Uganda: Know Before You Go
By Martha Hales
With mountains to explore, lakes to admire and abundant wildlife to marvel at, Uganda is a destination packed with adventure, variety and beauty. Part of the appeal of a trip to somewhere as exciting as Uganda is that life is simply so different. Inherent to African destinations such as this, there are certain factors to consider when you are getting ready to travel. Here at TravelLocal we want you to get the best from your trip to Uganda, so we’ve put together some advice to help you plan and prepare.
Be prepared with the right currency. It can be tricky to find places to change travellers cheques outside Kampala, so it is often easier to carry US dollars which are accepted in many tourist destinations and hotels. There are ATMs and exchange desks in most towns, and a fairly extensive network of banks for changing currency.
Familiarise yourself with the terminology involved in local city transport: a boda boda is a motorbike for one passenger to jump on behind the driver for speedy (and occasionally hair raising) trips across town. Town taxis are known as matatus, which are safer than boda bodas but get snarled up in traffic. It's worth noting that Ugandan roads are not particularly safe places to be.
Apart from the larger shops in major towns, almost every price can be haggled over in Uganda. Markets are the obvious place to hone your skills, which can then be used to negotiate everything from taxi fares, handicrafts and even hotel rates.
Stock up in town
If you are travelling to areas outside the major cities make sure you shop for all you need before you leave the city. It may not be easy to track down batteries, toiletries, baby supplies and so on when you get to the rural zones.
Hand in hand with the helpful, welcoming demeanour of the Ugandan people comes the struggles that they face living in a developing country. You may well experience some signs of the poverty which is still common while travelling around Uganda. If you feel moved to help, there are various charities which our local experts will be glad to put you in touch with.
Manage your expectations
In common with many African nations there are some inefficiencies which may well impact on your trip. Things may not always happen as quickly or as effectively as you are used to, and you should keep your patience and sense of humour close to hand at all times! Issues such as punctuality, internet connection and quality of service can be less than perfect.
When you embark on any experience involving wild animals there is a certain level of unpredictability. You may need to trek through some difficult terrain to reach the animals you wish to see, so sturdy, waterproof walking boots are essential. Consider employing a porter if you think that you might tire of the tricky conditions or need help with what can be a long walk.
Toilet facilities in public areas can be woefully basic. Carry tissues and hand sanitizer. Make use of modern facilities in hotels and upscale restaurants when you get the chance or you may find yourself staring into an unpleasant hole in the ground in a rickety wooden shed.
Uganda is high, with an average altitude of over 1000 metres. Despite its equatorial situation it is a green and fertile country with many rivers and lakes, so it pays to be prepared for the heat of the day but also for cooler nights at altitude. Some rain is likely, especially at higher elevations in the mountains. In short, you should pack for all weathers!
Meeting members of your host community is often a highlight of any trip. These pointers should help to avoid too much awkwardness through lack of cultural awareness.
In Uganda physical proximity is normal during a chat or a transaction, and particularly where the interaction is between two men, may involve copious handshaking, handholding and what may seem like over the top friendliness. Smile and all will be fine.
However, physical contact between opposite sexes is embarrassing to Ugandans, even handholding may cause offence.
Smoking - for both men and women - is not acceptable in public places.
It is wise to dress modestly (unless in a resort) during your time in Uganda.
Make it happen
Uganda is blessed with some fantastic landscapes and rich ecosystems. Find out more about this country on our destination pages, or send an enquiry to our local experts, Kombi Tours. For more general information and to chat about your travel plans, give us a call in office on 0117 325 7898 .