Entering the Country
Non-residents of Uganda will be required to purchase a visa when they arrive in Uganda. 90 day Tourist Visas can be obtained at the airport upon arrival at a cost of $50 US Dollars. You must pay in cash US Dollars only and make sure that bills are issued post-2001.
Uganda also requires that all visitors are vaccinated against Yellow Fever. While they may not always check, we strongly recommend that you bring proof of this vaccination with you when arriving in the country.
Uganda is sunny most of the year, with temperatures rarely rising above 29 degrees Celcius / 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The heavy rainy season is March-May, light rainy season November-December, though there will always be a few hours of sunshine. June is usually dry, but showers can still be expected.
The official language in Uganda is English. Luganda and Swahili are also widely spoken.
230/245 volts. British-style plugs with three pins are used.
Food & Drinks
Uganda, with its agricultural resource, combined with the conducive climate, produces a wide range of food products. Bananas, millet, maize, sorghum, rice, wheat, sweet potatoes, irish potatoes and cassava grow in abundance. Fruits and other vegetables are also plentiful – watermelon, passion fruits, pineapples, mangoes, tomatoes, aubergine, green peppers. You will probably eat better here than you do at home! Tea and coffee is readily available almost everywhere with coffee houses and cafÃ©s conveniently located. Soda (coke, fanta, sprite, bitter lemon, etc) are sold by the (glass) bottle, which are returnable and recycled. Local beer (lagers only) are as good as any international beer and there are many to choose from including â€“ Bell, Club, ESB, Pilsner, Nile Special, Eagle, Castle, Guinness. All are brewed in Uganda, but it is important to remember that these are considerably stronger than what you may be used to.
The official currency for Uganda is the Uganda Shilling. Ugandan shilling notes of shs 500 and smaller are no longer legal tender and have been replaced with coins (50, 100, 200 and 500). Larger notes are 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000.
Banks and Changing Money
There is a wide array of banks and forex bureau’s to choose from, with several international banks represented (Barclays, Standard Chartered, Stanbic).
The US dollar and the pound sterling are the strongest currencies used in Uganda and are the easiest to exchange. Us dollar notes dated prior to 2001 are turned away and therefore recommend bringing US dollar notes issued no earlier than 2001. Also, notes smaller than US$50 attract a far lower exchange rate. We suggest you bring cash and/or credit cards with you as traveler check exchange rates are not as competitive.
For convenience you may change money at the airport upon arrival however, the airport exchange is not as competitive as forex bureaus in Kampala. We suggest you change only as much as you need to get you you through the first day or so (recommend US$50-100 only).
Despite what some guidebooks claim, credit cards are not widely accepted and where they can be used, mainly with the larger hotels and companies, hefty surcharges are common. Barclays Bank (open Mon-Fri, 9.00 am – 3.00 pm), however, offers cash advances against credit cards with a small surcharge.
Currently, Stand Chartered Bank is the only bank that offers automated cash withdrawals with (their own) cards, locally and internationally. These ATMs can be found at the airport and Kampala, but please note that they only accept Mastercard and Visa cards.
Malaria Risk and Prophylaxis
Malaria risk is high and chloroquine resistance is a problem in Uganda. A prophylactic medication such as Mefloquine (Larium) or Doxycycline is recommended. Travellers should also carry malaria treatment such as Fansidar or Artenam (also available in the drug shops in Uganda). Again, please consult and discuss prevention and treatment options with your physician prior to your visit to East Africa.
Other Health Risks
Bilharzia is a snail born disease, found around inhabited lakeshores. Lake Victoria does host bilharzia. Your best option is to avoid going into the lake. If you do enter the water, get tested for Bilharzia once every six months after returning home. Praziquantel is the most reliable treatment for Bilharzia.
Internet cafes are mushrooming around the country and are now to be found even in remote outlying areas. In Entebbe and Kampala surfing rates will cost you about Ushs 4,000/= per hour (approximately US$2.30).
If you are planning to bring your own mobile phone, the network is very good in Entebbe and Kampala and most parts of the country. There are several mobile providers including South Africa’s MTN, Celtel and Uganda Telecom. If you are not using a roming account, you can purchase a SIM card for relatively low cost (Ushs15,000 / US$9.00). Sim cards and airtime for the 3 competative companies are available all over Uganda.
If you bring your own mobile phone, first check that it is not “sim locked”, otherwise it will cost you anywhere up to Ushs50,000 / US$27.00 to have it “unlocked”.
Recreation & Shopping in Kampala
Kampala is a friendly and safe city. It has excellent restaurants, bars and nightclubs, as well as theaters, movie cinemas, interesting markets and supermarkets.
For a good guide to Kampala, source a free copy of “The Eye” magazine. This publication will provide you with all the addresses you are likely to need during your stay, as well as useful tips on travel itineraries and medical issues.
- Makerere University – East Africa’s oldest institute of higher learning
- Bahai Temple – the only one in all of Africa
- National Theatre – see the bulletin board for plays and events
- Kasubi Tombs – most impressive royal tombs of the ancient Buganda Kingdom
- National Museum
- Plus many great bars, restaurants and nightclubs
Kampala offers an amazing variety of international cuisine, including Italian (Mambo Point), Chinese (Fang Fang), Thai (Krua Thai), Greek (Andy the Greeks), Indian (Masala Chat/Handii’s), Ugandan (Ekitobeero), Ethiopian (Fasika), European (Sam’s) and pizza (Dominoes/Speke Hotel), Turkish (Efendy’s – Hotel Africana), coffee/fresh juice (Ban Cafe), Cafe Pap and Rwenzori Coffee House (Lugogo Mall), bakery (Vasili and Sons) and fast food (Nandos/Steers/Garden City)… to name a few!
There are several bars in Kampala: Wagadugu’s, Just Kicking, Kaos, On the Rocks, Al’s Bar, DV8, Steak Out, Obligato.
Nightclubs: Club Silk, Ange Noir and Viper Room.
The National Theatre features plays, dance and music – see their bulletin board for what’s on.
There are craft shops throughout the city. A great place for textiles (sarongs, bedspreads, table cloths) is the Textile Centre at UGMA Showgrounds, near Metro Cash and Carry. Try the local crafts market behind the National Theatre for a variety of handmade items where you can bargain. UCOTA located on Gaba Road in Kansanga is a great place for handmade crafts, made by communities groups from all over the country. Banana Boat in Kisemente (near Just Kicking) offers exclusive crafts from Kenya and Uganda, they also have shops in Garden City and Lugogo Mall. A little pricey but definitely worth a look, especially for something a little more special. Cassava Republic, under Wagadugu’s, and their sister shop just around the corner, – Jungle Junk -, has wonderful hand painted cloth with wrought iron spears to hang them from, plus other local crafts. Finally right next door to the Afri Tours office you will find Exposure Africa, a craft village run by the Uganda Small Scale Industry Association (USSA).
The Post Office is centrally located on Kampala Road near Barclays Bank, open Monday to Friday, 9.00 am â€“ 5.00 pm and Saturdays 10.00 am â€“ 2.00 pm. Closed Sundays.
There are many grocery stores in Kampala where in recent years the large South African (Shoprite, Game) and Kenyan (Uchmi) retailers have made their impression.
The central fresh produce market is on Nakasero Road and is known as Nakasero Market. This market has a colourful and vibrant atmosphere and provides the true African market experience.
International Medical Centre, Pentacostal Church Building, Bombo Road (opposite Hotel Equatoria), (Dr Ian Clarke) – phone 0414 341 291
The Surgery, 2 Acacia Avenue, Kampala (Dr Richard Stockley) – phone 0414 256 003
Barclays Bank on Kampala Road, open Monday to Friday, 9.00 am – 3.00 pm, closed Saturdays and Sundays. Barklays is the only bank in Uganda that does credit card cash advances for the very small fee of Ushs3,000. There are many forex bureaus in town offering good exchange rates.