwame Nkrumah National Museum, weekly artisan markets, Mokola local market. Lots of stuff to keep you busy!
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Fabrics, paintings, masks, wooden antiques.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The friendliness of the people. My children noticed it upon landing at the airport the first day.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That the slave castles are reserved for tourists. It’s a history many locals do not talk about in the same way Americans do. My local Ghanaian colleagues have never been.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, but four years is enough. It’s time to move on.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Developed nation expectations. Lower those expectations. Then lower them again. One more time and you’ll be fine.
4. But don't forget your:
Antimalarials and deet.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Check out Conan O'Brien's visit to Ghana: https://youtu.be/4cddYFq9ZQk?si=ISmY4H1j27RUv32V. Watch them all!
6. Do you have any other comments?
Don't confuse the embassy with Ghana. In my opinion, the embassy can be difficult. Ghana is not.