Uganda Travel Advice: Things to Know Before You Go
For many, Uganda remains an emerging travel destination which they know little about. As a result, it’s not always easy to know what to expect on your first visit to the country. Beyond the media headlines, Uganda is a peaceful and welcoming nation filled with attractions, from fascinating museums and the Big 5 species to the world’s last mountain gorillas. If this has you yearning to visit, but the lack of trusty information worries you, look no further than Uganda travel advice from those you can trust – us!
Uganda Travel Advice: The Basics
Most citizens of nations outside of Africa will require a visa to enter Uganda, even as a tourist or visitor. Although recent changes to visa policy mean you’ll have to apply for a visa before traveling, the good news is that it is normally an easy and simple process which can be completed online. You therefore won’t have to face any time-consuming trips to your nearest Ugandan embassy.
How To Pay For Things in Uganda
Uganda’s main currency is the Ugandan Shilling, abbreviated to UGX on the international money markets. It’s unlikely your local bureau de change will stock Ugandan Shillings. You’ve little choice but to arrive into the country with no local currency to hand.
Entebbe International Airport has currency exchange facilities, whose staff will happily change the world’s main currencies, such as US dollars, Euros, and British Pounds Sterling. Any of these currencies are therefore good choices to take as cash.
Avoid changing too much in the airport, since better rates can be found elsewhere. You may also want to keep hold of some US dollars in particular, as they can often be used to pay for larger purchases such as hotel stays. At present $1 is equal to 3750 Ugandan Shillings (Ush), demonstrating the use of a stronger currency like the dollar. Shillings are issued in notes of denomination 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000 and 50000.
Since there is also limited use of credit cards in the country, the best Uganda travel advice we can give if you’re planning any tours in Uganda is to pay for as much as you can before your arrival in the country.
Communicating With Locals and Guides in Uganda
Because of its history as a British protectorate (a form of colony), English is widely spoken in Uganda. Not only does it remain an official language, but it continues to be taught in schools, so that younger generations in particular are well-versed in English. You’ll therefore have little problem communicating with locals and guides whether you’re traveling independently or have opted for a private trip in Uganda.
The second most commonly spoken language of Uganda is Buganda, the language of the Baganda people, who are concentrated in the south central areas of the country. It is one of 43 languages spoken in the country. Because of the proximity to Kenya and Tanzania, Swahili is also growing in strength in many parts of Uganda.
Safety in Uganda
Safety is probably the most important area where trustworthy Uganda travel advice is a must. Much is made about crime in Uganda, with large sections of the local newspapers devoted to the subject.
However, it’s also true to say that little or none of this crime is deliberately directed towards visitors to the country, who usually receive the warmest of welcomes. Part of the reason for this is the fact that visitors are generally attracted to the country’s national parks, where the mountain gorillas and Big 5 species exist. Here crime is almost unheard of.
But even in big cities such as the capital Kampala, taking a few sensible precautions can prevent you becoming a victim of crime. Avoid showing large amounts of cash when making purchases by dividing your money into different wallet compartments or different pockets, while only keeping cash in pockets with zippers or similar closures.
Since most crime takes place under the cover of darkness, it makes sense to avoid walking after sunset. Instead make use of the ready supply of taxis that exist throughout the country.
The Best Time to Visit Uganda
Choosing the best time to visit is another vital piece of Uganda travel advice. Not only do the most popular attractions, including gorilla treks book up way ahead of time, but the best time to visit will depend exactly on what you want your trip to Uganda to entail.
For instance, for game safaris in the likes of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kidepo National Park, the dry seasons are the best time to visit. In most of the country they last from December through to February and again from June through to September. The lack of easily accessible water sources brings the elephant, lion, giraffe and leopard to the few remaining water holes, making them much easier to spot.
In contrast, bird watching on the River Nile at Murchison Falls National Park is better during the rainy seasons. They last from approximately March to May and peak again in November of each year.
Don’t Panic If You See Plenty of Police and Military Officers
The police and military have a presence on the streets of Ugandan towns and cities very unlike what you may be used to back home.
Military personal often carry out police work, such as maintaining control of traffic, and you shouldn’t be overly concerned if you see them on the streets or they ask the vehicle you’re traveling in to stop. If nothing else, they are taught to treat visitors to Uganda with respect. It’s prudent to show the same respect back.
Uganda Travel Advice You Won’t Want to Ignore
A lot is spoken about Uganda when it comes to what to expect when visiting the country. Much of it comes from bloggers and others who have never actually visited. We offer trustworthy Uganda travel advice because we not only know Uganda, but call it home. So whatever travel information you’re looking for, make sure you go to those who know!