Y3bro dada y3ntw3n bronya*
*translation: We have already started getting drunk ( / turning up); we don’t wait till Christmas
Over the past few years, Ghana has been a prime destination for a fun Christmas break. A fact airlines have recognised and responded by inflating ticket prices exponentially. An economy flight to Accra in December can easily be over £1,000, compared to a normal return ticket that is usually on average £400 to £600 – I’ve even managed to get a ticket off-peak for £350.
From mid-December to early January, Accra becomes the capital of chilling, partying and having a damn good time. I have personally tapped out of the “Ghana at Christmas” crew, but I know the vim continues and this year is certainly no different. So although I will not be there this year, I do want to share a few basic tips and tricks I’ve learnt that will help you have an amazing time this Christmas season.
Note: – this is an extension of ‘Returnee’s savings hack’ post I wrote for Penny Smart so if you haven’t already checked that out, now is a perfect time.
Before you leave
- Money: Get yourself a Monzo, Starling, Revolut card etc….
Leave the cash at home and take your debit card. If you’re still one of the very few people left in this world who still goes to the Post Office to “change money” before travelling, please let this blog post signal the start of something new. Gone are those days where you need cash before you travel because “mY bAnk wilL cHarGe mE iF I taKe moNey OuT”. All the major challenger banks (e.g. in the UK: Monzo, Starling, Revolut) offer free overseas ATM withdrawals and free transactions abroad. This means you can pay with your card for free in Ghana and you can take out money for free* (*subject to maximum limits). Apply now and you can get your card before Christmas. PS. If you use my Monzo referral link this Christmas season, you get £10 for free. Happy Spending.
When you get to Ghana
- Money: ATM Machines
Some Banks in Ghana charge you when you use their ATMs to withdraw cash. Ecobank is the biggest offender, and ironically they have the most ATMs in Accra. Last time I checked, Standard Chartered also charges. The charge is typically between 1GHc to 5GHc, depending on the bank. Sounds negligible but it all adds up so if you can, I recommend targetting the banks that do not charge. (Note: this is separate from any charges from your actual bank, but if you’ve taken my first advice then, of course, no bank charges for you ). From memory, I believe Stanbic and GCB are free. But this is subject to change – follow me on twitter for updates on Banks that do and do not charge for ATM withdrawals in Ghana.
- Travel: Uber and Taxify
If you don’t already know, Uber works in Accra which is great for a visitor who doesn’t quite know their bearings. It’s also on average cheaper than getting a taxi from the road/taxi-rank; especially if you don’t know how to haggle (the ethics of this on the other hand… is a discussion for another day. For today, let’s just focus on the convenience). Although Uber drivers in Ghana technically should accept both card and cash payments, the drivers notoriously hate card payments and often cancel a journey once they find out that it’s a card payment. I’ve had an Uber driver cancel half way through the journey. My advice is to download Taxify too – works just like uber and is worth having as a back up in case your Uber fails to arrive. Another tip if you’re using Uber on an international phone number, once the driver is confirmed call him on your Ghanaian number so they have a point of contact. Sometimes they cancel because “they couldn’t get through to you” aka they couldn’t call your number because it would be too expensive.
- Communication: Mobile Phones
It should go without saying but I forget to do this all the time, make sure your phone is unlocked so it can use a sim card from a different provider. You can buy a sim card at the airport (last I checked they sell it where you pick up your luggage) or just go to your nearest mobile network office (Vodafone, MTN, Glo etc) and pick up a sim – you’ll need your passport or a Ghanaian ID.
- Payments / Mobile Credit: Download Express Pay
My life changed the day I downloaded Express Pay.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration but I loved the convenience of being able to top up my Ghana sim without leaving my house. Who buys credit on the street anymore? Hardly anyone. Save yourself time and headache and download Express Pay. I think there are alternatives that do the same thing but express pay is the only one I’ve tried and tested hence the recommendation. You can top up any mobile network, buy data, top up your electric meter… so much more. You will need to verify your identity by sending them an email but it’s a quick and easy process.
- Chilling be what: have fun
Accra is one of my favourite places in the world. Christmas in Accra is like no other. Try not to stay with the same crowd, have fun and if you happen to pass through Bloombar, tell them Baroness sent you.
Now over to you, are there any tips and tricks you have that I may have missed or has helped you whilst in Ghana? – feel free to share in the comments or to tweet me @beingbaroness