Accra, Ghana Report of what it's like to live there - 05/24/09
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, Dhaka, New Delhi, London
2. How long have you lived here?
Since August 2008
3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
US: Delta has a direct flight to New York. Europe: KLM and British Air. Middle East: Emirates.
4. 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?
Embassy housing: either single family dwellings with older and strange layouts and poor finish quality, or newer (or older) compounds with better finishes and design, but less yard. If you are on your own, quality housing is very expensive.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Expensive. Maxmart and Koala are closest to the embassy and offer a good range of US and international groceries at prices that are moderate to high. Shopright in the new Accra Mall is bigger and slightly cheaper."Game" is a Target/K-Mart type store, also in the mall, but don't expect US prices.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Flat screen TV; electronics are expensive here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is a large range of local and international dining options. The better the food and ambiance, the more it costs. At the top end, this can be quite expensive, and includes French, Italian, Continental, and Indian options. Moderate priced: Chinese, Middle-Eastern, Indian, Continental, Japanese, andfast food. If you like local food in open-air "chop shops" it is very cheap.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Malarial mosquitoes and ants.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Embassy - pouch and DPO.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Full range of help available from $100 US to $200 based on experience. Embassy folks tend to overpay, and many staff experienced with embassy families tend to be coddled and have high preferences for leisure time relative to work.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. At the embassy, Air Force Officer's Mess, and "Pippa's Gym."
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?
Unknown, I have used cash exclusively.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are a plethora of Christian churches and mosques in Ghana.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
AFN, sat TV, multiple newspapers (although none very good.)
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Few sidewalks, etc.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Except for backpackers, peace corp volunteers and students, most expats avoid local buses and trains. Taxis are cheap, but they don't look very safe.
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?
Any kind will do in Accra. SUVs are more comfortable for trips outside Accra, but they are not absolutely needed.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, about $70 US a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
GSM, get one.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Unknown but many people have dogs and cats here.
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?
Appear to be, with NGOs, etc.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
From local dress to business attire. Black tie for balls, etc.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Moderate: depends on if piles of grass and garbage are being burned.
2. What immunizations are required each year?
The standard tropical regime.
3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Petty crime, infrequent burglaries in expat areas. This is NOT South Africa.
4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria is a concern and one should be prepared to take a prophylaxis.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and humid most of the time.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Lincoln Community School is used by most US Embassy families and appears to be very good for younger children. Seems fine for older kids too. The Ghana International School is closer to the embassy, but it does not appear to have comparable facilities. There is also a Swiss school and a German medium-level school.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
Some families use the local day care and preschools.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, at school, in the embassy sometimes.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
Depends on which clique you ask. First-timers in Africa have a bit of a transition period.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Restaurants, night clubs, casinos, cultural tourism, charity work, golf, etc.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
There is an active expat community here for singles. Couples seems to be able to take more advantage of outings beyond Accra. Families do well enough entertaining each other.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Seems to be fine here, but not sure.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Ghanaians are friendly and welcoming to all. Within Ghana there is little-to-no conflict between religious communities. There is a large local community of Lebanese and Indian merchants.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Trips outside Accra, generally within a day's travel. Going to the Accra mall for movies, dining out, hanging out at hotel pools...
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Handicrafts, jewelry, cloth, etc.
9. Can you save money?
Possibly - depends on how much you earn, and where you shop and eat.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, Ghana is the jewel of West Africa and is relatively "easy." That said, it can also be boring for some people.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
worries - Ghanaians are generally relaxed and friendly. Also your expectations of going on safari: the wildlife here is not comparable to that in South or East Africa. The beaches in and near Accra are treacherous and/or filthy. One has to travel at least an hour or so to find OK recreational beaches. The best are 2-4 hours away from Accra, and they should still be used with caution due to the strong undertow.
3. But don't forget your:
cultural awareness of Ghanaian social customs and expectations.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
7. Do you have any other comments?
Ghana is probably one of the easiest countries in Sub-Saharan African to come to for work or a visit. That said, it is a third-world country and has its challenges.