I don’t know about you, but I can spend hours day-dreaming about my next travel destination. All it takes to get me started is a few minutes spent scrolling through the seemingly endless array of travel-themed accounts on Instagram. But, there is a story that those wanderlust photos don’t tell you. That story is the planning that went into traveling to that destination.
Deciding that you want to go on a safari in Uganda is the easy part. I mean, how cool would it be to visit the source of the Nile River or live a real-life adventure by tracking gorillas in misty mountains? This is the stuff that adventure and wanderlust are made of!
But, if we’re being honest here, the planning needed to make sure that you get the most of your travels can be quite taxing. Thankfully, we have the all-knowing oracle (the internet) to provide us with all of the answers to our questions. However, it can be time-consuming to sort through all of the information and pick and choose what is truly necessary.
So, to help save you time planning your safari adventure, we’ve put together the only guide you’ll ever need for traveling in Uganda.
From best time of year to visit and visa information to the vaccines needed and the safaris you cannot miss, we’ve got you covered. When you’ve finished reading, you’ll want to bookmark this page!
Why Visit Uganda?
There is a reason why this country is regarded the ‘Pearl of Africa’. You don’t need to look very hard for reasons to want to travel here, but we thought we could share a few anyway.
Uganda packs a lot into one small country and, unlike Kenya and Tanzania, it is still pretty under-the-radar, meaning you will escape the crowded tourism. Traveling here can go from days spent climbing the ice-capped Rwenzori Mountains to spotting rare animals while trekking through tropical forests and even white water rafting on the Nile.
But, it is more than just an amazing destination for adventure addicts. This beautiful East African country is situated in a basin between the eastern and western branches of the Rift Valley, giving it an amazingly warm year-round climate that is perfect for lazing on beautiful beaches and reconnecting with nature through yoga.
Now that you know that Uganda is your next travel destination, let’s cover some of the basics:
Best Time of year to visit
This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when planning. Thanks to its pleasant temperatures, Uganda is a year-round destination. But, of course, there are peak and low seasons that can make the world of a difference when taking crowds and budget into consideration.
Generally speaking, December/January through to mid-March, and from June through to mid-September are peak tourist seasons thanks to the drier climate. However, if you’re looking to go on a budget safari, then consider traveling during the wetter time of year.
Most rain falls in October-November and April-May, and you might see quite a drop in the cost of going on a safari, but this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to enjoy it. Low season means fewer crowds and more wildlife viewing.
Top Tip: Traveling during the wetter months also means easy availability of gorilla permits.
The cost of traveling is one of the biggest concerns for many people and one of the most common misconceptions is that the further you go, the more expensive it is.
The good news is that, depending on what your travel style is, you can still have an amazing holiday without breaking the bank. Generally, flights are the most expensive part of traveling but there are plenty of ways to find cheaper flights to almost every destination.
Personally speaking, I prefer to go for all-inclusive packages so that minor costs such as airport transfers and every day meals and drinks are taken care of. But, if winging it is more your style, then here is a little breakdown of a few of the basics:
Dorm bed: US$12–20
Double room in a budget hotel: US$30–50
Street-food snack: US$1–2
Meal in a good local restaurant: US$10–20
Bottled water: US$ 0.28
Local beer: US$1
What You Should Know Before You Go
All persons entering Uganda require a visa, which usually costs around US$50. Although it is possible to obtain a visa on arrival, the Ugandan embassy highly recommends applying for one online before your travels.
Here’s a little breakdown of the basic requirements:
For a single-entry tourist visa, you’ll need:
Recent Passport-size Photograph
Vaccination Certificate (Yellow Fever)
Copy of recent Passport size Photograph
Travel itinerary/Return Ticket
Top Tip: There are no banks, ATMs or Forex bureaus before immigration. So keep some cash on you while traveling
Vaccines and medications
While traveling to Tanzania, I vividly remember arriving at Abeid Amani Karume International Airport and watching young travelers being refused entry because they didn’t have a yellow fever certificate.
Vaccines are definitely one of the most vital parts of travel planning, and you want to make sure that you have all the needed documentation. If you’re traveling to Uganda, you will require vaccinations for hepatitis A, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and meningococcus.
Another common ailment among travelers to this region is travelers’ diarrhea, so be sure to pack medications to keep on hand in case you become ill.
The local currency is the Ugandan shilling (USh) and there is an abundance of ATMS available in the cities. If your home currency is US dollars, then you’re in luck as these are widely accepted, especially in small towns.
Top Tip: If you’re using dollars, try to avoid bills printed before 2006, as often they’re not accepted due to a higher risk of them being counterfeit.
On the Ground
So, your bags are packed, tickets are booked, and now you’re counting down the days until you travel. It’s a pretty exciting time and can also be a little daunting if you don’t quite know what to expect when you hit the ground.
The Locals and language
Although there has been plenty of negative hype about the region’s LGBT bill in the news, Uganda is one of the most tourist friendly African countries to visit! So much so, that Winston Churchill even wrote about it after his trip back in 1907.
Of course, there are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind while traveling through Uganda. For example, it is seen as a sign of respect to engage with elderly people of the community, dress modestly and always ask for permission when taking photos of people.
Public affection is also a sensitive issue here. While you may see men holding hands with other men, this is known as a sign of friendship. In general, kissing in public or other signs of affection even with your spouse are frowned upon.
‘Hello’: Oli otya
‘I don’t know’ : Simanye
‘Do you speak English?’: Omanyi olungereza?
‘Thank you’: Weebale
Where to Go on Safari in Uganda
Now for the fun part! There is so much to see and do in Uganda that planning your itinerary can be a little overwhelming. To make this process a little easier, we have put together our favorite wildlife safaris in Uganda:
3 Days Gorilla Express Tour and Safari
This is, perhaps, my favorite safari because it checks all the boxes. Most people today don’t get to explore the world because of time and money, but this safari takes care of that. It is easy on the wallet, not too long, and allows you to get up close and personal with Uganda’s gorillas.
While on this thrilling safari, you will spend three days in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which is home to half of the endangered mountain gorillas in the world, and you will have a chance to meet the region’s royal drum makers.
2. 7 Days Uganda Safari Tour
One week may not seem like much, but this exhilarating safari is packed full of adventurous tours and wildlife viewing. How does seven days of waterfall showers in Murchison Falls, views of River Nile, Big Five game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park and rhino tours in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, sound to you?
The best part about it is that your entire itinerary is taken care of, from airport transfers to accommodation, meals and all tours. All you need to do is arrive ready for adventure!
There you have it. All the information you need to have an epic adventure is right in front of you! So what are you waiting for? Go on an exhilarating safari in Uganda!