Travel advice for Uganda volunteers
Here is some very useful Uganda volunteering travel advice on culture and customs, what to pack for trips, food, flight booking, malaria safety, airports, language and much more!
What exactly is Ugandan culture?
One definition is that culture is “the way we do things around here”. You might find that African culture is an entirely different way of thinking and living, so there is a lot to consider while you are on a trip to Uganda. When in Africa, you must adjust, attempt to be at home in the culture and not think you will change it in the few days or weeks you are there. It is very important to respect local traditions and remember that you are a visitor in a foreign country.
You might need time to adjust to new and different types of food, try it – Fresh tropical fruits and vegetables are plentiful throughout the country. A wide range of dishes, both traditional and international, are served in the hotels and restaurants in Uganda. We will make sure that you have a variety of good food while on your visit with Msafiri Tours.
In Uganda, people treat animals differently. Sometimes it is lack of knowledge or the ability to care for them as you do in the west. Don’t play with dogs – they are mostly scavenging house guards and not playful pets. You may notice how skinny or sickly the animals look.
You may be called “big” (fat).
Do try not get offended; this is considered a compliment in a country where most people do not get enough to eat. On the contrary, it’s very offensive to say to someone, “Oh, you are really thin.”
Some of the people you meet will enjoy seeing pictures of your family and hometown. Be sure to take a few snapshots and postcards to show them. (Be sensitive of your audience’s feelings; your relative affluence may offend some people).
Travel as lightly
and as modestly as possible, without flashy expensive jewelery, gadgets and lots of luggage and bags. Carry only small bags that can be stowed on your lap.
You will arrive by air, landing at Entebbe International Airport. We shall pick you up from the airport on arrival and drop you back at the end of your visit. We operate comfortable fully insured buses and 4×4 vans which you will use throughout your time with Msafiri Tours.
You will need a visa to enter Uganda. It is advisable to acquire your visa in the UK before you travel. You’ll need a visa to enter Uganda. You can apply for a visa at the Ugandan High Commission in London or you can get visas on entry in Uganda at Entebbe International Airport.
You can find full details of how to apply on the website of the Uganda high commission London:
Check for entry requirements or apply online here:
Keep all of your documents in a safe place at all times.
Keep any medication and important papers in your carry-on bag. On long flights with multiple layovers (especially if flying via London, L.A. or other major airports), packing a fresh change of clothes is a good idea as bags may get delayed or lost on long haul, multiple stop flights. You don’t want to end up without essentials even if it is just for a few days.
We recommend that you do not drink tap water, only drink bottled water provided by Msafiri tours staff.
Several international banks operate in Kampala including Barclays bank, Standard Chartered bank and Stanbic bank. Many local banks and foreign exchange bureaus also operate across the country. Generally the banking hours are 8.30a.m to 4.00p.m – Monday to Friday, though some institutions are open longer hours and on Saturdays.
There are no longer restrictions on foreign exchange transactions and currency is easy to change. You can change dollars or pounds into local shillings very easily. We advise English visitors to take sterling, as you will get better value on exchanges. Travelers’ cheques are also acceptable but can sometimes take a lot of time to get exchanged.
Light summer clothing supplemented by a sweater or jacket should be sufficient. Usually dressing is informal. Cotton slacks and flat-heeled comfortable walking shoes are recommended on safari. Don’t forget to bring a hat for sun protection and a swimsuit. Umbrellas and windbreakers are recommended in the wet seasons. Refer to your booking pack for further information on what to wear.
Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most banks in the cities and towns. You can now use your visa card to draw money from your account in Europe or America. However, we advise that you take cash to be on the safe side.
The Shilling is the currency used in Uganda but some people will take dollars and pounds in cash. The exchange rates vary from time to time but are readily available from banks and Forex bureaus.
When buying from a street vendor or marketplace, exercise greater scrutiny. If a vendor’s booth is crowded, recommended by locals, has a means of refrigeration, and is open, meaning you can see how clean it is, then it is probably safe to eat there. In some cases, street vendors have achieved the vaulted status of preparing the best-grilled meats, samosas, roasted corn, or nuts in town.
On safari, your meals will be included in your package. Advise us about what you will and will not eat, if you’re a vegetarian or have food allergies. The main complaint on most safaris is that the food is so good travelers end up gaining weight. Don’t just stick to the Western-style food served in reputable hotels. Know your region’s specialty so you can sample it while there.
Certificates are required for vaccination against yellow fever on arrival at Entebbe Airport. It is advisable to start anti-malaria medications 10 days prior to arrival and continue with the same until 14 days after leaving Uganda. Our guests are also encouraged to make their own insurance arrangements for the time they will be in Uganda. You should consult your local Doctor or GP for advice on medication.
Be smart about malaria:
This is your biggest health risk in Africa, especially south of the Sahara. Rely only on advice from travel health specialists.
Visit the dentist before you go:
Who needs a lion-size toothache halfway along the safari path?
Protect yourself from insects:
Malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever are transmitted by bug bites. Cover up with clothes, use insect repellent, and sleep under a mosquito net.
Respect the heat:
Take time to acclimatize, drink plenty of bottled water, and take it easy in the heat of the day.
Bring sturdy footwear:
Sore feet can ruin a trip, and blisters, chafing and other injuries are common causes of major foot infections.
A well-stocked, sterile medical kit, including painkillers, blister ointment, and adhesive tape is vital. If you’re on an adventure trip, such as river rafting on the River Nile, consider getting basic first aid training first.
The official language is English though Swahili and Luganda are commonly spoken throughout in Uganda. Teach yourself some basic Luganda and Swahili words which can be found on our website.
Our general recommendation is to tip moderately – in accordance with the level and quality of service provided. The traditional gratuity to safari guides or camp staff is not included in the price of your tour but is completely discretionary. Beware of unscrupulous people who try to exhort extra payment from unwary passengers just for shuffling their bags around.
We advise that you always ask before you take anyone’s picture. For some, it is against their religion to be photographed.
Research your destination’s cultural history, environment, and geography before you go: you can never know enough. The better you understand a subject, the better you’ll be able to capture it in a meaningful way on film.
Interact with the locals.
By gaining their trust, you will be much more likely to capture the photograph you desire. You can also pick up valuable insights on cultural practices.
Precautions should be taken as in any major city. Unless safety deposit boxes are available in your hotel or lodge, always carry travel documents, travelers’ cheques, cash and other valuables with you at all times. We recommend that you do not walk late at night but instead take a taxi if you have to.
Be aware of your surroundings:
Remember that you’re a visitor from one of the world’s wealthiest countries traveling in one of the poorest places on earth, Travel as lightly and as modestly as possible, without flashy expensive jewelry, gadgets and lots of luggage and bags.
Don’t dangle camera bags or purses on the back of a restaurant chair:
You’ll invite snatching. Carry only small bags that can be stored on your lap during dinner or tucked away in your front pockets.
Avoid political gatherings or protests.
e smart – even if you’re curious, stay away. Both can turn violent quickly.
Avoid drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex:
Drugs and alcohol hinder your judgment. What’s more, unprotected sex – always a serious risk – is a game of Russian roulette in a continent where the AIDS epidemic is at its worst.0