Uganda Travel Information
Uganda, twice the size of Pennsylvania, is in East Africa. It is bordered on the west by Congo, on the north by the Sudan, on the east by Kenya, and on the south by Tanzania and Rwanda. The country, which lies across the equator, is divided into three main areas—swampy lowlands, a fertile plateau with wooded hills, and a desert region. Lake Victoria forms part of the southern border.
Uganda is a relative newcomer to tourism, compared to her neighbours Kenya and Tanzania. The infrastructure, accommodation, transport network and quality and availability of services and facilities are basic by Western standards, but improving.
The seasoned traveler will find many lodges and camps are not as luxurious as in some African countries, although some properties may exceed expectations. There are accommodations of different standards throughout the country.
Electricity and piped/mains water supply may not be available, although clients will always find a hot shower waiting for them after a long day’s trek. In some remote locations long-drop or compost toilets may be found. Food may be basic, but you are usually assured of fresh produce and a variety of tropical fruits which taste so much better than supermarket imports in the West!
The more up market lodges and hotels offer excellent facilities on a par with other safari destinations. However, please remember it is a developing economy and expectations should not be unrealistic.
More adventurous activities such as mountaineering and hiking, gorilla and chimp tracking, white-water rafting, canoeing and kayaking may pose additional risks and should be undertaken with care and caution. Clients must be fit and healthy. Gorilla and Chimp trekking is not permitted to those individuals who have signs of a communicable disease such as colds, flu and other airborne diseases. Chimps and gorillas are highly susceptible to human diseases and it is therefore essential that clients declare all illnesses. Please seek our advice if you are unsure.
National Park Authorities reserve the right to deny access to individuals.
Anti-malaria tablets and mosquito repellent are essential. Seek advice from your home country on vaccination and inoculation requirements. Uganda is part of the Yellow Fever belt and although not always checked by Ugandan Immigration on arrival, a Yellow Fever card is required by law.
Please bring all your personal medications with you. Medical services and facilities in Uganda are basic. Clients are fully responsible for securing adequate medical insurance which should include evacuation cover.
It is recommended that you drink bottled or boiled water only.
Most guests arrive by air, landing at Entebbe International Airport. The drive to/from Entebbe/Kampala City is 1 to 2 hours depending on traffic. We can organize transfers to and from the airport for any size group.
Single entry tourist visas are available on arrival at Entebbe airport priced at US$50 and at the land borders. We recommend clients obtain them on arrival.
Uganda follows a policy of reciprocity (if your Country requires a Visa for Ugandans to enter, Uganda will impose the same). Irish Nationals do not require visas.
Main roads are generally good and recent road works have much improved the road network in and around Kampala.
Secondary roads vary in quality and may be poorly maintained. Be prepared for long and sometimes bumpy car journeys.
Uganda is on the Equator which gives it an ideal climate with little variation. Mean temperatures are between 21c and 31c all the year round. There are two rainy seasons from March to April and October to November. Travel is often slower in the rainy season and trekking more difficult. Mountainous areas tend to be much colder than the plains and receive more rain. Temperatures in mountainous areas can go down to 10°c in certain months. Lodges and other facilities are open all year round.
Light summer cotton clothing supplemented by a sweater or jacket should be sufficient all year round for most of Uganda. In the hilly and mountainous areas, waterproof jackets or ponchos, strong waterproof walking boots and warmer fleece or heavy sweaters will be required in the evening. Informal dress is usual, although Ugandan’s appreciate modest dressing. Cotton slacks and flat comfortable walking shoes are recommended on safari. Do not forget to bring a hat and sun protection, along with your swimsuit.
Request additional details at the time of booking for specific requirements tied to adventure or activities.
Occasional security issues may arise as in any other developing country. We maintain up-to-date information on all parts of the country and will advise clients accordingly at the time of booking if any risks appear to be present. Basic precautions should be taken, as in all countries, and common sense should be used. It is not advised to display expensive jewelry, leave bags unattended or money lying around.
Most hotels and lodges have safe deposit boxes available. We recommend that you leave original travel documents and passports in the safes (if you wish) and travel with photocopies. East African residents will need to show copy Passports and Work Permits to obtain resident discounts. If in doubt please ask us and we will advise you.
No photographs of, or near, military buildings or soldiers are allowed. It is only polite to ask people before taking photographs. Film is available in Uganda. Fast film (400-1600 ASA) is recommended for gorilla tracking and forest walking. For digital photography, we recommended you bring extra batteries and a car / solar charger.
International telephone communication is good from Kampala but more difficult in some rural areas. Uganda has a good mobile phone network throughout most of the country and local SIM cards can be purchased cheaply.
International roaming facilities are available. Internet services are widely available in Kampala through internet cafes and most major towns will have access, although the quality and speed of the connection varies. All our drivers/guides have cell phones and maintain contact with the Head Office throughout safaris. Airtime can be purchased by clients for use of driver/guide mobile phones if necessary.
Uganda: 240 volts; 3-pin (square) sockets. It is recommended that you bring your own adaptor. Most hotels, lodges or camps can make arrangements for recharging batteries. Please ask us on booking if you have specific requirements.
Power cuts are not uncommon, many rural areas have little or no power and few streets have street lights.
Several brands of local and international beer are available, including leading local beers: Bell, Club, and Nile Special.
Most spirits and wines are imported and are readily available. Drinking and driving is prohibited and purchase of alcohol under the age of 18 years is also illegal. A favourite local drink is Uganda Waragi, a good value triple distilled gin.
The currency in Uganda is the Uganda Shilling. It is issued in denominations of 1,000 / 5,000 / 10,000 / 20,000 / 50,000 Uganda Shillings notes. Coins are available for smaller denominations of 100, 200, 500 and 1000 Shillings.
US dollar, GB Pounds and EUROs are readily exchangeable. Large US dollar bills attract the best exchange rates.
Currency exchange rates vary and are posted at all banks and forex bureaus around Kampala and in the local newspapers. The rate as of 2016 has been fluctuating from US$1 = 3400- 3600 Uganda Shillings. There are no restrictions on other international currencies.
ATM machines are available in Kampala and most offer access to international banks. We recommend visitors change money in Kampala prior to safari to get most more favorable rates.
NB: US Dollar bills pre-2006 are often not accepted in Uganda or are exchanged at a less favorable rate. Poor quality foreign currency notes may be rejected. Please ensure you bring with you new or notes in excellent condition with no stains or tears.
AMEX, VISA and MASTERCARD may be accepted at a few choice establishments in Kampala and some up-country hotels and lodges.
Several international banks operate in Uganda including Barclays, Standard Chartered, Stanbic, and Citi Bank. Many local banks and forex bureaus also operate across the country. Generally the banking hours are 8.30 am to 4.00 pm, Monday to Friday. Some institutions are open longer hours and on Saturdays. There are no legal restrictions on foreign exchange transactions and currency is easily convertible.
We do not recommend clients give money to beggars or street children as this only lends to the culture of begging and dependency. Donations can be made to established international and local charities that work with the homeless, street children or orphans. We can arrange visits to local projects or institutions on request. If personal donations are preferred, we would suggest exercise books, pens or pencils are useful gifts.
Ugandans tip according to level of service and there are no fixed or assumed rates. Culturally people may not feel it appropriate to outwardly show their appreciation for money given, however salaries are generally low in Uganda compared to neighboring tourism destinations and all tips will be greatly appreciated. On average tips are in the region of: 5-10% in restaurants; US$5-10 per day, per client for safari driver/guides and US$5-10 per client, per day for Ranger Guides; US$5 per day for porters on mountaineering/hiking safaris and US$3-5 for Forest
Walk guides. Tips are very personal and this is only a guide. Feel free to ask for advice.
Notes on Gorilla Tracking
This is a strenuous activity and one should be physically fit to enjoy this safari. Professional guides will accompany groups but no porters are available to carry personal belongings. Minimum age is fifteen years. Anyone with signs of communicable disease will not be allowed to trek.
While possession of a gorilla permit is a guarantee of trekking, it cannot be a guarantee of sighting. However the chance of sighting is high – 95% or more. Maximum time allowed with the gorillas is one hour at a minimum distance of 7 meters.
No flash photography is allowed and fast film is therefore recommended (minimum 400-1600 ASA). Personal DVD recorders are allowed. Bring film and batteries from Kampala. Special arrangements need to be made for professional film makers and filming permits are required for commercial photography and filming.
For Gorilla Tracking, we strongly recommend a breathable and lightweight rain jacket or poncho, a warm jacket or fleece for overcast days and evening, long-sleeved shirt and trousers, sturdy waterproof walking boots (seasoned or well worn footwear), leather gardening type gloves, sunscreen, cap or sun hat, sunglasses, insect repellent, comfortable day pack for carrying water and minimum amount of personal items.
Please note that Gorilla tracking is date specific, so you will need to advise exact dates of travel for us to go ahead and advise availability. A maximum of only 24 permits per day are available for advance booking, so confirmation 4-12 months in advance is required to avoid disappointment. Occasionally, permits are available to us at short notice.
Permits are only purchased upon receipt of your deposit, after confirmation from you. Gorilla permits are booked on a “first come first served” CASH basis and therefore can be purchased by others on your behalf. Please do make a decision as soon as you can in order to avoid disappointment.
This information is provided in good faith for the use of tourist and business travelers visiting Uganda. It is deemed to be accurate at the time of presentation, but conditions are subject to change. This is after all, Africa, a fantastic continent still growing and developing in many areas.