Getting about in Ghana
There are a variety of ways to get about in Ghana, including air, rail, boat, bus/coach services, car hire with or without a driver provided and Tro-tros and taxis.
Getting between major cities or towns is not difficult with many economic options including coaches and buses. Getting to more out of the way places, like wildlife parks, can be more difficult without access to a car, unless you want to walk a part of the way, and/or can tie your travel requirements up with the transport that is available. You can use composite solutions like flying between centres and taking buses or taxis for linking journeys, but you do need to cost and agree prices.
Air services run between major cities, see www.ghanaairports.com.gh for information.
Rail services are limited, slow and only of interest to rail enthusiasts.
Boat services operate on Lake Volta, but I have been told may not run on the days and times expected, so you need plenty of time if using these services.
Tro-Tro's are a mixture of all types of minibuses, vans and other vehicles that stop and pick people up on route. They are often well loaded, with a lot of people squeezed in and may include people sitting on the roof. There are a lot of these, so while at first it appears somewhat haphazard, many people find these both convenient and very economical. You get to spot the vehicles as private and commercial vehicles have different coloured number plates, and tro-tro's are commercial vehicles.
The symbols used by people standing by the road side is a vertical circular motion for buses, tro-tro's etc, this represents a traffic island, and holding the left hand flat and making a chopping action with the right hand, indicates they are hoping to hitch a lift. Using the left hand to chop is an insult gesture.
Car hire for self drive is problematic if you want to drive outside of Accra. There are a number of firms offering self drive hire in Accra. The cost of car hire is very high compared to both other costs in the country and car hire in other places. Insurance is also very expensive. There is little traffic management, and they use what is referred to as defensive driving, keeping out of problems by avoiding collisions, perhaps pulling of the road on occasions, or allowing for the unexpected, which is perhaps not as unexpected here. In many towns and cities there are deep vertical drainage ditches running directly alongside the carriageways, with no guards, so you have to be careful not to put a wheel or two down them, I expected but didn't see anyone who had.
Car hire with a driver is often cheaper than without one, as labour costs are low and you don't then need additional insurance. The cost of the driver includes his accommodation and meals while with you. Some offer a choice of a driver or Driver/Guide. You still pay for the fuel separately.
When driving outside of Accra, the coastal area or Kumasi, you really need a four wheel drive vehicle. In Kumasi and the coastal areas without a 4 wheel drive you can access most areas but there will be some track roads that will not be practical and in Kumasi you won't be able to take some roads/tracks that bypass traffic without a 4WD. The further north you go generally the less tarmac you will see, and the rougher the tracks get. Having said this you find groups using minibuses to access areas that you would not have thought they could have reached.
Vehicle repairs are carried out on route by calling into a local vehicle workshop area, where by magic the right people are called, fix whatever the problem is for next to nothing and you are on your way again.
I chose to use a 4WD with a driver/guide, and found this to work well. I learnt a great deal about the culture, and what I was going to see, he knew where places were and could show me other items along the way, that I would not have known about, he sorted out hotels, in cooperation with the travel company, took me to places to eat, advised me what I could and could not eat, got me the right specialist guides at places, sorted out prices, arranged for the vehicle to be fixed as problems arose, navigated and far more. Even carrying may camera bag on occasions. While it is a pricey option compared to using public transport options I could not have got in all that I wanted to in the time I had available by other means.
Taxi's are not excessively expensive, and are an option if you want to get about in a small area. You can also often hire a taxi or car with driver for a part of a day.
In all cases you have a range of qualities and prices so for example with coaches you can get low prices or better coaches with air conditioning that are more expensive but still low cost. Many prices are negotiable, especially taxi and short term driving.
There is no complete map of roads in Ghana, and the nearest you can get is a single sheet that shows most of the major roads and tracks. However the majority of these will be mud tracks, baked as hard as concrete most of the year but less solid in the rainy seasons. These tracks differ little in colour making it very difficult to spot potholes before you hit them and there are some really major potholes. Some junctions have signs, often very home made while others do not. Given that not all roads/tracks are shown and many junctions you don't expect have no signs, navigation can be an experience. Luckily most of the tracks go somewhere and when you come out the other end, perhaps its not clear if you took the right or wrong road, but you arrived in any event. A driver or driver/guide is able to ask directions in the local language in some villages. If you are used to driving with a sat nav, then this is going to be some culture shock for you.
Ghana is a very safe country, you can travel around without too many concerns, only in Accra did I hear of bag snatchers and the like, in many places around the country people with stands selling things just go home at night and no one touches the stock left behind. Generally you will find everyone just wants to help you, often going out of their way to show you where something is. There are women travelling safely alone, and nowhere did I feel there was any danger to me while in Ghana, having a guide however may have avoided some problem areas.