How I Walk Through Madina Market & More Of What You Can Bring To Ghana

February 28, 2012 § 6 Comments

If you flew over Ghana between 6:30pm and 1:30am Sunday, you would’ve mistaken our country for the Gulf of Guinea. There were the few homes on the hills of Aburi with light as they’d long wised up and bought themselves generators. The rest of us are a tad slow to catching up to them. For whatever reasons that haven’t been properly explained, VRA (Volta River Authority) and ECG (Electricity Company of Ghana) BOTH managed to knock out power to virtually the whole country (not counting Accra Sports Stadium, which suspiciously had full power for the evening’s match).

I wasn’t much surprised, though. Nearly everyday this past week, my power has been cut off always around 7pm and back on either close to 9pm or after 10pm when I’d long fallen asleep. Today, the power was off from morning till an hour ago. My notebook batteries don’t hold much charge these days, so there was no point turning it on to while away my time Sunday night. I turned on a sasso coil and forced myself to sleep. It usually works, but I was up around 10pm and couldn’t fall back asleep again until about 2:30am. This meant my whole planned schedule for yesterday was thrown out of whack. So instead of leaving for the city as I had planned, I slept in till 11ish when I decided to do a lil’ grocery shopping for the next 2 weeks. I figured I’ll give you a few tips for how you can brave these markets yourself.

Let’s see…I’m male- first ding; I also get spoken to in English- that’s another ding. When that happens, I know they know that I haven’t been here very long. No problem; I press on. If I can, so can you- and without needing someone to back you up!

  1. I don’t buy anything lining where the tro-tros usually pass. It’s bad enough I have to worry about the flies that perch on your foods, now I have to worry about the dust, soot, and all the fumes that blow from all those vehicles. No thanks! The same goes for anything sold near gutters.
  2. If you have a few products on a pan or bowl, I’ll avoid you. Usually these are the cheapest, and even though they look good, I can’t help but trust my instincts. Maybe I’m being unfair, but when they say “it’s too good to be true,” they usually aren’t wrong.
  3. I NEVER buy meat that I’m not sure hasn’t had any fly-landings since the animal was killed. In fact, I don’t buy meat unless I’ve witnessed the animal’s final ending. Flies…ugh… I don’t need to tell you what you already know about flies.
  4. I never stop walking unless I’m buying a food item. I normally scan saleswomen at least 5 steps in front of my position before I reach them. It helps me sight and eliminate women and foods I wouldn’t buy. If you dawdle and look unsure of what you’re looking for, you’ll never make it through enough walkways to buy all you need.
  5. I either bring a list, or I have a firm list of items in mind before I get to the market. Try to get everything you need FIRST before you consider buying the whole market. Also, if you find something on your list you feel you must have, I suggest you either buy it, or if it’s something like peppers or tomatoes, buy a few then look for more later on your walk. Lastly, when you buy from a salesperson, don’t be shy in asking him/her on where to get some of the stuff on your list and their prices. Chances are they’ll lead you in the wrong direction, but don’t worry, it’s the prices you need most when you see those items. We wouldn’t want you getting fleeced.


Two entries ago, I meant to give you a list of what you should bring, but gave you a general idea of how to approach living in Ghana. Today, I’ll write a list of what I wish I had, what I have, and what I hope to have shipped out in the next few months.  Maybe you too can get a few ideas about what you should bring.

WISHES:  See, you can get some of these items right here in Accra. The problem is that they’re not easy to find, they won’t exactly be the brand/size/quality you want, and 99% of the time, the prices will be hiked 2-4x the price you’d get at any wholesale store (Cosco, Sam’s, etc).

–          Motion-activated lights- 1 or 2 is ideal for those blind corners around your house.

–          Snap-on energy-saving bulbs. In the U.S., we typically use screw-in ones, but over here, your house would probably be wired for the snap-on type. I brought the screw-ins and they’re still in my wardrobe.

–          There are these hooks with adhesive ends that can be fixed on tiles, wood and even cement surfaces. Buy as many as you think you may need. It’ll save you on having a carpenter come and mess up your walls to put up curtains, towels, etc

–          2 deadbolt doors handles that have key-entry buttons on them for your back and front doors. Don’t wait till you get here and buy the cheep Chinese imports that I’ve realized can easily be broken.

–          Drano or one of those liquids that unclog sinks.

–          Sham-wow! I want their mops so badly right now, but I’ll take everything I can get from those people.

–          Lysol, Febreeze, and pretty much any can of fumes you’re used to using.

–          10-10 cans sales every grocery shop offers. I’m dying for some of those spaghetti sauces that used to go for 99c. Here, everything looks suspicious, with little to no product info on labels, or everything’s in Arabic (MaxMart) and you can’t tell what you’re getting.

–          Speaking of expensive grocers in Ghana, right before you fly out, stock up on all the cheese products you can afford that’ll fit in your carry on and can easily survive being out of the fridge for 12-14 hours. You’ll thank me when you get here and realize how expensive cheese is here.

–          Facial cleansers are a huge must. If you don’t take care of your skin here, you’ll end up developing acne problems like most Ghanaian women. Noxema, Neutrogena, or whatever you prefer, but bring them! The same should be said for lotions. I’ve noticed Oil of Olay and Avon lotions that deal with dry skin work very well here. The sun will roast your skin, so bring enough to protect it. I use suave for men, Irish spring, Lever, and Dial soaps. “Alata soap is locally produced and is great for scrubbing all that dirt off your skin, but left on the skin too long, it has natural chemicals that bleach. Try all these out.

–          Multivitamins, pro-biotics, cortisone creams, and any over the counter pain medication you usually use. Also toothpastes are a must. I never trusted the local pepsodent, and noticed a HUGE difference when I started using crest whitening and colgate pastes.

–          In the kitchen, I could really use a spice rack and non-stick cookware set, and a good knife set. You can get cheaper stuff here, but they’re not always easy to clean after a while. A rice cooker and microwave that work on our current system are also good to have. To reiterate, most of these things are here, but they’ll either cost you twice to thrice as much or not give you a great selection to choose from, or they’ll be cheap flimsy products at Melcom that’ll break down in a few months. If you don’t want the hassle, bring with you what you like.

–          Lastly, if you have a TV you want to buy or bring down, do so. DON’T buy a television set in this country. The best brand here is Samsung, and since Ghanaians think their products are the cream of the crop, the company naturally hikes up their prices. You don’t want to pass up on that $700 40” from Sam’s Club only to get here and see that it’s going for the cedi equivalent of $2500. This advice pretty much applies to all consumer electronics. The other thing is pillows (get goose down), bed sheet sets, mattresses, and their toppers. If you can, bring them all. If not, bring your favorite super comfy pillows. I can’t wait to get rid of the hard doughy thing I’m stuck with every night.


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§ 6 Responses to How I Walk Through Madina Market & More Of What You Can Bring To Ghana

  • jennifer says:

    Good to know! Especially about the face cream lol I am not tring to get acne 🙂
    We are planning on bringing everything we have here in a container including electronics. All of things are not the same voltage as they are there, so we plan on bringing surge protector converters. would that be a good idea?

  • Lydia says:

    you are such an awesome writer, what you write is so true, its uncanny.
    I took pillows on my last visit, I only came for a couple of weeks so I even brought perishables, washed and ready to eat salads, fresh tomatoes, cue, sausage and of course cheese, even my favourite M & S bread, call me crazy, I hand luggaged it in a cool bag packed with ice packs, oh I forgot, raspberries blueberries and grapes.

    And thanks for the tip, I use Oil of Ulay here but didnt know about it being especially good for our climate.

  • Kimberly Sanders says:

    “you’ll end up developing acne like most Ghanaian women”.

    Can you please help me understand how many Ghanaian women you surveyed , where you found them, etc that led you to this conclusion that you are publicizing ?

    Energy problems , over pricing of imported goods, being mindful of where you buy food – all largely valid points based on my experience going back and forth for the past 15 years and then finally moving here in the past year

    In terms of bringing your own produce, you can perfectly good items in grocery stores no need to shlep them from your country. Let’s not be those obnoxious foreigners.

    However I would respectfully disagree with that statement re: Ghanaian women’s skin. If anything my skin has actually improved by using local products such as natural Shea butter from the northern part of Ghana.

    These people are beyond nice , hospitable and welcoming, and quite beautiful .please let’s not mar their image with such comments . It makes us no worse than the people who think all Africans live in huts. Also lots of the women that is Americans consider “beautiful” just cover up the bad skin with lots of make up.

    • Mike says:

      I’ll be honest here: I won’t bother responding to each inquiry. I write about my life here. You can choose to write about your experiences and let your readers glean from that whatever they can. I lived it. Saw it. Wrote about it.

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