Travel Tips

Gorilla Tracking

This is a strenuous activity and one should be physically fit to enjoy gorilla trekking.  Professional guides will accompany groups but no porters are available to carry personal belongings. Minimum age is fifteen years.  Anyone with signs of communicable disease like cough or runny nose will not be allowed to trek.

While possession of a gorilla permit is a guarantee of trekking, it cannot be a guarantee of sighting. However the chance of sighting is high – 98% or more. Maximum time allowed with the gorillas is one hour at a minimum distance of 7 meters.

No flash photography is allowed and fast film is therefore recommended (minimum 400-1600 ASA). Personal DVD recorders are allowed. Special arrangements need to be made for professional film makers, and filming permits are required for commercial photography and filming.

We strongly recommend a breathable and lightweight rain jacket or cape, a warm jacket or fleece for overcast days and evening, long-sleeved shirt and trousers, sturdy waterproof walking boots (seasoned or well-worn footwear), leather gardening-type gloves, sunscreen, cap or sun hat, sunglasses, insect repellent, comfortable day pack for carrying water and minimum amount of personal items.  Cameras and video cameras are allowed, but bring film and batteries from Kampala.

Accommodation

The seasoned traveler will find many lodges and camps are not as luxurious as in some African countries, although a number of properties may exceed your expectations! There are accommodations of different standards throughout Uganda.

Electricity and piped/mains water supply may not always be available, although clients will always find a hot shower waiting for them after a long day’s trek.  In some remote locations, ‘long-drop’ or compost (eco) toilets may be found.

Food may be basic, but you are usually assured of fresh produce and a variety of tropical fruits which taste so much better than supermarket imports in the West! The more upmarket lodges and hotels offer excellent facilities on a par with other safari destinations. However, please remember we are a developing economy and expectations should not be unrealistic.

TEAS take care in booking the best accommodation available for your budget. All of our prepared itineraries start from Kampala. If you require pre or post-safari hotel bookings in Kampala please advice us and we will make the necessary arrangements. Reservations should be made in advance to avoid disappointment.

Health/Medical

More adventurous activities such as mountaineering and hiking, gorilla trekking and chimp tracking, white-water rafting, canoeing and kayaking may pose additional risks and should be undertaken with care and caution.  Clients must be fit and healthy.

Gorilla trekking and Chimp tracking are not permitted to those individuals who have signs of a communicable disease such as colds, flu and other airborne diseases.  Chimps and gorillas are highly susceptible to human diseases and it is therefore essential that you declare all illnesses and seek our advice if you are unsure. National Park Authorities reserve the right to deny access to individuals they consider unfit to accompany any activity.

Anti-malaria tablets and mosquito repellents are essential. Seek advice from your home country on vaccination and inoculation requirements. Uganda is part of the Yellow Fever belt and although not always checked by Ugandan Immigration on arrival, a Yellow Fever card is required by law.

Please bring all personal medications required. Medical services and facilities are basic. Clients are fully responsible for securing adequate medical insurance which should include evacuation cover.

It is recommended that you drink bottled or boiled water only. Sodas, beer and alcoholic beverages are generally considered safe. Coffee and tea, as well as fresh fruit juices, are prepared with boiled water.

Airport

Most guests arrive by air, landing at Entebbe International Airport.  The drive to/from Entebbe and Kampala City is approximately 1 hour drive. We can organize transfers to and from the airport for any size group.

Airlines

Several airlines service Uganda regularly including Air Tanzania, British Airways, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, South African Airways and Brussels Airlines. There are several reputable East African based companies offering domestic and internal air travel including Air Uganda and Precision Airlines. Eagle Airlines offers domestic flight services.

Visas

Ministers from Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda have approved the use of national identity cards as travel documents and the issuance of a single tourist visa to anyone entering these 3 countries.

They made the endorsement at the end of a two-day meeting that sought to iron out issues under the tripartite arrangement. The $100 (about Rwf65,500) visa valid for 90 days will be paid at the point of entry or in foreign missions and each state will take a share of $30.

However, the country that processes the visa entry will receive an extra $10 in an administration cost

Roads

Main roads are generally good and recent road works have much improved the road network in and around Kampala. Secondary roads vary in quality and may be poorly maintained. Be prepared for long and sometimes bumpy car journeys. We call it ‘The African Massage’!

Climate

Uganda is on the Equator which gives it an ideal climate with little variation. Mean temperatures are between 21ºC and 31ºC all year round. There are two rainy seasons from March to April and October to November. Travel is often slower in the rainy season and trekking more difficult. Mountainous areas tend to be much colder than the plains and receive more rain. Temperatures in mountainous areas can go down to 10°C in certain months. Lodges and other facilities are open all year round. There is no bad time of year to visit Uganda!

Clothing

Light summer cotton clothing supplemented by a sweater or jacket should be sufficient all year round for most of Uganda. In the hilly and mountainous areas, waterproof jackets or ponchos, strong waterproof walking boots and warmer fleece or heavy sweaters will be required in the evening. Informal dress is usual, although Ugandans appreciate modest dressing. Cotton slacks and flat comfortable walking shoes are recommended on safari.  Don’t forget to bring a hat and sun protection, along with your swimsuit. Request additional details at the time of booking for specific areas.

Security

Occasional security issues may arise as in any other developing country.  Travel explore Africa Ltd maintains up-to-date information on all parts of the country and we will advise our clients accordingly at the time of booking, if any risks appear to be present. Basic precautions should be taken, as in all countries, and common sense should be used. It is not advised to display expensive jewelry, leave bags unattended or money lying around.  Most hotels and lodges have safe deposit boxes available.

We recommend that you leave original travel documents and passports with us in our safe (if you wish) and travel with photocopies. East African residents will need to show copy Passports and Work Permits to obtain resident discounts. If in doubt please ask us and we will advise you.

Photography

No photographs of, or near, military buildings or soldiers are allowed. It is only polite to ask people before taking photographs.

Film and other photographic equipment/supplies are available in Uganda. Fast film (400-1600 ASA) is recommended for gorilla tracking and forest walking. For digital photography, we recommended you bring extra batteries and a car charger. If you have special requirements, then we strongly suggest that you come with the necessary equipment.

Most accommodation will have facilities for recharging batteries used by audio/visual equipment. Feel free to confirm in advance.

Telephone/Internet

International telephone communication is good from Kampala but more difficult in some rural areas. Uganda has a good mobile phone network throughout most of the country and local SIM cards can be purchased throughout the Country. International roaming facilities are available.

Internet services are widely available in Kampala through internet cafes, and most major towns will have access, although the quality and speed of the connection varies.

All our drivers/guides have cell phones and maintain contact with the Head Office throughout safaris. Airtime can be purchased for your use or the driver/guides’ mobile phones if necessary.

Electricity

Uganda: 240 volts. 3-pin square sockets. It is recommended that you bring your own adapter. Most hotels, lodges or camps can make arrangements for recharging batteries. Please ask us on booking if you have specific requirements.

Alcohol

Several brands of local and international beer are available, including leading local beers: Bell, Club, Pilsner and Nile Special beers. Most spirits and wines are imported and are readily available. Uganda Waragi is a very popular local gin.

Drinking and driving is prohibited and purchase of alcohol under the age of 18 years is also illegal.

Currency

The currency in Uganda is the Uganda Shilling (UGX). It is issued in denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 Uganda Shillings notes.  Coins are available for smaller denominations of 50, 100, 200 and 500 shillings.

US dollar, GB Pound and EURO are readily exchangeable. Large US dollar bills attract the best exchange rates. Currency exchange rates vary and are posted at all banks and forex bureaus around Kampala and in the local newspapers.  The rate as of July 2014 was US$1 = 2517 Uganda Shillings and 1GBP = 4100 Uganda Shillings.  There are no restrictions on other international currencies.

It is recommended that you change money in Kampala prior to safari where more favorable rates are offered. Attempting to change money upcountry can be frustrating and the rates are not good.

ATM machines are available in Kampala and most offer access to international banks/cards. You may need to have your PIN number, so do not forget.

NB: US Dollar bills pre-2000 are most often not accepted in Uganda or are exchanged at a less favorable rate. Poor quality foreign currency notes may be rejected. Please ensure you bring with you new or notes in excellent condition with no stains or tears.

Travelers Cheques:

TCs are accepted in Kampala, but at a less favorable rate than cash.  Most lodges and hotels upcountry will accept TCs although rates are generally poor.

Travel explore Africa Ltd will accept TCs for services but there is a USD $20 surcharge for each transaction.

Credit Cards:

VISA and MASTERCARD may be accepted at a few choice establishments in Kampala and some upcountry hotels and lodges. Kindly note that credit cards are not widely accepted and most organizations reserve the right to levy a surcharge on credit card transactions, usually 7 – 9% on top of the original cost.

Banking:

Several international banks operate in Uganda including Barclays, Standard Chartered, Stanbic, and Citi Bank.  Many local banks and forex bureaus also operate across the country.  Generally the banking hours are 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday.  Some institutions are open longer hours and on Saturdays.

There are no legal restrictions on foreign exchange transactions and currency is easily convertible.

Begging/Donations:

We do not recommend clients give money to beggars or street children as this only lends to the culture of begging and dependency. Donations can be made to established international and local charities that work with the homeless, street children or orphans.

We can arrange visits to local projects or institutions on request. If personal donations are preferred, we would suggest exercise books, pens or pencils are useful gifts.

Gratuities:

Ugandans tip according to level of service and there are no fixed or assumed rates. Culturally people may not feel it appropriate to outwardly show their appreciation for money given, however salaries are generally low in Uganda compared to neighboring tourism destinations and all tips will be greatly appreciated.

On average tips are in the region of: 5-10% in restaurants; US$5-10 per day, per client for safari driver/guides and US$10-20 per client, per day for Ranger Guides; US$10 per day for porters on mountaineering/hiking safaris and US$5-10 for Forest Walk guides.

Tips are very personal and this is only a guide.  Feel free to ask management for advice.

Drinking Water:

We recommend that you do not drink tap water.  Most hotels and restaurants provide previously boiled drinking water, or you can opt from several brands of mineral water. And us Travel explore Africa Ltd we provide battled drinking water to our clients through the trip.

Foods:

Fresh tropical fruits and vegetables abound throughout the country.  A wide range of dishes, both traditional and international, are served in the hotels and restaurants.  If you have any dietary restrictions, please advise in advance.  And if you have to have yellow mustard or black pepper to enjoy your meal, bring it with you.

Health Requirements:

Certificates may be required for vaccinations against yellow fever.  Check current medical advice on typhoid, cholera and hepatitis. But these diseases are NOT common, so do not feel obliged to spend hundreds of dollars on injections. Malaria risk is general, and a prophylaxis should be taken.  It is advisable to start anti-malarial medications 10 – 14 days prior to arrival and continue with the same for 14 – 21 days after leaving East Africa.

Language:

The official language is English. Kiswahili and Luganda are commonly spoken throughout the country. We actually speak over 40 languages in Uganda!

Luggage:

Airlines will offer you 20-40 Kg, or two pieces, of luggage on most flights. It is preferable for you to use soft luggage as space in vehicles is limited. We can arrange the storage of winter clothes that you will not need on safari.

Photography:

Though some types of film are available in many of the lodges, it is advisable to bring film and batteries with you or to purchase them in Kampala.  A pair of binoculars will prove extremely useful for a keen game viewer or birder. There is no charge for photography cameras and personal video recorders, but there may be a charge for commercial cameras in some places. Clients are responsible for any such fee. High-speed film is recommended for gorilla photos and high altitude filters are best for climbers. Check with your photo shop.

Security:

Precautions should be taken as in any major city. Unless safely deposit boxes are available in your hotel or lodge, always carry travel documents, travellers cheques, cash and other valuables with you at all times or leave them in the possession of Pearl of Africa Tours and Travel. If you leave your travel documents behind, travel with a photocopy.

We recommend that you do not walk alone late in the night, but instead take a taxi. We can arrange the safe keeping of your passport and ticket in our offices upon request.

Guard yourself and your valuables as you would anywhere in the world. Stay aware of your surroundings and be cautious but friendly where possible.

Sports Facilities:

There are a variety of sports available in Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja city centres – squash, golf, tennis, etc.  Fishing on Lake Victoria or the Nile River is popular.  Whitewater rafting and flat water canoeing have been introduced on the River Nile.  Whitewater rafting on the Nile from Jinja is considered the best one day trip in the world.  Mountain climbing and hiking are popular in the Rwenzori Mountains and on Mount Elgon.  Avid climbers will want to check out the Virunga Volcanoes and Mount Moroto.  For special interest itineraries, please request.

Transport:

The roads are generally in good condition. Four-wheel drive vehicles may be required for upcountry use, especially in the national parks during the rainy seasons.  We maintain a fleet of saloon cars, mini-buses and four-wheel drive vehicles, available on chauffeur driven basis.  Self-drive vehicles other than saloon cars are hard to come by. Please inquire for further details and tariffs.

Seasons

  • January to March: Hot and dry, an excellent time of year to be on safari in Uganda.
  • April and May: Uganda’s long rainy season when many camps are closed. Rains tend to be in the morning and late afternoon.
  • June to September: Temperatures climb rapidly and this is a fantastic time of year for gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
  • October to December: Another great time of year to be on safari, you can get some rain in November but temperatures are favourable and conditions are ideal for game viewing.