February 28, 2010

Ghanaian students contribute to virtual library

An interview I conducted in 2009 was recently published at Global Voices Online. You can check out the whole interview there at Ghanaian Students Contribute to Virtual Media Library

Here is a short excerpt:

In July 2009 I had the privilege of catching up with old friends and meeting some new faces when Jonathan Thurston, his wife Kristi, and past and present students arrived in Ghana to carry out a book making project with students at a primary school in Elmina, in the Central Region of Ghana.
What’s so special? They use simple, portable technology to inspire creativity and facilitate learning among Ghana’s poorest students. And they use ‘social media’ to establish networks with like-minded individuals and organizations internationally, enhancing development opportunities and increasing the possibility of involving other communities and countries as the organization grows.


Download a free sample of the Insider's Guide to Ghana and see inside the guide before buying.

Insider's Guide to Ghana updated sample to "see inside"

Just updated the Sampler for the Insider's Guide to Ghana. You can check it out in more detail by clicking on the link.

February 27, 2010

Are you MaD?: Education for change

We're doing a series on Making a Difference at G-lish. This is based on our new page, Are You MaD?, which gives you simple ways to make a difference in the various fields focused on the developing world, from education, to micro-finance and peace-building, to name a few. You can check out our post from today, Are you MaD?: Education at www.g-lish.org.

See Inside the Insider's Guide to Ghana

February 26, 2010

Ghana Blogs I like

Here's a round-up of some of my favourite blogs relating to Ghana by Ghanaians and foreigners alike.

I mentioned this the other day on G-lish, but one blog I make a point to read regularly is Holli's Ramblings, a woman with a lovely writing style and whose stories and photos of life in Ghana will keep you riveted to the screen.

One of the most informative blogs written by a Ghanaian, in my view, is Accra Conscious Forever. Check out the latest post on Twestival using social media to raise funds for education for needy children around Ghana.

When it comes to food, there is no better blog than Betumi. You can read about every kind of dish from Ghana you can imagine at this site. 

Another top Ghanaian writer is E.K. Bensah and his blog The Trials and Tribulations of a Freshly Arrived Denizen of Ghana, with a fantastic view of Akosombo Bridge as the main header. If you want to know what it's like to get caught in Accra traffic, read  The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Spintex Road Traffic. (Great title, crappy situation.)

One of the most beautiful Ghanaian women writers is Maya Mame of Maya's Earth Blog. Her blog is quite personal and gives you a sense of how life is for a Ghanaian-Swede woman bringing up a family here. You also get a sense of life in Ghana.

Download a free sample of the Insider's Guide to Ghana see inside the guide before buying.

February 25, 2010

Ghana BusTimetables & Journey Maps: STC etc

We have just released a new product: Transport Timetable & Journeys Maps for Ghana

This product is included in the Insider's Guide to Ghana so if you have already bought or intend to buy the full country guide, you don't need to buy this.

This guide is for those needing current transport timetables and whole country maps to better plan their journey around Ghana.

What you get:
Comprehensive bus timetable information and maps between Ghana's major cities and towns including Accra, Cape Coast, Takoradi, Ho, Tema, Koforidua, Kumasi, Tamale, Bolgatanga, and Wa. There is also a map of Kwame Nkrumah Circle area showing location of transport companies, costs and timetable information. Transport companies include STC, Metro Mass, OA Travel & Tours, and several others. We have STC timetables for all towns but Koforidua and Sunyani, and we have at least one option for all, but between 2-7 options for every town, on average. Accra, Kumasi, Tamale, and Bolgatanga have the most options. It also includes average times traveling between major towns and cities and distances in kilometres. It includes 14 pages of journey maps showing potential journeys by theme--"North", "South", "Lake Volta Ferry", "Crafts", "Coastal Highlights", "Best of Ghana", "All Over Ghana--3 different versions", "Volta Tour", "Nature Tour", "Forts & Castles" tour, and so on.. You also receive a printable journey map that lets you trace your journey over the dotted lines for connections between cities and towns.

Download a free sample of the Insider's Guide to Ghana see inside the guide before buying.

My Town: Cape Coast

I've started a small series of posts on the theme My Town based on places I've lived around the world in which I post images that tell that town's story, not necessarily what you see in tourist brochures. Living is anything over 4 months...for me. Some of these photos were taken by a friend and former volunteer, Tina. Some were by me. My photos aren't too crash hot, but Tina's are fantastic.So welcome to Cape Coast:
Over the rooftops towards the ocean by Tina. Cape is a hilly town and there are wonderful views if you can handle the sweaty walk to the top.

By Tina. Funerals are a common site on Fridays and weekends all over Cape and Ghana for that matter. This was right outside my former office.

By Tina. Along Jackson Street (Coastal Forex is in that building in the background on the right). You'll meet cheeky children like this everywhere.

By Tina. Fishermen pulling in the nets outside Oasis.

 
By Tina. In the other direction, boys playing football on the beach. Cape Coast Castle in the background.

  
By Tina. Another view of hilly Cape with the ocean in the background

  
By Tina. My favourite jollof rice lady, sitting opposite Melcom, on the main street of Cape Coast

 
These cleaning and tooth paste advertisements covered the whole wall of the building by the one main traffic light in town some years ago.

You can find the photographer of most of these photos, Christina Froemder, on Facebook.

I also did a post at www.G-lish.org today on "My town: Kumasi". The photos are full-size and give a clear impression of how that city feels and looks.

Download a free sample of the Insider's Guide to Ghana see inside the guide before buying.

February 23, 2010

Meningitis outbreak in Ghana

The outbreak is reported in the Upper West Region. 70 odd people hospitalized, 31 dead. If you're planning to visit Ghana soon please discuss this with your travel doctor. You can get vaccinated before departing home.

Edit: I just checked My Joy Online and read an article which gave different figures. In any case, please take the time to read this and understand the situation: CSM 10 More die in northern region.


Download a free sample of the Insider's Guide to Ghana see inside the guide before buying.

Sending a package to Ghana and the post office

Sending a package to Ghana or receiving one in Ghana is a headache. 

When it arrives you’ll receive a postal notice in the PO Box. You take the notice inside the post office where they will retrieve the parcel for you. Then, you have to take the parcel and notice to the customs desk in the post office. There, a customs officer will inspect the value of the parcel, as stated on the customs declaration that was applied by the sender, and ask you to open it. For example, if the declared value is US$75.00 as written by the sender, that's what they'll use to charge you duty on the package. 
They’ll search through the parcel. 

They’ll then apply a rate of duty to the package. After they write the duty amount on the form you must sign the form and pay the duty. If you don’t sign this or pay, you won’t receive your package. 

Since customs will almost always calculate duty amount based on the external value on the coupon stuck on the outside of the package by the sender, it’s worth asking package senders to write a low value to help reduce your duty costs when you come to take your package. 

Technically, the goods should be duty-free. You shouldn't have to pay anything on them, especially if it's your own old clothes or books or items from home that you asked your family to send you over (as was for me). Also not on chocolate or chips or other small goods. However, Ghana customs service at post offices has its own objectives and one of those is applying duty on every single package, irrespective of what's in it and even if it's of no value. 

Don’t fall into the trap of signing the duty forms before the officer fills in the amount of duty to be paid. Wait until the assessment is done and then sign the form. I hope this helps anyone receiving packages from home in Ghana.

The only time I avoided the post office was when someone from home sent a package via Express Post Courier (from Australia, probably similar elsewhere) from the national post service. It's a door-to-door service and it truly was. I received the package IN my place of volunteering and didn't have to go through that whole customs debacle. It's expensive, but could be worth it depending on the circumstances. 

February 22, 2010

Guide discount: 8.00 for the next 15 hours.

It's 10 days since we released the guide and we're now discounting the guide to US$8.00 for the next 15 hours.

see inside the guide before buying.

Baobab photos and sunsets in Bolgatanga

A gorgeous sunset through the baobab tree in Bolgatanga.

February 21, 2010

My thoughts on writing the guide to Ghana

This time around Godwin interview me on my experience writing the guide. Surreal! You can read more at www.g-lish.org/ghanaguide

Most challenging aspect of writing the guide book?



When I tried calling the STC in Accra to get the timetables they hung up on me five times. I’d get as far as, say, Cape and Kumasi and I still needed about six other cities and the customer service woman would say, “Oh Madame, why?!” and hang up on me. I waited a few days and tried again, got a different person, and they hung up too. I melted a pair of flipflops in Accra when we ran around finally getting the info on foot. During the final two weeks of writing we had no electricity at home between 9 am and 5 pm so I had to change my work pattern to start in the late afternoon and end around 2, 3 and 4 am—which was very productive, actually—and Godwin would get up and work from 3 or 4 a.m. until the power was cut around 9 or 10 am.



What was the most exciting part?


Rediscovering places I hadn’t seen or been for a while and the thought of sharing that with travelers who would experience it for the first time. Seeing it come together at the end and hearing the first words of feedback from readers was fantastic.


What would you like to say to readers?


I remember how nervous I felt before coming toGhana. And I remember struggling to work out how the parts of the guide book I had joined together on the ground in Ghana. I hope that our guide provides a strong sense of Ghana, while also being entertaining and, most importantly, useful. And I truly hope that this guide helps you enjoy your travels, that it makes the everyday details on the ground easy to manage, and that you find it useful throughout your long-distance journeys. Any problems, confusing areas—please let us know. And let us know what you enjoy too!



Anything else you want to say about the experience?


Details, details, details. I said I’d never write a guide book. It was surreal. I like things to be as great as they can be and we’ve begun a new round of updating as we write.

What will you be working on next?


Like Godwin said, we have been developing an innovative basket making project in Bolgatanga, the poorest region of Ghana, where we live. It will be an income generating project that will support about 50 women to begin with. The guide helps us fund this. Actually, the guide income goes into the hands of basket makers, so our guide customers are directly supporting impoverished communities in far northern Ghana. Basket making is huge here but the producers are taken advantage of because of over supply; many are illiterate and they have no bargaining power. The middle man doubles the price he pays to the basket maker and sells it on to another middle man or the overseas buyer. We intend to change that and shorten the supply chain by selling online directly to customers at G-lish. Producers will be paid at least twice what they’re being paid now, if not more and we’ll be giving a reliable income to over 50 women, skilled and unskilled, who otherwise have no work or engage in subsistence farming. You’ll see more on This is Ghana and G-lish shortly.

Guide sale: US$8.00 for the next 24 hours

To all our readers:

We're having a 24 hour discount sale for the Insider's Guide to Ghana. For the next 18 hours, until 9 a.m. Monday morning GMT, you can download the Insider's Guide to Ghana for US$8.00.

You can read more about the guide at www.g-lish.org/ghanaguide or buy it now by clicking on the link at the top right-hand corner of this page.

All the best,
Gayle.

ps. If you happen to have found the discount codes hidden somewhere guide-related...even better of a discount: go you!

February 20, 2010

Blogging tip for novice bloggers: Use html without knowing html


If you’re experienced with blogger or web design, skip this post!

As someone who knows no programming language and developed this simple blog through trial and error, I’ve decided to share some tips so that others who are struggling to work out what the heck all the blogger options mean might save a little time and do things a little more easily.

If you’re interested, I’m simply going to explain how I “cheated” and created some of the badges and gadgets on the right hand side-bar of this page.

If you look at the Lonely Planet Badge, you may wonder how I managed to centre it, or even how I managed to get it there in the first place. This is how I did it. LP provided the HTML (internet code stuff—that’s as technical as I get) for the image. I was like, great, just what I need, HTML. Then, I realised that HTML translates into images and text—it determines how the web pages look.

When you post in blogger you have two tabs over the posting window: “Compose” and “HTML”. If you normally upload photos or text into the Compose version, try doing that and then pressing the HTML tab and watch what happens—those images and text all turn into freaky code. But click back on Compose and it transforms into images and nice text again. Scary hey. I suddenly realised that I might be able to format images or text in the posting window so that they will retain that format (centred, bold, etc) when I pasted them to one of the side-bar items. So, I uploaded the things I wanted to format for a side-bar gadget—photos and text—formatted it in the Compose window, and then clicked the HTML tab. There was the HTML—but would it look the same in a gadget on the side?

I tried pasting that HTML into one of the Gadgets at the Blogger Layout page. If you go to Blogger Layout, from the Dashboard, you’ll see “Add a gadget”. Each of those fancy things on the right hand side of this page is one of those gadgets—the LP Badge is a HTML gadget; the Global Voices feed comes from another gadget; the About me text is simply a text gadget. If you click “Add a gadget”, a separate window pops up showing the types of gadgets you can add. One of the first few is called “HTML/text”. Aha! It was one of those moments.

As an experiment, I tried pasting that code that I formatted at the Post window into the HTML gadget. I shifted the gadget to where I wanted it to sit on the layout page. Saved. Guess what? The finished gadget looked just as I’d formatted it in the normal posting window.

If you look at the “download the volunteering guide” link on the right, and how it’s centred and bold in one part, I actually did that as if making a post in the posting window. I then clicked HTML. I then copied the HTML and left the posting window. I went to the Layout Page, clicked on Add a gadget, selected a HTML gadget, and pasted the HTML into the main gadget window. I saved it. And this is how it ended up looking—just as I’d wanted and formatted it by using the posting window and transforming it to HTML there. If anyone knows a simpler way, please let me know!

Another way this helps is if you’re uploading a series of photos in your post, and you realise they’re in the wrong order and you want to drag the one at the top of your post down to the bottom of the post (as I used to do manually), instead, take note of where the picture sits and then have a look at the HTML. Click the HTML tab. If you look carefully, you’ll see the reference to your picture somewhere in the paragraph of code at the top (if the photo you want to shift is at the top). All you need do is copy and paste that paragraph of code wherever you want the photo to appear in your post. If it’s your first go, try pasting it right at the bottom, for arguments sake. Then click the compose window and have a look again. The photo should now appear at the bottom of your post if you copied the code correctly. I worked this out by trial and error, sometimes incorrectly copying, but you work it out after a few goes. It’s a much simpler way of moving images around posts than shifting the whole image in that tiny posting window.

Those are my novice blog tip. Let me know if you have any or if you know a simpler way of doing what I just explained!

Download a free sampler and see inside the Insider's Guide to Ghana before buying.

February 19, 2010

Updated guide to volunteering in Ghana

Yesterday I updated the 46 page Insider's Guide to Volunteering in Ghana. You can go download it at our sister site, G-lish, by clicking on the Volunteer Guide tab.

February 18, 2010

Feathered friends in Ghana: photos

The rooster in our yard giving the visiting guinea fowl the once over.



The rooster giving the guinea fowls short shrift. He was cockadoodledoing like a crazy rooster.

February 17, 2010

Competition reminder for Insider's Guide to Ghana

As part of the release of the Insider's Guide to Ghana, we’re giving away two nights stay at Ko-Sa Beach Resort just outside of Elmina to the first reader who can find the titles of 20 pop and rock songs we’ve interspersed throughout the guide. The two nights will be in a private, thatch bungalow valued at 65 GHC per night. That’s 130 GHC or about US$95. Check out to see what we’re talking about.
Our contribution: We’ll take care of the payment for 2 nights room charge.
Your contribution: Identify the titles of 20 songs interspersed throughout the guide and email them to us. We don’t care if you number them or not—we just want 20 titles. Then turn up and enjoy three days and two nights on the beach just outside of Elmina on us.

A few hints. There are no single-word song titles. So, “RESPECT” is not included in the competition, nor is “Imagine”.

To make it a little easier, we’ll give you the first one now. This is, by far, the most obvious title. Excerpted from page 6 of the introduction:
“because the second most important survival attribute is (not an ability to spout useless 80s pop trivia but, rather) a Scooby-Doo-like, Dogged Determination. (By the way, if you’re under thirty, you’re probably not still singing “whoah-oh, living on a prayer-er…” Anyway, whatever age, you’ll be saying your prayers in Ghana—especially on the road.)”

So, the first title in the competition is Living on a Prayer. There is no need to give us the name of the artist, but you can if you wish. (eg. Bon Jovi.) We really just want the song title. The other 19 titles are interspersed throughout the guide. We’re not so mean as to have hidden them in the long lists of embassies or in the detailed visa information for investors (or anything most short-term travelers don’t need to read).
However, there is at least one in every section, several songs in some sections and only one song in others. You will have to read the whole guide (minus the lists of embassies, clinics, etc) to find them.

If you happen to find a song title that’s not included in our official list, but is a real song title of more than one word, we’ll allow it. If you can’t find all 20, send as many as you can. After 2 months of the release, we’ll contact the person with the highest number of titles. But we feel someone will identify all 20 pretty quickly. We’ll post about it so you know this is for real.

Now, one last tip, having a knowledge of 80s rock and roll and alternative music from the UK, US and Australia will help greatly. But keeping an open mind on 70s disco and a bit of country and western wouldn’t hurt either. In fact, about 90% is pre-1990, but a couple of tracks are recent.

OK, now this is really the last tip. When you read an odd sounding line in the guide, as if it was oddly phrased or superfluous, you might find a song title hidden in the words—even if you don’t recognize it as such. But googling that line might help uncover a song.

Right, so we’re off to Accra later today and have to post this now. I can’t wait to get on the road again. Looking forward to the emails.


Email all entries to either gayle@g-lish.org or gaylepescud@gmail.com .


We’ll print the winner (if they like) and all 20 song titles and location in the guide when we have a winner.

Interview with Godwin Yidana on writing a travel guide book

I interviewed Godwin about his experience writing the guide book and this is what he had to say about his experience.

What was the most challenging part of writing the guide book?



Getting the information we needed about transport systems in the different cities as we do not have an organized transport system in Ghana. Somehow it’s organized in its own way, but getting different stations prices and destination details was tough.


What was the most exciting part?


Walking up to hotel owners and transport managers and drivers and asking specific questions and pretending to be a customer to get the information was fun. Having to write things that I didn’t think I had the ability to write like Meeting a Chief or the part on Festivals. When we sat on a daily basis discussing, sharing ideas, how we’ll write the guide, how we’ll structure it was exciting too.



What would you like to say to readers?


I hope readers have a wonderful time reading and using the guide and that it will be as helpful to them as we intended when we set out to write it. We hope they find it simple, up to date and you can understand it, whether you’ve been to Ghana or not. We look forward to their honest critique.


Anything else you want to say about the experience?


Of all the people on earth I never thought I’d embark on a project like this. I never thought I’d write a guide. I was busy trying to get a full time job with a new organisation but writing the guide was much more fruitful. It was an amazing experience.


What will you be working on next?


We’ll be working on keeping the guide up to date. And next we’ll be looking at a basket project with a community of women in Bolgatanga. You’ll be very surprised when you see what we do—it’s nothing like you’ve seen before. We will let you know when this has started.

February 16, 2010

Journey Maps in Insider's Guide to Ghana

When you buy the Insider's Guide to Ghana we give you a dozen maps of journeys across the country. We created a guide book that addresses Ghana’s quirks—particularly its odd geography and the challenge of doing a complete circuit of the country, as well as the absolute lack of any transport timetable or information. You will find maps like this that show how cities and towns and attractions are connected so that you can more easily plan your journey around Ghana--and save time and money.


When you buy the guide you will receive a zip file which contains both the easy read (colour, 1.5 spaced) version and the easy print (black and white, single spaced) version. You will also have an option to download the Insider's Guide to Volunteering in Ghana for free at the same time. You will be directed to a site to purchase the guide using a secure connection. When your payment is accepted you will receive a link to download the guide immediately. It's that simple.


You can buy it now by clicking on the payment button here
Buy Now

Top 10 travel moments in the past 4.5 years

Top 10 travel moments in the past 4 years

 
1. I was dancing in a Vietnamese disco with my workshop trainees (we were in the middle of a 6 day workshop—they made us go). Right there on the dance floor they spontaneously broke out into the game dance we made up that day as part of a workshop energizer. It was truly fun and not what I was expecting to experience during an intensive training schedule. They were such a fun and friendly group to work with.


2. On my first trip to Mole our trotro broke down halfway between Kumasi and Tamale. We were busting to pee and asked a young girl in a kiosk if there was a toilet nearby. She led us behind the roadside buildings into what turned out to be a sprawling, shaded village that was hidden from the highway. It was my first walk through a real village. There were men and women weaving cane baskets, like the type you find in Asia, under old trees and it was very clean and tidy. It was one of my most memorable moments in Ghana.


3. When I was teaching at school in Kumasi the rain suddenly pelted down right on the final bell one afternoon, breaking the dry season. We couldn’t go anywhere and it was the first rain in months so the children were splashing in the mud and others made up a dance forming a large circle on the verandah. They pulled me in the middle and I ended up doing the split finger over the eye thing from Pulp Fiction (remember Uma Thurman and Travolta?). The kids copied and there we were doing that scene in a big circle in the rain. When I came back to visit after leaving, the first thing they did when they saw me approach was run up and start doing that scene again!


4. Making it to the top of Wli waterfalls. By no means an arduous climb by mountaineering standards, it was still exhausting and tough and one of the most rewarding travel experiences I’ve ever had.


Courtesy of http://farm1.static.flickr.com/75/184741555_25c941de10.jpg

 5. The day the preacher removed a huge wooden dildo from a sack and asked my friend to help demonstrate condom rolling techniques on a 4 hour journey between Accra and Hohoe. You just never know what you’re going to experience in a trotro in Ghana. I was actually speechless. We both declined, but the preacher did hot business that day. Young and old, the passengers were throwing notes at him for both the femdoms and condoms.


6. Same Vietnamese workshop, the participants took myself and my co-trainee out on a surprise dinner (I think it was the next night) to an ethereal park-like garden restaurant in the Hue countryside, about 30 minutes out of town. It was decorated with dozens of lanterns glowing in the night and it was actually cold—I hadn’t felt cold for 20 months. We wandered among gorgeous trees and bridges over ponds to our table where they treated us to a raucous evening of laughter, jokes and authentic, delicious local Vietnamese cuisine and endless Hue beers.


7. The day I realised I could direct visitors around Cape Coast. I remember thinking, I’m directing people around an African town! I couldn’t believe it.


8. On a trip to northern Cambodia my friend and I decided to try the “bamboo railway”. We found the railway man in a shack by a train track about 10 minutes out of town. He assembled the train on the tracks (not before an actual cargo train passed us) before our eyes, helped by his tough little son or grand son. First they put the two sets of wheels on the track. Then they laid a bamboo tray on the wheels. Then they put a mat on the tray. Then they put a generator motor on the back. They started the motor. The two of us piled on and a few local kids climbed on the back. He gunned the motor and we started to roll along the tracks! We gathered speed and were hooting along on this less than double-bed sized tray train when I asked my friend what would happen if a real train came along. Would we jump off our train? The whole area was still heavily land-mined and I didn’t fancy any stunt diving into the bushes. As it happened, we came upon the train that passed us about 15 minutes up the track after we crossed an old bridge under which we could see the river way below beneath the tray…and that’s where our few kilometres journey came to an end—one of the most memorable travel experiences in the last few years.


Image courtesy of flickr.com
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3284/2684725393_8cefee4a15.jpg.

9. The day Godwin and I managed to pull off a game of football between two sides of the conflict in Bawku. We did it of our own volition for Peace One Day in September 2008. Our efforts had been terribly sabotaged the days before by powers that would only allow it to proceed on their terms and cajoled us throughout the preparations—not because of safety concerns (that was never mentioned), but rather political point scoring. We did it anyway and succeeded. We had two otherwise bitter and warring groups play a game of football together that, when it came time to blow the whistle, they begged to continue even though it was Ramadan and most of them were fasting and unable to drink in that heat. It brought a day of happiness, at least, and some hope to the people in that town.

10. This is possibly my most personally embarrassing moment of the past 4 years and one that I’ve only told a few people—until now. My friend and I traveled to northern Cambodia (2007—same trip as train track moment) during a couple of days break off work—we were working on the same project in Phnom Penh. In town there was a massage centre set up for blind people called Seeing Hands; they had offices around the country. It was a great organisation and we decided to treat ourselves to a massage since we’d worked pretty hard. The blind masseurs were both men but we didn’t think anything of this. I was just getting comfortable on the table when I felt something poking me in the head. It was just a light poke, but it was about crotch height for the masseur. I froze. I kept telling myself to relax but this thing continued to poke my head while he was massaging my shoulders, then my arms and then my waist. I thought to myself that I should sneak a peek, but I was too afraid to move at all lest he guess my thoughts so I stayed dead still. I felt very uncomfortable the entire 2 hour massage. Shortly before the 2 hours was up I heard a beeping sound. I looked up to see the masseuse remove a small gadget from a loose pocket sitting in the front of his smock—at crotch height. It was his beeper, a timing device letting him know when the 2 hours was almost up. The beeper has been hanging in his pocket, swaying and….poking! I hadn’t enjoyed the massage at all and as soon as we were outside I explained my mistake to my friend. She broke into laughter and explained she had exactly the same thoughts and experience. I really should have opened my eyes when I had the chance. That particular trip was a farce of hilarious experiences.

February 15, 2010

Photos from Ghana: Bolgatanga

A photo of a sunset near home recently

A photo of a sunrise near home...6 a.m. in the morning

The boys playing the beautiful game near home recently. You can see the dryness at this time of year. The rainy season will begin again around April or May.

Ghana travel budget planning


I have created an average budget of the costs in your trip to Ghana. You could spend a lot more than this, but this is the minimum. You can read this outline of the Insider’s Guide to Ghana (link to post above) for more details or buy it here (link).

ITEM
DESCRIPTION
COST IN US$
% of total cost
Airfare return to US/UK
Estimate—change as needed.
1100
24.89%
Ghana tourist visa
Approximation (depends on country)
50
1.13%
Insider’s Guide to Ghana
Guide book
15
0.34%
Travel Insurance 2 months

 Estimate
200
4.53%
Tropical medical doctor
Follow your doctor’s advice on which shots to have before leaving. Yellow Fever is compulsory for travel to sub-Saharan Africa.
350
7.92%
3 months worth of anti-malarials
Depends on the brand, but $7 a week is a good average
84
1.90%
Clothes and gear
For Ghana’s climate
300
6.79%
Extra medicines and vitamins
Standard
100
2.26%
Meals and snacks daily for 2 months.

Average 10 GHC/day x 60 days = 600 (x 0.70 = US$420). You could do it for as little as 5 GHC but that’s pushing it now.
420
9.50%
Extended journey around Ghana
Covering north and south
1200
27.16%
Entertainment: dancing and drinking
Spots, bars and pubs
250
5.66%
Souvenirs, cloth, beads, dress-making
Various shops
200
4.53%
Miscellaneous
Extras (medicines, clothes, snacks.)
150
3.39%

TOTAL
$4,419.00


 The Insider's Guide to Ghana will save you quite a few percentage points in dollars as well as a lot more in time and stress. 

When you buy the guide you will receive a zip file which contains both the easy read (colour, 1.5 spaced) version and the easy print (black and white, single spaced) version. You will also have an option to download the Insider's Guide to Volunteering in Ghana for free at the same time.

You can buy it by clicking the links on the left of this page!

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February 14, 2010

"Join the Dots" planning Ghana travels

We have posted another excerpt from the  Insider's Guide to Ghana here.


This gives you a glimpse of what you will find in the section under Journeys which is over 140 pages long and covers the entire country. In this section we explain, in depth, how to manage your journey around Ghana on public transport. Our guide includes 7 pages of comprehensive transport timetables and fare information that you can't get anywhere else in Ghana. 

When you buy the guide you will receive a zip file which contains both the easy read (colour, 1.5 spaced) version and the easy print (black and white, single spaced) version. You will also have an option to download the Insider's Guide to Volunteering in Ghana for free at the same time.

You can buy the guide here at the secure check out:
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Thanks for reading and please email us if you have any questions.

Travels in Ghana: the reality and hilarity


Alright. If you’re reading this line, you’re still with us; you’re planning to visit Ghana. By now you may have mentioned this plan to family or friends and they may have given you that funny look and fallen silent. And they may have given you that certain fascinated stare as if you’re some kind of fearless traveler or, if they’re your parents or children, they’re freaking out. ‘West Africa,’ they utter, imagining all the conflict they’ve seen on TV.

If you have been to Ghana you smile knowing that the ‘scary Africa’ myth is, well, a myth. You remember hanging out on empty beaches with some of the friendliest people on earth, eating fresh fish and coconuts. You remember dancing on the side of the street in front of six-foot high speakers that blast the latest highlife hits with whomever randomly joins you and, invariably, someone does. You remember navigating the country in an ingenious system of cheap, if death-defying, trotros that reach all corners and often generate the best travel stories. You remember arriving at midnight in an unfamiliar town and asking the young man sitting next to you, who’d been debating the democratic process in Ghana with his neighbour for the past six hours, the way to your hotel—and him showing you the way and not asking for anything but your phone number or address.

You wonder why Ghana is such a big secret. Of course, it has its downsides like everywhere else. It’s not for the impatient, as you now know, that’s for sure. On balance, though, Ghana has a lot going for it, particularly for the nervous first-time traveler to Africa. In fact, in our experience, 99% of people don’t want to leave when the time comes. Saying that last goodbye may prove to be the most difficult part of your journey.

What Ghana is NOT: Ghana is not the Africa you see on TV—war, famine and disease. While that Africa exists and its story must be told, it is just one part of the story. And it’s not all lions and giraffes and safaris either. It’s somewhere in between. One-third of the world’s nations—fifty-three actually—exist in Africa. More than two thousand languages are spoken across the continent. Ghanaians alone speak over forty. Most individuals speak three or four languages on average and English.

In addition to being a useful and helpful guide for your journey before and after arriving in Ghana, we hope this guide also helps to dispel some myths about “Africa”, and sets you straight on some of the unspoken aspects of travel, and put you (and friends and family) at ease and perfectly prepared for your journey. Once you’re here, it will help you avoid the pitfalls that many travelers hit, and save you a lot of money, heartache and time too.

In fact, we intend that the inside information in this guide will take ‘the great unknown’ out of traveling, volunteering or living in Ghana.

(This is part of the Introduction to the Insider's Guide to Ghana...the second half continues below from Philosophy...)

Philosophy behind the Guide

We decided to write the kind of guide book that would let visitors benefit from our inside knowledge and experience. A guide that is:
·    Up-to-date on prices, names and numbers
·    explains clearly how to get from A-to-B
·    includes only the best-of attractions and accommodation
·    that also explains what Ghana and Ghanaians are really like
·    with extended culture, costs, preparation and dangers sections
·    and includes our insider’s tips throughout every section

We do love our other Ghana guides, but we feel they don’t give you a sense of Ghana. We’ve heard the same sentiments expressed by other visitors too. We also feel they’re a bit confusing in terms of organization. We also felt the guides needed to be more up to date—they are published every few years. Even when they’re freshly published, the research itself is already about one year out of date. Things change by the month in Ghana. We wanted a guide that was as up to date as possible.

We also made a decision to only include the best value for money establishments based on our own experience and the accumulated feedback from others over the years.

Indeed, our guide is quite different to the standard travel guide book. In addition to being up-to-date, it’s more personal and it’s written by us: A Ghanaian who’s traveled or worked across all ten regions, and myself who is heading towards 4 years in three different areas of Ghana and also traveled to all ten regions and taken close to100 long-distance trips on public transport across the country.

We made a decision not to include localized street maps. There is a very good reason for this: no one reads maps in Ghana. Coincidentally, a few days after writing this section I read Elizabeth Ohene’s story at BBC online about this very issue. It’s quite illuminating in regards to the whole navigation challenge in Ghana as well as life in Ghana itself. She said, “I was excited therefore by recent newspaper headlines in Ghana that district assemblies in the country have been asked to name streets and number houses by 2010.” (That may be so, but we advise that you don’t hold your breath.) We do, however, urge you to read the article. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8402047.stm
Just to make it very clear, we’ve included a scenario that may help you understand our reasoning a little more.
Imagine approaching your average male on the streets of New Jersey/Newcastle/Melbourne/Paris and asking them, “Could you please show me how to dance?” I mean, would you expect a demonstration of dancing other than, say, the Macarena—if you’re lucky? On the other hand, if you approached your average Ghanaian man with the same question, most would and could dance for you on the spot, very skillfully.
But if you approached the same Garden State/Geordie/Melbournian/Parisian male with a street map of the area and politely asked, “Could you please point out the way to the best pub in town?” there’s a 95% chance that all the men you asked would and could do just that. They’d direct you using the map.
However, if you approached your average Ghanaian man or woman with a map, oh boy. Just as dancing is not part of your average western male’s culture; map reading is not part of Ghanaian culture. Roads and locations are better known by nearby landmarks and street vendors than by their actual name.
We’ll put it bluntly. Almost no one reads maps in real life situations except in academia. When virtually no one knows the names of roads, anyway, maps become somewhat redundant.
It’s much, much simpler to ask how to get somewhere.
However, when you do ask someone for directions verbally, there is often a contradiction between what your helper says and what they demonstrate with their hands. “Go straight” is the standard verbal response that accompanies hand signals that may well indicate left and right turns. Fortunately, sometimes some people do say right and left. You get used to interpreting this.
To put you in the picture, here is a standard response if you asked someone how to get to, say, the “In Him We Trust drinking spot” (we made the name up, but you’ll soon see the extent to which business names embrace religious expressions).
So, “Can you please tell me how to find the In Him We Trust Drinking Spot?”
“Oh. Ah! Ok, you go straight for some few minutes. When you see a blue lotto kiosk you curve right and go straight and keep going then you meet a big niim tree at a round-about. Then you curve right again then keep going straight aaaaaahhhh, and you see a big green house. Then in front of the house you will see the Guiness sign. It is there.”
Godwin insisted we mention that if you hear the speaker say “aaaaaah” as in, “Go straight aaaaaah” it means the place is far. “Aaaaaah” emphasises distance.            
Landmarks are the keys to navigating in Ghana.

We usually follow directions up to the point, then we ask someone there for more directions, and so on.
When we had to go to an obscure part of Cantonments in Accra, there was absolutely no use using a map or street names. I used the closest well-known landmark, Adwoa Wangara Hotel. Most drivers could get to that hotel. Luckily my destination was next door.
On that note, distance in Ghana is measured more in time than space. There are so many obstacles between A and B that to assume how long a trip will take based on kilometres or miles is a mistake—unless you have your own vehicle. It’s best to think in terms of time alone. Accra to Cape Coast is a three hour journey. It should really be about an hour and a half, based on kilometres: about 150 kms. Accra to Kumasi is anywhere from 4-6 hours. However, we have included a distance chart for distances between cities in kilometres, which you will find at the end of the guide.

So this is why we chose not to include localised maps and, rather, provide longer explanations about how to navigate and how to ask for help.

We chose to create large country maps that show various options for planning a route around the country. You will find these at the very end of the guide too. We based some on themes such as crafts, others on beaches, others on a particular region, and we included several monster trips including everything you could hope to see in Ghana. We also included one map showing the interconnections between major towns and cities. You’ll see these maps under the Journeys section. These maps give you a good sense of how each area and attraction is connected by public transport. If you’re driving, fortunately roads are reasonably well sign-posted, as are attractions and hotels. Ghana is nothing if not overflowing with signs. All you have to do is follow the signs and have faith and eventually you will get to your destination.

We have included a few smaller maps showing localized areas where finding transport might otherwise be a problem, such as “Kwame Nkrumah Circle” area in Accra.

Guide Conventions:
Telephone numbers: In all cases we have included the international country code in case you are calling from overseas. All our numbers follow the same pattern:
·    country code/area (or mobile) prefix/number.
·    as in: +233(0)21-233-244.
When calling from overseas you omit the zero (0). So you would dial +233-21-233-244. However, if you are calling from within Ghana you drop the +233 (Ghana’s country code), and dial the entire number and always include the zero. So, if calling from within Ghana you would dial: 021-233-244. To use a different example, this number +233(0)244-123-456 dialed from outside Ghana would be +233-244-123-456. In Ghana it would be 0244-123-456.

GHC: Stands for Ghana Cedi

We sometimes quote prices as ‘about’ because the cost of fuel increases by around 5% a month, routinely increasing prices for goods and services across the country. Basic foodstuffs like rice, fruit and vegetables and share taxis regularly increase.

Finally, we have co-written this guide. Due to differences in our individual experiences in Ghana, particularly before we met, we occasionally distinguish between “I” and “we”. Throughout the guide “I” or “my” refers to Gayle and “we” or “our” refers to both of us. Where Godwin took on exclusive writing tasks we have noted the section as “by Godwin” and similar for Gayle as “by Gayle”. Otherwise it was co-written with individual experiences noted as per this explanation.

So that was the full introduction to the Insider's Guide to Ghana. The first-half of the introduction was originally the prologue to the book I am writing about my journey since leaving Australia to come to Ghana (and a little before). However, it seemed better suited to this guide, so I pulled it from my manuscript and here it is. We hope this gives you a “sense of Ghana” before you arrive. The second half of the intro should help you understand what our guide book is about. If you like what you read on This is Ghana, this blog, you will probably like the guide and find it useful too. 

When you buy the guide you will receive a zip file which contains both the easy read (colour, 1.5 spaced) version and the easy print (black and white, single spaced) version. You will also have an option to download the Insider's Guide to Volunteering in Ghana for free at the same time. 

Oh, and check out yesterday's posts. We're running a competition for the guide--2 nights at Ko-sa beach resort on us. 

Thanks for reading!

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