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Important Travel Information

Important Travel Advice For Uganda

Passport, Visa, and Medical Advice

Passport & Visa

CURRENT ENTRY RULES IN RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) - Updated 06 May 2021:  On arrival, tourists will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test issued no more than 120 hours before boarding the aircraft to Uganda.

Additional testing of all incoming travellers, including children, from countries in Category 1 (India) and Category 2 (USA, UK, UAE, Turkey, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania) will be carried out upon arrival at the airport at a cost of USD 65 per person. Those who test negative will be permitted to continue on their journey. Those who test positive will be taken to a designated Covid-19 isolation facility. 

Individuals from countries in Category 2 and 3 who have received their full vaccine and are asymptomatic will not be tested on arrival. Category 3 countries are yet to be confirmed.

Travellers departing Uganda may need to have a COVID-19 PCR test issued 120 hours before travel. Please check with your airline for exact requirements.  If tested positive, you will not be allowed to board the plane.

It is expected that these rules will be lifted and that the entry requirements will revert to normal as soon as the government of Uganda deems it safe to do so.

Normally, all passport holders must obtain a visa to enter Uganda when travelling as a tourist. The visa types available are Single Entry Visa, Multiple Entry Visa or the East African Tourist Visa (covering entry to Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya).

Visas can only be obtained online by going to https://www.visas.immigration.go.ug. You are required to upload clear copies of your current passport, your Yellow Fever Certificate, and a passport photo. On the application form, you are required to enter the ‘Contact in Uganda’ - please contact your Travel Butlers consultant for these details.

Upon completion of the online application, travellers will receive a barcoded email notification. Please note that the online visa is only valid for 3 months from date of issue, so please plan your online application accordingly.

You then need to present your barcoded email upon arrival into Uganda. The immigration officer will scan the barcode, and also take your fingerprints and photo and ask for payment IN CASH of the respective Visa fee (all costs subject to change) - please note that Uganda only accepts USD bills dated 2006 or newer and in excellent condition):

Single Entry is USD 50 per person

East Africa Tourist Visa (ideal if you are planning on visiting Rwanda and/or Kenya on the same trip) is USD 100 per person

A visa sticker will then be printed and inserted into the passport.

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Uganda and have sufficient blank pages for the Uganda visa and entry/exit stamps (at least 2).

IMPORTANT: Plastic bags are banned in Uganda. Arriving visitors are requested to avoid bring plastic bags into the country - this includes in suitcases and carry-on hand luggage.

Please check hand luggage before disembarking and any plastic bags (including plastic duty-free shopping bags and the transparent plastic bags that some airlines require passengers to use for keeping liquids, cosmetics, etc) should be left in the plane.

Ziploc bags that are specifically used to carry toiletries will be permitted as they are expected to remain in the permanent possession of visitors and are not expected to be disposed in the country.

PLEASE NOTE: Countries can change their entry requirements at any time. Travel Butlers try to ensure that the information displayed here is correct, but the onus remains with the traveller to verify the information with the relevant High Commission or Embassy and ensure that they can comply with the applicable entry requirements.

 
 

Medical

You are advised to contact your doctor or clinic around 4-8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations and to get their professional medical advice regarding travel to Uganda.

To help prevent diarrhoea, avoid tap water – drink only bottled water and use bottled water for tooth brushing, and avoid ice made with tap water – and only eat fruit or vegetables that are cooked or can be peeled.

To help avoid heatstroke, drink plenty of bottled water/fluids, and keep out of the midday sun.

Uganda falls into the yellow fever region in Africa. It is imperative for all travellers to obtain a yellow fever vaccination no less than 10 days prior to travel. A valid yellow fever certificate is required for all travellers over 9 months old. Your country of origin and other African countries including South Africa and Tanzania will also deny re-entry without the vaccination, after having visited a country with yellow fever. If your doctor advises that it is not safe for you to have the vaccination then you should obtain a medical waiver and travel with that document instead.

There is a risk of malaria in all areas of Uganda - check with your doctor about suitable antimalarial tablets. Dengue fever can also be transmitted via mosquito bites. Try to avoid mosquito bites wherever possible - wear loose long-sleeved clothing and trousers, and use a repellent on clothing and exposed skin.

Tsetse flies are found in certain woodland areas or in forested areas along riverbanks, and also around waterholes. There have been some cases of sleeping sickness occurring after a tsetse fly bite, although these are mainly amongst farmers and other locals who have repeated exposure to bites. However, the fly can still deliver a painful bite, so it is advisable to take necessary precautions - don't wear dark colours, especially black and blue (including denim), wear long-sleeved clothing and trousers, and avoid bushes during the hottest part of the day.

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 visibly contagious diseases and this is checked at the start of the trek by the Park Authorities. If they are in any doubt about your condition, they reserve the right to prevent you from continuing on the trek. If you feel ill, please inform your guide as soon as possible, and he will seek advice as to the best way to manage the situation.

 

Time Zone

Uganda Standard Time is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+3).

Languages

The official language is English, although many other languages are spoken.  There are about 65 ethnic groups, and each have their own distinct culture and often with their own language. The country's most ancient inhabitants are the Batwa and Bambutui Pygmies - the hunter-gatherer communities that once occupied the forests in the southwest of the country.

We would ask that all travellers are respectful of the local culture as follows:

Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda. Whilst everyone is of course entitled to their own sexual preferences and gender identity, we would advise all clients of the LGBT+ community to refrain from public displays of affection (including kissing and holding hands) and to be as discrete as possible about their relationship.

Smoking is prohibited in all public places, workplaces, transport and other outdoor places within 50 metres of a public place. Electronic cigarettes and shisha (water-pipe tobacco) are banned.

Don’t take photos of military, official or diplomatic sites, including Owen Falls Dam at the source of the Nile near Jinja. If you are taking photographs of people, ask their permission first.

You may be stopped and asked for ID documents by officials. Carry a copy of the personal details page of your passport (the page with your photograph) with you at all times.

On 22 May 2019 it became an offence to offer money, food or clothing to children living on the streets in Kampala.

Currency

The currency is the Uganda Shilling.

US Dollars cash is the preferred option to bring when travelling to Uganda. Once in Uganda, we advise guests to change some dollars into local currency for use as spending money on the road eg for drinks, curios. We suggest a combination of small denomination notes (USD 1, 5, 10, 50) as well as USD 100 bills - make sure they are POST 2005 as generally only post 2005 series are accepted in Uganda and have the ‘large heads’ on (the older notes depict the various senators with ‘smaller heads’ - this may sound a bit cryptic, but when you compare the notes it will become clearer). Note that whilst more convenient in terms of changing currency and not having to carry around huge amounts of local money, there is normally a surcharge on the smaller notes when changing them. Keep your slips, you are able to change surplus local money back to cash if you have proof of purchase when leaving the country.

Travellers cheques are difficult to change and REALLY bad rates of exchange generally apply, and are often VERY difficult to cash, even in large towns and especially over weekends and after hours. Throughout the rest of the country, changing TC’s is almost impossible.

There are only a few banks in Kampala (to our knowledge) that are authorised to give cash advances on credit cards. Visa cards are generally fine BUT Mastercard are NOT guaranteed and will only be cashed IF they clear certain internal security checks. There is a limit on amounts that may be drawn, and only during banking hours. Exchange rates will be poor, and they may also charge a hefty service fee. The long and short is keep your credit card for EMERGENCIES ONLY. Please also be aware that the traffic in and out of Kampala is terrible and so going to the bank can take up to one hour just standing in traffic in the city.

ATM machines are often not working although there are now some in Entebbe, Kampala and also some in larger up country towns. They pay LOCAL MONEY only and you need an international use PIN code to draw money and it can only be done with certain cards. Maximum Ush2 million per day (about US$1,200 equivalent) but also depends on your own individual bank set up so may well be less.

Payment for services by credit card can only be done by VISA card or MASTERCARD in some places. Only large hotels generally accept this means of payment and they will also levy a fee of at least 5% on top of any bills.

Electricity in Uganda

240 volts British Standard, generally through 3 pin square plugs.

Some lodges and camps have power only at certain times of the day, and in some charging facilities are centralised. You will need your own charger.

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.

Use of specialized breathing machines, hair dryers, curling tongs, shavers and other electrical equipment is possible at hotels in towns and at lodges with large generator power back up systems but generally not possible at solar powered lodges.

Water in Uganda

Please be aware that you should only drink bottled water, not from the taps for health safety reasons. Bottled water is available for purchase everywhere and some lodges also supply limited courtesy bottles on arrival. Please bring your own supply of water purifying tablets, or your own water bottle if you prefer.

Using The Phone in Uganda

The international dialling code for Uganda is +256.

General Information About Safaris

A Typical Day, What To Take, Tipping On Safari And More

Going on a safari, whether it is your first time or you are a seasoned safari goer, is still an exhilarating experience and will undoubtedly be one of the main highlights of your trip to Africa. You spend your days waking up to the sounds of the African bush, taking exciting game drives over the plains and through the bush to spot Big 5 animals in their natural environment, and ending with a relaxed dinner under the starry night skies – there cannot be a better way to pass the time!

Are Safaris Demanding?

Generally, safaris are not demanding in terms of heavy physical activity, however there are elements which can be tiring that you need to be aware of.

Game drives tend to be in 4x4 safari vehicles (or in Kenya, you can be in a safari minibus). Due to the nature of the terrain the roads are often bumpy and can be a little tiring. Open 4x4 vehicles also expose travellers to the elements more than closed vehicles, meaning greater exposure to the sun in summer and cold winds in winter. Some open safari vehicles will have a canopy overhead to minimise exposure to the elements, however there are some lodges who do not use canopies in order to enhance photographic opportunities for their guests.

Many lodges offer walking activities ranging from one to 3 hours and this is generally the most strenuous activity you will encounter, and individuals of average fitness should experience no problems. Walking in single file, you will be introduced to how to spot tracks in the sand or mud, the uses of many different types of trees, and much more. If you are extremely lucky, will come across wildlife such as impala, giraffe or even something larger!

If your itinerary includes a light aircraft flight, these are often very compact and there is a certain amount of stepping and bending to get into the aircraft and manoevering yourself into your (rather small) seat. Travellers are also more likely to experience travel sickness in smaller planes than the larger commercial aircraft and this should be kept in mind.

A Typical Day on Safari

Even though every day will bring a different experience in terms of your wildlife viewing, safaris tend to follow a general pattern, which is consistent wherever you go.

The day starts with a wakeup call before sunrise at around 05:00 to 05:30, with tea/coffee at the lodge before you depart. The mornings are the best opportunity to follow fresh tracks and see wildlife, as some of the nocturnal animals are still active. Depending on what there is to see, the game drive is normally 3 to 4 hours long. When you return to the lodge, a delicious breakfast will be waiting for you - normally buffet style, followed by a cooked offering if you are still hungry!

The next few hours are spent resting and relaxing in camp as this is the hottest part of the day and animal activity is minimal.

At around 15:00 high tea is normally served before you head off again for an afternoon game drive (usually around 15:30 to 16:00). If you are in a National Park, the Park regulations require your guide to have you back at the lodge by sunset, however if you are in a private concession or community area, you will often enjoy a sundowner drink stop out in the bush before experiencing a night drive en-route back to the lodge, aided with a spotlight to search out the nocturnal animals.

On arrival back at the lodge you will normally sit around the camp fire and enjoy drinks while waiting for dinner. Sometimes dinner is served outside under the stars in a 'boma' around an open fire, with candles or lanterns as the only form of lighting. Chatting about your experiences and adventures with your fellow guests is a perfect way to round off the day, and a great feeling of camaraderie soon begins to exist between everyone. Many lodges will seat everyone on the same table for all meals, which gives you the opportunity to really get to know other people. After dinner, drinks may be enjoyed again around the fire however most people find they are tired from the fresh air and early start and are in bed by 22:00.

In some areas, such as East Africa, and especially if you are with a private driver-guide for your safari, there is also the opportunity to elect to go out after breakfast on a full day game drive with a picnic lunch, which means you do not have to return to the lodge until sunset.

What to Take on Safari

The dress code on safari is very relaxed, so there is no need to even consider packing dinner jackets, ties, formal shirts or cocktail dresses for your time on safari! Shorts/t-shirts are ideal for walks and the warm midday periods, but long trousers and long sleeved shirts are a good idea to wear in the evenings to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Try to take neutral coloured clothes – so greens, beiges, etc – and avoid taking anything too brightly coloured. Also, try to avoid taking anything white – firstly the dust will soon turn your pristine white t-shirt into a not-so-attractive dirty colour, and secondly white does attract bugs at night. Camouflage printed clothing is OK for the bush but please do not wear in towns or when crossing borders (particularly in Zimbabwe).

In addition, a warm sweater is useful for the cooler morning and evening temperatures when out on game drives – you also have the ‘wind chill’ factor of being on a moving vehicle.

If you are going on safari during a known rainy season, a waterproof jacket is obviously a good idea, and during the Winter months you will certainly need several warm layers for your game drives, including a hat, scarf and gloves, as it can be extremely cold when the sun goes down in the evenings, and when you first set off on the morning game drive.

Comfortable walking shoes, trainers or hiking boots are advisable if you want to go on a bush walk – otherwise sandals are ideal to wear at meal times and around the lodge area. Covered shoes on the game drives in the Winter months may also be an idea, as there is nothing worse than cold toes/feet!

A sun hat or baseball cap, or anything really to keep the sun off your head, is a good idea to stop sunstroke when out on game drives, and also will help to shade your eyes from the sun. A good pair of sunglasses will also help you to scan the landscape for the wildlife without squinting into the sunlight and getting a headache! Sun block and lip balm are also recommended.

Swimwear is not something most people would associate with a safari, but as many lodges do have pools, it is worth just throwing into your case just in case you fancy a cooling dip inbetween game drives.

Taking photographs on a safari is almost a given, so don’t forget your camera (and if you are into photography in a big way, consider different size lenses and a bean bag too to rest the lens on so that you avoid camera shake), binoculars (the ranger/driver will tend to have a pair of these always to hand, but they are there for everyone to share, so if you are not the sharing kind of person, better to have your own pair to use all the time) and spare camera batteries and memory cards – there is nothing worse than seeing the perfect shot, only for your camera to die a death or the memory card to be full (bear in mind too that the opportunity to download photos will be limited). Most lodges will have curio shops that will sell most types of batteries so if you run out, it’s not serious, but prices may be high. If you have a video camera, it may be a good idea to take a spare battery for this as well.

One top tip for camera equipment in particular is to take a pillow case to keep everything in when out on game drives – some camera bags are big and unweldy so take up valuable seat space, plus you end up having to unzip compartments and while the bag is open dust gets in everywhere – having everything in a pillowcase that you can keep relatively ‘closed’ and just reach in to retrieve the necessary camera body/lens is just so much easier and cleaner all round.

Even in malaria-free areas, there are still nasty bugs about that can give you a nasty bite so do take some strong insect repellent with you. Some lodges will supply this in the rooms, but better to be safe than sorry and pack your own just in case.

It is always a good idea to pack your own first aid kit – so plasters, antiseptic cream/wipes, antihistamine tablets, painkillers, etc. If you wear daily disposable contact lenses it is advisable to bring more than you think you will need, as you may want to take the lenses out inbetween game drives if you get too much dust in your eyes. And of course, if you are taking malaria tablets – don’t forget to pack these!

Some lodges have a library but these are limited and so it is useful to bring your own books/novels for siesta hours. Having your own wildlife reference books too will mean you can also read up about more facts on the animals you have seen during your drive. Bird books in particular, if you are an avid birder, are especially good to have, as not every bird will be identified by your ranger along the way, so you can quietly look up anything you have seen and identify it yourself.

Tipping on Safari

It is customary to tip your guide (and tracker if you had one on your game vehicle, or your poler if you take a mokoro in Botswana) when you leave, and also to leave something for the housekeeping staff, especially if they have done a good job of looking after you.

Many lodges will leave guidelines in your room as to what they feel is an ‘appropriate’ tip, however some people feel that these suggestions can be a bit high. Obviously, tipping is optional and what you leave is totally at your own discretion - we would stress that you should never feel pressured into leaving a tip that you are not comfortable with.

If you wish to follow the lodge guidelines, of course that is your decision, but if you feel uncomfortable with their suggested tipping levels, we would like to put forward an alternative method for working out a suitable tip amount.

Your ranger/guide - what we normally suggest is think about your tip in terms of what he/she would appreciate most - so for example, this could be money to cover a really nice 3 course meal out with a good bottle of wine, so that they can treat themselves (and maybe their partner too) on their valuable time off. We would suggest basing this amount on what YOU personally would be happy to pay at home if you were to treat yourself and someone else to the equivalent night out.

Driver-guide (East Africa) – for people who take a longer safari with a private driver-guide, USD7 to USD10 per traveller per day is considered a good tip for a driver-guide (based on 4 to 6 travellers in a vehicle). If there are only 2 or 3 travellers in a vehicle, you might consider raising this amount to approximately USD10 to USD12 per traveller per day in recognition of the individual attention given to a smaller-size group.

Safari escort (East Africa) - some groups are accompanied by a professional safari escort. It is customary to tip your safari escort on the last day you are with them and the recommended tip is USD10 per traveller per day. As with the tip for a driver-guide, smaller groups (5 or less) might consider tipping slightly more.

Your tracker/poler - we would suggest tipping something equivalent to giving him a night out in a local bar, where he can buy himself and friends a few round of drinks. Again, maybe base this amount on what you would be happy to spend at home in your local pub.

Housekeeping/general staff - if they have kept your room spotless, then a tip is certainly a nice gesture - but maybe just the equivalent of a couple of drinks. Some lodges will have communal tip boxes, so all the tip money is pooled and shared between the relevant staff members.

We hope that this helps – but please note this is just a personal opinion, and it is a relatively easy way of estimating a tip amount that should not offend anyone. It is customary to tip on the last day you are with anyone.

Another thing to consider is taking some envelopes with you, so that you can address the envelopes accordingly and seal the individual tips inside - in this way, the tip is not revealed until after you have departed.

Personal Safety

Please listen to your guide/lodge manager attentively on safety precautions particular to each lodge and follow their instructions.

There is an inherent risk associated with going on safari. Most guests will be required to sign indemnities at the various camps and lodges and will also be required to abide by the operator’s code of conduct in order to ensure your safety.

 

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