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SafetyTravel Safety: Africa: Ghana

Ghana: Republic of Ghana
Capital: Accra
Population: 20,244,154
Currency: cedi (GHC)
Languages: English (official), African languages (including Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, and Ga)
Religions: indigenous beliefs 21%, Muslim 16%, Christian 63%
Borders: Burkina Faso 549 km, Cote d'Ivoire 668 km, Togo 877 km

Ghana is a developing country on the western coast of Africa. Facilities for tourism 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, but are limited in the more remote areas of the country.

Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should exercise caution and maintain security awareness at all times. Large gatherings such as political rallies and street demonstrations should be avoided. U.S. citizens should be aware that Ghanaian authorities sent troops to the Northern Region of Ghana in March 2002, imposed a curfew, and declared a state of emergency to quell ethnic violence. The state of emergency in the Northern Region remains in effect, and the situation remains volatile. American citizens are urged to avoid unnecessary travel to the Northern Region of Ghana while the state of emergency remains in effect.

Pickpocketing, purse snatching, and various types of scams are the most common forms of crime confronting visitors. U.S. travelers have reported instances of these types of theft in crowded market areas, beaches and parks, and at tourist attractions. Instances of violent crime, such as rape and armed robbery, have risen over the last year. At least three foreign visitors have been raped in the last six months during home invasions/burglaries. American students studying in Ghana have reported an increase in burglaries of university housing. Several American tourists and students have been the victims of theft at gunpoint or knifepoint during the last year. Victims who resist attackers run a high risk of serious physical injury. Security measures such as traveling in groups and minimizing travel at night should be observed. 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.

While major U.S. and international credit cards are accepted widely across the country, credit card fraud is pervasive. Travelers are strongly advised to avoid using credit cards and to settle bills using traveler�s checks or cash. Travelers who elect to use their credit cards in Ghana should employ all available precautions.

In recent years, U.S. citizens have reported substantial financial losses from certain 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.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Ghana.

Recently American citizens have consulted the Embassy regarding questionable business offers described to them by electronic mail sent by Ghana-based individuals. Typically, these scam operations 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 then be paid in order to conclude the transaction: for example, 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 the advance fees. Reports have also reached the Embassy of fraudulent charities soliciting contributions through the Internet or direct mail. If you receive such business offers or charity requests, you are strongly urged to check with the U.S. Department of Commerce or the U.S. Embassy for an assessment of the offer's credibility. To check on a business's legitimacy in the U.S., contact the Ghana Desk Officer at the International Trade Administration, Room 2037, Dept. of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230, (202) 482-1358, fax: (202) 482-5198 or the Trade Information Center at 1-800-USA-TRADE. Americans already in Ghana may contact the U.S. Embassy at telephone (233) (21) 775-347 or 775-348.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Ghanaian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ghana are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens to exploit children sexually via pornography, the Internet or other means or to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18 in a foreign country, regardless of whether there was intent. Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Medical facilities are limited, particularly outside Accra, the capital. Travelers should carry a supply of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of the prescriptions, including the generic name for the drugs, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications.

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:

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair to Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Primary roads are generally paved and well maintained. However, some side roads within major cities and roads outside the 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 such as goats and sheep.

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.

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

For specific information concerning Ghanaian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Ghana National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Ghana's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Ghana 's air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet home page at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Service provided by a number of regional air carriers, including Ghana Airways, is reported to be unreliable. The airlines are known to alter scheduled stops, cancel or postpone flights on short notice, and regularly overbook flights. Travelers may experience unexpected delays even after checking in. Prudent passengers should get the required seat reconfirmation stamped on the ticket, ensure that they have emergency funds for food and lodging in the event of unexpected delays, and arrive at the airport at least two hours before the scheduled departure times.

Taking pictures near sensitive installations, including military sites and 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 taking photographs of anyone in uniform (police officers and military officers, for example). In some instances, film and cameras have been confiscated.

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

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

June 29, 2004

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