Accra, Ghana Report of what it's like to live there - 09/15/22

Personal Experiences from Accra, Ghana

Accra, Ghana 09/15/22

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, a few other embassy assignments.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

DC, about a 12 hour direct flight on United. Or direct flight on Delta to JFK. Direct flights are around $1800 round trip on United or Delta.

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3. What years did you live here?

2019-2022.

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4. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Personally I love my house, but not everyone does. Housing is usually 3-4 bedrooms (3 for singles/couples and usually 4 for families with children). There are a few 3-bedroom apartments but most of the housing is townhouse style or duplex style, with some stand-alone houses). Lack of good city infrastructure means that your house will have a generator and a large polytank in the backyard in case you lose city water or power. Once in a blue moon your polytank will run out or your generator won't kick on, but the embassy responds to fix the problem quickly - even nights and weekends. Most embassy compounds have a shared swimming pool for residents. If you dont have a pool, you can drive a few minutes to another compound. Commute time is a highlight: about 5 minutes for most people.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Some people are surprised at store prices ($8 for a box of US cereal). There's a high import tax and most items aren't produced here. I have a bunch of Amazon auto-orders for things like Tide pods, pet food, fruit snacks, cereal, etc. And I used my consumables shipment, so I have all the liquids I want: maple syrup, sriracha, etc (which can be harder to ship via DPO). For the weekly stuff we get at the store, some stuff is higher than US, some is lower, but it is typically to go at least two places to get everything. For instance, Marina Mall has expensive produce, but it's the only grocery store to sell alcohol (other than AEA), so you go there for cheese, meat, yogurts, wine, etc, and go to Palace for cheaper produce (or the lady who has a stand outside the Italian embassy). I don't mind this because my driver takes my cook to do all the shopping every week.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

A coworker sent me a spreadsheet of what they bought for consumables before I packed out, and I used that to inform my Costco shopping. but whatever you forget to ship can usually be found here (just at a higher price). You will probably use Amazon and Walmart.com if you want to save some money. Some people just buy everything here, but when you have a larger family and kids in school, you might want the US school snacks, etc.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is a good variety of restaurants. I was surprised we can get great sushi that doesn't make us sick. There's even a few Mexican restaurants, which are decent. Jumia and glovo are the delivery apps. As far as US chains, we have KFC, pizza hut, Dominoes, Burger King.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants are common. I recommend that a gardener spray pesticide around your yard every month and that should keep a lot of other problems away (e.g., roaches, mosquitoes, etc). Sometimes the ACs leak and you have to put in MyService requests to have FAC service them every once in a while.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO, pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Inexpensive. Fewer than $200 each for a full-time nanny, cook, driver. $100 for part-time gardener. This is another highlight of post. Some people try to do everything on their own instead of wanting help, but that seems like a mistake to me. For so little money, your life can be so much easier than in the US, and we're paying people very good wages for here, so they're happy, I'm happy. Imagine never having to get gas for your car or take it to the shop, never having to make your kids lunch...it really is a huge benefit.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Lots of swimming pools. Some people join the tennis club or golf clubs (Achimoto is nicer and 20 min away, Bok is cheaper and 5 min away). Mint club has a bunch of fitness classes, Burma camp has horse back riding, soccer, etc. The schools have a ton of after school sports and activities. Recently we got a bowling alley/trampoline play zone (Bliss, 5 min away). If you pay for something like swim lessons or karate or pilates, it's about $10/hour. The embassy has some free classes like weekly yoga.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

i use mine at the grocery store sometimes. the embassy has a cashier and ATM. I mostly use cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Lots of churches. There's one that a bunch of expats go to and it's maybe 20 min away.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is standard. There's a slight accent, but not that different.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

No sidewalks. No ADA compliance.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

$1 to get most places in an uber or bolt.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

4-wheel drive so you can get to beaches, which have rough roads towards the end of the drive. There are beaches 1-2 hours away headed west or east. Hills and river headed 1-2 hours north. Year-round beach weather and weekend getaways are another highlight. You do usually need to pack more than you would in the US, e.g., I take my French press since otherwise you just get an instant coffee packet.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Installation was the day we arrived. It was supposed to be done before then but something went wrong. IRM came over the first day and fixed it. you can choose your internet package, and i think we pay about $60/month. I think it's fast. We easily stream from multiple devices without issues. That being said, power can go in and out, and it makes a huge difference if you put your router on a UPS, so you maintain internet connection even if the power flickers. also, a VPN is nice so you can watch all your streaming programs (Disney, Hulu, etc).

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I brought an unlocked phone. Sims and data are cheap. Just go to Vodafone or MTN and they will help you out (but take your dip passport the first time to register)

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

One vet, extremely cheap, seems very competent. No quarantine, but make sure to have proper documentation to import. It's harder to get pets back to the US than to get them here, due to CDC rules right now.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Post-covid, more companies offer telework positions, and those likely pay more than EFM positions. EFM jobs are nice if you want the daily interaction with embassy employees.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

The marines sponsor a girls' home. There's a school in Jamestown for homeless children, which needs more volunteers.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual, just no winter clothes needed.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It's a critical crime post but I have never felt unsafe. That being said, I use my alarm system every night. I have heard that a few homes have been broken into. Homes have bars on the windows to prevent robberies. Also, purse snatching seems to be fairly common, but most crime is non-violent. i feel safer here than at other posts I have been to.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I don't feel one should take the weekly malaria pills due to possibility of bad side effects. The daily are fine, but it's a bit annoying to remember to make the kids take them every day.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It's worse than LA but not terrible. If you are sensitive to air pollution, it may bother you. But it's not nearly as bad as India or China.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

I'd be more cautious here than in the US.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There's a couple rainy seasons, where it rains for a small portion of the day, and a couple dry seasons. July - August is the coolest time of year (but not actually cool). The air is worse for about six-eight weeks in the winter, due to Harmattan. I'm from the South in the US, so I like the climate here.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I love LCS, the most popular elementary school. The bus comes at 715am, school starts around 745am. I think it takes a little longer to get home in the afternoons, especially on Fridays (maybe an hour). My kid likes the bus though.

Great pre-schools, but they are around 7-10k per year, which isn't super cheap.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not sure, but I hope they'd be accommodating.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yep, preschools, nannies, etc. The nannies organize playdates and alternate between houses/compounds or AEA on school breaks.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yep, lots.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly large and in my opinion, fairly positive. The biggest downside is that this is a historically-difficult to staff post. It seems like there are lots of activities for singles, couples and families. From weekend trips, to biking and climbing in the hills (1-2 hours away for all of that), or poker nights or restaurants, there's a lot to do.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Hash house harriers, Ghana mountaineers, mint club activities,

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Sure.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No, but we still have some LGBT employees who get by.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Gender equality: yes, I've been happy with that.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Sailing club in Ada. Learning to sail and golf for very little money; lessons are very inexpensive.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Lots of handicrafts; I love going to the handicraft markets.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Househelp. Beach weather. Swimming pools. The elementary school.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

swimsuits.

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