Are you planning a safari in Uganda? Here is some practical information you need to know before and when you arrive in Uganda. The practical aspects of planning a trip to Uganda, includes an overland crossing between Uganda and neighboring countries. Practical advice relating to day-to-day travel in Uganda is also covered, but in some instances it might bear on planning, so do at least skim through it before you travel. Aspects of the trip planning relating to health for instance organizing vaccinations and putting together a medical kit
When and where to visit
For many visitors, the highlight of a visit to Uganda is the opportunity to track mountain gorillas and consequently, most formal itineraries follow an established circuit between Kampala and the gorilla parks in the extreme southwest of the country. This is, fortunately, the area with the greatest density of natural attractions and associated infrastructure. A typical tour heads west from Kampala or the international airport at nearby Entebbe to the scenic fort portal area where the main attraction is chimpanzee tracking in the forested Kibale National Park, followed by a two to three night visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains. South of QENP is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which offers no fewer than four separate gorilla tracking locations. It’s a long haul from Bwindi back to Kampala/ Entebbe and many tour operations now offer their clients an overnight break at Lake Mburo National Park. It is possible to cover this itinerary in seven days and many people do. However, those with time and flexibility to delay and detour will discover much more. Days can be spent exploring the fort portal and Rwenzori area, while Lake Bunyonyi and the Virunga volcanoes are worthwhile diversions near Bwindi. Visitor’s intent on reaching true East African wilderness will want to head north to the Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley National Parks. These experiences do, however, incur a cost of increased travel time and expenditure. Visitors with time for a day trio at the end of their visit invariably head east from Kampala to visit the famed of the Nile at Jinja. If this represents a tick on a list rather than a life- affirming experience, the same cannot be said for Jinja’s other main attraction: the menu of adventure sports offered along the Nile corridor north of the town. Activities such as white-water rafting, Kayaking, bungee jumping and quad biking attract a steady flow of the young and young at heart.
Uganda is a home to the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas, Lake Victoria and the source of the Nile. These features should put Uganda at the top of your Africa bucket list. If it is your first to come to Uganda, you should always use the services of a tour guide to get around the city and if you are looking to experiencing a safari in Uganda, the best trip goes for around 7 to 10 days.
Uganda has a warm climate all year round and, because it lies on the Equator, seasonal temperature variations are insignificant. The main factor you should consider when planning a trip to Uganda is the rainfall pattern. The wettest months are April and November. Campers won’t enjoy these months very much while hiking on the Rwenzori can be particular miserable. Abundant rainfall also means that large wildlife tends not to congregate conveniently around water sources in the national parks. On the other hand, photographers seeking landscapes will revel in the haze-free atmosphere of the wetter months.
Your best source of advance tourism information is Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Ugandan embassies and high commissions can only give limited advice. The best Uganda- operated websites are Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Travel Planner. Be sure to check out the site contains hundreds of pictures illustrating primary destinations and pick the tourist accommodation available at each. The website for Car Rental in Uganda contain a selection of practical itineraries with an emphasis on camping which independent travelers may find useful.
Check well in advance that you have a passport that is valid for a full year from the date on which you intend to enter Uganda. In the UK, you can have up to nine months validity on your current passport carried over onto a new passport. Should your passport be lost or stolen, it will generally be easier to get a replacement if you a have a photocopy of the important pages. If there is any possibility you’ll want to drive or hire a vehicle in Uganda, bring a valid driving license. You may be asked when entering Uganda for an international health certificate showing you had a yellow fever shot. For security reasons, it’s advisable to detail all your important information on one sheet of paper, photocopy it, and distribute a few copies in your luggage. Others include travel insurance policy details, a 24 hour emergency contact number, passport number, details of relatives or friends to be contacted in an emergency, bank and credit card details, camera and lens serial numbers, etc.
Nationals of most countries require a visa in order to enter Uganda. This can be bought in advance at any Ugandan embassy or high commission abroad, either by applying in person or by post (obviously sending your passport by registered mail and in plenty of time.) alternatively, you can buy the visa upon arrival, a straight forward procedure that usually takes only few minutes at Entebbe International Airport.
People who are new to exotic travel often worry about tropical diseases, but it is accidents that are most likely to carry you off. Road accidents are common in Uganda so be aware and do what you can to reduce risks: try to travel during day light hours, always wear a seat belt and refuse to be driven by anyone who has been drinking.
Preparations: preparations to ensure a healthy trip to Uganda require checks on your immunization status: it is wise to be up to date on tetanus, polio, diphtheria (now given as an all in one vaccine, revaxis, that lasts for ten years), and hepatitis A. proof of vaccination against yellow fever is needed for entry into Uganda if you are coming from another yellow fever endemic area.
The number of hotels in Uganda has grown enormously in recent years, and wherever you travel, and whatever your budget, you’ll seldom have a problem finding suitable accommodation. Most towns have a good variety of moderately priced and budget hotels, and even the smallest villages will usually have some where you can stay for a couple of dollars.
This category embraces all hotels, lodges, and resorts that cater primarily to the international leisure or business traveller, and would probably be accorded a two to four star ranking internationally. Most hotels in this category offer smart, modern accommodation with en-suite facilities, mosquito netting, air conditioning or fans and cities digital satellite television (Dstv) in all rooms.
In Uganda, as in many African countries, there is often is often a huge gap between the price and quality of the very cheapest hotels that meet international standards, and that of the most expensive hotels that are geared primarily towards local and budget travelers. For this reason, the moderate bracket is rather more nebulous than other accommodation categories. This is the category to look at if you are traveling on a limited but not a low budget and expect a reasonably high but not luxurious of accommodation.
The hotels in this category are generally aimed largely at the local market and they definitely don’t approach international standards, but they will usually be reasonably clean and comfortable, and a definite cut above the basic guesthouses that proliferate on most towns. Hotels in this bracket will more often than not have a decent restaurant attached, English- speaking staff, and comfort rooms with en-suite facilities, running cold or possibly staff, and comfortable rooms with en-suite facilities, running cold or possibly hot water, fans and good mosquito netting.
This category is dominated by the small local guesthouses that proliferate in most towns, catering almost exclusively to locals. These typically consist of around ten cells- like rooms forming three walls around a central courtyard, with a reception area or restaurant at the front. Guest house standards tend to vary widely both within towns and between them, far more so than do their prices. Note that while backpacker hostels do exist, their range of accommodation offered now extends far beyond cheap dorm beds and these often more accurately classified in the budget category.
There has been a great increase in the number of organized campsites in recent years, and there are now very few established tourist centers where you can’t pitch a tent in a guarded site with good facilities.