All the facts you need to know about the country itself.
Full Country Name Republic of Uganda
Area 241,038 sq km
Population 39.66 million (UN 2015)
Capital and largest City Kampala
Borders Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formally Zaire), Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Tanzania
Religion Most common is Christianity followed by animist and Muslim
Time Zone Standard time is three hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time
Languages English is the official language, with Swahili, Luganda and other Bantu languages also spoken
Country Dialling Code +256
Winston Churchill called Uganda ‘the pearl of Africa’, presumably basing his opinion on the country’s great natural beauty. From the moment the visitor lands it is clear that Uganda is no ordinary safari destination.
Dominated by a century old botanical garden alive with the chatter of acrobatic monkeys and colourful tropical birds, Entebbe itself is the least obviously urban of all comparably sized African towns.
Just 40 kilometres away, sprawled across seven hills, there is the capital Kampala. The bright modern feel of this bustling, cosmopolitan city reflects the ongoing economic growth and political stability that has characterised Uganda since 1986. Since the late 1980s, the nation has managed to move on from the abyss of civil war and the economic catastrophe of the Idi Amin days.
Uganda is where the East African savannah meets the West African jungle. In this lush country, one can observe lions prowling the open plains, track chimpanzees through the rainforest undergrowth, then navigate tropical channels teeming with hippos and crocs before setting off into the misty mountains to stare deep into the eyes of a mountain gorilla.
- There are an estimated 20 gorilla families living in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, approximately 400 gorillas in total.
- 9 of these families are the ones that you will see on a trek in Uganda, approaching from four separate Park Gates in the forest. Read on for a Comprehensive Guide to Gorilla Trekking
- Gorilla Pemits
Here is the “need to know” information about visas for Uganda.
DO I NEED A VISA TO TRAVEL TO Uganda?
- At the time of writing, a visa for Uganda is required for Australian passport holders.
WHAT IS THE COST Of a UgandAN VISA?
- Single Entry Visa: USD 100 per person on an Australian passport.
- East African Tourist Visa: USD 100 per person on an Australian passport.
How do I apply for a Ugandan Visa?
- The visa must be applied for online (visas.immigration.go.ug).
- On completion and submitting the application, travellers will receive a bar coded email notification.
- On arrival at any border post, airport or land borders, your email must be presented and the bar code will be scanned into the immigration system. A visa sticker will be printed, including a scanned in picture to be inserted into the passport on payment of the respective visa fee.
- Visitors must also be in possession of onward travel documents and have sufficient funds for the duration of their stay.
- It is important to have two blank pages side by side in your passport for the entry and exit stamps to be issued. If there is insufficient space, entry into the country may be denied
Please double check this with Bench Africa or your travel agent as this may change at any time.
The Climate in Uganda
The Climate in Uganda
Uganda has a typically tropical climate with little variation in temperatures throughout the year. Distinctive wet and dry seasons characterise the climate of most of the country, except in the semi-arid north east.
Peak Season: January to March / June to October
Predominately Uganda has a tropical rainforest climate, which means that even when you travel in the “dry season” you will still encounter rainfall.
Advantages to travelling to travelling to Uganda in the peak season
- This is when temperature is most pleasant and there is less rain
- This is the best time to track gorillas as the terrain is easier to tackle when there is less rain
Disadvantages to travelling to Uganda in the peak season
- Prices are higher at this time of year
Green Season: April / May / November
The rainy season in Uganda brings more rain but most days will have some sunshine too.
Advantages to travelling to travelling to Uganda in the green season
- Gorillas tend to move further down the slopes so the treks during the rainy season can be shorter
- Excellent value for money . Properties offer discounts of up to 30% of what they would usually charge
- The price of a gorilla permit is almost halved
Disadvantages to travelling to Uganda in the green season
- The trek will more than likely be muddy and wet – more so than usual Forest trails can be in poor condition
What you need to know about your finances for your holiday in Uganda.
- The unit of currency is the Ugandan Shilling.
You Should know...
- When changing money, US Dollars cash is the preferred currency.
- Any dollar bills taken must not be tattered or torn, and should not have been issued prior to 2006.
- It is difficult to change money outside Kampala.
- Credit cards are not widely accepted and not all lodges will take them.
- Small local purchases such as souvenirs and drinks will definitely have to be paid for in local currency.
Although electricity in Africa is a lot more reliable than it used to be, here’s what you need to be aware of.
Voltage & Frequency
- In Uganda the general voltage is 240 and the frequency is 50 Hz. The British three rectangular blade plugs are common.
- Electricity in most camps is provided by generators.
- Batteries may be recharged in the camp during the day but it is wise to double check with the camp manager.
- As the sockets can vary a ‘Travellers Adaptor Set’ is recommended.
- Voltage sometimes fluctuates and whilst power cuts are rare, they are not unknown. It is useful to carry a torch.
Travelling by road in Africa may seem daunting to some so we have put together some information so that you know what you can expect.
- Please note that road surfaces vary from tarmac, gravel, sand and occasionally vehicles may travel “off road”.
- Additionally, if visiting remote areas or National Parks and Reserves, the roads may well be rough, bumpy and in a poor condition and may be affected by adverse weather conditions.
- Road travel in Africa can be a risky business. We cannot stress enough how important it is that you travel with a reputable ground operator, who has strictly enforced guidelines regarding speed and road safety.
- We have spent the best part of 50 years assessing the ground operators in each country that we sell.
- In booking through Bench you know that you will be the safest that you can be!
- Recommended Reading
Tipping is a delicate and sensitive issue and many people ask us for tipping guidelines, here is all the information you should require.
Tipping is usually considered customary in Africa although not as widespread as the United States or Europe. It is always at your discretion. If you feel that someone has gone the extra mile to make your stay more enjoyable, a tip would be considered a nice way of saying thank you.
To help you budget for your trip, the following is given as a guideline only (shown in US Dollars):
Driver (per person per full day): $5.00
Guide (per person per full day): $5.00
Gorilla Guides –
Main Guide (per person): $20.00
Gorilla Porter (per person): $20.00
Cooks/Camp Assistance (Ngamba Island): $5.00
Hotel Porter (per bag): $1.00
Restaurant (per person per meal): $1.00
A la Carte dining (% of the bill): 10%
Here are some numbers you might need.
High Commission of the Republic of Uganda
11 Ngunawal Drive, O’Malley, ACT 2606, Australia
Tel: +61 2 6286 1234 or 6290 7300
Consulate of Uganda
Level 28, 1 Market Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia
Tel: +61 2 9265 3061
Tel: +61 2 9389 0906 (After hours)
Australian Consulate in Kampala
Plot 40, Kyadondo Road, Nakasero (opposite Nakasero Hospital) Kampala, Uganda
Tel: +256 31 2515 865
What to Pack
What to Pack
Here we have listed our recommendations of what you should pack for your gorilla trek in Uganda.
- Formal clothing is generally not needed throughout most of Africa. We recommend that you limit your luggage to the basics. More formal attire is usually only required when staying in the more prestigious city hotel establishments and on luxury rail journeys such as Rovos Rail or the Blue Train, in South Africa.
- On a wildlife safari, casual cotton clothing is the most practical. Calm neutral colours such as tan or khaki are a good idea although a bush outfit is not essential.
- Some form of headgear is recommended, and sunglasses are essential. A warm fleece or jacket is advisable for colder evenings and early mornings. A lightweight raincoat may be useful as some seasonal rains can occur.
- Heavy footwear is not required, but sturdy, comfortable walking shoes or boots are recommended for nature walks, with a change of shoes (such as trainers) for the camp.
- The dress code is informal at all of the camps and it is advisable to bring long sleeved shirts and trousers for the evenings to minimise insect bites.
- Good laundry facilities are readily available at many hotels, game lodges and camps, and often on a complimentary service where the amount of luggage is restricted. However, on a busy itinerary it is advisable to check that your clothes will be ready before your departure.
- It is always a good idea to dress in layers on activities to accommodate the early morning and late afternoon change of temperature. Winter months will definitely require a warm jacket and perhaps a beanie, gloves and a scarf.
- It is worth investing in a pair of gardening gloves for the gorilla trek.
- If your trip contains any light aircraft flights, then you may be subject to some very strict baggage restrictions. You will be limited to a certain weight, often between 15–20 KG. Bags also have to be soft-sided cases so that they can fit in the hold. These restrictions cannot be avoided, as there simply is not the capacity on these small planes so bear this in mind when you are packing for your Africa trip.
- Hat for protection from the sun
- Good quality sunglasses preferably polarized
- Camera, charger and adaptor
- If you wear contact lenses, we recommend that you bring along a pair of glasses in case of dust irritation.
- Good walking shoes, trainers as well as sandals
- Socks (long socks, if you are doing a gorilla trek)
- Long trousers/slacks
- T-shirts/long-sleeved cotton shirt for cooler evenings
- Sweater/fleece/raincoat. These may be required for early morning and late afternoon game activities throughout the year.
- Lip balm
- Sports bra – ladies, you may need this for bumpy game drive
- Swimming costume
- Basic medical kit (aspirins, elastoplasts, Imodium, antiseptic cream etc
- Malaria tablets AND anti-histamine cream
- Insect repellent (many lodges do supply sprays)
- Protective suntan lotion particularly for pale and sensitive skins
- Tissues or ‘wet wipes’
- Garden gloves for the trek
Here are some guidelines for travelling by light aircraft in Uganda.
- Please ask the local operator at your hotel/lodge to reconfirm all onward flights prior to departure to ensure the flight timings are still correct.
- Most departure taxes (domestic and international) are included on tickets, however some regional and private airports have taxes to be paid for locally.
General Luggage & Weight Restrictions on Light Aircraft
- The maximum baggage allowance on the light aircraft utilized for transfers between game lodges is 15kg per person in a soft bag. This includes photographic equipment and hand luggage.
- Only soft bags will be accepted – no wheels, frames or rigid structures can be transported, as they physically cannot fit into the aircraft.