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By Elizabeth von Pier
As a seventies-something woman, I spent five days alone in Accra, Ghana, Africa, even though I had been warned about the safety of the area in which I was staying. But this was an immensely gratifying trip with many memorable moments—thanks to some careful research and planning ahead of time, plus an abundance of common sense.
In my search for hotels, I wanted to stay in a large hotel with plenty of amenities in the heart of the city. I found that the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel fit the bill perfectly. It is a large international hotel geared toward business people and I found a good price, including a fabulous breakfast buffet, free wifi and shuttle service to and from the airport, on Expedia.com. It has a lovely pool; a restaurant, deli and dessert bar; an attached shopping arcade with an ATM machine; a knowledgeable concierge; and its own fleet of taxicabs. The Kempinsky Hotel on the other side of the park would also be a good possibility, but that was much more expensive. And there’s a Sofitel close by.
I did not go out alone at night. I did not find it necessary because I was very satisfied with the dining options at the hotel. There also were many solo business travelers eating here, so I did not feel uncomfortable dining alone. But, just in case, I took my smartphone or something else to read.
I left my valuables in the safe at the hotel and held what I needed with me (including a card with my name, address and whom to contact in case of emergency) in the pocket of my pants. I carried little money, but just enough to satisfy a potential pickpocket or to grab a cab back to the hotel.
I stuck to busy areas where there were lots of people. In areas where I was an obvious tourist, I put on a focused, determined and self-assured face, even if I did not feel it.
Some of the major sights of the city were within walking distance of my hotel—the stadium, the National Theater, and Independence Square with its Black Star Gate and Independence Arch celebrating Ghana’s independence from Great Britain in 1957. And there was plenty of pedestrian and vehicular traffic in this area to make me feel comfortable walking alone.
Using the online services of Viator, I arranged for small-group walking tours of interesting neighborhoods of Accra. These included the Old Famada slum district, the markets of Accra, and the architecture of the areas formerly occupied by the Danish, Dutch and English colonists. All of these tours were very interesting but in potentially dangerous areas. Being part of a tour was a safe way to experience these sights.
Elizabeth von Pier is a retired banker who has traveled extensively around the world. In her retirement and as a seventies-something, she traveled solo for the first time. She writes and publishes articles on her travels and has been published in travelmag.co.uk, WAVE Journey and Travel, Travel Thru History, and Hackwriters.com. Ms. von Pier lives in Hingham, Massachusetts.