Generally speaking, Ghana is a pleasant, tropical state on the western coast of Africa, neighboring Ivory Coast to the west and Togo to the east. Our northern borders are met by Burkina Faso and the southern borders by the Atlantic Ocean. Its land mass covers approximately 238,000 km and the overall population is approximately 23 million people, with 3 million of its inhabitants in little, old Accra.
Diamond history. Ghana's diamond production is currently around 400,000 carats of rough diamond a year. Mining activity is mainly situated in the Birim Valley close to Akwatia. Many people do not realise that Ghana's diamond production is approved by the Kimberely Process and is therefore compliant with all of the national and international rough trading standards. It is reasonable to expect the production to increase to 600,000 carats of rough diamond over the next decade which will prove an invaluable source of income for the people on Ghana. Some very large diamonds mined from Ghana have been exhibited in the British Museum as well as being set into fabulous engagement rings made by Samara James which were then worn by members of the European Royal Family at a special exhibition.
Seasons change. Beginning in April we enjoy the onset of the rainy season, with its intensity climaxing in May and June. This means showers daily, especially if you are situated in the more lush eastern region where the trees still outnumber the people. However, even in the north, where we border the desert, they can count on rains to water the crops. The rains usually come intensely for about 30-45 minutes, abating and making way for a tremendous calm after. In some places it can rain 2-3 times in a day. Once we get into July and August, the rains taper off and make for the most perfect tourist season. Warm, but not dry and unbearable. September and are October are my favorite times, as they are down right cool, mild months, whence air conditioners nor fans are necessary, rather a warm blanket and good company soothes. Beginning in November, just after harvest, the seasons change again, becoming dry and brisk. By January and February rains are a distant memory and temperatures peak their highest, with A.C.s blaring and the beach teaming with people in their designer underwear, seeking relief from the blazing sun. In March, the prayers begin for the changing of seasons, welcoming, once again, the rains. Changes to these patterns are taking place largely because of deforestation, air pollution and other such practices that get no attention unless mandated as a condition to qualifying for some loan, donation or other hand out. That is to say, Ghana's governors have yet to take any initiative to protect its future interests or environment, as a result of the consequences endured from regressive lifestyles.
Ghana is on GMT and for those that visit Ghana, it is soon learned that in this hemisphere that means Ghana Man Time. Contrary to the meticulous nature of our European counterparts, Ghanaians operate in much more laid back mode. This can take some getting used to and may be the cause of much frustration, especially if your mission is to complete an agenda with very limited time. As a rule, it generally takes 2-3x as much time to get anything done here, especially if it requires any level of collaboration from our civil workers.
Our main airport is Kotoka International Airport, located in the heart of town. Nicely remodeled in the past 3 years and rapidly growing to accommodate the increasing influx of visitors to Ghana. You may also catch flights to sub-airports in Kumasi and Tamale. If arriving for the first time, the experience will not overwhelm you as it did I, 13 years ago. Then the airport was no more than a busy bus station with a tarmac.
Visas are required for all visitors who do not hold Ghanaian passports. Visas must be secured from the nearest Ghanaian Embassy to your port of departure, in advance of your departure. You will also be expected to provide proof of vaccination against Yellow Fever & Malaria. No one is denied entrance without such proof, but it is part of protocol and you should be prepared with written explanation as to your reasons for refusing to be injected.
Customs aren't too bad at the airport. If you know you are bringing in an item that you know will attract duties, prepare an envelope with $20 for our kind customs officer and put it in with your passport.
Ghana's currency is the Cedi. Currency rates fluctuate frequently. For today's rate please refer to http://www.oanda.com/currency/converter/ .
In Ghana their are more than ten local dialects, but once you have a good command of English then you will do just fine. Most people living in the cities speak fluent English.
Ghanaians are generally either "Christian" (including the catholics) or Muslim. A small percentage of Ghanaians are bold enough to champion their traditional belief systems, but the rest stake their salvation on the gods of former conquerors, whether Arab or European. That being said, it lends to explain why Ghanaians are generally most compliant with western practices and perceptions. Needless to say, Ghana is a bastion of democracy and generally considered a favorite of its former colonial masters.
Communications in Ghana are rapidly improving with an onslaught of telecommunication service providers. In the last 7 years we have had numerous new providers enter the market. Within the last couple of years, each of those providers have also extended their service to include internet options. The leading companies are Expresso, Vodafone, MTN, Tigo, Airtel and Glo. (F.Y.I. Expresso offers the best internet service via modem, but Vodafone's broadband service tops it, only it isn't available everywhere in Ghana.)
Last, but not least, you have read everywhere that Ghanaians are the most hospitable beings on the face of the earth. Quite possibly so, they are generally humble in demeanor and pleasant by nature. This possibly stems from living in such a pristine tropical environment where food and smiles abound. However, the world is changing and with exposure to western clothes, music, videos, movies and above all, culture, there has been an emergence of a new breed, with new greed. This Ghanaian is still modest in appearance and meek to the point of disarming, but craftier than a fox. Bask, if you will, in the splendor and enjoy the love, but don't be lulled to sleep otherwise you will awaken from the nightmare, naked and disappointed.