FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SAFARIS IN UGANDA
Uganda travel advice – tourist visas, tipping, credit cards and money, weather
Do I need a visa to enter Uganda?
You are required to purchase a tourist visa before you enter Uganda. Tourist visas can be bought in advance via the embassy or consulate in your country or simply purchased upon arrival at Entebbe International Airport or at any overland border. Photos are not required and a single entry tourist visa costs US$ 100 per person for up to 90 days stay in Uganda.
If you are planning to combine Uganda with a visit to Rwanda or Kenya it is recommendable to request for the East African Tourist Visa instead of a single entry visa. This special visa costs US$100 per person and allows a 90-days multiple entry to Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. Regretfully, Tanzania is not (yet) a member of the East African community and therefore not part of this special visa arrangement.
Can I use my ATM card or credit card in Uganda?
Only a few banks accept ATM cards or Visa credit cards for money withdrawal in Uganda. While you can withdraw a limited amount of cash per day from ATM machines in Kampala, there are very few opportunities to withdraw cash once you are on safari in Uganda.
Payment by credit card in Uganda can attract additional charges of between 5–10%, occasionally more. Do check with lodges and restaurants in advance, if you plan to pay by credit card.
We therefore advise you to bring cash and have money changed upon arrival in Kampala. US dollars, British pounds and Euros are easy to change. However, for some expenses, like the payment of a tourist visa at the airport/border, it is easier to have dollars available. It is often possible to pay for tourist activities with US dollars.
Please note: US dollars bills issued before 1999 are NOT accepted in Uganda. Exchanging low denomination dollar bills (anything less than a USD100 bill) attracts a lower exchange rate.
Are travelers Cheques accepted in Uganda?
Traveler’s cheques are no longer accepted in Uganda.
Is MasterCard accepted in Uganda?
Very few places in Uganda accept MasterCard. In addition to cash, we suggest you bring a Visa debit card.
What should I tip in Uganda?
How much to tip in Uganda depends entirely on your level of satisfaction of course, but even a small tip to show your gratitude will be highly appreciated. You might consider USD10 per day if you are happy with the service of your safari guide and 5-10% tip in upmarket hotels, Uganda lodges and restaurants.
What is the best time to travel in Uganda?
Officially, Uganda’s dry seasons are from December/January through to mid-March and from June through to mid-September. These dry months are the most popular with tourists, with July and August and Christmas and New Year being the peak seasons.
Most rain falls in October-November and April-May. However, this doesn’t mean that it rains all day, nor does it mean it will rain every day. Usually there’s a tropical shower at night or a shorter shower during the day, but in Uganda you can trust that after rain comes sunshine!
The weather is no reason to avoid travelling in the wet season – you might even consider it because of the easy availability of gorilla permits.
As in the rest of the world, the East African climate is changing, making it more difficult for us to predict the weather during your safari. However, in Uganda the temperature is very stable and pleasant, with sunshine almost 365 days a year. During the day, the temperature averages between 23 and 27°C, although in some places it can be quite cool at night.
One remarkable aspect about Uganda safaris is: whether you travel in the dry, dusty months or in the wet season, you will never find the crowded tourism like in Kenya or Tanzania. If you spot a lion or leopard, it is very likely that you will be the only one to see it – even in peak season!
Uganda travel advice: health information for Travelers to Uganda
Are vaccinations required for my Uganda safari?
A number of different vaccinations are recommended and/or required before entering Uganda. A certificate proving you have had the Yellow Fever vaccination is mandatory for entry into Uganda. Immunizations against DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio) and Hepatitis A are recommended as well.
Besides bringing mosquito repellent, we also advise you to take malaria ‘prophylactics’ (prevention medication).
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
Make sure your Yellow Fever vaccination is up to date before arriving in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
Visitors should bring personal supplies of medicines that are likely to be needed, but enquire first at the embassy or high commission whether such supplies may be freely imported.
Food and drink
All water should be regarded as being a potential health risk. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilized. Milk is unpasteurized and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products which are likely to have been made from un boiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled. Be sure to wash fresh produce well before eating and avoid raw foods in restaurants. Do not eat food prepared by unlicensed vendors or where you have concerns about kitchen hygiene. Only use boiled or bottled water, and avoid ice in drinks. Carry hand sanitizer to use before meals.
HIV/AIDS is widespread. Vaccinations against tuberculosis and hepatitis B are sometimes advised. After road accidents, malaria is the most serious health concern for travelers visiting Uganda. Seek up-to-date advice regarding malarial areas and the appropriate antimalarial medication prior to your trip, usually doxycycline, Malarone or mefloquine. Pregnant women are more vulnerable to malaria and are advised against travel to regions where malaria is present. Take a good insect repellant and try to avoid bites between dusk and dawn by always covering up.
Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers have been endemic within certain regions of the country. The vectors of these viruses are unknown, but have been thought to be linked with bats. Therefore, travelers should avoid (or be extremely cautious when) entering any caves. If you are bitten by an animal, assume that the animal was infected by a disease and seek prompt medical attention.
Remember, that many of the lakes have Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Check with the locals and do not paddle on the lake shore if you’re not sure. However, if you do get infected, about which you won’t know until 1-2 months after contact with water, visit your family doctor or hospital.
Diarrhea disease and intestinal worms are also a concern and travelers should be careful what they eat or drink.
Travel health insurance
Medical facilities in Uganda are limited. Medical help at the scene of an accident is likely to be limited. In the case of serious accident or illness, evacuation by air ambulance may be required. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
General information (important)
Nationals of the countries listed below are exempted from visa requirements for travel to Uganda. They do, however, need to have a current passport issued by their respective countries.
Members of COMESA: Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea, Kenya, Malawi Mauritius, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Others exempted are: Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Gambia, Grenada, Jamaica, Lesotho, Malta, Sierra Leone, Singapore Solomon Islands St Vincent & the Grenadines, Tonga, Vanuatu, Italy (Only diplomatic passport holders) and Cyprus.
IMMIGRATION INFORMATION FOR INTENDING VISITORS TO UGANDA
1. Uganda visas may be obtained at Uganda missions abroad or on arrival at the country’s exit /entry stations.
2. Entry should be made only through the country’s gazetted ports of entry/exit.
3. Every visitor will be required to carry a passport with validity beyond six months.
4. All arriving visitors will be required to fill in arrival declaration cards on arrival. The cards are available at the arrival lounge.
5. No arriving visitor should carry or convey substances or goods prohibited by customs. (Contact Uganda Revenue Authority website: www.ura.go.ug for details on prohibited substances under the “Customs Tax Guides” tab).
6. Visitors should not overstay their visa validity otherwise they will be subjected to a fine of U$ 30 per day and other appropriate legal action.
7. Where visitors seek to stay longer than the period granted on arrival, extension of the period should be sought from the Immigration Headquarters in Kampala before expiry of the initial visitor’s pass.
8. All visitors must comply with immigration legislation and other national laws of the country during their stay in Uganda.
For further information on immigration go to: www.mia.go.ug
Uganda’s climate is tropical. This means it is generally rainy (particularly during the months of March to May, September to November), while the remaining months (December to February, June to August) comprise Uganda’s two dry seasons.
Uganda, landlocked in eastern Africa, has a climate heavily shaped by its own topography and that of surrounding regions. High mountains along some of its margins, an elevated plateau and plentiful lakes — including Lake Victoria, the biggest in Africa — all exert a real influence. Travelers here can go from a steamy lowland of truly tropical feel to the snowpack of lofty crags.
Although generally equatorial, the climate is not uniform as the altitude modifies the climate. Southern Uganda is wetter with rain generally spread throughout the year. At Entebbe on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, most rain falls from March to June and the November/December period. Further to the north a dry season gradually emerges; at Gulu about 120 km from the Sudanese border, November to February is much drier than the rest of the year.
The northeastern Karamoja region has the driest climate and is prone to droughts in some years. Rwenzori in the southwest on the border with Congo (DRC) receives heavy rain all year round. The south of the country is heavily influenced by one of the world’s biggest lakes, Lake Victoria, which contains many islands. It prevents temperatures from varying significantly and increases cloudiness and rainfall. Most important cities are located in the south, near Lake Victoria, including the capital Kampala and the nearby city of Entebbe.
When travelling to Uganda, you should study up on Uganda’s weather and climate ahead of your trip so you can pack accordingly. Rain should be expected in the Lake Victoria vicinity, upper highlands and during the wet seasons of other regions. Hikers and mountaineers in the Ugandan high country need warm clothing to contend with sometimes-frigid night temperatures and storms.
Will I get sick when I’m in Uganda?
You are unlikely to fall sick while you are in Uganda but do take all recommended preventive measures. If you take any regular medication, please bring it with you.
Take your Malaria medication as directed – before, during and possibly after – your visit to Uganda (depending on the Malaria prophylactic you take).
Although HIV/AIDS infection rates are lower than many countries in Africa, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS infection is certainly higher than in most Western countries. Tourists and visitors to Uganda sometimes engage in risky behavior that they wouldn’t engage in back home. Play safe. Please take your sexual health seriously.
Uganda travel advice: safety information for travelers to Uganda
Is Uganda a safe country for tourists?
Uganda is a very safe country to visit.
Although Uganda has lived through a turbulent history, the country is safe, stable and welcoming. Ugandans’ hospitable nature is legendary! You will be warmly welcomed wherever you go by the country’s friendly residents.
The most popular National Parks are situated in the south (west) of Uganda and are safe to visit. The border area with Rwanda and DRC remains stable and all National Parks and wildlife reserves are well protected by the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s rangers. Tourism is hugely important for Uganda’s economy and a Tourism Police force has been created to protect visitors.
Your travel insurance company or foreign office may offer information about travel to Uganda. However, in our experience, these bodies all err on the side of caution and do not necessarily know what is happening on the ground in Uganda at the time. For example, May 2013, some still advise against travel to Kidepo Valley National Park in Northern Uganda, although it is now safe to travel there by road, or by air.
Your safety is our absolute priority and you can rest assured that we will always give you the best Uganda travel advice.
Is Kampala a safe city for tourists?
Kampala is one of the safest capital cities in (East) Africa – although, as anywhere, petty thieves may try and take advantage of people who leave phones and valuables unattended. Your driver guide will give you all the information you need to make sure your trip is safe and incident-free. Feel free to ask questions!
How safe is it for homosexuals to visit Uganda?
Despite some negative press, Uganda is a safe country for gay and lesbian travelers. However, Uganda is a conservative country and we would recommend discretion.
Uganda travel advice: how to book and pay for your Uganda Safari
Can I do the gorilla tracking in Uganda?
If you are interested in a mountain gorilla safari in Uganda or Rwanda you are required to buy a gorilla permit well in advance of your trip. As only eight people are allowed to visit each gorilla group per day, the demand is high. We are happy to book your gorilla trekking permits and organize your gorilla safari.
To buy your gorilla permit, you will need to provide us with your full names, nationality, passport number, preferred date of trekking and gorilla permit fee. The minimum age for visiting the gorillas is 15 years. A certain level of fitness is required for the gorilla tracking, and you may not be allowed gorilla trekking if you fall sick.
How can I pay for my safari?
Once you have confirmed the final itinerary with us, you will be asked to pay a deposit of 30%. Gorilla permits must be paid for in full at the time of booking. Note that availability of accommodation and permits is not guaranteed until officially confirmed by Safaria tours and travel. Accommodation, permit and activity reservations will be made as soon as payment has been received on our account.
For your convenience, the balance payment of 70% should be settled before the start of your safari. We accept payment by VISA credit card (please include 5% service charge) and bank transfer in either dollars or Euros to our bank account in Uganda. Please note that all bank charges are at the expense of the client.
What is the Safari accommodation like?
Uganda Safari accommodation falls into three categories: budget, mid-range or luxury.
Budget accommodation may be simple and basic rooms, bandas or tents, with double/twin beds and mosquito nets when necessary. Private bathrooms are not always available and you may have to share bathroom facilities.
3-star, 4-star and 5-star accommodation offer comfortable rooms or luxury furnished safari tents with a private bathroom. Flush toilets and hot and cold running water are available. Mosquito nets will be provided where necessary.
All Uganda lodges are carefully selected and frequently visited by Safaria’ staff, to monitor quality and service levels. The majority of safari lodges and hotels are small-scale, offering a unique location and ambiance, and usually have a maximum of eight rooms.
Has the Ugandan government implemented the planned increase in VAT on tourist lodges and hotels?
No. Although in June 2013, it was reported in the press that the Ugandan government planned to charge additional VAT on tourist accommodation, we are delighted to report that Safaria and other tourism colleagues lobbied the government to prevent this tax being implemented.
What vehicles does Great Lakes Safaris use for safaris?
Safaria Tours & travel provide open roofed 4WD (four wheel drive) safari vehicles for all our tours. Our comfortable Land Cruisers offer seats for four to six people. Vehicles all have a pop-up roof for game viewing. We also own several 4WD minibuses which can take a maximum of 8 people. To ensure that everybody has a window seat to enjoy the best views of Uganda, we usually limit the number of people to seven in these 4WD safari minibuses. Limiting the number of people per vehicle also means plenty of legroom and luggage storage.
The challenging condition of the roads means that safari vehicles are serviced by GLS company mechanics after every trip.
I am travelling on my own. Can I book my safari with Great Lakes Safaris?
Single travelers are very welcome! However, to minimize your costs we would suggest joining a group. Although we can try and arrange this for you, we cannot guarantee we can find a group whose interests, budget and preferred route correspond to yours, especially during low season.
If you would like to stay in a single room please notify us well in advance and we will try to meet your request. Please bear in mind that single rooms are not common and it is more likely that you will be offered single occupancy of a double room. A single room supplement will apply.
How many people are in your group safaris?
We offer tailor-made safaris for any number of participants. There is no minimum number for a group tour, although the bigger the group, the more attractive the price will be.
Our comfortable Land Cruisers offer seats for four to six people. We also own several 4WD minibuses which can take a maximum of 8 people. To ensure that everybody has a window seat, we usually limit the number of people to seven in the 4WD safari minibuses.
What is included in the price of my Uganda or East African safari?
Safaria tours and travel prices are inclusive of:
ground transport in a comfortable four wheel drive (4WD) safari vehicle
a visit to all places detailed in the programme
the service of an experienced English speaking driver/safari guide
National Park entrance fees
activities as detailed in the itinerary (except for those that are marked optional)
overnight in the named accommodations, based on sharing a twin or double room
full board (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
2 litres of bottled mineral water per person per day while travelling in the Great Lakes Safaris vehicle
- park ranger fees
What is excluded in the price of my Uganda or East African safari?
Safaria prices do not include:
tourist visa (available at the airport)
meals and snacks that are not mentioned in the itinerary
beverages (other than the bottled mineral water provided in the safari vehicle)
tips and gratuities for safari guides and/or park rangers
gorilla trekking or chimp trekking permit
optional activities that are mentioned in the program
items of a personal nature (toiletries, camera batteries, souvenirs)
international payment transaction costs
In most cases, we will specify the extra charge of optional activities in your itinerary. If not, or if it is not clear to you, please contact Safaria tours & travel so we can confirm any additional fee(s).
We look forward to welcoming you to the Pearl of Africa!