The official national language in Uganda is English. Other languages spoken include Ganda or Luganda, Nilo-Saharan languages, Swahili and Arabic.
GMT + 3
240 volts British Standard - usually 3-pin square plugs. Some lodges and camps have power only at certain times of the day. Camera and video charging facilities are often centralised and you’ll need your own charger.
Mobile phone coverage & Wi-Fi
Mobile phone coverage can be found all over Uganda. Networks that cover Uganda are MTN, UTL, and Orange.
WIFI is not widely available outside bigger cities and towns. It is mostly only available at high end lodges. Within Kampala, a lot of coffee shops and bars offer WIFI, an it is available in some coffee shops and hotels/lodges in the following towns: Jinja Town, Entebbe Town, Masaka Town and Marabrara Town.
This varies from airline to airline on international flights so ask your travel consultant and check your travel documents.
A 35-70 mm zoom, or 50 mm fixed lens is usually sufficient to take photos of the gorillas. You may want to carry a longer lens, but bear in mind that you may well be working in low light conditions. Make sure you look around you and enjoy your brief time with these gentle animals rather than spending all your time looking for the ‘classic’ shot. Check with your guide about using flash. For general wildlife and bird photography, a longer lens is recommended – ideally 80-300mm.
If you’d like to video the gorillas with a personal camcorder you may incur an extra charge of up to US$ 20 for home videos. There is no charge for personal cameras.Vehicles are generally not equipped with sophisticated recharging equipment. Be prepared to charge directly from the battery – and bring the equipment with which to do it. Most lodges have solar power sufficient for charging batteries.
The local currency is the Ugandan shilling (UGX) although US collars cash is the preferred hard currency. Use Ugandan shillings for everyday purchases such as drinks, curios, postcards etc and small denomination US dollar notes or Ugandan shillings for tipping (see tipping guide below). When changing money you get a better rate if you exchange larger US$100 notes, as there is usually a surcharge on changing smaller notes. Keep your exchange receipts so you can change any surplus Ugandan shillings back to US dollars when you leave. Note that only US dollar bills issued after 2004 are accepted.
Traveller’s cheques are increasingly difficult to change, even in Kampala, and exchange rates are poor, so avoid these if possible.
Credit cards are only accepted at the larger hotels and lodges, such as Gorilla Forest Camp. You can get cash on a credit card only at Barclays Bank in Kampala, during banking hours (0900 - 1500 weekdays), but exchange rates are poor and the process is time-consuming.
Uganda is malaria and precautions such as anti-malaria tablets are imperative. Some strains of malaria are resistant to certain prophylactics and you are strongly advised to take additional precautions such as using insect repellent, wearing long trousers and so on.
Take a supply of wet wipes and using them after handling currency to reduce the risk of stomach upsets. Always drink bottled water which is available almost everywhere. It’s also advisable to avoid local ice cream and yoghurt, and always peel fruit before eating it.
The strong African sun can cause severe burns and sunstroke in a few hours, so always take sensible precautions such as wearing light clothing, sun hat, sunglasses and sun block.
AIDS is widespread in Uganda.
Yellow fever vaccinations are no longer required, but should this situation change, you will need to arrange this at least 10 days before travel. Tetanus is generally recommended, as is cholera, and Hepatitis inoculations are discretionary. Your doctor is always the best source of up to date and accurate information about health requirements, so always be guided by his/her advice.
Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in Uganda. British and other EU, American and Canadian passport-holders require a visa for entry to Uganda. Visas can be issued by any Ugandan high commission or on arrival at Entebbe Airport. A one-month, single entry visa issued on arrival costs US$100 and must be paid for in US dollars, cash.
If you are gorilla tracking in Rwanda and then re-entering Uganda, a multiple entry visa is required. This must be arranged in your country of origin, before you travel. Alternatively, you may purchase a transit visa at the border if your stay, when you re-enter Uganda, is less than seven days in duration.
If you are re-entering Uganda for more than seven days you will need to buy a completely new visa at the border.
Hotels in Uganda insist on formal dress. In towns and cities and at more upmarket lodges smart casual is the norm for the evenings, and in the bush or on safari the style is very relaxed. You may experience a variety of weather conditions in Uganda so pack some warmer items such a sweater or fleece for the mountainous areas where temperatures can drop dramatically in the evenings, (Bwindi, Rwenzori, Virunga Volcano chain, Kigezi highlands), as well as light trousers and t-shirts for time on safari.
For gorilla and chimp tracking, forest and nature walks, you’ll need a comfortable pair of walking shoes or boots and durable clothes. Bright colours should be avoided and army camouflage patterns mustn’t be worn. Greens, khaki and similar neutral colours are recommended. Conditions can be muddy and slippery when gorilla tracking so we suggest wearing a long-sleeve cotton shirt and lightweight trousers, and take a pair of cheap gardening gloves as these will protect your hands from stinging nettles. Take lightweight rain gear as rainfall is high in the mountainous areas of both Uganda and Rwanda.
Tipping is discretionary and these per passenger suggestions should only be seen as a guide. Lodges tend to have a tipping box from which tips are distributed equitably to all employees.
Airport representatives: US$5 per couple per briefing
Transfer driver in Entebbe: US$5 per couple per transfer
Hotel staff (porters): US$1 per traveller
Waiters: US$1 per meal, irrespective of the number of travellers
Lodges: US$20 – 40 per traveller for the total stay, depending on the quality of the service. Most lodges will have a staff tip box.
Transfer driver to Bwindi: US$10 per transfer (irrespective of the number of travellers), unless you are staying at Gorilla Forest Camp, where tips are left in the lodge staff tip box
Driver-guides: US$ 5 per couple per day
Porters don’t earn a salary so the minimum recommended tip per person per tracking excursion is US$10.
Guides (one per group), trackers (2 – 3 per group) and security personnel (2 – 4 per group) do earn salaries. The recommended tip is US$20 per tracking day per traveller, and this can be left in the tip box for your gorilla group, located at the national park HQ.
Other park guides: US$ 3 – 5
Buying local crafts as gifts to take home is a good way to supporting local communities and you’ll be able to stop at craft shops, stalls and markets during longer road journeys. Visitors doing the Buhoma Cultural Village Walk at Bwindi should take extra cash in Ugandan Shillings (UGX) or US$ (the former is preferable) as the Batwa community makes and sells a variety of unique artefacts.
Always request permission before photographing local people, and don’t photograph government buildings, police or military posts.