Mobile phone

Most mobile phone providers in Ghana offer two types of accounts, prepaid and post-paid. North Americans might only be familiar with the post-paid system, but the prepaid method is probably more common here.

Purchasing "prepaid" service begins by purchasing and registering a SIM card. The SIM card can go into any GSM phone. The SIM card is a tiny, rectangular card that acts as an ID card for your handset. You can buy a phone from any phone shop.

The next step would be to buy minutes or "credit" in the form of a scratch card. These cards are sold at your provider's retail store, from an umbrella stand on the roadside or a street-seller at the traffic light. The newest method is to purchase credit through a freestanding machine located in Melcom and other stores. Follow instructions on the back of the scratch card to load credit on your phone. Now you are ready to talk. Credit is deducted from your balance with every out-going call, and charged at so many pesewas per minute. Unlike North America, there is no charge for incoming calls and SMS (text messages).

When you have used up your credit, you will get a message, or simply not be able to make outgoing calls. You can continue to accept incoming calls with no credit. Its then time to buy another scratch card.

"Post-Paid" accounts are available from most of the service providers. This method allows you to talk freely, send unlimited text messages and access the internet without worrying if your minutes or units will soon be depleted. With a post-paid account, you will receive a monthly bill from your service provider. Contact the service provider of your choice for details on setting up a post-paid account.

With so many options, which provider do you choose? Reception varies by area, so look at coverage maps, and ask friends which providers offer the best reception for them. Prices per minute range widely, depending on whether you are calling in-network and out-of-network. International calling rates and recharge bonuses vary. Ask around for customer service reviews, particularly how long it takes to settle a problem or dispute. Also look at services offered, as there are an increasing number of choices, such as Blackberry data and voice packages.

All networks drop calls, occasionally lose service, and offer slow Internet connections during peak hours. TIG (this is Ghana) might best describe these situations. This may keep you from making or receiving calls on your line or can also stop you from reaching a number you are trying to dial if their network is down. You may have to dial again at a different time if the number doesn't work for you on the first try.