Ghana is a West African gem. It’s a relatively stable, low crime country in a region not known for peace and stability. Here’s everything you need to know to stay safe while traveling in Ghana.
- Crime in Ghana
- Airport scams
- Diamond scams
- Legal issues
- Women’s safety
Crime in Ghana
The capital Accra, like any major city, will have some level of crime. Travelers, particularly women on their own, can be the target of opportunistic crimes such as muggings, bag snatching, petty theft and pickpocketing; which commonly occur in markets, at tourist attractions, beaches and spots where expats like to gather.
Keep your valuables secure and be aware of your surroundings particularly in crowded areas. Don’t take any more than you need for the day. There have been occasional reports of cell phone snatching incidents in the streets, take care where you use your phone and don’t wander around with it out all the time.
Caution should also be taken at public beaches around Ghana. Theft is the main problem, but there have been isolated incidents of foreign women receiving unwanted attention and sexual assaults.
If you plan to head out at night, always get a taxi to and from bars or restaurants at night.
Armed robberies and other violent crimes, including rape and house invasions have increased minimally, however, violence against foreign nationals is low compared to other African countries.
Credt card fraud is an increasing problem in Ghana. Never let your card out of sight and avoid withdrawing money from ATMs on the street or at night.
Drugs have become a growing problem in Ghana as the country is a transit point for several illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The local Ghanaian authorities are determined to tackle and control the problem, with severe penalties for drug related offences such as smuggling, trafficking and use.
Even possession of small amounts of marijuana can lead to a prison sentence in excess of 5 years, usually after a lengthy and expensive legal process.
Class A drugs such as cocaine are likely to be laced with other substances – there have been several reports of travelers dying after taking these drugs.
Thefts by individuals posing as airport staff frequently occur at Kotoka International Airport in the capital, Accra.
Always remember, legitimate airport staff wear a current identification card that bears their name and photograph. Cards without photographs are not valid. There have also been reports of fake cops demanding money from travelers.
Travelers who are meeting a hire car at the airport should confirm the identity of their driver, either by requesting proper identification, verifying that the driver is an official from an organization or a hotel. This is due to increasing incidences of fake drivers who approach travelers before the main arrivals area claiming to be the traveler’s driver or contact.
The fake driver will have obtained the traveler’s name from the board displayed by the official driver in the arrivals area outside the airport. They will then attempt to extort money from the traveler once the traveler is in their vehicle.
West Africa is often associated with the diamond trade, with many of the world’s best gems coming out of the region.
As a traveler to Ghana, you may be approached by touts on the street, hoping to sell diamonds to you. Usually, these good deals are too good to be true. Despite Ghana having a legitimate diamond trade, many blood diamonds (mined with slave or child labor from conflict zones) still make their way into the legal markets. Avoid buying diamonds while traveling in the country.
Homosexuality has been illegal in Ghana since the 1800s, with offenses attracting a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. LGBTQ people are heavily discriminated against and violence towards the LGBTQ community does occur. The local gay party scene is mostly underground and there have been reports of local straight men scamming/blackmailing unsuspecting gay travelers in nightclubs and bars.
It’s strongly advised that LGBTQ travelers remain discreet and avoid public displays of affection.
Photography near sensitive sites such as military installations or the airport is strictly prohibited. Such sites may not be clearly marked and the application of restrictions is open to interpretation.
Photographers should ask permission if they want to take a photograph of a building where there are guards on duty outside.
Permission should also be sought from people if you wish to take their photograph (a small tip or “dash” may be required). But beware of self-appointed officials trying to charge fees for tourists to take pictures of well-known sites of interest.
What to wear
Wearing military-style or camouflage clothing is prohibited. This is not a unique rule and one that is found in several African countries. With many rebel and terrorist groups operating in the region, the last thing you want to do is be linked to something criminal.
Women’s safety in Ghana
For the most part, Ghana is a safe country for women travelers. However opportunistic thieves may target lone women travelers so keep your belongings secure and be aware of our surroundings.
Ghana is a Christian country, where the locals observe conservative standards of dress and behavior. Women travelers are advised to wear respectful, conservative clothing such as long-sleeved pants and tops plus long skirts. Dressing conservatively can also reduce unwanted attention from local Ghanaian men however if you are approached or spoken to, be polite but firm in your reply.
Try to travel during the day and if you need to travel at night, take a taxi but be sure to negotiate the rate before you hop in.
Again you need to have a Private Tour Guide if you are visiting for the first time.
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