Ghana uses the Ghanaian cedi as its currency. Each cedi is then further divided into 100 pesewas. The name cedi is derived from the Akan name for a cowry shell which was an historic unit of currency in Ghana.
The cedi is issued by the Bank of Ghana and it is recognised internationally, by the letters GHS.
As coins, the cedi is issued in the form of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 pesewas and 1 cedi. As notes it comes in the form of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cedi.
History of the Cedi
The cedi in its current form is actually a very new currency, since it was only issued in 2007. However, as a currency it has been around since 1965, when it was first introduced to replace the use of the Ghanaian pound, which had been the currency in use in Ghana, from 1958. At this stage the cedi was pegged to the British pound.
From 1965 onwards, the cedi experienced significant problems in terms of inflation and despite another cedi being introduced and various deflationary actions being taken by the government, there were still enormous problems with the value of the cedi. Eventually in 2007 the government took drastic action and relaunched the cedi to make 1 cedi now worth 10,000 of the old cedis. Curiously on external markets this was not a devaluation, only in terms of internal markets, which led to the cedi being devalued only internally. As a result, the cedi became one of the highest valued currencies in Africa in 2007. So it had achieved stability at last!
However, an important point to remember when you are in Ghana is that most people still think of the old cedis when they are talking about prices. So always, but always check if this price is in new or old cedis, since there is a 10,000 x difference in value !
Getting Hold of Ghanaian Cedis
Ghanaian cedis, now known simply as cedis, having dropped the Ghanaian from the official title, are not available on every street corner, but ATM facilities do exist. Just be aware though that not every ATM machine will accept foreign cards and in addition, there may be only a limited amount of cash that you can withdraw at any one point.
Credit cards can be used in some of the major hotels and larger restaurants. However, you should be aware that credit cards run a risk in
Ghana, since there have been numerous cases of credit card fraud, so if you do go to use your card, then make sure that you always have sight of it, do not let the card be taken away. This may feel rude to many westerners, who think that we should all be trusting, but the reality is that if you do not take steps to protect your credit card, someone else may take advantage of you.
You can take in traveller's cheques, which are probably the safest way of carrying money around. These can be readily exchanged at banks or bureaus de change, but be an early bird! Banks in Ghana tend to close at around 3 pm, so you will need to get there well before 3 pm.
The best way of taking in either cash or traveller's cheques is to make sure that they are in either US dollars or British sterling. Failing that the euro is next best.
Ghana is quite a safe country to visit. But it is not without its problems, like almost any country on earth. There is a very real risk of people being pickpocketed in Ghana, particularly in the very touristy areas and the areas where there are large crowds. There have also been incidents of people being subjected to robbery at knifepoint or gunpoint. These incidents have risen over the last few years.
Travellers going to Ghana are advised that if someone approaches and demands money, wallet or purse and is armed, there is little point in resisting: the best thing to do is just to hand the goods over. If people are desperate enough to resort to armed robbery then they may be desperate enough to kill. Travellers are also advised that it is not a good idea to wear ostentatious displays of jewellery and instead they should simply wear basic jewellery and nothing which indicates wealth or status, since this could simply be asking for trouble. Ghana is much safer than the vast majority of West African countries, but it is still a developing country and people are often very desperate for cash. Displaying very expensive watches or jewellery may simply be too much of a temptation for many people.
Travellers should generally avoid travelling at night, since this can be particularly risky. You should also avoid being out and about at night unless you are in a group. If you are in a group you are much less likely to be attacked.
Whilst in Ghana you may find that you are approached by someone who has a 'perfect' business opportunity for you and all they need is a bank account to pay money into and then exchange it or they will offer to sell you gold or a share in their business. All of these may be genuine, but you should be aware that the vast majority are simply scams to try and get your money. So be very cautious and do not fall for any hard luck stories. You should also be careful if you befriend someone and give them your home address or email address. You may find that at some point in the future they have some kind of 'crisis' and ask you for money to cover hospital bills. Again, this could be genuine, but it may also be a scam, so simply take care.
Using Your Cedis
Due to the fact that Ghana is still a developing country, prices are still very low. Food in particular is excellent value and you will be bale to experience some fantastic meals for only a pittance. Like everywhere, in the tourist resorts, things are more expensive, but even in these places, everything is significantly lower than in European countries.
Shopping in Ghana can be a real experience. First of all markets are a popular way of shopping and they are quite unlike other markets, with a real atmosphere of chaos in some of the smaller villages! They may only have a market on one day a week, so try to get to some of the out of town places on market day. Haggling or bartering is king at the markets and it has to be said, can often be a very lengthy process for some!
Accra, the capital has some markets that are a little less chaotic than the village markets. One of the markets, Makola, is filled with shops that are all fabric shops, some with ready made clothes that are fantastic value. But bear in mind, something that looks really cool at Makola market and you think will be really nice to wear when you get it home, may simply look out of place in the home environment, so err on the side of caution.
If you go to Kaneshie market then not only can you buy cloth, but you can also find some very expert tailors and seamstresses who will make 'bespoke' clothes for you at incredibly low prices. This is a good way of getting clothes here, because you are able to get western style clothes in beautiful African prints, for next to nothing and they are made specifically for you, tailored to your exact measurements in fact.
Accra also has some western type shopping facilities which are relatively bland in comparison to the other types of shopping experiences, but if you get tired of bartering, some of these have fixed prices, so shopping is a whole lot quicker!
But there is a lot more to Ghana than just shopping. The range of wildlife is simply amazing and you can find elephants, warthogs, antelopes and various of types of monkeys as well as many other types of wildlife in the Mole National Park. This is the most visited National Park in Ghana and that is not without good reason. You can even go for a walk-about with a ranger who is fully armed, so you will be safe, but you can get really up close to the animals (obviously within reason, for their protection as well as yours).
The other most famous National Park is Kakum, which has the most spectacular rainforest, complete with canopy walk, for those who are not scared of heights! The rainforest even has its own eco-system, which in a fascinating sight and you can really see the true power of Mother Nature in action.
In addition, you could go to see the Cape Coast Castle, which is a former slave castle and a sombre reminder of the slave trade and its impact on Africa. This is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and also a very moving experience for any visitor when you realise the real implications of the slave trade and what it meant for the people captured, then sold as objects.
Ghana does have its fair share of tourists and travellers, which means that it has some places that can offer really good facilities, but if you want to experience the 'real' west coast of Africa, then it is an exceptionally good place to visit.
It is a country that seems to be slightly aloof from its neighbours and does not share the problems that many of them encounter. So it is a relatively safe country to visit and one where there is a warm welcome for visitors and once you get away from Accra, there is much of the country that is relatively undiscovered, so you really do feel like you are getting to the real heart of Africa, even its dark side, as the reminders of the slave trade show.
For further information about Ghana, albeit from the Ghanaian point of view, i.e. the government's point of view, visit, www.ghanaweb.com and learn more about this country and its way of thinking and being.