Author Topic: Country Specific Information for Travellers to Ghana  (Read 844 times)

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Country Specific Information for Travellers to Ghana
« on: December 05, 2010, 02:14:18 PM »
[float=left][/float]August 17, 2010

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Ghana is a developing country on the west coast of Africa. The capital is Accra. Tourist facilities are available in the population centers of the greater Accra region, Kumasi in the Ashanti region, and in the Cape Coast area of the Central region. They are limited in the more remote areas of the country.

SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Ghana, please take the time to tell your Embassy or Consulate about your trip. If you check in, they can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Below is the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (for US citizens). Search for addresses to other country's embassies (use the 'Search the web' box above and below on this page OR visit www.google.com).

Embassy Accra
Address: The U.S. Embassy is located at No. 24 Fourth Circular Road, Cantonments, Accra.
Telephone: (233)-(030) 274-1000 
Emergency after-hours telephone: (233)-(030) 274-1775
Facsimile: (233)-(030) 274-1362 or 274-1426 

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and a visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of Ghana, 3512 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 686-4520. Consular services are also available at the Ghana Permanent Mission to the United Nations at 19 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 832-1300; and the Honorary Consulate of Ghana, 3434 Locke Lane, Houston, TX, telephone (713) 960-8833. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Ghanaian embassy or consulate. Visit the Embassy of Ghana website for the most current visa information.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Ghana.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.

THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and stay aware of their safety at all times.

There are a number of ongoing chieftaincy disputes in Ghana that generally involve competition over limited resources. Several of these disputes have erupted into violence and unrest during recent years, most notably in Yendi in the Northern Region and Bawku in the Upper East Region. Visitors should exercise caution when traveling in these areas and remain alert to outbreaks of unrest.

Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.

You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

There is nobody better at protecting you than yourself. Take some time before travel to improve your personal security — things are not the same everywhere as they are in the United States. Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.

CRIME: Pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, and various types of scams are the most common forms of crime confronting visitors.  Travelers have reported these types of theft at crowded markets, beaches, parks, and tourist attractions. Incidences of violent crime, such as armed robbery, are on the rise, including reports of armed robberies in expatriate residential areas. Victims who resist attackers run a high risk of serious physical injury.  Take security measures, such as traveling in groups and avoiding travel at night.  Avoid travel in communal taxis. Travelers who limit their display of jewelry and handle their cash discreetly reduce their vulnerability to crime. Travelers are advised to carry limited amounts of cash and only photocopies of key documents.

Thefts of both luggage and travel documents occur at Kotoka International Airport in Accra and in hotels across Ghana. All U.S. citizens should ensure that documents are kept secure at all times (including when leaving the airport) and that baggage is never left unattended. Travelers should be wary of all offers of unsolicited assistance at the airport unless from uniformed porters or officials. All permanent staff at the airport are issued current ID cards bearing their name and photograph. ID cards without a photograph are not valid. Travelers who are met at the airport should confirm the identity of their driver, either by requesting proper identification or otherwise verifying that the driver is an official from an organization or a hotel.  There have been increasing incidences of impostors who approach travelers before the main arrivals area claiming to be the traveler's driver or contact. The impostor will have obtained the traveler's name from the board displayed by the official driver in the arrivals area outside the airport. The impostor then attempts to extort money from the traveler once the traveler is in the impostor's vehicle.

Use of credit cards in Ghana should be avoided if possible, as a growing number of travelers have been victims of credit card fraud.

In recent years, U.S. citizens have reported substantial financial losses from questionable transactions involving gold and other precious metals. The Government of Ghana maintains strict regulations on these natural resources. All agents must be licensed and all transactions must be certified.  (See Special Circumstances below.)

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. Such fraud schemes are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Ghana. Please refer to the Country Commercial Guide for Ghana for further information.

American citizens frequently consult the Embassy regarding questionable business offers sent from Ghana.  These are scams and typically begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country.  A series of “advance fees” must be paid in order to conclude the transaction, such as fees to open a bank account or to pay certain taxes.  In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect money from the victim.  The Embassy has also received reports of fraudulent charities soliciting contributions through the Internet or direct mail.  If you receive such business offers or charity requests, carefully check them out before you commit any funds, provide any goods or services, or undertake any travel.  Check with the U.S. Embassy in Ghana at telephone (233)-(030) 274-1-443/1449 for an assessment of the offer’s credibility.

Another type of fraud is committed by persons claiming to live in Ghana or  traveling to Ghana on business, and who profess friendship or romantic interest over the Internet.  Once a relationship has been established, the correspondent typically asks the U.S. citizen to send money for living expenses, travel expenses, or visa costs.  Sometimes a “hospital” or “doctor” telephones to say that the friend has suffered an “accident” and needs immediate financial assistance to cover medical bills.  There are other variations of this scam, but the common goal is to fraudulently obtain as much money as possible from the victim.  U.S. citizenshave reported losing thousands of dollars through such scams.  The anonymity of the Internet means that the victim cannot be sure of the real name, age, marital status, nationality, or even gender of the correspondent.  In most cases reported to the Embassy, the correspondent turned out to be a fictitious persona created to lure Americans into sending money.

Visitors to Ghana should also be wary of overly-friendly locals offering tours, discounted lodging, or other services that seem too good to be true.  Tourists are often targeted by touts and scam artists.  Some U.S.  citizens have been victims of false criminal accusations and have lost time and money as they seek to resolve these difficult situations.

For additional information, please see the Department of State brochure on International Financial Scams.

Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States,you may be breaking the local law too.

VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know  becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates). If your passport is stolen we can help you replace it. For violent crimes such as assault and  rape,  we can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and help you get money from them if you need it. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you  understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney.

Ghana maintains a specialized Domestic Violence Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) within the Ghana Police Service to assist victims of domestic violence, especially women and children.  In addition to its law enforcement responsibilities, the Unit can refer victims to medical providers and counselors, as well as to community support services.

The local equivalent to the “911”  emergency line in Ghana is 191.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: Persons violating Ghanaian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ghana are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  The use of illegal drugs procured in Ghana may have life-threatening consequences. There have been several deaths of U.S. citizens resulting from the use of narcotics procured locally.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Effective July 1, 2007, the Government of Ghana redenominated the local currency, the cedi, introducing new banknotes (Ghana Cedi) and coins (Ghana Pesewa).  10,000 cedis = 1 Ghana Cedi = 100 Ghana Pesewas.  The old cedi was taken out of circulation on December 31, 2007, and as of January 1, 2008, can be converted only at commercial banks or the Bank of Ghana.  Travelers should be alert to persons who may try to defraud them with the old and new bills.  The Government of Ghana established a website in 2007 to inform the public about the redenomination exercise.  The website includes a useful currency converter.

Visitors arriving or departing Ghana with more than $5,000 in cash are required to declare the amount at the border.  Currency exchange is available at most banks and at licensed foreign exchange bureaus, but currency transactions with private citizens are illegal.  The Government of Ghana also prohibits departing travelers from carrying more than 5,000,000 cedis (500 Ghana Cedis) out of the country.  Ghanaian currency must either be spent or exchanged before departure, or it will be confiscated.

Strict customs regulations govern temporary importation into or export from Ghana of items such as gold, diamonds and precious natural resources.  Only agents licensed by the Precious Metals and Mining Commission, telephone (233)(030) 266-4635 or 266-4579, may handle import-export transactions of these natural resources.  Any transaction without the commission’s endorsement is illegal and/or fraudulent.  All transactions must be completed through the commission at the price set daily by the London exchange.  Any transaction that discounts this price, or includes a previously negotiated price, is either illegal or fraudulent.  Export of gold dust is rare as it encourages dangerous and environmentally destructive practices, and transactions involving the export of gold dust are probably fraudulent.  Attempts to evade regulations are punishable by imprisonment.  It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Ghana in Washington, D.C., or one of the Ghanaian consulates in the United States, for specific information regarding customs requirements.

In rare instances, visitors arriving in Ghana with sophisticated electronic equipment (e.g., video cameras and laptop computers) may have to deposit 17.5 percent of the item's value with the Customs and Excise office at the airport. To get the deposit refunded, visitors must apply to the Customs and Excise Office in central Accra 48 hours before departure.

Taking pictures near sensitive installations, including military sites and some government buildings, is prohibited.  These sites are not always clearly marked and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation.  Permission may be obtained from Ghanaian security personnel.  Permission should also be obtained before photographing anyone in uniform (e.g., police and military officers).  In some cases, film and cameras have been confiscated.  For security reasons, taking photographs of the U.S. Embassy is also prohibited.

It is strictly prohibited to wear any military apparel such as camouflage jackets or trousers, or any clothing or items that may appear military in nature.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Ghana are limited, particularly outside Accra, the capital.  Travelers should carry adequate supplies of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of their prescriptions, the generic name of the drugs, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications.  For information on avian influenza (bird flu), please refer to the Department of State's Pandemic Influenza Fact Sheet.

Documentation of Yellow fever vaccination is required upon arrival from all countries.

Motor vehicle accidents, drownings, and water-related accidents due to Ghana’s rough surf have been reporter by U.S. citizens.  Muggings, and other violent attacks, as well as the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases—including HIV—are health and safety concerns that have been reported by U.S. citizens and can be at least partially mitigated by using common-sense safety precautions.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: You should not assume your health insurance will be valid when you travel overseas.  It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:

--Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United.

--Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or an evacuation?

In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S.  health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy isn’t valid overseas, it’s a very good idea to take out another one, created especially for your trip.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Ghana is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Primary roads are generally paved and well maintained.  However, some side roads within major cities and many roads outside of major cities are in poor condition.  The road from Accra to the central region tourist area of Cape Coast continues to be the site of many accidents.  Travel in darkness, particularly outside the major cities, is extremely hazardous, due to poor street lighting and the unpredictable behavior of pedestrians, bicyclists and farm animals, particularly goats and sheep.  Aggressive drivers, poorly maintained vehicles, and overloaded vehicles pose serious threats to road safety.

Another hazard are pedestrians who intentionally bump vehicles and pretend to be hit.  They then attempt to extort money from the vehicle occupants. Scams of this nature most commonly occur in congested urban areas.

The safety standards of the small private buses that transit roads and highways are uncertain.  Travelers are encouraged to consider this when making travel arrangements.

Armed robbers have targeted travellers following their arrival at Kotoka airport. An increasingly used tactic is to deliberately cause a minor road traffic accident to make a car stop, and to then rob the occupants. If your car is hit by another car it is best to drive to the nearest police station to sort out the incident. Otherwise, all drivers, particularly at night, should remain vigilant, and drive with doors locked.

There has been an increase in incidents of highway robbery on the road from Kintampo to Tamale in the Brong Ahafo and Northern regions. Travelers along this route should exercise due caution.

Travelers are routinely stopped at police checkpoints throughout Ghana, and vehicles and passengers may be searched.  Drivers must possess an international driver’s license (available from AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance).  Foreign nationals should carry documentation of their status, such as a passport and a visa.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Also, we suggest that you visit the website of the country’s national tourist office  and the national authority responsible for road safety.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S.  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Ghana’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Ghana’s air carrier operations.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Service provided by a number of regional air carriers is reported to be unreliable.  The airlines may alter scheduled stops, cancel or postpone flights on short notice, and regularly overbook flights.  Travelers may experience unexpected delays even after checking in.  Passengers should get the required seat reconfirmation stamped on the ticket, have enough emergency funds for food and lodging in case of unexpected delays, and arrive at the airport at least two hours before the scheduled departure time.

CHILDREN’S ISSUES: Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

Information adapted from http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1124.html
« Last Edit: December 10, 2010, 12:28:35 AM by ~Tony Ikenna~ »