Getting ready for Ghana? Check out these five tips I learned after living in Ghana for a month!
1. Plan in advance
The best trips are well organized and stress-free. Plan as much as possible before you touch the ground at your destination so you can ease into your trip without the frustration of figuring everything out when you jetlagged.
Before you board the plane, you need to know:
If you will need a visa to enter the country
Which neighborhood will you reside in
an itinerary of attractions and activities
how to transport from the airport to your hotel
Exactly where you will be staying for at least two nights
how much cash to bring
2. Reset Your Expectations
In fact, turn them off or leave them at home. Expectations set you up for frustration, and who wants to deal with that in a new country? Not me, and hopefully not you, either.
Keep your mind open to new experiences, ways of living, and cultural activities that will help you become more familiar with your destination.
You will see and smell things that make you want to board the next plane home.
Welcome to Ghana, where you will experience duality on a whole other level. You can see luxury living alongside poverty. You will likely inhale the sweet smell of blossoms one minute and gag at the stench of the open sewers the next. With time, the not-so-fun parts of living in Accra will become more bearable. But for now, observe and experience all that Ghana has to offer.
Honesty is the best policy unless you are a solo female traveler in a foreign country. Sharing too much information about where you are from, whom you came with, what you do for a living, and where you stay will create unnecessary problems and weird situations. It's all fun and games until you suddenly have stalkers tapping on your window begging for money because you wouldn't shut up about traveling over 15 hours from America.
Lying is beneficial when traveling. People will size you up and determine how much money you have or how naive you are based on the information you share. No one is entitled to know anything about you, so lie!
I received several marriage proposals during my first week in Ghana because I was too honest. I let everyone who asked know that I am from America and travel often.
Of course, many of those guys assumed that I was rich because I was from the United States of America and I had traveled all over the world. These men were stuck to me like glue because they saw me as an opportunity- a ticket to the 'New World.'
As soon as I started lying and telling people that I was from Trinidad, things calmed down, and so did the marriage proposals.
4. Prepare to Poop A Lot
Many people who believed they had strong stomachs have come to Ghana and regretted being so pompous. I am one of those people. My first two weeks in Ghana were spent in the bathroom, griping in pain and begging the universe to let me see another day if I promised to stop eating whatever had my stomach on the rocks.
A few friends said my body was getting accustomed to the food. It was more than likely the result of eating cross-contaminated fruits and vegetables cut with knives used for meats and food made with unclean hands. Let's be honest; the hygiene standards in Ghana are subpar. A few restaurants I dined at did not have running water.
A waitress at Mabel's Table in Cape Coast was eating lunch when I ordered a slice of carrot cake. I told her to take her time; however, she immediately grabbed a plate and served me the cake without washing her hands.
I made these mistakes, so you don't have to.
Please bring anti-diarrheal, probiotics, and activated charcoal to settle your stomach. Also, don't be shy to ask someone to wash your hands before preparing your food.
5. Teach People How You Want to Be Treated
West Africans can be very hands-on. Don't be surprised if someone tries to clean food off your face or pokes your thighs to get your attention. It seems like there is no sense of personal space which can be alarming at first but do not be afraid to set clear boundaries.
If someone is doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable, be assertive and let them know.
Too often, we let people get away with things that rub us the wrong way and spend too much time thinking about what we should have done. There's no more time for that. Be assertive and set your boundaries, and don't be scared to tell someone to back up!
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