Uganda-Gifted by nature; was aptly described by Sir Winston Churchill as the “pearl of Africa”. With a plethora of beauty, ranging from the people with their diversely rich cultures to the majestic mountain sceneries and gentle rolling hills covered with green lush rainforests and vegetation in the south, central and western regions, and flat savannah plains in the north and north eastern regions. The country is teeming with wildlife due to the great conservation efforts of the government and Non Governmental Organizations. Uganda has become a hot tourist destination offering mountain gorilla tracking, bird watching, mountaineering, chimpanzee trekking, primate watching, rafting, kayaking, sport fishing, cultural tourism, bungee jumping, game drives to mention but a few. We as African Secrets would like to offer you a few travel tips when you get to the country.
Lying 40km from Kampala, Uganda’s capital city is Entebbe International Airport, which has a number of world class airlines likes BA (British Airways), South African Airways, SN Brussels, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, Egypt Air, Kenya Airways, Air Tanzania, offering flights to and fro.
Uganda is also accessible overland from the neighboring countries of Kenya, Tanzania, And Rwanda which are also hot tourist destinations
Uganda’s Customs and immigration officials are very welcoming, polite and efficient. For those who require a visa, you can process right at Entebbe International Airport or at any border crossing. Forex bureaus for currency exchange and ATM facilities are provided at the airport. There are also a number of shops and restaurants for those who would like something urgently at the airport. When requested many of the hotels be it midrange will arrange for airport pickups, as well as the tour operator organizing your safari or tour.
Uganda is generally a safe country. One is required to have a certificate of yellow fever vaccination. All visitors to Uganda should take anti-malaria drugs as a precaution against this prevalent disease. It is also advisable to drink bottled which are readily available in any of the many supermarkets, restaurants and shops rather than tap water. The AIDS scourge which afflicted the nation has dramatically dropped due to a strong AIDS sensitization campaign by the government and NGOs but one is advised to take precaution.
The unit of currency is the Uganda shilling. Most tour operators prefer that tourist pay in US dollars, but Euros and Pound Sterling are also widely accepted. Hard currency cash can be changed for the local currency at any of the banks and forex bureaus in all the towns within Uganda, although one will find difficulty using travellers’ cheques outside of Kampala. You can draw the Ugandan Shilling against Visa and other major credit cards at selected bank ATMs in Kampala, Entebbe International Airport, as well as in other larger towns outside of the Capital.
English is the official language in Uganda and most Ugandans are generally fluent when it comes to speaking English. Although the country has over 36 different tribes who speak different dialects, Luganda serves as something of a lingua franca. We also have a number of people who speak French due to the strong influence from Congo and Rwanda, not to mention the influence of Alliance Francias, a French language teaching school in the city.
Uganda has a beautiful climate all year round and can be visited at any time. The temperatures range from 21 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius in the day and 16-20 degrees 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 hikes, gorilla tour which involving tracking through steep slopes with dense foliage and undergrowth and other forest walks are more challenging during the rains, which generally peak over mid-September to November and March to May.
During the day, temperatures are generally warm depending on which region of the country one is at, so bring lots of light clothing. Evening temperatures are cooler at especially high altitudes, so it is advisable to bring a couple of light sweaters as well. For the tourist intending to hike or climb on the mountains, you are advised to pack accordingly due to the alpine temperatures. You would do well to carry solid walking shoes and strong clothing, a sun hat, sunglasses, waterproof jackets which are ideal for forest walks, game drives and national park tours.
Visitors to country are required to have valid passports, and visa requirements should be checked with the customs and immigrations at the Airport on arrival before you travel. Binoculars and tour guides will enable you reap the most of game reserves and national parks tours and game drives. Zoom lens for Photographers who intend to capture the beautiful wildlife and scenery (70-300 or similar). Printing film and developing is 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.
Visitors who intend to do self-drives are advised that driving in Uganda is done on the left side. The are numerous car hire service providers within the city with attractive rates although the fuel prices are fairly high, considering that Uganda is a landlocked country. For visitors that have no experience of African roads, you are advised to arrange for a vehicle with a driver rather than opting for a self-drive.
Tipping is not culture that is practiced often at local hotels, bars and restaurants, but it is always appreciated. The amount depends on the tourists discretion, although tour guides and drivers should always be tipped.
For additional information on you can read: The Bradt Travel, Lonely Planet, Footprint Guides and Spectrum Guides. There are other guides on the internet that can provide additional information.
For a good travel guide to different parts of the world visit