Visitors Handbook

Helpful Hints while Visiting Uganda

While everyone’s situation is different, we’ll try to cover information geared for the traveler who is not here on business. In particular, we’ll address topics for those who will be staying for a few months in a village setting such as ours.

 Arrivals: The airport is modern and fairly simple to navigate.

  • Visas can very easily be purchased upon entry for $50 US cash in exact bills. (Mailing your passport in your home country can be time consuming and unnecessary.) If your stay exceeds one month, ask for the visa to cover the maximum of three months.
  • Transport from the airport: (if we are not picking you up) Once outside the airport, there are many “special hires” or individual taxis available. There are no meters so rates are negotiated BEFORE entering the vehicle or leaving the airport. Fares to Kampala usually cost around $20-25US (60,000-80,000shillings). There is public transport from the airport but it is infrequent and a distance from the main terminal.

Lodging: There are a variety of hotels, guest houses and hostels throughout Kampala and Uganda

  • Budget travelers”, there are hostels/guest houses which offer reasonable accommodation at good prices. These can be found in Kampala, Entebbe and several other main areas throughout Kampala . Most popular are Entebbe Backpackers, Backpackers in Kampala and Red Chilli Hideaway also in Kampala . It is best to reserve online before arrival, whenever possible.

Money: The local currency is Ugandan shillings.

  • Bringing cash into the country, there are three currencies which can be easily exchanged: British pounds, Euros and US dollars. Notes must be free of any damage for acceptance in a bank. US dollars must be $50 or $100 denominations AND 2001 series or newer. Otherwise, they could be rejected or given a low exchange rate. There are also several Forex’s (money changers) in Kampala that offers very good exchange rates. The airport and banks offers much lower exchange rates.
  • Preload a Credit Card and withdraw from an ATM, which are now common in major cities and towns. This can reduce the chance of theft, bearing in mind that PIN numbers must still be protected when used. You need to check with your provider for charges (if any). MasterCard is accepted at a few stores but is not common and not recommended. Credit cards are only accepted in Kampala or at major tourist spots. Otherwise, you need cash at all other times.
  • Debit Cards: can easily be used at most ATM machines in most town or cities. Withdrawal amounts depend on the banks as do bank charges to your accounts

Medical: Be sure to receive medical vaccinations and acquire relevant medicines before leaving your home country.

  • Yellow fever shots: some East African countries require a yellow fever card upon entry, Uganda is not one of them but it is recommended to have just in case.
  • Malaria is a serious problem and anti-malarial drugs are available in Uganda at a very low cost. Mosquito nets are also very inexpensive.
  • Medical coverage from your home country is also recommended, before you leave. There is universal health care in Uganda but it is not at an acceptable standard in more serious cases. Best care is obtained at private hospitals.

 Transport:  

  • Vehicles adhere to the British system and can be difficult for drivers from North America and Europe. Car hiring is possible but vehicle conditions are not always reliable, and road are not favorable. Vehicle rentals can range from $25 – $140 per day, depending on where you get it and the model/type required. If prices are not posted, you need to negotiate the rate first.
  • Public transport can be hectic and confusing for the novice, however, run constantly. Going between major cities and town can easily be done by Matatu (mini-van) or Coaster (25 passenger bus). Cost between major cities is usually quite affordable (e.g. $5 (10,000 shillings) between Kampala and Masaka), however, price should be discussed before boarding .
  • Boda Bodas (Motorcycles) are a very popular way to get around shorter distances. Prices and driving skills vary, so be sure to discuss price and speed before getting on a boda

 Clothes: Although Uganda is a developing nation, overall Ugandans dress very well and formally.

  • Women normally wear dresses or skirts with a hemline below the knee or full length. It is becoming more acceptable to wear long pants or jeans outside of villages. For women, it is not recommended to fancy wear jewelry as you can become a target for theft.
  • Men commonly wear dress pants though cargo type pants are acceptable. Long sleeve shirts are recommended but short sleeve or polo shirts are fine.
  • Although Uganda is on the equator, it can be very cool at times. In the south and at national parks cool nights are to be expected
  • Rain coats are always a good idea  
  • Shorts are worn only by children in Uganda and are not considered in good taste for both men and women.

Food:  Food in rural Uganda is based on their starchy staples; food is generally bland and locally grown. The main meal is normally lunch and is taken early afternoon. 

  • Local favorites are matoke (steamed banana), cassava (cook tree root), porsho (steamed maize flour), rice, Irish potato and sweet potato. There is a small assortment of cooked vegetables along with chicken, beef, goat and pork.
  • European tastes usually have to be acquired at restaurants and can be expensive. Simple meals like fish/meat and chip (French fries) can be found cheap and easily.
  • Fruits are plentiful and extremely good (and cheap). 

Religion: The split between Christian and Islam is almost even. There is little or no religious tension among the people, however, religion is important to almost everyone.

 Departure: it is a good ideas to confirm your flights before going to the airport.

  • Transport: Matatus, and “special hire” taxis all go to the airport frequently, however, do negotiate costs before hand. Be sure to leave enough time to get to the airport as it is almost an hour from Kampala.