If you plan to come to Uganda to attend the Bayimba International Festival (held during the first weekend of August), here is some further information for planning your visit.
INFORMATION ABOUT UGANDA
Uganda is Africa condensed, with the best of everything the continent has to offer packed into one small destination. Stability has returned to most parts of the country and tourists are welcomed with open arms. Known as the “Pearl of Africa”, Uganda offers fantastic sceneries and a rich mosaic of tribes and cultures. It is home to the highest mountain range in Africa, the Mountains of the Moon in the Rwenzori National Park while it harbours Lake Victoria and the source of the mighty Nile, offering the best white-water rafting in the world around Jinja. It has the highest concentration of primates on earth at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, including the majestic and rare mountain gorilla. Kampala is the capital and economic centre of Uganda. It is safer and friendlier than most other capitals in Africa. The city is welcoming and a hub of cultural activity. Its vibrancy has grown and it has become renowned for a growing arts scene as well as an increasing choice of restaurants, bars and cafes.
- Language: The official language in Uganda is English. Luganda (language of the Baganda in central Uganda) and Kiswahili (language from East Africa) are commonly spoken while each region is home to an own language.
- Time zone: GMT/UTC +3
- Telephone country code: 256
- Power: 240V/50Hz and Type G electrical outlet (British 3-pin). Note that due to load shedding you might be confronted with power cuts.
- Currency: Uganda Shilling (USh/UGX), available in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000 coins and paper notes of 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000.
1 USD = USh 3500; 1 Euro = USh 4200; £1 = USh 5000 (approximate rates only).
- Climate/seasons: Seasons in Uganda are either wet (March to May, October to November) or dry (December to February, June to September). Temperatures vary from 16-26°C to over 30°C during warm seasons (December-March).
Uganda’s international airport at Entebbe (40 km from Kampala) is directly served by a range of European airlines, such as KLM (Amsterdam), Brussels Airlines (Brussels), British Airways (London) and Turkish Airlines (Istanbul) while Emirates (Dubai) and Qatar Airways (Doha) provide the major link to the East. Flights from the Americas are through Europe and South Africa.
There are direct flights between Uganda and other African countries with Egypt Air (Cairo) and South African Airways (Johannesburg) while closer to Uganda Kenya Airways (Nairobi), Jambojet (Nairobi), Air Rwanda (Kigali), Precision Air (Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro) and Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Abeba) foresee in frequent connections.
All visitors require a passport that is valid for at least six months on entry. Tourist visa can be arranged prior to arrival through the electronic visa system. A Ugandan tourist visa comes at a cost of 50 USD while an East African tourist visa (that also gives entry to Kenya and Rwanda) comes at a cost of 100 USD. Tourist visa can also still be obtained on arrival at Entebbe Airport. Only USD cash is accepted for visa payments. There are no electronic payment facilities. Please bring USD currency notes dated 2006 or later.
A certificate of Yellow Fever Vaccination is required on entry to Uganda and checked at entry.
Travel within Uganda is possible by air but is generally by road. The train network is dysfunctional. There are a number of buses that frequent numerous upcountry destinations. Private vehicle hire is also an option. Islands on Lake Victoria can be reached by ferry connections various locations on the shore. To get to and from Entebbe International Airport taxis are most common. Within urban centres taxis are available while travel is also by shared minibuses (matatu) or motor bike taxis (boda boda).
Accommodation facilities in Uganda cater for all budgets. Lists may be obtained from the Uganda Tourist Board (www.visituganda.com) the Uganda Tourism Association (www.ugandatourismassociation.org) or the Uganda Hotel Owners’ Association (www.hotels-uganda.org). There are many (local) tour operators that can assist in making your booking.
Internet access is readily available for visitors to Uganda. Up-market hotels and restaurants offer (free) Wifi while there are countless of internet cafes in Kampala and larger towns of Uganda. You can also access internet through mobile solutions (4G/3G modem/USB). In most cases you will still have slow speeds but the internet availability and speed is changing rapidly.
Most transactions are carried out on cash basis although larger hotels and shops accept credit cards. The USD is traditionally the hard currency, but the Euro and Pound Sterling are also accepted. USD can be drawn at some few ATM’s in Kampala. Travellers Cheques are not widely accepted. For credit card cash advances, the only option is at Barclays Bank (Kampala Road). Money transfers (Western Union and Moneygram) can be organised at various banks.
Cash can be changed at major banks and foreign exchange (Forex) bureaus (most of them are located on Kampala Rd). The Forex bureaus offer slightly better exchange rates than banks and hotels.
Important: Small USD bills and notes below the year 2006 attract much lower exchange rates while the rate for Travellers Cheques is also lower than for cash. Exchanges rates are generally better in Kampala than elsewhere in the country.
Local currency can be drawn against bank cards and major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) at selected ATM’s in Kampala, Entebbe International Airport and in few other large towns (Jinja, Mbarara, Mbale, Gulu). Maximum withdrawal limits range from 400,000 Ush to 2,000,000 Ush.
Safety and Security
Although most people are reminded of the brutalities of Uganda’s past, present day Uganda is a whole different kind. Stability has returned to most parts of the country and tourists are welcomed with open arms. Uganda is generally safe and Ugandan people offer heart-warming hospitality up and down the country. The capital Kampala is safer and friendlier than most in Africa. However, petty crimes – as in other capitals or larger cities – do occur, so walking around, especially alone and at night, and carrying around too many valuables are to be avoided.
Travellers are fully responsible for arranging health insurance. Visitors to Uganda are advised to obtain guidance from their own doctor on recommended vaccinations. Visitors are generally advised to take malaria prophylactic medication; the use of insect repellent is strongly advised. It can be hot and sunny, so sun protection should be considered.
Kampala has several health facilities that provide quality health care services – The Eye provides a good overview here: http://theeye.co.ug/directory/categories/health-kampala.
The general emergency number is 999.
What to see and do in Kampala
The capital city Kampala, the city of seven hills, has a range of tourist attractions and activities. These range from the various Buganda Kingdom heritage sites, such as the Kasubi Tombs and Lubiri/Mengo, to the Namirembe and the Rubaga Cathedrals, the Namugongo Shrine, the Baha’i Temple, the Sikh Temple as well as the Kibuli Mosque and the Grand Mosque in Old Kampala. Cultural attractions are also the Uganda Museum, the National Theatre, Ndere Centre as well as a range of art galleries and crafts markets. Kabalagala is traditionally known for non-stop nightlife activity while the areas of Nakasero, Kololo, Bukoto and Bugolobi have become vibrant spots for entertainment in Kampala, with plenty of bars and restaurants on offer.
What to see and do in Uganda
Not far from Kampala you will find the massive waters of Lake Victoria, at Ggaba beach, Munyonyo or Entebbe – with the Wildlife Education Centre and a boat to the chimp sanctuary on Ngamba Island – while a ferry brings you to the wonderful Ssese islands. Jinja, famous for the source of the Nile and plenty of wild water rafting options, is also within easy reach from Kampala. On the way to Jinja one can visit the Sezibwa water falls as well as the tropical Mabira forest.
Those that have more time and plan to discover more of Uganda have the option to travel to the East and visit Mbale, the wonderful Sipi falls in Kapchorwa and/or Mount Elgon (National Park). Traveling West – passing the Equator – one will find golden grasslands, green tea plantations, tropical rainforests, fresh lakes and the snow-peaked mountains of Rwenzori, close to Fort Portal. There are plenty of game parks such as Lake Mburo, not far from Mbarara, Queen Elizabeth or Semliki National Park, at the shores of Lake Albert. Water freaks can furthermore enjoy the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi or the various crater lakes that surround Fort Portal. Other options are tracking chimps in Kibale National Park or exploring Katonga Wildlife Reserve by canoe, not to forget to spot the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The Northern region provides yet another inspiring destination, with wildlife in stunning locations such as Murchison Falls National Park – with the Nile massively coming down – and Kidepo National Park at the border of South Sudan. On the way to the North one passes the Kafu River Basin and Kyoga Lake as well as the Karuma falls while one could consider passing by at Zima Rhino Sanctuary.