Information to know when planning a tour to Uganda

Interested in taking a Uganda Safari? Below is a summary of the information that will guide you through planning a wonderful travel experience in Uganda, Africa.

When to Visit

Uganda has a warm climate all year around and because it lies on the Equator, seasonal temperature variations are insignificant. The main factor you should consider when planning a safari to Uganda is the rainfall pattern, especially if you are planning a hike in the Ruwenzori Mountains or a camping safari in Uganda’s national parks. The wettest months are April, May, October and November. During these months camping isn’t very practical (you’ll be packing up your tent in the rain as often as not), hiking can be an endurance test and some unsurfaced roads may be impassable.

Check your passport

Check well in advance that you have a valid passport and that it wont expire within six months of the date on which you intend to leave Uganda. Should your passport be lost or stolen, it will be easier to get a replacement if you have a photocopy of important pages.

If there is any possibility you will want to drive or hire a vehicle while you are in the country, do organize an international driving license, which you may be asked to produce together with your original license. Any AA office in a country in which you are licensed to drive will do this for a nominal fee. You may sometimes be asked at the border or international airport for an international health certificate showing you have had a yellow fever shot.

For security reasons, its advisable to detail all your important information on one sheet of paper, photocopy it and distribute a few copies in your luggage, your money belt and amongst relatives or friends at home. The sort of things you want to include are your travelers’ cheque numbers and refund information, travel insurance policy details and 24 hours emergency contact numbers, passport number, details of relatives or friends to be contacted in an emergency, bank and credit card detail of relatives or friends to be contacted in an emergency, bank and credit card details, camera and lens numbers.

Visas

Nationals of most countries require a visa in order to enter Uganda. This can be obtained in advance at any Ugandan Embassy or high commission abroad but in most cases it will be simpler to purchase the visa upon arrival. Visa rulings are prone to any changes so all visitor are required to check with their embassies or high commissions before coming to the country. You may import personal effects like binoculars, cameras, films temporarily in the country without a permit but a custom bond will be required for video equipment, musical instrument, radios, slide projectors and tape recorders during your stay. Consumables in small amounts of one litre of alcohol, perfume, fifty cigars, 200 cigarettes or a quarter kilogram of tobacco will be allowed duty free. Obscene literature is not allowed. Pets accompanied by recent health certificate and special permission from commissioner of customs will be allowed. These are however not allowed in national parks/reserves. Firearms cannot be imported without an import certificate from police fire arms department.

Travelling with children

Ugandans are very friendly to children and make them so friendly. On buses and matatus, the rule seems to be that you pay full fare for the seats they occupy, yet those who seat on the laps are free. Often hotels and safari lodges are able to provide an extra bed for children or a mattress. Some hotels also allow negotiating per bed and not per person and are easy in any part of the country. Don’t take white clothing as the ubiquitous red dust and mud get everywhere. National park fees are also negotiable for children.

Flying to Uganda

Uganda’s international airport is Entebbe. It is located 40 km from Kampala. People flying from Europe or North America may find it easier to get cheap tickets to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and east Africa’s major entry point. In Europe, the best place to find cheap tickets to Africa is London that is; Africa travel specialists (Glen House, Stag PlaceLondonSW1E 5AG) and Africa travel Centre ( 4 Medway court, Leigh street, London WC1H9QX).

Provided that you have a valid traveling passport and a return ticket, you should pass through the entrance formalities at Entebbe with no hassle. Visitors who arrive by air are required to provide a yellow fever vaccination certificate. If you arrive without it, you will definitely be asked to come along with it next time.

The only reason why a Fly-in visitor may be allowed in Uganda without a return ticket is that they may intend to travel more widely in Africa. Not many traveler start their African travels in Uganda because from most parts of the world it is far cheaper to fly to Nairobi but for one reason you will be arriving with a one-way ticket, there is a small but real possibility that you will be given a rough time by immigration officials concerned that you will not have enough funds to buy a flight ticket out of the country.

Once in Uganda and through with customs and immigrations, you will require to change your currency to Ugandan currency and there are 24 hour foreign exchange facilities at the airport and in Kampala though the rates are more expensive than the prevailing rates on the general market. A private taxi from the air port to the Uganda’s city centre in Kampala costs around USD30. The other alternative is to get a motor cycle commonly known as Boda Boda and it drops you in Entebbe town where you will have to board a matatu from.

Eating and Drinking

If you are not fussy and don’t mind about variety, you can eat cheaply almost anywhere in the country. In most towns, numerous restaurants often called hotels serve unimaginative but filling meals for under $2. Typically local food is based around meat, or chicken stew eaten with one of the four staples: matooke, rice, chapatti and posho/ugali .Matooke is a cooked plantain dish served boiled or in a mashed heap and it is the staple diet in almost 3/4s of the country.

In larger towns, you will usually find a couple of better restaurants serving western and Indian food for around $4 – $10 and variety are found in Kampala. Up market lodges usually serve high quality food while vegetarians are poorly catered for. Vegetarians on advanced tours should inform their tour organizers before so that can arrange for food for them. For clients with special diets, Fruits and vegetables are best bought at markets where they are very cheap. For hikers, packet soups are about the only dehydrated meals that are available throughout Uganda. If you have specialized requirements, you are better off shopping in Kampala before heading up country. Brand names such as Pepsi, Coca-cola and Fanta are widely available in Uganda and cheap by international standards. If the fizzy stuff doest appeal, you will the buy imported South African fruit juices at super markets in Kampala and other large towns. Tap boiled water is normally safe to drink in larger towns but bottled mineral water is widely available if you prefer not to take risk.

Normally the most widely taken beverage is chai a sweet tea where all ingredients are boiled together in a pot. In some parts of the country, it is spiced with ginger or vanilla. Coffee is one of Uganda’s major cash crops but you will be lucky if you ever meet a Ugandan who knows how to brew a decent cup of coffee.

What to wear on Safari in Uganda

A difference between Uganda and other countries in Africa is the location though located on the equator. Uganda is higher in elevation than most countries and more bio-diverse. There are the Savannahs as in other African Locations but there the Rainforests, Jungle, Mountains, Lakes and Rivers. The clothing that you bring should fit the activities that you participate in.

The appropriate clothing for women considering the variation, but you also want to ensure that everything you buy is culturally sensitive (but also weather appropriate) we have listed the things that we think are suitable. The main thing is to be comfortable and on the whole as long as you are sensible you are unlikely to offend. Just remember, again, as you may have seen in the packing list, Uganda is not a very conservative dressing style country, and peeps tend to mind their own business most of the time.

Generally, It is not culturally appropriate for women to show their thighs. So skirts/dresses below the knee, capris, or long pants are your best bet. On top it doesn’t really matter how covered you are for the sake of modesty, you would mostly be considering protection from the sun.

With long skirts – be careful that they are not too thick of material. Some skirts people bring are not nearly as ideal as you would imagine, because you can get really hot wearing them.

With long pants, consider if they drag/touch the ground. The red dirt will get on anything that it touches. So just be forewarned.

I would recommend a pair of chacos to wear around the compound or another sturdy walking sandal for daily use.

For gorilla trekking, be sure you have some good (and broken in) hiking boots. They don’t call it Bwindi an impenetrable forest for nothing.

Also for gorilla trekking, long pants/trousers and tall socks that you can tuck your pants in to. This works totally great. Though some trackers get fancy hiking gear that includes some sort or sleeve type thing that goes over the pants from the knee to the shoe and prevents ants from getting in. Either way works. Breathable long sleeve button down shirts are ideal