Tips for Driving
Ghana, in West Africa, has
driving conditions which can be challenging for those new to the
country. In the first half of 2011 alone there were over 1400
fatalities on the country's roads, an average of 4 fatalities per
day so, as in every country in the world, a lot of care and
attention is needed by those intending to drive there for the first
time although it is perhaps fair to say that that Ghana is easier to
drive in than many African nations, although from a western European
perspective, there is room for improvement.
An international driver's licence is required for foreigners to
drive in Ghana. This is valid for up to one year after arrival in
the country. However, it is a simple matter to obtain a Ghanaian
license for foreign registered drivers: you simply present
photographs, a valid driving license and pay the appropriate fee.
Officially, the speed limits are 50 km/h in urban, built-up areas
and 80 km/h on the highways, driving is on the right hand side of
the road, drink driving is prohibited and seat belts must be worn at
all times. In recent years it has also become illegal to use mobile
phones while driving.
It has been alleged, perhaps unfairly, that the reality of driving
in Ghana however is very different from what the rules of the road
may suggest. Anecdotally, much of the responsibility for the high
level of road fatalities lies with the behaviour of drivers. Some
observers have claimed that bad driving practices are reinforced by
the propensity of traffic police and minor officials to accept
bribes, which can result in drivers who know they are very unlikely
to be prosecuted for the infringement of traffic regulations. There
have been complaints of local drivers not using headlights when
necessary, overtaking on dangerous bends and the unpredictable
behavior of 'Tro-Tro' minibuses. There is also a culture of speed,
with the emphasis on getting to the destination quickly, no matter
the state of the vehicle.
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It is a fair comment though to point out that road discipline in
Europe is not always what it should be, and lack of familiarity with
local conditions and customs can make driving more hazardous for
foreigners in every country.
The risks of driving in Ghana are exacerbated by the frequently poor
condition of many roads compared to those that westerners are
familiar with. Some major routes are marked with potholes and many
major highways are lacking in the necessary maintenance. Street
lighting is very uncommon, even in cities, and the majority of roads
do not have line markings.
Foreigners are also well advised to keep doors and windows locked
and shut when driving in much of Ghana. Car theft and 'car jackings'
are common and it is not unknown for hijackers to collide with a
tourists car to force it to a stop. Certain highways in Ghana are
more infamous than others for this type of activity; some are best
avoided, particularly at night.
Given this, it is surprising that insurance policies are not taken
up more whole-heartedly. It is now illegal to drive without
insurance in Ghana but some drivers go without while most opt for
third party over comprehensive insurance. Cover is available from
many companies, KEK Insurance Brokers, of Aviation Road Accra and
Marine and General Brokers in Asylum Down, Accra are two popular
Finally, it might be worth pointing out to those interested in
driving in the country that there is a relatively cheap and
efficient bus service in Ghana that connects most of the major towns
and districts. Needless to say the drivers of these buses are
familiar with the routes and so are much less affected by conditions
which would appear to be major problems to newcomers.
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