Know your destination and read our Travel Advice Uganda. When considering to visit the Pearl of Africa, there are some things that you need to know for a hustle free safari holiday. From entry requirements, money, food and things to pack to health status for gorilla trekking. Find more and know your destination in advance useful in planning a safari.
Overview / most looked for items
- Entry regulations Uganda
- Climate Information
- Airport Information
- Currency & Payments
- The right outfit for Safaris
- Required Health Status & Packing List for Gorilla Tracking
History, culture and local lifestyle travel info
Many African countries have tried to do away with colonialism. But surprisingly to see roads in several parts of Uganda still named in colonial style. The British Empire sent Capt. Frederick Lugard in 1890 to the kingdom of Buganda which spread across the northern shores of Lake Victoria. There were already French and German competing for territory in Eastern Africa. But, Lugard set up a camp with a small army on Old Kampala hill near Mengo which was the capital of Buganda. He quickly persuaded Kabaka Mwanga and eventually Buganda became a British Protectorate in 1894 until 9th October 1962.
People and languages
Now 60 years later, one can still see and feel the impact of the Britsh influence. English is the official language, people drink tea, wear a tie in 90-degree sunshine and drive on the left-hand side of the road. The International religious freedom report 2019 estimate a 82% of Uganda’s population is Christian with 39% Catholic and 32% Anglican. Nevertheless, the local customs are a reality just with over 50 indigenous tribes and 42 languages spoken. Luganda with over 7 million speakers is the common local language and second is swahili. To live and explore Uganda like a local, you might learn a few Luganda small talk phrases such
- Ki kati – Hi and reply ‘Gendi’ – I am OK.
- Oli Otya – how are you?
- Wasuze otya? Good morning / how was your night
- Osiibye otya nno? – Good afternoon / (how was your day)
- Osiibye otya nno? – Good evening
- Webale – Thank you
- Sebo – Sir
- Nyabo – Madam.
The above named phrases are known in the south-west by the Banyankole, Bakiga, Batoro and Bafumbira as well as Bagisu and Basoga in east. Despite the influence of Luganda, people speak English and other local languages interchangeably.
About local Culture
Local culture is strong and opposes same-sex relations are illegal in Uganda among other 36 African countries. However, western culture is welcome and Ugandans being friendly. They like to talk to the tourists. People drink a lot of alcohol and get happy, eat a lot of food with strong mealtime customs observed at lunch and dinner. This important for travelers intending to stay longer in Uganda. There are expats community on social media such as female expats in Kampala and Kampala expats 3.0. The cost of living is very low across the country and food that is expensive in Europe is cheaper here such as grapes and berries.
Travel Advice Uganda – Entry regulations
Find Travel Advice Uganda for getting visa and other official documents, COVID-19 and other health related requirements.
As you arrive in Uganda, you should have a negative PCR-test result which is not older than 72 hours. For all travelers entering Uganda through Entebbe international airport or other land border entry points such as Cyanika border town of Rwanda. Proof of vaccination or covid-19 tests aren’t necessary. Actual COVID-19 Health Protocols Uganda
In general Tourists need a visa. However, the Uganda government policy may determine who enters the country with or without having to apply for one. Check the status of your home country on the official list of visa exempt nations.
The single-entry tourist visa cost is 50 USD per person valid for 90 days. Available for application online via the Ministry of Internal Affairs immigration portal. Now the online system is undergoing maintenance and expect your application might not be successful right away. The alternative way is to get you a reliable agency and apply at no extra cost. Though, some will charge you an additional 20 USD to do so.
Also, yellow fever certificate for all travelers from 9 month of age. Be aware of malaria in many parts of Uganda especially Murchison falls, Kidepo, Bwindi and in Kampala capital city. There are several ways to prevent yourself whilst on safari such as taking anti-malaria drugs, seeking medical advice from your doctor, insect repellant and sleeping under mosquito net.
The Center for Disease Control classifies Uganda as having risk of Hepatitis A and B. Infants of 6 and above for A and all ages for B should prevent themselves.
In regard to drinking water, stick to mineral botted and avoid tap water.
We highly recommend a travel insurance for your trip as part of a general travel advice Uganda!
Local currency and payments – Travel Advice Uganda
Where to pay by credit cards, cash or retrieve your money without difficulty.
Uganda Shillings abbreviated as (UGX or Ug shs.) is the official currency. Writing /typing the amount the figures must end with this sign as indicated below. Ugandan currency is available in coins of 100/=, 200/=, 500=/ and 1000/=. Paper money comes in 1000/=, 2000/=, 5000/=, 10000/=, 20000/= and 50000/=. Approximate Exchange Rate Uganda shilling (ugx) vs. USD or Euro is: 1 USD equivalent to 3700 ugx, 4000 1 EUR equivalent to 4000 ugx and 1 Pound Sterling equivalent to 4580 ugx.
However, the exchange rates fluctuate with where you do it from and travel seasons – they might be high in banks during summer and vise vasa. Forex bureaus offer better currency exchange rates than Banks. If you change a larger amount of money you may get a better exchange rate. U.S dollar notes older than 2016 aren’t acceptable in Uganda.
In regard to making payments, cash, credit cards and mobile money are widely acceptable methods. This is especially in banks, hotels, lodges and some supermarkets mainly in large cities such as Entebbe, Kampala and Jinja. In particular, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) accepts only cashless form of payment such as credit card, mobile money for park entrance fees. You could pay Gorilla permits and other activities either in cash or cashless at the UWA headquarters in Kampala capital city.
Goods and services in retail shops, road side food markets or souvenir shops and community activities such as village walks are mostly paid in cash. For that matter, you’ll need small notes in Uganda shillings for shopping, transport and tipping among other small payments you might make.
Safety deposit small boxes for tourists are available at Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) and Exim Bank in Kampala city. Though, you can get one at Jumia online shop.
Most banks use ATMs and offer foreign currency transaction fees. Citi bank is best for wiring money.
What to bring for Uganda Safari
Another interesting Uganda Travel Advice: Uganda doesn’t have strict dress code and people wear both contemporary and casual clothing. Though, observing the appropriateness of dress and behavior at a given place is essential. In particular, what to bring along in clothes for safari should relate to personal travel experience. Please obey the travel saison and planned activities.
December to February and June to September is Uganda’s dry season. It calls for hot sunshine which you must prepare for as you would for the rainy season – muddy trails and cold nights. Bring what makes you comfortable and to suit your length of stay and places to go.
Ultimate Uganda Travel Advice about safari clothing and other things check list
- UK 3A cable power adapter 250 V. The power voltage in Uganda is high. You will need a power converter. Don’t charge your gadgets from direct power source!
- Sturdy hiking boots and gators for rain season
- Long pants for hiking and to dress doing other things
- Long-sleeved shirts and tops for women.
- Sweater shirts / tees
- Shorts pants of choice
- Bring sun hat / cape, scarf or local kikoy
- Sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Rain jacket or poncho
- Swim or beach wear if planning to visit Lake Bunyonyi, Entebbe, Sesse islands or just for a dip in a pool.
- Sweaters / zipped hoodies as it can be cold out there in Bwindi Forest, Kibale and Rwenzori Mountain Ranges. Even in savanna and semi-desert areas like Murchison falls, Kidepo Valley the wind makes it feel even colder.
Required health status for gorilla trekking, permits and packing list
Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is more challenging than in Virunga area due to nature of terrain. The vegetation in Bwindi has thick understory of tangled vines, stinging nettles, thorny plants and deep valleys. These can make hiking on foot in search of gorillas tough. Therefore, physical and mental preparation is paramount for success of your gorilla trekking experience.
In spite of that, for disabled travelers or anyone anticipating failing to endure the trek there’s a mechanism in place to help you see the gorillas. An emergency lift to carry you for extra dollars to or from the forest is available at all Bwindi gorilla centers, in Mgahinga as well as Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Porter services are to be paid extra.
Uganda gorilla permit cost is 700 USD for foreign non-residents, 600 USD for foreign residents with proof of African / East African citizenship and 250000/= for East African residents (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo and South Sudan).
Packing the right things for gorilla trekking saves you a lot of struggles and make the trek more enjoyable.
Hiking boots and long socks. Hiking boots that support the ankle and are sturdy enough to feel comfortable when the gorilla trek gets longer and tough.
Long trousers are a must have item for gorilla trekking. They prevent and protect your legs against stinging nettles and thorny plants. Then you can tuck your pants into the long socks to prevent safari ants and other insects from entering you!
Long sleeved / sweater shirts. Like long trousers, the long sleeves cover your arms against mosquito bites.
Gardening gloves. Gloves will protect your hands this is especially during rainy season. You have to hold unto plants for support thus essential but not a must have item as they can make you uncomfortable when holding your camera.
Rain jacket. Rainfall is unpredictable in Bwindi Forest you must carry ne during the trek.
Sun hat. Walking under the forest canopy comes with getting your head bump into all kinds of things such as spider webs and sometimes thorny plants to pull your hair. So, a hat of any kind will prevent that.
Scarf. A scarf can be helpful when you need to wipe your face without having to look for handkerchief in the pockets or bag.
Insect repellant and other malaria prevention medication are a must. Thus, ensure to carry insect repellant and smear your open body parts such as hands and arms when wearing T-shirts.
Day pack. The purpose of a day pack is to keep your most important things so you can access them easily. It also helps to keep your drinking water, packed lunch and any other thing you need to eat to keep energized during the trek.
Walking stick. You could obtain walking sticks at the gorilla centers. These walking sticks are not sharp pointed and they won’t penetrate the soil. Having a stick is essential for those in need of support while hiking.
Game drives – Uganda Travel Advice
What is a game drive?
A game drive is an adventure that entails viewing wildlife in the comfort of a 4×4 open-sided safari vehicle that accommodates 4 to 6 people, a sure way to give you that classical safari feeling.
Prices private guided game drives
Day private self-game drives and cost 10 USD per vehicle for both foreign non-residents and foreign residents. East Africans pay 10000UGX.
Day Private guided game drives cost 20 USD per vehicle and night game drive for 30 USD. Note: only pre-registered vehicles will undertake night game drives and use of UWA ranger guides is a must. The UWA game drive vehicles cost 30 USD during day for foreign non-residents, 25USD foreign residents per person and 40 USD for night game drive use.
Obey the rules – Fines and penalties in national parks
There are fines and penalties for those who don’t adhere to the Uganda Wildlife Authority rules. For instance, off-track driving fine is USD 150 per person, 100000/= per incident involving road animal kill. Leaving rubbish in the parks is 100000/=.
Accommodation options in Uganda are wide ranging, from luxury, mid-range and budget hotels in Kampala city and Entebbe to African safari tented camps and lodges in national parks. The lodging options in Uganda can suit every travel style and budget. There are also camping sites for backpacking, guest houses, self-catering, bed and breakfast. In particular, the luxury hotels and lodges provide high quality accommodation service and also feature Spa facilities and privacy. For example, Speke Resort Hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria, Bwindi Lodge, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Kyambura Lodge, Kyaninga Lodge, Apoka Safari Lodge among others such as Sheraton and Serena hotels. The cost of staying at a luxury lodge starts at $400 and above per night per person. At least every of the 10 national park has luxury lodges.
Budget hotels in Uganda are widely available both in cities and national parks. This kind of accommodation visitors can expect to pay less than $200 per night. Depending on location, one can find a budget lodge for less than $100 per night and still have comfortable beds, self-contained rooms, hot showers, meals and tea included. The lowest budget accommodation ranges between $38 to $50 but not self-contained rooms.
Wilderness camping sites accommodate up to 16 people (40 USD) in Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth including Ishasha, Kidepo Valley, Kibale Forest, Bwindi Forest, Lake Mburo and Mgahinga.
Other protected areas such as Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, Rwenzori Mountains, Mount Elgon and Toro-Semuliki and Katonga Wildlife Reserves. Campsites cost 30 USD for groups of 16 people and offer pit latrines, firewood, rubbish pit, thatched shelter to. Book your campsite in advance!
Flight connections to Uganda
Uganda airlines is the national carrier proving flights to Nairobi Kenya, Kilimanjaro Tanzania, Johannesburg south Africa, Zanzibar and United Arab Emirates. It also operates regional flights to Burundi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam. All international flights to Uganda land Entebbe airport in Entebbe on the northern shores of Lake Victoria. Those coming to Uganda from overseas, flights to Uganda are available with KLM Royal Dutch, Ethiopian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, RwandAir, Turkish Airlines and Precision Airlines. Visitors from New York City can take advantage of Kenya Airways. There are no direct flights from Europe to Uganda but with Kenya airways, you can fly from Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt direct to Entebbe.
Entebbe (EBB) international airport is the only main gateway to Uganda and you don’t fly to Kampala. Its is located in Entebbe town about 37 sq.km (1-hour drive) from Kampala capital city. There are domestic airstrips in most national parks for those intending to do flying in safaris using light charter air crafts. These include Kajjansi in Kampala, Pakuba in Murchison Falls, Apoka in Kidepo Valley, Kihihi and Kisoro airstrips for Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
Domestic airlines are available to use include Eagle Air, Aero Link and operate daily scheduled flights across the country. In addition, helicopter services are available for special interest travelers.
Our Travel Advice Uganda would not be complet without the weather conditions you could expect. Uganda is located across the equator and has a tropical climate with the dry and wet seasons. There is sunshine all year round. The best time to visit Uganda is the dry season from June to September and December to February. During this time, the average temperature is around 18 – 23 degrees Celsius in the central around Entebbe and Kampala city on the northern shores of Lake Victoria and 29 to 34 degrees Celsius in the northern parks like Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley National Parks.
In the tropical forests such as Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in south-western Uganda, temperatures drop to 11 degrees Celsius at night but there’s high humidity up to 78%.
On the other hand, the wet season occurs in April to May and October to November in the central and western regions. However, in the north-east Karamoja region which is semi-desert, the rain season occurs in March and October only.
Uganda`s staple food is named Matooke (banana plantains) served mainly during lunch and dinner. But you’ll find several traditional foods such as sweet and Irish potatoes, cassava, rice and posho (Ugali in Swahili). Served with a variety of sauces such as beans, ground nuts, cowpeas, beef and chicken stews as well as fish Besides. Local food is always accompanied by starters and desserts or mixed with vegetables like dark leafy greens, carrots, egg plants among others. Besides the traditional food, continental dishes such as English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Mediterranean is served. Mainly at hotels, cafes, restaurants and lodges. Furthermore, street foods in Uganda have become popular. Served on roadside markets, and also in restaurants such as Rolex, Kikomando and roasted meat and roasted matooke (Gonja). Yellow bananas are also common along the roadside markets and taste sweet and are good to eat before or after food.
The country went through political difficulties in the 1970s and 80s and has remained stable since. A few incidences occurred in 1999 when US tourists were killed and the early 2000 Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency in northern Uganda. most recently was the kidnap of US female tourist and his guide in Ishasha famous for its tree climbing lions near the border with DR Congo in 2019. The two were rescued on ransom and nobody was hurt. The Uganda government increased security and pushed all forms of insecurity out its borders.
The Uganda Wildlife rangers in particular keep all parks secure through daily monitoring. And there are army camps in parks such as Bwindi. All corners of Uganda are now safe and secure and travelers can undertake self-drive safari and backpacking across the country.
Though tourists are less likely to be targeted by violent criminals, it’s important to avoid isolation and minimize traveling alone at night. This is because of minor theft, robbery that might occur on streets and corridors in Kampala capital city. Therefore, take precautions, keep your valuables away and avoid scams that might disguise themselves as helpful.
Travel Advice Uganda – getting around
The best way to get around Uganda is by car, buses and taxis are the most used form of public transportation. Traffic jam is high in Kampala during morning and evening hours. Buses are found mainly in Kampala city and link to Kigali and Nairobi. They have fixed stops thus requiring further means to reach the national parks.
You have to consider extra means of accessing the park when traveling by bus. Likely, hire a car or motorcycle ride from the bus station. The Guided safaris use tourist vehicles which are 4-wheel drive to handle rough terrain within the national parks. They have pop up roof which is good for conducting game drives.
At Entebbe airport, you’ll find taxis for hire to take you to the hotel. In Kampala city, there are motorcycles locally known as boda-boda which is the best way to beat traffic and get around the city quickly. You can use smartphone apps like Safe Boda and Bolt to order a ride and its more convenient and safer than getting a random ride on the streets.
The main highways are tarmacked from Kampala to major towns up country. But be aware of steep slope driving and potholes in upcountry red dirt roads such as Ishasha – Bwindi route.
For instance, the Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara high leads to Bwindi in southwestern Uganda. This road has got a lot of heavy truck trailers transiting and caution must be exercised whilst driving. The Kampala-Gulu highway takes you to Murchison Falls and further continues to Kidepo Valley. The Kampala-Fort Portal road leads you to Kibale Forest, Queen Elizabeth and Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
Heavy Trailer Truck on the highway
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