StarWoman: What Akosua Shirley can teach you about touring Ghana

You probably know her best as Akosua Shirley   or perhaps, Chef in Skinny Jeans, on most of her social media handles and we can all agree that as a content creator and a lifestyle blogger, Shirley Osei Owusu is as just as colourful and vibrant as it could possibly get. When i first met Shirley, it was at a debut gathering of women bloggers and content creators, now known as Women’s Corner GH.  It was easy to see how truly authentic she is, in identity and passion.

Akosua Shirley in Aburi Gardens, Eastern Region

Akosua Shirley in Aburi Gardens, Eastern Region

Of course my lazy side immediately started to shake its head when she told me she was about embark on a Ghana tour. I was not only skeptical about how tedious the journey would be but also how expensive.  However, not only did the sprightly blogger complete the trip across the 10 regions of Ghana, she also had some interesting stories to tell. Given that Ghana is now the 4th top destination spot for travel,  I simply had to sit with her to find out how this amazing trip even started and what hidden secrets our motherland has to offer. 

And if you’re looking to do same on a budget, this is an ultimate guide to get started!

So why a Ghana tour?

I have a passion for traveling and since 2016, I have taken it more seriously than the occasional holiday visits. I have such a curiosity for people and places. I love my country  and before this trip, I had been to a good part of it but some people and places were just alien to me.

I didn’t want to read or hear about it from others anymore I wanted to find out for myself. 

If you are going to explore the world you might as well start from home

How did you plan for the tour?

Planning was hard. There isn’t a lot of information for backpacking in Ghana much less by a Ghanaian. I didn’t know people everywhere but I used the people I did know, did the reading that was available online, got general information online on backpacking, traveling solo for a month, budgeting, packing etc.

I did a test drive trip to Cape Coast with my friend. That was really helpful. I realized I had overpacked and done other silly little mistakes

Paragliding in Kwahu, Eastern Region

Paragliding in Kwahu, Eastern Region

I didn’t want to read or hear about it from others anymore, I wanted to find out for myself. 

Can you run us through the journey and some spots you stopped at? 

The first day of the backpacking road trip started on Sunday 6 in the morning and ended 10 in the evening.

 I rushed to the Neoplan Station to take a Wa (Upper West Region) bus only to be told it leaves only at 3pm. I couldn’t wait so I went from Accra (Greater Accra Region) to Kumasi (Ashanti Region), then to Tamale (Northern Region) before finally arriving at Wa. 

Akosua in Sirigu, Upper East Region

Akosua in Sirigu, Upper East Region

I wanted to do everything; see everything, go everywhere and luckily, I spoke to a few friends advised me to be more specific and focused so I zeroed in on capital cities and tourist attractions.  I went to all the regions, all the capital cities and most of the known and unknown tourist attractions in these regions. I went to shrines, to waterfalls, to museums, to castles, to caves and mountains and I even slept in a rainforest.

The longest time I spent in a region was 6days and the shortest was under 48 hours. This was influenced by how much there was to see and how expensive it was for me there.

• Tongo hills and shrine in Upper East Region

• Wechiau monkey sanctuary in Upper West Region

• 100 wells of salaga at Northern Region

• Kintampo waterfall in Brong Ahafo Region

• Manhyia palace in Ashanti region

A walk through the Cape Coast Castle, Central Region

A walk through the Cape Coast Castle, Central Region

Are there any particular cultures or facts that stood out for you on your tour?

Upper east region is absolutely beautiful especially during the raining season. Everywhere is literally blue skies and green filled landscape. I pictured it literally as a dry dessert so I was pleasantly surprised and I think a few people think like that. 

People are kind. I was shown a lot of selfless kindness that blew me away.

Akosua at the Tongo Hills in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region

Akosua at the Tongo Hills in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region

Were there any setbacks you faced en route? 

The roads and some buses were absolutely terrible but thank God, no car broke down or anything negative happened on the road. I lost my purse with my passport and IDs on the first day passing through tamale but I got it back with everything intact when I made my way back there a week later. I travelled at odd hours and it was all safe.

Most people believe travelling across the country might be pricey, do you find that to be true?

It could be expensive depending on how you want to travel and it could be very cheap.

There are platforms that enable one to travel for far less like couchsurfing where you get hosted for free by individuals and families all over the world and I used that a lot whenever it was available in the region I was going to.

There are budget hotels as well. Hotels that have dorm room setups that are as affordable as 20gh cedis. There are always hostels available.

So what would you consider key essentials for traveling? 

Essentials would be your own cutlery, bowl and bottle when possible but this depends on where you will be staying. I did take medicine for food related issues like constipation or the opposite.

Traveling essentials in general in Ghana, I would say:

• 1 source of light aka torchlight 

• Sweater/cardigan for the coastal towns it can get cold

• Mosquito spray/ insect repellant

• Cloth

• A source of entertainment book

• Power bank

• Map

• Written contact info of people and places

Akosua at the Manhyia Palace, home of the Ashanti King, Kumasi, Ashanti Region

Akosua at the Manhyia Palace, home of the Ashanti King, Kumasi, Ashanti Region

Have you gained new perspectives after your trip? 

I sure have!

1. That Ghana is bigger than Accra. Accra problems isn’t the same for every  place in Ghana.

2. There is a reason for the way people live and it’s unfair and honestly stupid to judge without knowing why. 

3. Healthcare could be of utmost importance to us all. You will never know when and where you will need it. When I think of helping out, I never used to think along those lines but now I do.

Was this a fruitful trip? 

It really was. I have friends and contacts I didn’t have before, I have had life changing encounters and conversations, been to places I didn’t know before and did things I didn’t think I could. I gained a new perspective on Ghana, people and life. I think it’s a trip worth taking once in every Ghanaian’s life.

How do you travel across Ghana on a budget?

Use public transport

Eat street food

Stay in budget hotels and hostels

Stay with family and friends when possible

Ask for help

Ask for discount. They can only say yes or no so no harm in trying

What does this trip mean for Chef in Skinny Jeans for the future?

I love showing off my country so now I feel more determined, empowered and informed to shamelessly promote. I’m looking into working as a tour guide or Trip planner and working with the tourism ministry. 

It’s a great time for Ghana and Africa really. It’s hard to say how and when it started, but there is clearly a new, rekindled love for the motherland by both locals and the international community. The next  set of moves to be made by content creators, entrepreneurs, and the state, will determine how well this new wave of tourism will be leveraged, for both cultural and economic purposes. In the meantime, Shirley a.k.a Chef In Skinny Jeans is still on the move, check out more photos from her Ghana Tour on her social media handles!

Instagram  :@akosuashirley

Twitter: @akosuashirly

Youtube : @akosuashirly