Getting around in Ghana

Ghana has a well developed transport system and getting around is relatively easy. As Ghana spreads over an area approximately as big as the UK, you don’t have to travel extremely long distances either. Travelling through Ghana takes getting used to though: bumpy streets, overcrowded vehicles and kamikaze drivers make even short journeys an adventure.

Transport in cities

When trying to get from A to B in a city in Ghana you usually have the choice between a taxi and a tro-tro. While taxis are certainly the comfier option, travelling by tro-tro gives you the possibility to meet the locals and to experience Ghanaian daily life first hand. Be prepared though for a sticky, sweaty ride, crammed in between people, various goods and sometimes even livestock.

A tro-tro is any privately owned vehicle used for public transport and the cheapest possibility to get around. As there are usually no set departure or arrival times and no bus schedules, it can be tricky for outsiders at first to find their way.

To leave more space for passengers luggage usually travels on the roof © bigfoto

To leave more space for passengers luggage usually travels on the roof © bigfoto

The loading station is usually a designated area along the side of a road where vans line up, each of them taking a different route. If you don’t know which one goes your way, ask a local. Afterwards it’s easy: hop in, pay your fare to the “mate” (the guy yelling out the destinations – make sure you have small money in your pockets) and wait until the tro-tro leaves. That can take a while though as the drivers usually wait until their vehicles are full. You can find a very useful guide explaining in detail how to use a tro-tro here.

Taking a taxi can be quicker, but it’s also more expensive. Make sure that you always negotiate the price before you take a seat, otherwise you might have to pay twice as much.

Long-distance journeys

Tro-tro’s also go longer distances, but as the roads aren’t always in good condition and tro-tro accidents occur frequently, it means taking an unnecessary risk. If possible you should opt for the safer and more comfortable long-distance buses.

According to the Lonely Planet, the old State Transport Corporation VanefSTC provides the best bus service in Ghana and links all major cities. You can choose between the luxury version, usually new and comfy coaches with air-conditioning, and the ordinary buses. Even though buses in Ghana are more reliable than tro-tro’s, delays are not unusual, especially on the less regular routes. On the mayor routes it’s advisable to book your ticket one day in advance.

Other bus services are OSA, Kingdom Transport Services (KTS), City Express and the GPRTU. These buses are often less comfy and older, but they are the only bus operators on some routes.

Even if you choose the luxury bus version, keep in mind that the roads are often bumpy and unpaved. If you easily get seasick, don’t forget to take a plastic bag with you.

Trains are much slower than long-distance buses and cost about the same. Ghana’s railway, a colonial heritage, is mainly a triangular rail network connecting Accra, Kumasi and Sekondi-Takoradi. In colonial times, it was used to transport raw materials and goods from the South to Accra. The authorities have neglected the maintenance of the rails for a long time, but recently there have been efforts to expand the rail network with the help of foreign investors. However, a train ride between Accra and Kumasi or Accra and Takoradi can still take up to 12 hours and it’s only worth it if you really like travelling by train.

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