What to do before you leave…

Good preparation is the golden rule when you’re going abroad: Nothing is more annoying than to find out that your bank has locked your credit card because you forgot to tell them you’ll be in Africa for a while. Or to spend most of your time being ill because you couldn’t be bothered buying a good mosquito net.

This article lists the most important stuff you have to organize/think about before leaving. For more practical information about Ghana – from condoms to drinking water and greetings to toilets – read this very helpful post: A-Z of everything I wish I’d known about Ghana before I left home.

So if you’re going to Ghana, don’t forget to…

…get your passport and visa ready

Make sure your passport is still valid and check if the validity extends the length of your stay: In Ghana it’s mandatory that your passport is at least valid for another three months after your planned date of departure.

For Ghana you will most likely also need a tourist visa to enter the country – unless you are a citizen of one of the mainly African countries that are excluded from the visa obligation. You’ll have the choice between a single entry visa that is valid for a time period of three months (meaning that you have to enter Ghana before the expiry date) and a multiple entry visa with a validity of three, six or twelve months.

The Ghanaian authorities will determine the length of your stay in the country upon arrival, usually 60 days. If you want to stay longer, you’ll have to extend your visa while you’re there. The visa application process usually takes about two weeks, so make sure you start early enough.

It can be useful to have a copy of your passport, visa and certificate of vaccination – you probably won’t need it but if your backpack with all your documents gets stolen, you’ll be happy that you’ve made the extra effort.

…sort out your health

Even though the general health in Ghana has improved over the years, the country still struggles with some serious health risks. The most important vaccination for Ghana is against yellow fever – you even need to provide proof of that injection to obtain your visa. It is also recommended to be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, typhoid, polio, meningitis and rabies. To get all the necessary vaccinations you should see your doctor at least a month before your date of departure as some of the vaccines aren’t always available and some need three injections.

Two other serious health problems in Ghana are malaria and HIV – needless to say that the use of condoms in sub saharan Africa is compulsory. As for malaria, my doctor recommended me to take the anti-malaria drug Doxycycline during my whole stay which you can also purchase in Ghana (for a fraction of the price you have to pay in Europe). Doxycycline is much cheaper than some of the other anti-malaria medication, but just as effective. Other ways to avoid catching the disease transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito are wearing long garments, using insect repellent and sleeping under a mosquito net.

Also make sure that your health insurance covers your stay abroad. If not, consider obtaining an extra insurance for that time period.

…make sure you’ll have enough money (and access to it)

Think about how to finance your trip. If you’re struggling to pay for your travel and living expenses while abroad, you can apply for a volunteer grant and /or engage in some fundraising. This post provides you with a list of organizations offering funding for international volunteers and some fundraising ideas.

Also ensure that you have access to money when you’re in Ghana. Find out if there is a cash machine where you will be staying and if you can use your bankcard. Don’t forget to inform your bank of your stay abroad, they might lock your card otherwise.

…think about what to pack

Think about what you really need and what you better leave at home. It is always advisable to take as little as possible to keep your luggage light, but don’t forget the essential stuff:

  • passport, visa and certificate of vaccination (plus a copy)
  • appropriate clothing (if you need some advice what appropriate means in Ghana, click here or, only for women, here)
  • needed medical supplies including malaria prophylaxis (you can get malaria medication in Ghana for cheaper, some doctors advise against doing this though. In any case you should buy one package of malaria prophylaxis before as you have to start taking them a few days in advance)
  • mosquito repellent and net
  • a British adapter if needed
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