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.
SEE: Uganda Safari Offers offered by several tour operators and travel agencies in Uganda.
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.
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. For more information but taking children to Uganda, you may need to carry the book your child’s health abroad: a manual for traveling parents by Dr. Jane Wilson –Howarth and Dr Mathew Ellis (1998)
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 whiz 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 you 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 know 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 hotelis 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 ho knows how to brew a decent cup of coffee.
It is advisable that visitors to Uganda take anti-malarial medication. The use of mosquito repellents and nets are recommended for use especially those taking out camping holidays in Uganda.
Uganda is sunny most of the year round with temperatures rising above 290C. The heavy rainy season is march –may , light rainy season November-December, though there will always be a few hours of sunshine.
CURRENCY The unit currency of Uganda is the Uganda shilling and it is divided into denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 for coins and paper notes are available in denominations of 1000, 5000, 10000, 20000 and 50000. There are no restrictions n the movement of currency into or out of Uganda for current transactions.
The official language spoken in Uganda is English. Luganda and Swahili are also widely spoken.
several companies now offer flights internally including eagle Air and United Airline. It is possible to charter a light air craft to fly to airstrips around the country. These are located in East (Moroto and Tororo, North(Sorpti, Lira, Gulu, Paraa(for Murchison falls National park) Pakuba (for Kidepo national Park) West Kasese(for Queen Elizabeth national Park), South West( Mbarara) Abacus African vacations a reknown Uganda safari company is doing chattered flights to individuals, companies as well as tourists who are visiting to Uganda national parks.
The train only operate a freight service. There are good roads on the main routes and travel is comfortable and swift. Buses are safer, slower and cheaper than other modes. There are also vans but they are usually termed as taxis. Others are minibuses that are found normally in the taxi park. These are very fine for short journeys and they are normally available in large towns they are too fast. It is always advisable to agree or bargain the taxi fare before departure. Unless they get full, most Buses and Matatus will not move. However, they take long to get full on Sundays and Holidays. If you are on a hurry and public transport is scarce, there are some motorcycles and bicycle termed as boda boda, they are more expensive that the public passenger service vehicles. If you wish to travel private, then there are small cabs that are usually termed as special hire they are also more expensive but can take you any where you want provided you pay. There are also wide ranges of car hire agencies if you wish to self drive drivers are asset in case of break down.
LAW AND RESPECT
Visitors are expected to show respect for the head of state and other leaders or uniformed officials of the public service. Tearing or burning of presidents portraits is an offence. Avoid infringing the law especially the foreign exchange control act, traffic regulations and laws against prostitution, sexual abuse and taking or trafficking in drugs. Foreign offenders are usually arraigned and fined or ordered to leave the country. Smoking opium or cannabis sativa, also locally called Bhang is forbidden and any one trying to import it, hidden in his or her baggage puts himself in serious trouble.
Telephone services are widely spread allover the country. Some mobile phone companies operate rent- a-phone services for shot periods. Internet and email services can also be found in major towns.
It is not possible to list all the characteristics of a culture. However, visitors to Uganda are advised to seek information about some of the Ugandan cultural pattern that foreigners are most likely to encounter in regards to social greetings, eating, bargaining, manner of dress and certain practices and beliefs.
The exchange of a greeting is key to successful interaction with Ugandans at every level, whether in the market, on the street, in the office, or over the telephone.
Visitors should not walk in towns or public areas in their swimming wear as this is against the African culture and offends a large section of community. Ugandans appreciate decent behavior devoid of dissolute tendencies.
Please note that Ugandan embassies or high commissions also give limited advise about Uganda. There is no longer a Ugandan Tourist Centre in London.