The West African nation of Ghana is a place that never jumped out at me… meaning, I never had any particular desire to visit Ghana, until I made some new friends on a cruise who were all of Ghanaian descent.  After partying with them all week and hearing so much about the country and its culture… and being encouraged to come visit… I decided to make the voyage!  There are innumerable reasons that every savvy traveler should visit Ghana, but here are my top five

1.  Ghana is home to many different ethnicities and languages, but everybody speaks English.

Despite encompassing a wide variety of cultures within its borders, English is still the national language so it is easy to communicate with everybody.  You may hear people speaking in Twi among themselves, for example, but they all know English too – so getting around, taking care of business, and even making new friends is easy as cake.

2.  American restaurants are available, but Ghanaian local food is delicious and cheap!

When I first arrived, jetlagged and hungry, I needed a good simple meal to set me straight.  Pizza Hut in the Accra Mall had exactly what I wanted – and I was able to pay for it with my Chase Sapphire Visa card, just like home.  As the week went on, I made sure to hit some local restaurants and indulge in the traditional Ghanaian foods too – which were delicious, and shockingly cheap in cash.  But if I had a craving, I was always able to find a KFC.  Best of both worlds!

3.  Ghana has its own brand of craziness, but it’s a safe country to be in.

It is authentic West Africa, so you can expect traffic to be chaos beyond description – complete with road vendors selling everything imaginable in between the lanes of traffic.  You can expect a certain element of madness, because in Africa – that’s part of the experience!  That’s just how it goes!  But unlike some of the other countries, Ghana is politically stable and there are no ongoing wars or conflicts.  So once again, it’s the best of both worlds.

4.  The visa process is reasonable and affordable, but you do need a visa in advance – which gives it a touch of exclusivity.

In order to go to Ghana at all, the traveler needs to obtain a visa in advance – aka, submitting paperwork to be approved to one of their embassies or consulates.  I love a challenge and was enticed by the idea, but the average traveler would likely see this is a deterrent and give up before they even begin.  For this reason, I categorize Ghana as being above and beyond “Africa 101” – rather, up on a higher plateau; and as such, the beginner travelers get filtered out.

By default, Ghana is reserved for true adventurers who are willing to maneuver the obstacle course to get the visa – but the process is reasonable.  You need to submit your confirmed flights, some information about yourself, and references from within the country – but once you get that full-page visa issued into your passport, it’s all worth it!  The best part is:  the “multiple entry” visa is good for three years!  And once you go once, you’re gonna want to go back again!

5.  You’re already a long way from home, but Ghana is a gateway to go even further yet.

There exists, in the waters south of Nigeria and west of Gabon, an obscure island nation called Sao Tome.  To get to this tiny and far-flung country would be difficult and expensive from most places on earth, especially the USA.  But once you are already in Ghana – you’re less than two hours away with a direct flight from the Accra airport.  I went, and encourage you to as well – because if you’re all the way in Ghana already, you might as well!  You can read more about my mis-adventures in Sao Tome HERE.