Here are some Uganda Africa Volunteering Questions and Answers to help better prepare for your safari. Feel free to contact us at anytime if you have any more questions not covered here or if you need more clarification.
What are the accommodations in Uganda like? Uganda has up market safari lodges, tented camps and hotels all providing world class accommodations. There are a number of the world’s highest rated and most awarded hotels found in Uganda too. Rooms have proper beds with mattresses and duvets, en suite bathrooms, flush toilets, basins and showers with hot and cold running water. Other amenities include mosquito netting, lamps, purified water, insect repellent, flashlights, wardrobes, and ethnic furnishings. For those looking for the ultimate in luxury in Uganda, there are numerous properties where each presidential sized suite has its own swimming pool.
Our adventurous travellers interested in walking, gorilla trekking, canoeing, white water rafting or camping safaris and tours will have facilities that are more limited. In some cases, guests sleep on cots in dome tents and the camp toilet and shower are shared by group members. In other cases, guests may overnight under the stars.
Will we be “roughing it” if we stay at a luxury tented camp? Absolutely not! While staying at a luxury tented camp in Uganda you will enjoy the comfort of a proper room with the sights and sounds of camping – the best of both worlds. Most tented camp rooms consist of very large walk in tents with entry doors. Walls are canvas with large roll up viewing sections. Inside, you will enjoy a bed (usually 2 twin beds or a king) with pillows and duvets, bedside tables, dressing table, mirror, wardrobe, throw rugs or full carpeting, battery powered (solar) lighting, ensuite shower with hot and cold running water, flush toilet, and basin. Some tents include baths, air conditioning and private plunge pools.
Are children allowed on safari in Uganda? Most of the safari lodges and camps in Uganda have a minimum age limit of 12 years of age. There is however a number of great lodges and camps that allow children under the age of 12. Please contact our Msafiri Tours office for more information.
Who is “Msafiri Tours”? We are safari and tour consultants and travel agents who specialize in Uganda and other parts of East Africa. Our focus is on safaris, tours and trips for discerning travellers. We are not a big company nor do we want to be. We offer a number of group trips and we would be very happy to arrange a personalized safari or tour to fit your needs – this is our real passion! If we feel that you are looking for something we do not offer, we will happily suggest another Ugandan company more suited to handle your request.
We know Uganda and East Africa very well. We not only ensure that each safari, trip or tour meets the high standards we demand for our clients, it is our policy to regularly and personally visit every service provider we recommend, and many others besides. We also do this because we love Uganda.
Msafiri Tours is a member of the Uganda Association of Tour Operators (AUTO) which is recognized as a symbol of professionalism and integrity in Uganda and East Africa.
Do you provide references from people who have booked their Uganda safaris or tours with you? Requests for references are welcome – please inquire by email or by phone from our contact page on the website.
Who runs and guides the Uganda safaris and tours? We specialize in Uganda and offer a ground operation travel service which includes transportation, accommodation, food, actual tour and safari itineraries. Our team of professional tour guides and drivers lead the safaris.
We offer a wide variety of Uganda travel packages – some are group trips all tailor-made to suit our clients’ specific needs.
Who looks after us while on safari in Uganda? A very important element of travelling to a largely unknown destination is the peace of mind to know that you will be properly taken care before, during and after your trip.
While in East Africa, you will be met at each location and transferred from airports, to hotels to lodges and camps by Msafiri Tours representatives. Your Uganda Msafiri Tours representatives are on call 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have or to handle any eventuality – from medical emergencies to retrieving a bag that may have been left behind and having it delivered to your next destination. In this way, it is possible to travel with all the security of a packaged tour, but all the flexibility and privacy of an individual traveller.
Can’t we save money by booking direct with service providers in Uganda? Many people think they can save money if they book direct with a service provider like a hotel or driver in Uganda. This is not typically the case, especially when you factor in the extra time, effort and risk involved…If you book direct with individual lodges and camps in Uganda, they may offer you a discount but you may get stuck trying to figure out who is meeting you at the airport and who is driving you into the bush and so on…You also lose the security of having one company overseeing all of your arrangements on your tour in Uganda and the ability to make changes if they are necessary due to flight delays or other unforeseen problems.
What should we look for when choosing a travel agent to handle our Uganda tour plans? Here are a few very important things that we pride ourselves in when dealing with your safari or tour in East Africa. Whether you book with Msafiri Tours or another travel agency, make sure you work with a company that:
1) has hands-on knowledge. Whoever you book with should have extensive personal travel experience in East Africa. We know Uganda and East Africa very intimately. Each of our professional safari consultants is local or has lived in Uganda, Kenya or Rwanda for a very long time.
2) is prompt and reliable. Are calls answered? Are emails and phone messages replied to in a timely manner? Does the company offer a Ugandan phone number you can call? We are best known for our attentive service, attention to detail, and honesty.
3) can handle all of your travel arrangements including accommodations, transport, food etc. We can and it pays to have one company watching over your entire trip from start to finish.
4) is Uganda based / licensed / registered. Genuine travel companies in Uganda need to be members of the Association of Uganda tour operators (AUTO)
5) is friendly! Planning a trip to East Africa is an exciting process, made even more so when you are working with a travel agent who is both friendly and passionate about what they do! Call or email Msafiri Tours now and start planning your dream safari, school tour, gorilla trekking safari, or any other tour today!
Are there opportunities to meet with local people or visit real African villages? There are many opportunities for cultural interaction. We arrange tours to local schools, markets, and villages. Village visits may last a few hours or an overnight with your guide may be arranged. In some cases guests may participate in daily chores such as planting crops, brewing beer, or carrying water. From carrying firewood to sitting for hours around a smoky fire listening to stories, many people feel that their lives are forever changed by this experience. Please note that many safari camps and lodges are located in areas rich in wildlife but can be far from human settlement and offer no cultural interaction with locals.
ELECTRICITY / INTERNET / PHONES
Is there electricity? Electricity in Uganda and East Africa is 220/240 volts. Some safari lodges and camps in Uganda are not connected to a mains electrical supply. Solar lighting (backed up by batteries) is common, with many lodges having a generator which runs part of the day (morning and late evening while guests are partaking in activities). Lanterns also provide light at night. In most areas, you will not be able to use a hairdryer or electric shaver.
Will I be able to recharge my camera and video camera batteries? Yes – at nearly all hotels, lodges, and permanent tented camps, you will be able to recharge your camera and video batteries either in the rooms or in the main area. Many camps and lodges have the correct adapter plugs, but we still recommend that you bring your own plugs – plugs C and H for Uganda. Please make sure your electronic equipment switches automatically from 110 to 220 electricity (most do – it will say so on the plug or in the manual). If they do not switch automatically, a converter will be needed.
Is there internet access while on safari in East Africa? Internet access is available at most large city hotels, typically for a small fee. The majority of safari lodges and camps in Uganda do not have internet access (but some do).
Do cell or mobile phones work on safari in Uganda? Tri-band and quad-band cell phones work in most major Uganda cities and towns. However you must check to ensure your service provider has an agreement with the local provider. Keep in mind that most lodges and camps require guests to keep satellite phones turned off and use them only for outgoing calls so as not to disturb other guests. Also keep in mind the high per minute call rates.
What if a family member has to get hold of us about an emergency back home? The vast majority of hotels in East Africa have telephones and can be easily reached. Smaller safari lodges and tented camps are able to send and receive messages via radio. In an emergency, we suggest friends and family contact our office so we may assist.
ENVIRONMENTAL SUPPORT / WILDLIFE CONSERVATION
Does Msafiri Tours support Ugandan environmental and wildlife conservation initiatives?
Absolutely! And by booking a safari through Msafiri Tours, you are helping to conserve Uganda’s environment and wildlife. Msafiri Tours actively supports local conservation efforts. Our latest endeavor is the sponsorship of the children in the villages in Iganga District. We have also helped build Suubi Medical centre providing medical care to poor people in Busu village.
GETTING TO EAST AFRICA
Do you handle air tickets? Where should I purchase my air tickets? We are Unable to handle your air ticket arrangements but we have great contract rates with sister companies who can book flights for you.
What airlines fly to Uganda? Many of the major world airlines such as KLM, British Airways, Virgin, SN Brussels, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airways fly into Uganda several times a week.
When do I have to pay for the air tickets? Air tickets typically need to be purchased within 30 days of making a reservation.
HEALTH AND SAFETY CONCERNS
Is it safe to visit Uganda? Our number one concern is your safety. If we felt that travelling to Uganda was unsafe, we would not arrange tours to Uganda.
In general, petty theft is common in Uganda’s major cities and towns. Visitors should take the same care as they would normally take in any other destination worldwide. Keep a close watch on handbags, wallets, and cameras when walking in crowded places. Avoid walking at night and place valuables in safe deposit boxes at hotels.
While at safari lodges and tented camps, you are typically far removed from human settlement and crime is virtually non existent. We still advise that valuables be locked away in a room safe or kept under the supervision of the camp or lodge manager while on safari.
When planning a Uganda safari or tour, it is best to work with a company that has intimate knowledge of each destination – not just its wildlife and attractions but also its unique cultures, economy and government as safety issues often stem from these areas. We are based in Uganda and local knowledge is our strength.
Aren’t wild animals dangerous? While viewing wildlife, there is a degree of danger as the behaviour of wild animals cannot be guaranteed. However, most animals are frightened by the sight / smell of humans and rather than attack, will flee (unless cornered or provoked). Attacks on humans are rare.
While on safari in Uganda, you will be accompanied by licensed guides who are well trained and armed with an amazing understanding of the wildlife with which they share their lives on a daily basis. In addition, many guides carry firearms for your safety in Uganda.
At your tented camp or lodge, it is not uncommon for wildlife to wander through as camps and lodges are typically not fenced. An attack on a sleeping traveller in Uganda would be highly unusual. Never venture outside your accommodations at night without your guide. Always consult with your Msafiri Tours guides when in doubt.
What shots or medicines do we need before travelling to Uganda? The vast majority of travellers to Uganda return from their safaris and tours happy and healthy!
No matter where you travel in Uganda, a course of anti malaria tablets is essential and many doctors advise a dose of Hepatitis A vaccine. All childhood vaccinations should be up to date. We recommend that you visit with a local travel health specialist in your home town for further details.
What foods should we avoid in Uganda? What about drinking water? In the vast majority of cases, it is safe to eat all of the foods offered by lodges and camps as they take great care to ensure that food is prepared in a healthy manner. If you are really worried about contracting a “stomach bug” don’t eat salads, avoid ice cubes in drinks (many places use purified water for ice cubes – simply ask if you are concerned), and eat only fruits that have thick skins which are peeled (oranges, bananas).
It is wise to drink only bottled drinks which are readily available (ask that water is opened in front of you as they may try to reuse the container at some of the larger, lower quality, hotels). In addition, don’t swallow water during a shower and use purified water for brushing teeth. Don’t worry – bottled water is readily available.
Are there a lot of insects in Uganda? Most travellers in Uganda never see more than 4 or 5 mosquitoes a day. Depending on the season, there will be more insects, however for most travellers, the positive aspects of their safari experience far outweigh any annoyance caused by insects.
Do people speak English in Uganda? English is spoken widely throughout Uganda.
Can we have our clothes washed while on tour? The majority of safari lodges and camps we use in Uganda offer complimentary laundry service (some charge a small fee) weather permitting, however please note that undergarments are often excluded. You may wish to bring a small supply of liquid laundry soap (a small plastic travel bottle filled with Woolite works well for hand washing).
MEALS / DRINKS / SPECIAL DIETS
What types of food are served on safari in Uganda? The food served at most upmarket safari lodges and tented camps is of the highest quality. Gourmet cooks bake fresh breads, and produce soups, salads, and entrees that could easily grace tables at top restaurants around the world.
Meals are international in flavor with soups, salads, cold meats, pasta dishes, meat and fish dishes, and breads. Your day normally starts with tea and biscuits before your morning activity. Returning to your lodge or camp late morning, brunch is enjoyed – cereals, fruit, bacon, eggs, sausages, and toast are on offer as are salads, quiches and cold meats. Before your afternoon activities, tea and light snacks are served. Dinner consists of an appetizer followed by meat, fish and pasta dishes served with assorted vegetables and sauces.
What about special dietary needs (vegetarian, diabetic, no spicy foods)? Special diets are not a problem as long we know your needs in advance.
What drinks are available on safari? On most safaris, drinks are included in the all inclusive daily rate. This includes unlimited bottled water and soft drinks but local beers, wines and spirits are separate and have to be paid for by the client.
What type of baggage / luggage should we take? Luggage should be kept to a minimum. Most Uganda safaris limit you to 20 kgs / 44 pounds per person packed in a soft duffel bag. In East Africa, the limit is typically 15 kgs / 33 pounds per person. The number of bags is not as important as the total weight of your bags. It is ok to have a duffel and a small carry on bag. Hard sided suitcases and soft-sided internal frame carry on luggage (the type with a handle and wheels) are not acceptable as they will not fit in the baggage compartment on small aircrafts which are often used for transfers between lodges and camps. On safaris that have no small aircraft transfers, the weight and size allowance is not as important, however you should still strive to bring as little as possible. Remember – a complimentary laundry service is offered at most safari camps and lodges.
What types of clothes should we take on safari in Uganda? When on safari, it is best to wear grey, brown or khaki colored clothing during the months of June through October, and green clothing during the months of November through May so as not to alert wildlife of your presence. White (which gets dirty very fast) and other bright colors are definitely not recommended (blue actually attracts tetse flies – but not enough to worry about). Camouflage clothing is not allowed.
Bring comfortable clothes that are cool, but that can layer to keep you warm at night or on game drives. It is also advisable to bring a pair of sandals, comfortable walking shoes (tennis shoes), a swimsuit, and a hat to block the sun. There is no need for heavy boots.
Do I need to bring a sleeping bag on a camping safari? No, you do not… all camping equipment will be provided for you.
Are park fees included on my safari in Uganda? Park fees are almost always included in the overall trip cost. Your consultant will advise you if any park fees must be paid direct.
PASSPORT AND ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Do I need a passport? Yes! Most African countries require that you are in possession of a valid passport with an expiration date no less than six months after your return to your home country.
US citizens require entry visas for Kenya (purchase before travel US $50 per person), Mozambique (purchase before travel US $40 per person), Tanzania (purchase before travel US $100 per person), Zambia (purchase at border US $50 per person), and Zimbabwe (purchase at border US $30 per person). Entry visas are not required for Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, or South Africa.
RESERVATIONS AND TRIP PAYMENT
How far in advance should we plan and book our safari, trip or tour to Uganda? To ensure availability we suggest planning and booking your travel arrangements at least 12 months in advance.
How do we book a safari or tour with you? First, you need to contact our office in Uganda or the UK. We are available between 9am and 6pm weekdays. Call or email our office and let us know when you would like to travel, how many people will be travelling, and the trip you are interested in. If you would like to arrange a tailor-made trip, simply let us know your requirements and we will gladly make suggestions. With your input, we can easily design a tour that suits your needs.
We will then check availability (this takes 24-48 hours as we check and if space is available). We will make a provisional booking in your name. There is no obligation on your part at this stage.
Normally we can hold a provisional booking for 2 weeks within which time we will provide air ticket quotes and allow you to decide if you wish to confirm your bookings.
Reservations are confirmed on receipt by Msafiri tours of a 20% of the land cost non-refundable deposit per person. the deposit amount will be noted on each personalized itinerary.
Initial trip deposit / payment must be accompanied by completed terms and conditions / reservation form, liability release / assumption of risk agreement and insurance acceptance and booking forms. Each traveller must complete separate copies. Please contact our office for a copy of our booking forms.
Your trip deposit and / or final trip payment may be made by personal, business or certified check made out to ‘Msafiri Tours’ and posted to our office. You can also make a direct bank transfer. Our bank details will be provided on request. Upon receipt of your deposit, we will mail you a confirmation letter, invoice, and trip details including a travel checklist.
Your final trip payment is due 75 days prior to departure. If a reservation is made within 75 days of the trip departure, the entire cost of the trip must be paid at the time of confirmation. Upon receipt of final payment your paid invoice will be posted to your mailing address.
What if we have to cancel our African safari plans? All cancellations must be made in writing, signed by the client, to Msafiri Tours and all trips may be subject to the following cancellation charges, per person, based on the number of days before trip departure that we receive your written cancellation request:
More than 60 days: Loss of deposit
Between 30 and 60 days: 50% of trip cost per person
Less than 30 days: No refund of trip cost
We require all travellers to purchase comprehensive travel insurance, including trip cancellation and interruption coverage at the time of deposit.
UGANDA SAFARI TRANSPORT
How do we get around in Uganda? While on safari in Uganda, you will be transferred between lodges, camps, hotels, projects and different national parks by road,boat and air.
Air travel is the most convenient and preferred method of moving between destinations. Depending upon your choice of safari, you may travel by scheduled flights. The majority of commercial airlines use modern jet or turbo prop aircraft. Alternatively, guests may fly aboard smaller single, or twin engine charter aircrafts seating 6 to 12 people.
What types of vehicles are used on safari for wildlife viewing? In Uganda, most safaris are conducted in 4×4 vehicles with a guide, to sit 4 or 5 passengers all with window seats and roof hatches for game viewing. We also use open sided 4×4 vehicles for game viewing. Big groups will use mini buses but still with high windows for good viewing.
Wildlife may also be viewed from river power boats depending upon the National Park that is visited.
SHOPPING IN UGANDA
What is there to buy in Uganda? Shopping while on safari is limited. Often, lodges and camps have small crafts shops where you may purchase postcards, local goods such as carvings or books and clothing (hats, shirts). At airports and in larger towns, you will find crafts markets where you may buy all sorts of carvings, masks, drums, jewellery etc…In general, souvenirs and curios are inexpensive. Fun spirited bartering is the norm in Uganda.
In most cities, there are upmarket jewellers and art galleries where you can easily spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on Ugandan art. Most reputable shops offer shipping of your purchase at extra cost.
How much money should I bring to Uganda? Cash or travellers checks? Are credit cards accepted? You will need very little spending money on most safaris or trips as meals and activities are included in your package cost.
Credit cards may also be used in large towns at restaurants and shops with MasterCard and Visa being widely accepted. However, use may be restricted in small towns and country areas and non-existent in small retail shops. Please note that American Express is not commonly accepted in Uganda.
Please note that in Uganda, hotels, lodges, camps, restaurants and shops often charge a small fee for the use of a credit card.
Automatic teller machines (ATMs) are situated outside most banks in towns and cities in Uganda and international credit cards often can be used to withdraw currency. However, as Africa is unpredictable, please do not rely on ATM machines for your currency needs.
Should we purchase local currency? Most travellers do not need to change money into local currency as US dollars, British pound sterling and credit cards are widely accepted. Small bills (US $1, US $5, US $10, and US $20) are best.
How much should we tip? Who do we tip? How do we tip? Tipping at restaurants (at your discretion) is 10%. Tipping at lodges and camps is always welcomed but the amount varies greatly. As a rough estimate, you can tip $15 ( $10 for your guide and $5 for camp staff) for each traveller per day at each lodge / camp.
Do I need travel insurance for Uganda? All clients are required to purchase a comprehensive travel insurance plan upon booking. This should cover you for events that may occur before, or during travel, such as tour operator bankruptcy / financial default, trip cancellation, trip delay or interruption, terrorism, lost stolen or delayed baggage, emergency accident (before or during travel), sickness and evacuation of at least US $200,000 per person, 24 hour medical assistance, travellers’ assistance, and emergency cash transfer.
What is the weather like in Uganda?
In general, Uganda experiences dry weather during the months of January to February and June through October. There are two rainy seasons – the long rains which fall mid March through May and the short rains which arrive in mid October and continue until mid December.
Temperatures are moderate throughout the year with average daytime temperatures around 70 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Evenings and mornings are often chilly, with cold night times.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
When is the best time to travel to Uganda to view wildlife? The best wildlife viewing is during the dry season periods. Wildlife viewing is, in part, predicated on the amount of surface water available. During the rains, wildlife is scattered as there is abundant surface water (puddles, perennial rivers) to drink. Once the rains end, wildlife congregates around remaining surface water supplies (pools, lakes, and large rivers).
Why should I go on safari or tour to Uganda?
Uganda is one of Africa’s last outposts of raw adventure, a refuge from the modern world. From the splendor of the wildlife in parks, to endangered mountain gorilla and other primates, Uganda and its people offer a travel experience truly unlike any other.
I hope this list of Uganda Africa Volunteering Questions and Answers has helped. If you have any other questions, please contact us. We look forward to showing you Uganda.