Unparalleled scenic beauty, excellent wildlife watching and the encounter with friendly and open-minded people will turn a trip through Uganda "the pearl of Africa" into an unforgettable experience. Enjoy a boat trip on the Nile and see the famous and impressive Murchison Waterfall. In Kibale National Park you will follow the shouts of the chimpanzees and watch them swing from branch to branch. The Queen Elizabeth National Park can hardly be surpassed worldwide in terms of the diversity of plants and animals. Probably the most unforgettable experience is then the encounter with the mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park, of which there are estimated to be only about 1,000 today.
IMPORTANT - As some of our Uganda tours might also include other countries, please ensure you also check the requirements for each country, as they might differ to those for Uganda.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay. You will require 3 blank pages in your passport in order to enter Uganda. If you are entering via another African country it is advised to ensure you have at least 6 blank pages in your passport as some countries may require 2 clean, consecutive pages for each transit in each direction. Please also be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport
All visitors who require an entry visa must apply through the online application system prior to arrival. It is important to note that visas on arrival are no longer available without online approval first. Cost is normally USD 50 for a single entry tourist visa and payment must be made online at time of application in order to validate the visa application. You are required to upload clear copies of your current passport, Yellow fever certificate, and passport photo. On completion of the online application you will receive a barcoded email notification. Print out this email and bring it with you to Uganda. Upon arrival at any border (entry point) you must present the barcoded email. The immigration officer will scan the barcode, take your fingerprints and photo. A visa sticker will be printed with your photo and placed in your passport.
East Africa Tourist Visa
If you are planning to visit Uganda, Rwanda and/or Kenya, or require multiple entries – it may be better value to acquire a multiple visa – for up to 90 days travel (tourist visa only). Cost is USD100 per visa, valid for 90 days.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
There are a number of major international embassies located in Kampala, including those for the US and UK. However, embassies for other countries including Canada or Australia are located in Nairobi, Kenya. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
Health, insurance and special requirements
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking. The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Safari Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
- Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs. The provision of health care in Uganda is unreliable and medical facilities are very limited, therefore there is always a risk involved. If clients require special medication, they must ensure that they have this with them and also keep a back-up supply if the medication is necessary for survival. Please be aware that it might be a long way from the camps to any commercial medical facility.
- Additionally, please make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour. We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints, but please note, whilst in the Reserves, doctors and medical supplies are few and far between.
- Gorilla and Chimpanzee Trekking Health Requirement: Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees are highly susceptible to human diseases including flu and colds. If you are participating in a gorilla/chimp trek then you need to be free of any easily contagious diseases and this is checked at the start of the trek by the Park Authorities. If they are in any doubt of your condition, they reserve the right to prevent you from continuing on the trek.
- Altitude sickness: You may experience some symptoms of mild altitude sickness while trekking. Cases are very infrequent – and the majority of these can be countered by over the counter medication and keeping hydrated while hiking Should you experience symptoms that are not going away, it is suggested that you descend immediately to a lower altitude.
Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour. If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you. As above, medication if often in short supply in Uganda, so please ensure you take sufficient supplies with you. Important:
Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement. Due to the remote location of many camps and lodges, electricity is supplied by generators during daytime and shut off at night. Camps therefore usually do not provide 24 hours electricity. If you have a medical condition (i.e. sleep apnoea), which requires 24-hour electricity, please notify us well in advance so that necessary arrangements can be made and if necessary, your itinerary altered to suit.
Prior to travel, please consult your doctor to discuss the destinations you are visiting, the latest immunisation information and requirements as well as advice according to your unique medical needs. Please also take note of the information below:
- Yellow Fever: A Yellow Fever inoculation is compulsory for travel to Uganda. The World Health Assembly adopted an amendment to Annex 7 of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), which stipulates that the period of protection afforded by yellow fever vaccination, and the term of validity of the certificate will change from 10 years to the duration of the life of the person vaccinated. This lifetime validity applies automatically to all existing and new certificates.
- Malaria: Uganda is located in a malaria risk area and therefore appropriate prophylactic precautions must be taken. It is essential that you consult a specialist as to which measures are suitable for you. The malaria risk depends on the region and the season, so that no universal recommendation can or may be given. Please inform yourself in detail and in advance. The old adage ‘prevention is the best cure’ also holds true. Use repellent and cover up at dawn and dusk when the mosquitoes are most active by wearing long trousers, long-sleeved shirts, shoes and socks, if possible. If you develop a bad headache, have aching joints, and recurring fevers and chills after your trip, advise your doctor that you have been in a malarial area. Malaria symptoms can sometimes be confused with flu symptoms. All accommodations, which are located in malaria risk areas, are equipped with mosquito nets.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. Vaccinations for Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Polio, Typhoid and Yellow Fever, Hepatitis B; Meningococcal Meningitis; Rabies and Cholera may be recommended depending on the tour you are taking and your medical history. For further information, please see: wwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations
You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately.
Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Safari Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
- Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Safari Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
What to Pack and Wear
The weather in Uganda will be variable. You will need clothes for hot weather as well as a warm, waterproof jacket and some layers, as it may be cooler in the evening. For the safaris it’s wise to pack khaki-coloured clothing as it blends better into the bush. In the day time on safari, generally shorts or lightweight trousers, t-shirts, hats, sunblock etc. as it is generally fairly warm (25-35 degrees C). Avoid wearing blue & dark colours in areas where you may find tsetse flies, as they are often attracted to these colours (this would be in some parts of Murchison Falls for example, check with your guide). While gorilla and chimp tracking you will need a comfortable, hard wearing, pair of walking shoes or boots – with good tread and support. Conditions are generally muddy/slippery. There are uphill sections which may be quite steep and strenuous. It is also advisable to wear a long sleeve shirt and lightweight long trousers to protect yourself from the undergrowth, stinging nettles and biting ants.
We suggest you take something warm e.g. tracksuit, fleece or sweater for the mountainous areas. It is at a higher altitude and will therefore be cooler in the evenings. A rain jacket/anorak is also suggested as it rains regularly in the rain forest areas, even in the drier months. Long trousers and long sleeved shirts are also recommended for general evening use to assist in the prevention of mosquito bites and also as it’s generally cooler than during the day. Pack light and remember the basic essentials. We would also recommend a good pair of lightweight binoculars. Insect repellent and sunscreen are also essential items. Don't forget your camera, with charger/spare batteries and memory cards.
Please note: There is a strict ban on the use of polythene bags (plastic bags) throughout Uganda.
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Domestic flights luggage allowance - If you are travelling on a light aircraft within Uganda, then the luggage restriction is dependent on combined client and luggage weights and varies from plane to plane and routing. A MAXIMUM of 15kg per person in soft bags is usually allowed and this is strictly adhered to for safety reasons. Hand luggage forms part of this total 15 kg allowance. Please double check your personal allowance upon confirmation of itinerary and aircraft.
Luggage handling is not included in our Uganda tours. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge.
Laundry is possible at most establishments in Uganda at an additional cost. Mostly it is done by hand and dried naturally outside and so this requires at least 1-2 days depending upon the location and weather. Please check upon arrival at each lodge to ensure you are not caught short with wet washing.
Uganda‘s main language is English and is spoken with guides and general staff in camps and lodges. Luganda and Swahili are also widely used.
The time zone in Uganda is GMT+3, 3 hours ahead of London GMT. There is no daylight saving and no time-zone changes.
Uganda is in the southern hemisphere, so it is summer there when it’s winter in Europe and North America. Uganda is situated on the equator, which runs through the southern part of the country, creating a tropical-equatorial climate. A large part of the country lies on the East African Plateau at an average altitude of 1,100 metres above sea level. Uganda's geographical location causes a very moderate equatorial climate with two dry seasons. Uganda has the best of everything: the equator ensures balanced temperatures, with almost no seasonal fluctuations, and the altitude means that temperatures are less hot than in many other African countries, so daytime temperatures of 25 to 30°C are rarely exceeded. The nights are pleasantly warm with an average of 17°C, but rarely humid. Uganda's temperate climate ensures that you can travel all year round. The best time for a safari is during the drier and cooler months of July to September and December to February. July is generally the coldest month of the year, the first dry season lasts from December to February and the second from June to August. Although rainfall is usually limited to short, heavy showers, the roads can often become impassable during the rainy season, so restrictions must be expected.
In Uganda, the standard voltage is 240V British Standard, generally through 3 pin square plugs. Some lodges and camps have power only at certain times of the day. In lodges/ camps utilising solar power systems, the amount of power available for charging often depends on how sunny the weather has been and how busy the lodge is with charging equipment, so whilst they will always try to assist, continuous charging cannot be guaranteed at all times to be available. Particularly items like laptops etc which draw a lot of current. Ask before you plug in.
Mobiles & Internet Communication
Mobile phones are very popular as the service is often better than landlines. Please note: Large parts of the country are not covered by the mobile network, in towns and villages you can expect a certain coverage. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as you head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate. Internet and Wi-Fi are accessible in most urban areas and most hotels. Pay-as-you-go airtime is recommended for tourists and sim cards can be purchased in shops, and supermarkets. MNT and Orange offer the best coverage across the country. Please also check data roaming charges for Uganda with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive.
The official currency of Uganda is the Ugandan shilling (USh), which is divided into 100 cents. However, US Dollars cash is widely accepted and in most cases preferred as the currency that travellers should use to EXCHANGE into USh on arrival for spending money on the road e.g. for drinks, curios, tips. Small USD bills are difficult to change – use Uganda shillings for small tips.
Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards however many places do not accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. Credit cards can be used at some lodges and hotels, but a transaction fee will be charged which can range up to 5- 8%. ATM machines may be found in Entebbe/Kampala but they will pay out local currency only. As they are not always reliable a backup of hard currency is recommended.
If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip. Many businesses, including some medical providers, may not accept payment by credit or debit card. Please check on the up to date financial situation closer to travel.
Due to the often-good exchange rates for foreigners when travelling in Uganda, prices can seem better than in other comparable countries. As each traveller’s spending habits are different, you should bring an amount with which you are comfortable.
Banks in Uganda are usually open 9am – 3pm Monday to Friday.
Tipping is not compulsory, but it is highly recommended if you have been satisfied with the service. Obviously at your discretion, but an indication of what is generally given per passenger travelling is as below. We recommend you change USD into local currency in order to easily split the smaller tip amounts.
- Gorilla & Chimpanzee Guides: Tips should be placed in the central tip box if provided or given to the main guide who will distribute amongst the guides. A tip in the region of US$ 20 per guest for the main guide is recommended. If no tip box is provided you can give it to the head guide.
- Gorilla & Chimpanzee Trackers and Rangers: US$ 3 to 4 per trek – per guest. Please note, this is for the total trackers or rangers, not per tracker/ranger.
- Forest/gorilla & chimp porters: This is an optional extra and they are normally hired for around US$ 20 per porter per day SALARY and the tip will vary depending on the workload - around USD15 per porter.
- Safari Driver/guides: US$ 10-12 per day – per GUIDE/day. If you are traveling privately, i.e. just two of you, please tip at your discretion.
- Tour Leader / head guide: If you are on a group tour and there is a separate tour leader, we suggest around US$ 15-20 per day total per tour leader.
- Lodges /camp staff: We suggest US$ 5-10 per guest per night, excluding laundry, drinks etc. This should be put into a tip box and it would be split amongst the staff according to the lodge’s policy. At hotels and larger establishments it is generally given at your discretion to individuals who have performed well.
- National Parks Guides (cruises / bird walks): US$ 5 to 8 per person in local currency.
- Porters at hotels: Around US$ 1-2 in local currency
- Waiters / Bar Staff: 10% of bill, or say US$ 2 as a tip for service – again at your discretion.
- Staff at Camps (general tip box for all): Suggest US$ 5-10 per night which gets distributed across all staff.
Uganda's cuisine has been influenced by traditional as well as English, Arabic and Indian cuisine. Basic ingredients are mainly plantains, peanuts, beans, corn and millet, but also meat. Well-known dishes are millet bread, banana porridge (Matoke), stews with chicken or beef, cassava, rice and sweet potatoes, potatoes (Irish Potato), but also seafood. Popular snacks are chapati (fried flat bread), samosas (fried dumplings) with various fillings or meat skewers. You will find more international cuisines served in the big cities, alongside local dishes and some game meats too! Some meals are usually included in your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
Tap water in Uganda is not safe to drink. Do not drink from streams, rivers and lakes and it is best to avoid drinking from pumps and wells – as animal presence can still contaminate supplies. Bottled water can be bought at hotels, supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
Uganda offers lots for visitors to buy. You’ll find many an option for quality, well priced sculpture and handmade crafts from local artisans. Pick up original art pieces, handicrafts, souvenirs and jewellery.
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 8am-5pm Monday–Saturday.
Safety & Security
Even though the south of the country is considered to be reasonably safe, travel warnings are still issued for the north of Uganda on a fairly regular basis. Conflicts from neighbouring countries, Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo may also spill over the border. It is imperative that travellers inform themselves about the current security situation at the Foreign Office or the Embassy in advance of their trip and behave sensibly and cautiously throughout the trip. After nightfall, one should not be on the road, especially not alone. Drivers should always be extremely careful - bad roads, inconsiderate drivers are unfortunately nothing unusual and muggings can also happen. Since roads and border crossings can also be partially closed, we do not recommend Uganda as a self-driving country.
Please take care of all your personal possessions at all times - do not tempt petty theft, pickpockets, by displaying large amounts of money, especially when near markets or in the centre of Kampala / Entebbe / Kigali. Valuables, especially cash and credit cards should be kept on your person at all times. A "moon bag" or “body belt” is a useful item for storing cash and other valuable small items. When leaving the vehicle in towns, please ensure all the windows are shut and that you take your valuables and cameras with you for safe keeping. When at lodges / hotels we recommend you either keep your money and valuables with you or utilise the safe keeping facilities provided at the various establishments. Please also be sure to check your room and ensure you have everything packed before moving on to a new place.
Ensure you carry identification, so that you can produce it if required to do so by the security force. As with many developing countries, theft and muggings are relatively common although most incidents are in cities, particularly in airports in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. When in large crowds or major tourist destinations, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities. Most visits to game reserves are trouble-free. However, as you can imagine, with wildlife, there is always an inherent risk associated. Always follow park regulations and wardens’ advice.
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places, but there are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke. Smokers must be at least 50 metres away from public spaces, such as schools, hospitals and taxi ranks.
Uganda is predominantly Christian (84%) primarily divided between Roman Catholics and Protestants.About 14% of the population adhered to Islam, making it the largest minority religion. There is also a minority of inhabitants that practice traditional religions.
Uganda offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card! There is no charge for personal filming of gorillas and other scenes with personal video cameras in Uganda. Do not spend all your time with the gorillas trying for the classic photograph, look around you and observe and enjoy these gentle animals. Professional photographers, film makers or media should advise us at the time of booking as special procedures are required as well as costs to be incurred for photographing and filming. Do not photograph any government buildings, police or military posts. Ask permission before photographing local tribesmen.
Arrival in Uganda
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.
Other countries on tour itinerary
If you are visiting additional countries, please also check the notes for the other destinations. Different entry requirements apply, and you may need a visa! For other countries, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
Flying & Travel Hints
- Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
- It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
- Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
- Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
- Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Safari Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Safari Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated August 2020