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22 Uganda Travel Tips for First Timers

Uganda Travel Guide

With Uganda’s activities lined up for tourism, more and more travelers are enthralled to visit the country this year. It is Africa like no other: with tourist-friendly people and off-beaten tracks that are to the next level. But before you enjoy the safaris or the trek for a mountain gorilla, you have to prepare first the basics of an ultimate Uganda Travel.

1.Do I need an e-visa?

           Securing an e-visa is one of the primary steps when traveling to Uganda. You can apply for an e-visa through the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration at www.isas.immigration.go.ug/. This will cost you $50 plus $1.50 for processing fees, so it will be a total of $51.50. Other websites may charge you more, but it’s best you apply straight from the official website. The requirements include passport copy, recent passport-size picture, and yellow fever vaccination certificate.

        If you have no time to get it online, you can also claim a visa on arrival, but the lines are quite long.

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East African Tourist Visa

      If you are also visiting Rwanda and Kenya, you might as well get the East African Visa for $100  and it allows you to move around the 3 countries with multiple entries for 90 days. 

2. Do I need vaccinations?

           Vaccinations are essential in Uganda travel. On arrival, you will be asked to present a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. This is in-lined with the Ugandan Ministry of Health’s requirements for travelers.

           Also, vaccinations are not just prerequisites but protection. Make sure to ask medical advice from your doctor before traveling to Uganda. This is because there are other risks of acquiring other diseases such as Hepatitis A and B, and Malaria. It is highly recommended to get shots for these diseases before flying to the country along with Polio, Typhoid, Cholera, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Rabies, and Meningitis.

3. Is there Malaria in Uganda?

           There are high risks of Malaria in Uganda, but a proper precautionary measure can deal with this. If possible, have a vaccination for Malaria or take Malaria tablets that are prescribed by your medical practitioner at home. You can also avoid getting them by wearing appropriate clothes such as long sleeves and pants, especially during sunset hours, when mosquitos are the most active.

4. Is it safe to travel to Uganda?

       Although Uganda is one of the most tourist-friendly destinations in Africa, you are advised to avoid going out at night, especially outside major towns, especially near the South Sudan borders and Karamoja, too. That being said, I went to Kidepo National park, and I still felt safe. Just be street smart and don’t walk out freely without care. 

5. Is it safe to drink tap water?

           According to water.org, 75% of Uganda do not have access to proper sanitation. Therefore, the risks of contaminated water are high in the country. To avoid harm in health, do not drink tap water in Uganda. Stick with bottled water, even with brushing your teeth. If bottled water for brushing your teeth is not available, you may boil the water first.

6. What is the best time to travel to Uganda?

           You can enjoy the Uganda experience all year round. But if going there for safaris, the best months to visit the country is during the dry season which runs from June to August and December to February. The high season is from June to September.

           During the wet season, March to May, weather can be a bit challenging as roads and nature trails can be in poor condition.

7. What is the currency in Uganda?

           The country uses Ugandan Shilling as its currency. To compare, a US dollar is about 3,682 Shillings. You need this when spending in smaller towns in Uganda. But for touristy places such as in the Uganda Wildlife Authority and other national parks, Cash Dollars, Euros, and Pounds are acceptable.

           When exchanging your money for shillings, make sure they are the reasonable conversion. Some money exchangers are opportunists that they rip off tourists for their dollars or pounds. Be wise and do not fall for these schemes. Even at the airport, they have different rates so check it out. Similarly, they have a different exchange rate for big bills and small bills. 

8. How much should I tip?

           Like in most travel destinations, tipping is normal in Uganda. It is a way of thanking people for their hard work and dedication. Usually, tourists give tips for their tourist guides in safaris, boat tours, game drive, or nature walk. For this, you can generally give $10 to $15. When you do this, make sure it is in Ugandan Shillings as they lack access to money exchangers.

           Tipping in Uganda is similar to the standard tipping in Kenya. For restaurants, you can tip about 10% of your total expenses to the waiter/waitress. In taxis, you can round up the fare from the ordinary. In small stores or shops, put a few dollars in communal tip jars. This way, you can show that you appreciate them and what they do.

9. Is bargaining okay in Uganda?

           In case you have time to wander around Uganda, you’ll find a lot of shops; some even sell vibrantly colored souvenirs. Make sure you buy some as they are priced reasonably in almost all areas. But be careful when buying, especially if you think of bargaining. Most items in proper shops in cities have fix prices, so negotiating is a bit rude. But in markets where price labels are missing, you can usually bargain. Just make sure that in the end, both you and the seller are happy with the negotiation.

10. Is Uganda safe for solo female travelers?

           Ugandans are usually curious about foreigners, especially if they are fair-skinned. They might touch you, try to talk to you, or even invite you to their house. But take note that in most cases, this is due to their curiosity, not threat. Be friendly and nice to them, but still keeping your common sense.

           For Ugandan men, it is common for them to joke around to foreign women such as calling them names or saying I love you to them. They might annoy you, but be calm and do not mind them. If they insist on something, give them a firm “no.”

           People in Africa are not used to seeing female travelers unaccompanied. It is best to tell them you are meeting a boyfriend or a husband somewhere if asked. You can also wear a wedding ring or keep a photo of a man, just in case they persist. You have to put this little act when the situation continues.

           Even in daylight, women should be wary of wandering around small towns alone. At night, stay in your hotel or lodge as much as possible. Anywhere and anytime, remember to be always vigilant.

11. How much are fees for the National Parks in Uganda?

           To support tourism and, at the same time preserve the wildlife, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has set fees for National Parks. The most famous destinations usually cost $40 per 24 hours. Meanwhile, less known places settle for a $35 fee, while small reserves, only $10.

           Since the fee is good for 24 hours, you can plan your adventure ahead to meet as many wildlife as possible.

           There are additional fees for National Parks. You will be charged for park entrance and when you avail of some of the activities offered in the parks such as game drive, launch trip, nature walk, bird watching, ferry crossing, or chimp tracking.

12. What about electricity in Uganda?

           Cities have electricity, but areas outside the cities usually have solar energy and generators. Even at most lodges, solar energy and generators are widely used. They only open electricity at certain hours to save them. Because of this, be sure to charge your devices in your room as other places have a smaller voltage of power. You may not use some electronic tools, too, such as a hairdryer, as it consumes a lot of electricity.

           To get the most of your adventure without necessarily be bothered by electricity, bring extra batteries with you. This will help, especially if you bring your camera. You can also bring a power bank for your phones or other devices.

13. What should I know about transportation in Uganda?

           Roads in Uganda have improved over the years, but there are still a lot of rocky areas that can be more challenging during wet seasons. You have to choose the proper vehicle for the terrain when thinking of renting.

           When driving, keep in mind that you have to be on the left side of the road. You do not want to cause any road trouble or violate traffic laws when visiting the place.

           When traveling using a vehicle, make sure that you have enough supply of petrol. There are several gas stations along the road buy it is highly advisable to get extra just to make sure you will not run out of gas in deserted areas.

14. What should I bring in Uganda?

           You have to make sure you are safe and having fun when traveling to Uganda. Here are some of the things you need to bring so that adventure is hassle-free:

  • Important documents such as airline tickets, passport, visa
  • Vaccination certificates (Yellow fever certificate)
  • Itinerary
  • Photocopy of documents if possible
  • Prescription medications
  • Malaria pills
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Eye drops
  • Skin and hair moisturizers
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth wash
  • Dusk mask
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine, motion sickness tablets
  • Large ziplock bags (to secure your gadgets from getting wet)
  • Small compass
  • Electrical adapters (Type G)
  • Binoculars
  • Travel water bottle
  • Camera gear
  • Safari shirt
  • Safari pants
  • Safari boots
  • Travel towel
  • Clothes that are greens, or khakis to blend in

           Get as much of the Ugandan experience by getting there prepared. When you have everything you need, from knowledge to basic travel needs, your adventure in Uganda will be stress-free. Moreover, you’ll be able to focus more on the rich terrain, wildlife, and the people.

15. What are the plugs in Uganda like?

Uganda Plugs

Uganda plugs are of Type G with 240 voltage. It’s best to bring a converter. 

16. Where can I get gorilla and chimpanzee tracking permits?

 

17. Language in Uganda 

They have 56 different languages so each time I ask someone how to say,  “hello” they give a different answer depending on which tribe or culture they are from.  Most of them can speak English though which makes it easier for tourists to travel around Uganda. 

18. Wifi in Uganda

I struggled a bit with Wifi in Uganda apart from in Kampala. Even the 5 star resorts will provide some WIIFI but usually. it’s just around the lobby and it’s not that good. What do you expect? You are in jungles after all.  Be prepared to have really slow wifi.

19. Sim Card in Uganda

I mentioned earlier that wifi doesn’t work well, so it’s best to have a sim card especially if you want to work in your room. This doesn’t guarantee a fast connection but then you’ll just have the flexibility to have data wherever you are. The network isn’t always available as well but it did better than the wifi. 

There are 2 sim cards that I was choosing from which I could have easily gotten in the airport. AIRTEL and MTN 

 I bought Airtel which offered a package of 

3 GB for 7 days for 26,000 

10 GB for 30 Days for 56000

I went for the 10GB just because I was staying for more than 7 days.  I also had to pay data or sim tax so I paid a total of 61000. They also helped me activated. You can only pay via cash but there are ATMs and money exchange at the airport. 

20. They watch Filipino Soap Operas in Uganda

21. Traffic in Kampala

 Traffic is very normal in Kampala so while you are visiting Uganda, find ways to keep you pre-occupied during car rides. I had netflix downloaded in my phone for instance. It helped me during the long drives around Uganda. Also, learn to be patient. This is part of the experience. Use it to observe local life from your window or learn from your guide/driver. 

22. Must-try local food in Uganda 

  • Calabash 
  • Rolex 
  • Matoke
  • Ground Nut Sauce
  • Luwombo

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