The “Gateway to Africa,” Ghana gets its name from the famed coastline that is home to the capital city of Accra, the historic Cape Coast Castle, and the lush and culturally vibrant Volta Region. If you’re planning to study abroad in Ghana, you might already know all of this. But, if you don’t, sit down and start taking notes on these important tips!
1. Money & Transactions
Ghana is a cash-based economy. Credit cards are accepted in very few places, and the international transaction fees can really rack up. However, in order to check in for your flight, you may be asked to provide the credit card used to purchase the plane ticket. This is the physical card itself, not just the number.
Mastercard-branded ATM cards will be rejected by most ATM machines in Ghana, so make sure yours features the Visa logo. If your ATM card is not on the Visa network, you have two options:
- Go to your bank and request a Visa debit card.
- Purchase a Visa prepaid debit card (Note: you’ll also need to change your PIN to four digits when you study abroad in Ghana in order to use the ATM machines there).
Be sure to call your bank and credit card company before traveling to Ghana to inform them of the exact dates you plan to study abroad in Ghana. Oh, and no traveler’s checks; most places don’t accept them these days.
2. Vaccinations & Immunizations
For the best and most up-to-date information on vaccinations and immunizations needed to study abroad in Ghana, make an appointment at a travel clinic. A travel doctor will know the current recommendations for every country, including Ghana. That being said, here are some basic guidelines to follow when traveling to Ghana:
- Yellow fever vaccination is required for visitors who wish to enter Ghana. Be sure to tuck proof of yellow fever vaccination into your passport.
- Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, meningitis, and typhoid are often recommended for those traveling to Ghana.
- You should be up-to-date with your basic, non-travel vaccinations: measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT), polio virus, etc.
- Taking a malaria prophylaxis, like Malarone (or its generic equivalent) or doxycycline, is strongly advised. Malaria drugs can have some mild psychological side effects, so inform your travel doctor of any pre-existing mental health conditions and medications you are currently taking.
3. Travel Visa & Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
What are the basic Ghana visa requirements? A visa is required to study abroad in Ghana. To apply, you’ll need a passport. If you need to get a passport or renew your existing passport (check and make sure!), you should take care of this ASAP as passport turnaround times can be long and inconvenient. Next, go to the Ghanaian Embassy’s website of the embassy located nearest to you and carefully follow the visa application instructions. The Ghana visa requirements state that, if you won’t be traveling outside of Ghana, the single entry visa fee of $60 will suffice. If you’re planning to return within two years, go ahead and apply for the $100 multiple entry visa.
The statement of financial support should be a printout of a recent bank statement that clearly shows your name and evidence of money in an account. (Be sure to blackout any account numbers.) Mail all paperwork (yes, including your passport) to the Ghanaian Embassy in a trackable envelope along with a second, prepaid, trackable, self-addressed return envelope. The application process usually takes about 1 to 3 weeks. Since the visa is only valid for 90 days, you will need to hold off on applying until 90 days before you plan to study abroad in Ghana.
When traveling to Ghana, registering your trip with the State Department will help you in the event of an emergency, as the U.S. Embassy in Ghana will already know you’re in the country if you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (S.T.E.P.). This is recommended when you study in Ghana, but it’s also emerging as a best practice in the study abroad field in general. For U.S. residents, click here to begin and click on “Create An Account” to begin the process. If you are a Canadian resident, you can begin here.
Even on the off chance that your mobile phone operates on the same same frequency band as the major carriers in West Africa (unlikely), you would still need to get your phone unlocked in order to use it there. In other words, leave your fancy smartphone at home, and plunk down the $30 or so for a phone when you arrive for study abroad in Ghana.
Since there are no annual or monthly contracts, you simply purchase prepaid units—scratch cards that reveal a code to enter into your phone—at the seemingly ubiquitous kiosks. Rates fluctuate somewhat, but outgoing texts to North America usually hover around 10 cents per message, while outgoing calls are 10 to 15 cents per minute. All incoming calls and texts to your Ghanaian mobile phone will be free though.
The best and most convenient way for friends and family to call your Ghanaian cell phone is through a company called Rebtel. Not only is Rebtel cheaper than Skype for calling West Africa (about 18.9 cents per minute versus 29 cents per minute), it is way more convenient. Let’s say a friend in N.Y.C. wants to call you in Ghana to check in. Rebtel creates a local N.Y.C. number (e.g., a 212 area code) for each of the international contacts, allowing others to call you from a cell phone.
5. Internet Access
You can find internet cafés when you study abroad in Ghana, but consider yourself warned about the often slow connection speeds. If you’re going to be studying in Ghana for a while and plan on bringing a laptop, you might want to consider purchasing a USB modem once you’re there (or considering other alternatives to getting internet abroad). These modems connect your computer to the internet using a mobile phone network signal. The brand of USB modem you buy depends on which company has the strongest network in the area where you’ll be spending the most time.
6. Packing Smart
As every seasoned traveler knows, packing smart can mean the difference between the study abroad experience of a lifetime and a whole lot of headache. While it seems that each year brings a new leap forward in Ghana’s infrastructure, procuring certain travel necessities can still sometimes prove difficult. For packing tips when traveling to Ghana, check out our best study abroad packing tips.
7. Learn About Ghana
A little knowledge goes a long way! Before you study abroad in Ghana, take the time to familiarize yourself with the country, its people, and culture. You will know what to expect once you arrive in-country, and that will reduce the possibilities of unnecessary stress and mishaps.
A few travel resources to get you started:
- 5 Things Your Travel Guide Won’t Tell You About Ghana
- “Ghana (Bradt Travel Guide)” by Philip Briggs
- “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes” by Maya Angelou
- Centers for Disease Control Health Information for Travelers to Ghana
- CIA – The World Factbook – Ghana
- Ghana news
Top Programs for Studying in Ghana
Now that you’re all read up on the ins and outs of a study abroad in Ghana, it’s time to settle on a Ghana study abroad program (if you haven’t already!). Here are some great picks for study abroad programs in Ghana that are worth considering:
- CIS Abroad: Study abroad in Cape Coast, Ghana! Along with your class schedule of choice, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in Ghanaian culture classes, musical traditions, and African foreign relations.
- USAC: Located in beautiful Accra, Ghana, participants focus on African Studies along with their full curriculum. In free time and on the weekends, participants enjoy excursions and adventures to other incredible parts of West Africa, like Lake Volta.
- SIT Study Abroad: Study abroad in Kumasi, Ghana, and focus on social transformation and cultural expression. Learn the cultural heritage and contemporary society that defines Ghana, and take advantage of the optional opportunity to learn Ghanaian traditional dance, beadmaking, and sculpture workshops.
Make the Commitment to Study Abroad in Ghana
When you take the time to truly understand the culture, rules, norms, and expectations of the country you’ll be visiting, you set yourself up for a successful trip. The great education of a Ghana study abroad program mixed with incredible cultural activities to partake in, your time completing a study abroad in Ghana adventure will leave you wanting more. The perspectives you gain, not only from a beautiful place of the world, but also from the struggles and successes of a country’s difficult past, will change your life forever. Now that you have the necessary preparations in place, you’re ready to study in Ghana like a pro!