UGANDA INFO

Uganda

Voted Lonely Planets’ Number 1 destination for 2012,There is so much to see and do in Uganda….

Those lucky enough to visit fall in love with her breathtaking Rift Valley scenery of open savannah, crater lakes, forests, snow-capped mountains and distant volcanoes. This stunning landscape sets her apart from any of her east African neighbours.

A country for wildlife lovers: not apart from the ‘big five’, Uganda boasts more than 1,066 species of birds, easily rivaling Kenya and those are just the documented ones!

Visitors can also experience our closest relatives in their natural habitat. Uganda has more species of primates than any other country. Not only will you see Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees in the wild but 20 types of monkeys!

A country to explore: With the warmest and wonderfully welcoming people, new lodges, new activities (horseback safaris, yoga retreats and more), a buzzing Kampala nightlife and improved infrastructure across the country, there really is no better time to visit Uganda!

As lonely planet says “get here before the crowds do.”

Location and Size

Uganda is a landlocked country astride the Equator, about 800 kilometers inland from the Indian Ocean. It lies on the northwestern shores of Lake Victoria, extending from 1 south to 4 north latitude and 30 to 35 east longitude.

Uganda is bordered by Tanzania and Rwanda to the south, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the west, South Sudan to the north, and Kenya to the east. With a land surface of 241,139 square kilometers, Uganda occupies most of the Lake Victoria Basin, which was formed by the geological shifts that created the Rift Valley during the Pleistocene era. The Ssese Islands and other small islands in Lake Victoria also lie within Uganda’s borders.Ecologically, Uganda is where the East African Savannah meets the West African jungle.

Weather and Climate

Uganda has the gift of holiday weather all year around! There are two reasons: one is its location on the Equator and the other is its elevation. Both of these give Uganda the gift of perfect weather.

The majority of the country has a tropical climate which varies according to altitude. The hottest months are from December to February when the temperature reaches 29 degrees Celsius while rainy seasons are from April to May and October to November. The wettest month is traditionally April (although global warming is making this less predictable). Even during the two rainy seasons, the sun is out most of the time and rain often occurs with a most delightful thunderstorm. When it rains, it pours – but soon the sun’s rays have dried up the earth once again.

Temperatures in some parts of the country can be quite cool owing to the country’s high altitude, despite its position on the Equator. The mountain areas become much cooler and the tops of Mount Elgon and Rwenzori Mountains are often covered in snow. Other parts of the country are much warmer.

Population

Uganda has the world’s youngest population with a median age of 15. The country’s estimated population in 2010 was 33 million.

People and Culture

Uganda has a very strong cultural heritage. It is composed of many regions, each with different cultures. The recent restoration of kingdoms has boosted cultural sites. These include Buganda, Busoga, Bunyoro and Toro. Ugandans hail from a diversity of rich cultures and life styles and are remarkably hospitable. Each tribe has its own traditional dance; the Banyankole perform their Kitaguriro dance, the Banyoro have their Runyege, Acholi have the Bwila and Otole dances. The Alur have the Agwal dance and the Bagisu have the Imbalu dance during the biennial circumcision ceremonies.

Culture and traditions are also expressed through a wide range of arts and crafts made from wood, papyrus reeds and local materials. These include blacksmith implements, beaded jewelry, wood carvings and batiks. They can be found all over the city in village bazaars, gift shops, hotels, urban galleries, the National Theatre and Baganda Road craft markets. While on your Uganda travel or safari, consider taking a cultural tour. Community tourism involves local people and your tourist dollars can go a long way in helping lift them from poverty. Just contact us for ideas of where to go!

Tourism

Uganda is a fast growing tourist destination ‘Gifted by Nature.’ Political stability, hospitable communities and a high quality range of wildlife products offered at a competitive price, provide an awesome holiday experience.

Wildlife Tourism

While the cultural diversity and effortless warmth of Ugandan people are remarked upon by all who visit the country, most itineraries revolve around the protected areas under the direction of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). These are magnificent. They encompass not only the conventional Savannah – mesmerizing tracts of African bush teeming with antelope, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, zebra, forest hogs and big cats – but also the snow capped peaks of Africa’s tallest range of mountains, tropical rain forests of mind boggling biodiversity, and atmospheric lakes and rivers heaving with hippos, crocodiles and birds.

As yet untouched by mass tourism, Uganda’s parks are ideal retreats for the discerning eco-tourist. Uganda is the world’s premier primate viewing destination, home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas, large populations of chimpanzees and a dazzling variety of monkeys. For bird lovers, Uganda is practically peerless: it has a record of more than 1,060 bird species, 50% of the continent’s species. Each park offers a memorable experience!

How to get to Uganda

Uganda has several Airlines flying in and out of the country. Kampala’s international airport is Entebbe. Scheduled airlines flying to Entebbe include: Air Burundi, Air Rwanda, Air Tanzania, British Airways, SN Brussels, East African Airlines, Emirates, Gulf Air, South African Airways, KLM, Kenya Airways, Rwandair Express, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Eagle Air and United Arab Airlines both Direct flights from Europe and from other African countries.

Buses and taxis are available from the airport to the city. Wide networks of buses/taxis run throughout the country connecting almost every town. Within Kampala, taxis, special hire taxis and motor bikes provide transport within the city and its suburbs. These are found on major roads in the city centre, as well as the two taxi parks. The journey time is approximately 30 minutes and fare is about $20USD.

By water: ferry services operate from Tanzania, Mwanza to Port Bell, on Lake Victoria.

There are several airstrips within the country; this has made flights to tourism destinations very accessible. Examples of airstrips can be accessed in destination areas to include Kidepo, Queen Elizabeth, Murchison falls and more airstrips are almost in every part of the country national airport or at any overland boarder.

Passport and Visas

A valid passport is mandatory. Visa requirements sometimes change so check before traveling. A visa to Uganda is issued at Uganda missions abroad and entry points. All countries that require visas for Uganda are also visa prone in Uganda.

Health

Travelers are advised to contact the Uganda representative in their countries or regions to determine whether vaccination is necessary before entry into Uganda. A yellow fever certificate is required if you have been transiting infected areas. Malaria is prevalent in Uganda and it is advisable to take anti-malarial and to utilise mosquito repellents. Malaria Prophylaxis is recommended. It is not recommended to drink tap water. Boil it or buy bottled water from the shops. The equatorial sun can be deceptive even on overcast days. Sun glasses, sun creams and hats are recommended to avoid sunburns.

Security and Safety

Uganda is increasingly developing to one of the top safari holiday destinations in the world. With the improvement of infrastructure and political stability, the tourism industry is soaring to greater heights. The country is very safe both in cities and remote areas. However some common sense precautions should be taken. Do not flaunt your wealth by wearing expensive jewelry or carrying large wads of money openly. Avoid changing money in the streets. Likewise avoid overcrowded streets. Leave your valuables with the hotel for safe keeping. You will come across misleading information on various websites regarding as to how insecure Uganda is for travel. They are however usually outdated and do not reflect the present state of Uganda.

Uganda Banks and Money

The Banking Sector in Uganda is growing stronger every year with local and foreign owned commercial banks and forex bureaus in Uganda. The Central Bank is Bank of Uganda.

Working hours for most of the Banks are 8:30 to 4:00pm every Monday to Friday while on Saturday they operate half day. Most forex bureaus are open on weekends and some run for 24 hrs. The Uganda shilling is the legal currency in Uganda. There are no restrictions on money transfer in and out of the country. The Uganda shilling is divided into denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 for paper notes, while coins are in the denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 for coins.

Food

Uganda offers a range of dishes ranging from continental, Italian, Chinese, Ugandan, Indian and more. The finest restaurants and hotels in Uganda are located in Kampala, the capital city, although 4 and 5 star lodges in the National Parks boast excellent cuisine.

No visit to Uganda is complete without trying local food. High in carbohydrates, you will not go hungry! Staples include: matoke (steamed green banana), posho (maize flour porridge), sweet and Irish potatoes, chapati, cassava, yam, rice, goat stew, bean or beef stew, fried chicken and groundnut sauce.

Pace of Life

Uganda is relatively new to tourism, compared to Kenya and Tanzania. The infrastructure, accommodation, transport network and quality and availability of services and facilities are basic by Western standards. The pace of life ebbs more slowly on the African continent.

Rest assured that Pearl of Africa Tours and Travel (PATT) will do everything in its power to ensure you have the most enjoyable and comfortable trip, however unexpected delays and difficulties may be experienced from time to time. Please be patient and enjoy the more relaxed rhythm of life. You’re on holiday after all!

Gorilla Tracking

This is a strenuous activity and one should be physically fit to enjoy gorilla trekking. Professional guides will accompany groups but no porters are available to carry personal belongings. Minimum age is fifteen years. Anyone with signs of communicable disease like cough or runny nose will not be allowed to trek.

While possession of a gorilla permit is a guarantee of trekking, it cannot be a guarantee of sighting. However the chance of sighting is high – 95% or more. Maximum time allowed with the gorillas is one hour at a minimum distance of 7 meters.

No flash photography is allowed and fast film is therefore recommended (minimum 400-1600 ASA). Personal DVD recorders are allowed. Special arrangements need to be made for professional film makers, and filming permits are required for commercial photography and filming.

We strongly recommend a breathable and lightweight rain jacket or poncho, a warm jacket or fleece for overcast days and evening, long-sleeved shirt and trousers, sturdy waterproof walking boots (seasoned or well worn footwear), leather gardening-type gloves, sunscreen, cap or sun hat, sunglasses, insect repellent, comfortable day pack for carrying water and minimum amount of personal items. Cameras and video cameras are allowed, but bring film and batteries from Kampala.

Accommodation

The seasoned traveler will find many lodges and camps are not as luxurious as in some African countries, although a number of properties may exceed your expectations! There are accommodations of different standards throughout Uganda.

Electricity and piped/mains water supply may not always be available, although clients will always find a hot shower waiting for them after a long day’s trek. In some remote locations, ‘long-drop’ or compost (eco) toilets may be found.

Food may be basic, but you are usually assured of fresh produce and a variety of tropical fruits which taste so much better than supermarket imports in the West! The more upmarket lodges and hotels offer excellent facilities on a par with other safari destinations. However, please remember we are a developing economy and expectations should not be unrealistic.

PATT takes care in booking the best accommodation available for your budget. All of our prepared itineraries start from Kampala. If you require pre or post-safari hotel bookings in Kampala please advise us and we will make the necessary arrangements. Reservations should be made in advance to avoid disappointment.

Health/Medical

More adventurous activities such as mountaineering and hiking, gorilla trekking and chimp tracking, white-water rafting, canoeing and kayaking may pose additional risks and should be undertaken with care and caution. Clients must be fit and healthy.

Gorilla trekking and Chimp tracking are not permitted to those individuals who have signs of a communicable disease such as colds, flu and other airborne diseases. Chimps and gorillas are highly susceptible to human diseases and it is therefore essential that you declare all illnesses and seek our advice if you are unsure. National Park Authorities reserve the right to deny access to individuals they consider unfit to accompany any activity.

Anti-malaria tablets and mosquito repellents are essential. Seek advice from your home country on vaccination and inoculation requirements. Uganda is part of the Yellow Fever belt and although not always checked by Ugandan Immigration on arrival, a Yellow Fever card is required by law.

Please bring all personal medications required. Medical services and facilities are basic. Clients are fully responsible for securing adequate medical insurance which should include evacuation cover.

It is recommended that you drink bottled or boiled water only. Sodas, beer and alcoholic beverages are generally considered safe. Coffee and tea, as well as fresh fruit juices, are prepared with boiled water.

Airport

Most guests arrive by air, landing at Entebbe International Airport. The drive to/from Entebbe and Kampala City is approximately 60 minutes. We can organize transfers to and from the airport for any size group.

Airlines

Several airlines service Uganda regularly including Air Tanzania, British Airways, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, South African Airways and Brussels Airlines. There are several reputable East African based companies offering domestic and internal air travel including Air Uganda and Precision Airlines. Eagle Airlines offers domestic flight services.

Visas

Single entry (usually three month) tourist visas are available on arrival at Entebbe airport priced at USD $50 and at the land borders. We recommend clients obtain them on arrival.

Uganda follows a policy of reciprocity (if your Country requires a Visa for Ugandans to enter, Uganda will impose the same). Irish Nationals do not require visas. Check with us directly or contact the airline or your travel agent.

Roads

Main roads are generally good and recent road works have much improved the road network in and around Kampala. Secondary roads vary in quality and may be poorly maintained. Be prepared for long and sometimes bumpy car journeys. We call it ‘The African Massage’!

Climate

Uganda is on the Equator which gives it an ideal climate with little variation. Mean temperatures are between 21ºC and 31ºC all year round. There are two rainy seasons from March to April and October to November. Travel is often slower in the rainy season and trekking more difficult. Mountainous areas tend to be much colder than the plains and receive more rain. Temperatures in mountainous areas can go down to 10°C in certain months. Lodges and other facilities are open all year round. There is no bad time of year to visit Uganda!

Clothing

Light summer cotton clothing supplemented by a sweater or jacket should be sufficient all year round for most of Uganda. In the hilly and mountainous areas, waterproof jackets or ponchos, strong waterproof walking boots and warmer fleece or heavy sweaters will be required in the evening. Informal dress is usual, although Ugandans appreciate modest dressing. Cotton slacks and flat comfortable walking shoes are recommended on safari. Don’t forget to bring a hat and sun protection, along with your swimsuit. Request additional details at the time of booking for specific areas.

Security

Occasional security issues may arise as in any other developing country. Pearl of Africa Tours and Travel maintains up-to-date information on all parts of the country and we will advise clients accordingly at the time of booking, if any risks appear to be present. Basic precautions should be taken, as in all countries, and common sense should be used. It is not advised to display expensive jewelry, leave bags unattended or money lying around. Most hotels and lodges have safe deposit boxes available.

We recommend that you leave original travel documents and passports with us in our safe (if you wish) and travel with photocopies. East African residents will need to show copy Passports and Work Permits to obtain resident discounts. If in doubt please ask us and we will advise you.

Photography

No photographs of, or near, military buildings or soldiers are allowed. It is only polite to ask people before taking photographs.

Film and other photographic equipment/supplies are available in Uganda. Fast film (400-1600 ASA) is recommended for gorilla tracking and forest walking. For digital photography, we recommended you bring extra batteries and a car charger. If you have special requirements, then we strongly suggest that you come with the necessary equipment.

Most accommodation will have facilities for recharging batteries used by audio/visual equipment. Feel free to confirm in advance.

Telephone/Internet

International telephone communication is good from Kampala but more difficult in some rural areas. Uganda has a good mobile phone network throughout most of the country and local SIM cards can be purchased throughout the Country. International roaming facilities are available.

Internet services are widely available in Kampala through internet cafes, and most major towns will have access, although the quality and speed of the connection varies.

All our drivers/guides have cell phones and maintain contact with the Head Office throughout safaris. Airtime can be purchased for your use or the driver/guides’ mobile phones if necessary.

Electricity

Uganda: 240 volts. 3-pin (square) sockets. It is recommended that you bring your own adapter. Most hotels, lodges or camps can make arrangements for recharging batteries. Please ask us on booking if you have specific requirements.

Alcohol

Several brands of local and international beer are available, including leading local beers: Bell, Club, Pilsner and Nile Special beers. Most spirits and wines are imported and are readily available. Uganda Waragi is a very popular local gin.

Drinking and driving is prohibited and purchase of alcohol under the age of 18 years is also illegal.

Currency

The currency in Uganda is the Uganda Shilling. It is issued in denominations of 1000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 Uganda Shillings notes. Coins are available for smaller denominations of 50, 100, 200 and 500 shillings.

US dollar, GB Pound and EURO are readily exchangeable. Large US dollar bills attract the best exchange rates. Currency exchange rates vary and are posted at all banks and forex bureaus around Kampala and in the local newspapers. The rate as of July 2012 was US$1 = 2400 Uganda Shillings and 1GBP = 3800 Uganda Shillings. There are no restrictions on other international currencies.

It is recommended that you change money in Kampala prior to safari where more favorable rates are offered. Attempting to change money upcountry can be frustrating and the rates are not good.

ATM machines are available in Kampala and most offer access to international banks/cards. You may need to have your PIN number, so do not forget.

NB: US Dollar bills pre-2000 are most often not accepted in Uganda or are exchanged at a less favorable rate. Poor quality foreign currency notes may be rejected. Please ensure you bring with you new or notes in excellent condition with no stains or tears.

Travelers Cheques:

TCs are accepted in Kampala, but at a less favourable rate than cash. Most lodges and hotels upcountry will accept TCs although rates are generally poor.

Pearl of Africa Tours and Travel Limited will accept TCs for services but there is a USD $20 surcharge for each transaction.

Credit Cards:

AMEX, VISA and MASTERCARD may be accepted at a few choice establishments in Kampala and some upcountry hotels and lodges. Kindly note that credit cards are not widely accepted and most organizations reserve the right to levy a surcharge on credit card transactions, usually 7 – 9% on top of the original cost.

Banking:

Several international banks operate in Uganda including Barclays, Standard Chartered, Stanbic, and Citi Bank. Many local banks and forex bureaus also operate across the country. Generally the banking hours are 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday. Some institutions are open longer hours and on Saturdays.

There are no legal restrictions on foreign exchange transactions and currency is easily convertible.

Begging/Donations:

We do not recommend clients give money to beggars or street children as this only lends to the culture of begging and dependency. Donations can be made to established international and local charities that work with the homeless, street children or orphans.

We can arrange visits to local projects or institutions on request. If personal donations are preferred, we would suggest exercise books, pens or pencils are useful gifts.

Gratuities:

Ugandans tip according to level of service and there are no fixed or assumed rates. Culturally people may not feel it appropriate to outwardly show their appreciation for money given, however salaries are generally low in Uganda compared to neighboring tourism destinations and all tips will be greatly appreciated.

On average tips are in the region of: 5-10% in restaurants; US$5-10 per day, per client for safari driver/guides and US$5-10 per client, per day for Ranger Guides; US$5 per day for porters on mountaineering/hiking safaris and US$3-5 for Forest Walk guides.

Tips are very personal and this is only a guide. Feel free to ask management for advice.

Drinking Water:

We recommend that you do not drink tap water. Most hotels and restaurants provide previously boiled drinking water, or you can opt from several brands of mineral water.

Foods:

Fresh tropical fruits and vegetables abound throughout the country. A wide range of dishes, both traditional and international, are served in the hotels and restaurants. If you have any dietary restrictions, please advise in advance. And if you have to have yellow mustard or black pepper to enjoy your meal, bring it with you.

Health Requirements:

Certificates may be required for vaccinations against yellow fever. Check current medical advice on typhoid, cholera and hepatitis. But these diseases are NOT common, so do not feel obliged to spend hundreds of dollars on injections. Malaria risk is general, and a prophylaxis should be taken. It is advisable to start anti-malarial medications 10 – 14 days prior to arrival and continue with the same for 14 – 21 days after leaving East Africa.

Language:

The official language is English. Kiswahili and Luganda are commonly spoken throughout the country. We actually speak over 40 languages in Uganda!

Luggage:

Airlines will offer you 20-40 Kg, or two pieces, of luggage on most flights. It is preferable for you to use soft luggage as space in vehicles is limited. We can arrange the storage of winter clothes that you will not need on safari.

Photography:

Though some types of film are available in many of the lodges, it is advisable to bring film and batteries with you or to purchase them in Kampala. A pair of binoculars will prove extremely useful for a keen game viewer or birder. There is no charge for photography cameras and personal video recorders, but there may be a charge for commercial cameras in some places. Clients are responsible for any such fee. High-speed film is recommended for gorilla photos and high altitude filters are best for climbers. Check with your photo shop.

Security:

Precautions should be taken as in any major city. Unless safely deposit boxes are available in your hotel or lodge, always carry travel documents, travellers cheques, cash and other valuables with you at all times or leave them in the possession of Pearl of Africa Tours and Travel. If you leave your travel documents behind, travel with a photocopy.

We recommend that you do not walk alone late in the night, but instead take a taxi. We can arrange the safe keeping of your passport and ticket in our offices upon request.

Guard yourself and your valuables as you would anywhere in the world. Stay aware of your surroundings and be cautious but friendly where possible.

Sports Facilities:

There are a variety of sports available in Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja city centres – squash, golf, tennis, etc. Fishing on Lake Victoria or the Nile River is popular. Whitewater rafting and flat water canoeing have been introduced on the River Nile. Whitewater rafting on the Nile from Jinja is considered the best one day trip in the world. Mountain climbing and hiking are popular in the Rwenzori Mountains and on Mount Elgon. Avid climbers will want to check out the Virunga Volcanoes and Mount Moroto. For special interest itineraries, please request.

Transport:

The roads are generally in good condition. Four-wheel drive vehicles may be required for upcountry use, especially in the national parks during the rainy seasons. We maintain a fleet of saloon cars, mini-buses and four-wheel drive vehicles, available on chauffeur driven basis. Self-drive vehicles other than saloon cars are hard to come by. Please inquire for further details and tariffs.

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