10 things I wish I knew before going to Uganda
While travelling to most African countries gives you the experience to behold. Going to Uganda could be the experience you have been longing for all along if you haven't been there yet. However, there are things you need to know well in advance before setting out for Uganda.
Uganda is landlocked and is found in the East-Central African region. It is neighbour to Kenya to the East, South Sudan to the North, DRC to the West, Tanzania to the South, and Rwanda to the South West. So if you had the question, 'where is Uganda located?' you have the answer now. The capital of Uganda is Kampala, a city you will certainly enjoy being in when you visit.
Before you travel to Uganda, here is a list of things you should know about in advance.
1. Get a visa to travel to Uganda
Like many other countries in the world and Africa, you will need a visa when going to Uganda. There are two options for obtaining a visa to Uganda, though. You can choose to register for one via the authentic online platform or get one upon arriving in the country. If you choose to acquire one from the online platform, you can purchase it through the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration. It is the only genuine visa application site for Uganda visas, and you will have to part with just $50 for the services.
However, if you opt for the visa-on-arrival option, you can travel and start processing one at the airport. This option may soon be unavailable as the e-visa option is projected to take over the visa application process fully. So you should get the Uganda e-visa as it is much easier to acquire and cheaper as well.
2. Get vaccinations before you travel to Uganda
You will undoubtedly need to have some vaccinations done before you set out for the pearl of Africa. First, you have to take vaccination against Yellow Fever before you apply for the visa, as this is a requirement for you to get a visa. After that, you will need vaccination against Malaria, DTP, and Hepatitis A. When in the country, some organizations may suggest that you take vaccines against Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Cholera, and Rabies as well.
3. Is it safe in Uganda?
One of the things you need to know before going to Uganda is its safety. The good news is that Uganda is generally a safe country that records a low crime rate annually. When in Uganda, you are free to travel anytime without the worry of getting attacked but only within the major towns and cities. When travelling outside major towns, you should avoid using the road.
Some risky spots to avoid when spending time in Uganda include the northern regions where Uganda borders South Sudan. However, you can always visit the Kidepo Valley National Park that stretches to South Sudan's border without fear. You also need to take additional personal vigilance to ensure your belongings are safe and that you do not expose yourself to danger while there.
So, the question 'is it safe to travel to Uganda?' can only have one answer, which is, yes, it is. Therefore, get your travelling gears on and make your trip to Uganda a reality.
4. The best time to travel to Uganda
The ideal time to travel to Uganda should be on your list of what to know before going to Uganda. While travelling to Uganda is safe and ideal all year round, you can only visit the country during the dry seasons from June to August and from December to February if you want to enjoy Uganda Safaris. When the seasons are dry, it is easier to spot wildlife as they come from their hideouts in search of water and food.
There is, therefore, no peak season for travelling to Uganda. However, for some months, your stay in the country will not be as smooth as the wet weather. The rains come between March and May, and they make travelling around a little more complicated than in the drier months.
5. Ugandan money and currency exchange rates
Ugandans buy and sell using the Ugandan Shilling. You will be required to have the Ugandan shilling to carry out most of the transactions you will be making during your stay in the country. Some places like the Uganda Wildlife Authority and some national parks accept foreign currencies like Dollars, Euros, and Pounds.
Exchanging your Dollars, Euros, or Pounds to Ugandan shilling when spending time in Uganda will attract some of the best value. For example, 1 US dollar will attract up to 3 673.80 Ugandan Shillings. This means you can use fewer dollars to survive around if you intend to stay over an extended period.
6. Be ready to issue out some tips
Ugandans are a warm and welcoming lot. However, most of the time, those that will help you with your way around the country will expect you to issue them with some tips. A few who can access the foreign exchange bureaus will gladly accept a tip in foreign currency. However, most of them will expect that you tip them using the local Ugandan currency, the shilling. Since the average monthly income for a Ugandan ranges between $135 and $270, you can be of great help if you leave your tour guide a tip in a couple of dollars.
7. National park fees in Uganda
Although you may have several other great reasons to travel to Uganda, you will always have some time to visit the National Parks for some good time with the animals. It is therefore essential that you know the fees these National Parks charge on average. In Uganda, the fees for National Parks are regulated by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The fees may differ a little for different National Parks, but most charge around $40 for entrance fees.
You can expect to pay a lesser amount in some barely known national parks or game reserves. These charge from between $35 to $10 for entrance fees for foreign non-residents. One good thing is that the national park fees last 24 hours from registration, which means you can enjoy it maximally if you sign in cleverly. National Parks would also charge you a one-time vehicle park fee, which averages at about $8.
8. Get a permit to watch some of the most endangered gorilla species
Uganda proudly hosts some of the world's most endangered gorilla species, which were once critically endangered. The gorillas are preserved in Uganda's impenetrable forests, which gives you an experience that you should never wish to miss out on. You should secure the permit before your arrival to avoid disappointment once you get into the country.
The Uganda Wildlife Association issues the permits at the cost of $600 for foreign non-residents. Once you have paid, you will be accorded a tour guide to take you throughout the adventure. The tour guide is a member of the Uganda tour operators, so you do not have to worry about a lack of professionalism in how they will handle you.
9. Electricity in Uganda
When you plan to get to places outside the major cities, you will have to contend with the reality of limited power supply from solar panels or generators as these places lack electricity. This means you can have power in your rooms at some specified times, and even then, you can only use the power to charge your mobile phone and maybe light up the room. Other heavy electricity consumption needs, such as charging your laptop, camera batteries, or using a dryer, may demand that you get to the main area.
Some lodges or hotels are considerate enough to offer a reliable main toilet where women can use hairdryers. As for advice, you may want to consider carrying a powerful power bank to help in charging your devices when the need arises. Also, packing in some extra batteries may take you a long way into your nights.
10. What to carry along to Uganda
Ugandans have a conservative culture, and when it comes to dressing, you will seem odd if you bring short skirts or shorts with you for your trip there. Carrying over the knee skirts for women is ideal, especially if you visit the local communities made up of the elderly and the young in significant ratios. These skirts for women are preferred to shorts and trousers as they are considered polite and respectful clothing selection.
If you are going to hiking events like gorilla or chimpanzee trekking, you will need to pack some good hiking shoes. Long clothes will protect you against diseases brought about by mosquitoes and other insects like the Tsetse flies. If you have an international driving license, you can bring it over if you intend to drive yourself within your stay.
Uganda is a country to visit and relax, especially when you are yearning for a thrilling destination for your holiday deals. Now that you have what to know before going to Uganda at your fingertips, you are set to book your next flight to Uganda without fear of encountering the unknown. Also, you now have a positive answer to the question: is it safe to travel to Uganda Africa? So nothing prevents you from getting your gears ready and having that trip you have been yearning for.
Judith is a Kenya based writer. Writing is her passion. She is the consummate professional with boundless enthusiasm. With a style that is spare and to the point, she delights in presenting facts accurately but also strives to lead readers into unknown worlds, worlds filled with ideas to explore and information to digest. Impossible meets the achievable, as she takes any challenge presented and makes sure that nothing is left to chance.