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Uganda Travel Information

GEOGRAPHY

Uganda is a very beautiful East African country. It is land locked, and lies between the two east African great rift valleys. Uganda is also crossed by the equator and therefore exists in both the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere of the world at the same time. Uganda is bordered by Kenya to the East, Tanzania to the South, Rwanda to the Southwest, Uganda safari Democratic Republic of Congo to the West and Sudan to the North. Mountains, rolling plains, thick tropical forests, semi desert areas and savannah vegetation are some of the differing physical features of this nation. Uganda is green and sunny throughout the year.

ACCOMMODATION

Uganda provides a wide selection of the best hotels and accommodation establishments in Uganda's major towns as well as safari lodges in any part of the country. Our hotels range from - budget (1 Star Hotels), mid-range (3 Star) and Luxury Hotels (4 Star & 5 Star). We also book safari lodges, Resorts, apartments, Guest Houses and bed and breakfast accommodation. Find out all you need to know about room rates, hotel facilities, conference venues and events management services. In towns, accommodation ranges from 3-5 star hotels and guesthouses. Upcountry lodges and hotels have varying standards, often with no running water and electricity. Tourists pay in US Dollars except for the smaller guesthouses where the local Ugandan Shilling and Rwandan Franc are acceptable. Not all of the small town hotels are equipped to take travellers cheques or credit cards so it is best you travel with some cash. Some extras will be added onto your bill, especially in Kampala, Kigali, Jinja, Entebbe and in parks 2-10% service charge and 18% VAT (2006). For clients who pay for a full tour package from us, all of these costs are covered in the safari cost.

CLIMATE

The largest climatic part of our countries’ is tropical climate which varies according to altitude. The hottest months of the year are December, January and February when the temperature reaches 29 degrees Celsius. The rainy months are April, May, October and November, with the wettest month being April, but it can rain at any time of the day, especially in forest ecosystems.
Despite their location to the equator temperatures in some parts of the Uganda and Rwanda can be quite cool owing to the countries' high altitude. The mountain areas become much cooler and the top of Mount Elgon and the Rwenzori are often covered with snow. Other parts of Uganda are much warmer, but Rwanda experiences more cold weather because of its higher altitude. There is heavy rain between March and May and between October and November. The best times are December-March and June-September. It can be somewhat rainy then, but not as rainy as in the rainy season, March-June. December-February and June-July are the most dry seasons.

CLOTHING

Lightweights and rainwear, with warm wraps, especially in mountainous/hilly environments, for the evenings are advised. Uganda has mild winters and the summer days can get quite hot. Lightweight casual clothes can be worn all year round, with a jacket or jersey for early mornings and evenings. On safari keep clothes to a minimum and mostly of neutral colorings - khakis, browns and greens. A sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellant are essential. Local people usually appreciate those who maintain a sense of decorum, avoid short-shorts and exposing much of your body in public. It is considered irreverence in some cultures.

COMMUNICATIONS

Uganda has got well organized postal services and there are no problems related with sending or receiving letters. International call facilities as well as fax facilities exist at the main Post Office and in many Secretarial bureaus. Otherwise phone cards can be bought and used in public pay phones. Direct dialling to neighboring countries requires 2 sets of numbers: first the city's code then the number (+256 Uganda, +250 Rwanda, +254 Kenya). International calls require 4 sets of numbers: first the international prefix, then the country code, the city code, and the number. The IDD code for Uganda is +256; that for Rwanda is +250. Within East Africa, the Uganda code is 006, Rwanda is 0037. International telephone communication is very good from Kampala and Kigali. From some upcountry areas it is more difficult. The mobile telephone network is good and rapidly expanding. A European or American mobile phone with a roaming agreement works in Uganda. In Rwanda, local SIM cards can be purchased in many outlets. Some Camps and lodges up country can be accessed by two-way radio communication.
There are Email and Internet access services in Kampala, Kigali, Entebbe and in some towns upcountry.

COURTESIES

Recognition of traditional courtesies is important when visiting another country. While Ugandans are all well aware of the form in other countries, they tend to be conservative at home. A handshake greeting is normal and unsuitable clothing such as brief shorts or swimwear is not acceptable in towns and villages. Shoes are taken off before entering sacred places.

DRIVING

Visiting drivers must hold an International Drivers License. Drivers' licenses from other countries are not valid. New residents are required to pass a driving test. A person driving into the country on business can have their car admitted without having to pay duty, provided they will not use it for hire or commercial purposes. They will also have to show that the car is owned by themselves or by their company. Uganda drives on the left hand side of the road.

ENERGY / ELECTRICITY

Local voltage in Uganda is 240volts, 50 cycle AC. 3-pin (square) sockets. Electric switches generally switch on downwards. Local voltage in Rwanda is 220/230/240volts, 50 cycle AC. 2-pin (round) sockets. Electric switches generally switch on upwards. Some camps and lodges upcountry do not have power but management can arrange to recharge your batteries from a nearby town at a cost, or use a safari vehicle for charging.

ENTERTAINMENT

There are a number of sporting, dancing and social clubs, theatres and other entertainment in the major towns. Visitors are usually welcomed. Some charge a temporary membership fee. Avoid staying up till late when you are traveling the next day. Interactions and friendly relations are at the discretion of the client, but seek your guide's advice. Many of the main hotels have swimming pools, and there are excellent opportunities for golf, tennis and squash in Kampala/Kigali, and in several other parts of the country. Football, rugby, tennis and cricket clubs are found in the main towns. Sailing and water-skiing are available on Lake Victoria. Fishermen should head for the lakes and the River Nile.

GETTING AROUND

The Business hours for Government offices range from 08h00 to 16h30, Monday to Friday. Closed from 13h00 to 14h00 for lunch hour. Bank hours vary from bank to bank but most are open from 08h30 - 16h30 Monday to Friday. Only some are open on Saturdays. Forex bureaus are normally open till 17:00 and are able to do electronic transfers to and from Overseas. Most banks also have a branch at the Entebbe International Airport and Kanombe International Airport to serve incoming and outgoing passengers. Shops are generally open from 08h00 to 17h00, Monday to Friday and 08h00 to 13h00 on Saturdays; some in Kampala open from 06h00 for up to 16 hours. Main roads are generally good but travel is much slower than on European roads. Secondary roads are of variable standard, often slow and bumpy; some require high four-wheel drive vehicles. Light aircraft can also be chartered to the main destinations. Traffic drives on the left side in Uganda; traffic drives on the right. The major highways are two lane class 6 roads. Driving in Uganda is quite an experience, yet probably the best way to see the country. One however has to be cautious of Pedestrians, Cyclists, wildlife and Livestock on all roads.

GETTING THERE

Uganda's main international gateway is the Entebbe International Airport. It is located some 40km south of Kampala, the Capital, in the lakeside town of Entebbe. Its setting makes a spectacular entry to the country with an approach over Lake Victoria. A number of International and regional carriers operate regular flights to and from Entebbe: Air Tanzania, British Airways, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airways, Gulf Air, Kenya Airways, South African Airways and SN Brussels. International Carriers SN Brussels flies four times a week from Brussels direct to Entebbe. British Airways flies three times a week from London, Gatwick.

From other parts of Africa Clients can fly into any of the listed African cities and then connect to Entebbe. Ethiopian Airways provides connections from Addis Ababa. Kenya Airways flies daily from Nairobi. South African Airways provides connections with Dar-es- Salaam and Johannesburg. Egypt flies weekly from Cairo, only to Entebbe. East African Air provides connections from Nairobi, and Johannesburg. Air Tanzania provides connections from Dar-es-salaam. Rwanda Air flies from Kigali, Johannesburg and Nairobi. Emirates flies twice a week from Dubai, only to Entebbe.

Domestic Air Services
Some attractions such as Bwindi, Mgahinga, and Kidepo in Uganda are far from Kampala/Entebbe, covering long distances of up to 500km and more with approximate driving time of 8-11 hours. It is advisable to clients, where funds allow, to use air charter to these far away locations. Apart from the weekly and sometimes scheduled flights to Arua, Adjumani and other parts of the North where there are only some attractions, only non-scheduled, chartered aircraft can be used to fly to the other destinations, especially in the Western part of Uganda where most tourist attractions are. The major tourist destinations which are usually in remote parts of the country are always accessible by charter. Some air fields such as Kayonza near Bwindi, Paraa, and Jinja can only accommodate 3-5 seater aircraft. Others such as Kisoro near Mgahinga, Ishasha and Kasese near Bwindi, the Rwenzori Mountains and Queen Elizabeth Park, can accommodate larger aircraft. Chartered aircraft from either Uganda to other countries in the region can also be arranged.

GORILLA TRACKING AND PERMITS

To track gorillas each person must have the day's gorilla permit which needs to be arranged and paid for in advance. Each gorilla park (Bwindi and Mgahinga in Uganda and Parc National des Volcans [PNV] in Rwanda) has different numbers of permits per day (18, 6 and 32 for Bwindi, Mgahinga and PNV respectively). No person is allowed to track more than three times in three consecutive days. Permits are non-refundable except for medical reasons and a medical certificate has to be provided. To protect gorillas from disease and to avoid problems of arduous conditions in the forests young trackers below the age of 15 and those with illnesses are not allowed to track. Flash photography is not allowed and visitors are advised to use still cameras, at a distance of at least 5 metres away from the animals. Professional filming requires extra fees to be paid.

HEALTH

Visitors from or passing through a yellow fever and cholera zone (most of tropical Africa and South America) may be able to produce a valid International Certificate of Vaccination. Air travellers who only pass through the airports of such a zone are exempt from the requirement. It is also advised that all travellers be vaccinated against Meningitis, Typhoid and Hepatitis.

INSURANCE

Uganda is served by a number of insurance companies covering a wide range of insurance policies. Visitors who are interested in local insurance cover policies are advised to purchase a third party insurance which can be obtained at the border or airport for a nominal fee. Evacuation insurance Clients are also advised to purchase evacuation insurance before traveling. This covers evacuation in case of an accident, health difficulties, etc. Evacuation insurance for mountaineering in the Rwenzoris is covered in this package.

Health insurance
It is advisable that clients purchase the necessary health insurance for themselves. The company will not be held liable for sickness of a client as a direct or indirect consequence of traveling.

Travel Insurance:  Clients must have, and demonstrate to the company prior to their departure, adequate insurance for the duration of the tour. Such insurance should fully cover death; personal injury; loss; accident; medical expenses; repatriation in the case of accident, illness or death; cancellation or curtailment of the tour by the company or client; and loss of, damage to, or theft of the clients' personal property. Activities with a greater inherent risk, such as mountaineering, animal tracking, water rafting, swimming in lakes, should be covered.

Language

Over 56 languages are spoken in Uganda which is a reflection of Uganda's multi-tribal society. English and Swahili are the official languages and most Ugandan's are able to communicate fluently in English. All media and business is in English and most Ugandans speak it fairly well. Swahili is the next most commonly understood language in the East African region, including Uganda, followed by Luganda.

Laundry

Most hotels and lodges will offer a laundry service. For low budget travellers there are no coin operated Laundromats at all so consider drip dry clothing and be prepared for hand washing. In most places one could hire someone to do your washing.

MONEY

Clients are advised not to carry too much money around. Our safari packages are all-inclusive packages and except for a need to tip, buy souvenirs and a few meals in towns, there may be nothing else in relation to your safari that you need to buy. It is best to budget for around US$30-50 a day as a reasonable minimum. Kampala is well serviced with banks. International Banks especially in Kampala include Stanbic, Allied Bank, Barclays, Standard Chartered, and Tropical Africa Bank. The unit of currency in Uganda is the Ugandan Shilling (Ush). There are coins in the following denominations: 50, 100, 200, 500; and notes in the following denominations: 1000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000 in circulation concurrently with British Pounds Sterling, US Dollars, German Marks, Swiss Franks, French Francs, Euro, Japanese Yen, SA Rand notes.

There are no restrictions on importation or exportation of currency into or out of Uganda although any monies over US$5000 may be declared to customs officials. Licensed Forex Bureaus can be found in all major urban areas and are abundant in Kampala. Money can be exchanged from some international hotels and banks in cities. Some licensed individuals also exchange cash at borders. It is best to consult your guide for advice on the licensed and trustworthy money exchange agents. It is safest to carry US Dollars. When changing travellers cheques a valid passport may be required, and the exchange rate for these could be less than that for real money notes. Some agencies may ask for your Sales Advice Slip. It is also important to note that small denomination bills of US$1, 5, 10, and 20 are changed at a substantially reduced rate, as are torn and soiled notes. This can be as much as a 5% difference or more.

Credit cards: Most hotels, restaurants, banks, travel agencies and the bigger shops will take credit cards in Uganda.. Only a few hotels and banks in Uganda will accept credit cards. Most of the bigger banks and hotels will advance local currency against a credit card. The most commonly accepted credit cards are VISA, MASTER CARD, DINNER'S & AMERICAN EXPRESS.

 

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Uganda with its vast expanses of Birds, Gorillas, Chimpanzees,Lakes and Rivers,overflowing with wildlife, must surely rank as one of Africa's ultimate safari destinations. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (& Mgahinga Mountain Gorillas ) and Kibale National Park are the two not to be missed destinations...........More.......

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