For years, Ghana’s only international airport, Kotoka International Airport (KIA) has had some construction and renovation works ongoing. Though these construction works do not pose any threats to travellers and workers who use the facility, these works have always had a telling effect on people who are using the place for the first time. Frequent users of the Kotoka International Airport may relate to these observations.
First time users of the Kotoka International Airport, have always faced some challenges which are not supposed to be faced at an airport with the “international” tag, yet they do go through these ordeals.
Ten (10) critical points to take note, to help you enjoy a hassle-free trip from the Kotoka International Airport;
1. Yellow Fever Vaccination Card
Countries like South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and India require visitors to hold a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination card (Yellow card) before they are allowed entry into the country. Passengers traveling from Ghana are required to hold Yellow cards even if it’s not required by their country of destination. It’s significant that travellers obtain a copy of this card prior to their travel. This card could be attained at the Health Desk of KIA. It’s interesting to know that, less than 1% of the card holders have taken the vaccine. When I started traveling, the way the card’s issue was handled made me feel, the card had been designed in such a way that, once you possess it, it transfers the vaccine into your system…Lol. I ask the question, what is important? The card or the vaccine!
2. Electronic Boarding Pass (e-pass)
The world is going hi-tech and airlines are even encouraging passengers to check-in online and save their details on their mobile devices. It is unfortunate that these e-passes are not accepted at the KIA, as there are no barcode scanners to check their authenticity. You may want to try the option of calling out your ticket number to be confirmed for you, but airline staff at KIA only accept printed tickets. In other countries I have visited, I only give them my passport and I am good to go. When they have any questions, they then request for my ticket or e-pass from my phone. Ghana wants the paper ticket. Not only the ticket but all other documents relevant to your trip like hotel bookings must all be printed out. Print everything that you may need to avoid disappointments while the environment suffers.
3. No Free Internet
Many airports worldwide have wireless internet services, but not the KIA. Passengers at KIA do not enjoy wireless internet services. If there is anything relevant to your travel that you may need to check online, you are advised to do so before coming to the airport. If you have enough internet data on your SIM, it’s cool, because the internet facility at the airport opens around 9am. Passengers who are travelling very early in the day would have a problem if they need to use the internet facility at the airport.
Update: The airport no longer has internet facility.
4. Security Of Luggage
Many passengers think locking your luggage with a good padlock will make it safer but that isn’t the case of KIA. At Kotoka International Airport, the tip of a pen is easily used to unzip luggage. It’s advisable to wrap valuables, take advantage of the wrapping services available at the KIA to wrap your luggage. It will take some time before luggage handlers can unwrap a luggage should they wish to do so, if it is wrapped. This aids you from losing items. Do not put cash, mobile phones, jewelries and other valuables in your travelling bag. It’s always safer to carry them in your hand luggage. In the case of expensive perfumes, you cannot carry them in your hand luggage since liquids are not allowed on board.
5. Seek Assistance From Uniformed Personnel Only
In many airports around the world, people try to offer assistance in the form of pushing trolleys. Only deal with uniformed employees. These employees, aside their uniforms, are identified by their ID tags that have their names and photos. When picking a taxi at KIA, you are advised to use the services of the airport registered taxis despite their outrageous fares. These taxis have special stickers provided by the airport authorities for easy identification. The U.K. and U.S governments on their respective websites advise their citizens to be wary of luggage and document theft at KIA. Do not leave your luggage unattended to and always keep your travel documents safe.
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6. Don’t Rely On The In-house Forex Bureau
Undoubtedly, the Air Commerce Forex Bureau provides the best Forex rates in the market. With this, I believe non-passengers go there to do transactions. There are always not enough dollars to meet travellers needs. Just this December, I was able to get only $65 out of the $100 I needed. It is always disappointing for passengers in need of larger amounts. It is advisable to change your currencies before going to the Kotoka International Airport. Many have been frustrated by not getting their Ghana Cedis exchanged into foreign denominations before their trips, hence leaving them in difficult situations.
7. Early Check-in
One important thing to do is to report at the airport early enough on the day of your trip. This gives you enough time to attend to any unplanned event. If you arrive at the airport earlier than expected, you can have time to send excess luggage home. The KIA does not provide courier services that send luggage deemed excess back to passengers’ place of residence.
8. Passports Must Be Readily Available To Allow Entry
It’s good to keep your travel documents safe but remember not to send your passport far inside your bag since you will be required to show it at the gate to allow you entry into the departure hall. It will be very embarrassing to open your bag at the entrance in search of your passport. The KIA is too small to accommodate non-travellers though many find their way through by just showing a passport (not necessarily theirs) and a blank A4 sheet posing as air ticket. If your family and friends are traveling from far to see you off with the hope of entering the airport, it’s advisable to stop them or they can try their luck with a passport and A4 sheet. I have always preferred saying goodbye to my family at home rather than having them come to the airport where they can’t come in to provide any assistance. I have heard many passengers complain and others fight because, their friends and relatives were not allowed in. We all admit that, the airport cannot accommodate the number of people who wish to come in. This poses a big security threat to passengers. The airport is already choked in the evenings by passengers and allowing non-travellers will be a major security threat.
9. The Fears Of The First Time Traveller
First time travellers from Ghana are always filled with fears. This shouldn’t have been the case when you have the right travel documents and know what you are up to. Many fast and pray for days prior to their first trip just to be allowed by airline and immigration personnel to travel. First time travellers are always perceived as “illegal migrants”. So airlines try as much as possible to make sure such passengers do meet all immigration requirements. Airlines are charged fees whenever they carry a passenger who shouldn’t have been on board. As a first time traveller, it’s advisable to carry documents relating to your purpose of travel. If your VISA does not allow you to settle in the country of destination, you must carry a return ticket. The funds on you should be able to convince anyone that it can take care of you throughout your stay. There have been instances where passengers do not even know the purpose of their journeys because their trips were probably planned by Visa Contractors. Such passengers are likely to be refused boarding.
Read Much About On Your Trip
People are often lazy to read about their trips and would rather update their Facebook statuses on the trip. It’s always advisable to contact the consul of the country you are visiting for answers to all inquiries. You can also visit the embassy’s website for some FAQs. Staff at KIA are fond of giving conflicting responses to inquiries made by passengers. This applies to airline staff also. You are left in a state of despair if you receive conflicting answers to your questions. A typical example is a passenger traveling to Georgia on an e-visa. A passenger was told she needed a transit visa to Turkey or a Schengen visa before she will be allowed on Turkish Airline. Another employee of the airline said there’s no visa needed to transit in Turkey once you do not go out of the airport. The embassies are the right places to make all inquiries.
If you try to follow these points religiously, you would enjoy your first time using the Kotoka International Airport as a passenger.