At the end of my two weeks travelling around Ghana, I spent a few days in Accra before my flight back to England because I wanted to explore the city. It was evident from a quick search online that accommodation in Accra was going to be more expensive and less interesting than the cute little family-run guest-houses and the rustic beach huts I’d stayed at in other areas of the country.
I booked a bed in a 4 person dorm (after deciding I was going to treat myself aka avoid the 10 person dorm) at the cheapest place I could find online – The Sleepy Hippo Hotel (sleepyhippohotel.com). The bed was $13US per night.
In my opinion, this hostel is OK if you just need a bed and a roof over your head, but it isn’t the best. There isn’t a guest kitchen, so you have to eat out or buy takeaways all the time, and even if you buy takeaways, the lack of kitchen means there aren’t any plates or even any knives for if you buy a pineapple and want to cut it, for example.
The beds are comfortable enough and there’s running water which seemed reliable, and there is a cool terrace/balcony area where you can catch some breeze. The WIFI isn’t the best upstairs though.
The location is quite central and you can easily walk to street food vendors and corner shops etc. You can also easily walk to catch a trotro to different places. However, the actual street it’s on is a very small one and I discovered that lots of local taxi drivers don’t actually know where it is. This means that you either need to have a phone with data so you can use Google Maps when you’re in a taxi to go there (lots of drivers don’t have smartphones), or you need to be able to direct them (good luck with this!!)
The hostel didn’t have a particularly sociable/backpacker vibe. I later found out that there’s a hostel nearby called Somewhere Nice which only costs a few $ more per night, but has a pool and more of a fun vibe, so maybe check that out too before making your decision.
The first place I visited in Accra was Jamestown.
I had read about it online as being an old fishing community with a lighthouse and lots of street art, so it sounded like an interesting place to see. I’d heard that you have to pay a local guy 10 cedis (£1.60) to go up the lighthouse, because they apparently hold the keys since the government stopped maintaining it a while ago… but unfortunately when I went, a local guy sitting on the lighthouse steps told me it was closed for some refurbishment.
This is the lighthouse from across the road:
I wandered along the street trying to find the street art I’d seen on Instagram, but it didn’t seem to be anywhere. I asked a few people who pointed me in various directions, until someone told me that actually the main street art area has been painted over in white so that different artists can do some new street art on it.
I went to the area anyway. It’s basically an enclosed concrete area where kids play football. This was the only piece of art there at the time, which was definitely less impressive than what I’d seen online:
If you continue walking along the road the lighthouse is on, you eventually come to a wall where you can look down to the beach and what some would call a shanty town:
Even though it was clear that this residential area on the beach had a lot of problems with sanitation and litter etc, there was actually quite a nice, relaxing vibe, with reggae being played and people having fun in the sea.
After people-watching for about 10 minutes, and saying hi back to some cute kids who waved at me, I wandered back along to the lighthouse and enjoyed looking at the painted shop fronts and listening to the music coming from different buildings left, right and centre. This is an example of a classic Ghanaian shop front that I saw there – of course containing a religious reference!
Although I didn’t really see any specific attractions in Jamestown, it was really interesting to see a different type of community from the other ones I’d experienced in Ghana, and it’s certainly different from the part of Accra I was staying in. Some people say it’s a bit dangerous there, but in my experience it seemed fine, despite the community clearly not being very well off financially.
The second place I visited in Accra was the Osu / Oxford Street area.
This is basically one of the ‘nicer’ parts of the city with lots of popular bars and restaurants. The prices are still not bad compared to English prices, so it’s a cool place to have a cocktail and relax. It also has a few good social media photo spots! One of them is a hotel that has an I Love Accra sign outside of it, which I couldn’t resist climbing onto:
Another, just around the corner, is this AMAZING piece of street art – probably one of the best ones I’ve ever seen:
The third place I visited in Accra was Makola Market.
This is one of the biggest markets in Ghana and it’s there every day. Lots of trotros go there, so you can easily get there for a few cedis. I went by myself, and I didn’t see another “obroni” (foreigner) there at all. It was one of those situations where I wasn’t scared, but at the same time I was very aware of all the eyes that were on me, and therefore I didn’t feel confident to take lots of pictures.
The market is extremely confusing so I decided there was no point in trying to navigate it in a sensible manner. I just walked and walked, taking random turning after random turning. There were different areas for different things, for example a few streets for shoes, a few streets for kitchen ware, and a few streets for beauty products etc. Of course there was lots of food too (I had to subtly try and hold my breath whilst walking past the meat and fish… #VeganLife).
People spoke to me a lot and asked me to look at their products, but no one was forceful or over the top really. I spent one or two hours there and drank 3 coconuts because it was so tiring walking around in the heat! I bought a few things to take home…
- Black soap: A traditional soap made in Ghana from various natural ingredients such as shea butter, cocoa pods, coconut oil, cocoa butter etc. It comes in various forms but I bought the one that comes wrapped in newspaper / brown paper. There are lots of different sizes and it’s very cheap. I got a massive block taller than one of my fingers for 4 cedis (£0.65). It’s better for your skin than regular soap, but don’t leave it in the shower. Keep it dry and break off a bit to take in the shower each time.
- Calabash bowls: Natural bowls made from the Calabash tree. Get these from a street selling kitchen ware. They look ‘rustic’ and cool, and they’re obviously better for the environment than using plastic bowls, so stock up on them if you can! They also cost 4 or 5 cedis.
- Shea butter: Lots of ladies in Ghana make a living from making/selling shea butter, and the coolest part is, they literally cut off the chunk you want right there at the market. I pointed to a big pre-cut chunk and asked for 3 that size, and she cut 3 but then cut me a little extra chunk and put it in the bag as an extra, which I thought was nice. Again, this is less than 5 cedis for a huge piece, and this was the one thing I took a photo of at the market::
On my last full day in Accra, I went to Titanic Beach (apparently that isn’t its real name, but that’s what people know it as).
I went there in the car with some Ghanaian friends I’d made in Ada Foah at the beach camp. They said they prefer it over the well-known Labadi Beach because it’s cheaper and apparently Labadi beach has become boring and is a bit of a thing of the past (don’t ask me!)
It’s on the edge of the city and you basically drive along the coast passing various beaches with little beach bars. They all looked pretty similar to me, but I guess my friends were just used to going to this specific one (you can see it toward the right of this picture, where it says Titanic in yellow letters)
The actual beaches aren’t the nicest looking, probably because they’re in the city, so people tend to sit at the bars and enjoy the vibes, breeze and view rather than actually going in the sea.
Loads of Ghanaian families and groups of friends were there, and it seemed to be a popular weekend activity. Afrobeats plays loudly and waitresses bring you drinks as you sit near the sea. I had a really nice time, just chatting about travel and life in our respective countries with my friends, and enjoying the music. It was also cool to see a typical local place to go to hang out. Even in Ghana, selfies are an essential part of any fun social outing!
The one downside of this little beach bar was its “toilet”!! Basically, you go out of the bar and across the car park (visible in the first picture of the bar), and then right by the road, there’s a little concrete construction, with walls no higher than my chest, and no doors (just open doorways). You walk through the open doorway and a bit to the side, and this is where you do your thing:
The most hilarious part of this for me was that if you stand up facing towards the drain thingy, you literally get eye contact with the people walking along the road, because the walls are so low! Anyway, we can call it character building!
Other than these outings, I also found some great vegan food in Accra (this will be discussed on a separate post about being vegan in Ghana), went to the Accra Mall to see a movie, and played table football on the street with some school children. I think England is missing out by not having table football tables on the street like they do in Ghana!
One thing I will say about transportation in Ghana is that, even if you’re a budget traveller like me, it’s often worth it to get an Uber (you don’t need to change any settings or do anything weird if you already have the app on your phone from England… it will work just the same). They’re CRAZY cheap there compared to in England (e.g. you might pay 10 cedis which is £1.60, for a 15 minute journey), and it’s just a lot easier than trotros sometimes. They also use a similar app called Taxify, so you could download that too.
Overall, I felt safe in Accra and if you want to get a true overall impression of Ghana, I would recommend spending a day or two there.