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COUNTRY PROFILE & TRAVEL TIPS ON UGANDA IN EAST AFRICA
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Uganda is a beautiful, landlocked country in the heart of Africa - a genuine pearl. Cradled between the eastern and western belts of the Great Rift Valley, Uganda has a somewhat more elevated position than the surrounding areas, sitting more than 1000 meters (3280 feet) above sea level. Uganda shares its western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its eastern border with Kenya. Rwanda and Tanzania lie to the south, while Sudan stands to the north. As you will note on your travels, the country covers a total area of 241,038 square kilometers, of which 197,100 is land and the remaining 43,938 is water.
Rich, Fertile LandscapeAlthough landlocked, Uganda is blessed with a rich network of rivers and water bodies that keep it green and fertile. The capital city of Kampala stands on the banks of the famous Lake Victoria, known as the largest lake in the tropics. Further, the country hosts Jinja, also on the lake and known as the source of the mighty Nile River. On your wilderness holiday, you will have the opportunity to explore primate tropical rainforests of Bwindi and Kibale, semi-desert regions of Kidepo, rolling savannah plains of Queen Elizabeth, scenic falls at Murchison, swamps and deltas, fishing lakes of Mburo, Albert, George, Edward and also farm lands that hosts tea, coffee and banana plantations, green fields of cotton and other crops.
In contrast to the highlands are the lowlands of the Albertine Rift Valley, created by tectonic activity in Uganda’s distant past. With gorgeous panoramic views, it’s a photographer’s delight. The region is characterized by scenic, spectacular cascades and dipping inclines that, together, shelter various species of endemic wildlife that you can see during safari tours.
Geographical Mountainous Boundaries
Mount ElgonAn extinct volcano with a diameter of 7 square kilometers, Mount Elgon forms a part of Uganda’s boundary with Kenya. Notable as the largest intact mountain caldera in the world, Mount Elgon is illustrious for its waterfalls, caves, and the rivers that meander down its slopes. Its volcanic soil has created the perfect habitat for a range of wildlife that inhabits its slopes, including the waterbuck, buffalo, elephant, and various species of primates. Mount Elgon once had the distinction of being the highest mountain in the world, but landslides and erosion have trimmed its majestic heights and it now claims the 8th highest in Africa. Take a trip to the national park created around the mountain and you can revel in its splendor.
Rwenzori MountainsThe Rwenzori Mountain Range and its glaciers skim Uganda’s border with Congo. Geologists are surprised by the snow cover, given that the mountains lie in such close proximity to the equator. These ‘Mountains of the Moon’ are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and host various species of wildlife, making them a favored tourist destination for avid climbers. The highlands are also noted as the highest block mountain in Africa, and are the 3rd highest of all mountains, following closely behind Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.
Virunga MountainsThe Virunga Mountains, home to the rare and magnificent gorillas, are shared by Uganda, Congo, and Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park). They are also part of a national reserve created to protect these unique primate creatures. Being part of a mountain range, the immensely beautiful raised regions of Kigezi, in the southwest of the country, have earned the nickname ‘Switzerland of Africa.’ You can consider adding a visit to this area to your safari vacation itinerary.
Uganda takes its name from the Kingdom of Buganda of age-old times, which was inhabited by Stone Age clans. Migrating farmers and animal herders traveling to the country in the early centuries A.D. mingled with the natives and created various ethnic and cultural groups and tribes. The Uganda you see today was formed during the colonization advent of the British between 1890 and 1926. At the time, the country had more than thirty different groups speaking four main languages, including Sudanic, Atekerin, Luo, and Bantu.
Bantu SpeakersComprising close to half the population of Uganda, the Bantu are mainly concentrated in the southern section of the country and were among the first migrants in the country. As you will learn on your cultural tour, they are made up of groups like Baggwere, Basamia- Bagwe, Banyole, Batwa, Bamba, Bakonjo, Batooro, Bafumbira, Bakiga, Banyankole, Basoga, Banyoro, and Baganda.
Atekerin Or Nilotic SpeakersSecond only to the Bantus, Atekerin speakers include the Kumam, Kakwa, Iteso, Langi, and Karamojong people. Originating from Ethiopia, this ethnic group is also known as the Langi, Para-Nilotics, or Nilo-Hamites. Today, they inhabit mainly the east, north, and northeastern areas of Uganda. After centuries of living in their adopted country, these groups have developed unique facets that differentiate them from each other, with the Langi no longer speaking Ateker or following the culture, and instead trending more towards Luo.
Sudanic SpeakersOriginally from Sudan, these people comprise the Bari, Metu, Madi, Okebu, and Lugbara, with the Lugbara dialect dominating the culture and the medium of teaching in the lower grade schools since colonial times. After many centuries of living in Uganda, their language and lifestyle are completely different from present-day Sudanese.
Languages In Present-Day UgandaThe dominant language and the only official tongue since independence in 1962 is English, so you should not have any communication issues while holidaying in Uganda. Despite the country having 43 languages (41 indigenous and 2 non-indigenous), people speak mainly Swahili and Luganda. Although English is used in the political, judicial, educational, and administerial spheres, Swahili makes its appearance on the Ugandan Shilling currency and is used for official and legal notices.
The country’s language policy is strongly influenced by its connections with the East African Community and its colonial past, and, officially, Swahili should be the medium of instruction in primary and secondary schools to strengthen tribal and cultural cohesion. But, as you will note on your tour, most schools teach in English to ensure Ugandans can better integrate with a unified connected world. The most widely spoken tongue is Luganda, which is used for education, music, church, telecommunications, and all other media.
Travelers booking tours of Uganda through AfricanMecca Safaris are often curious to learn about the history of this ‘Pearl of Africa.’ The earliest recorded history of Uganda goes back to 1000 BCE, when the Bantu people thrived in the region as agriculturists. The country also has traces of the Iron Age in CE 1000. Various kingdoms including the Toro, Ankole, Busoga, Buganda, and Bunyoro developed in the southern and western regions thanks to the fertile soil and productive farming. Regrettably, slave trading was the primary economic activity in the 17th and 18th centuries, when these kingdoms created ties with Sudan.
Throughout the 19th century, the Buganda Kingdom was ruled by Kabakas or traditional chieftains with the alliance of the Shirazis of Zanzibar. The kings had a council of nobles and a strong army – and the kingdom survived because of agriculture after the slave trade ban. During your city tour in Kampala, you may come across the preserved remnants of this era in its namesake museum.
Coming Of The EuropeansIn the 19th century, Kabaka Mutesa I of Uganda invited French Catholic and English Protestant preachers to the country, leading to the formation of Inglesa, Franza, and Muslim groups. The Imperial British East Africa Company set up its base in Uganda in 1888 with the permission of the ruling Kabaka, and by 1894, Buganda came to be known as a British Protectorate. Soon, the Toro, Ankole, and Bunyoro societies also came under the control of the protectorate, which started cotton farming in 1904.
An interesting fact about the British rule in Uganda is that although the British Colonial Office took control of the country in 1905, it did not allow non-Africans to buy landholdings in the country. The Busoga Railway further developed the cotton industry and the economy started production of sugar and coffee in the 1920s, leading to prosperity for the nation.
Independence From The British RuleUganda started to gain autonomy from the British in 1921, and by 1955 close to 50% of the legislative council was Africans. This saw the development of a party political system and the transition from an executive council to a ministerial system. The first general elections, held in 1961, brought in Benedicto Kiwanuka’s Democratic Party, and the following year, Kiwanuka became Uganda’s first Prime Minister. Another general election was held in April 1962, and Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), headed by Milton Obote, won. The same year, the country gained independence and became a part of the Commonwealth, with Sir Edward Mutesa (Kabaka Mutesa II) leading as the first non-executive President.
Although a constitution was instituted in 1962, Obote abolished it in 1966 and made the country a unitary republic, with the President as the executive and head of state. The kingdoms of Uganda were reinstated in 1993 and the constitution was altered to include traditional leadership.
Coming Of Idi Amin Into PowerIn January 1971, paratrooper sergeant Idi Amin Dada staged a military coup and overthrew Obote, taking over the complete authoritarian rule of Uganda. A cruel ruler, Amin expelled the minority Asian Indians and Jews from the country, seizing their assets and terrorizing the learned people of the community. Under his rule, law and order in Uganda quickly deteriorated. Assuming the title of ‘President-for-life,’ Amin declared war on neighboring Tanzania by invading it in 1978. In response, the United Republic of Tanzania aligned with the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) of expatriate Ugandans and captured Kampala. However, Amin escaped alive.
Uganda After Idi AminAfter Idi Amin, Uganda had a series of Presidents, including Professor Yusuf Lule, Godfrey Binaisa, Paulo Muwanga, and Dr. Obote, who faced opposition from the National Resistance Army (NRA) under Yoweri Museveni. In July 1985, Obote lost the support of his party, the Uganda National Liberation Army, which installed General Tito Lutwa Okello as President instead. But in January 1986, the NRA took Kampala, after which Museveni assumed Presidentship while Dr. Samson Kisekka became the Prime Minister. The conflict that followed claimed the death of one million people, with 500,000 more badly injured and 2 million fleeing the country. The economy was utterly destroyed and the infrastructure was in shambles. Several elections were held in the following years, with Museveni winning the post of President each time.
Uganda Has Transited To Be A Peaceful Country TodayThe conflict on Uganda’s northern borders continued for 20 years, with 2 million people losing their homes and more than 20,000 children kidnapped. Finally, in August 2006 during a mediation facilitated by the government of Southern Sudan in Juba, the Joseph Kony-led Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government declared a truce. Present-day Uganda is a peaceful nation looking to rebuild and redevelop its many economic sectors, including tourism.
As you will find on your trip in the country, the Ugandan economy is largely dependent on its natural resources. Close to three quarters of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihood, thanks to the rich, fertile soil and adequate rainfall. The rivers and waterbodies also help irrigate the land for farming. The country has small reserves of minerals and precious metals like gold and copper, along with substantial oil reserves. Uganda’s industrial sector remains largely undeveloped due to inadequate infrastructure and the availability of only basic technology; however, this is slowly changing with more technology being adapted by businesses for economic efficiency.
Corruption does not help the economic situation. The government has realized that it needs to focus more on education, healthcare, and employment for Ugandan youth to garner growth and sustainability. Urban areas have a regular supply of electricity; though the number that drops in the rural regions.
Exports & ImportsThe former instability in South Sudan had taken a toll on Uganda’s economy, which suffered a significant slump due to the influx of refugees traveling into Uganda. But with the return of peace, a bumper crop of coffee, a rise in gold exports, and developing tourism, the country is slowly improving. Imports are mainly centered around refined oil and heavy machinery.
Economic Growth & Foreign Investment StatusThe economic growth in Uganda has been slowly increasing, with rising levels in the service, construction, mining and industrial sectors The Ugandan Shilling is depreciating with the rise in inflation rates. The country relies on foreign aid and donations for developing the farming, healthcare, and education sectors.
The government expects billions of dollars in foreign investment for the oil sector, of which it will be diverted towards the building of an export pipeline and building refineries for producing petroleum products for domestic use and export to East African Community countries. The remaining funding is slated for the building of highways to supply export products to other parts of Africa, but could also act as a boost for tourism.
Uganda is a presidential republic with a multi-party system. As you will learn during your vacation in the country, the President is both the head of the State and the government. General elections are held every five years, and all citizens over the age of 18 are permitted to vote. The government holds the executive power in the country, while the legislative power lies in the hands of the National Assembly and the government. The constitution also provides for a separate judicial system. Uganda celebrates Independence Day on October 9, which is a national holiday.
History of the Multi-Party SystemBetween 1986 and 2005, in an attempt to restrict unrest and violence among the different political groups and tribes, the existing President Yoweri Museveni banned the multi-party system. Although various political parties existed in Uganda, they were not allowed to contest in the elections or put forward candidates openly. This ban was lifted in 2005.
Currently, the country has a total of 38 registered political factions, including the Forum for a Democratic Change (FDC), Democratic Party (DP), Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), Justice Forum (JEEMA), Conservative Party (CP), and the National Resistance Movement (NRM), which is currently in power. With the multi-party system ban no longer in effect, President Yoweri Museveni continues to win the election every five years including in 2021.
Distribution of the Parliament and JudiciaryThe Parliament of Uganda has 375 members, of which 112 seats are allotted to women and 10 seats are occupied by the military. Youth and physically challenged citizens also have representation, with five seats each. The Judiciary functions distinct from the government and includes the Magistrates Court, the High Court, and the Court of Appeal, which also serves as a Constitutional Court when needed. The apex body is the Supreme Court.
How To Arrive Into Uganda?The central hub for air transport to Uganda is Entebbe International Airport (EBB), which is located near the city of Entebbe, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the capital city of Kampala. If you are planning to travel to the country from destinations in Europe, you can find economical flights through Tanzania and Kenya. Various airlines, including Kenya Airways, RwandAir, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, KLM, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Brussels Airlines, offer services to the country. In 2018, Uganda established its own national airline - Uganda Airlines. You can also arrive through the road from Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park for a gorilla safari at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Air and Railway Travel In UgandaUganda has two domestic airline services for the tourism industry, Aerolink and Eagle Air, which offer flights to several destinations. Uganda Railway links various towns in the country with connections to the Indian Ocean port in Mombasa, Kenya. First built in the colonial era, the Uganda Railways Corporation and Kenya Railways Corporation independently manage the running of the service.
Road Travel In UgandaUganda has a network of roads that originate in Kampala and take you to destinations all over the country. You may find the traffic system confusing and chaotic in the capital city of Kampala. When leaving the city for other locations, however, you should be prepared for most of the roads being uneven and ridden with potholes, making navigation challenging – especially in the wet seasons.
Special Hire Taxis In UgandaYou are probably familiar with the special hire taxis – or cabs, as they are called in North America. They are the most expensive way of traveling in Kampala and within Uganda. Most hotels have tie-ups with specific taxi services and will call a cab for you on request. Always ensure the taxi is licensed and insured to carry public passengers and has valid paperwork as police checkpoint stops are a common occurrence in Uganda.
Minibus Public Vehicle Transportation In UgandaEach shared minibus (or matatus, as Kenyans call them) has a driver and conductor and can seat 14 passengers at a time. These minibuses have no fixed stops for picking up or dropping off fares, though they do have defined routes, and primarily used by the locals. The conductors on board will provide any information you need for the specific destination you’re trying to reach. Watch out for the charges they demand, as they will try to quote higher fares if you don't look local to the area. Make inquiries about the applicable rates before getting in, and you’ll be sure to always pay the correct charge.
Boda Boda Motorcycles In UgandaHiring a ride on a boda boda when traveling around Kampala is a novel, albeit slightly scary and dangerous experience for most foreigners. This mode of transportation was initially bicycles, but has evolved to Indian-made motorcycles. The driver can maneuver through the worst kind of traffic and get you to your destination on schedule. They are fast and tend not to follow any traffic rules. Take care to wear the helmet, and feel free to request that the driver slow down if the pace is unsettling for you. Be aware that accidents are common with boda bodas.
Those opting to travel to Uganda are required to comply with the rules and regulations laid down by the government. Read More
When traveling in Uganda, you can request meet-and-greet services from AfricanMecca Safaris. Customer care agents will meet you at the airport on arrival and assist you with moving your baggage from the designated area to your preferred mode of transport. If you intend to go on safari trips or gorilla-trekking expeditions and return to the hotel a few days later, you have the option of leaving your extra luggage at your city hotel or at our team office in Entebbe or Kampala.
Although you have to check out of the city hotel room and check back in when you return, you will have the assistance of hotel porters with your bags. Checking out can help you avoid having to pay for a hotel room when you are not occupying it for the overnights you are not staying. Inform the hotel of your plans when requesting storage facilities and lock all bags carefully on deposit. Do keep in mind that the maximum baggage weight allowed for transportation is 15 kg on safari flights within Uganda.
Choosing the appropriate clothing to wear while on vacation in Uganda ensures that you can move freely and are comfortable on your hikes and game drives. Read More
As is true no matter where in the world you take a vacation, it’s important to take precautions for your personal safety while in Uganda. Here are some security steps you can take, as advised by AfricanMecca Safaris.
- Safeguard personal belongings such as cameras, wallets, and handbags when in crowded areas.
- Avoid wearing attention-attracting jewelry and items such as bangles, earrings, necklaces, and expensive watches. Keeping a low profile is advisable.
- Hire a taxi for traveling at night and carefully avoid dark and deserted streets, alleyways, and beaches. Getting AfricanMecca Safaris to arrange for transport is a safer option.
- Use the security box in your hotel or lodge to store valuables and cash, and use credit cards as much as possible.
- Carry envelopes with you that can be sealed for securing cash when depositing it with your hotel or lodge.
- Make sure to count the cash and record the amount before depositing it and at the time of retrieval. Never leave loose cash around.
- It is advisable that, for safety purposes, you check whether there are any scheduled political gatherings or demonstrations in Uganda when planning your tour and avoid being a part of any such events.
- In case of emergency, you can get in touch with AfricanMecca Safaris for assistance at any time of the day or night.
While it is not compulsory to tip for the safari or related services you receive, giving a good tip shows your appreciation for the efforts put in to make you comfortable during your travels in Uganda and the value you have received from it. Read More
No matter what time of year you plan to visit Uganda, the Pearl of Africa will thrill you with an adventurous, nature-centric vacation. Read More
Telephone and Fax ServicesMaking phone calls to destinations in Uganda and other international destinations is possible thanks to the advanced communications network available in the country. Direct dialing, and global calling is available from the major cities and some of the rural areas and game lodges. If you need to send fax messages, your hotel and the principal post offices will provide the service.
Some remote game lodges and camps may not have phone connectivity for their guests by way of mobile phones to national and global locations. The lodges may be connected to their offices in Kampala through a direct radio link that you can use. The GSM network is mainly used in Uganda. If you prefer to buy a mobile phone for use during your safari holiday, your AfricanMecca Safaris consultant can assist you in procuring a device and local SIM card.
InternetWhile Internet and email services are freely available in the main cities and towns, many remote lodges and camps may also offer the service. In addition to the hotel where you are staying, you can access the web at the many Internet cafes.
Mail ServicesIf you decide to send any letters by mail to locations in Asia, North America, Europe, and the Middle East when on vacation, expect them to take one or two weeks to get there.
With a rich culture spanning centuries and the influx of travelers from all parts of the world, Uganda is a fused gastronomic destination. Here, you will find cuisines from Europe and Arabian and Asian countries – particularly India – blending seamlessly with local favorites, some of which have been adopted from different parts of Africa. Most of the food is richly seasoned with tomatoes and onions, with a base of carbs and topping of sauce or stew.
You could try dishes that have a cornmeal paste called ugali or banana mash (matooke) at the bottom, with a layer of beans, peanuts, vegetables, and/or meat forming the stew topping. Fruits and vegetables including spinach, cabbage, sweet potatoes, cassava, beans, pineapples, and bananas form a part of most meals, and peanuts are also a frequent ingredient. Ugandans have only a cup of tea and/or porridge and bread for breakfast, while lunch and dinner are complete meals. Most of the ingredients for the meals come from personal farms and gardens.
Indian samosas, a triangular fried savory snack filled with vegetables or meat, are common street foods. You can buy them from the roadside stalls along with fried grasshoppers.
Fresh fish is not easy to come by outside Kampala and Entebbe, but you may find it on the menu if you are staying close to a lake or river on your tour. Smoked fish is more readily available and is typically served with beans or meat.
Some tribes in Uganda have their own delicacies or specialty dishes. Ingredients often include potatoes, vegetables, yams, bananas, and other tropical fruits. Nyama, Swahili for ‘meat,’ is usually goat, beef, mutton, chicken, pork, or fish. People in rural areas tend to eat less meat due to high costs, and when they do it’s often bushmeat.
Your gourmet vacation would not be complete without the traditional Ugandan dish, luwombo, which is a stew containing chicken, beef, fish or mushrooms steamed in banana leaves. If you’re feeling adventurous, dare eaters also want to try nsenene (grasshopper) and nswaa (white ant), which are considered affordable delicacies amongst locals.
- Waragi, or banana gin, is the national drink and a must-try on your vacation
- Tea or chai is served in both English and spiced Indian varieties
- Coffee (kawa, as the Ugandans call it or kahava in Swahili)
- Alcoholic drinks, including wines brought in from South Africa
- Local fermented beer
Uganda allows vacationers to bring electronics such as cameras, laptops, film, and other devices into the country without incurring any duty. However, you cannot sell these items in the country. At times, customs officials may make a list of the items you bring into the country on your passport, and you may have to display the items to officials on leaving the country. Expect to make your baggage available for inspection on arrival and departure. Make sure to keep your baggage locked, but have the keys ready when you need to open the bags.
AfricanMecca Safaris advises that you drink only bottled or boiled water during your trip. While most hotels and accommodations provide a small supply as part of the room facilities (teeth brushing) or for sale for daily consumption, you can buy additional bottles from a grocery store when going on a road safari. However, you should come prepared to pay a little more for bottled water in safari camps and lodges than usual because of the cost of transportation to remote parks and reserves.
Electricity in Uganda, whether provided by the power grid or the generators in your hotel or lodge, will be 240 volts AC, 50 cycles. The standard plug type is the British socket G used all over the country. The plug is triangular in shape with three pins and supplies 240V voltage at 50Hz. However, while on vacation in Uganda you might find that some of the larger urban high-end hotels do provide shaver outlets with 110 volts 50 cycles. If you are traveling from North America, you might want to bring a multi-pin voltage converter adapter that will help you charge electronics without any inconvenience.
Depending on the lodge or camp where you are staying, you may be allowed to use your own appliances, such as hair dryers, while others may provide them in the rooms for the use of guests. If you want to bring your equipment, keep in mind that plug adapters may not convert the voltage for you, and North American appliances are typically designed for 110-120 volts. Accordingly, you may want to use them with caution. (The charger cables used with laptops and similar electronics typically work fine on either voltage, providing you have a simple plug adapter.) Also, power outages are frequent in Uganda, so it is advisable to bring along a power bank to keep your cell phone and camera batteries charged and usable.
The Ugandan flag features six horizontal bands of equal width with a white disc in the center carrying the national symbol, the grey-crowned crane, facing the flag pole side. The military badge worn by Ugandan soldiers during colonial rule included the bird. As you will learn on your travels, it is well-known as a gentle creature, now depicted with a raised leg to signify progress for the country.
On the top edge of the flag is a black stripe, which symbolizes the African people; the next stripe is yellow, referring to the sun. The next color is red, which stands for the African brotherhood bonded by the same blood. The lower three stripes repeat the three on top. The Swahili term for the flag is “Bendera ya Uganda.” It came into force as the official flag on Uganda’s Independence Day, Oct. 9, 1962.
The consultant at AfricanMecca Safaris will inform you of the dates of the public holidays so you can plan your activities accordingly. Keep in mind that the Eid national holidays in Uganda are based on the Islamic lunar calendar, which adjusts by 11 days annually. For this reason, the holidays fall on different days of the Gregorian calendar each year. Review the below list of the public and private sector holidays typically observed.
- January 1 - New Year’s Day
- January 26 - NRM Liberation Day
- February 16 - Remembrance of Archbishop Janani Luwum
- March 8 - International Women’s Day
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- May 1 - Labor Day
- June 3 - Martyrs’ Day
- June 9 - National Heroes’ Day
- October 9 - Independence Day
- December 25 - Christmas Day
- December 26 - Boxing Day
- Eid El Fitr, marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan
- Eid Al-Adha, falls in the month of Dhul-Hajj and marks the day when Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son on God’s command
Should you get ill and need medical care during your stay in Uganda, you can expect that health services are only adequate in terms of the standard of facilities and care. While most hospitals, dispensaries, and clinics carry the necessary medicines and maintain modest lab facilities, access to specialists and high-grade equipment needed for your care may be limited or impossible, and you may need to fly to Kenya or South Africa for specialist medical care. If you regularly take prescription medicines, make sure to bring the complete supply you need for the duration of your visit. The specific drugs you need may not be available. You may also want to carry along over-the-counter medications for minor illnesses and allergies. Further, make sure to bring adequate sun protection, including sunscreen and appropriate full-coverage clothing, footwear, and hats.
If you do get sick or injured on vacation in locations outside of Kampala, you may need to arrange for evacuation by air transport. For this reason, it’s highly recommended that you purchase travel insurance to cover the considerable expenses of getting medical care outside of the country and/or emergency travel back home or evacuation to the nearest best hospital for your required care.
Essential Health Insurance Needed Before Arriving in UgandaWhen planning your trip to Uganda, check with your insurance provider about coverage available to you when traveling in the country. Should you need an emergency evacuation in case of serious illness or injury, the costs can run quite high. You will also need to carry adequate cash for medical expenses, since most healthcare providers and facilities require you to pay cash upfront and get reimbursed for the expenses from your insurance company on returning home.
Your consultant at AfricanMecca Safaris will help you get complete insurance coverage from a certified and reliable provider at https://www.ustia.org. Pay the necessary premiums and make sure to get coverage for medical emergencies, ground and air transport, and any unexpected situations such as delays in flights and baggage retrieval.
Ugandans use the metric system, by which weight is measured in kilograms and distance in kilometers. To assist with the conversions, keep in mind that:
- 1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds
- 1 kilometer = 0.62 miles
Because of the former uncertain political situation in Uganda and the past dictatorships of Idi Amin and Milton Obote, the press has always been severely repressed. However, the coming of President Yoweri Museveni in 1986 brought several reforms and the development of the media. Although the country has seen significant progress in the past 30 years or so, a few recent cases are again casting doubt on the future of the industry. These include the shutdown of channels such as CBS radio and NTV. When traveling in the country, you will have the opportunity to understand and learn about the functioning of the various mediums.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Other PublicationsUganda has several daily newspapers. Of these, the oldest newspaper in English is New Vision, which is state-owned and is circulated widely all over the country. The second most popular publication is The Daily Monitor. In the past 10 years or so, the Monitor has presented a different viewpoint and attempted to reveal aspects of events in Uganda in a way that is not heavily influenced by government propaganda. The five major newspapers in the country often relate completely conflicting views of events. Aside from the two major newspapers, you could pick up the Bukedde newspaper in Luganda, Red Pepper, The Razor, The Weekly Observer, The Independent, Entasi, and Onion. Among the popular magazines are Newslex Super Magazine, Elyte, African Woman, and Bride & Groom.
TelevisionUganda is currently making the transition from analog to digital TV. The Uganda Communication Commission is running national campaigns to raise awareness of the need for users to make sure they have digital TV decoders or reception devices that can pick up digital signals. To date, the commission has licensed five companies to provide free-to-air decoders to users in Uganda. Alternatively, residents and guests on vacation can choose digital pay-TV services such as Startimes, Simba TV, Zuku, GoTV, and DSTV to get both pay-to-watch and free-to-air channels.
Radio ServicesUntil the early 1990s, Radio Uganda was the only station broadcasting in Uganda. With the issue of the first licenses, Sanyu FM and Capital FM also arrived on the scene. The country now has more than 50distinct FM radio stations, so if you would like a taste of local music and entertainment when on holiday, you can check them out. Try Radio Simba, Radio One, Galaxy FM and Unity FM Lira. While music shows are the most popular, you will also find comedy and talk shows. In recent times, broadcasting companies have been integrating with the Internet to widen their scope and promote user engagement via mobile phones.
Internet ConnectivityInternet connectivity in Uganda is still in the developmental stages, though the coming of the Indian Ocean fiber-optic cable project has brought in significant changes and an increased leap in interest in this media channel. Several telecommunications companies are now investing in GPRS and broadband subscription services, making the Internet available to a wider range of users across the country via mobile phones and basic dongle devices You can enjoy keeping your Facebook and Instagram accounts updated on your tour vacation. You can also stay updated with events in Uganda by reading online newspapers such as Newslex Point, New Vision, and the Monitor.
Finding the essentials in Uganda is not a problem, and you should be able to shop for basics like batteries, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo and other toiletries. It’s advisable to bring any medicines you think you might need for your trip, rather than trying to source them while in the country.
While on your safari vacation, you will want to pick up souvenirs and mementos for friends and family back home. Go ahead and buy items like woven baskets and hats, musical instruments like the Ugandan guitar and drum, ceramic sculptures, batiks, paintings, and wooden artifacts. You can also look for pretty local jewelry like necklaces and bangles, along with sachets of fragrant Ugandan tea and coffee. From roadside stalls to major shopping centers and malls, Kampala has plenty to offer when it comes to shopping.
Bargaining for the best price is acceptable, though it’s important to keep in mind that the sellers are often struggling to make ends meet, and the extra dollars that travelers pay can go a long way in helping them. Shops in Uganda typically open at 10:00 a.m. and close around 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. They may close early on Saturdays, and most shops are closed on Sunday.
If you are staying in a city hotel, you can expect some will have designated smoking rooms, and you will have the option of requesting a special room at the time of booking your urban vacation overnights. However, most safari camps and lodges in Uganda don’t have smoking rooms, though they may have specially designated areas where you can smoke. Since the tents are also booked by non-smokers and children, it is advisable that you refrain from smoking in them. If you are part of a group, out of respect for their safety and health, please ask for permission before you light up.
If you are mobility-challenged or have special needs, inform the tour consultant at AfricanMecca Safaris and we will make arrangements for accommodations that have the necessary facilities for you. However, most public areas, save for the international airport, are not designed to accommodate guests with mobility needs.
When planning your African vacation, you should factor in differences in time zones so you can plan for your activities and your flight arrival and departure times. Uganda time is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) - London Time, and does not observe daylight saving time. New York or Eastern Standard Time is 8 hours behind Uganda and the neighboring Rwanda is 1 hour behind.
While you can bring pets into the country, do inform AfricanMecca Safaris so they can procure the mandatory clearance permit for your pet. You will also have to meet all the required health criteria and pay the fee for the permit. Make sure to check with your preferred accommodation about their regulations regarding bringing pets into the premises.
The Ugandan unit of currency is the Uganda Shilling. Usable coins available in denominations are 200 and 500, while notes are in denominations of 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000. Should you need banking services, you can visit any branch in the major cities and towns between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Some branches may be open on Saturday mornings also, and banks at the airport may be operational for longer hours. If you need currency exchanged while on vacation, you may find you get the best exchange rates at the airport or a certified exchange bureau rather than banks.
Using Credit Cards and Foreign Currency in UgandaAside from the high-end hotels in Kampala and very few safari lodges and camps, most accommodations don’t accept credit cards, and if they do, you may incur a service charge of 5% to 10%. Some hotels in Uganda also readily accept US dollars, given the uncertain valuation of the local currency.
If you are planning on going on a gorilla trek in Bwindi and wildlife safari in other parks in Uganda, it’s a good idea to bring US dollars for tips and to pay for your personal expenses. However, make sure the notes are dated in the last 2-3 years or preferably newer or are in reasonably good condition, with no tears or markings on them. Exchanging US currency in denominations of $50 or $100 can get you the best exchange rates. Some vendors also accept euros and UK pounds and will convert them into Ugandan currency for you.
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Request Uganda Custom Or Tailor-Made Safari Pricing Based On Your Specific Travel Dates At Your Preferred Safari Tier Camp Or LodgeCONTACT AN EXPERT ON UGANDA SAFARI PRICES & TOURS
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Review individual itineraries and prices of our suggested Uganda safaris with the option of customizing your Africa tour based on your needs and preferences.
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HOW TO PLAN UGANDA SAFARI?
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PARKS & RESERVES IN UGANDA
Review information on wildlife safari parks, reserves and lakes in Uganda i.e. Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth, Kibale, Murchison Falls, Kidepo Valley, Mgahinga, Semliki, and Lake Mburo
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BEST TIME TO VISIT UGANDA ON A SAFARI VACATION
Review details on the best time to go to Uganda to visit its various wildlife outback, forests, beachside lakes, cities and towns, mountains and other wildernesses.
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UGANDA GORILLA TREK & CHIMPANZEE SAFARIS
Experience the opportunity to track down endangered mountain gorillas of Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks and other primates like chimpanzees and monkeys of Kibale, Kyambura Gorge, Budongo and Semliki.
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UGANDA COUNTRY PROFILE
Review country information and travel tips on Uganda i.e. geography, culture, history, climate, tipping guide, what to pack and wear, entry requirements and more.
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There are infinite reasons to visit Uganda e.g distinct gorilla and chimpanzee parks, one stop affordable safari destination, big game and birding paradise, diverse activities, mountain climbing etc.
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AFRICAN SAFARI PRICES
Check out safari prices and itineraries for parks and reserves in other African countries e.g. Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia etc. Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are available on request.
What are our Customers saying about us? READ MORE REVIEWS
I just returned from a month in Africa, specifically Rwanda & Kenya. I am left breathless with my experience. AfricanMecca Safaris coordinated the entire trip for me and left no detail, nothing for me to do.
Carol Bobb - Pennsylvania, United States
Rwanda was amazing. The accommodations, food, and guides AfricanMecca arranged were great. Raza also helped us through the complicated process of getting permits for gorilla trekking. AfricanMecca is a fantastic company to work with.
Stephanie Weir - United States
Jambo Altaf and Raza! We are back on earth now after our fabulous honeymoon. This is to say THANK YOU so much for organising a week in Kenya that we will never forget.....!
Dr Krina Zondervan, Oxford University - United Kingdom
Jambo Raza!!! The safari trip was spectacular! Everything went off without a hitch. We loved the Masai Mara. The migration was awesome. You listened to what I wanted and delivered it perfectly.
Judi & Chaim Platt - Toronto, Canada
I cannot say enough about the quality of AfricanMecca. Their teams in Kenya and Tanzania were top notch. Raza, again thanks to you and your entire organization! We will be repeat customers.
Dan Kobick - Managing Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers - New York, United States
AfricanMecca Safaris offers incredibly knowledgeable and skilled services! Our travel arrangements for 2 months of volunteering with TEACH Rwanda in country were made quickly and economically. Honored to work with Raza!
Janet Brown - TEACH Rwanda Founder - United States
This is to let you know my guests, The Bryant's, had a wonderful time on the trip Samburu, Masai Mara/Kenya, Chobe/Botswana & Victoria Falls/Zambia. Everything was perfect! Thank you..
Christine Milan - MT Carmel Travel - Connecticut, United States
EAST AFRICA SAFARI BOOKING & TOUR HOLIDAY IDEA UGANDA FOR 2023-2024
We recommend visiting Bwindi for your gorilla safari trek, and combining it with Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, and Kibale (chimpanzee safari) alongside your city tour visits of Kampala and Entebbe.
You may optionally extend out to other wilderness areas such as Mgahinga to track down golden monkeys and gorillas in the same park, Jinja for whitewater rafting on the Nile River, and Semliki, Lake Mburo or Kidepo for an offbeat wildlife tour.
You can end your vacation on the beach at Lake Victoria or even extending out to the exotic spice island of Zanzibar or Lamu, or even Mombasa.
Best Safari Planning Ideas & Trip Experiences For UgandaBelow are guide references on how to plan each of the below safari experience in Uganda. Alternatively, go to the summary section for a quick overview of each trip planning experience.READ MORE
TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE FOR UGANDA
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