How to Prepare for Your Uganda Trip (Easy Guide)
The ultimate Uganda experiential travel guide: Our Uganda travel advice will help you plan your trip. Before going here are some simple guidelines to make it easier
If you’re planning on going on a trip to Uganda, it can be one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have. However, in order to have a successful trip, it’s important to prepare appropriately. Making sure you have everything you need for your Uganda trip will ensure that you can focus on enjoying your tour without worrying about what you might be missing. We recommend going through this quick Uganda travel advice when preparing for your Uganda trip.
Congratulations on your upcoming Uganda trip experience!
While you are out of your home country and in Uganda, there are some basic things you should know to stay healthy and safe. Remembering these basics can keep you out of the hospital, make you less vulnerable, and ensure that your Uganda experience is one to remember…in a positive light!
A Brief Uganda travel advice for travellers
With a wide range of experiential tourism destinations to explore, Uganda stands out as a key African travel destination offering off-then beaten track adventure that many travel enthusiasts are looking for. Whether you are looking forward to visiting the different national parks, going on a mountain gorilla trek to see them in the wild, or visiting Uganda as part of a student group, mission group or medical elective placement, your first time travelling to Uganda will amaze you. Uganda is safer than the media portrays and with some of the friendliest people on the planet, this country offers beautiful green countryside, organic food, a mild climate, amazing wildlife and interesting cultures.
Would you like to know more?
Below we have prepared to familiarize information about Uganda to help you plan your Uganda trip or Safari.
Where is Uganda?
Uganda borders Kenya to its east, South Sudan to the north, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, Rwanda to the southwest, and Tanzania to the south. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda is mostly located within the African great lakes region, lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally modified equatorial climate.
The name Uganda:
Uganda was a disintegrated state with various kingdoms, each with its ruler and rules till the colonial time that led to the scramble and partition of Africa.
The British colonial government named it Uganda. Uganda is named after the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country,
Uganda’s borders and main landmarks:
Uganda has lots of natural physical features including mountains, forests, valleys, and water bodies.
Uganda’s national parks protect its greatest natural treasures, most notably the endangered mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks, the common chimpanzees of Kibale Forest National Park, the unique and unusual tree-climbing lions, and the striking Kazinga Channel of Queen Elizabeth National Park, the great Murchison Falls of Murchison Falls National Park, the snowcapped Rwenzori Mountains of Rwenzori Mountains National Park, the Sempaya hot springs of Semuliki National Park, the varied wildlife and amazing culture of Kidepo Valley National Park, among others.
Among the other landmarks that Uganda has is the mighty river with its source believed to be Jinja, a city in eastern Uganda. The world’s second-largest freshwater lake (Lake Victoria) is also among the special landmarks that this awesome country showcases.
Is Uganda safe to visit?
In general, Uganda is a safe country for solo and group travellers and has been fairly stable for the last 40 years. However, travellers should always be conscious and very alert, like they would be in any country anywhere. There’s petty theft and pickpocketing in major cities, particularly in Kampala the country’s capital.
That said, travellers move from one corner of the country to another without any insecurity occurrence.
While touring around Uganda like in many other foreign countries, it is advised to move with a local Msafiri tour guide. You should also stay and travel to places known to be safe and occupied by a reasonable number of people.
When is the best time to visit Uganda;
You have to plan accurately when to go to Uganda. Uganda can be visited all year round but most people prefer to visit it during the dry months of December to February and June to August. During the aforementioned dry months, grasses in the national game parks are shorter compared to how they are during the rainy season and this offers a perfect and fantastic game viewing as well as a clear snapshot of the animals in the jungle.
However, dry months being the best time to visit Uganda should not play any part in stopping you from visiting Uganda at any time you feel like as the country is always open for tourists. Moreover, travelling in the low season (rainy months) can at times be cheaper than travelling during the peak season (dry months) as hotels in the Parks tend to reduce their rates and tour companies can provide car rentals at better prices than in the peak season.
Uganda’s tourist and travel attractions
Visit Uganda cities and towns:
Located in the central, this is the capital city of the country and has attractions such as the Uganda Museum, Namugongo and Munyonyo Martyrs Shrines, Kasubi royal tombs, Kabaka Lake, Gaddafi temple (Uganda National Museum), Saint Mary’s Cathedral Rubaga, Saint Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe, and Kabaka’s (King’s) Palace among others.
Located in the east of the country, this city is known to have the source of the river Nile’’. Grade 5 white water rafting, kayaking, tubing and more.
Fort Portal City:
Located in the western part of Uganda, this is one of the most tourist towns in the country. Fort Portal is surrounded by several attractions such as Kibale Forest National Park, the Rwenzori Mountains, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Amabeere ga Nyinamwiru, Crater Lakes, Semuliki National Park, and the Tooro Kingdom Palaces.
Kisoro and Kabale:
Located in the southwestern region of the country, these two towns are best known for having the two mountain gorilla refuges of Uganda – Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks. This region protects over half of the total population of mountain gorillas in the world.
Uganda’s natural wonders and wildlife attractions:
Uganda is an incredibly beautiful country that annually attracts a lot of visitors from all over the world, attracted by Uganda’s beautiful nature, rich culture, beautiful and vivacious people, exotic wildlife, and rich ecosystems.
As christened by Sir Winston Churchill, the ‘Pearl of Africa’ features ten remarkably magnificent national parks that are home to a variety of plants, birds, and animal species worth checking out. These parks include; Bwindi Impenetrable, Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, Kidepo Valley, Kibale Forest, Mgahinga Gorilla, Rwenzori Mountains, Mountain Elgon, Semuliki, and Lake Mburo National Parks.
Uganda is a top tourist destination for tourists who want to explore the raw jungle life of Africa. The country has all the big five that is lions, African elephants, leopards, buffaloes, and Rhinos, it is the perfect destination for primate lovers and these can be seen in the open savanna grasslands found in the several National Parks.
Uganda has both small and large mammals and the recorded number is 342 different species. If you are planning on experiencing the wildlife of Uganda, there are several destinations that you can check out that will offer you an experience worth spending money on.
Uganda’s Culture and music festivals:
Uganda is a fusion of over 50 ethnic groups and has a mix of cultures and traditions.
Some of the most popular festivals in Uganda include; the Nyege Nyege Festival, the Kampala Capital City Festival, the Festival of the Uganda Martyrs, Blankets and Wine, Roast and Rhyme, among others.
Additionally, the culture of Uganda is made up of a diverse range of ethnic groups and visitors often enjoy several cultural experiences such as the Batwa Cultural Experience (an experience designed specifically to enrich visitors with the lifestyle of the Batwa Pygmies – also known as the ‘’forest people’’).
Another traditional experience is the ‘’Imbalu Cultural Ritual’’ – a public circumcision ceremony practised by the Bagisu people of Eastern Uganda.
Uganda travel advice for first-time visitors:
First-time visitors to Uganda should bear a few things in mind before visiting this pearl of Africa:
- Get your Uganda tourist visa in advance
- Likewise, booking in advance with Msafiri tours is highly recommended for a successful trip
- The dry season (December to February, June to August) is the best time for game viewing
- On the other hand, the rainy season (March to May, November) is great for bird watching
- Make sure to get the required vaccinations for Uganda well in advance
- Research the places you plan to visit in Uganda before coming to visit
- Know when to make your Msafiri tour reservations in Uganda and the amount of money you will use on your trip beforehand.
- Get a local Ugandan sim card if necessary
- Have a look at our Learn Luganda link on our website
- Figure out the best dishes you need to try while there
- Pack accordingly
- Finally, if you’re going on a chimpanzee or gorilla safari, you should book a chimpanzee or gorilla permit, respectively, through Msafiri tours.
Accommodation in Uganda:
Those wishing to visit Uganda should know that all of Uganda has suitable accommodations that include budget, mid-range, luxury, and high-end lodges and camps – so it will depend on each traveller’s taste!
Ugandan cuisine consists of traditional and modern cooking styles, practices, foods and dishes in Uganda, with English, Arab, and Asian (especially Indian) influences.
Many dishes include various vegetables, potatoes, yams, bananas and other tropical fruits.
Uganda’s staple food is matooke (bananas). Other food crops include cassava, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, yams, beans, peas, groundnuts (peanuts), cabbage, onions, pumpkins, and tomatoes. Some fruits, such as oranges, mangoes, guavas, pawpaws, lemons, and pineapples, among others are also grown.
The most popular food eaten by locals includes matooke (bananas), maize flour, rice, cassava, and potatoes. Meat and fish are also widely available. Rolex (a mixture of chapatti and fried eggs) is also eaten by locals across the country and it is one thing you should try to eat once in Uganda.
Besides the named foods above, most restaurants in Uganda also serve international dishes.
Uganda’s currency is the Uganda Shillings‘‘UGX’’ is the currency code for Uganda shillings albeit the symbol ‘’USh’’ is used to represent the currency locally. The Bank of Uganda is the only entity with the right to mint, distribute, or destroy currency in Uganda. Coins have denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 shillings. Banknotes have denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, and 50,000 Uganda shillings.
Besides the Uganda Shillings, other foreign currencies such as dollars, euros, and pounds can be used for payments, especially in large hotels and tour agencies.
Tourists are always advised to change some money to local currency, especially when moving out of the big cities like Kampala, Jinja, and Entebbe, particularly in remote areas (where the country’s national game parks are nestled), which will not accept foreign currency for payments.
Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most banks in the cities and towns. You can now use your visa card to draw money from your account in Europe or America. However, we advise that you take cash to be on the safe side.
Uganda comprises four main ethnic groups, which all have different origins. These include the Bantu, the Nilotics, the Nilo Hamites, and the Hamites. The Bantu, by far the largest in number, include the tribes of Buganda, Banyankole, Basoga, Bakiga, Batoro, Banyoro, Banyarwanda, Bagisu, Bagwere and Bakonjo. There are over 50 tribes in the country with each tribe speaking its language.
English is inherited from the colonial period, and Swahili are the official language of Uganda. And of course, there is also Ugandan Sign Language.
Luganda, a central language, is widely spoken across the country, and several other languages are also spoken, including Lango, Acholi, Runyoro, Runyankole, Rukiga, Luo, and Lusoga, among others.
Electricity and plugs:
In Uganda, the associated plug type is G, which is the plug that has three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern. Uganda operates on a 240V supply voltage and 50Hz. The electricity system of Uganda is rooted in the British style.
Yellow fever vaccination:
Please note that the Ugandan authorities at Entebbe airport or other points of entry require overseas visitors from countries to have a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate. It is not possible to obtain a yellow fever vaccination on arrival in Uganda. The certificate should be dated at least 10 days before arrival here & is valid for 10 years. This is a serious warning & travellers will be refused entry to Uganda if they do not comply.
What to pack:
Basic things you should include for your Uganda trip include a valid passport, yellow fever vaccination, light clothes, heavy clothes, comfortable hiking shoes/boots, enough undies, sun hat and sunglasses, a good camera, a music player, chargers, first aid kit (or some emergency tablets like panadol and painkillers), garden gloves, hand sanitiser, enough face masks (needed during Covid19 pandemic times), insect repellents, sun lotion, a notebook and pen, binoculars, and earplugs.
Use this link to see an extensive link to what to pack:
What to Expect While You are in Uganda?
Get information from us (Msafiri tours) your hosts on what the conditions will be in Uganda:
- Food (be willing to try new things, always be gracious)
Be aware of health and hygiene issues. A good source of information can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx Select Uganda and read about the latest health alerts and how to stay healthy in the country. If one of your team members has travel experience, ask them to share suggestions for staying healthy.
Common sense suggestions in many countries include:
- Drink only boiled, bottled, or treated water, and drink lots of it
- Avoid ice unless you’re sure it’s safe
- Brush your teeth with safe water
- Eat food that is thoroughly cooked and hot
- Avoid fresh salads, fruit or raw vegetables (unless you peel them)
- Avoid street vendor food unless you can get the food that has just come off the fire
- Wash your hands every time you get a chance (a squeeze bottle of hand disinfectant works great)
- wear insect repellent that contains no more than 35% DEET
- wear sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher)
On the work site:
- wear eye and ear protection when needed
- be careful with power tools and use ladders carefully
- get help with heavy loads
- know your limits and don’t exceed them
In Uganda, people treat animals differently. Sometimes it is a lack of knowledge or the ability to care for them as you do in the west. Don’t play with dogs – they are mostly scavenging house guards and not playful pets. You may notice how skinny or sickly the animals look.
Travel as lightly
and as modestly as possible, without flashy expensive jewellery, gadgets and lots of luggage and bags. Carry only small bags that can be stowed on your lap.
You will arrive by air, landing at Entebbe International Airport. We shall pick you up from the airport on arrival and drop you back at the end of your visit. We operate comfortable fully insured buses and 4×4 vans which you will use throughout your time with Msafiri Tours.
You will need a visa to enter Uganda. It is advisable to acquire your visa in the UK before you travel. You’ll need a visa to enter Uganda. You can apply for a visa at the Ugandan High Commission in London or you can get a visa on entry into Uganda at Entebbe International Airport.
You can find full details of how to apply on the website of the Uganda high commission London:
Check for entry requirements or apply online here:
Keep all of your documents in a safe place at all times.
Keep any medication and important papers in your carry-on bag. On long flights with multiple layovers (especially if flying via London, L.A. or other major airports), packing a fresh change of clothes is a good idea as bags may get delayed or lost on the long haul, multiple stop flights. You don’t want to end up without essentials even if it is just for a few days.
When buying from a street vendor or marketplace, exercise greater scrutiny. If a vendor’s booth is crowded, recommended by locals, has a means of refrigeration, and is open, meaning you can see how clean it is, then it is probably safe to eat there. In some cases, street vendors have achieved the vaulted status of preparing the best-grilled meats, samosas, roasted corn, or nuts in town.
On safari, your meals will be included in your package. Advise us about what you will and will not eat, if you’re a vegetarian or have food allergies. The main complaint on most safaris is that the food is so good travellers end up gaining weight. Don’t just stick to the Western-style food served in reputable hotels. Know your region’s speciality so you can sample it while there.
Certificates are required for vaccination against yellow fever on arrival at Entebbe Airport. It is advisable to start anti-malaria medications 10 days before arrival and continue with the same until 14 days after leaving Uganda. Our guests are also encouraged to make their insurance arrangements for the time they will be in Uganda. You should consult your local Doctor or GP for advice on medication and not simply rely on this Uganda travel advice .
Be smart about malaria:
This is your biggest health risk in Africa, especially south of the Sahara. Rely only on advice from travel health specialists.
Visit the dentist before you go:
Who needs a lion-size toothache halfway along the safari path?
Protect yourself from insects:
Malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever are transmitted by bug bites. Cover up with clothes, use insect repellent, and sleep under a mosquito net.
Respect the heat:
Take time to acclimatize, drink plenty of bottled water, and take it easy in the heat of the day.
Bring sturdy footwear:
Sore feet can ruin a trip, and blisters, chafing and other injuries are common causes of major foot infections.
The official language is English though Swahili and Luganda are commonly spoken throughout Uganda. Teach yourself some basic Luganda and Swahili words which can be found on our website.
Our general recommendation is to tip moderately – by the level and quality of service provided. The traditional gratuity to safari guides or camp staff is not included in the price of your tour but is completely discretionary. Beware of unscrupulous people who try to exhort extra payment from unwary passengers just for shuffling their bags around.
We advise that you always ask before you take anyone’s picture. For some, it is against their religion to be photographed.
Research your destination’s cultural history, environment, and geography before you go: you can never know enough. The better you understand a subject, the better you’ll be able to capture it in a meaningful way on film.
Precautions should be taken as in any major city. Unless safety deposit boxes are available in your hotel or lodge, always carry travel documents, travellers’ cheques, cash and other valuables with you at all times. We recommend that you do not walk late at night but instead take a taxi if you have t
Avoid political gatherings or protests.
e smart – even if you’re curious, stay away. Both can turn violent quickly.
Avoid drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex:
Drugs and alcohol hinder your judgment. What’s more, unprotected sex – always a serious risk – is a game of Russian roulette in a continent where the AIDS epidemic is an issue.
Emergency Medical Plan
Check with Msafiri tours about our plan for responding to a medical emergency should the need arise (eg. the location of the closest medical facility, how long it takes to get there, and the best route).
If a team member needs medical treatment, your team’s Emergency Coordinator and Team Medic and a member of the Msafiri tours team should accompany the injured person to the hospital and be an advocate for him/her; they will report progress to the rest of the team.
Reading a book, be it novel or non-fiction, can be a great way to immerse yourself in Uganda as a destination before your visit. It can build your excitement for an upcoming Uganda trip – if you have one booked – or inspire you to start planning your next adventure. Here are our reading recommendations for Uganda:
- Abyssinian Cornicles, by Moses Isegawa (author from Uganda)
- Where there is No Doctor: A Village Healthcare Handbook, by David Werner, Carol Thurman, Jane Maxwell
- Aboke Girls. Children Abducted in Northern Uganda, by Els de Temmerman
- The Last King of Scotland, by Giles Foden
- The Impenetrable Forest, by Thor Hanson
- Alice Lakwena and the Spirits: War in Northern Uganda 1985-96 (Eastern African Studies), by Heike Behrend
- Snakepit: A Novel by Moses Isegawa
- Uganda -The Pearl of Africa, by Paul Joynson-Hicks
- First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army, by Peter Eichstaedt
- Uganda’s Poorly Kept Secrets- Charles Onyango Obbo
- Travel Insurance Explained – Why you Need it and What to do in a Medical Emergency(7:56 ) – This video walks through the various insurance options, questions to ask and the pros and cons of international insurance options. They even provide important information on how to handle a medical emergency while overseas.
- Safety Tips for Traveling Abroad(3:42) – Travel expert, Jessica Dodson, talks about the most important and up-to-date safety tips for international travel.
- How to Pack for a Missions Trip // Pack with Me(6:17) – Pack along with this teenage girl as she shows you the ropes on what to take for a mission trip.
Finally, have fun and get the most out of your Uganda experiential trip experience!
DISCLAIMER: The Uganda travel advice information contained on this website is intended solely to provide general information for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use