|Currency||Ugandan Shilling (UGX)|
|Area|| total: 236,040 km2|
water: 36,330 km2
land: 199,710 km2
|Population||33,398,682 (July 2010 est.)|
|Language||English (official language), Luganda (most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages), Swahili, other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages|
|Religion||Roman Catholic 33%, Protestant 33%, Muslim 16%, indigenous beliefs 18%|
|Electricity||240V 50HZ (UK plug type)|
|Time Zone||UTC +3|
Uganda  is a country in East Africa. It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the southwest by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. Famously 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.
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 is muzungu (plural wazungu or bazungu), and non-African visitors should get used to hearing the word shouted out by children in every corner of the country. It is not a derogatory term, but originates from a Swahili word meaning 'looking dizzy or confused and wandering about aimlessly' as the first white people did when they first arrived in East Africa. Generally the word muzungu refers to a white person but it can be anyone who is not Ugandan. Even visiting Ugandans (from the diaspora) are called the term on occasion. You can choose to ignore it, or wave back, depending on the situation.
Uganda is accessible and affordable, but not up to the high tourism standards of more mature destinations such as Kenya or Tanzania or 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 urban bustle of Kampala bursting at the seams then giving way to lush subsistence farming and small villages. Roads are rough (although many across the country are being upgraded), 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 for the gorilla safari, but other major draws are the chimpanzees, ornithology, trekking the Rwenzoris and visiting the source of The Nile river.
The people of Uganda were hunter-gatherers until 1,700 to 2,300 years ago. Bantu-speaking populations, who were probably from central and western Africa, migrated to the southern parts of the country. The Empire of Kitara in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries represents the earliest forms of formal organization, followed by the kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara, and in later centuries, Buganda and Ankole.
Arab traders moved inland from the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa in the 1830s. They were followed in the 1860s by British explorers searching for the source of the Nile. Protestant missionaries entered the country in 1877, 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. (Sleeping sickness has since been eradicated from Uganda).
Uganda won independence from Britain in 1962, and the first elections were held on March 1, 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 favor of a loose federation and a strong role for tribally-based local kingdoms. Political manoeuvering 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 January 25, 1971, Obote's government was ousted in a military coup led by armed forces commander 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 objects of Amin's political persecution because they had supported Obote and made up a large part of the army. 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 of liberation against Amin's troops and the Libyan soldiers sent to help him. On April 11, 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.
Although Equatorial, the climate is not uniform as the altitude modifies the climate. Southern Uganda is wetter with rain generally spread throughout the year. At Entebbe on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, most rain falls from March to June and the November/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.
The northeastern region 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.
Cities and townsEdit
- Kampala — a bustling African capital. It is the only 'city' in the country.
- Arua — located in the NW corner of the country, reached by daily flights from Entebbe Airport or by bus from Kampala.
- 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 1 hour south of Kampala by road.
- Jinja — located on Lake Victoria and at the source of the Nile. Home to Nile Beer.
- 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.
- Gulu — Gulu is the de facto capital of the north.
- Mbarara — a southwestern town en route to several national parks.
- Kabale — a small town in the far south of the country near Lake Bunyonyi.
- Kisoro — located in the extreme southwest corner of Uganda next to the borders with Rwanda and DR Congo. It is the closest town to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
- Mbale - It is a border town in Eastern Uganda. You can visit Mount Elgon from here.
- Ajai Game Reserve is in northern Uganda and boasts a new deluxe safari camp now under construction just out side its border. A small reserve at 16,600 hectares, located on the east bank of the Albert Nile.
- Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the primary gorilla tracking location. There are troops reached from Buhoma (north) and from the south at Nkuringo.
- Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is at the confluence of Rwanda and the DRC. One gorilla troop can be tracked from here. In the past, its range sometimes took the gorilla family into one of the other two countries. However the family seems to have settled in Mgahinga for the last 2 1/2 years (July 2016).The Virunga Mountains are the dramatic spine of the park, recently active volcanic peaks. Trekking the Golden Monkeys is one of the highlights of this undiscovered gem of a park.
- 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. Kidepo is the only Uganda National Park where you can see cheetah, ostrich and the Secretary Bird.
- Murchison Falls National Park offers a memorable boat trip getting surrounded by crocodiles and hippos. The nearby waterfall is dramatic and beautiful, as the entire Nile river plunges down 45 m (150 ft) and through a 7 m (23 ft) wide crevice. It is possible to do safaris - Murchison is full of a variety of wildlife, including elephants, giraffes, hartbeast, buffalo, and a few lions and leopards. For now it is still a little bit difficult to get as independent traveller. Take an early bus to Masindi and then try to arrange for transport to bring you to the park. With some luck you could get a free ride with the rangers.
Accommodation ranges from campsites, lodges, hotels and guesthouse. Some of these are built on top of the falls. They have better facilities that are eco-friendly. Budget accommodation is also available for the budget travelers and the most suitable places include Kaniyo Pabidi Camp and Red Chilli Rest Camp.Murchison falls accommodation
- Queen Elizabeth National Park has several sectors. 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 country'd 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. The Kazinga Channel at Mweya has a good concentration of hippos. They once numbered 30,000. The park is home to the famous tree climbing lions.
- Kibale Forest National Park near the town of Fort Portal is famed for chimpanzee tracking and is highly recommended. Kibale Forest has the highest concentration of primates in Africa. It is home to 13 species. Twitchers will know that some of the best birding in central Africa is here too. The Kasese Crater Lakes are in the area.
- Lake Bunyonyi near the town of Kabale in the South West of Uganda. Lake Bunyonyi is a former Volcano Crater Lake, situated more then 2000 m above sea level. It is referred to as to one of the most beautiful places of Uganda, with 29 small islands, all accessible with local canoe or boat. The region around the Lake is well developed and offers many possibilities for staying and enjoying the lake. A place to visit there is Kirangara (10 minutes by boat), whith its small and cosy campsite lost paradise beach (20000.- USH/night), or the big hotel Birdnest (around 120 dollars/night) as well as the good restaurant of Craterbay Cottages.
- 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 square kilometres (2.5 sq mi) a century ago, to less than a 1.28 square kilometres (0.5 sq mi). In the Rwenzori Mountains near Fort Portal you find Mitandi. The place represents an unique opportunity to explore the mountains and get to know the culture of the local Bakonzo mountain people.
- Ssese Islands is a beautiful stretch of islands on Victoria Lake with isolated beaches and some forest. Beware of bilharzia in Lake Victoria. If you swim, go check up with the doctor afterwards. However, you can expect to spend around 3-8 hours getting to the Ssese islands, depending where you get a ferry from. One departs from Entebbe, another departs from Masaka. As an alternative, Busi island can be reached in around 45 minutes from Entebbe. there is a camp site, with a small number of beds in a dorm and some bandas which are presently under construction.
- See also: African National Parks
Nationals of Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Burundi, Comoros, Cyprus, Eritrea, Fiji, the Gambia, Grenada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe may enter Uganda visa-free for up to 3 months.
It remains possible (as of September 2019) to obtain a visa on arrival, although e-visas are encouraged: apply online for a visa prior to travelling to Uganda. The single entry tourist visa now costs USD $50 and is valid for 30 days.
The East Africa Tourist Visa costs USD $100 and allows up to 90 days travel in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. This should be applied for prior to travel, although it can also be obtained on arrival (as of September 2019).
Visitors are advised to check with their local Ugandan embassy or immigration department prior to travel.
Entebbe Airport is the hub for Ugandan air travel. Many flights to cities in Africa take place from here.
- South African Airways has daily flights direct to and from Johannesburg.
- Turkish Airlines has direct flights to and from its Istanbul hub.
- Emirates and Flydubai offer direct flights from Entebbe to Dubai, the former with onward connections to Europe, North America, and Asia from Dubai.
- Ethiopian Airlines offers service to Entebbe from Addis Ababa, Juba and Kigali.
- Fastjet fly from Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro.
- Kenya Airways flies to Nairobi four times a day.
- KLM flies daily from Amsterdam to Entebbe.
- Brussels Airlines flies from Brussels to Entebbe.
- Egypt Air flies three times a week to Cairo.
- Qatar Airways flies daily to Doha.
- RwandAir flies from Kigali, Juba and Nairobi.
The Uganda Railway is the section of railway from Mombasa in Kenya that the British built to access their Uganda Protectorate in the colonial era. This line became known as the Lunatic Express because of the huge amounts of money put into a dangerous construction project in uncharted territory. Thousands of men, many immigrants from India, died during its construction.
Currently, the only train services that operate in Uganda are the freight service from Port Bell on Lake Victoria to the industrial area in Kampala, freight trains from Mombasa to Kampala, and the passenger train that shuttles daily between Kampala railway station and Namanve, on the outskirts of the capital. The passenger service was relaunched as a pilot project in 2015 by Rift Valley Railways after the railway had been closed for 30 years.
The Standard Gauge Railway will connect Mombasa with the interior of East Africa. In 2016, the Kenya section has largely finished construction. Work on the Uganda section has not started yet. In time, travellers will be able to get a train from Mombasa to Nairobi and on to Kampala in Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.
In theory, travellers 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 90-day tourist visa should be easily obtained (US$100).
Uganda is well serviced by a number of reputable international bus companies. Several bus companies offer direct routes from Nairobi, Kigali, Bujumbura, Goma, Juba, and Dar es Salaam 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 14 hours, including the border crossing.
There are ferries going to Sesses Islands in Lake Victoria. Uganda has some brilliant island resorts .
There are many ways how to get around! The most common is to book with one of the many companies, which bring you around in a car, bus or truck and guide you through the whole journey. The advantage of this kind of tourism is - assumed you booked with the right company - that you experience places and things which you might not be able to find and see alone. Especially if you are in Uganda on a short term trip for 2 - 3 weeks. There will be a lot of time wasted by looking for where to go, by waiting and missing the bus, by looking for accomodation and so on. With a guide and a tour company you are safe and time-economical and can be sure that you get (in your short time) all you expect. On the other hand you pay for all this services. The prices vary depending on company and Itinerary. But good ones can be already found from an daily average price of 80-100.- dollars a day (coffeetours.com or uganda-travel.jimdo.com) all inclusive. meanwhile others are costing 150.- to 200.- dollars/day (not all inclusive).
The other way is "individual travelling". Backpackers go often alone, without a company or tour guide. The below noted means con show how to get around in this way of traveling. however you will have to switch between the different means, and you will have to improvise, so that you finally reach you desired location. Mostly you will need a combination of BodaBoda, local taxi ("matatu" in kenya), bus and evtl. private car (National Parks).
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. Note that 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.
NOTE: 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 public bus system, having two classes of buses. The "taxis" (also called "matatus") are actually minibuses or commuter vans, which run fixed routes. Both methods of travel are reasonable and cheap between major centres, and is a good choice for backpackers with time, but many companies do not run on a reliable schedule.
Depending on the distance you wish to cover and your destination, your route may be better served by a taxi/mutatu or a bus. Bus connections are more often found with Western & Northern Uganda, while Eastern Uganda is more commonly served by taxis. Most routes are served by several companies that compete for customers. Prices often vary by company, with more reputable bus companies charging more for the same route (see more on Bus companies below).
Most mutatus/buses leave only once they are full, so if you're at at one of the terminal destinations and wish to avoid waiting, you may want to check how many passengers are on the bus before buying a ticket and visit the offices of competing companies. Be aware that most company representatives will try to make it appear that the bus is leaving "right now" or "at 9 o'clock" but this is almost never the case, as these rarely leave with empty seats and do not follow a strict schedule, waiting up two hours past the scheduled time in order to fill the bus.
If you're at destination through which a bus passes through, travel becomes a lot more unpredictable as buses passing through may be full. They may either pass by waiting passengers without stopping or, more likely, will let you on and require you to stand until other passengers reach their destination.
Most companies in Uganda use Chinese made buses with a configuration of 5 seats per row. These are usually quite aged and are prone breaking down mid-trip. However, there are some companies that use more modern equipment and often charge higher prices for these services. One company will often have fleets of both, and which you get may be either be chosen in advance or depend on luck of the draw.
The length of your trip will most likely depend on which company you choose. Less reputable companies will often cost less, but will also take longer to fill their buses and make more intermediary stops to pick up more passengers. Depending on your route, you may spend an extra 2-3 hours traveling by choosing the wrong company. The list below shows some companies for popular routes in Uganda and their practices:
Kampala-Kabale (via Masaka, Mbarara)Edit
- Modern Coast, runs 4 seat configuration, does not pick up passengers en route, leaves at scheduled intervals, allows online booking of tickets via its website
- Jaguar, runs 5 seat configuration, picks up passengers en route but does not wait at intermediary cities, leaves at scheduled intervals, does not have a website
- Trinity, runs 5 seat configuration, picks up passengers en route but does not wait at intermediary cities, leaves at scheduled intervals, does not have a website
- Baby Coach, runs 5 seat configuration, picks up passengers en route and waits at intermediary cities, does not leave at scheduled times, does not have a website
- Bismarkan, runs 5 seat configuration, picks up passengers en route and waits at intermediary cities, does not leave at scheduled times, does not have a website
Kampala-Kasese (via Fort Portal, Mubende)Edit
- Link Bus, runs 5 seat configuration, fills quickly, picks up passengers en route but does not wait at intermediary cities, does not leave at scheduled times, does not have website
- Kalitas, runs 5 seat configuration, fills slowly, picks up passengers en route and does not wait at intermediary cities, does not leave at scheduled times, does not have website
Kampala-Gulu/Arua/Lira (via Kakoge, Kigumba)Edit
- Gaagaa, runs 5 seat configuration, fills quickly, picks up passengers en route but does not wait at intermediary cities, does not leave at scheduled times, does not have website
Domestic flights might be a good and fast alternative to dusty bus rides.
The best way to get around Kampala and the neighboring 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 metalled though 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 (murum) and, when graded, are quite quick and reasonable. However, 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 60km/hr as a typical rate of travel (speed will vary, though!). 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.
Expect to pay a considerable higher price for a second hand vehicle in Uganda. 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. This will cost in Kampala upwards of USD100.00 per day (not including fuel) and in small towns 70-80 dollars with the cheapest vehicles typically having no windows, a canvas roof, an assembly date in the 1970s and so on. You get what you pay for. 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, go to one of the major agencies. Orutindo car rental at Craterbay cottages - lake Bunyonyi (kabale) is an good option once you are in the southwest. The prices are very moderate and you can drive around the whole western part, including Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kisore etc., where the bus connection is not giving a good option.
English is widely spoken as the lingua franca, though to varying degrees of fluency. English language ability is highly related to socioeconomic staus and educational attainment, so whilst even the most remote farmer will understand 'How are you?', many not in a professional job will not get much further. British English is the dialect of the most educated, but Ugandan English often takes on a life of its own, considering that Ugandans speak with a thick accent, so it'll take some getting used to. 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. Though many Ugandans do not speak Swahili at all, it is a common African trade language.
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.
- Gaye-baly-ko = Thank you for you work (used as a greeting or on first meeting)
- 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
- hujambo = hello, used everywhere
You will hear lots of ecstatic children waving, jumping, hopping and singing "jambo mzungu" as you roll past.
Uganda has a variety of landscapes which most tourists find interesting. The North is relatively flat and dry savanna while the West is mountainous and lush and the centre of Uganda hosts larges forests.
The national parks are beautiful and, on the whole, uncrowded. See the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) website  or for details of gorilla tracking, safaris, chimpanzee tracking and more. Prices in several parks seem to be set at 20 (1 day), 35 (2 days). An ISIC student card cuts you a 25% off the entrance fees these days.
- A Broader View Volunteers Corp, Uganda: Bulenga & Mukono (Uganda"), ☎ +1 866-423-3258 or +1-215-780-1845 ([email protected]), . We offer many social and conservation programs from 1 week up to 12. We are an US non profit organization, based in Philadelphia area. You can contact us also by chat online at this link Volunteer Uganda edit
- Go on gorilla tracking. You'll need to buy a permit which must be booked long time ahead due to limited availability (only few tourists are taken near the gorillas a day, in order not to disturb them). With a permit in hand, you are allowed 1 hour on very close hand of a group of the highly endangered mountain gorilla in their natural habitat. Uganda Wildlife Authority handles the sale of permits which cost US$600 each . There is talk of raising the price, especially considering that Rwanda is now charging $1,500 for gorilla trekking in its parks. Prices are rising constantly and are expected to continue to rise in the future. Gorilla trekking is more memorable if you tour with an experienced tour company with professional tour guides that possess a huge amount of knowledge on the subject matter
- Whitewater rafting and kayaking on the Nile. Uganda is a world class rafting and kayaking destination and several companies arrange trips down the Nile (see Jinja page) - from half a day to 2-day trips, peaceful family trips to very adventurous grade 5 tandem kayaking & rafting. A rafting adventure with transport from Kampala, including food & drink, will cost about US$125.
- Go on a Safari to Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park or Kidepo Forest National Park.
- 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. If you don't feel like having a guide, tell them that you'd like to do it yourself and eventually they will leave you alone. 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.
- ATV / Quad biking. Guided tours from Bujagali along the banks of the River Nile using ride-yourself quad bikes (a 4-wheeled motorbike - also known as All Terrain Bike) with a local guide. Trips for all ages from 1 hour to multi-day.* All Terrain Adventures, Main Gate, Bujagali Falls, ☎ +256772377185 ([email protected]). 8am to 5pm. From $45. edit
- Do horse riding safari around the Nile and local villages.
- Visit Crater Lakes region in Kabarole District (near Fort Portal). It is an area with many old estinguish craters turned into many breathtaking landscapes. Have a power shover at Mahoma waterfalls.
- Do a tour to the Cacao & Vanilla Plantages in the Rwenzori Mountains, near Bundibugyo and enjoy the view of the Rift Valley on the way.
- Borrow the bicycle in Fort Portal and make a tour to the top of the world or to Kyaninga Lodge. Depending on the quality of the bicycle prices are between 10.000 UGX and 15 Dollar.
- Between Kampala and Jinja you can find the Mabira Forest which is a secondary forest. You mainly can do some hiking there and see birds and monkeys. The entrance fee for Non-Ugandans is around 20 000 shillings and normally you have to take a guide which cost another 20 000 (Januar 2015). But you can also get already an idea of the forest by just entering directly from the main road. The different trails are marked on the trees with red, yellow and blue. Even with the longest round it won´t take you more than 2 hours if you are only hiking. 2 km away from the main road you can also find a forest lodge which cost 250 $US (double room) per night. You can also just have a very nice lunch for 40 000 shillings with a nice view on the forest and enjoy the quiet atmosphere.
- Volunteer and Community service projects offered by Beacon of Hope Uganda, the leading Volunteer Travel and humanitarian service organization offers opportunities for travelers to volunteer in rural Uganda, through various communities and these projects, give you a chance to experience the culture, the people and much more about Uganda. Furthermore, there are many grassroot organizations in Uganda that offer volunteering opportunities in all kinds of areas, such as education or wildlife conservation. To get a better overview of the NGOs available and their causes, there are comparison platforms such as Volunteer World, . edit, where interested volunteers can search and compare different volunteering opportunities.
Kampala host Makerere University which is a world class African institution.
The national currency is the Ugandan shilling, code UGX, sometimes written as Ush. There are 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5000, 2000 and 1000 shilling notes and 500, 200, 100, and 50 shilling coins (10, 5, and 1 shilling coins exist but are rarely used).
Some bigger hotels and restaurants do accept US dollars as payment, and safaris and rafting activities (eg. Red Chillis in Kampala) is often priced in USD. These activities can be paid in UGX, but a poor exchange rate is often offered. Also, there is often an extra fee (typically around 4%) on the use of credit card. 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 around.
ATMs accept debit and credit cards throughout the country. VISA-branded cards are accepted by all ATMs, while MasterCard/Maestro/Cirrus cards are accepted at KCB, ECOBank Stanbic Bank, Barclays Bank, Equity bank, ATMs. Different ATMs allow for different maximum withdrawals of between Shs400,000 and Shs2,000,000, though the usual amount is Shs700,000. some ATMs are located 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.
ATMs may close due to lack of money or system problems. It is safer to bring VISA cards in case of ATMs issues. MasterCard is not accepted in ATMs, but they can be accepted in major banks for a fee. 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 a few businesses, usually the larger hotels and supermarkets. As for your American Express card: you can now use it to get cash from any Barclays bank ATM. AMEX can also be used at major hotels and with airlines.
Cashing travellers checks can be difficult. Do not bring them into Uganda.
Food and locally produced goods are cheap. On a shoestring you can get by on less than shs50,000 a day, excluding park visits and other expensive activities. Luxuries which must be imported (most books, western shampoos, electronics) can be quite pricey.
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 around town. Hotels can be costly, so if you are a student it would be a good idea to look for a hostel in Kampala.
Tipping is not part of Ugandan culture and not expected, but that doesn't mean it will not be appreciated.
Ugandan food is served in generous proportions that are heavy in starchy carbohydrates. You can sample the luwombo, which is meat, fish 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 Irish or sweet potatoes in the west. Cassava, posho (made from ground maize) and rice are other common "foods". Whole fried Tilapia or slices of Nile Perch are popular, and usually served with chips/French fries. Other common options around Kampala include the traditional matooke, binyebwa (groundnut sauce), chapati, and goat's meat stew. For the less adventurous, toasted sandwiches or omelettes 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 'muchomo', 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, all in the city centre.
A basic local dish starts at around 2,500 USh, and goes up to 10,000 for the full local buffet, or even 30,000 at a posh hotel. A slice of pineapple from a street vendor can cost as little as 300 shillings.
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 Cafe has a great variety of food.
The legal drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 18.
Coffee is one of the best products from Uganda, although the British hooked the locals on tea. In Kampala, 1000 Cups is one of the city's original cafes on Buganda Road, as are Good African Coffee and Cafe Pap. The cafe revolution has now swept across Kampala with very good cappuccino available in many cafes, restaurants and hotels.
In Jinja, stop by the Source Cafe for an incredible cappuccino--they had the sweetest espresso machine! or when you are in the west at Hotel Mountains of the Moon in Fort Portal. In Fort Portal, Kitumba is Amaani Rwenzori! crafts and training village with really good Coffee and Cakes as well as free WiFi. In Kasese the small Women's Project Cafe Jambo has excellent sweet breakfast. Kampala has a place called 1000 Cups where they offer and serve coffee beans from all over Uganda.
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 can be had in some restaurants, and you may buy it by the glass from a wine box. Ugandans consume a lot of sugar so you will generally find the wine is very sweet. Bottled wine is increasingly available in restaurants and supermarkets, although expensive. Ugandan beers are highly recommended. Leading brands include Nile Special, Bell, Club, and Kenyan beers such as Tusker and Tusker Malt. The Pilsner brand is the only one made without added corn sugar for those who care about such things. Triple distilled Uganda Waragi is a favourite locally produced gin. However, avoid the Waragi made by non-licensed locals (stored in jerry cans), where there is a high risk of going blind or dying from drinking it. Ugandans are considered to be some of the heaviest drinkers on the planet.
Be advised to drink Bottled water, usually called mineral water in local restaurants. Water flowing from taps is not treated.
There are many hotels in Uganda. If you go on the higher end you will pay high prices, over $100 per night. Standard traveller hotels will have simple rooms with shared bathrooms for around 8,000 to 15,000 shillings. Many places will rent you a tent, or place to pitch a tent for the budget traveller. The Backpackers chain has hostel like accommodations at a variety of locations in Uganda including Kampala, Mbarara, Kisoro and Jinja. A night stay will run you 7 to 9 dollars US a day. These are most frequently used by Truck tours which are popular with the less independent traveller. Very good accomodation possibilities you will find in each bigger town. There are also Bed & Breakfast establishments to make you have a homely feel away from home at the lowest rates. In the more touristic region of the south western Uganda and at lake Bunyonyi there ale also resorts and campsites. some, like lostparadisebeach (www.lostparadisebeach.jimdo.com) offer a quiet and traditional stay in the beauty of nature and the lake, others are more touristic with bars, crowds and entertainment.
Mid-range Kampala HotelsEdit
- Prestige Hotel Suites, Plot 9 Lumumba Avenue, Nakasero, Kampala, ☎ +256 717820100 ([email protected]), . checkin: 12pm; checkout: 10am. Centrally located right next to the Central Business District. Air-conditioned suites with a swimming pool, bar, lounge, free parking and 24 hour reception. Fast & Free on-site Wi-Fi available. From US$80. edit
- Hotel Ruch, Plot 3 Kintu Road, Kampala, ☎ +256 312210110 ([email protected]), . checkin: 12pm; checkout: 10am. Central location right next to Sheraton. Well-maintained Bed & Breakfast Hotel with nice gardens and a bar. On-site Wi-Fi available. Rates from $50, making this good value for money. edit
The accommodations provided in the national parks by UWA are generally of a good standard and are quite inexpensive compared to alternatives. They vary in amenities and price, and the cheapest can be as little as USD5.00 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. you can stay in the UWA budget accommodations and spend more on a better vehicle!
A good solution is also to spend the night outside of the park, with all the possibilities of a good lodge, restaurant and internet if needed.
the company uganda-travel.jimdo.com offers also homestays and village stays as an extraordinary experience to come closer to the people and to experience local life. the are also offering "tribal tourism" and culture tourism, which includes the stay in local families.
Since 1987, safety has consistently improved. Today the state is relatively stable after 25 years of the stereotypical "strong man" rule by Yoweri Museveni. Kampala has changed into a major centre of East African trade.
With that being said, female tourists have been victims to attacks and sexual assaults even in recent years. Female travellers are advised to never walk alone at night.
As in any urban area, parts of Kampala can be unsafe. 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 jihadists have threatened the country due to it's counter-jihad activities in Amisom.
However, tourists walking in the street do stand out and are likely to be stared at openly, which may cause discomfort to those unaccustomed to traveling in Africa. What little begging exists is some of the most polite and inoffensive to be found in African cities, nowhere worse than in the West. Small children are sadly becoming a nuisance in some rural spots frequented by tourists who dole out sweets and coins but nowhere near the swarming throng one can attract in many cities around the world. You are advised not to give out sweets or money. Begging can lead to children dropping out of school, and also encourages sexual exploitation of children.
On safari and while gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park tourists are accompanied by armed Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers. Near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo there is a visible security presence, but this is a preventative measure rather than a response to anything specific.
Travel to Karamoja with an experienced local guide is possible.
Although Uganda used to have a functioning emergency line ("999") system, this has not been active for the past few years. The only way to get police or fire brigade assistance at the moment is to find the phone number of a local police officer and persuade them to assist you.
AIDS/HIV infection rate is very high (even though lower than neighbouring countries). Do not have unprotected sex.
Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic 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, travelers 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.
Buy medicine against malaria in Uganda (not europe) and stay with it! In case of malaria (especially after you return!) you have an effective medicine which is reliable. European doctors are totally not experienced with malaria and might even diagnose something else! It is worth seeking out a packet of Artenam or Coartem while you are in Kampala if you are travelling up-country. It is a reliable treatment and works on chloroquine-resistant malaria strains too.
Diarrhea disease and intestinal worms are also a concern and travelers 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, travelers should secure ciprofloxacin before they exit their home country because it can be used as a cure.
Remember, that many of the lakes have Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Check with the locals and do not paddle on the lake shore if you're not sure. However, if you do get infected, about which you won't know until 1-2 months after contact with water, drugs can be obtained for free from most of medical centres or for small price in pharmacies.
Uganda has a fairly conservative Christian/Muslim based society. It is generally not considered acceptable for women to wear skimpy clothing or to have overt displays of 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 presence of an 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 western big 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 here. 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 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 indeed punishable), but rather of friendship.
Mobile phone network coverage is available in most parts of the country (over 70%), but geography can make trouble in the mountainous regions. SIM cards are cheaply available everywhere in 'starter packs'.
Internet cafes can be readily found in Kampala and Jinja. In all towns with more than about 20,000 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 one who is used to a high speed internet connection. VSAT services are provided by Onlime (http://www.onlime.ug)
Mobile broadband (3G, HSDPA) is available several places. Airtel has mobile broadband available in larger places along Jinja Road. In the more rural area, a slower (EDGE) connection might be available. Orange also offer mobile broadband. If a mobile broadband connection is desirable on a computer, a good option could be to bring a phone able to set up a wifi network providing internet access, or that allows USB tethering. USB broadband modems are also available, at least for Orange, but might be more expensive.
Example of price for mobile broadband on a phone through Airtel is 25,000 Ush for 1GB traffic in one week.
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