By Sheila A. WILLIAMS
Ever travelled to any part of Africa for business, vacation or any other purpose as a foreigner? Then, you may well be familiar with words such as “stranded”, “lost” and “missing”. The story isn’t much different for our great West African nation, Ghana. Locating certain places or finding your way to some place of interest used to be an extraordinary task, which often left many frustrated.
One can even say that the difficulty in locating certain destinations, facilities and sites is a key contributor in the downward slope of Ghana’s tourism industry. This is because many tourists were uncomfortable with the stress they had to go through just to see one historic place or the other. Fortunately, changes in trends coupled with advancement in technology and the general hospitality of Ghanaians has helped to solve this problem and things are relatively better these days.
When looking at ways to find help in strange places in Ghana, try any of the following means:
The use of maps
It is almost laughable for anyone to still say they got lost or couldn’t find their way in any city in the world these days. Technology has made life simpler. All you need to have now is a device. From your laptop, desktop or even smartphone, you can find almost every location in the world. In Ghana, this may be a little tricky with some places not properly mapped out. However, with the help of google maps and other apps, all you need to do is input your current location and final destination. Just one click will give you routes. This has improved so much that the work of some tour guides and city guides has been threatened. It is now much easier to find your preferred destination than to get missing.
Do more asking
The best way to get accurate directions in Ghana is to ask local people. To be honest, no app in the world gives more accurate directions than a true indigene of a community or village in Ghana. Ask anyone – from the two-year olds just saying their first few words to the very old grannies whose voice shakes when talking. They will all give you much clearer directions because they have lived in that area and know it well. One extra thing local folks will give you is the safety of certain places and routes at certain times and dates. Whether a place is forbidden on a particular day may not be known to foreigners but asking a local for directions will just bring these out. If you want to get there fast and safe, ask the local people.
Use local transport
Aside the individuals on the street, if you want to feel safe and go through your stay without stress, then you may want to try local transport. The smaller buses popularly known as “trotro” and the multi-coloured salon cars called “taxis” are just what you need. The trotros run between towns and cities along major roads. It is actually fun to hear all the funny stories and experience the wide variety of cultures converging in one place for a brief ride. Taxis are usually a preserve for the well-to-do and as such come with much less drama and hustle. However, it presents a high level of comfort and speed with fewer stops than the trotros. Whichever type of local transport you choose, you are assured of getting to your destination safe and sound with no struggle. These local transport drivers and conductors popularly known as “mate” know all the corners and are your best stake when it comes to directions.
Effective use of landmarks
Maybe signages and directional boards are few in Ghana but one thing that actually works well here is the use of landmarks. Every destination in Ghana is tied to a landmark in one way or the other. This makes it very easy to locate an area or a place of interest. Just mention the name of a church, school, hospital, bank, beach, hotel, company or public facility close to that area and you are sure to find your way there. Sometimes, the places of interest are even the landmarks themselves. This also works in case you get lost and need someone to find you. Just look for the closest landmark and you are guaranteed to be found in no time.
Approach the police / any security services personnel
So this is not a regular way to find your way around town in Ghana but as with every foreigner, you are always at risk of getting lost or falling into trouble one way or the other sometimes by your own mistakes, and at other times just by misfortune. Whatever it is, always ensure that you have a “get out of jail card” ready to play.
In case you are lost and do not know how to find your way, just look for the nearest police station, military barracks or security agency and stay there until you find the right means back or you find the place you are going to. Also, in case you find it difficult locating the station or barracks, just lookout for a policeman, military man or security personnel. You should be safe with them until you sort your way out and locate your preferred destination.
You may have your own ways of locating your preferred destinations and there may be new ways emerging every day. Whatever the case may be, just know that Ghana is a safe country and you are more likely to be found than to be missing. Have apps, maps and other technologies in place and talk to local folk. You can also use local transport and utilize landmarks. These are great ways to find your way around in Ghana. Have an amazing experience while in Ghana.