Uganda tea plantation - Top Travel Tips

Thinking of heading to Uganda for a gorilla trekking adventure and safari holiday? Wondering what vaccinations you might need and what you can expect of the local food? Look no further than our Top Travel Tips which provide a wealth of information on all the essential need-to-knows.

What vaccinations do I need for Uganda?

You should seek medical advice from your local health practitioner before travelling to Uganda and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide Polio, Diphtheria, Hepatitis A & B and Tetanus are strongly recommended. Rabies and Meningitis are also recommended.

Following an outbreak of yellow fever in April 2016, the Ugandan Ministry of Health now requires all travellers provide proof of yellow fever vaccination.

Do I need anti-malaria tablets for Uganda?

There is a high risk of malaria in Uganda so it is very important to check with your doctor before you go, to see whether malarial medication is required for the areas you are visiting. Generally, it is good practice to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long sleeved, light coloured clothes and wearing a mosquito repellent that contains at least 50% DEET. For more information on the malaria risk in Uganda visit the NHS Fit to Travel page or the CDC Traveler's Health page.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Uganda?

All tap water in Uganda should be treated as if contaminated and avoided at all costs unless it has been purified or boiled before consuming. Bottled mineral water is widely available and cheap so be sure to stock up on this.

Uganda fruit market - Top Travel Tips
Jackfruit is found all over Uganda and is great for fruit lovers

What's the food like in Uganda?

Ugandan food tends to consist of a meat-based stews or sauce dishes accompanied by ugali, a thick doughy paste made from maize, or matoke, cooked and mashed green banana. Aside from meat and vegetables, beans and ground nuts are also added to stews for texture and cassava, yams and sweet potato all make regular appearances on the dinner table. Thanks to its many rivers, Ugandans also eat a lot of fish, particularly tiger fish and tilapia. Uganda is largely considered Africa's fruit bowl with a variety of fruits available, including the popular Jackfruit.

For something a little different, why not try a handful of deep fried grasshoppers? If you can’t stomach these insects then there are plenty of Indian influenced dishes that are served with chapattis. For dessert, many locals eat mandazi, deep fried dough covered in cinnamon or sugar. To go with your meal, grab yourself a glass of pombe, a fermented beer made with millet or banana.

Safe eating while travelling in Uganda

Be wary when eating outside of high-end lodges as sometimes the quality of the meat and the way in which it has been prepared might not be suitable for a sensitive western stomach. Also be aware that food hygiene in Uganda is much more basic than you will be used to so if something looks unclean, old or badly cooked, it is best to avoid it altogether. It is also a good idea to avoid ice in your drink and eating salad as these might have come into contact with unhygienic water.

Is it standard to tip in Uganda?

There is no minimum wage in Uganda, which means that many workers in the service industry earn very little and have to make it stretch a long way. Safari guides should be tipped the equivalent of USD $10-15 per person per day and a few dollars should be put in a communal tip jar for the driver, cook and porters. If you eat in a restaurant then 10% on top of the bill is a suitable amount to leave. When it comes to taxis, rounding up the fare is a nice way to show your appreciation.

Uganda wooden masks - Top Travel Tips
Wooden masks make great souvenirs when visiting Uganda

What souvenirs can I shop for in Uganda?

Traditional African handicrafts can be found throughout Uganda at very reasonable prices and make great souvenirs. Buying carved wooden masks and sculptures made by local artists is a good way to support the community and make sure you go home with something unique and authentic. There are plenty of other items on offer that will jazz up your home such as bowls, batik paintings and woven baskets.

Those looking to spice up their wardrobe needn’t look far whilst in Uganda. Bright fabrics with stunning African patterns can be easily purchased and either taken home as they are or turned into clothes by one of the local tailors. Once again, you will be providing valuable income for locals by getting your own custom-made clothes and you can be sure no-one will walk around wearing the same thing as you back home.

Is bargaining acceptable in Uganda?

In proper shops in Uganda’s big cities, such as Kampala, most items will have fixed prices and will not be up for negotiation. Stalls, markets and family-owned stores, however, tend not to have any price labels and it is here that you will be able to engage in a bit of bargaining. The most important thing to remember while haggling is to make sure both buyer and seller are happy at the end of the transaction. It is also good form to remain in good humour and not to treat the situation as hostile.

Is it safe for solo female travellers in Uganda?

Foreign women, and particularly white women, attract a lot of attention in Uganda so be prepared for people to want to talk to you, touch your skin and invite you to their house. For the vast majority of the time, this attention stems from pure curiosity and is not meant in a threatening or harmful way. Occasionally men might pester you but giving the cold shoulder or a firm 'no' will usually do the trick and get them to leave you alone.

In Africa it is very uncommon for women to walk around alone so in some cases it might better simply to say your boyfriend or husband is meeting you somewhere. A photo of a man in your purse and a fake wedding ring are useful for adding credibility to your story. It is also advisable to avoid being out alone at night as muggings are not unheard of.

How about as a member of the LGBT community?

Currently, homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, and sexual activity with someone of the same gender is punishable with prison. It has been known for Western members of the LGBT community to be attacked and harassed. This is largely because of the strict Christianity of the country, homosexuality is simply not accepted as a part of Ugandan society. Whilst an outdated view, this does not mean that Ugandans are inhospitable or unfriendly people. In fact, Uganda is generally a very welcoming country, homosexuality is just not accepted like it is in other parts of the world today.

Any LGBT traveller wishing to explore Uganda would be best to behave with discretion and not to engage in any flirting or sexual activity with anyone of the same sex whilst visiting the country. As long as travellers act with discretion, there is no reason to expect any problems.

What is the duty free allowance for Uganda?

Travellers over the age of 18 are permitted to bring the following into the country:

  • 250g of tobacco products
  • 1L of spirits or 2L of wine
  • 500ml of perfume and eau de toilette, of which up to 250ml may be perfume
  • Goods up to the value of US$500 (for returning residents)

The following are banned from being imported into Uganda: narcotics, pornography, counterfeit items, cultural artefacts and explosives are not permitted. Some medication may also be restricted - check before you travel.

You must obtain a permit to import hunting weapons, live animals, fruit, flowers, cuttings or seeds.

What is the currency in Uganda?

The official currency in Uganda is the Ugandan Shilling. Check OANDA for the latest exchange rates.

Euros, British Pounds, US Dollars, South African Rand and other major currencies can be exchanged locally or in advance of departure. Additionally, exchange facilities are available at various bureaus de change and banks in major towns have ATMs. It's advisable to request bank notes in smaller denominations, as it can sometimes be hard to get change from large notes and smaller notes are handy for smaller purchases and gratuities.

Traveller's Cheques are not recommended as they're often difficult to exchange and incur high fees.

Uganda tea room - Top Travel Tips
You'll find inexpensive tea rooms all over Uganda

What do things cost in Uganda?

If you plan on doing gorilla trekking during your time in Uganda, be aware that a permit can cost anything upwards of about USD $600. As for other expenses, a mid-range hotel room will usually cost between USD $30-50 per night while dorms are around USD $8-10. Street food is incredibly cheap, costing less than a dollar in some cases, and sit-down meals can be found for between USD $5-10 for a feast of African or Indian food.

When it comes to going out, a pint of beer won’t cost more than USD $2 in a bar and will be even cheaper in a supermarket. Transport isn’t usually too expensive with matatu (mini bus) rides often costing around 50 cents or less. Private taxis are more expensive and can set you back up to USD $10.

What sort of plugs do I need for Uganda and what is the voltage?

Standard voltage is 230 - 240 volts. Primary sockets generally require the three square-pin variety, similar to the United Kingdom sockets. We recommend that you pack a universal travel adaptor. You will need a voltage converter and plug adaptor in order to use U.S. appliances.

Is WiFi widely available in Uganda?

You will be sure to find a WiFi connection in the majority of hotels, restaurants and cafes in Kampala but more rural areas are much less connected. Be aware that frequent power outages can disrupt connectivity and surges may damage electronics.

What time zone is Uganda on?

Uganda is 3 hours ahead of GMT and does not observe daylight savings.

See Also

For further help planning your gorilla trek in Uganda take a look through our handy Travel Guide resources:

Gorilla Trekking - our guide to this once in a lifetime experience
Best Time to Visit - Uganda's climate and seasons
Tourist Visas - what you need to know for entering Uganda
About Overland Safaris - what to expect on an overland expedition in Africa