Study Abroad Student Handbook
Ghana Ghana
Center for Global Education

Basic Health and Safety

In this section, you will find information on how to stay well while in Ghana and while traveling to other countries. The process of wellness starts before you go abroad with a visit to your doctor. You may need to get inoculations to protect you from various illnesses before traveling. You will also learn some tips about food and water safety.

1. General Travel Safety

Planning for a Healthy and Safe Time Abroad: Learn all you can about the health and safety issues of all the countries where you plan to study and travel. This includes reading about the cultural and political climate of those countries, as well as learning about how others view people from your country, race, ethnic group, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

2. Travel Safety in Ghana

Planning for a Healthy and Safe Time in Ghana: Preparation for your time in Ghana should include an understanding of the current political, cultural and religious events of the country as well as the region, and an awareness of the social climate. Students are advised to be alert to their surroundings, and be particularly aware of any health and safety advisories for the areas in which they will be studying.

Getting a Balanced Perspective on Health and Safety in Ghana: In order to gain a more objective perspective on how safe travel to in Ghana is, view the health and safety reports on in Ghana from a variety of sources. We have provided a table below with links (on the left) to the Australian, Canadian and British governments' country advisories on in Ghana. On the right side of the table are links to those same governments' perspectives on safety in the United States, which you can use to compare health and safety issues in Ghana and the United States.

3. Important Health and Safety Issues

Visit this page to see the top ten health and safety issues you should be aware of before you depart for in Ghana and the other countries to which you may be traveling.

  • NeedlesIllnesses, Diseases, and Inoculations: Find out about the various illnesses that might be more common in Ghana or the regions and countries to which you will be traveling. Get the appropriate shots and pills, and take the appropriate medications with you if your doctor thinks it's necessary. Find out about any potential side–effects of shots and pills that you may take. For information on illnesses that may be prevalent in Ghana, please see the CDC link in the Resources section of this Handbook.
  • Physicals and Check–ups: Get a complete physical, eye exam and dental check–up before going to in Ghana. While health care is generally good in Ghana, the quality of dental and medical care might be different in the various countries or regions you may visit. Also, they could possibly be more expensive than similar care in the United States.
  • WaterCan You Drink the Water?: Find out if water is generally safe to drink in different regions of in Ghana and in the countries to which you will be traveling. To avoid diarrhea and other bacteria, purify questionable water before you drink it. Make sure water bottles come sealed when you buy them. Remember that ice can also be unsafe, as well as the water you use to brush your teeth.
  • Food Safety: If you get diarrhea or food poisoning, remember to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. As with any illness, consider seeing a doctor if your condition worsens. Give your body time to adjust to new types of foods you will be eating.
  • Laws and Codes of Conduct: Make yourself aware of both the rules and regulations of your study abroad program sponsor, and the local laws and customs of in Ghana and the countries which you will be visiting. Understand that you will not only have to conform to the legal system of in Ghana, but also obey the codes of conduct required of program participants. Also recognize that certain laws may vary from region to region or even city to city.
  • Mental and Physical HealthMental and Physical Health: Consider your own mental and physical health issues when applying for a study abroad program, and make all your necessary health information available to your program's administrators in the U.S. and abroad so they can assist you with any special needs, or advise you on the risks you might face. Study abroad may include both physical and mental challenges for students, so make sure you establish a support network of program administrators, family and friends who can help you. According to the U.S. Department of State, "Good medical care is widely available."
  • First Aid KitPrescriptions: To be cautious, get a doctor's signed prescription for any medication you have to bring with you to in Ghana, and get it translated into in Ghana. However, if you can, take a supply large enough to cover your stay while abroad, just in case you can't fill your prescription while abroad. Contact the U.S. Embassy in Ghana or your program administrator/advisor to find out if and how much U.S. prescription medication is allowed into in Ghana. Also include a copy of your prescription for your glasses or contact lenses. Bring an extra pair of glasses.
  • First–Aid Kit: Consider a well–stocked first–aid kit as a first line of defense. Some items to include are: sunscreen, bandages, flashlight, sterile pads, insect repellent, adhesive tape, aspirin, antacid, anti–diarrhea tablets, anti–malarial medication, extra bottled water, feminine protection, condoms, rubber gloves, etc.
  • FitnessFitness and Exercise: Try to get fit in the time you have before departing for in Ghana. A healthy body can help you fight off illness and recover faster if you do get sick. Even though it may be harder to follow a structured workout routine, try to stay fit while in Ghana. Exercise also helps to increase energy levels and combat depression. Get a good pair of comfortable walking shoes. Without access to a car or public transportation in Ghana, you may have to do quite a bit of walking. Break in your shoes before you go.
  • Emergency Contacts: Keep your program staff and your emergency contacts at home and in Ghana well informed of your whereabouts and activities, and provide these people with copies of your important travel documents (i.e. passport, visa, plane tickets, traveler's checks, and prescriptions, etc.).
  • Air Travel: When you travel by air, drink a lot of non–alcoholic fluids, stay away from caffeine, eat light, and stretch often to avoid jetlag. Many airlines are now required to show an in–flight video of stretching exercises you can do on the plane in order to avoid the potential formation of blood clots, which can be caused by cabin pressure. A direct flight is usually easier for most travelers, but flights broken up by stops can also lessen jet lag.
  • Transportation: Accidents involving in–country travel, whether by air, bus, train, taxi, car, etc., are a major cause of injury to students abroad. It is important to understand what the safe modes of travel are in Ghana and in the countries to which you plan to travel. For more information on transportation in Ghana, please visit the U.S. Department of State.
    • bus: The bus system is the fastest mode of transportation in Ghana. With the limitations of train travel, vehicular travel is primary mode of iinter-regional travel (known as "commuter travel"). Buses can take passengers on short journeys and longer distances, even across Ghana’s borders to neighboring countries. However, there are many safety precautions that students should follow while taking the bus for longer trips, so all students should do research on trip duration, price, and potential border issues if traveling outside of Ghana. Some buses may travel slower than others, and the duration of travel can take quite awhile depending on your destination. Air conditioning is also not standard on all buses. Students should not ride the bus at night and keep valuables on their person at all times.
    • train_metro: Train travel in Ghana can be very slow and ineffective, especially with the prices of train travel often matching the price of faster travel by bus. The rail system has also been halted in the past for various reasons, so proper research is required if choosing to this method of transportation. Restricted to southern central and coastal regions of the country, it may be difficult to reach smaller cities and communities in these regions until train routes have been expanded, which has been in the developmental stage for nearly two decades. As of the time of this writing, train routes are limited to travel between Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Awaso.
    • air: Accra’s Kotoka Airport is the only international airport in the country. Domestic flights throughout Ghana can take travelers to Accra, Kumasi, Navrongo, Sekondi-Takoradi, Sunyani, Tamale, Wa and Yendi. However, domestic flights can be unreliable, resulting in some bumped passengers or late departures / arrivals. As with many other countries that offer domestic flights, saved time is one of the benefits of flying but can often be extremely expensive compared to bus travel.
    • cars: Due to its considerable public transportation system, many Ghanaian locals opt to use the buses to avoid the dangers and disarray that accompanies the experience of driving. For those that do opt to rent a car, it is important to plan ahead and be cautious: driving in an unfamiliar place can be overwhelming, especially with the number of unpaved roads in Ghana. Exercise extra caution when driving in any foreign country because unfamiliar laws, roads and customs can increase your chances for an accident. You should obtain full coverage insurance when renting vehicles in Ghana. If a driver is involved in a vehicle accident resulting in damages or injuries to another party, the driver may be arrested and detained by Ghanaian authorities until a settlement is arranged with the injured party. Driving in Ghana may also result in a number of unanticipated checkpoints, which may require funds to continue. With this in mind, programs will likely recommend that you stick to public transportation for travel.
    • boats: Boat travel in Ghana is considered non-essential for tourists who are not traveling in the Volta region. For those that are around Lake Volta, a large ferry known as the Yapei Queen can be booked to travel from one end of the lake to the other, but must be booked in advance. Some smaller ferries around the lake may be arranged locally. As Ghana borders the Atlantic Ocean, there are two seaports on the coast at Takoradi and Tema, but are used for commercial purposes only.
    • bicycle: Ghana’s roads are dusty and frequently unpaved, and country’s climate is humid, so traveling on foot is preferred. Cycling tours are offered around Lake Volta, but precautions should always be taken when cycling in any type of traffic, even if cars or trucks are sparse. There are a few locations in the country’s capital to find bicycles as well, which may be easier to ride but is still very dangerous due to traffic.

    For more health and safety information about driving abroad, the Association for Safe International Road Travel offers road travel reports, seasonal hazards, safety tips and common driver behaviors for travel abroad.

  • Alcohol and Drugs: Use and abuse of alcohol and drugs abroad can increase the risk of accident and injury. Many study abroad accidents and injuries are related to the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs abroad. Violating drug laws in Ghana may result in very serious consequences. In some countries you may visit, being found guilty of violating drug laws can result in consequences as serious as death.
  • Setting an Example: Set a good example. Remember you are like an ambassador for your U.S. college or university, as well as your culture and country. Behave in a way that is respectful of others' rights and well–being and encourage others to do the same.

4. Relevant Questions

  • Who among the program staff should be informed of your travel plans, or who can serve as an emergency contact for your family back home?
  • Who are your emergency contacts in the United States? Do they have copies of your important documents? Can they make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself (do they have power of attorney)?
  • What health recommendations has the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently made for the country of your choice and the countries to which you will be traveling?
  • Do you have any dietary restrictions? If so, do they pose a problem while in the country of your choice?
  • How much walking will you be doing in the country of your choice? How can you prepare yourself for higher levels of physical activity?
  • What should you carry in a first aid kit?
  • What are the general sanitary conditions in the country of your choice? What kinds of precautions are necessary when drinking water or eating local food?
  • Are there any specific immunizations you must get before entering the country of your choice and the countries to which you will travel?
  • If you have any pre–existing health conditions, or you need to carry special medications abroad, what should you do before you go abroad?
  • With whom can you leave copies of your important health–related documents?
  • Will your prescription drug(s) be legal and/or available in the country of your choice?
  • What is the generic name, and a citizen of the country of your choice for your medication?
  • Does the staff speak English, a citizen of the country of your choice, and other indigenous languages fluently to communicate the nature of any medical conditions? (Remember, many indigenous groups in the country of your choice might not speak a citizen of the country of your choice or English.)
  • Can your program provide for any special needs you may have (wheelchair ramps, un–timed tests, etc.)?
  • Do you have access to adequate medical facilities?
  • What is the cost of typical medical services?
  • What specific travel advisories has the U.S. Department of State recently issued for the country of your choice and the other countries to which you will be traveling?
  • What types of crimes are common in the area/city where you will be studying and living?
  • What activities increase the risk of accidents and injury abroad?
  • How extensive, safe, and reliable is the public transportation system in the country of your choice and the others countries to which you will be traveling?

5. Checklist

  • Before leaving, I have gotten a complete physical from my doctor.
  • I have received all necessary immunizations required/recommended for entry to the countries I will visit, and I know where to obtain other inoculations abroad if needed later.
  • I know who the emergency contact will be at the U.S. and in the country of your choice.
  • I know who my emergency contact will be at home.
  • I have asked whether or not the drinking water is safe to drink in the country of your choice.
  • I know what precautions to take when eating local food.
  • I have researched where to buy food that suits my dietary needs/restrictions (i.e. for vegetarians, diabetics, etc...).
  • I know how extensive, safe and reliable the public transportation system is in the country of your choice.
  • I am aware of the laws and codes of conduct that are likely to impact me.
  • I understand that the use of alcohol and drugs increases my risk of accident and injury.

6. Resources

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