Do you like the thought of visiting Africa? And Uganda in specific? I have noticed some people looking a bit unsure at the prospect of going to Uganda – after all, we don’t come across too many who have been to the country. But those of us who have – including yours truly – can never stop talking about it. Uganda is clearly a traveller’s delight – and safer than many other places on the planet. While you think about a trip to the country, here are a few tips for you.
- GETTING THERE
Not too many airlines serve the country – and you may have to hop a few airports to get there. The country does not have a national carrier – but the likes of Ethiopian, Kenya and Etihad will get you there.
Uganda introduced e-visas in June 2016 but the system was not functioning efficiently, at least until recently. You can get a multiple entry visas at the country’s embassy in your country. There is the option of visa-on-arrival too; you get only single entry though at the airport. The process is quite efficient taking only a few minutes and costs USD 100 – although there has been news of this being reduced to USD 50 to boost tourism inflows.
- YELLOW FEVER VACCINATION
This is mandatory – for your sake more than anyone else’s. Get this in your home country and carry the certificate with the passport at all times. It is valid for 10 years so you don’t have to get one every time you visit countries that require you to.
The local currency is Ugandan Shillings; the exchange rate is mid 2016 was USD 100 = UGX 330,000 approximately. Yes, you read that correct. You can change money in towns easily but not so in remote areas including forest reserves. US dollars are commonly accepted but you should carry small bills as change can be a problem.
The country offers options ranging from budget to luxury – take your pick. If you are in Uganda for the wildlife – which most people are for – I would recommend spending a little extra for a better lodge. Not only do you need the comforts, but the location and staff can make a big difference to your experience.
- GETTING AROUND
The country boasts a vast network of quality roads; a car is the most enjoyable way to get around. You can pick a self-drive or one with a driver. It is a small country and most tourist attractions are only a few hours from each other. There are planes to take you to national parks with strips in the bush – but these are small ones with 12-14 seats and not to everyone’s liking. And these can be expensive.
It is natural to fear for one’s safety in foreign lands, especially when you are in continents like Africa with a disturbed past. Uganda is very safe – in fact, even more than some of its more popular neighbours. Of course, like anywhere in the world, don’t throw caution to the winds and you will be fine.
No one can not love the climate of Uganda. The country is an endless landscape of rolling hills and forests with temperatures often in the mid-20s (Celsius) or mid-70s (F); an occasional shower can surprise you without warning any time. It is never too hot or too cold there. April and May are the wet seasons officially but life and game drives continue as usual.
Dress for warm weather but do keep a light jacket, raincoat and umbrella handy at all times. Wear sturdy shoes and a hat when out for activities during the day. Carry a tuck of munchies and chocolates as these may not be easily available when you are on the highways or in forests.
- COST OF LIVING
Uganda is not an expensive country for your daily needs including food. Since tourism is an important source of income, your outings in the wild may be expensive by some standards. But then again, this is one way of keeping such tourism sustainable.
English is spoken commonly especially in cities and by people in touch with tourists. The country has many local dialects – Ugandans have to speak to one another in English sometimes because they do not understand each other’s dialects.