Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose diverse landscape encompasses the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria. Its abundant wildlife includes chimpanzees as well as rare birds. Remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a renowned mountain gorilla sanctuary. Murchison Falls National Park in the northwest is known for its 43m-tall waterfall and wildlife such as hippos.
Capital: Kampala and largest city
Official languages: English (“the official language”), Swahili (“the second official language”)
Population: Estimate 37,873,253
Currency: Ugandan shilling (UGX)
Time zone: EAT (UTC+3)
Drives on the: left
Calling code: +256
Uganda, East Africa
Uganda first welcomed man way back in Stone Age times when primitive man- kind first walked the earth in Africa. In the heart of the African continent, Uganda truly can be said to embody the spirit of Africa.
Today Uganda welcomes visitors from all over the world who stirred by their imagination come to explore the enchanting country with its shimmering lakes and lofty mountains, our mysterious forests and game parks teeming with birds and increasing concentrations of all kinds of wildlife. The traditional attractions of our country have been boosted up-to-the-minute hotels and comfortable lodges, a wide range of tempting restaurants and all the modern facilities that a tourist now expects.
Getting to Uganda is so easy. Entebbe International Airport just 32 kilometers (20 Miles) from our Capital City Kampala is served by International carriers from Europe as well as service flights from Nairobi, Kigali, Cape Town and the African big cities providing connections with Africa’s biggest gateway.
Uganda is ideal for a voyage of discovery into the most enthralling Continents in the world. CNN, National Geographic Travel, Jovago and Lonely Planet and other online travel giants have all over the decade listed Uganda as among the top 20 destinations in the world. Our country presents a captivating combination of the wonders of nature, traditional customs and modern attractions. But above all other attractions is the welcome that comes from the heart of the Ugandan people.
If you’ve ever wanted to sit with mountain gorillas in their natural rainforest habitat then a Uganda safari will deliver on your expectations. Boasting a 90% success rate at finding habituated gorilla family groups in the extraordinary Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, gorilla trekking in Uganda has become one of Africa’s most powerful wildlife experiences and such is its success that the gorilla population is actually increasing.
But don’t think that a Uganda safari is only about gorillas in rainforests: this landlocked East African country is home to a range of diverse national parks and is a strong contender for one of the world’s best bird watching destinations. Head for Murchison Falls or Queen Elizabeth National Park for classic big game viewing, chimpanzee trekking and river cruises.
Kibale, in southern Uganda, forms a massive wildlife corridor with Queen Elizabeth National Park that is used by migrating elephants in search of water. A mixture of tropical rainforest, swamp and grasslands, Kibale supports Africa’s biggest population of chimpanzees as well as at least a dozen other primate species. It is a top destination for those wanting to trek primates, including gorillas, and with over 320 recorded bird species, is also a haven for twitchers.
A green, hilly and elevated country with many lakes and mountains, Uganda’s appeal lies in its simplicity. Infrastructure is limited but growing and there is now a good range of safari accommodation and city-based hotels. Ideal for seasoned safari-goers, bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts, Uganda’s star is on the rise – combine it with Kenya or Tanzania for a holistic East African safari experience.
Best Uganda Accommodation
Most famous for the mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest as well as safari destinations like Kibale, Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks, Uganda’s accommodation is concentrated around the wildlife hotspots in the south and west of the country. Generally smaller, more intimate and not as luxuriously opulent as their Kenyan or Tanzanian equivalents, lodges and camps in Uganda nevertheless deliver friendly service, plenty of comfort and good food.
Our selection of Uganda accommodation ranges from affordable tented camps to luxury lodges – if you need help, just contact one of our African Safari Experts for advice on choosing the right accommodation for your requirements.
Uganda Travel Advice
There’s nothing like up-to-date, relevant travel information direct from the experts – get Savannah explore’s essential Uganda travel advice before you go.
Money & Spending
Uganda’s unit of currency is the Uganda Shilling and you’d be advised to get some on arrival as it is far easier to buy drinks, curios and meals in the local currency when travelling between destinations.
US Dollars are widely accepted throughout the country though note that cash is best: traveller’s cheques and credit cards can be used at most lodges and in Kampala but attract hefty transaction fees.
Tipping of around 10 – 15% is customary in Uganda for good service. Tips are usually given in Uganda Shillings or US Dollars. If you are doing a gorilla trek, tipping is at your discretion – your porter (if you choose to take one) should usually receive the highest tip, with a second tip distributed between your guides, trackers and security personnel.
For in-depth tipping guidelines, enquire with one of our Africa Safari Experts – they’d be happy to share their knowledge with you.
Average year-round temperatures: 14°C to 27°C
Rainy seasons: March to May and September to December
Refer to “best time to visit Uganda” for climate charts and advice on the best times of year for gorilla trekking.
What to Pack
During the day, temperatures in Uganda are generally warm so pack plenty of lightweight clothing. If you are going gorilla trekking, pack long trousers and long-sleeved tops, long socks to wear over your trousers as protection against ants, a pair of light gloves to protect against nettles, a hat and a raincoat.
A pair of sturdy, comfortable hiking boots is most important – try to break these in before your trip rather than wearing them brand new as you’re likely to get blisters.
The mountains tend to be cold and damp so pack according to the altitude – a change of clothes and a warm fleece in your day pack, along with sunscreen and insect repellent are advised.
Flights & Getting Around
Did you know you can book your flights through Savannah Explore? For more information and frequently asked questions, please see our Flights section.
Entebbe International Airport: located 35km from Kampala, Entebbe is Uganda’s international gateway. Visitors usually arrive via Nairobi.
Flying by private charter aircraft is very expensive in Uganda – most travellers use road transfers with mini buses or, preferably, 4X4 vehicles.
Despite Uganda’s small size, infrastructure is limited and roads are often in poor condition; expect long days in vehicles when driving between destinations, especially in the rainy season. Game drives in the national parks are generally conducted in open-sided 4X4s.
Visa & Passport Requirements
All visitors to Uganda require a visa and every visitor’s passport must be valid for at least six months from their departure date. Visas for Uganda can be obtained at all major borders as well as at the international airport at Entebbe. Single and double-entry visas are valid for up to three months at a cost of around US $30 and extensions are available at the immigration office in Kampala.
History & Economy
Settled for at least 50 000 years, Uganda’s indigenous people included the pygmoid Batwa, a hunter-gatherer society displaced by the arrival of Central African cattle herders and farmers. The development of political dynasties resulted in a sophisticated pre-colonial history and by the time Arab and European explorers, traders and slavers reached the region, the Buganda Kingdom was well established. Colonised by Britain, independence came in 1962 but it was only in the mid-1980s, after the catastrophic regimes of Milton Obote and Idi Amin, that Uganda experienced social stability and economic growth.
Fertile soils and regular rainfall mean an economy built around agriculture. Cash crops such as coffee, tea and tobacco dominate the export market but most agriculture in Uganda is subsistence farming, occupying some 75% of the workforce. Significant mineral, gas and oil deposits are set to be exploited in the future while tourism has proved to be an ever-growing sector of the economy.
People & Culture
Uganda’s 34 million people are concentrated in the country’s better watered south and west with the Kampala-based Baganda the largest of the country’s many ethnic groups. Some 40 regional languages exist but Swahili and English are Uganda’s official languages. Religious belief is overwhelmingly Christian-based though Islam is strong in Uganda’s Asian communities. It should be noted that Ugandans hold their ancestry in high regard.
Uganda is a conservative country and visitors would do well to adhere to local rules of behaviour. That said, visitors often remark on the friendliness and politeness of the locals: greetings are an elaborate affair and may include inquiries as to the health of your family – perfunctory greetings and a demand for immediate action are somewhat frowned upon!
Landscape & Wildlife
Lying in a basin between the eastern and western branches of the Rift Valley, Uganda’s elevated position means a more temperate climate than its equatorial location might suggest. Most of the country is over 1 000m in altitude and relatively flat apart from the forested mountain ranges that often define its borders. One of Africa’s most well-watered countries (25% of Uganda is covered by lakes, rivers and wetlands) the landscape is lush and green for most of the year though northern Uganda grades into semi-desert.
Such a setting makes for staggering biodiversity. Uganda’s montane and lowland forests are home to mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and other forest animals while its savannah parks – Queen Elizabethand Murchison Falls – offer classic game viewing, though not on the scale of Kenya or Tanzania.
Uganda wildlife highlights include gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest, chimpanzee encounters in Kibale Forest and bird watching – with over 1 000 recorded species, Uganda is one of the world’s top birding destinations.