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Getting Ready for Ghana: 5 Volunteer Packing Tips

An adventure to Ghana begins with packing

By Thom Brown | 13th February, 2020

A different climate to what you're used to, it can be hard to know what to pack when traveling to Ghana. This packing guide is here to help.

Aim to keep your packing compact, while bringing everything you need. This takes the stress out of travel, so you can have the best possible experience.

Once you have the gear to stay cool and comfortable, you can get on with making a positive change.

Tip 1: Pack Less Than You Think You Need

Two men in Ghana are carrying suitcases down the street using their heads

When packing for international travel, aim to bring less than you originally intend. Most travelers overpack, straining their shoulders and decreasing mobility. Race through airports and onwards to your host accommodation by packing less stuff.

Here’s how to pack light for Ghana:

  • Handwash your clothes, especially underwear!
  • Don’t be afraid to re-wear clothes.
  • Wear neutral colors. This makes it easier to mix and match clothes to create different outfits that still look good.
  • Pack clothes made of thin, quick-drying materials. These pack up small, don't hold odors, and can easily be washed.

Remember, you can buy stuff in Ghana. Clothing is cheap and easy to find. If you need more, take a trip through the vibrant, bustling markets and support the local economy.

With that in mind, you can keep your packing list compact for a trouble-free volunteer experience in Ghana.

Tip 2: Invest in a Good Backpack

Three backpackers sit on a mountain top in Ghana

Suitcases make for easy travel through the airport, but won’t serve you well once you arrive. Dragging heavy cases across bumpy road surfaces and up crooked stairways in the sweltering sun isn't easy.

Choose a reputable backpack brand so you can:

  • Move seamlessly through the streets.
  • Keep your hands free for other tasks.
  • Travel with the confidence that your stuff is safe and secure.

A good quality backpack will last this trip and many more.

Tip 3: Pack Clothes That Cover You Up

Ghana’s 86°F+ heat might suggest packing a crop top and shorts, but we advise against this. Ghana is a conservative country. People dress modestly, keeping their bodies covered.

Although tourists wear t-shirts and shorts, this is only common among locals on weekends and at the beach. During the week, you’ll spot collared shirts and long trousers. By dressing in a similar fashion, you’ll stand out less as a foreigner and attract less unwanted attention.

Consider packing:

  • Long-sleeves and pants: Essential for anyone who turns bright red at the slightest hint of sun. This also protects you from mosquito bites.
  • Tropical dresses and a lightweight scarf: Great for moving around the city or the beach without overheating. In this religious country, you can look great and stay modest with the right fashion choices. Ghanaians love brightly colored clothes, so don’t be afraid of adding a little flair to your wardrobe!
  • Dark colored clothes: If you are working in a dusty environment, then choose something that can get dirty.

Tip 4: Pack Technical Travel Clothing

Packing technical gear that is designed for travel allows you to stay comfortable for longer. If you check out high-end outdoor clothing brands, you’ll find outfits with built-in protection. These tend to be made of polyester or merino wool, which can be re-worn, allowing you to bring even less.

Choose clothing with the following qualities:

  • Sunblock: UV light can penetrate a regular T-shirt, but some outdoor shirts have a different weave that blocks sunlight from hitting your skin. Protection ranges from UPF 15 to UPF 50.
  • Mosquito repellent: This can be woven into the fabric, allowing you to pack less spray.
  • Odor-resistant: After a hard day’s work, your clothes remain fresh due to the anti-bacterial properties of travel clothes.
  • Quick Drying: High end, technical, materials dry in the sun within a couple of hours. You can handwash and re-wear them the next day.
  • Lightweight: Keep cool with breathable, lightweight materials. These clothes also take up little space in your bag.
  • Appropriate shoes: Flip flops are great for the beach, but Ghana’s roads are often uneven. A decent pair of sneakers will protect your feet and help you maintain balance.

Tip 5: Essential Packing Accessories for Ghana

There are a few packing essentials for Ghana that you might not need for other destinations. For example:

  • Filter water bottle: Tap water is unsafe to drink, so bring a water filter to avoid overconsumption of plastic.
  • Mosquito repellent: For any exposed areas of skin.
  • Anti-malarial tablets: This will likely be advised during your doctor appointment.
  • Sunscreen: Being an equatorial location, the sun's intensity is at its highest.
  • Money belt: Ghana is a cash-based society, so keep your money safely hidden.
  • Cheap phone: Phones can be bought in Ghana for under $10 and get the job done.
  • Hand sanitizer: Restaurants can lack soap or running water, especially if you are located in a rural area.
  • Sleeping bag liner: Given the hot weather, Ghanaians tend not to use a top sheet or blanket when they sleep. You might want something thin to cover you at night.
  • Rain jacket: Downpours can happen in Ghana. Bring a jacket which packs up small, so it's there when you need it.

If you have all these items in your backpack, then you are helping to build up a solid defense against Ghana-specific dangers that you may not experience in your home country. This means you can spend less time worrying and more time getting stuck into making a positive impact on your project.

Does this sound like a packing list you can stick to? Then all you need to do is choose one of our Ghana volunteer placements and get packing!

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