Traveling to Uganda: What You Need to Know
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Deciding that you want to go on a safari in Uganda is the easy part. How cool would it be to visit the source of the Nile River or live a real-life adventure by going on a gorilla trekking safari in misty mountains? This is the stuff that adventure and wanderlust are made of!
But, if we’re being honest here, the preparation needed to make sure that you get the most of your travels in Africa can be quite taxing.
To help save you time planning your safari in Uganda, we’ve put together the only guide you’ll ever need. From the best time of year to visit and visa information to the vaccines needed and the activities you cannot miss, we’ve got you covered.
When is the best time to visit Uganda?
This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when planning a safari in Uganda. Thanks to its pleasant temperatures, Uganda is a year-round destination. But, of course, there are peak and low seasons that can make a world of a difference when taking crowds and budget into consideration.
Generally speaking, December to February, and June to mid-September are peak tourist seasons thanks to the drier climate. However, if you’re looking to go on a budget safari, you may consider traveling during the wetter time of the year.
Most rain falls in October-November and April-May, and you might see quite a drop in the cost of going on a safari, but this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to enjoy it. Low season means fewer crowds and more wildlife viewing. The only thing that you really need to consider, however, is to have very good rain gear for yourself and your camera.
What can I do in Uganda?
Now for the fun part! There is so much to see and do in Uganda that planning your itinerary can be a little overwhelming.
To make this process a little easier, here are the top 3 activities to do in Uganda:
One of the most popular and unique activities to do in Uganda is gorilla trekking.
If you have this activity on your bucket list, there are two places where you can find the endangered mountain gorillas in the country: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Should you plan to go on a gorilla trekking safari during the peak travel season, make sure to book the safari and gorilla permits well in advance. A limited number of permits are issued per day.
Are you looking to go on a gorilla trekking safari? Read our detailed article about what you need to know about gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Chimpanzee trekking can be just as exciting as gorilla trekking and comes at a cheaper cost.
The best chimpanzee trekking is in Kibale National Park, although there are other national parks which are home to these primates.
Chimpanzee trekking also requires a permit. While it is possible to go on a primate trekking safari year-round, the drier months (December to February, June, and July) are your best choice. However, this means you need to book the safari and permit in advance.
Unique wildlife spotting
Spotting gorillas and chimpanzees may be on most travelers’ bucket lists, but Uganda is home to other amazing and unique wildlife.
In Queen Elizabeth National Park, you can find the black-maned tree-climbing lions, one of the few lion populations known to constantly climb trees. Also, in this park, you can find the interesting (and weird looking) shoebill. Looking like it should belong in the prehistoric times, this solitary bird doesn’t resemble anything else you’ve ever encountered.
Is Uganda suitable for a family vacation?
Due to the restrictions put in place for gorilla and chimpanzee trekking, Uganda is not recommended for a family safari.
However, there is more to do in the country than just go primate trekking. You can visit Queen Elizabeth National Park to enjoy the wide variety of wildlife present here or see the gorgeous scenery in Murchison Falls National Park, which also happens to be home to four of the Big Five animals.
With that being said, kindly note that a variety of vaccines are required to visit Uganda and it is also recommended to take malaria pills. This makes the country not suitable for families with small children (under 5-6 years old), as it’s not advisable for them to take malaria medication.
Is a safari in Uganda expensive?
The cost of traveling is one of the biggest concerns for many people and one of the most common misconceptions is that the further you go, the more expensive it is.
The good news is that, depending on what your travel style is, you can still have an amazing holiday without breaking the bank. Generally, flights are the most expensive part of traveling but there are plenty of ways to find cheaper flights to almost every destination.
As for the other factors that influence the budget, here are some details as to what to expect when traveling to Uganda.
Photo credit: Wild Jungle Trails Safaris
Accommodation in Uganda is available for any budget and style. From budget campsites to mid-range and luxury lodges, you won’t have problems finding a place that suits your needs.
While Uganda is more suitable for the backpackers and those who prefer a less touristy country, it doesn’t lack luxury facilities either.
Gorilla and chimpanzee trekking are the two most popular activities you can do in Uganda. These activities are exclusively done through a walking safari, which is a great way to get up close and personal with these amazing primates.
And while self-drive safaris are considered the most affordable alternative, they are not recommended in Uganda. The roads in Uganda need more than just little improvement. So why not leave the driving for those accustomed to the country and choose a jeep-safari for your trip?
Private reserve vs national park
When you choose a private game reserve, it means you are opting for a more luxurious experience than if you were to stay in a national park.
However, one major benefit of staying in game reserves is the possibility to opt for night drives and off-road drives. Both activities are banned in national parks.
Also, because of the restrictions put in place regarding the number of vehicles and people allowed, you will enjoy a more private wildlife experience.
Almost all persons entering Uganda require a visa, which costs US$50 for a single entry. Nationals from some countries do not require a visa to enter the country. It is important to check with the Ugandan embassy in your country for the most updated visa information.
Although it is possible to obtain a visa on arrival, the Ugandan embassy highly recommends applying for one online before your travels.
Please note that there are no banks, ATMs or Forex bureaus before immigration. So, unless you got the e-visa beforehand, keep some cash on you while traveling.
Vaccines and medications
Vaccines are definitely one of the most vital parts of travel planning, and you want to make sure that you have all the needed documentation. If you’re traveling to Uganda, you will require vaccinations for hepatitis A, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and meningococcus.
The World Health Organization recommends additional vaccinations, including but not limited to hepatitis B, cholera, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, chickenpox, and influenza.
Another common ailment among travelers to this region is travelers' diarrhea, so be sure to pack medications to keep on hand in case you become ill. And don’t forget to ask your doctor about having malaria pills handy, too.
What should you pack for a safari in Uganda?
When packing for a safari in Uganda you need to remember that, although located on the equator, you’d be at a higher elevation than in other African countries. In the mountains, it is much cooler than at lower elevations and evenings are especially chilly.
Keeping in mind that gorilla trekking is the most sought-after activity in Uganda, here’s a list of what you should not forget to pack:
- Wide-brimmed safari hat
- Loose and comfortable safari clothing, in natural colors: long-sleeve tops, long trousers
- Lightweight waterproof hiking boots
- Safari rain jacket or poncho
- A sweater
- Effective insect repellent
- Waterproof day pack
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Garden gloves
There you have it. All the information you need to have an epic adventure is right in front of you! So, what are you waiting for? Go on an exhilarating budget safari in Uganda!