Find out how to plan your ultimate Uganda adventure and have the trip of a lifetime. Uganda is one of the best places in the world to see wild chimpanzees and endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. On safari, you may come face to face with tree-climbing lions, large herds of buffalo and elephants. In the wetlands and rivers, you’ll find a huge array of birds and an amazing number of hippopotamus’.
A trip to Uganda is sure to delight any nature lover and is an adventure seeker’s paradise. Situated in the middle of the world right on the equator, Uganda offers beautiful lakes, luscious green landscapes, snow-topped mountains and an abundance of wildlife. With some planning, you can stay safe and have an amazing Uganda adventure.
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Entebbe International Airport has re-opened for passenger flights but there are ongoing restrictions in place throughout Uganda. There are curfews and the wearing of facemasks is compulsory. Immigration authorities will check your temperature as you enter the country and quarantine you if you show any symptoms of Covid-19.
Covid-19 restrictions are in place in Uganda. Check with your government for the latest travel advice.
Before you travel to Uganda, you’ll need to apply for a visa. Most nationalities need a visa to enter Uganda including travellers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA & the EU. You can now apply for an e-visa online and once your visa application has been processed, a visa approval letter will be issued. You should print your approval letter as you’ll need to present it at immigration when you arrive in Uganda. A full visa will then be issued.
You will need to present a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken before departure.
And make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your arrival date or your visa application may be rejected.
*A standard single-entry 45-day visa takes 6 days to process and costs around US$87. An East Africa Tourist (EAT) Visa is a cheaper option if you are also visiting Rwanda and Kenya.
Gorilla & Chimpanzee Tracking Permits
A highlight of your Uganda trip is likely to be the Chimpanzees and mountain gorilla tracking in the jungles of Uganda. Seeing these amazing creatures in the wild is an unforgettable experience. They share 97% of their DNA with us and you’ll be tracking them in their natural habitat.
Permits are required to track the primates and these should be booked well in advance. Chimpanzee permits cost US$200 and a gorilla tracking permit is around US$700 in Uganda (even more in Rwanda). While it may seem expensive your money is helping to protect the critically endangered mountain gorillas and conserve their habitat from human encroachment. The number of mountain gorillas is slowly increasing thanks to tourist dollars and the successful Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) conservation program.
Only a limited number of permits are issued each year so make sure you buy your permit in Kampala or you may miss out. So, while you can buy chimp and gorilla permits from the National Park Headquarters, it’s best not to wait until you get there. The UWA office in Kampala can get very busy so perhaps allow a couple of hours for this. Children under 12 years are not permitted on chimpanzee or gorilla treks.
On a trip to Uganda, it’s easy enough to travel independently to the National Parks where you’ll find gorillas and chimpanzees. Your permit entitles you to join a tracking group led by an experienced UWA ranger guide.
Booking a tour will make planning your Uganda adventure easier. Your chimp or gorilla permit is provided on most tours and it’s included in the cost. Transport to or from Kampala or Entebbe is usually included too.
When to go to Uganda
The best time for you to travel to Uganda will depend on your main interests. For game viewing, the best time is the dry season from July to September.
The rainy season from March to May is the best time for bird watching.
You can track gorillas and chimpanzees all year but trekking is easier in the dry months. During the wet season, roads and trails can get very muddy and are sometimes impassable.
Transport in Uganda
If you travel to Uganda by air, you’ll arrive in Entebbe at Uganda’s International Airport. Entebbe is about one hour by car from the airport to Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
Internal domestic flights are available from Entebbe to Kasese (Queen Elizabeth National Park), Semliki (Kibale Forest), Kihihi (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park), Murchison Falls and Kidepo.
Transport delays are common in Africa and I had a bad experience with a Kenya Airways flight from South Africa to Uganda. My morning flight from Johannesburg eventually arrived in Entebbe in the middle of the night. We were unable to board our connecting Kenya Airways flight to Entebbe as the airline had overbooked. Nairobi airport was hot and overcrowded and we had to wait 7 hours for the next available flight. We eventually arrived in Uganda at 2 am and it was around 4 am when we finally made it to our guesthouse in Kampala.
The traffic in Kampala can be very congested. The locals use motorcycle taxi’s called boda-boda to get around so they can skirt the traffic jams. It’s common to be stuck for hours in traffic if you’re in a car or a taxi during peak hours.
Hire a car & driver
To track the chimpanzees in Kibale Forest, we hired a car & driver to get to Fort Portal in the western part of Uganda where we stayed overnight. There had been reports of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and a tourist was kidnapped in the border areas so we chose to play it safe by avoiding public transport and travelling by car during the day.
I can highly recommend our driver Nicholas from Nike Agencies as a safe and reliable local businessman with a clean, well maintained & comfortable car. We spent several days with Nicholas driving to and from Kampala and on to Semliki Safari Lodge through the Semliki Nature Reserve. Nicholas stayed overnight in Entebbe in his own accommodation and dropped us at the airport the following day. Having a local driver was a real plus as he knew where to stop for food en route and how to negotiate police checks on the road to Kampala and near the airport.
Travelling by bus is the cheapest way to get around Uganda. Minibuses operate in Kampala and there are buses to smaller towns within Uganda. You can also travel by bus to neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
The Ugandan Shilling is the local currency and it’s the most used currency in Uganda. US dollars are also widely accepted but carry some cash with you because credit cards are not accepted everywhere.
ATMs from the biggest banks accept international credit cards. Expect banks such as Barclays, Stanbic, Centenary, Crane, Orient, and Standard Chartered to close mid-afternoon at 3 pm.
And ATMs may be hard to find outside Kampala so carry cash with you.
New, unmarked $50 and $100 bills will get the best exchange rate and older, creased or damaged notes may not be accepted. Many tour operators and upmarket hotels accept US dollars. Euros and Pounds Sterling are also widely accepted.
You’ll get the best exchange rates in Kampala for your Uganda adventure.
Free wi-fi is readily available but often slow in Africa. Buying a local SIM card is cheap and far more reliable.
On my Uganda trip, I bought my Africell SIM at the shopping mall and needed my passport as ID. MTN and Orange also have reliable wi-fi networks in Uganda.
Internet cafes operate in cities and larger towns.
You’ll need to pack a British 3-pin plug to connect to power on your trip to Uganda.
On a trip to Uganda, you can expect hot, tropical weather. Uganda is located right on the equator and the weather is very humid. Temperatures range from 25° – 29° C (77° – 84° F). The hottest months are December to February. In the mountains, there’s often snow on the peaks and the weather can be much cooler.
What to pack for your Uganda Adventure
Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and trousers to protect yourself from insect bites on your Uganda trip. Mosquitoes and TseTse flies can be annoying and carry disease so cover your arms and legs and try to avoid being bitten.
Take hiking boots and a rain jacket for gorilla and chimpanzee tracking.
Pack a warm fleece or jacket to keep you warm in the mountains as nights can be cool.
English and Swahili are the official languages of Uganda but Luganda is commonly spoken and there are many other local dialects also in use.
Where to Stay on your Uganda trip
Semliki Nature Reserve
Luxury: The Semliki Safari Lodge is a bush retreat in the Semliki Nature Reserve. It’s an ideal place to stay during your Uganda trip. The landscape is incredibly beautiful. Lush, green grasslands and forests surround the lodge and support an abundance of wildlife. The Lodge combines seclusion and comfort and my stay here was truly memorable! For my full review of the Semliki Safari Lodge click here
Fort Portal has a wide range of accommodation options from cheaper guesthouses to luxury hotels.
Mid-range: I stayed at the Fort Motel in Fort Portal. This very comfortable motel has a lovely garden, a pool and a restaurant. The motel staff were very accommodating & supplied a packed breakfast for our early start tracking chimpanzees.
Alternatively, try the Dutchess Hotel and Restaurant in Fort Portal.
Primate Lodge next to the UWA headquarters has luxury stone cottages and is an ideal location to base yourself for chimp tracking on your Uganda trip.
Budget: Brave the wildlife and pitch a tent at the UWA Campsite just beside the UWA headquarters.
Budget: I stayed at the Namirembe Guesthouse in Kampala and loved the fabulous views over the city. The rooms were basic and clean and the staff were helpful.
Mid Range: Hilton Garden Inn, Kampala This hotel gets excellent reviews for its central location.
Luxury: Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort has a prime location on beautiful Lake Victoria but it’s further away from Central Kampala
Safety in Uganda
Uganda is one of the safest countries in Africa but it is still amongst the poorest nations in the world so take all the usual precautions against petty theft, especially on public transport. Keep your valuables out of sight during your Uganda trip. Stay safe by locking doors and windows at your accommodation and when driving, and don’t walk alone at night.
There is a risk of carjacking and robberies especially outside Kampala when you travel to Uganda. There have been occasional reports of armed bandits in the border areas near the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
With common sense and planning, you can stay safe on your trip to Uganda and have a wonderful time enjoying this beautiful country.
If you’re travelling solo or you’re a bit concerned about safety, booking a tour is a good option for your Uganda trip. You’ll have local people looking after you and it certainly takes the hassle out of planning. Transport, accommodation and primate tracking permits are usually included in tours and many gorilla tours include transfer to and from Entebbe airport or your hotel.
Local Laws in Uganda
Gay travellers should know that homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda so discretion is advisable.
**DON’T take photos of official buildings or at borders and checkpoints or wear military-style or camouflage clothing.
Health & Vaccinations for your Uganda Adventure
When you travel to Uganda you should be aware that there are severe penalties for drug use and trafficking, Uganda also has a death penalty for serious crimes.
I stayed healthy and safe whilst travelling in Uganda but there are a few precautions you should take.
* See your doctor for medical advice and get the necessary vaccinations before you travel to Uganda. You should do this a couple of months before you leave home. Make sure you get your Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate as it’s a requirement for entry to Uganda.
Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by covering up with long-sleeved shirts and trousers and wearing light-coloured clothes. Malaria and Yellow Fever are common so take all the recommended precautions.
- Make sure you take your anti-malarial tablets
- Sleep under a mosquito net, with a fan or in an air-conditioned room.
- Wear a strong repellent containing DEET
- Spray your room before going out.
**DON’T drink the tap water. Avoid ice in drinks and don’t eat salads unless they have been washed in drinking water.
**DON’T swim in the lakes. Lake Victoria and Lake Albert carry Bilharzia. If you’re staying in cheaper accommodation, check where the water is coming from for your shower, especially if your hotel is near one of the lakes.
Travel essentials for a trip to Uganda
#1. For peace of mind make sure you buy travel insurance before you leave on your Uganda trip. I use Travel Insurance that covers me for overseas medical, lost baggage, and other expenses and I can concentrate on enjoying my trip without worrying about something going wrong.
Take the necessary precautions and have a wonderful Uganda adventure!