Quick Travel Tips & Information
Uganda “The Pearl of Africa” is efficiently endowed with a variety of habitats plus corresponding Flora and Fauna with a diversity of attractions and cultures to act as a focus for tourism activities making it the number one tourism destination in the whole of East Africa. Attractions in Uganda include; National parks, Forest reserves, Wildlife reserves, cultural heritage sites, Specific Natural features for example Mountain peaks and Gorges plus areas of specific scenic interest like Mountains and craters. The major tourism activities include; gorilla tracking, bird watching, mountaineering, chimpanzee trekking, primate watching, rafting, kayaking, sport fishing, cultural tourism, bungee jumping, game drives to mention but a few.
Below is a list of guidelines to help you while on your visit
Access: One can get to Uganda by either Air or Road. Entebbe International Airport is 40km from Kampala Uganda’s capital city, the airport has a number of world class airlines including; British Airways, South African Airways, SN Brussels, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, Egypt Air, Kenya Airways, Air Tanzania, offering flights to and fro.
There are direct flights from Europe and regional flights from Kenya and Tanzania. You can also catch a long-distance bus from Tanzania, Kenya or Rwanda.
Arrival: Customs and migration officials are polite and efficient, and a visa for those who require one, can be purchased on the spot at Entebbe International Airport or at any overland border. Foreign Exchange and ATM facilities are available at the airport, which is also serviced by several shops and restaurants. Most midrange to up market hotels in Kampala and Entebbe will arrange airport transfers by request, as well as the tour operators.
Health: A certificate of yellow fever vaccination is required. All visitors should take anti-Malaria drugs. It is advisable to drink bottled rather than tap water, bottled water can be got from supermarkets, shops and restaurants. Visitors are advised to take safety measures against HIV/AIDS which is the number one killer disease Worldwide.
Currency: The currency used is the Uganda shilling; the Uganda Shilling is freely convertible to any foreign currency and vice versa because the country’s economic policy for current and capital accounts is fully liberalized. Most tour operators prefer that tourists pay in US dollars, but Euros and Pound Sterling are also widely accepted. Hard currency cash can be changed for local currency at Banks and Forex bureaus in all towns in the Country, travelers’ cheques are not easily accepted outside Kampala hence one should find another option before leaving for the next destination. Local currency can be drawn against Visa and other major credit cards at selected ATMs in Kampala, at Entebbe International Airport, and in other large towns.
Language: Uganda is a multi-lingual country with English as the official language while Swahili is the next commonly understood language and an important lingua franca especially in the Northern Regions followed by Luganda. There are a number of people who speak French due to the strong influence from Rwanda and Congo and the language is widely taught in Ugandan schools.
When to Visit: Uganda has a beautiful climate all year round and can be visited at any time. The temperatures range from 21° Celsius to 30° Celsius in the day and 16°-20° Celsius in the night. The hottest months are from December-January and the wettest and coolest months are March-May and the mid-September to November. Activities like mountain hiking, gorilla and Chimp tracking which involve walking through steep slopes with thick undergrowth and other forest walks are more challenging during the rainy seasons, which generally peak over mid-September to November and March to May.
What to Wear: Daytime temperatures are generally warm to hot, so bring lots of light clothing. Evenings are cooler, especially at high altitudes, so carry a couple of light sweaters too. Those who intend to hike on the mountains will be exposed to alpine temperatures and should pack accordingly .Solid walking shoes and sturdy clothing are ideal for forest walks. Don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses and a waterproof jacket.
What to bring: Visitors to the country are required to have valid passports, and visa requirements should be checked with the customs and immigrations at the Airport on arrival. Binoculars and tour guides will enable you reap the most of game reserves and national park tours and game drives. Zoom lens for Photographers who intend to capture the beautiful wildlife and scenery. Printing films and developing facilities are available in Kampala. Toiletries and other essential commodities can be purchased at any of the numerous supermarkets and shopping centers in the cities.
Gorilla Tracking: The minimum age for Gorilla tracking is 15 years. And each permit costs $ 500 per person per day for Bwindi National Park, $500 for Mgahinga National Park, and $500 for Park Nationale de Volcans in Ruhengeri.
Driving: Driving is on the left hand side. We can organize vehicles with drivers for those who have no experience in driving on Ugandan roads.
Donations: We do not recommend that clients give money to beggars or street children as this only leads to the culture of begging and dependency. Donations can be made to established international and local charities that work with the homeless, street children or orphans. We can arrange visits to local projects or institutions on request. If personal donations are preferred, we would suggest exercise books, pens or pencils as useful gifts.
Tipping: Ugandans tip according to the level of service and there are no fixed or assumed rates. Culturally, people may not feel it appropriate to outwardly show their appreciation for money given, however salaries are generally low in Uganda compared to the neighboring tourist destinations and all tips will be greatly appreciated. The amount depends on the tourist’s discretion although tour guides and drivers should always be tipped. Tips are very personal and this is only a guide.
Accommodation and Meals: Uganda is still relatively new to international tourism. The seasoned traveler will find many lodges are not as luxurious as in other African countries, and then other properties may exceed expectations. There are accommodations of different standards throughout the country. Electricity and piped/main water supply may not always be available, though clients will usually find a hot shower waiting for them after a long days trek. In some remote locations, long-drop or compost toilets may be found. Food may be basic but you are assured of fresh produce and a variety of tropical fruits, which taste so much better than supermarket imports in the West! The more up-market lodges and hotels offer excellent facilities on par with other safari destinations. However, kindly remember that we are a developing economy and expectations should not be unrealistic. We at Wal-Mark Africa Safaris will always ensure to book the best accommodation available for our clients.
Souvenirs: A wide selection of local handicrafts is available as souvenirs including; musical instruments such as the locally made drums, excellent local basketry, paintings and pottery.
Further Information: For further information please read; The Bradt Travel, Lonely Planet, Footprint Guides and Spectrum Guides. There are other guides on the internet that can provide additional information.