A small, landlocked country straddling the equator between Kenyaand the DRC in Eastern Africa, Uganda is one of the continent'smost beautiful countries, boasting an astonishing variety ofscenery, culture and wildlife.
Uganda has a reputation as 'Africa's friendliest country', acredit to its likeable people. It has seen extensive redevelopmentas an eco-friendly environment. The enlightened management of 10national parks, as well as the introduction of eco-tourismprojects, adventure sports and unique gorilla-trekkingopportunities, have put the country back on the tourist circuit.After years of misrule, hardship and war under Idi Amin, Uganda isonce again receiving positive global interest due to itsforward-thinking policies and wealth of tourist attractions.
Uganda's variety of landscapes is as astounding as itsbiodiversity. Forested crater lakes on the floor of the Rift Valleygive way to typical East African savannah as well as tropicalrainforest. The glacial peaks of the highest mountain range inAfrica, the 'Mountains of the Moon' or Rwenzori Mountains that markthe country's western border, as well as a number of extinctvolcanoes, make for world-class hiking and mountaineering. Thereare several large bodies of water, including the massive LakeVictoria, which it shares with Tanzania and Kenya. The myriadislands dotting Lake Victoria and Lake Bunyoni are idealbirdwatching destinations. Lake Victoria is also the source of theNile, the longest river in the world, which passes through theimpressive Murchison Falls and creates some of the most excitingwhite water rafting on earth.
What also makes Uganda a unique safari destination is itsremarkable concentration of primates, which is the highest onearth. People are drawn from around the world to track chimpanzeesand to experience the face to face encounter of a lifetime: themassive mountain gorilla.
The most recently-created national park in Uganda, BwindiImpenetrable National Park is one of the last remaining naturalgorilla habitats in the world. Major conservation efforts haveresulted in a small but increasing number of gorillas, representingroughly half of the worldwide population. Bwindi has four groups ofgorillas, and visitors can track them with guides in groups of nomore than eight.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has other animals thangorillas, which include colobus, vervet, and L'Hoest monkeys,elephants, jackals, civets, giant forest hog and antelope. The parkis open throughout the year, but conditions during the rainy seasonmake trekking difficult. There is tourist accommodation within thepark, including a lodge and campsites.
Located in the far southeastern tip of Uganda, Mgahinga GorillaNational Park is located in the Virunga Mountains, and is connectedto Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park inthe Democratic Republic of Congo. The park was designated a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site in 2007.
Along with Bwindi, Mgahinga is one of two national parks inUganda where tourists can go gorilla-trekking. However, the parkhas only one group of gorillas, which can only be seen when theyare in Ugandan territory, making it somewhat unreliable. There areplenty of other animals to spot though, including golden cats,bushbuck jackals, duiker, rare golden monkeys, elephant andbuffalo. Aside from its wildlife, the breathtaking scenery ofMgahinga Gorilla National Park is brooding and mysterious, withjagged volcanoes and stunning valleys.
Murchison Falls is the largest national park in Uganda. Whilelacking the gorillas that make other parks famous, Murchison Fallsitself is a popular tourist attraction. The waters of the NileRiver squeeze themselves through a narrow gorge only 23 feet (7m)wide, and then plunge 141 feet (43m).
There is plenty of wildlife to be spotted in Murchison FallsNational Park, including the 'big five'; elephants, lions,leopards, and buffalo can be seen in the park, while rhinos(poaching to extinction by 1983) are bred in nearby Ziwa RhinoSanctuary.
Game drives are a popular activity in Murchison Falls NationalPark, as are river cruises to spot hippos and crocodiles.Chimpanzee trekking is also available.
The climate in Uganda is typically tropical with littlevariation in temperature throughout the year. Distinctive wet anddry seasons characterise the climate of most of the country, exceptin the semi-arid north east. The dry season in Uganda, generallyfrom December to February and mid-June to mid-August, is the besttime to visit. The two rainy seasons are from March to May, andSeptember to November. In the south the rainiest month is April.The mountainous areas in western and eastern Uganda can be cold atnight. The best time to visit Uganda is in the drier month,specifically January and February, and June to September, as thisis the best time to go gorilla-trekking in Uganda.
The official currency is the Ugandan Shilling (UGX), which isdivided into 100 cents. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banksand bureaux de change; the best currencies to change are USDollars, Euros, or Pounds Sterling, but only exchange at officialestablishments. ATMs are available in major towns and cities.Credit cards are only accepted at major hotels, shops, andrestaurants, usually only in the cities.
English and Swahili are the official national languagesin Uganda. Luganda is also widely spoken and is the most common ofthe numerous indigenous languages.
Electrical current is 220-240 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin,rectangular blade plugs are in use.
US nationals require a passport valid for six months from dateof arrival and a visa.
UK nationals require a passport valid for six months fromarrival date and a visa.
Canadians require a passport valid for six months beyond arrivaldate and a visa.
Australians require a passport valid for six months beyondarrival date and a visa.
South Africans require a passport valid for six months beyondarrival date and a visa.
Irish nationals require a passport valid for six months beyondarrival date and a visa.
US nationals require a passport valid for six months from dateof arrival and a visa.
New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for six monthsbeyond arrival date and a visa.
All visitors require a passport that is valid for at least sixmonths on entry. Visitors must hold return or onward tickets, proofof reason for visit, an address and contact number in Uganda, andsufficient funds. Visas can be obtained on arrival at the country'sports of entry or online or the Ugandan High Commission.Authorisation is granted via email which should be printed andgiven to immigration officials on arrival in Uganda, along with therequired fee in cash. A valid 'East African Tourist Visa' issued byKenya or Rwanda is accepted, provided having first entered thecountry that issued the visa.
Travellers' diarrhoea is the most common complaint for visitorsto Uganda. Recommended vaccinations include hepatitis A andtyphoid. In recent years a Hepatitis E outbreak in northern Ugandakilled dozens of people and infected thousands more so it isadvised that visitors take precautions if visiting the area. Allvisitors require vaccination against yellow fever. Choleraoutbreaks occur occasionally, but most travellers are at low riskfor infection; bottled water is widely available. Malaria andHIV/AIDS are widespread. Outbreaks of the plague and meningitisoccur and visitors should insure that vaccinations are up to date.Uganda has also seen an outbreak of Ebola in the past and althoughnot an issue any longer, it is advised visitors be aware. Incidentsof sleeping sickness are on the rise, carried by tsetse flies.Limited health facilities are available outside of Kampala.Comprehensive medical insurance is advised.
At local hotels and restaurants in Uganda, tipping is notcommon, but tips of 5 to 10 percent are expected attourist-orientated establishments. It is customary to tip guidesand drivers.
Most national parks are safe to visit and a holiday to Uganda isgenerally trouble-free. Kampala, the capital, is a relatively safecity, although visitors should take sensible precautions againstopportunistic crime and at night. Theft of EU passports has been onthe increase.
Due to the risk of banditry and attacks by other rebel groups,and tribal clashes, most foreign governments advise against travelto the northeast of Uganda. Travellers in the northwest near theborder with Sudan and the DRC are also at risk of banditry, andtravel outside of the main towns is to be avoided after dark.
Areas bordering Sudan in the north, the region known as WestNile in the north west (except Arua town, which can be visited byair), and the Karamoja region of north eastern Uganda are insecureand can pose a serious risk to travellers. Kidepo Valley NationalPark should be visited by air only. Gorilla trekking excursionsthat cross over into the DRC should be avoided.
Despite publicity in recent years, there has been no activity bythe Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda since 2006.
Visitors to Uganda are advised not to take photographs ofmilitary or official sites, including Owen Falls Dam. Homosexualpractices are frowned upon and public displays of affection shouldbe avoided.
Uganda has one of the fastest-growing economies and is one ofthe most liberal countries in Africa. Agriculture is the largestsector of the economy, with coffee being the chief export. Ugandais most welcoming for foreign investment and business is steadilyon the increase. Appointments should always be made prior tobusiness meetings. Formal dress attire is to be observed, and theshaking of hands is expected on introduction. Business is usuallyconducted in English. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pmMonday to Friday with an hour taken over lunch.
The international dialling code for Uganda is +256. There isextensive mobile phone network coverage over most of the country,and internet cafes are available in most large towns.
Travellers to Uganda over 18 years of age do not have to payduty on 250g of tobacco products; one litre of spirits or twolitres of wine; and 500ml of perfume or eau de toilette, of whichup to 250ml may be perfume.
Uganda Tourist Board, Kampala: +256 (0)41 342 196 orwww.visituganda.com
Uganda Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 7267100.
Uganda High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsiblefor Ireland): +44 (0)20 7839 5783.
Uganda High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 789 7797.
Uganda High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 3426031.
Uganda High Commission, ACT, Australia (also responsible for NewZealand): +61 (0)2 6286 1234.
United States Embassy, Kampala: +256 (0)41 259 791.
British High Commission, Kampala: +256 (0)31 231 2000.
Canadian High Commission, Nairobi, Kenya (also responsible forUganda): +254 (0)20 366 3000.
South African High Commission, Kampala: +256 (0)41 770 2100.
Australian High Commission, Nairobi, Kenya (also responsible forUganda): +254 (20) 4277 100.
Ireland Embassy, Kampala: +256 (0)41 771 3000.