Ghana’s capital Accra is fast becoming one of the leading business hubs in Africa. The city is also featured as number 2 in our piece on the Top 10 Most Liveable Cities in Africa. Many business travelers to West Africa find Accra to be close enough to access Nigeria’s large market, but prefer the quality of life that Accra affords visitors. Accra is a very safe city, and a logical starting point for overseas business travelers to operate independently without the security concerns that exist in some other major cities on the continent.
There are several excellent options when looking for business accommodation in Accra. Below are our top five picks. However, as an indicator of the increased economic activity in the region, and in Ghana in particular, over the next 12 months, three luxury global hotel brands – Hilton, Kempinski and Shangri-la – will be opening hotels in the capital city.
The Mövenpick, an international Swiss hotel chain, is new – having opened in mid-2011 – and is the gold standard for international business travelers. Located in the city’s downtown business district, this five-star hotel has all of the amenities for business travelers, including a 24-hour business center and complimentary wireless Internet. The hotel has multiple dining locations, as well as 24-hour room service.
The Labadi Beach Hotel, despite its name, is on the short list of business travel accommodations in Accra. While it is located on the beach, it is within a short drive (well, not so short in rush hour) of the city and the airport. The hotel draws a good number of international business travelers as well as holiday makers. It is not surprising to be in the lobby standing between someone wearing a pin striped business suit and someone else in shorts and flip flops. The hotel does provide a business center, several on site restaurants, and Wi-Fi in the common areas.
The Golden Tulip Accra, a standard and very good business hotel, is located five-minutes away from Kotoka International Airport. Guests have access to a business center, and wireless Internet throughout the hotel. There’s 24-hour room service, as well as an onsite restaurant, bar, and lounge.
For those who prefer a smaller, high-end boutique experience, Villa Monticello is a solid choice. Located only five minutes from Kotoka International Airport, Villa Monticello is a popular luxury boutique hotel that is ideal for those desiring privacy. It is equipped with a business center and complimentary wireless Internet in all rooms. Guests have the onsite dining options of the restaurant, the lounge, and 24-hour room service. The Villa Monticello also has a fitness center.
If Best Western is your chain of choice, there is a solid one located near the airport. The location is what it is, close to the airport and less convenient to the city, and the hotel delivers what Best Western delivers everywhere: a good, clean, budget experience, one restaurant, room service, and Wi-Fi in the rooms, which we have experienced as being slower than some of the other hotels.
Arrival in Accra is less hectic than its West African neighbor Lagos. Ideally, you should arrange a transfer ahead of time, but there is a helpful information desk that can arrange a transfer if need be. Most taxis are not metered, so be prepared to haggle, and agree on the price before you leave the airport. Most, if not all, taxi drivers are English speakers. Be sure to only use official taxis when leaving the airport, and avoid the independent hawkers offering you a ride, same as if you had landed in New York.
The best method of transportation for travelers is hiring a car and driver, which is not as expensive as it would be in other major cities. Hotels arrange this paid service for guests, and this is your best bet for a clean, air-conditioned car, and a safe driver, who will help you avoid long waits after your meetings. There’s also the option of renting a car and driving yourself; navigating your way around the city is fairly simple.
Credit cards are becoming accepted more and more, but at this time, you should assume that most transactions, other than your hotel, will be undertaken in cash.
Ghana’s local currency, Cedi (GHS), is preferred throughout the country. However, if you are unable to exchange foreign currency, US dollars, Euros, or Pounds are accepted in larger restaurants and hotels. US Dollars are the currency of choice. Bring a wad of dollars, in all denominations. In addition to $20 bills, we take 50 $1 bills–even though you can pay in dollars, you are not likely to get change in dollars, so be prepared to make exact change with a good selection of bills.
As US dollars are widely accepted, you should not need local currency. If you do fall short on cash, ATMs are plentiful, and we feel comfortable putting our debit cards in the ATMs in Ghana.
When traveling in most major cities in Africa, Accra included, you have a choice of a) using your cell phone and phone number from home and making roaming calls or b) buying a local SIM card, thus operating with a local number, charging it with airtime locally. The difference in price is huge.
For international calls to the US, Europe, etc., we highly recommend using Skype or Google voice. You should set up these accounts before you leave home. If, for example, you are in a hotel with free Wi-Fi, a Skype account that has been set up for unlimited calls to US phone numbers for a flat $4 month, will allow you to dial any number in the US with unlimited talk time. This is the best way to stay in touch with people in the US, Europe, South Africa, etc.
For local calls, we recommend purchasing an inexpensive cell phone that is “unlocked” before you leave home (or using an old cell phone that you no longer use). Unlocked means that the phone can take a SIM card from any carrier. If you have a US or European phone that is locked (i.e., tied to a carrier), you can ask the carrier to “unlock” it. Alternatively, there are any number of websites that for a small fee of under $10, will provide you with specific instructions on how to “unlock” your cell phone. Simply Google the words “unlock cell phone” and you will find a large number of choices.
The major cell phone operators in Ghana are MTN, Vodafone, Tigo and Airtel. We recommend all four for your local calling needs.
Is it safe to travel there?
Ghana is a relatively safe country, and Accra in particular is a safe city to travel to. For updated safety and travel news on Ghana, we recommend visiting the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office page HERE.
Another useful source for assessing safety and security is the Ibrahim Index, founded by Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim. The Ibrahim Index ranks African countries relative to one another, and ranks Ghana’s personal safety as 17 out of 52 countries, which is good. You’ll find more information on the Ibrahim Index score for Ghana HERE.
Business is conducted in English throughout Ghana.
Business attire in Ghana is conservative. Because of the heat and humidity, some business people prefer local dress to Western clothing. Men should be prepared with a jacket and tie, and the corresponding level of formality for women unless your meetings are in an industry that is decidedly informal, such as technology.
Formal titles such as Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc. are important and should be used when addressing business counterparts to show respect. It is very important that you are not late for a business meeting, as it is a sign of disrespect.
Ghana uses type D (“Old British plug” with three round, large pins in a triangular formation) and type G (British three-pin rectangular blade plug, also known as the 13-amp plug) electrical outlets.
Additional reporting by Dexter Padayachee