Safety in Ghana
Expats 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 aware of one's surroundings.
Ghana is one of the safest countries in Africa, and as long as expats familiarise themselves with relevant issues and take the necessary safety precautions, they should be fine and be able to enjoy their time there.
Crime in Ghana
Despite Ghana's reputation of being a generally safe place, the influx of people into the cities with limited chances of gainful employment have increased instances of pickpocketing, residential burglary and vehicle burglary.
The police and judicial system are both ill-equipped and too corrupt to cope with these crimes. Due to their relative visibility and presumed wealth, expats will find themselves targeted more often than locals. It is important to be aware of one's surroundings, especially in crowded marketplaces.
Although Ghana’s history of equal rights may not be on par with that of a developed country, there is no special concern for women’s safety. Modest dress is advisable yet definitely not adhered to, especially in cities; harassment is not common. Many local women tend to leave the traditional garb at home in favour of jeans and a T-shirt.
Although some expats in Ghana live in guarded gated communities, it is perfectly safe to live in stand-alone houses in most areas. Many expats hire either independent guards and/or set up an alarm system in their house. This is mostly for precautionary reasons, as break-ins are quite rare.
Ghanaians are renowned for being friendly and helpful toward expats; however, it is best to keep overly-friendly strangers at arm's length, as petty crime and scams are increasingly common.
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 hair-raising.
Driving licences can be bought in Ghana, making it fairly common for unlicensed drivers to charge down the road with little regard for the law. Taxi and bus drivers are 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 as many others prefer to use their own skills to navigate the roads. One safety issue that expats driving in Ghana should consider is the mob mentality that can arise quickly after an accident if a crowd forms. In these cases, an expat can be vulnerable if driving alone without knowledge of the local language. A local driver can take charge in these situations, and a swift exit is usually best.
Driving at night is not recommended, nor is driving between cities on main ‘highways’. Expats should be aware of dangerous overtaking by other motorists at all times.
Police in Ghana are known to be quite corrupt and rarely enforce traffic laws. Traffic lights in Ghana are also usually broken, making for harrowing intersections. Expats driving in Ghana should exercise extreme caution and drive defensively at all times. It is often worth buying (or negotiating as part of a contract package) a large SUV that has a high standard of safety.
As child safety seats are not commonly used by locals, it is a good idea for expats with young children to bring a children's car seat from overseas.
Emergency services in Ghana
Expats generally cannot rely on police, fire and ambulance services in Ghana. All of these services are underfunded and under-resourced. The fire service often has no water in its vehicles and there are only a few operating ambulances in the cities. In rural areas, this situation is even worse.
The West African Rescue Association (WARA) is a private company operating in Ghana that provides emergency services and works with BUPA and other international travel insurance agencies, particularly in cases where medical evacuation from Ghana is required.
They charge a nominal fee for membership and provide a host of services from helicopter rescue and ambulance services to their own medical clinic in Accra. They have a staff of fully European-trained paramedics.