Facts About Uganda
President: Yoweri Museveni (since 1986)
Land Area: 236,000 sq km
Population: 44.27 million (2019)
Life Expectancy: 63 years
Population growth: 3.32% (1950-2021)
Adult Literacy: 76.53% (2018)
Time: GMT/UTC +3 hours
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz, Socket format is 3 pin as used in the United Kingdom.
Weights & measures: Metric
Currency: Uganda Shilling (UGX)
National Symbole: Crested Crane
Language: English is official, Swahili and other 56 dialects
Value Added Tax: 18%
Visas: Please read document VISAS
Mobile Phone dialling codes
- MTN Uganda 0770 – 779 and 0780 – 789 000 000
- Airtel Uganda 0700 – 706 and 0750 – 759 000 000
- Uganda Telecom 710 – 719 000 000
- Africell 0790 – 794 000 000
- Smile Communications 0720 000 000
Fixe lines dialling codes
- MTN Uganda 0300 000 000
- Uganda Telecom 0400 000 000
- Airtel 0207 and 0204 000 000
- Africell 0200 and 201 000 000
- Smile Telecom 02025 – 2029 000 000
Free calls dialling codes
- MTN Uganda 0800 2xx xxx
- Uganda Telecom 0800 1xx xxx and 0810 1xxxxx
- Airtel 0800 3xx xxx and 0800 707 xxx and 0800 777 xxx
- Africell 0800 900 xxx
Area Name – Area Code
Add a prefix zero when dialling in Uganda
Arua – 476
Bombo – 414
Bushenyi – 485
Busia – 454
Entebbe – 414
Fort Portal – 483
Hoima – 465
Iganga – 434
Jinja – 434
Kabale – 486
Kakira – 434
Kalisizo – 481
Kampala – 414
Kamuli – 496
Kapchorwa – 454
Kasese – 483
Kisoro – 486
Kumi – 454
Lira – 473
Lugazi – 414
Luwero – 414
Malaba – 454
Masaka – 481
Masindi – 465
Mbale – 454
Mbarara – 485
Mityana – 464
Mpigi – 414
Rukungiri – 486
Semuto – 414
Soroti – 454
Tororo – 454
Wobulenzi – 414
Social media chat and email are the easiest way to contact people at home, much cheaper than the telephone and almost instantaneously.
Let’s assume that you already have an email address or subscribe to chat platforms like Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, and any other quick chat that uses the internet to connect you to your family back home. If not, it’s probably worth setting up a temporary address with Outlook, Yahoo, or any other similar free facility for the duration of your Uganda safari trip and giving out that address to anybody who might want to contact you.
With every mobile phone able to connect to the internet today, you won’t have to hustle connecting to the internet or looking around towns for cafes (which are plenty, by the way). At least every modern place you’ll be spending your dollar will have a free wifi hotspot; usually, the manager has the password, or it’s written on a sticky note somewhere.
Remember to carry your phone charger and travel adapter; we use 220 volts of electricity in Uganda. Ensure that you’ve set up your voicemail box for remote access. If you are a prepaid customer, you may want to load or carry sufficient airtime credit to last your roaming duration.
Wireless Internet Hotspots
Recently activated ‘hotspots’ in Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja have instantly transformed restaurants and hotel lobbies and gardens into ‘free-range cyber cafés’ to the delight of visitors from abroad and the local aficionados.
Major Health Risks
Bilharzia, HIV/AIDS, trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), malaria, yellow fever.
When to Go
December to late February, the weather at this time of year is generally dry (though hot).
June to mid-August period.
The Ugandan shilling is on a continuous slide against all major currencies. However, it is a fully convertible currency, but you may have difficulty finding USD cash to buy in Kampala at times, with huge denomination bills.
If you are prepared to accept old bills (100, 50) and small denominations, you may find it easier. At this time, you would be advised to change only what you need on a day-to-day basis when spending time in Kampala and then changing enough for your expected expenditure for your anticipated journey.
Forex bureaus offer better rates than the banks. Do not expect to find forex bureaus at border posts and in all major towns. Border posts are street money changers where care should be taken and rates lower than in Kampala. If you think the rate you are getting from a moneychanger appears to be very high, you are about to rip off and look elsewhere to change money.
USD bills are only accepted if printed after and including 2001. They must be in good condition, not torn and preferably large denominations of the new style bills. Old bills before 2001 are regarded as very suspect, and some bureaus may not accept them.
There have been numerous instances where the Uganda shilling has been counterfeited. It is usual that the silver strip is missing on such bills and has affected only the larger bills of 20,000, 10,000 and 5,000-shilling denominations. The Uganda Shilling is available in note form in 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 Shilling denominations. Uganda Shilling notes 50, 100, 200 and 500 are no longer legal tender. These notes have been withdrawn and replaced by coins of the same denominations. Beware that when dirty and in poor light, Uganda Shilling notes of 10,000 and 1,000 denominations can look very similar and easily mistaken.
Travellers’ cheques are rarely accepted for change outside of Kampala/Entebbe. Rates for Travelers’ Cheques are always significantly lower than for cash. US dollars cash in large bills are the preferred currency; British pounds sterling is also highly regarded. Kenyan shillings are readily exchanged. South African Rands, as in all places outside of South Africa, attain a cheap rate. American Express has an office in the Kampala Sheraton but will not cash USD traveller’s cheques for US$ cash. Rates for small USD bills 1,5,10,20 are 20% less than you will get for 50 & 100$ bills.
Credit cards are accepted only at larger hotels and restaurants and certainly not outside of Kampala and Entebbe. Drawing money against your credit card is possible only through Barclays in Kampala.
For those wishing to use their personal Auto Banks cards to obtain money from Auto Teller machines, Standard Chartered have an Auto Teller at the Airport. This machine only accepts VISA cards with a maximum withdrawal of Ushs800,000- (US$450-) per day. Auto Tellers at most of the major banks in Kampala and some large petrol stations in the city. Not all Auto Tellers will dispense cash to International bank cards, unfortunately. Barclays Bank in Kampala is the only bank that provides cash advances against Credit cards.
Suppose you are with a vehicle in Kampala and are concerned about leaving your vehicle unattended when making your forex transaction go to the Grand Imperial Hotel. You can safely park your car in view whilst changing your money in the Shumuk Forex Bureau kiosk adjacent to the hotel’s main entrance. All vehicles are parked inside a 24hour security barrier. The same can be said if you are on foot and feel anxious about making your forex transaction.
You won’t be expected to tip in Uganda. Bargaining is the norm when buying things from a market, street stall or craft shop.
Both Muslim and Christian holidays are celebrated.
New Years Day- 1st Jan
Good Friday- variable
Easter Monday- variable
NRM Anniversary Day- 26th Jan
International Women’s Day- 8th Mar
Labor Day- 1st May
Uganda Martyr’s Day- 3rd Jun
National Hero’s Day- 9th Jun
Independence Day- 9th Oct
Christmas Day- 25th Dec
Boxing Day- 26th Dec
Iddi Adhuha- variable
Government offices are open from 08h00 to 16h30, Monday to Friday, closing for lunch from 13h00 to 14h00.
Bank hours vary from bank to bank, but most are open from 08h30 – 14h30 Monday to Friday. Only some are open on Saturdays.
Shops are generally open from 08h00 to 17h00, Monday to Friday and 08h00 to 13h00 on Saturdays.
While driving in Uganda, the following documentation is required at all times: a) Vehicle registration book b) Vehicle certificate of Insurance (Heavy fines are imposed for driving an uninsured vehicle) c) International or Domestic drivers license Note: Commercial vehicles not registered in Uganda require a permit to operate in Uganda.
Rules of the Road
In Uganda, you drive on the left-hand side of the road. The general speed limit on national highways is 100km/h and 65 km/h in urban built-up areas unless otherwise indicated.
To bring a vehicle into Uganda, one must obtain a temporary import permit (available at the border) or, depending on the vehicle’s country of origin, a Carnet de Passage. If the driver is not the vehicle owner, they must have a letter of authorisation from the owner for the use of the vehicle in Uganda. You will be required to obtain 3rd party insurance unless you already have a Comesa Yellow Card insurance. 3rd party insurance for a Landcruiser is about US$20- for one year.
Some border ‘scams’ played out and targeted travellers with their vehicles crossing from Kenya to Uganda through Malaba and Busia. The scam involves a Uganda Revenue Authority officer, a Clearing Agent and an Inland Car Depot Manager. It is usual to be confronted by a sea of Clearing Agents wanting to help/assist you with importation formalities for the vehicle to cross the border. The Clearing Agent advises you a bond will have to be paid to import the car, and the car will be put into an ICD outside of Kampala until insurance against the bond is taken out. The vehicle is escorted to the ICD until the insurance is paid.
This exercise is not necessary should you be travelling with a Carnet de Passage. For those with a Carnet, this is your bond/surety, and a local bond is not necessary if it is not your intention to permanently import the vehicle. Temporary Import Permits are available for and can be obtained for US$20- at the border for cars from countries that Uganda has a reciprocal arrangement with. This includes all neighbouring territories.
Should it not be your intention to import the vehicle permanently, you do not require the services of a Clearing Agent, and you would be well advised to refuse their assistance and clear the car yourself.
Vehicles from neighbouring territories have no problems obtaining a Temporary Import Permit at any of the land borders with Uganda. Cars with South African number plates are advised to travel with a Carnet when coming to Uganda. Kenya no longer permits SA registered vehicles to enter Kenya without a Carnet. The only way SA registered vehicles can arrive in Uganda by avoiding Kenya is via the Mutukulu border with Tanzania or via Rwanda.
The is an office of the Automobile Association in Kampala on the road behind the Equitorial Hotel off Kampala Road who may be able to advise if you find yourself having to secure a bond against the temporary importation of a vehicle.