Tips For Volunteers
Welcome to Ghana! Here are a few tips that you might find useful during your stay with us:
Visa: A visa for Ghana is mandatory and volunteers are responsible for obtaining their own. An application can be found on the Ghana High Commission in Ottawa website (ghc-ca.com under “Consular Matters”).
You are required to send your passport to the Ghana High Commission with these attachments: four copies of your completed application form, a bank draft or money order for the visa fee, four passport photos, a copy of your travel itinerary, a copy of proof of yellow fever vaccination, an invitation letter from Ghana along with government ID of the person sending it. It is wise to allow at least two weeks for your visa to be processed.
You will need to include two names of your hosts in Ghana. Please note the following:
1. Joana Felih, 159 Kanda Highway, Accra Tel: 024-683-8171
2. Martin Adjei Legend, Nima Maamobi Community Learning Centre, Kanda Highway, Accra Tel: 024 657 9156
Keep a note of these two names when you travel since you will need to include them on an immigration form when you arrive. You will also need to show your yellow fever vaccination certificate upon arrival.
Joana Felih, charge librarian, can be reached at 024 683 8171 or 027 745 2380
From Canada, dial 011 233 27 745 2380. Phone cards with no connection fees are the best value.
From Ghana to Canada, dial 001 plus the area code and number
There is a cell phone for volunteers to use while they are in Ghana but you will be required to buy credit (not expensive).
We strongly discourage you from giving out your personal contact details. Any correspondence can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or OCLF’s postal address and will be forwarded to you. Internet fraud is a big problem in Ghana.
Internet: Most volunteers now bring their own laptop. Avoid taking your laptop outside the guesthouse to avoid the risk that it might be stolen. A modem, which will allow you to access the internet, can be purchased at a reasonable price. There are also many internet cafes around Accra. We strongly suggest that you do not use them during the evening because they are not safe with the exception of Busy Internet.
Canadian High Commission: It is a good idea to register with the Canadian High Commission in Accra when you arrive so they are able to contact you in case of an emergency. You can preregister online from home.
Medical form and emergency numbers: Give one copy to Joana and send another to OCLF’s address. Always carry some identification and Joana’s contact number whenever you are travelling, especially out of Accra. Police checkpoints may ask to see a passport although uncommon. A photocopy should suffice.
Money: Money is exchanged at a fixed rate at all foreign exchange bureaus. The bank rate is usually slightly less. It is better to bring over $50 and $100 bills as the rate of exchange is better. IMPORTANT: The Ghanaian currency was revalued a few years ago, and occasionally some people still quote in the old system, especially at local markets. It can be very confusing and so be mindful of this. Credit cards are seldom accepted but ATM machines are available. Be VERY careful when withdrawing cash from ATM machines. The best ones to use will have a security man nearby.
Time: Ghana is on GMT – same as Britain.
Electricity: 220 volts. There is a transformer in the guesthouse for anything that runs on 110 and an adapter so the plug will fit the shape of the plug. It is necessary to switch the power off before plugging in any appliance.
Transportation: Taking a trotro (shared van) is an informal and inexpensive system of getting around in Accra. For safety’s sake, make it a habit not to sit in either the very front or back row, if possible. Shared taxis are slightly more expensive and run regular routes. The most expensive but most convenient mode of traveling is hiring a taxi or ‘dropping’ as it is known. Joana can recommend taxis with reliable drivers. A good habit is to sit in the back and, ideally, with a seat belt on (wipe it first with a cloth to remove the dust). When traveling out of town, it is very important to reach your destination before dark because roads are not always safe and accidents happen all too frequently. For long journeys, it is better to travel on State Transport Company buses known locally as STC.
Water: Joana keeps a supply of filtered and safe water in the fridge. We urge you to use these and help in the battle against plastic.
Medical: See a travel clinic prior to your departure. Volunteers are required to buy comprehensive travel insurance including coverage for evacuation. If there is a chance that you might extend your stay we suggest that you buy additional insurance before leaving. Most policies allow for a refund for the time not used but will not allow you to extend your insurance if you decide to stay longer or are too ill to travel.
In the guest house (bottom drawer of the chest in the bedroom), there is a supply of basic medical needs. The Phillips Clinic in the Cantonments area at 12 Adema Road is open Monday to Friday from 8am-2pm. Payment is cash. The clinic runs a laboratory and dispenses drugs. The Military Hospital clinic is also very good and is open 24 hours daily.
A good health link for volunteers if they want extensive medical coverage while in Ghana is ghana.westafrican-rescue.com
Clothing: Skirts or dresses are best for women, and pants for men (no jeans). Half-slips are required if the skirt material is unlined. Red and black colours are associated with funerals. For travelling to the north, below-the-knee skirts are required and shirts or tops should not be sleeveless. Ghanaians always look smart with freshly-ironed clothing and polished shoes.
Dirty clothes should not be kept in plastic for a long period because mold develops quickly. It is much better to keep them in a vented container (one is provided at the guest house).
Ask Joana to show you how to wash clothes with minimal water. She carefully separates the lights from darks and uses different washing products for each. Clothes should be ironed if dried outside to avoid problems with the tumbo fly. It is possible to pay someone to do laundry.
Customs: Do not receive and give anything with the left hand, greetings from right to left, and always give a greeting before asking a question (e.g. good morning, good afternoon etc.)
Suggested personal items to bring to Ghana:
Flashlight, this is important now as power is not reliable
Battery recharger, if required
Extra batteries for camera (these are available but are not always of a good quality)
Sunscreen with high sun protection factor
Wide brimmed hat
Bug repellent – Deet works best but keep in small container in case it leaks.
Malaria precautions as advised by a travel clinic
Underwear, easily washed out at night
Towel – quick drying towels are best
Small suitcase lock is helpful for travel outside of Accra.
Battery-operated alarm clock
Zip-lock bags are handy, especially for the harmattan season. Cameras should be double bagged to protect them from dust during this time.
Ear plugs (the guesthouse has some unusual nighttime noises!)
Any special medications you require, together with a copy of your prescription
Needle and thread
Granola bars are great for those occasions when food is not easily available.
Be careful with valuables such as cameras, computers, phones and money. Theft is common, especially if one is not vigilant. Valuables are safe at the guesthouse.
Kathy’s Guide to Arriving at Accra Airport:
Passing through the airport is very easy—
You get off the plane, board a bus for 75 metres or so.
Stand in a line with non-nationals to submit your immigration form and get your passport stamped. Please note the information above for documentation requirements. Proof of yellow fever certificate is often asked for.
Pick up your luggage (there are free baggage carts and you should decline help).
Go through “Nothing to Declare.” If the customs official asks questions, point to the letter on the box (if you have taken one) indicating that the books/supplies are for the Nima library. If the officer decides to open the box wait patiently. There are no import duties on children’s books.
Proceed down a long ramp and pass the officers checking suitcases against baggage tags. Once you exit the building stay within the cordoned off exit area immediately outside. Joana or your host will be there waiting for you. Do not leave this area as it is more secure. If for some reason you don’t meet your host, go to a foreigner who is also waiting and explain your situation. Ask the person to phone Joana at 027 745 2380 or 024 683 8171.
NO MONEY WILL BE ASKED OF YOU AS YOU PASS THROUGH THE FORMALITIES OF YOUR ARRIVAL. If money is asked for, you can request to see the individual’s supervisor. Bribes are illegal.