All you need to know for your holiday to Uganda
CURRENT ENTRY RULES IN RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) - Updated 30 December 2020: Entebbe International Airport is now open for international flights. On arrival, tourists will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test issued no more than 72 hours before boarding the aircraft.
Upon arrival, as long as you have the negative test certificate, your body temperature is less than 37.5 degrees and you do now display other flu-like symptoms, you will be exempt quarantine on arrival. Any passengers who show signs of symptoms will be taken to an isolation centre and if tested postive for COVID-19 will be taken to a treatment centre or repatriated for treatment outside of Uganda (own cost).
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, they will not be allowed to board the plane. Passengers travelling on flights departing during curfew hours (21:00 to 06:00) will be allowed to travel to the airport upon presentation of a valid ticket.
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 http://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).
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.
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.
language and people
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.
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.
You can read more about the climate in our guide to the best time to visit Uganda.
The international dialling code for Uganda is +256.
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.
Uganda Standard Time is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+3).
While travelling through Uganda, you will be mostly on tarred roads and they are in reasonably good condition by African standards. There may be some VERY LONG days in the vehicle, but the interesting and diverse scenery generally makes up for it!
There are however, some really bad sections of dirt road, especially in the more mountainous areas. In these areas travel will be slower, quite bumpy and there could be a lot of dust experienced en-route.
The safari vehicles you will be travelling in are customised 4x4 vehicles (mainly Toyota Land Cruisers) which have been converted for local conditions - they seat between 4-7 people, depending on the seating configuration and have opening roof hatches for optimal game viewing. They are a little slower on the road than a saloon vehicle or a smaller 'family' 4x4 and do not have air conditioning. Your safari vehicle is generally used throughout the safari for travelling between destinations as well as for game drives and other activities at the lodges and within the National Parks.
We do not recommend people hire a car and drive themselves through Uganda.