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New arrivals don't have to be overly concerned with safety and security in Ghana. Violent crime rates are relatively low and petty crime can often be avoided simply by being vigilant.
Ghana is fairly safe compared to other African countries, and as long as new arrivals familiarise themselves with relevant issues and take the necessary safety precautions, they should enjoy a safe existence.
Crime in Ghana
Despite Ghana's reputation of being a generally safe country, the influx of people into the cities with limited chances of gainful employment have increased instances of pickpocketing, and residential- and vehicle burglary.
Unfortunately, the police and judicial systems are often both ill-equipped and too corrupt to cope with many crimes.
Petty crime and general safety
Due to their relative visibility and presumed wealth, foreigners will find themselves targeted more often than locals. It is important to be aware of one's surroundings, especially in crowded marketplaces and when withdrawing cash from ATMs. Walking at night should be avoided where possible.
Ghanaians are renowned for being friendly and helpful toward foreigners, but it is best to keep overly-friendly strangers at arm's length, as petty crime and scams are increasingly common. Pickpocketing and opportunistic crime are on the rise and there are certain risk areas, such as along George Walker Bush Highway, where one should be careful. When in a vehicle, doors should be locked and windows kept wound up.
Although some foreigners in Ghana live in guarded gated communities, it is considered quite safe to live in stand-alone houses in most areas, but doors should be kept locked when leaving one's house and at nighttime. Many expats hire independent guards and set up an alarm system in their house, but this is mostly for precautionary reasons.
Expats should do some research and be clued up on possible scams. Common sense should be employed, particularly when receiving suspicious emails from supposed known individuals asking for money to be transferred to them. Scams can be financially devastating, so individuals should always be wary, and always verify the identity of senders before replying by checking the address, phone number and other details.
Terrorism in Ghana
There have been no recent terrorist attacks in Ghana and the country remains relatively peaceful and safe. However, terrorist groups are a threat in the West African region and foreign nationals should monitor reputable news and media sources regarding this, especially if they will be travelling around the region.
Kidnappings are on the increase in Ghana. Targets may be individuals working in commerce, tourism, aid work and journalism. However, the rate is still low and only a minority of people may be at risk of this sort of violence.
Gender issues in Ghana
Although Ghana’s history of equal rights may not be on par with that of a developed country and some gender-based violence issues remain, there is no drastic concern for women’s safety. Modest dress is advisable yet definitely not always adhered to, especially in cities, and harassment is not common. Many local women tend to leave the traditional garb at home in favour of jeans and a T-shirt.
Demonstrations in Ghana
The capital city does occasionally face protests, but these are generally peaceful and policed well. Still, disruption to normal travel routes may occur, and it is wise to stay away from demonstrations and pay attention to reliable news media.
Driving safety in Ghana
One of the most pressing dangers in Ghana is the poor standard of driving. The country has one of the highest road death tolls in the world and it is no secret that driving in Ghana can be a stressful experience.
It's fairly common for unlicensed drivers to speed down highways with little regard for safety. Taxi and bus drivers are also quite reckless and ignore many basic road rules.
Many expats in Ghana hire a full-time driver, though this is a matter of personal preference and many others prefer to navigate the roads themselves.
One safety issue that foreigners driving in Ghana should consider is that any crowds that form after an accident often involve themselves in the situation, which can complicate matters. In these cases, an expat can be vulnerable if driving alone without knowledge of the local language. This is an instance where a local driver would be useful, as they will know how to handle the situation.
The roads are not always well-lit and some are in a state of disrepair. Driving at night should therefore be avoided and those driving on main highways should stay alert in case of road difficulties.
Police in Ghana rarely enforce traffic laws, and traffic lights are often out of order, making crossing intersections rather harrowing at times. Expats driving in Ghana should exercise extreme caution and drive defensively at all times. It is often worth considering a large SUV that has a high clearance and a good standard of safety.
As child-safety seats are not commonly used by locals, it is a good idea for those with young children to bring a children's car seat from their home country.
Swimming safety in Ghana
Ghana's beautiful beaches make for popular tourist and leisure destinations and swimming is the perfect way to cool off in the heat. But swimming can be dangerous and swimmers should be aware of rip tides and undertows in the current which could pull them out to sea. There is a small risk of drowning and necessary precautions should always be taken, especially regarding the supervision of young children.
Floods in Ghana
Certain regions in Ghana are prone to flooding, including in Accra as well as the northern regions. Ghana's climate sees the rainy seasons bring heavy rainfall which increases the flood risk. The associated consequences are not only damage to infrastructure but also waterborne diseases and drowning risks.
►Read Culture Shock in Ghana to learn about Ghanaian cultural differences
►Transport and Driving in Ghana provides information on the transport options available to expats living in Ghana.
"Almost all compounds have security staff, but this does not preclude theft from your house. Also, road safety can be an issue." Our interview with Chris, an Australian expat in Accra, gives useful advice on safety in Ghana.
"Ghana is generally a peaceful country and there are no dangerous or out of bounds areas. However, there are occasional armed robbery and petty theft incidents reported." Read David's interview for more on security in Ghana.
Are you an expat living in Ghana?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ghana. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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