TRAVEL FACTS - Uganda
Soon we are welcoming you in Uganda, the true pearl of Africa.
To make sure you are well prepared for a lifetime of memories
please read through the information below and get back to us with any open question.
Everybody who enters Uganda needs a passport which is valid until 6 months after the date of entering the
country. Since July 2016 it is obligatory to apply for a Visa online under www.visas.immigrations.go.ug and
follow the instructions. NOTE: you will need to upload a scan of your passport, yellow fever certificate and a
passport size picture (Supported formats are: PDF, JPEG, PNG, BMP / Minimum file size is 5 KB. Maximum
file size is 250 KB). The application process does not take much time (usually done within one day), however
please apply in time as you will receive a document which has to be shown on arrival to receive the Visa.
The costs for a tourist visa (valid for 90 days) are US$ 50,00 – we recommend you have the exact amount to
avoid delays in getting change.
In case you intend to also travel to Rwanda or Kenya, we recommend you to get the East African Visa at
once. You also have to apply for it online, the country where you travel first is the one that has to issue that
visa. The costs are US$ 100.
PLEASE NOTE THAT VISA REGULATIONS CAN CHANGE ANY TIME – it is your responsibility to seek updated
information before arrival.
Money & credit cards
The local currency is the Uganda Shilling (UGX), however it is also possible to pay with US Dollars (USD). It is
recommended to always have both currencies with you as you will be offered different items in different
currencies (meals, drinks, activities etc.) and the exchange rates of the lodges usually vary a lot than those
from the exchange bureaus (Forex).
In some lodges it is possible to pay with credit cards, however you should always be prepared with enough
cash as it happens that the system is down or the responsible person is not on ground or it simply fails to
work. It is possible to get money from ATMs all over the country, please let your guide know well in advance
if you are in need of cash so that he knows where to turn. In case of emergencies or unexpected
circumstances we have the possibility of doing credit card transfers to our account and hand over the cash
to you (please note that a transaction fee of 6 % will apply).
PLEASE NOTE that US Dollar notes from before 2004 & notes that are torn or with ink marks are not
accepted as means of payment.
Exchange rates: US$ > Uganda Shilling 3.800
As of 16th June 2018
Phones & network
Uganda is generally covered with a good network in all areas; however, providers have different coverage
qualities in different parts of the country. You can always ask your guide or in the lodges for their phones if
you are in need or if you want to contact our offices in Kampala. In case you do not want to rely on others
devices you can buy a cheap sim card before leaving Kampala, please ask your guide which provider he
PLEASE NOTE if you do international calls you have to dial THREE zeros before the country code, for example
for Germany with the country code +49 it´s 00049 …
In general, we recommend to choose soft travel bags instead of hardcover suitcases, as the vehicles have
limited capacities in the trunk so that the bags can be a bit squeezed. Furthermore, please note that it is not
possible to avoid dust getting into the car, which also affects the luggage in the trunk, we usually cover
them with a blanket, so that the dust is not too much.
In case you booked a domestic flight please note that the weight limit is 15 kg in soft bags, inclusive hand
luggage. In case you return to Kampala we can offer to keep some of your things with us at a safe place.
Uganda is regarded as one of the safest East African countries. Sometimes security might seem very tight
but this is more in terms of prevention than being an actual threat. However please refrain from showcasing
valuables like you would do in every country where the gap of rich and poor is quite big. Furthermore, we
advise you to always follow your guides instructions and advises, as he is in the position of estimating
situations properly. Please also make use of safes which are provided in most of the lodges, theft is rare but
sure it happens as it does everywhere around the world.
As of today the only compulsory vaccination is yellow fever, please make sure you have your certificate on
arrival at hand. For all other vaccinations we recommend to consult a doctor who is specialized in tropical
medicine. A detailed conversation with a specialist will make it easier for you to decide which vaccinations
or treatments to take. Especially in terms of Malaria this will help you to decide yourself as opinions differ a
lot and we do not want to make any recommendation on this.
It is normal to give tips to local guides, rangers, hotel staff, waiters, etc. however there is no fix guideline yet
and you should tip as of the performance and as of what you are able to give. A good tip is well appreciated
but it´s not expected.
In case you have anything that you do not need anymore (clothes, shoes, …) it is very well appreciated to
leave those things for the hotel staff.
The usual plugs used in Uganda are like the British three pinned plugs (240 V, 50 Hz).
Please note that most lodges and hotels run on generators or solar power and do not provide electricity in
the rooms, or only provide it at limited times. There are usually charging points in the main area that you
can use. If possible we recommend bringing spare batteries for your cameras.
For the ladies: In general, it is not worth it to bring a hairdryer as there is either no plug to use it or the
voltage is too low.
Please note: It can happen that a lodge is not able to provide electricity some days, kindly have sympathy
for the different condition under which those facilities run in Uganda and take it as part of your Africa
You will find proper running water in all lodges and hotels; however, it is not drinking water quality. Most
lodges provide small bottles of drinking water for brushing your teeth. Furthermore, you cannot expect hot
water at any time – only a few lodges and hotels provide that, all other lodges have different systems of
dealing with hot water, usually you either have set times to take a hot shower or you need to order it before
so that the staff can prepare it for you.
Please note: It can happen that a lodge is not able to provide hot water some days, kindly try to understand
the different condition under which those facilities run in Uganda and take it as part of your Africa
The lodges provide western food. In case you want to experience the local kitchen it would be possible to
ask in the lodges for it, but you will only have the full experience trying it in a local restaurant. You can
choose to let us know in advance so that we can include that in our planning and costing or you ask the
guide spontaneously. Additional to local restaurants there is lots of food sold on the streets, it is in general
very safe to eat that food as it is grilled or fried properly – however for those with a sensitive stomach you
might want to have a shot of Ugandan Waragi (local gin) afterwards.
Eating salads and fruits in the lodges is very safe. In case you buy fruits or vegetables en-route you should be
able to peel it or wash it yourself with drinking water.
Some lodges do offer Wi-Fi; however, the network might be slow or completely down on foggy or rainy
days. Additionally, there are small internet cafés all over the country. If you need to be online on a regular
basis and you have a smartphone, we recommend talking to your guide before leaving Kampala, you can get
your own sim card and buy bundles for getting online. Otherwise please let the guide know well in advance
so that he can approach the right places.
As a multilingual country you can find more than 30 different languages in Uganda. Most of them belong to
the Bantu-, Nilotic- or Central Sudanic family and are actively spoken in the different regions. The most
common language is Luganda. Furthermore, English is an official language and is spoken all over the
country, in the villages it might be difficult to find someone who can speak English fluently, but usually you
will find someone for translations. As another principal language you will find Swahili in many sources, but
please note that this is the language of the military and is not used in the daily life.
Grassrootz Adventures supports several chosen projects and NGO´s as much as we can. We prefer to do
donations in kind than handing over a cheque, therefore we usually find out what is needed on the ground
and get those things delivered ourselves (e.g. a bunch of new mosquito nets for an orphanage). In case you
have things like clothes, toys, laptops, or similar please feel free to bring them to Uganda. You can then
choose to either give them to us and we find out where those things are most needed at that moment or
you let us know that you would like to hand it over yourself and we organize it. Kindly note that small
donations in any form to children on the streets are not recommended, as this only supports begging and
keeps those children away from school. Donations should therefore only be done in an organized way or in
form of tips to the hotel/lodge staff. In case you are interested in making a donation in form of money we
are happy to help you to link you up with a good project or NGO.
Furthermore, please note that there is also an organization who is running a shelter for street dogs and cats
with a small animal hospital. The Uganda Society for protection and care of animals, among others, rescues
street animals and organizes forever homes for them. Items like tick collars, medicine and toys are always
needed and donations in form of food can be organized through us.
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 0830-1400, Sat 0900-1200. Forex bureaux are open until 1700 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.