Ghana Travel Guide, Gap Year Volunteering and Tours
Boasting historical hot spots, diverse wildlife, and plentiful national parks, Ghana is the ultimate West African destination. You can visit the hungry hippos, see crocodiles lazing in the sun, or walk through the lands of elephants and wildebeest (really). Beyond the mainstream tourism sights which draw thousands of visitors each year, you can get off the beaten track and get an authentic experience like no other.
Ghana Travel Ideas, Gap Year Programs & Experiences
Get inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to go travelling, backpacking or take a gap year in Ghana.
Ghana Travel Guide
- Capital City: Accra (population 2,300,000 approx)
- Population: 24,500,000 (approx)
- Currency: Cedi (GH₵)
- Country Area: 239,000 km2
- Language: English is the official language, and ten major local languages are widely spoken
- International Dailing Code: +233
- Religion: 68.8% Christian, 15.9% Muslim, 15.3% Traditional, Other & None
- Visa: To visit Ghana you will need a valid passport, and also apply for a tourist visa prior to arrival
- Accommodation: There are lots of hotels and hostels throughout the country with options for all budgets
- Food & Drink: Food is different to what you might be used to but also very healthy and tasty - breakfast can involve a loaf of sugary white bread and for lunch or dinner you might be eating rice, a sticky meal of fufu (a play dough-like carbohydrate) and salty peanut soup. We recommend only drinking bottled water.
- Interesting Fact: Ghana was the first African nation to gain independence form colonial powers
Travel to Ghana
Present day Ghana has been inhabited since approximately 4000BC. Many tribes co-existed with none showing real dominance until the 1600’s, when the Ashanti Kingdom rose up as the most powerful in the land. Much of their wealth was derived from gold. At this time, Kumasi, the centre of the kingdom had amenities comparable to those in Europe. Portuguese, French, British, Swedish, and Danish explorers all arrived on Ghanaian shores.
Colonial powers built forts or castles, which were a transit point for commodity trading, the most notable commodity being slaves. Some of these castles are still standing today (Cape Coast and Elmina castles have been preserved, and you can visit the museum and old slave holding rooms in each). The Ashanti played a major role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the abolition of slavery in 1821 finally ended the Ashanti dominance. Ghana later became a British colony. Then, led by a charismatic leader Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana became the first African country to gain independence in 1957.
Nkrumah’s popularity declined before long, and he was removed by a military in coup in 1966. Government struggles remained until 1992 when democracy was officially introduced. Today Ghana is a peaceful West African country making considerable inroads to development.
"Arriving in Ghana, the first thing that struck me is how friendly and welcoming the people are. Everyone wants you to enjoy what their country has to offer, and will do anything to ensure you have the best experience possible. You are welcomed with open arms, with people greeting you in the street and often stopping you to have a friendly chat." - Marc, UK
Weather & Best Time to Visit Ghana
Wet season is late April to October. Dry season is November to late March. There is no best time to plan a trip here as all year is really is pleasant temperature wise and quite hot. We recommend going from January to June. First, because July and August is the rainy season and it is possible to get malaria caused by a mosquito bite which is a disease that is very common in West African countries. Secondly, because it is the time when there are more international visitors.
Gap Year in Ghana
Ghana is a very underrated gap year destination and also less touristy destination compared to others in Africa, this means you will get a really authentic experience. On our website we list programs for students, graduates, non-students, career breaks and for people just wanting to do something different.
Ghana is a destination to visit if you are seeking a unique experience away from the tourist crowds, it is also a great value for money country. Most international flights arrive into the capital - Accra, this is a city with a hive of activity and lots of historical sites to visit. Some Ghana gap year programs are located in coastal places like beautiful Esiama where the ocean meets the land and one of the most scenic places in the continent. You might not expect it but Ghana has gorgeous beaches, lush National Parks, various cultural and tourist sights, bustling cities and wildlife.
Trips can be booked in advance through our website, most have flexible start dates meaning you can join most weeks / months of the year. This experience will take you out of your comfort zone and see you completing an ultimate challenge.
Top Things to Do & Places to Visit in Ghana
There are so many things you should add to your Ghana travel itinerary including:
- Explore Accra, visiting the National Museum, Centere of national Culture, the National Theater and Independence Square
- Kakum and Mole National Parks
- Visit craft markets to see and buy some of the weavings, wood carvings, ceramic and metals works that are on offer
- Spend time on one of Ghana’s beaches; maybe La Pleasure or Kokrobite which are only 25 km west of Accra
- Visit Cocoloco Beach and observe the numerous birds and sea turtles
- Take a safari in one of Ghana’s 16 national parks
How to Get Around Ghana
If you are planning on traveling and moving around Ghana alone or independently here are some tips:
- Tro tro: It is a little bus which takes around 8-10 people to different places all around Accra and all over the country.
- Taxi: It is a bit expensive to take a taxi each time. They are safe, but just be aware, because most of the times the taxi drivers don’t know where to go, even if they tell you they do. So, try to ask around, to find out what is near the place you are going.
- Walking around: Accra and towns outside of Accra is very safe in the day, but at night you have to be careful with your belongings.
- Tips: if you don’t know where you are going just ask people around, they will try to help you out. Try to have change for the tro tro and taxis.
Passport / Visa / Money FAQ
- Is a visa required?: Yes
- Allocation of Tourist Visa: Before Departure
- Duration of Tourist visa: 1 to 3 months
- Cost of Tourist Visa: Varies, but you can expect to pay 60USD
- Tourist Visa Extension: Possible up to two years
- Cost of Tourist Visa Extension: Variable
- Passport validation: 6 months required before expiry
- Return/onward flight ticket: Required
- Confirmation of Funds: May be required
- Money/Currency: Ghana New Cedi (GHS)
- Inform Banks: Give the dates of travel and destinations to prevent security blocks on your bank and credit cards.
- Cash: Always take enough cash to cover your expenses for the first week in case there is a problem with your bank cards or access to ATM’s is limited.
- Credit Options: Good idea to have at least two different credit/debit card options i.e. MasterCard, Visa, Maestro, or Cirrus.
- Travellers Cheques: Not recommended as they will be difficult to cash.
- Western Union: If at any time you have any problems in accessing money you can use Western Union transfer. Money can be sent from your home country and received in Ghana the same day.
- Transport: Taxis and tro-tros (mini buses for 15 people) are everywhere. We recommend taking the tro-tro as these are by the most efficient and cheapest way to get around.
Health & Safety
Ghana has a stable government but please check latest travel advice before departing. Malaria can be an issue in this country and please check available vaccinations / medication. Walking out of the Kotoka airport in Accra, you might be accosted by several bulky men, demanding money for ‘protection’ on the walk across the eerily lit car park to our taxi. Usually these people are friendly, but nevertheless unknown faces so keep your wits about you. Also it is advised to ‘ignore anyone who asks for your cedis’ (Ghanaian currency). Even though this is a developing country Ghanaian people are very friendly in nature and you shouldn't encounter any problems, people are likely to greet you with smies and occasionally children might utter a high pitched shout – ‘Obruni!’ (Akan for ‘white man’). Check for vaccinations prior to departure.
Top Reasons to Book
- Get an experienced guide
- See the best places
- Go off the beaten track to see locations difficult to reach
- Eat at the best local restaurants
- Enjoy a stress free journey
- Get an authentic local experience
Ghana Tours for Solo Travellers
We recommened joining an overland tour which travel down the spectacular coast, there are lots of options including small group tours where you will travel with around 12 other people. There are options for all budgets from cheap trips to luxury experiences. Our tours are perfect if you are travelling solo and would like to meet other people and travel in a group. You will get to meet other international travellers and get taken to the best locations in the country with an experienced guide. Most of our tours specifically cater for the 18-39 age group and are a really popular option due to meeting other people, getting day-to-day activities, hotel check-ins, selected meals, accommodation and also transport/guides included in the price. Don't worry if you are slightly older, most tours accept all ages.
Ghana Budget Tours
We have a selection of tours for all budgets, so whether you are looking to explore on the cheap or you have a bit more money to spend you will be able to find a trip to match your interests. Our website features lots of cheap tours allowing you to discover the highlights of the country and not break the bank.
Usually travellers of the same sex will share a twin room, but there is also the option to pay a little extra and get a private room. Accommodation can vary depending on the tour and location.
Typical group sizes are around 10-18 travellers with an average of 12 but this can vary between the tour and operator.
On most tours you will travel overland in a private overland tour van.
How to Book
Search our featured trips above or contact us for specific advice.
Why the Need for Assistance?
On the UN Human Development Index, Ghana ranks 130 out of 169 countries and 28.5% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. It is notable that it is considered more developed than many other African countries. Though better off than many of its neighbours, Ghana is still a developing country with much progress to be made. A quarter of a million people are living with HIV and forty percent of the population can not read.
On a positive note, Ghana is benefiting from several international debt relief initiatives, namely the Heavily Indebted Poor Country program and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative. Ghana is also improving macroeconomic stability, private sector competitiveness, human resource development, good governance, and civic responsibility. Ghana turned fifty six years old in 2013. Landing in the humid capital, Accra, it is not hard to notice that little has changed in those fifty six years.
Ghana remains a deeply religious land of pot-holed mud roads and tribal scars. This country is making big strives forward but there is still problems with the economy, poverty and a lack of developed infrastructure. Places in the North of the country and also more remote areas suffer the most but you can give service and sign up as a volunteer to help - this will supply you with a life changing experience today. This is a volunteer journey you will never forget!
Top Reasons to Volunteer in Ghana
Ghana is a very safe country and we have a selection of stuctured and free volunteer opportunities available to book all year round. You will learn a lot about Ghanaian culture and the people, there will also be lots of free time to check out the beautiful beaches, visit local markets to barter for goods and also integrate and see a local side to the country. This experience will take you out of your comfort zone and see you completing an ultimate challenge.
Location of Projects
Programs are located in places like Ayensudo, Elmina, Tamale, Kumasi, the capital Accra and more rural areas Nkoranza Brong Ahafo. Ghana might not have the luxury of living standards you are used to but there are bustling towns and cities with café's, restaurants, bars and internet. Accra is where most projects are joined - this city is the art and cultural centre which showcases the rich culture of Ghana's products such as drums, crafts, beads, the Kwame Nkrumah Museum (first president of Ghana) etc. You might also like to combine experiencess by viewing our Cameroon volunteer programs or search our Africa volunteer directory.
Types of Volunteer Projects in Ghana
There is a lot of choice if you are thinking about volunteering in Ghana including community and youth development, medical / healthcare work, education, female empowerment programs, football and sports coaching programs and orphanage placements. There are lots of ways you can help people with HIV and Aids or work on education/awareness programs and community development initiatives. Whether its following your dream of to work somewhere amazing or simply sampling a new career path, we can make it happen.
Community Development Programs in Ghana
Charities and local NGO's are always looking to improve infrastructure in Ghana, you could join school building volunteer work projects. You could help at community clinics and sports organizations in Ghana to provide help, assistance, healthcare, education and physiotherapy treatment to local people. There is plenty of entertainment, delicious local cuisine, several community based incentive schemes and of course - stunning beaches!
Ghana has some very poor areas but you can join a program and gain insight in the medical field, while making a positive impact on the local community. Some skilled placements like medical programs will require a professional education. Volunteer teachers and assistants are needed in Ghana year round to help improve the lives of children and provide them with a good education at schools and orphanages. There are also building and construction projects available where you can help rural communities improve their infrastructure and living standards.
Eligibility & Requirements
The programs we have listed are open to most Nationalities to apply, please note to participate most organisations will require you to be aged 18 and over and also in good health. Our local partners welcomes hundreds of people each year, all from different walks of life and from all over the world. This provides for an enriching exchange opportunity not only with the local communities, but also with volunteers from different international backgrounds.
Housing is usually provided in the form of a shared volunteer house or a homestay and once you arrive you'll have an orientation to Ghana and a full induction to your program.
How to Apply
A lot of the organisations we partner with provide structured placements, flights, in-country support, transport and meals. For this you will need to pay an application fee which can vary depending on the project and length of time you join for. You can search opportunities above and apply today. There are vaious local charities and NGO's working to help children and disadvantaged communities by providing them with housing, education, healthcare assistance and providing a better future. If you search our featured organisations you will be able to find free and cheap placements where you might only be required to make a donation and cover costs to the placements.
Ghana Volunteer Reviews
Have you ever been to volunteer in Ghana? Would you like to share your experience or review an organisation or project? Contact us today. Below you can read past volunteer feedback which will give you an insight into what to expect.
"I travelled to Ghana with POD volunteer last April for two weeks and I had a fantastic time there and brilliant experience of working alongside the charity. They were always friendly, efficient and well organised prior to the trip and could answer any questions that you came to them with. They helped you book flights and find reasonable travel insurance and provided lots of contacts to go to with any issues that you had when you were away. I would travel with POD again." - Charlotte, UK
"I joined a program with Volunteers Partnership for West Africa (VPWA) who not only have several interesting projects, but also offer you the opportunity to gain international experience, living with people from all over the world, of different ages, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds, and you also work with many local people. Projects are carried out with other volunteers, along with local leaders." - Isabela, Canada
"I volunteered with Projects Abroad on a community programs in Ghana. The experience was challenging at times but also amazing. I would really recommend volunteering in Ghana to anyone considering it." - Megan, UK
"The key to the success of volunteer projects in Ghana is; ‘working alongside’. There is a common misconception among many people in developed countries that people in less developed countries aren’t capable and are in need of being ‘saved’ by wealthier countries. This just simply isn’t true. I’m not denying that Ghana doesn’t have its problems with issues such as poverty; it does. But it isn’t a problem that will just be solved by donating money and foreign aid. That does help, but to really combat the issue of poverty means working together with the communities affected and find solutions to these problems together, which in turn would mean that everyone involved would learn something. This is where Ghana is developing fast, and it is a country that is leading the way for the continent. It has the fastest growing economy in Africa, and it also one of the more progressive countries with its attitude to different social issues. Most importantly, Ghana is a country of life and colour, and it is all too easy to fall in love with it." - Marc Seymour, who participated on a sport coaching program in Ghana where he helped local children improve their soccer skills.