Budget Vacations 2012: Ghana


For those looking to travel on a budget, Ghana, Africa, is a prime destination. According to exchange-rates.com, as of December, 2011, $1 was equivalent to about 1.63-1.65 Ghanaian Cedis.

It is not hard to travel around Ghana and spend very little money. While taxis are considered the “expensive” form of transportation, you can still get pretty far for $5 or less. The more economical form of transport is the tro-tro, which will allow you to ride locally for $0.10-$0.40. If you’re riding to another city, it is still budget-friendly. A 2 hour tro-tro ride from Swedru to Cape Coast took about 2 hours and cost a little less than $5. A longer ride from Accra to the Volta Region, which took about 5 hours, cost me about $9.

In terms of food and drink, it’s usually locally produced and always affordable. You can get a full meal at a local restaurant for less than $1. Moreover, there are tons of open-air markets and hawkers on the side of the street selling fresh food for a small price. And no need to worry about drinking water, as a 16 ounce bag of water costs less than $0.05.

Budget accommodation abounds in Ghana, and not just for backpackers. While a bed in a hostel will usually cost around $6 a night, like Big Milly’s Backyard in Kokrobite and the Oasis Beach Resort in Cape Coast, there are plenty of hotels that offer budget-friendly rooms, like Hansonic Hotel in Accra for $10 a night and the nature-surrounded Wli Water Heights Lodge in the Volta Region for $16 a night.

[flickr image via Stig Nygaard]

Video of the day: bike stunts in Accra, Ghana

Bikelordz : Stunts and Styles from Accra, Ghana from Bikelordz on Vimeo.

The culture of a place is precisely what helps us get to know that place–even if the culture involves bike stunts and the place is Accra, Ghana. There’s a biking culture in Accra that I wasn’t aware of before watching this video. The video is just a sneak-peek, a trailer for a documentary that is currently being showed in festivals across the world. The documentary’s name? Bikelordz. But this little snippet is worth watching, too. In less than 2 minutes, you’ll see jaw-dropping bike stunts and styles. You’ll watch as members of this biking culture explain their passion for what they do and answer questions of day job employment with retorts about their practice, their talent. Not only does this video provide cultural insight, but there are some great shots of Accra and the people in and around this community, as well. Enjoy.

Safety of Street Food in Ghana

10 unique modes of transportation around the world

chicken busCars, trains, buses, and planes aren’t the only way to get around a country. From the Bamboo Train in Cambodia to the Rail Cart in the the Philippines to the Couch Bike in Canada, here are ten unique modes of transportation from around the world.

Chicken Bus
Guatemala, Central America

While variations of the chicken bus can be found in many different countries (this reminds me a lot of taking the tro-tro in Ghana, Africa), this vehicle is used not only to transport people but also livestock, hence the name. These U.S. school buses are very eye-catching as they are colorfully painted and decorated. When taking one expect cramped conditions, as chicken buses tend to be packed to capacity, and hectic driving at Nascar speeds.Sled Dogs
Alaska, USA

Sled dogs are highly trained dogs that are used to pull a dog sled, which is a vehicle without wheels that glides over snow and ice. If you need a mental image, think Santa being pulled by reindeer, only you’re not flying and there are dogs instead of deer. Endurance and speed are the two main qualities that sled dogs must possess, and this transportation type has become a popular winter sport in other countries around the world such as Japan and Germany.

human powered rickshawHuman Powered Rickshaws
Kyoto, Japan

While urbanization across Asia has mostly done away with this traditional form of transportation, you can still find them used in certain areas where cars are not accessible in Kyoto, Japan, as well as in some parts of India. According to Kelvin Lim of BootsnAll, many rickshaw “drivers” wear a special foot-glove that helps them travel through various types of terrain without slipping.

Elephant
India and Asia

In India and many places in South East Asia, an elephant is not only an animal but also a mode of transport. When I was Vietnam I actually went on an elephant ride with a local school owner named Roy who explained to me that “in many Asian countries we use animals to help with labor”. While once used to carry the wealthy around, today exploring a country on the back of an elephant is a big tourist attraction.

habal habal Habal Habal
Philippines, Asia

The Habal Habal is a unique motorcycle that can seat many people. The simpler versions seat 4-5 people, with a seat that extends over the back wheel, while the more complex type of Habal Habal can seat up to thirteen people and their luggage with the addition of wooden planks acting as benches.

Rail Cart
Philippines, Southeast Asia

The rail cart is most commonly found in the Philippines and is literally a cart that is pulled along rail tracks by a person, people, or a horse. The special wheels on the cart allow for quick transport but, unfortunately, are not always fast enough to get out of the way of the real trains that also use the tracks.

reed boatsReed Boat
Lake Titicana, Peru

Lake Titicana stretches across the countries of Peru and Bolivia and is home to many floating villages around Southern Peru. These villages are inhabited by the Uro people, who use natural resources, like reed, to construct homes and boats. The boats are light but resiliant and, built in the shape of a dragon, are said to have been used by the anicent Incas to ward off evil spirits.

Camel Back
Jordan, Middle East

While there are many places where camel rides are popular, one way to try out this transport option for yourself is by trekking through the beautiful rose colored deserts of Wadi Rum in Jordan. Cairo, Dubai, Mongolia, Morocco, and many deserts in India are also known for being camel riding hotspots.

couch bikeCouch Bike
Canada

When I found this highly unusual mode of transportation, I was kind of expecting it to be from America. The Couch Bike, which is literally a couch that you pedal like a bike, pokes fun at sedentary culture while providing an eco-friendly alternative to driving. Just make sure you know the traffic laws of the city you’ll be riding in, as the vehicle may not be legal to drive in all areas.

Monte Toboggan Ride
Madeira, Portugal

This unique transport mode is only for the adventureous. Once a popular mode of transport in the 1800′s-early 1900′s, it is a big tourist attraction today in Madeira. Passengers sit in a wicker or wooden tobaggan and ride down the mountain from Monte to Funchal. While an exhilerating experience, you don’t have to worry too much about crashing as there are two locals “steering” the vehicle from the outside. It’s kind of like being a kid again and having your parents pull you around in a sled, only your parents probably weren’t yanking you down a steep mountain with winding turns.

Frommer’s reveals top destinations for 2012

What destination are you dreaming of for 2012? The staff at Frommer’s have just unveiled their list of top travel destinations for the coming year. Included in the list is a little something for everyone: large metropolises, secluded beach towns, colorful riverside villas, and more.

But Frommer’s didn’t just rely on their expert editors and author’s for this years list–they also polled readers to find out where they wanted to visit in 2012. Click through the gallery below to see Frommer’s (and their reader’s) picks–including one surprising midwestern city that is the only spot in the United States to make the cut.
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Other Winners:
Top Family Destination: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Top Cruise Destination: Tromso, Norway
Top Beach Destination: Hanalei Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Top Adventure Destination: Moab, Utah
Top Food & Drink Destination: Lima, Peru
Top City Break Destination: Chicago, Illinois
Top Endangered Destination: Aysen Region, Chile
Top Value Destination: Albanian Riviera
Top Destination to Get Lost: Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Destination spotlight: Kokrobite, Ghana, Africa

kokrobite ghana africaFor those traveling in Ghana who want to get out of the big, noisy capital city of Accra, Kokrobite is a beach paradise located less than an hour away. The village is easily accessible by tro-tro from Tema Station, Kaneshie Market, or anywhere else you see people hailing a car. Kokrobite can provide both a perfect day trip or an enjoyable weekend stay.

Where to Stay

Whether you plan on actually spending the night or just the day, Big Milly’s Backyard is the ultimate backpackers haven on the beach. While that might sound like a marketing ploy, I mean it to the fullest extent. Big Milly’s is just as well known as the village of Kokrobite itself and is the place where backpackers and locals both come to hangout, party, eat, and relax. Room styles range from single rooms to suites to dorm-style huts to outdoor tents. The property of the accommodation fills with marketers during the day selling clothing, paintings, toys, accessories, and more. A bar, multiple outdoor restaurants, hammocks, picnic tables, and an ocean breeze add to the relaxing and idyllic atmosphere of Big Milly’s.Where to Eat

While Big Milly’s is a bit pricier than the other restaurants and road-side stalls in town, you will still most likely pay less than you normally would at home. For example, a spinach tagliatelle made with vegetables, cheese, and white wine sauce costs 12 cedis (about $7), mixed roast vegetables with couscous will cost 11 cedis (about $7), and huge plate of vegetable fried rice will cost you 8 cedis (about $5). They also have a snack stand that sells biscuits, crackers and toffee (candy).

If you would like to try something traditional, in town there is a small structure called the Broken Chair Bar. If you go inside, it appears to be the home of the woman who runs it. You can have an authentic Ghanian meal here for extremely cheap. Try the fufu in ground nut soup (a cassava-based dough ball in a peanut based soup) with fried chicken or the jollof rice (rice that is cooked in red, spicy sauce), both about 3 cedis (less than $2).

Culture

Many of the people, though not everyone, who inhabit Kokrobite follow a Rastafarian lifestyle. Walking around the village, there are many small shops and bars that cater to this lifestyle. One fun and unique place to try is Cafe des Artes, an outdoor venue that plays Bob Marley-type music all day long, is decorated with funky beads, and serves fresh palm wine (you can purchase a whole soda bottle full for about 6 cedis, which is about $5). Don’t be alarmed that the wine doesn’t come in a wine bottle, it usually comes in a soda bottle or plastic gas-tank style containers no matter where you buy it.

Drumming is a large part of Ghanian culture, and is something enjoyable to experience for yourself, especially on the beach in Kokrobite. Visit Berlin Drum School and ask them for a lesson on the beach. The cost is supposed to be about 25 cedis (about $15), although with the help of a local friend I was able to get the lesson for 5 cedis (about $3). The boys will create beats for you to mimic, teach you how to properly hold and hit the drum, and will even dance for you.

On Friday and Saturday nights, Big Milly’s hosts cultural shows that bring the laid-back atmosphere of the village to life. Friday nights feature BBQ and bonfires while live cultural acts, such as drummers and dancers, perform live. On Saturday nights, reggae shows and highlife bands take the stage as the dance floor (beach) becomes packed. Beers cost about 2 cedis (about $3), while cocktails are about 4 cedis (about $2.50).

For a video tour of Big Milly’s Backyard, check out this video: