Staying in Touch While on Uganda Safari

Staying in Touch While on Uganda Safari

Staying in Touch While on Uganda Safari-How to stay in touch with home while in Uganda

If you’re a first-time Msafiri Tours traveler or visitor to Uganda, it’s natural to want to check out the country’s media and communication environment and find out how you can keep in touch with family and friends while on your tour with us. This guide will take you through the basics of staying connected while you’re in Uganda.

Mobile Phone Networks in Uganda

Uganda’s economy and tourism have seen a significant boost in the past few decades, thanks in part to the emergence of mobile satellite networks. Today, there are seven companies that offer mobile services in Uganda: MTN, Airtel, Africell, Uganda Telecom, Smile Telecom, Vodafone, and Smart Telecom by Aga Khan Fund. It’s hard to find a Ugandan who doesn’t own a mobile phone.

If you’re bringing your own device, you can enjoy international roaming services through a local network, but this can be quite expensive. However, with each phone capable of connecting to our mobile Internet receiver, you can enjoy hassle-free Internet access. You can also connect to free Wi-Fi at hotels (except on safari).

Remember to pack your phone charger and travel adapter – Uganda uses 220 volts of electricity. If you plan on roaming, make sure your home network has an agreement in place with a Ugandan network and that your phone is compatible with our 900/1800MHz networks. Also, load up with sufficient airtime credit if you’re a prepaid customer.

On arrival in Uganda, your phone should automatically select a network. If not, select ‘search manually’ on your phone.

Social Media, Internet, and Email

Staying in touch with loved ones back home via social media chat and email is far more straightforward and cheaper than calling internationally. Uganda is connected to most social media channels except for Facebook, which was blocked by the Ugandan government for reportedly violating community laws. Nonetheless, popular channels like WhatsApp and Instagram are still fully operational within the country. If you must use Facebook, you can use a legitimate VPN like the locals do.

Assuming you already have an email or specific chat platform, such as Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom, or Facebook Messenger, you can quickly connect with your family using the internet while on your trip. If not, Msafiri Tours is setting up a blog address for the duration of your Uganda safari trip. You can provide this link to anyone who might want to contact you. Msafiri Tours and the group will also be sharing regular posts on this blog, which your friends and family can access.

One of the best things about going on a tour or safari is leaving the hubbub of your daily life behind and truly immersing yourself in nature. The vibrations you sense should come from the rumbling stomach of an elephant, not the phone in your back pocket. We share tips here on Staying in Touch While on Uganda Safari.

Our Tach- Free Safari?

But while we love the “tech-free” aspect of a Uganda safari, we understand that many people may break out in a frenzy of stress at the thought of no social media and life at home does continue while you’re away having fun – so here are the best ways to keep in touch while you’re on a trip, safari or tour in Uganda.

Using your cell phone in Africa

Two-thirds of Ugandans are thought to own a mobile phone, and mobile signals are available in most major Ugandan towns and cities, though coverage can be patchy in remote places.
Call your provider to ensure your phone will work in Uganda and that international roaming is enabled, but be aware that they may charge exorbitant fees even for a quick call or a text. Instead, larger companies have special international packages that you can sign up for in advance. Specify that you are travelling to Uganda, ask for details on rates and find out if it will cost extra for your friends and family to call and text you.
In general, most of Uganda – including the Queen Elizabeth National Park – has good cell coverage, and Uganda is generally well-connected.

Going Local

If you’re only planning to use your phone for emergencies or a quick call or two, you could buy a pre-paid phone card or a local Uganda SIM Card which provides you with a local phone number and can be topped up with credit as you need it. Your phone will need to be unlocked – check with your provider in advance.
If you know you’ll be making daily calls you can rent a phone – either in your country before you depart with a company or once you’re in Uganda. You can hire an unlocked local phone and buy a sim card.

Using Wi-Fi

The cheapest and safest way to ensure you don’t run up a large phone bill is to turn off your mobile data roaming before you get to Uganda and stick to Wi-Fi instead.
Some accommodations and hotels have good Wi-Fi, but usually, connectivity will be slow and intermittent – you’ll be able to check emails or send the odd text but not much else; wait to upload your photos until you get home. Note that some accommodations and lodges are deliberately off-grid, so check in advance with Msafiri tours if it’s a vital requirement for you to be online.

Skype and WhatsApp

If you have a decent internet connection, using Skype or WhatsApp is a cheap and easy way to stay in touch with friends and family. You can also use Skype to call someone’s mobile phone or landline, which is very useful because you don’t have to wait for your receiving party to get online. The reception is very clear and it’s cheaper than any international phone plan out there.
WhatsApp is a popular app for staying in touch – using it to text uses up very little data and if you have a wi-fi connection, you can make calls on WhatsApp as well.
More Tips on Staying Connected

  • Keep all your electronic gadgets in aeroplane mode and/or no-roaming to avoid extra costs and draining your battery. Practice how to do this before you leave. If you don’t know how to, ask any 13-year-old and they will figure it out in seconds
  • Bring the right adapters to recharge your phone/tablet. There’ll be sockets for charging your phone in your room/tent or the lounge/dining areas
  • Set up a web-based email account if you haven’t already – such as Gmail – to make it easy to access your emails.
  • If your mobile phone does not work despite your best efforts, don’t panic. Every accommodation we use- hotel or lodge, no matter how remote, will have a mobile phone at their base that works in emergencies. Leave a detailed itinerary of your Msafiri tours trip with someone at home, along with contact numbers (including the international dialling- code 00256) and they will be able to reach you.
A word on etiquette
  • Many people choose to use their time on Uganda trips or safari as an opportunity for a digital detox, so be mindful of their enjoyment too. Here are a few (often unspoken) rules about using the internet on safari.
  • If Wi-Fi is only accessible in the lounge/dining area, don’t turn it into your office. If you do need to make or receive calls, try to do it away from other guests and put your phone on aeroplane mode during meals and social times
  • Leave your phone behind while on game drives or other safari-based activities like gorilla trekking, or set it on aeroplane mode or do not disturb it if you’re using it to take photos. Nothing will disrupt the tranquillity of the Ugandan bush more so than a call with Auntie Margret at full volume
  • Let friends or family know that you’ll be away and may take longer than usual to get back to them.  Switch your phone off, use an out-of-office reply on your e-mail and make the most of the opportunity to immerse yourself in the sounds, sights and smells of the bush instead!