Uganda was called the Pearl of Africa by Winston Churchill. It is home to one of the most diverse and concentrated ranges of African fauna including the highly endangered mountain gorilla and the endangered common chimpanzee.
Uganda is accessible and affordable, but not up to the high tourism standards of more mature destinations such as Kenya or Tanzania, much less South Africa. This gives it more edge, more authenticity and less predictability. This does not mean danger (but see Stay Safe section below), rather greater opportunities for delight—and frustration. This is real Africa, the dirty urban bustle of Kampala bursting at the seams then giving way to lush subsistence farming and small villages. Roads are rough, people are friendly, everything seems to have a smell all its own, and not everything moves according to schedule or to plan.
Most travellers come to track the critically endangered mountain gorilla, but other major draws are other primates such as chimpanzees, birding, visiting Murchison Falls, trekking the Rwenzoris and white water rafting near the source of the River Nile.
|Central Uganda |
the capital city and the shoreline of vast Lake Victoria
|Eastern Uganda |
superb trekking close on the border with Kenya and more wildilfe
|Northern Uganda |
this beautiful area teems with wildlife.
|Western Uganda |
Gorilla trekking on the borders with Rwanda and DR Congo
Cities and townsEdit
- 1 Kampala — a bustling African capital. It is the only 'city' in Uganda
- 2 Arua — in the NW corner of the country, reached by daily flights from Entebbe Airport or by bus from Kampala
- 3 Entebbe — a collection of some upmarket residential streets and a slew of government offices on the shores of Lake Victoria, dominated by State House, the official residence of the Ugandan President. The location of Uganda's only international airport, about one hour south of Kampala by road
- 4 Jinja — on Lake Victoria at the source of the Nile and home to Nile Beer
- 5 Fort Portal — a clean and well-organised highland town surrounded by extensive tea plantations, a number of fine colonial buildings and a superb Rwenzori backdrop
- 6 Gulu — Gulu is the de facto capital of the north
- 7 Mbarara — a southwestern town en route to several national parks
- 8 Kabale — a small town in the far south of the country near Lake Bunyonyi
- 9 Kisoro — located in the extreme southwest corner of Uganda next to the borders with Rwanda and DR Congo. It is the closest large town to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
- 1 Ajai Game Reserve - fairly small reserve on the east bank of the Albert Nile
- 2 Bwindi Impenetrable National Park - with half of the world's population of mountain gorillas, this is the main place to see them
- 3 Mgahinga Gorilla National Park - a bit off the beaten track, this park is home to the beautiful Virunga Mountains as well as to its own gorilla troop and a range of other wildlife
- 4 Kidepo Valley National Park - located in the extreme NE corner of Uganda on the South Sudan border. Incredible wildlife here that comes right up to the Apoka Lodge. Elephant, zebra, nile buffalo, kob often visit the lodge.
- 5 Murchison Falls National Park - along the river Nile, this excellent park offers great wildlife and bird watching and is home to the striking and powerful Murchison Falls.
- 6 Queen Elizabeth National Park has several parts to it, but the main section between Lake Edward and Lake George is a more concentrated version of East African parks as far as animals are concerned, although with less splendid vistas unless the mist-shrouded Ruwenzori Mountains are visible. The Ugandan Kob is an endemic antelope (and is on the coat of arms along with the crested crane, including on currency). Worth considering is a drive among volcanic crater lakes on the south edge of the Ruwenzori Range. Kazinga Channel has the greatest concentration of Hippos in Africa in this park and the park is home to the famous tree climbing lions.
- 7 Kibale Forest National Park near the town of Fort Portal is famed for chimpanzee tracking and is highly recommended. Twitchers will know that some of the best birding in central Africa is here too. The Kasese Crater Lakes are in the area.
- 8 Rwenzori National Park is a mountain range in south-west Uganda bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is 120 km (75 mi) long and 48 km (30 mi) wide with its highest peak at Mt Stanley (5109 m/16,761 ft). The range was first described in the 2nd century by ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy as the "Mountains of the moon", and first ascended in 1896 by Italian explorers. By the end of 2006, its ice cap has retreated from 6.4 km² (2.5 sq mi) a century ago, to less than 1.28 km² (0.5 sq mi). In the Rwenzori Mountains near Fort Portal you find Mitandi. The place represents a unique opportunity to explore the mountains and get to know the culture of the local Bakonzo mountain people.
- 9 Ssese Islands is a beautiful stretch of islands on Victoria Lake with isolated beaches and a bit of jungle. Jungle walks you could easily manage on your own, spending half a day.
- 10 Lake Bunyonyi is probably one of the deepest lakes in Africa. Its twenty nine islands offer a variety of accommodation including backpackers and swimming is popular due to the small numbers of bilharzia parasites and absence of hippos and crocodiles. The lake is 25 km (15.5 mi) long and 7 km (4.3 mi) wide and lies at an altitude of 1,950 m (6,437 ft).
- See also: African National Parks
|Currency||Ugandan shilling (UGX)|
|Population||47.1 million (2021)|
|Electricity||240 volt / 50 hertz (BS 1363)|
|Time zone||UTC+03:00, Africa/Kampala|
|Emergencies||911 (emergency medical services), 112 (police, fire department), 999 (police, fire department)|
|edit on Wikidata|
During Uganda's era of British colonialism, settlement by Europeans was not allowed, and today there are few Caucasians in Uganda. The term for whites (or other foreigners) is muzungu (plural wazungu), and visitors should get used to hearing it shouted out by children in every corner of the country. It is not a derogatory term as such (it means something on the lines of "one who is searching"), so smile and wave in reply - if you can, do this over and over again. Otherwise, ignore.
Evidence of humans living in what is now Uganda stretches back to at least 50,000 years ago, and possibly up to 100,000 years ago, based on stone tools recovered in the area. These people were hunter-gatherers. Between 1,700 and 2,300 years ago, Bantu-speaking populations migrated from central and western Africa to the southern parts of Uganda. The Empire of Kitara in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was the earliest forms of formal political organization, which was followed by the Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom, and in later centuries, Buganda and Ankole.
Arab traders moved inland from the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa in the 1830s and were the first to bring Islam to the country. They were followed in the 1860s by British explorers searching for the source of the Nile. Protestant missionaries entered Uganda in 1877 and were followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879. The United Kingdom placed the area under the charter of the British East Africa Company in 1888, and ruled it as a protectorate from 1894. As several other territories and chiefdoms were integrated, the final protectorate called Uganda took shape in 1914. From 1900 to 1920, a sleeping sickness epidemic killed more than 250,000 people.
Uganda achieved independence from Britain in 1962, with the first elections held on 1 March 1961. Benedicto Kiwanuka of the Democratic Party became the first Chief Minister. Uganda became a republic the following year, maintaining its Commonwealth membership. In succeeding years, supporters of a centralized state vied with those in favour of a loose federation and a strong role for tribally-based local kingdoms. Political manoeuvring climaxed in February 1966, when Prime Minister Milton Obote suspended the constitution and assumed all government powers, removing the positions of president and vice president. In September 1967, a new constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic, gave the president even greater powers, and abolished the traditional kingdoms.
On 25 January 1971, Obote's government was ousted in a military coup led by the commander of the armed forces, Idi Amin Dada. Amin declared himself 'president,' dissolved the parliament, and amended the constitution to give himself absolute power. Idi Amin's eight-year rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and massive human rights violations. The Acholi and Langi ethnic groups were particular targets of Amin's political persecution because they had supported Obote and made up a large part of the army. The ethnic Indian community, long resented for their perceived economic clout, were also targeted by Amin and expelled from Uganda in 1972. In 1978, the International Commission of Jurists estimated that more than 100,000 Ugandans had been murdered during Amin's reign of terror; some authorities place the figure as high as 300,000.
In October 1978, Tanzanian armed forces repulsed an incursion of Amin's troops into Tanzanian territory. The Tanzanian army, backed by Ugandan exiles waged a war against Amin's troops and the Libyan soldiers sent to help him. On 11 April 1979, Kampala was captured, and Amin fled with his remaining forces. This led to the return of Obote, who was deposed once more in 1985 by General Tito Okello. Okello ruled for six months until he was deposed after the so-called "bush war" by the National Resistance Army (NRA) operating under the leadership of the current president, Yoweri Museveni, and various rebel groups, including the Federal Democratic Movement of Andrew Kayiira, and another belonging to John Nkwanga.
Museveni has been in power since 1986. In the mid to late 1990s, he was lauded by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders.
Uganda is mostly plateau with a rim of mountains and rainforests in the west and savanna in the north. It lies on the southern edge of Lake Victoria and includes many islands.
Although generally equatorial, Uganda's climate is not uniform as it varies by altitude, proximity to Lake Victoria and rainfall. Southern Uganda is wetter with rain generally spread throughout the year. At Entebbe on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, most rain falls from the March to June and November to December period. Further to the north a dry season gradually emerges; at Gulu about 120 km from the South Sudanese border, November to February is much drier than the rest of the year.
Northeastern Uganda has the driest climate and is prone to droughts in some years. Rwenzori in the southwest on the border with DR Congo receives heavy rain all year round. The south of the country is heavily influenced by one of the world's biggest lakes, Lake Victoria, which contains many islands. It prevents temperatures from varying significantly and increases cloudiness and rainfall.
Uganda is home to 10 different ethnic groups including the Baganda, the largest ethnic group, who comprise just over 15% of the population. The country had a sizable community of 80,000 Indians before they were expelled by Idi Amin in 1972, though some have returned since Amin's overthrow.
Ugandan visas are issued on arrival or online at visas.immigration.go.ug or at embassies and High Commissions. The Uganda Visa Policy uses the principle of reciprocity, that is all countries that require visas for Ugandans are visa prone in Uganda.
The best way to get a Ugandan visa is visa on arrival which can be done at the airport or at all land borders for US$50 or £40.
Visa fees as of September 2019:
- Single Entry good for 90 days US$50.
- Inland Transit US$50.
- East Africa Multiple entry tourist visa valid for 90 days US$100.
Since multiple entry visas are expensive and must be obtained from Uganda's diplomatic missions abroad, tourists may want to consider the East Africa Tourist Visa first issued in 2014 that allows travel between Kenya, Rwanda'and Uganda with multiple entries in a 90-day period for US$100 and without "restrictions on country of origin". You can buy this visa online (or when you get to Kenya or Rwanda if that is your first port). However, since some airlines may refuse to board you without the assurance of a visa, Rwanda has established an webpage on-line website to issue these, which means that some tourists may want to first land at Rwanda's capital airport of Kigali rather than Entebbe or Nairobi since this visa must be issued by the country that you first plan to visit (similar principle to Schengen visas in the EU).
Countries exempted from visas: Angola, Antigua, Bahamas, Botswana, Barbados, Belize, Comoros, Cyprus, Eritrea, Eswatini, Fiji, Gambia, Grenada, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tanzania, Tonga, Vanuatu, South Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
You can get a free one-month visa extension at immigration offices in Kampala, Fort Portal, Jinja and Mbarara. However, you can not get a visa extension on a 90-day East African tourist visa, but only on a 90-day single entry Uganda visa.
Entebbe International Airport is the hub for Ugandan air travel. Many flights to cities in Africa take place from here.
- Uganda Airlines flies directly to Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Mogadishu, Juba, Bujumbura, Mombasa and Kilimanjaro and more routes are coming soon.
- South African Airways has daily flights direct to and from Johannesburg.
- Turkish Airlines has daily flights to Entebbe from its Istanbul hub with onward connections to Europe and asia.
- Emirates offers daily flights from Entebbe to Dubai on Boeing 777-200LR with onward connections to Europe, North America, and Asia.
- Ethiopian Airlines offers a daily service to Addis Ababa on Boeing 737s. with onward connections to many African countries. Europe and Asia.
- Qatar airways flies daily to Doha with onward connections to Europe and Asia.
- KLM fly daily from Entebbe to Amsterdam either via Nairobi or direct.
- Kenya Airways flies to Nairobi four times a day.
- Brussels Airlines flies from Entebbe to Brussels
- Egypt Air flies to Cairo with onward connections to Europe.
- Fly Dubai, a low-cost airline. Flights to Dubai. with onward connections to many Asia countries.
- RwandAir flies to Kigali, Nairobi, Juba.
- Fly-Sax airlines flies to Nairobi.
- Air Tanzania flies to Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro.
- Precision Air flies to Dar es Salaam.
- Jambojet flies to Nairobi.
In theory, visitors with their own vehicles should be able to enter Uganda at any of the border crossings which lie on a main road, such as the roads from Kenya through Busia and Malaba. A carnet du passage is required for private vehicles, including motorcycles, while a single entry tourist visa should be easily obtained for US$100.
By international busEdit
Uganda is well served by a number of reputable international bus companies. Several bus companies offer direct routes from Nairobi, Mombasa, Kigali, Bujumbura, Goma, Bukavu Juba, Kisumu, Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, Harare to Kampala. All of these buses will, in theory, allow travellers to alight at main towns along the route, e.g. in Jinja if coming from the Kenyan border to Kampala. A typical journey between Kampala and Nairobi lasts approximately 12 hours, including the border crossing. the bus ride from Kampala to Kisumu takes 7 hours and cost USh 43,000 on Easy Coach.
- Simba Coaches goes all the way from Kampala to Harare Zimbabwe via Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka Zambia.
- Easy Coach has three buses a day going from Kampala to Nairobi via Kisumu 06:30 and 14:00 and 18:00 USh 43,000/65,000.
- Trinity Transporters has buses from Kampala to Kigali for USh 40,000. Goma DRC for US$14. Bukavu DRC for US$17.
- Jaguar Executive coaches has two buses a day from Kampala to Kigali for USh 40,000.
- Mash Poa bus company has buses to and from Nairobi three times a day. Fares from USh 65.000 and a bus to Kigali USh 40,000
- Modern Coast Express have three buses a day to and from Nairobi via Kisumu USh 50,000/65.000. and Kigali USh 40,000.
- Dreamline Express Ltd have a bus at 05:30 from Kampala to Nairobi USh 65,000
There are ferries going to Ssese Islands in lake Victoria. Uganda has some brilliant island resorts.
In Kampala and some other towns, the boda-boda is a good way to get from place to place. These are small mopeds, motorcycles, bicycles or scooters with cushions on the back and are cheap transport as used by locals. If using a boda-boda, be extremely careful as they are frequently involved in accidents; however, in spite of this, they are a fun and fast way to get around. If you advise the driver that you want him to drive slower and safer, he may actually listen to you.
Make sure you agree on the price before you get on the bike. They will try and charge more claiming it was further than thought. Some may get aggressive, say you will call the police and they will calm down. Always be polite and non aggressive.
Make sure you tell them to drive slowly. Many foreigners and locals are injured and killed on Boda Bodas in Uganda.
Uganda has a decent bus system. There are two classes of buses. The "taxis" (also called "matatus") are actually minibuses or commuter vans, which run fixed routes (see below).
There are also real buses which run less frequently, usually leaving Kampala early in the morning. There are many companies most of which leave from the same general area. For example, Postbus has safe, comfortable and reliable buses going to most towns in Uganda. They depart from Kampala General post office from 07:00/08:00. The buses fill up, so if you get on mid-trip, you'll be spending some time standing or sitting in the aisle before somebody gets off and you can get a seat.
Both buses and taxis run along most roads between cities, paved (sealed) or dirt.
Domestic bus travel is cheap and reasonable between major centres, and is a good choice for backpackers with time, but may not run reliably on schedule. A trip from Kampala to Masindi takes about 4 hours and costs approximately USh 12,000.
Buses and "taxis" do not run on fixed schedules. Rather, they leave their terminal stop when they are completely full. On heavily travelled routes, they fill up within minutes and this is not a problem. However, on less travelled routes (or if getting on a large bus), be prepared to wait a while before departure.
- Link Bus Services have buses going to and from Kampala to Fort Portal, Kasese, Hoima, Masindi, Masaka.
- Post bus Uganda has big red 67 seat buses going to 1. Gulu, 2. Kabale via Masaka and Mbarara. 3. kisoro via Masaka and Mbarara and Kabale. 4. Lira via Jinja and Mbale. 5. Kitgum via Gula. the fare from Kampala to Kabale is USh 25.000. Masaka 10,000. Mbarara 15,000. Kisoro 30,000. Lira 30,000. Mbale 15,000. Jinja 5,000. Gula 25,000. Kitgum 30,000. (Nov 2015)
The best way to get around Kampala and the neighbouring towns is by using minibus-type taxis called "taxi". This is the most efficient and cost-effective method of transportation in urban areas, but try not to get ripped off by the conductors as they sometimes try to overcharge tourists. They usually take 14 passengers plus a conductor, though in smaller country towns overcrowding still occurs. Minibus taxis are relatively cheap, frequent (in Kampala), and may make lots of stops along the way.
They run along fixed routes, picking up and dropping off people anywhere along the route. If you want to get on, stand at the side of the road and wave your arm. To get off, say "stage" and the driver will pull over and let you off at the next boda boda waiting area. You can also just say "Driver, please pull over at X". They're not marked with destinations unless you are at the central taxi parks, so you'll have to listen to the destinations that the drivers are yelling out the window. If you're not sure where to catch a taxi going to your destination (especially at Kampala's two taxi parks, which are huge!), just ask a nearby driver or conductor, and they'll probably be able to point you in the right direction.
Private taxis - those which you can hire for yourself only, are called special hire taxis, and are available in most every decent sized town. Fares are negotiable over long distances as there are no meters.
The roads in Uganda are comparable to many in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the main roads are tarmaced, although the condition of them can deteriorate in patches. Some become extremely pot holed. Many of the minor roads and side roads are made of hard packed earth (murram) and, when graded, are quite quick and reasonable. However, the conditions can vary from season to season and they will deteriorate in heavy rains and wash boarding frequently occurs. The best way to deal with the wash boarding is not to slow down, but to find a speed sympathetic to the road surface and effectively skip from ridge to ridge. Untarred roads, if wet, may be impassable in the mountainous regions of the south-west. Commercial drivers of buses and trucks compound the danger, as do pedestrians, livestock, cyclists, dogs and the odd police roadblock. Plan on 60 km/h as a typical rate of travel, although the speed will vary. The best advice is drive cautiously and stay totally alert.
When planning a journey, it is best not to ask how far it is but to ask how long it will take. Local drivers normally have a good idea of how long journeys will take.
As going around with public transport may not suit the safari-going tourist, as it is hard to reach the national parks, opting to hire a car can be a budget friendly alternative. A sensible choice is to hire a 4x4 with a driver given that you will need local language assistance and expertise should something happen on the roads. Most places have accommodation and meals for drivers as this is common among travelers. A cheap option is likely to leave you stranded somewhere remote and that can mean days of your itinerary lost. Unless you are comfortable paying cash in advance without a signed contract and no network to help you get out of a breakdown, the best recommendation is to go to one of the major agencies. Nevertheless, Uganda is a country which is suitable for self-drive, taking the above described conditions into consideration, as it is safe,
There are several companies in Kampala that offer car hire, with and without a driver.
As of late 2021, limited rail services are available in and around the capital Kampala, mainly aimed at commuters. National operator Uganda Railways Corporation has stated that some intercity passenger trains will return in 2022-2023 but it is unclear which routes are affected.
English is widely spoken as the lingua franca, though to varying degrees of fluency. British English is used by the most educated, but Ugandan English often takes on a life of its own. Dozens of African languages are spoken in Uganda, the most common being Luganda, which is almost universally understood in Kampala. Swahili may come in handy in places, especially the North and East. Although many Ugandans do not speak Swahili at all, it is a common trade language that has become another lingua franca in the East African region.
A few words or stock phrases in the various dialects are very easy to learn and most locals will be delighted to help you learn the highly ritualised greeting, and, in turn, every person that you greet in this way will be delighted to meet you.
- oli otya (olio-tia) = How are you?
- bulungi/gyendi (bulunji/jiendi) = I am fine
- kale (kal-eh) = ok
- nyabo = madam; ssebo = sir
- muzungu = European (but used more commonly to refer to all foreign and, especially, all white people)
You will hear lots of ecstatic children waving, jumping, hopping and singing "mzungu" as you drive past.
Uganda does not lack for accessible travel highlights. Dubbed by Winston Churchill as the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is celebrated for its beautiful nature and its hospitable people. Still one of the poorest countries in the world, and still recovering from some very dark years, Uganda is nowadays an accessible country to visit and experience sub-Saharan Africa in its full capacity. Tourism is growing, yet still authentic, and Uganda does not lack in tourist facilities. Though, it is not the place to go for great architecture or an abundance of urban sights, instead, its riches lie in its amazing variety of wildlife, landscapes and culture. With half of the remaining mountain gorillas and all of the Big Five living in the countries stunning national parks, wildlife watching is by far the main attraction.
With wide, dry savannah in the north, thick rainforest in the centre and lush, snow-peaked mountain landscapes in the east, natural beauty comes in many ways here. Unesco listed Rwenzori Mountains National Park is home to the tallest mountain range of the continent, covered in thick jungle on the lower slopes and frozen moorlands on higher ones. Several of its highest peaks are covered year round in snow and glaciers. The highest mountain is Mt. Stanley, third highest in Africa. Head to the gorgeous Lake Bunyonyi and rise early to see the morning fog draw out. Watch fishermen at work from the shores of the Victoria Lake, the largest lake in Africa; the white beaches of Kalangala make for an excellent spot. Also on Lake Victoria are the Ssese Islands, great for some beach time.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a unique safari spot in the world. The Bwindi population of 340 wild mountain gorillas, half of the total remaining number of this critically endangered primate, is a major draw. The park is home to a total of 10 primate species and some 110 other mammal species (including African elephants), over 350 bird species and some 200 butterflies, and 220 tree species, the dense forests here are one of the most divers ecosystems in Africa. The most accessible and therefore also most popular safari spot is Queen Elizabeth National Park, with dozens of large animals commonly seen. Of particular interest is the population of tree climbing lions living here, lion behaviour seen only here and in Tanzania. Your best chance of seeing the wide variety of wildlife in this area comes with an early morning visit to the plains around the Kazinga channel, which attracts animals of all kinds year round.
Uganda's diversity of bird life is spectacular. While good birding options can be found in most of the national parks, Kibale Forest National Park is an especially good pick and also famous for its chimpanzee tracking. Impressive waterfalls can be found in Murchison Falls National Park
Uganda's urban life has a limited number of attractions to offer, but the twin cities of Kampala and Entebbe do make for an interesting stop. Just some 35 km apart, these two towns are remarkably different in character. The only true city in Uganda, Kampala is safer and less chaotic than most of its African counterparts, and the Kasubi Tombs (while damaged) and National Museum are worthwhile sights. Much smaller and prettier is the former capital, Entebbe. Its lovely location on the shores of Lake Victoria and the lush National Botanical Gardens make this a pleasant place to stay if you're flying in or out.
- Go gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. You'll need to buy a permit which must be booked a long time ahead due to limited availability (only a few tourists are taken near the gorillas a day, in order not to disturb them). With a permit you are allowed one hour at very close hand to a group of the highly endangered mountain gorilla in their natural habitat. Uganda Wildlife Authority handles the sale of permits which cost US$500 each or you can book via a tour operator who will organise the permits and other aspects of your gorilla safari for you. The UWA tariff was due for renewal on 1 July 2013 and prices may well rise for permits (and other activities) after this date. Tracking takes place from four different start points, to up to 11 different habituated gorilla families, so it's important to check the permit availability against your transport and accommodation plans.
- Rafting on the Nile. Uganda is a world class rafting destination and several companies arrange trips down the Nile - from half a day to 2-day trips, from peaceful family trips to very adventurous grade 5 rafting. A rafting adventure with transport from Kampala, including food & drink, will cost about US$125.
- Quad biking. Near the Spring of the Nile you can rent quad bikes (a 4-wheeled motorbike - also known as All Terrain Bike) for a speedy (and dusty) sightseeing trip with a local guide.
- Do horse riding safari around the Nile and local villages.
- Go on a Safari. For reputable tour operators to suit a variety of budgets, check out the Association of Uganda Tour Operators [dead link].
- Go to Sipi, about 1 hour from Mbale. It's a beautiful little town on top of a hill, sporting fantastic views on and hikes to waterfalls. It is worth paying for a local guide - many members of the local community support their family this way and it is worth the fee just to stop everyone tailing you, trying to offer their own guiding services, if you set off without one. Great place to stay over night in Sipi is the Crow's nest with amazing views onto the waterfalls. Crows nest is alright but do not expect hotel quality service, and because of their slow service and bad food bringing our own food is recommended.
For where to go to see Uganda''s wildlife, all images taken by Wikimedia Commons user Charlesjsharp have precise gelocation information 
- Makerere University in Kampala is a world class institution.
Exchange rates for Uganda shilling
As of January 2022:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The national currency is the Ugandan shilling, sometimes written as "USh" or "Shs" (ISO code: UGX). You'll also see this notation: 5,000/-. There are Ush50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5000, 2000 and 1000 bank notes and 500, 200, 100, and 50 shilling coins (10, 5, and 1 shilling coins exist but are rarely used). Do not accept banknotes from the 1987 series of notes: they are not valid, and you cannot exchanges them at banks.
Some bigger hotels and restaurants accept US dollars as payment, and safaris and rafting activities (e.g. Red Chillis in Kampala) are often priced in USD. These activities can be paid in Ugandan shillings, but a poor exchange rate is often offered. Also, there is often an extra fee (typically around 5%) on the use of credit cards. This means that it can be useful to bring USD to cover these activities. The obvious trade-off is that one must carry a large amount of USD.
ATMs accept debit and credit cards throughout the country. Mastercard and Visa card branded cards are accepted by most ATMs. Stanbic Bank, Ecobank, Equity Bank, Kenya Commercial Bank, GT Bank and I&M Bank ATMs are the best ones to use. Different ATMs allow for different maximum withdrawals of USh 400,000-2,000,000, though the usual amount is USh 1000,000. There are many ATMs at Entebbe Airport; given that it is impossible to buy Ugandan shillings outside of Uganda and in countries bordering Uganda, withdrawing shillings from the airport ATMs is the easiest option.
Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered Bank have a ATM fee of at least US$4 at all their ATMs for overseas bank cards.
Ecobank and Equity Bank have no fees at all at their ATMs for overseas banks cards.
You can use Visa cards and Mastercards to get money from ATMs all over Uganda.
ATMs may close due to lack of money or system problems. In Kampala, watch out for pickpockets who follow tourists from one bank's ATM to another when cards are not accepted.
Credit cards are accepted at businesses, usually the larger hotels, airlines, supermarkets and shops in big shopping malls.
American Express, Union Pay, JCB, Diners Club, Maestro, and Discover cards can be used to get cash at any Equity Bank ATMs of which there are many all over Uganda.
Cashing travellers cheques can be very difficult, so don't bother bringing them into Uganda.
Food and goods are cheap. On a shoestring you can get by on Ush75,000 a day, excluding park visits and other expensive activities.
Make sure you bargain for everything you buy around town except in the bigger stores and malls. Never pay face value when buying from the local vendors. Hotels can be costly, so if you are a student it would be a good idea to look for a hostel in Kampala.
Most people have to buy a visa when they arrive at the airport; in July 2016 this cost US$50 (single-entry 3-month). Bills must be newer than 2003. Most people get the 90-day East African visa for US$100 which is valid for Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda.
Tipping is not part of Ugandan culture and not expected, but that doesn't mean it will not be appreciated.
Food from Uganda is a sensation.
You can sample the luwombo, which is meat or groundnut sauce steamed in banana leaves. It has a tantalising aroma, and is always served with "food", which in Ugandan parlance indicates any carbohydrate. The staple "food" varies from region to region, with the plantain matooke in the south, millet in the north, and potatoes in the west. Cassava, posho (made from ground maize), sweet potatoes and rice are other common "foods". The whole fried fish is succulent, though mostly available at the beach, and usually served with chips/French fries. Other common options around Kampala include the traditional matooke, binyebwa (groundnut sauce), chapati, and meat stew. For the less adventurous, toasted sandwiches or omelets can be found in many places.
If this does not appeal, it is best (and far more interesting) to stop at roadside stands or markets to purchase fresh produce—fruits and vegetables abound and are very affordable, to say nothing of the roasted chicken or goat on a stick. There are also a number of fast-food places, such as Nando’s, Steers, Domino’s Pizza, and Hungry Lion, all in the city centre. The Ugandan Rolex is a popular delicacy all over the country made in a combination of an egg, onions and vegetables omelette rolled up in a chapati.
A basic local dish starts at around USh 1,500, and goes up to USh 5,600.A slice of pineapple from a street vendor can cost as little as USh 300.
See the Fang Fang Hotel below for good Chinese food in Kampala. Other Chinese restaurants with good food include Fang Fang Restaurant (different and more expensive from the hotel), and Golden China restaurant, all located in the city centre, and Nanjing Hotel in Kololo Hill.
In Entebbe, try the Boma Guesthouse on Gowers Rd. (see below under Sleep). Local food in Entebbe can be found at the Golf Course Restaurant and at the Airport Motel among other places.
In Jinja, the Ling Ling offers some great Chinese food. On Main Street the Source Café has a great variety of food, and you can surf the web while you eat.
Coffee is one of the best products from Uganda, but the British hooked the locals on tea, so finding a decent cup of native coffee is nearly impossible, especially outside of Kampala. In Kampala, try the coffee house 1000 Cups on Buganda Road. The Source Cafe in Jinja sells Ugandan coffee at the airport, Banana Boat stores, and many hotels. The coffee is marketed under the name Kiira Kawa (River Coffee). Good African Coffee and Cafe Pap are good restaurants for food or coffee in the Kampala area. In Jinja, the Source Cafe has incredible cappuccino, or when you are in the west at Hotel Mountains of the Moon in Fort Portal
Chai tea is available widely, and is best in the rural areas near the tea plantations. You will see signs posted on shops and kiosks where it can be purchased.
Lower-end South African wine is available in some restaurants, but stick with the beer. Any of the four major brands are acceptable, though the Pilsner brand is the only one made without added corn sugar for those who care about such things.
There are many hotels in Uganda. If you go on the higher end you will pay high prices, over US$100 per night. Standard traveller Guest houses, Lodges and Inns will have simple rooms with shared bathrooms for USh 15,000-30,000.
For the real budget traveler there are various backpackers' hostels in Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja, Masaka, Fort Portal, Kabale. to choose from and to base yourself at, including Kampala Backpackers, Entebbe backpackers, Masaka backpackers, Yes hostel Fort portal, Jinja backpackers, Kabale backpackers. Some are better than others, and may suit different preferences, so it's best to explore the reviews on Trip Advisor to assess what would be best for you. A stay in one of these will cost USh 9,000-18,000 a night, depending on whether you camp or stay in a dorm. They also offer private rooms or safari tents, and some have self-catering cottages which are great for long stay/groups. These are most frequently used by Truck tours which are popular with the less independent traveler.
There are also Bed & Breakfast establishments to make you have a homely feel at the lowest rates.
The options provided in the national parks by UWA are generally basic, but inexpensive compared to alternatives. They vary in amenities and price, and the cheapest can be as little as US$5 or less per person per night.
Few moderately priced options are available, and the high end, while expensive, are substandard compared to the high end options of Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and other mature tourist destinations in Africa. Unfortunately, few alternatives are available. There are some notable exceptions, but best to go either highest end or stay in the UWA budget accommodations and spend more on a better vehicle.
Uganda has been home to some of the more gruesome atrocities in modern African history since its independence in 1962, particularly under the heinous dictator Idi Amin, but in the years since 1987 things have consistently improved. Today the state is relatively stable after 30 years of stereotypically 'strong man' rule by Yoweri Museveni. Kampala has changed into a major centre of East African trade.
In the 2010s, female tourists have been victims of attacks and sexual assaults, and are advised never to walk alone at night.
As in any urban area, Kampala can be dodgy. One is well advised to remain in tourist areas, but sensibly garbed visitors not dangling the latest cameras, flashy jewellery or bulging bags are not likely to draw unwanted attention to themselves. Some jihadist groups have threatened the country due to its counter-jihad activities in Amisom (the UN force in Somalia).
However, any non-blacks walking in the street stand out and are likely to be stared at openly, which may cause discomfort to those unaccustomed to travelling in Africa. Individuals of East Asian appearance will be assumed to be Chinese, and often will be subjected to "ni hao" and/or imitations of Chinese languages (e.g. "Ching chong"). While potentially offensive to Asians raised in Western countries, it is not necessarily intended to be rude and is almost never a sign of anti-Asian hostility. What little begging exists is some of the most polite and inoffensive you will find in African cities, and not worse than anywhere in the West. Small children are sadly becoming a nuisance in some rural spots frequented by tourists doling out sweets and coins but it is nowhere near the swarming throng one can attract in many cities around the world.
In the gorilla tracking region of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there was one incident in the late 1990s in which bandits attacked a group of tourists and killed several people. Since then, there have been no incidents and all groups now go out with armed guards (which was not the case before). There is a visible security presence in the region, but this is a preventative measure rather than a response to anything specific.
Some jihadists have engaged in retaliatory activities in protest at the counter-jihad policies of Museveni.
Emergency contact numbersEdit
Uganda has national emergency contact numbers, but don't expect to get a response.
- Ambulance: 911
- Police/Fire: 112 or 999. The Uganda Police Force has a longer list of numbers, including regional and local offices.
Besides the national numbers, you can also try calling local police or medical services, but this is not guaranteed to be any more effective, especially during off hours.
The HIV/AIDS infection rate is very high (although it is lower than in neighbouring countries). Do not have unprotected sex.
Ebola and Marburg haemorrhagic fevers have been endemic within certain regions of the country. The vectors of these viruses are unknown, but have been thought to be linked with bats. Therefore, visitors should avoid (or be extremely cautious when) entering any caves. If you are bitten by an animal, assume that the animal was infected by a disease and seek prompt medical attention.
Take precautions against malaria. Malarial mosquitoes are present throughout most lower lying areas of the country. It is worth seeking out a packet of Artenam while you are in Kampala if you are travelling up-country. Artenam is a reliable treatment and works on chloroquine-resistent malaria strains too.
Diarrhoea and intestinal worms are also a concern and visitors should be careful what they eat or drink. Carry hand sanitizer to use before meals. Be sure to wash fresh produce well before eating and avoid raw foods in restaurants. As a precaution, visitors should secure ciprofloxacin before they exit their home country because it can be used as a cure.
Many of the lakes have Schistosomiasis. Check with the locals and do not paddle on the lake shore if you're not sure.
Drink bottled water, usually called mineral water in local restaurants. Water flowing from taps is not treated.
Uganda has a fairly conservative Christian/Muslim-based society. It is generally not considered acceptable for women to wear skimpy clothing or to overtly display their sexuality. The only exception is in certain night life situations in Kampala. Most Ugandans go to church/mosque regularly and consider religion an important part of a moral society. Never criticize religion in the presence of a Ugandan.
You will not be taken seriously if you wear shorts outside the obvious tourist destinations and most Ugandan adults would never wear shorts except if playing sport. Use a pair of light trousers to blend in better. Most women wear skirts in rural areas, but trousers are acceptable in cities and larger towns.
In central Kampala, women can dress pretty much like in any big western city. Women dressing smartly in tight sleeveless tops, tight jeans, or dresses or skirts that do not cover the knees is a very common sight there. As a foreigner you do not need to avoid dressing up, although for safety reasons it is wise to avoid wearing expensive jewellery or similar accessories.
A handshake is the most common form of greeting. If your hands are wet or dirty you may offer your wrist instead of your hand.
Don't be surprised if you see two men holding hands.This is not a sign of homosexuality, which is forbidden by law and is punishable, but rather of friendship.
Mobile phone network coverage is available in most parts of the country (over 80%), but geography can cause trouble in the mountainous regions. SIM cards are cheaply available everywhere in 'starter packs' but need to be registered before use.
Internet cafes can be readily found in Kampala and Jinja and In all towns with more than about 20,000 people you'll find internet cafes running off of either VSATs or mobile phones. The Internet connection bandwidth is very low and can be frustrating for those who are used to a high speed internet connection.
Mobile broadband (4G, 3G, HSDPA, HSPA, HSPA+ [21mbps]) is available in most places. Africell and Airtel has mobile broadband available in larger places. In the more rural areas, a slower (EDGE) connection might be available. If a mobile broadband connection is desirable on a computer, a good option could be to bring a phone that can set up a Wi-Fi network providing internet access, or one that allows USB tethering. USB broadband modems are also available. but might be more expensive but also need to be registered before use.
Other networks include MTN, UTL Uganda Telecom and Vodafone Uganda.
As of 2021, the registration process for new SIM cards is rather arduous: besides digital copies of your passport, a photo of you holding the SIM card is taken, and even your fingerprint is taken electronically!
Some examples of price for mobile broadband on a phone through:
- Africell can get a (free sim card) for there mobile broadband. 1GB cost USh 34,500 good for one month, and 3GB cost USh 59,500 good for one month. Africell Unlimited Internet for one month is USh 299,000.
- Airtel: in 2021 a SIM card costs about USh 2000. Add another USh 16,000 for 4.5GB of data (no expiry date).