Traveling to Ghana

We finally got to visit another African country when we visited our good friends in Accra for spring break. Ghana is usually the first choice among fellow teachers for brief holidays because of its proximity to Nigeria. The flight takes only 45 minutes, and the prices for return ticket are $250-$320 with three airlines to choose from. We thought that was rather odd, Air Nigeria, Aero, and Arik airlines scheduled their flights from Lagos to Accra and back just 5 minutes from each other. Our friends recommended Arik, because they had newer planes; but they flew on Aero when they moved three weeks ago, because Aero had lower rates for excess baggage. Arik, by the way, does not allow baby car seats in the cabin. I had to put James on my lap and restrain him while attaching his child safety belt to mine. Luckily it was a short flight.

The only real inconvenience we experienced was that our flight was delayed by two hours. Not fun when we had to wake up at 4 am for what we thought was a 7:20 am flight. But the warm welcome we received upon landing at Accra got us quickly into the holiday mood. The Immigration and Customs staff were friendly and efficient, and even our luggage were already waiting for us when we got out.We noticed how spacious and orderly the airport was laid out. There was even a section for car rentals. But what I liked most was the mini food court at the welcome area. People  can sit and have a meal or drink while waiting for passengers to arrive. This makes me wonder why the Philippines didn’t think of it — when Filipinos by nature love to send off and meet their loved ones and friends at the airport in droves.

The first order of the way was of course to get some cash. We were told the easiest way to get local currency for cash is to use the ATM. But because we stopped using our ATM card we could not remember our PIN, and opted for the old fashioned money changer. The Ghana currency is called a cedi, and the exchange rate ($1=1.50) is actually easy to keep track of, because we just add two zeros to know the Nigerian naira ($1=150) equivalent. We learned quickly that the prices of goods in both countries are almost the same, except that the merchandise in Accra are in better condition — not crushed, cracked, faded, dusty, peeling packaging.

We only spent a day in Accra, and that was just to recharge our energies and get ready for the trip to the coast the next day. Our true destination is the Golden Beach Resort in Busua. It takes 5 hours to get there by car from Accra, but we decided to take the 30-minute flight on Antrak Air to Takoradi, then the 45-minute drive to Busua. It was an interesting trip, to say the least. The Beechcraft was the smallest turbo prop plane I’ve ever been in, and everybody got a window seat! The Takoradi airport is still a military base, and we saw two helicopters within 15 minutes. Since oil was discovered here the port city of Takoradi became a boom town and many business travelers come and go.

Ghana Oil Boom: What Happens When Your Town Strikes Oil

Takoradi, like the rest of the country, is nice and clean. The roads are paved and they even have a bicycle and motorbike lane on the highway! We passed a few towns and markets, and it was fun to see what they sold along the highway, everything from fruits and furniture to coffins. Besides the signs, you can always tell you are approaching a town because they have speed bumps as you enter and leave their jurisdiction.  The young driver of the van we rented got careless, however, and did not even notice the flashing lights from the other vehicles to warn him that there’s a police checkpoint ahead. So we were stopped because he was going 69 kph when the speed limit in towns is 50 kph. Then the driver begged our friend for some cash to bribe the police. A local woman with curlers saw what was happening and started yelling and cussing at them. It was clear that at least in this country some people don’t approve of bribing. The sad thing about Nigeria is people already seem resigned to it as a way of life.

(To be continued: holiday in Busua)

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