Uganda, or the ‘Pearl of Africa’, as it was famously dubbed by Winston Churchill, is characterised by relatively dry and flat savanna in the north, with verdant mountains in the West, and vast dense and remarkably lush forests in the central region. The nation is home to an astonishingly diverse range of African wildlife including the highly endangered mountain gorilla which can be found in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. A popular spot for wildlife watching is Queen Elizabeth National Park, which hosts four of the Big Five, a flock of flamboyant flamingos and the rare tree-climbing lions of Ishasha. Outdoor enthusiasts can get their adrenaline fix with plenty of whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking, quad biking and horse riding facilities on offer. Add to this some friendly locals, a burgeoning cultural scene, and a capital city full of lively bars, clubs and restaurants, and it is easy to see why Uganda has gained itself a reputation as 'Africa's friendliest country'.
Banking and Currency
The local currency is the Uganda Shilling (UGX). Notes are in denominations of UGX50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000. Coins are in denominations of UGX500, 200, 100, 50, 10, 5, 2 and 1. However, UGX1,000 notes are soon to be replaced by coins. Try not to accept very old or damaged notes where possible, as some places may refuse to take them.
The US dollar, euro and pound sterling are all recognised currencies in Uganda, and both euros and dollars are now widely accepted for cash payments. Other international currencies may also be accepted in some places in the major cities, although visitors may struggle with other currencies in
The import and export of local currency is prohibited. Import of foreign currency is unlimited if declared upon arrival. Export of foreign currency must not exceed the amount declared upon arrival.
Foreign currency may be exchanged at the Central Bank, commercial banks and foreign exchange bureaux. Be aware that dollar notes from before 2006 will not be accepted for exchange.smaller towns.
Banking hours: Generally Mon-Fri 08h30-14h00, Sat 09h00-12h00. Forex bureaux are open until 17h00 and able to do electronic transfers to and from overseas.
American Express, Diners, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are sometimes accepted but not widely used. Some large hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and shops in urban areas accept credit cards.
ATMs are available in the larger cities but ATM services in smaller towns and rural areas are limited. It is advisable to check with your bank to see if your card is compatible with Ugandan ATMs.
Traveller's cheques are not widely accepted outside Kampala. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling. It is advised that travellers bring sufficient US dollars in cash in case of emergencies. Higher denomination bills usually give a better exchange rate than smaller notes.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Fly Uganda (www.flyuganda.com), Eagle Air (www.flyeagleairuganda.com) and Aerolink (www.aerolinkuganda.com) offer scheduled and charter internal flights.
Domestic bus travel is cheap, but departures aren’t always on schedule. There are two classes of bus travel – matatu (minibus) or kigati (van) which travel fixed routes, and larger coaches or buses.
Self-drive and hiring a private car with a driver are other options. International hire companies are based near Entebbe International Airport and in the centre of Kampala. A four-wheel drive is recommended for rural areas. The speed limit is 80kph (50mph) or 100kph (62mph) on highways. Most car hire companies include breakdown cover. The Automobile Association of Uganda (www.aau.co.ug) can provide information and assistance.mAn International Driving Permit and adequate third-party insurance is required. UK driving licences are accepted. Drivers must carry their vehicle log books and must pay for a temporary road licence.
Whist some major roads are paved, the majority of minor and side roads are unpaved and can be bumpy and pot-holed, so drive with caution, especially in the rainy season.The roads are of variable quality and radiate from Kampala, although the network is sparse in the north. Whist some major roads are paved, the majority of minor and side roads are unpaved and can be bumpy and pot-holed, so drive with caution, especially in the rainy season. Note that there are still some army and police checkpoints on roads. Always keep vehicle doors locked and valuables out of sight.
Private taxis are identifiable by their black and white stripes. Boda-bodas (motorbike taxis) are often a cheaper option and, whilst fun, are not for the faint-hearted. Don’t be afraid to ask your driver to slow down if necessary as accidents are common.
Cycling in Uganda requires nerves of steel; many roads are dusty or under construction and motor vehicles rarely allow cyclists room. Always wear a helmet and use rear-view mirrors. Avoid cycling at night.
Uganda’s coach and bus services connect all major towns. The Post Office’s Post Bus Service (www.ugapost.co.ug) offers relatively comfortable buses and is more safety-aware than some other bus companies.
Most major routes are also covered by smaller white mini-buses. These are faster than coaches, but drivers wait until they are full before leaving and departure times are not fixed.
A passenger ferry links Nakiwogo Dock, south of Entebbe to Lutoboka on Buggala in the Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria. There is also a free vehicle ferry which runs from Bukakata, 40km (25 miles) east of Masaka, to Buggala. Lake taxis also link some of the other islands.
Passenger boats can be overloaded in Uganda and there have been several accidents, usually during the rainy season which can bring storms and high winds. Always makes sure boats have life jackets before you set off.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
All water should be regarded as being a potential health risk. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should be boiled or otherwise sterilised. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products which are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit should be peeled.
Ugandan cuisine draws on English, Arab and Asian – especially Indian – influences and uses home-grown local produce including plantains, sweet potatoes, corn, beans and cassava. It’s easy to eat cheaply almost anywhere in the country. International restaurants can be found in larger towns, with Indian, Chinese and Italian being the most popular.
Traditional foods include ugali (solidified maize meal porridge) served with a stew of groundnuts (peanuts), beans, chicken or meat such as beef, goat or mutton. Game can be found on menus in some restaurants and at safari lodges. Fish including the tiger fish, mukini, mputa and tilapia are popular.
Vegetarians may struggle outside of major towns, but Uganda’s Indian and Chinese restaurants generally offer a selection of vegetarian dishes. Traditional desserts include mandazi, a doughnut often served with cinnamon or sugar.
Although always appreciated, tipping is not standard practice. It is normal to tip 5 to 10% at tourist-orientated restaurants.
Climate and Weather
Uganda has a tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 21-25°C (70- 77°F), apart from in the mountainous areas, which are much cooler; the top of Mount Elgon is often covered with snow. The hottest months are December to February. Evenings can feel chilly after the heat of the day with temperatures around 12- 16ºC (54-61°F).
Most regions of Uganda, apart from the dry area in the north, have an annual rainfall of between 1,000mm and 2,000mm. There is heavy rain between March and May and between October and November, when road travel can become difficult in parts of the country. The best time for trekking is during the dry seasons, between January and February and June to September. Wildlife viewing is best at the end of the dry seasons, when game is more concentrated around water sources.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
Lightweight clothes with a warm cover-up for the evenings are advised. Take a pair of good walking shoes or boots for forest trekking, and long-sleeved tops to protect against mosquitoes. If you’re planning to go to mountainous areas, be sure to take warm clothing, as temperatures drop substantially. White clothes won’t stay white for long with Uganda’s red dust roads, so go for darker colours. Travellers can also pick up bargains at second-hand clothes markets in Kampala, Jinja and Fort Portal, which sell trousers, boots and fleeces.
There are internet cafés in most large towns. Access in smaller towns and rural areas is limited.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Uganda are the "Type G " British BS-1363 type. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Uganda usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.
But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. North American sockets supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts, far lower than in most of the rest of the world. Consequently, North American appliances are generally built for 110-120 volts.
The name Tanzania conjures up images of wildebeest stampeding across vast savannah, rain forests teeming with monkeys and birdlife, and great plains brimming with legions of game. All of these natural wonders and more are on offer in this exceptionally diverse African nation. Visitors typically visit Tanzania to partake in at least one of the four well known Tanzanian tourist experiences: a relaxing seaside vacation on the picturesque island paradise of Zanzibar, an underwater tour of some of the world’s most renowned dive sites around the gorgeous Spice Islands, a safari adventure in some of Africa’s most impressive game reserves, or a hiking excursion around Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. Whichever of these incredible holidays you choose, you will undoubtedly be welcomed by some fabulously friendly and peaceful inhabitants who, despite being divided into 120 different ethnic groups and cultures, live in harmony with one another and provide some of the most wonderfully exotic local cuisine you could imagine. With all of this diversity on offer, the most difficult part of your Tanzanian holiday experience is likely to be deciding where to go!
Banking and Currency
In Tanzania, the unit of currency is the Tanzanian Shilling, which is divided into 100 Cents. Notes are issued in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10000 Shillings. Coins are issued in denominations of 50, 100 and 200 Shillings.
Banks are open from 9:00am to 3:00pm Monday to Friday. Many banks are equipped with 24 hour ATM machines.
Credit cards and travellers checks are not widely accepted in Tanzania. Where they are accepted can high service fees and poor exchange rates be expected. Major foreign currencies - particularly US $ - are accepted in Tanzania and are convertible at banks and bureau de changes in the main towns and tourist areas. If bringing cash in US $, please make sure bank notes are in good condition, with no cuts or damage and are not older than 2006. Most banks offer higher exchange rates for US $ 100 / US $ 50 bank notes compared to US $ 20 / US $ 10 or US $ 5 bank notes.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
If you are visiting a number of parks and reserves in Tanzania, you can either drive or fly between them. Roads in most of the wilderness areas are in poor condition and unmarked, and self-driving is not recommended. Operators will supply you with a driver who doubles as an informal guide; alternatively, you can arrange to fly to your destination and utilize a car and driver supplied by the lodgings. Elsewhere in Tanzania, towns and cities are linked by a steady stream of buses and dala-dalas (minibuses), and in the cities, there is public transport in the way of buses, dala-dalas, taxis, and, in some places, bicycles or tuk-tuks.
Precision Air run regular services, mostly via Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro or Zanzibar, to all main towns and other destinations in East Africa and beyond. All national parks and some of the top-end luxury lodges have airstrips and Coastal Air operates between these and the main airports on the mainland and the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia. ZanAir has frequent connections between Zanzibar, Pemba and the mainland.
Driving is on the left hand side of the road
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Most camps, lodges or hotels cater specifically to tourists and serve Western-style food, ranging in standard, but generally are excellent. Game lodges tend to offer a daily set menu with a limited selection, so it is advisable to have your tour operator specify in advance if you are a vegetarian or have other specific dietary requirements. First-time visitors to Africa might take note that most game lodges in and around the national parks have isolated locations, and driving within the parks is neither permitted nor advisable after dark, so that there is no realistic alternative to eating at your lodge.
Tap water in Tanzania is generally not safe to drink, and most travellers try to stick to mineral water. Filtered and bottled water can be difficult to find you are travelling outside of main town and so it is advisable to stock up. Most camps, lodges and hotels have bottled water readily available.
Please note that, as of 2016, Tanzania has banned the use of plastic bags in a bid to tackle pollution and protect the environment. Travellers' to Tanzania will no longer be allowed to bring plastic carrier bags into the country. This ban targets all plastic bags that are imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used.
Climate and Weather
Just south of the equator, Tanzania is huge and its sheer size means that the climate varies considerably within it. However, generally the main rainy season, or the 'long rains', lasts during about March, April and May. Afternoon tropical downpours are the norm – which are heavier and more predictable beside the coast and on the islands. The humidity is high and daily temperatures reach the low-mid 30°s.
The long dry season lasts throughout June, July, August, September and October is when rainfall is unusual, even on the islands. Temperatures vary hugely with altitude and location, but it's usually a fine, clear sky and sunny weather – it's a great time to visit Tanzania. During November and December there's another rainy season: the 'short rains'. These are much lighter than the main rains and less reliable.
If it has rained during the short rains, then it normally dries up for a few months, January and February, which is Tanzania's 'short dry season', before starting to rain again in earnest in March.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
It never gets really cold in Tanzania so lightweight clothing, preferably cotton or linen, is recommended. While on a game viewing safari, avoid brightly coloured clothing, stick to whites, beiges, khakis and browns. There may be long days sitting in safari vehicles, so it is advisable to wear light comfortable clothing such as short sleeved shirts and cotton/linen trousers or shorts. Denim will become too hot and extremely uncomfortable. Walking shoes and socks will be required.
The evenings will be chilly, so long sleeved shirts and trousers should be worn. A sweater may be needed. These will also prevent you being bitten by insects. A hat should be worn at all times outside. The sun may sometimes not feel hot, but it can still easily burn, especially if it is cloudy and overcast.
If visiting Zanzibar or any coastal town don't forget to take a swimsuit, as it is invariably warm. Ladies are recommended to take cotton skirts, blouses and dresses. Sandals are a must for this environment! On the beaches and within the confines of hotels, normal swimwear is acceptable but nudity is not.
As over a third of the population in Tanzania is Muslim, it is therefore not etiquette for ladies to walk around in public displaying their legs and shoulders. Remember to dress modestly as short shorts, miniskirts, vests and tank tops will be frowned upon.
Tanzania has good Internet Service Providers with email and internet services offered by many hotels and lodges (free / paid). In most towns there are plenty of private business centres and cyber cafes offering email and internet access, although the speeds might be somewhat slower than what you are used to.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Electrical sockets in Tanzania are one of three: Type G (BS-1363) and Type C (CEE 7/16 Europlug) and Type D (BS-546) electrical socket types: If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all types.
Electrical sockets in Tanzania usually supply electricity at 230 volts AC / 50 Hz frequency. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 230 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance isn’t compatible with 230 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.