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13. Traveling to Cape Coast and Accra, Ghana from Abidjan



Summary: Follow my travels from Cote d’Ivoire to Ghana where I visited Cape Coast and Accra on a solo trip!

I decided I wanted to travel to Ghana in March because, as you know, I am currently living in Cote d’Ivoire on a Fulbright and I had an Easter break coming up. After my group fell through I was pretty hesitant about the idea of traveling to a foreign country alone. However, with the help of some solo travel vlogs, I decided if I wanted to go to Ghana that I’d have to make it happen myself. In the last decade, Ghana has been a really popular tourist destination for African Americans who want to re-connect with their roots or learn more about their history. Home to some of the more active slave-trading ports in Africa, coastal towns like Cape Coast are teeming with history.

VISA: 

Getting my visa was pretty easy and took about two-three weeks. The hardest part is you have to book and plan everything before you even apply for a visa. On top of hotel and flight bookings, be prepared to present all the normal documents and pay around $70. 

GETTING THERE: 

I’m a pretty adventurous person with the budget of a 22-year-old, so at first, I planned to take an STC bus there and fly back. This would have saved me $100-$150 bucks and I thought this route would work because the Ghanaian border had opened up on March 24th, 2022. However, the Ivorian border wasn’t officially open so the bussing companies hadn’t resumed cross-border travel. My second option was to take a shared van to the border, cross by land by convincing the border agents to let innocent-ole-me pass, and then taxi a couple of hours until I reached Cape Coast. I was confident because this route is well detailed in this blog article from Only by Foot: How to Travel from Grand Bassam to Accra by Land. However, with the border not reeeeeally being open, my friends and family cautioned me against the unnecessary risk. Eventually, I succumbed and bought two plane tickets which cost me ~ $430 (I could go to and from Paris for this price, by the way. Intercontinental African travel is NOT cheap). In retrospect, glad I spent a little extra on my safety because Ghana is a super affordable place to travel!

IN GHANA:

By the time I landed and made it through customs, it was close to 10:30 pm. The airport was smooth in terms of exchanging my money and getting a sim card except that you do have to fend off guards or airport personnel who try to half help you but more so bother you in hopes of getting tipped. I was able to get a ride from the airport with a friend I’d made in the sim card line and his uncle. I don’t recommend you do this as this is how the film Taken starring grey fox Liam Neelson begins, but I trusted my instinct and it turned out to be right. For reference, taxis are lined up and ready to take you from the airport or you can order an uber or have a hotel find you a driver.

Night one I plopped my head down at the hostel strategically called “Somewhere Nice” and headed out the next morning. I missed the 8 am bus because I lingered at the complimentary breakfast too long and unfortunately had to wait for the next bus at noon. Anyways, that’s how I found myself stretched out in a Ghanian bus station (VIIP) squeezing my luggage and dozing while watching the American classic “Bring it On” from a silent and grainy TV.

CAPE COAST: 

Many lessons were learned, but one was strikingly clear: Don’t let anyone tell you the Atlantic Slave Trade was just about exporting labor, it was never just economic.

After maybe 4 or 5 hours of driving, I arrived at my Airbnb in Cape Coast and immediately headed for dinner. I ate the best tilapia of my life at an upbeat restaurant called Sahara for 60 GCDs. Halfway through my dinner, I ended up eating with a Cape Coast native who had lived in London for the last 15 years but often traveled home. He helped me secure a driver for my next day’s touristy activities. 

The next day I set out early to get some street food and water. I ended up getting Hausa Koko which are these sort of spiced dough balls and a porridge except I didn’t get the porridge because I don’t typically like foods with slimy textures. The spiced dough balls tasted similar to dense fried dough. Surely not the healthiest start to my day but filling! 

At 7:30 AM my driver picked me up at my Airbnb to drive me to Kakum National Park. To my disappointment, we could find no coffee along the way, which is a notable difference between Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. The tour and canopy walk cost me about 100 GHS and took about 1.5h. It was breathtaking, peaceful, and the closest to nature I’ve felt in a long time. I wouldn’t say that I found it scary but if you are afraid of heights maybe this isn’t the activity for you. Somehow I managed to run into a group of bird-watching Floridians in the treetops – Americans are everywhere I swear! I also got the chance to walk around a GIGANTIC sacred tree and wished for something I wanted! I’ll let you know if it works out. 

After Kakum, my driver brought me to Elmina Castle, which is the oldest slave castle first built by the Portuguese in 1482 but later owned by the Dutch and British. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is well kept and its history is well preserved with tours costing around 40 GHS. Not having time for the nearby Kotoburba Market, my driver brought me directly to Cape Coast Castle for another tour.

NB: My driver left after dropping me off at Cape Coast Castle so I paid around 250 GHS (33 dollars) for him to drive me around from 7:30 AM – 1 PM and wait for me during each tour!!

Cape Coast Castle is another historical slaveholding center where Africans were jailed until they were sent on boats to work across the world (if they made it that long). The group this time was smaller, making the experience more intimate and depressing. One of the main reasons I wanted to travel to Ghana was to see and hear this history firsthand, but it is really hard to come to terms with what happened all those years ago, and realize that rape is built into the architecture of these Castles and that Christian Churches sat on top of death-cells for those who dared to show anger. Many lessons were learned, but one was strikingly clear: Don’t let anyone tell you the Atlantic Slave Trade was just about exporting labor, it was never just economic. It was highly motivated by controlling and exploiting black men and women. Going to these museums back to back can be depressing as hell so I would recommend splitting them up. But if you only have one day like I did, I still think it’s worth it to do both. Afterward, I got lunch and relaxed at Oasis Beach Resort before ending my day at Sahara for dinner again. 

ACCRA:

I returned to Accra using the Ford bus which took around 3 hours (much quicker than VIIP). I went back to the same hostel, but this time in a private room/private bath because treat-yo-self! I spent the morning catching up on work on my computer by the poolside and then headed to Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park in the afternoon, visited the museum, and read my book on the grass.

Afterward, I took myself out to dinner at a stylish restaurant called Ten25 where I quickly discovered I do not like eating out alone. However, my creamy shrimp pasta and $3 glasses of wine were sufficient company! 

The next day I made some friends from the hostel who invited me to go to Labadi Beach with them. From then on my solo trip became not-so-solo! An Italian woman, an Austrian man, a French man and I spent the day at the beach with two near-death experiences and three sunburns to show for it!

The night was spent at a bar called the Republic which has a good mix of local Ghanians and Expats, and a great DJ. We tried ginger shots (pure ginger juice + local moonshine) which nearly burned a hole in my stomach and finished off the night at a too-packed club called Alley. 

My last full day was spent checking all the tourist boxes. From morning until the afternoon I traveled around Accra making my way from the Jamestown lighthouse to Fort James where we discussed the British role in early Ghana and the legacy they left in architecture but also institutions. Then I headed to Makola Market where I bought myself a new headscarf and some jewelry. From Makola I walked to the Arts Center and then Black Star Square. At the Arts Center, I bought a lot of souvenirs for my family and trinkets/jewelry for myself. As long as you negotiate, prices are super reasonable. Plus, Ghanaian tailors create stunning clothing that I considered very a la mode while still using traditional African fabric – if I wasn’t short of cash I would have left with cute new pants. 

After a meeting I ate lunch at a buffet in Afrikoko which was a little pricey but allowed me to try a bit of everything at one time – I fell in love with Red Red which is a local Ghanian dish that resembles a sort of bean stew. I spent the afternoon by the pool chatting with a bunch of new strangers – a Dutch 20 something, an American 30 something, the Ghanian barkeep, and a British lawyer-turned-novelist. Once the night set, we headed out to the Republic again, met some more folk, ate some delicious but stomach-turning kebab, and called it a night. 

OVERALL: 

All in all, Ghana was such an amazing experience. I wanted to travel there so badly so I could chat easily with Africans without the perpetual language barrier. Perhaps I underestimated the Accent barrier since most Ghanaian’s first language is not English, but for the most part, my dream did come true and I got a taste of what living in Africa would be like when truly immersed in another culture. I was able to talk with locals and ex-pats alike about their lives, the weather, and more serious things like China’s role in Africa, the legacy of Nkrumah, the current Ghanian presidency and economy, etc. With each new conversation partner, I felt myself becoming more knowledgeable and curious. 

I would like to note that as a woman in my early 20s and a foreigner, I still felt incredibly safe (granted I try to avoid dangerous situations). Last but not least, with the American Dollar, Ghana is a very cheap place to travel as well – to me, everything seemed like half the price. I highly recommend Ghana to anyone looking to travel within Africa! 

P.S. – I’ll be in Paris in less than a month and home in just a bit longer, insane how time flies! 

P.P.S. I got a job!!! Can’t wait to tell you more about it.

Warmest regards, 

Brianna



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