October 4, 2009

Costs and money for travel and life in Ghana

We have a new site www.g-lish.org where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Costs and money for travel and life in Ghana there.

In response to the most checked answer in the September survey, I give you this post: How much do I need to spend?

Budgeting for travel or life abroad is one of the most difficult challenges you face before departing. How much should I bring in cash? Is it safe to carry cash? What about traveler’s cheques? Can I use a credit card?

I’m going to make it simple. I will list ‘a basket of products’ and their prices from the market and shops. I’ll write up a few journeys and show their costs to give you something to measure other trips against. And I’m going to talk about renting and utilities costs.

Basket of products: I’ll list the cost of things in Bolgatanga where I live—since I can promise you accuracy on that. Some things will be slightly more expensive here than in Accra, Kumasi, or the south of Ghana due to the cost of transport up here. And locally grown produce might be slightly less expensive here than down south. But these differences will not be great enough to ruin your budget planning. Also, costs vary slightly depending on the quality and place you buy them, so I’ll give a range.


Costs of products and services:
Bar of bathroom soap: 40 pesewas (Ghana made) – 2 Cedis (Imperial Leather)
Block of laundry soap: 50 pesewas
Toothbrush: 50 pesewas – 3 Cedis
Pack of shaving razors: 3 –10 Cedis
Washing up sponge: 1 – 3 Cedis
Ajax like cleaning powder: 1.5 Cedis
Cigar lighter: 50 pesewas
Ten boxes of matches: 1 Cedi
Small block of cheddar cheese: 7 Cedis
250 gm butter: 4 Cedis
Medium sized packs of ground coffee: 10 Cedis (only available in Accra)
Nescafe all in one sachets: 2.5 Cedis per cup
Pack of 25 Lipton tea bags: 1 Cedi
400 gms of milk powder in plastic packet: 4 – 6 Cedis
200 gms sugar: 1 Cedi
400 gm oats: 1.8 Cedis
1 litre vegetable oil: 2 – 4 Cedis
1 egg: 20 pesewas
5 big tomatoes: 1 Cedi (although the price fluctuates)
1 loaf of bread: 1 – 1.5 Cedis
2 medium eggplants: 1 Cedi
1 kg potatoes: 2 Cedis
3 carrots: 1 Cedi
1 big cabbage: 1.5 Cedis
1 head of garlic: 20 pesewas
1 maggi stock cube: 10 pesewas
5 small onions: 50 pesewas
Fistful of bananas: 1 Cedi
5 small oranges: 50 pesewas
5 large oranges: 1 Cedi
Hard coconut: 50 pesewas – 1 Cedi
Fresh coconut: 20 – 40 pesewas
2 big yams: 1.5 Cedis
Packet of spaghetti for 2: 60 pesewas
Small tin tuna: 1.9 Cedis
5kg bag imported rice: 11 Cedis
5 kg local rice: about 8 Cedis
1 litre of Star Beer: 1.5 Cedis and most similar beers. Guiness is slightly more.
1 litre bottle of Mapouka (Bailey’s rip off): 2.5 Cedis
375 ml Coke: 40 pesewas
Bottle pineapple cider (Alvaro): 70 pesewas
1 bottle of drinking yoghurt: 1.5 Cedis
1 bottle hair shampoo: 3 – 15 Cedis
Set of 3 good stainless steel saucepans: 80 (eighty) Cedis
A packet of cheap stainless knives: 12 Cedis
Wooden chopping board: 3 – 5 Cedis
Washing bucket: 3 Cedis
These clothes are the sort of thing you can negotiate over on the street:
Flip flops: 1 – 5 Cedis
Copy Burkenstocks: 10 – 20 Cedis
3 pairs of underwear: 1 – 4 Cedis
1 pair running shoes: 20+ Cedis
New pair of jeans: 10 (stall on street) – 30 Cedis (shop)
Used t-shirts: 2 – 8 Cedis
‘Pretty’ sandals: 5 – 10 Cedis
Bead bracelets: 1 – 2 Cedis: really depends on the beads
Colourful cloth patch pants: 5 – 10 Cedis
One plastic soup bowl: 50 pesewas
One ceramic coffee mug: 1 Cedi
Rubber football: 3 Cedis
Real football: 20 – 30 Cedis
1 G jump drive: 10 Cedis (Prices vary greatly on the different sizes)
Broad band internet connection 1 month: 80 Cedis
A basic Nokia phone: 30 – 40 Ghana cedis
There are now 4 cell phone providers that all sell prepaid ‘units’ along streets everywhere. You can top up your credit for as little as one Cedi.
Phone ‘chips’ or sim cards cost 1 – 2 Cedis each. Since competition is hotting up there are regular discount offers and many Ghanaians have one chip from each company to take advantage of this.
Second hand car: You can get them for as little as 500, but normally around 2000 Cedis or so.
Second hand motorbike: 300 – 600 Cedis.
New motorbike: 900 Cedis.

Journeys:
Cape Coast to Busua Beach.
I’m talking trotros and taxis.
Cape-Takoradi tro: 3.5 Cedis
Takoradi tro-Agona junction: 1.5 Cedi
Agona junction share taxi to Busua Beach: 70 pesewas
One night at Alaska backpacker hang out: about 10 Cedis (was 8 when I last went)
One meal of rice and chicken at Alaska: 4 – 6 Cedis

Accra to Wli Waterfalls
Taxi across Accra to Tudu station: 4 Cedis (rough average across town)
Tudu tro to Hohoe station: 5 Cedis
Hohoe tro to Wli: 1.5 Cedis
Both guest houses are about 16 – 30 Cedis depending on the room
Their meals are anywhere from 3 – 10+ Cedis.
Waterfall Lodge (run by Germans) serves excellent food.
Waterview Heights, run by Ghanaians, is very friendly and welcoming. Food is OK (no one equals Eli, except Mountain Paradise about one hour south of Wli off the Fume junction.)

Accra to Mole National Park. This is a killer trip on public transport.
STC or similar coach from Accra to Tamale: 20 Cedis
Overnight hotel in Tamale: at least 10 Cedis or more
Public bus from Tamale to Mole: 4 – 6 Cedis
Park entry fees: 4 – 5 Cedis
One night in 3 bed room at Mole Motel: 25 Cedis
Guided walk: 7 Cedis
The bus back to Tamale and coach to Accra are the same again.

Renting:
Most landlords expect you to pay up fully in advance for at least one year, but more like two to three years. It’s difficult to find anything under one year. It can, however, be done, but it takes a lot of looking and there are very few trustworthy agents. I’d love it if someone could alert me to any good agents. It’s more a matter of knowing someone you trust to go around and hunt for you and using word of mouth.

They also expect you to cover all your maintenance costs. There are no tenants’ rights. So if the plumbing fails or pipes bust (as they did once for me), you pay. Imagine you owned it, but you don’t own it. You don’t pay council rates, but you do pay water.

Accra. I’m no expert; I never lived there. But I have heard tales from others and this is what I know. It’s as expensive to rent an apartment in Accra as it is in Sydney—for the same level of accommodation. For a decent two room place you’ll pay anywhere upwards of 400 Cedis a month (you can live by the beach in Sydney for this) in a central location. For what it’s worth, Phnom Penh was the same.

If you rent a room in a basic compound and share a shower and kitchen with others, you will spend at least 100 Cedis a month, but probably more. If cost is an issue in Accra, you’d be better off living with a Ghanaian family and renting a room from them.

I always suggest hitting the notice-boards at internet cafes and asking online at places like Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum for tips or inside info.

The upfront payment condition is the same across the country, but costs vary greatly.

Kumasi is slightly less expensive than Accra and easier to find a place not right in the centre of town. I’d recommend asking at Vic Babboo’s in town and the net café next to the British Council for accommodation.

Cape Coast is easier again (but not as easy as you’d think). It has many guest houses where you can pay upwards of 100 Cedis a month, long term, for a room. In fact, LOV Guesthouse in Abura, an offshoot town of Cape Coast, has gorgeous fully furnished rooms for 100-150 Cedis a month. It’s on a ridge overlooking the lagoon and ocean. Lovely and private and the owner, Mr Eshun, is a cool guy. On the downside, it’s a walk from the main Abura road and can be dodgy at night—always take a dropping to the door. Coastal TV put their staff up there and all the drivers know it for that.

Not that I imagine many would look up here, but there is a shortage of rooms in Bolga due to the Bawku conflict and prices are on par with Kumasi and Tamale.

Utilities:

In Bolga we pay a flat rate of 10 Cedis a month no matter how much water we use. In Elmina it varied according to usage and was always around 20 Cedis or so, depending on how many people were staying.

Electricity here is about 20 Cedis a month—computers, fridges, TVs, the works.

How much should I bring in cash?
In my opinion, I think it’s very safe to bring up to a thousand in cash. You have to be careful in crowded areas and dark roads at night. If you’re planning a journey up to Mole, only take what you need and leave the rest locked up at ‘home’. The exchange rate is better (and so is the service) at hole in the wall exchange booths than banks.

What about traveler’s cheques?
They can be painful and time consuming to change. I’ve known tellers to refuse someone because their signature was fake; it was their signature. And others didn’t take the passport as valid. Insane. Personally, the hassle factor is too high for me, but it’s up to you.

Can I use credit card?
I’d minimize the use of credit card other than for withdrawing from ATMs. I’ve heard of fraud in hotels and any place someone has time to copy your credit card details onto paper. However, I did use mine a few times and so far, no problem. You cannot use Mastercard! If I'm wrong, someone please alert me. (edit: Thanks Jade! I think I transfered minor Visa issues I'm having subliminally while writing.)

Your home ATM
You can use your home ATM card to withdraw cash and all the usual charges apply.
Be careful. Occasionally the ATM machine messes up and doesn’t actually dispense the money, even though you get a slip to say it did. Worse, it doesn’t dispense and you don’t get a slip so you don’t know if it was deducted or not. The latter happened to me once and, although I thought the amount was deducted, my bank noticed I didn’t receive cash and reversed it without my needing to say so. You can go into the bank and report it and they’ll follow it through for you.

You might like to check out my Cost of Living in Pictures post. And this currency converter which includes the Cedi!

I would truly appreciate updates on any of this information. If you have something to add, please do so in the comments below. I'm always trying to find out what works and doesn't at banks!

4 comments:

  1. Hi Gayle- such a helpful post, thankyou!

    Just one question about withdrawing from ATMs: in a previous post you mentioned Mastercard can't be used and that VISA is ok, but here it's the other way around. Is it VISA that's OK?

    Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are so right. Thanks for alerting me! I made an edit. Visa is certainly OK and Mastercard, last time I tried, was not. Happy preparations :).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Gayle!
    In your May post, Cost of Living in Pictures, you mentioned that ~$15 Cedi = ~$14 USDollars.

    I just checked Oanda.com and got this:
    1 US Dollar = 14,567.4 Ghanaian Cedi.

    Is that correct?! If so, that's very, very different from 5 months ago! I'm traveling in the next 2 weeks, so I'm very interested.

    Best,
    Misha

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Misha,
    Sorry for taking a few days to get back to you. I checked Oanda. Just make sure you click the 'Ghanaian New Cedi' option directly below the 'Ghanaian Cedi' option. In 2007 the (old) Cedi was 'redonominated' to the New Ghana Cedi. The old Cedi used more zeros than Bill Gates's auditors. My brain stopped when I had to work out anything over US$100,000. Before July '07, 10,000 Cedis was what is now 1 New Ghana Cedi. You probably (understandably) clicked the old option. Try the new one and see what happens. Should all be good! All the best, Gayle.

    ReplyDelete

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