Sandie & Ian’s trip report

My husband and I have lived in Ghana for almost a year, working on a voluntary basis with a chain of low-cost private schools west of Accra.  In our free time we have travelled to different parts of the country, and I believe we have seen all the major points of interest.  We have used your Guide extensively (our copy is well-worn!) and found it immensely valuable.  We have noted just a few points where we believe it is out of date or inaccurate, and now that we are returning to the UK I have listed these, hoping that you may find then useful for a future edition.  They are not in order of importance, just in the order they occur in the book. 

Comments on the Bradt Guide to Ghana

p.69f: Buses may be the safest mode of travel, but we would hesitate to say they are the most efficient.  The STC seems to be on the verge of folding: it now runs seldom on some routes, never on others.  Some newer bus services are excellent, notably VIP which runs frequently between Accra and Kumasi.  They are certainly more comfortable than most tro-tros, although the same is not true of the Metro Mass buses (seating 5 across instead of 4).  But the long distance tro-tros are (in our experience) as fast as buses, and a lot more convenient.

You rightly point out that buses will drop passengers off along their route.  The problem is that they will not pick passengers up along their route – you have to buy your ticket at the original point of departure.  For example, we live some 15 miles west of Accra, in the direction of Cape Coast.  But to get to Cape Coast (or beyond) by bus, we would have to first go to Accra, in the opposite direction!  With traffic hold-ups, this can add hours to your journey – we speak from experience, having done this soon after arrival in Ghana, before we knew better!

The other problem with buses which run to fixed schedules is the difficulty of getting information about timetables.  Websites do not work; emails are not answered; phone calls may be ignored, or switched through to a fax machine.  If by any chance you do get through, you will probably be told that your query cannot be answered (‘we don’t know yet’) or given information which is later proved to be incorrect.

So we quickly learned to take our chances with tro-tros, and found it amazing that (as you state on p.70) you can just turn up at a station and be assured  that there will be a vehicle going where you want to go; no need to find out about times, just go when it suits you!

On the subject of tro-tros, we do not agree that it would be better to wait outside the vehicle until it is ready to depart (p.70).  The earlier you board, the better your chances of choosing the optimal seat.  We were usually quite glad to have just missed a tro-tro if this meant being first to board the next one.  Yes, you would be waiting a while for it to depart, but you would be able to choose the most comfortable seats – if you were really lucky, you might be able to get the ones at the front, beside the driver.  Not only do these offer the best views, they are generally more comfortable – and you do not have to get up to let people on and off!

p.76: As a vegetarian, I have lived in Ghana for a year, eaten out frequently, and experienced no problems at all. You paint an unnecessarily depressing picture.  It’s true that most local Ghanaian food is meat- or fish-based, but you can usually get red red (bean stew with plantains) or jolloff rice (cooked with tomatoes and onions).  And if you go to restaurants advertising ‘Continental’ (i.e. western) as well as local cuisine, you will find that pizzas and other vegetarian dishes are common.  Indeed, many of the restaurants where we ate had a specific ‘Vegetarian’ section on the menu, with at least 3 or 4 options.

p.77: June 4 has not been a public holiday in Ghana since 2000!

p.117: The Hotel Shangri-La is now called the Western Sun, but is currently closed for refurbishment.

p.126: The Tribes restaurant at Afia African Village is excellent, but you cannot see the sea!

p.129: The Centre for National Culture does not close at 3pm on Saturdays.  We visited between 4.30 and 5pm.

p. 138: It’s not really true that the National Theatre is ‘host to regular plays and dance performances’.  Plays are in fact very rare: the theatre is used more often for events such as religious rallies, graduation ceremonies, beauty contests etc, but most nights it is not used at all.   Finding out what is on is not easy.  When we first arrived in Ghana the website was not working, we could get no information by telephone, and even visiting the theatre in person (twice) got us nowhere.   The website is now functioning, but only gives information about the coming week.  There is no way of booking other than going to the theatre in person – difficult if you do not live in Accra.  However, I doubt if there is ever a problem about buying tickets on arrival; when we finally managed to see a performance there were no more than 30 people in the audience.

On that same evening, we planned to eat in the theatre restaurant, recommended in the Guide.  We found that the ‘International restaurant’ offered drinks only, no food, not even snacks.  It was too late to go elsewhere, so we went hungry!

p.150: In Winneba, the cemeteries mentioned are overgrown, especially the Settlers’ (European) cemetery – we could not get anywhere near the graves.  But there are a couple of interesting towers in Winneba which are not mentioned in the Guide.

p.151: The map of Winneba is unhelpful; it does not show the lorry park (tro-tro station), so we struggled to orientate ourselves on arrival.  The road to Lagoon Lodge is shown in the wrong place (unless the road on the map is meant to be the footpath from the Lodge to the beach).

At Lagoon Lodge itself, it is impossible to see the sunset from the bar (which is surrounded by a high wall).  And even if the wall was knocked down, the bar would not overlook the Muni Lagoon.  We walked some distance looking for the lagoon, but found only dried up mud.  If the lagoon still exists, it must be some way from the lodge.

p.153: In Mankessim, we managed to find the famous posuban shrine, but it is not on the same road as the tro-tro station.  In fact, it is about 500 metres up the road to the right from the roundabout, coming from Accra.

pp.164 and 178:  We could not find shared taxis between Cape Coast and Elmina at the places mentioned, but dropping taxis were cheap.

p.173: The Canopy walkway at Kakum National Park now costs 30 cedis each – a big increase on the 9 cedis mentioned in the book.

p.196: The map is misleading.  The scale indicates that it is about 2km from Agona to Busua, but in fact it is 10 (as stated on page 197).

p.207: We were disappointed with Ankobra Beach (‘almost breathtaking perfection’): it is so narrow, there is very little sand between the resort and the sea.  We thought the resort was quite expensive too.

p.226: It is possible to get a tro-tro direct to Ada Foah from Tudu station in Accra (there is a booking office specifically for tickets).

p.227: The Manet Paradise Holiday Resort is closed (for refurbishment?)

p.228: In one respect the facilities at the Maranatha Estuary Beach Club have improved on your description – they now have some flushing toilets!  Our problem (not stated in the Guide) was that there is nowhere at all to wash, shave etc.   The other beach camps were all closed when we were there in August.

p.263: We were not impressed with the Kekeli Hotel in Ho.  There was no water at night, and no mirror in the bathroom for shaving etc.  It was very noisy on Sunday morning, even before the church service started!  There were lots of children running around, and one even burst into our room.  We had chosen to stay there partly because the Guide mentions that car rental can be arranged for a fixed and apparently very reasonable price.  When we enquired, the receptionist said that we would have to negotiate with the taxi driver.  She arranged for him to come and meet us, but was otherwise not involved.  We had to return to the hotel to meet him (and he was nearly an hour late).  The price he asked was extortionate, but by that stage we had no alternative.  We bargained, and he agreed to lower his price, but not by much.  What we paid was far in excess of what we paid anywhere else.

The Freedom Hotel is now called the Bob Coffie.

p.264: We tried two of the Ho eating places listed in the Guide.  The Mother’s Inn offered only banku and fufu; the White House had no food at all.  We ended up having lunch at what we believe was a new restaurant; it was called the Royal Farm, it was close to the Kekeli Hotel, and the food was excellent.

p.268: At the welcome office in Amedzofe, the local guide said that there were two options: the waterfall walk and the mountain walk (as per the Guide).  He that we would be able to climb Mt Gemi, but would find the waterfall walk ‘too challenging’.  We are in our 60s but very fit, and as we had gone to Amedzofe mainly to see the waterfall, we insisted.   The guide was not kidding!  The first part of the walk was flat and easy, but then it plunged steeply downhill, and lost all semblance of being a ‘path’ – it was a long scramble over slippery rocks, clinging to a rope.  We managed it (with help from the guide) but both the descent and the climb back up were very difficult.  We wondered why there was no hint of this in the Guide – surely a warning would be appropriate?  Re-reading it afterwards, we wondered if we had in fact done a different walk, since we did not ‘come out at the three knee-deep pools separating the upper and lower falls’.   We ended up at the base of the lower falls – the ‘more ambitious’ walk mentioned?  But if there is an alternative (easier) walk, why did our guide not offer this – especially as he felt the waterfall walk would be too challenging for us?

p.284: The Wli Water Heights Hotel is a lot more than 50m from the turn-off for the tourist information centre.    A sign at the turn-off says 300m, and having walked it several times, we would say it is at least that.

p.291: We had to laugh when we read that the road between Accra and Kumasi ‘follows good surfaced roads in its entirety’.   On the contrary, much of the journey is on rough dirt roads; the bus has to travel slowly, with much jolting, and the trip takes 6 hours.  We found it amazing that the road between the capital and second biggest cities was in such bad shape; some people we talked to maintained that this was a deliberate political decision to keep business and finance in the south.

p.307: The book says there are 8 STC buses daily between Accra and Kumasi.  There are now hardly any (STC seems to have declined considerably, with few buses going anywhere).  But there is an excellent new company called VIP, which has a bus station not far from the main STC station.  You buy a ticket which specifies a bus and seat number.   Buses leave as soon as they are full – generally about every half hour.

p.312: On the map of Kumasi, the Sambra Hotel is in the wrong place, as is the Manhyia Palace (it is much further from the town/market than the map suggests).

p.313: The Four Villages Inn was pleasant enough, and the breakfasts were excellent.  But we considered it very expensive compared with what we usually pay in Ghana.  On our second visit to Kumasi we stayed in the Sambra Hotel which cost about a third of the price, and was more conveniently located.  It also has an excellent restaurant.

p.315: We were not able to find Aseda House, but there was a large hole in the ground where it is shown on the map, so perhaps it has been demolished.

p.320: We went to the Adae Festival in Kumasi, and it was certainly worth seeing.   What you said about photography was accurate, but the time given was not: the ceremony started well after 12 and was still in progress when we had to leave about 2pm.

p.355:  Entrance to Kintampo Falls now costs 7 cedis for non-Ghanaians.  We were there at Easter, and could not get near the Falls owing to the crowds of people wading, dancing and generally having a good time in the water.  The atmosphere was amazing – it’s obviously the place for locals to go on public holidays!

p.377:  We thought the Larabanga mosque was beautiful, and we did not suffer any of the problems reported by your readers.  We enjoyed a brief but hassle-free visit.

p.397:  The Hotel Myaga at Navrongo was very limited in terms of food.  It amused us that the price for a double room included only one breakfast!

Sandie & Ian

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2 thoughts on “Sandie & Ian’s trip report

  1. Randalk Harris says:

    Well you did not mention how to reach Accra. Unlike other African countries, you can reach any city of Ghana quite easily. Popular travel agencies like reliancetravels (add dot co dot uk) and many others are offering very comfortable and cheap flights to Accra Ghana all destinations in Ghana. Ghana is a beautiful place. A few pictures would have made this blog post more beautiful.

    • philipbriggs says:

      Randalk, why the attitude? This is simply an update website for a printed guidebook to Ghana, which already deals with getting to Accra etc. Readers who submit posts like this are using it as a forum to share their experiences and help other travellers, not to promote Ghana with pretty pictures or to provide a definitive travel resource. If you want the latter, buy the guidebook at http://www.bradtguides.com/Book/120/Ghana.html!

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