Virtually everyone whose final destination is Nalerigu flies into the Kotoka International Airport in Accra. There are several major airlines that fly into Accra, including KLM, British Air, Lufthansa, Air Emirates and Alitalia Airlines and Delta, direct from New York to Accra. Several of these arrive every night of the week.
From Accra travel to Nalerigu usually involves flying to Tamale and then on to Nalerigu by pick-up truck. Flights from Accra to Tamale are available almost daily.
The only vaccination required for entry into Ghana is the yellow fever vaccine. You MUST present proof of this vaccination before you can obtain a visa for Ghana and when going through customs at the airport in Accra.
Check with your local health department about obtaining these vaccinations. You should also ask about obtaining boosters for certain immunizations that you probably received in childhood, in particular polio and tetanus.
Be sure to check with your travel agent for particulars on luggage allowance including number of pieces, size, and weight they allow. Overweight charge on excess baggage is very expensive. Most airlines allow two checked bags per passenger at 50 pounds per bag. Check with the airline for current policy. Also note that most airlines have become rather stringent about criteria for carry-on items.
If you are flying from Accra to Tamale, the domestic flights only allow 20 kilos per passenger. They usually charge about $1 per kilo overweight.
Due to the change of planes in Europe and the possibility of late departures and/or arrivals, we strongly recommend that you pack enough in your carry-on bag for several days’ living, in case your suitcase doesn’t arrive until several days after you do (it may even arrive after you have departed Accra for Nalerigu).
When packing any liquids we recommend that you double bag them in Zip-Loc-type bags so that they won’t leak if crushed.
Remember to keep all important papers with you at all times, in your carry-on and NOT in your checked luggage.
Francis Ackom, the BMC guest house coordinator, can help your coordinate your pickup from the airports and travel to/from Nalerigu. Please contact them with your itinerary and copy us on all correspondence. The Baptist Guest House in Accra can be contacted to reserve a room for you the night you fly in (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We are trying to limit volunteer pick-up trips from BMC to be on weekdays when our drivers are working, therefore please schedule your flight to arrive in Accra so that you can take the flight to Tamale on a weekday.
Our guesthouse in Accra can be your stopover point for the night upon arrival or upon leaving depending upon your flight schedule and the domestic arrangements you want. We can coordinate with the guesthouse at BMC to make your transition from here to there as smooth as possible. We will make the arrangements and payment up front and then you will reimburse us when you come. Domestic flights to/from Accra-Tamale typically cost around 200USD roundtrip.
Payment for either guesthouse can be made in U.S. dollar cash or Cedi cash (local currency). We do NOT accept personal checks, credit cards, or travelers checks. See the “Money” section below for more information.
These PDFs will give you the latest guesthouse rates at BMC and in Accra:
Good planning and early reservations are very important. Please copy us at BMC on all of this correspondence information.
Before leaving the plane you may be given an arrival/disembarkment card to complete. Fill out the card and keep this handy with your passport, as you will need it at immigration. For your destination’s address use that of Ghana Baptist Mission; for a postal address use that of the hospital (see Contact Info section). You should check the box that you are a visitor or tourist.
For inside the airport we have three cautionary notes:
Often an officer will be checking arrivals’ Yellow Cards to verify they have been vaccinated for Yellow Fever. We’ve had recent reports from volunteers of these officers demanding $20. This is entirely illegal. Kindly ask to speak to their superior and work your way up the ladder until you reach a supervisor who does not condone such extortion of money.
Upon entering the airport, the first check point is immigration. You may be asked for your health card showing that you have had the yellow fever immunization. There are several booths here, some marked ECOWAS (West African Nationals), Ghanaian Residents, and Other Nationals. Join the line of “Other Nationals” (as the lines at certain booths get short, you might be directed to join a different line). The Immigration Officer will check your passport and the arrival card you filled. Unless you are obtaining a visa upon arrival (we highly recommend you to get your visa in the US), you do not need to pay anyone to pass through immigration.
There are usually push carts available for your luggage at no charge. There may be porters wanting to help you with your luggage and if you allow them they will expect to be paid. If you can manage your luggage on your own, you can politely and firmly let them know you can handle it and just say, “No, it’s okay.” If by chance your luggage does not arrive on the flight with you, you will need to go to the missing luggage desk to fill out a missing luggage form. This will take some time to complete with the information you have about your missing luggage.
Most of our visitors have nothing to declare at Customs and you can just keep going past this point. If they stop you just be polite and cooperative. The porter may suggest that you “give something to the customs official” but this is certainly not necessary, may be illegal, and we don’t recommend it!
Rarely do we have any problems with customs officials at the airport. They are ready and eager to have people visit Ghana and may even pass your bags through without opening them or charging any duty.
We have at times, however, had to pay duty on some items. If you are bringing any medical supplies for the hospital and are questioned about this, tell the customs agent that the supplies are for Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, in the Northern Region. The hospital’s reputation extends to many places in Accra and this should clear the way for you (even medications should be allowed through without trouble, the only exception being narcotics, which you shouldn’t try to bring anyway).
In the case of transporting special equipment, let us know in advance and we can write an official letter for you to present to customs explaining the origin and use of the equipment.
When you exit the airport building you will be in a fenced off and covered greeting area. There is usually a large crowd of people along the barriers waiting to greet new arrivals. Keep your personal items well secured and expect to be pestered by men offering you taxi rides. Someone from our mission will meet you there and help you get the bags to the car. They will tip the porters/carriers for you and you can reimburse them later.
If for some reason there is no one there to meet you (extremely rare), proceed as follows:
The fastest, least tiring, and cheapest (unless yours is a large group) method to get from Accra to Nalerigu is by air. Antrak and Starbow are private airlines that operate daily between Accra and Tamale, which is only two-and-a-half hours from Nalerigu.
Once we know your arrival and departure dates between your home and Accra, we will schedule your in-country flight on Antrak and purchase the tickets; you will reimburse us upon your arrival in Accra. We will arrange for someone to take you to the airport for this flight. Someone from Nalerigu will pick you up at the Tamale airport and bring you to Nalerigu, as well as take you back at the time of your departure.
To know the current airfare for this flight (usually around 200USD roundtrip), ask Francis Ackom and he will make these arrangements for you.
A larger group (>4) can usually save money by renting a van and driving from Accra to Nalerigu, but is an all day trip (12-15 hours). Another option is an overnight trip by public bus. Let us know if that is something that interests you.
We normally schedule the return trip the day before departure to help insure arrival into Accra in time to make the international departure. The biggest reason for this is to allow for the possibility of the flight from Tamale to Accra being cancelled (weather, especially in harmattan; mechanical problems; etc.). If you miss that flight for whatever reason then we must drive you the 12 – 15 hours to Accra by truck. You would, therefore, miss your Accra outbound flight.
The electrical current in Ghana is 220 volts; in the U.S. the current is 110/120 volts. Plugging a 110v device into a 220v outlet will instantly fry it. Always carefully check any appliances or electronic devices for compatibility before plugging them into a 220v outlet.
All houses on the BMC compound are wired for both 110 and 220 volts. It is still advised that you bring a step-down transformer (not just a plug adaptor) in order to use any 110v devices when not at BMC.
The local unit of currency is the Ghana Cedi (SEE-dee) and Pesewah. A Ghana Cedi is valued at less than the US dollar (1 cedi = $0.24). Be sure to check the current exchange rate before traveling.
We advise that you exchange money at the Accra airport upon arrival. The exchange booth is in the arrival hall where you collect your luggage.
You can get money exchanged in Accra and other major cities. You will get better exchange rates for the larger bills (i.e. $50 & $100), and they do need to be the newer bills with the larger faces on them. Travelers cheques can also be exchanged but at a slightly lower rate.
In Accra and a few other major cities in southern Ghana, ATMs are available at banks. Check with your bank and the ATM you are using to find out about any fees you may incur using your card overseas and to withdraw money in a different currency.
Credit cards have very limited usefulness here, even in the cities. The nicer hotels and restaurants will accept them but often charge extra fees for credit card use. Nowhere north of Kumasi is a credit card really accepted. It’s okay to bring one, just don’t count on being able to use it.
If you will be here for several months or more, be sure that there is a family member at home who has agreed to keep up with your bank account and has the authority to withdraw money in case of an emergency.
Internet access is available at both BMC and the Baptist Guest House in Accra.
Cell phones are available for purchase in Ghana ($20 or more), but if you bring a phone from the US it can be used. The phone has to be unlocked (check with your network provider) and it may be used here by simply changing out the SIM card (a card can be purchased in Accra for under $5). Cell phones here work on a prepaid system and you have to recharge the phone by loading in more time. It only costs to make cell phone calls, not to receive. Typical charges to call the US are only around 15cents a minute.
Many missionaries and volunteers use Skype to make calls over the internet. The Baptist Guest House in Accra has a fast enough internet connection that Skype is possible. Since BMC’s internet connection is via cellular data it is not always possible to use video Skype.