LOCATION AND SIZE
Uganda is a landlocked country astride the Equator, about 800 kilometers inland from the Indian Ocean. It lies on the northwestern shores of Lake Victoria, extending from 1 south to 4 north latitude and 30 to 35 east longitude.
Uganda is bordered by Tanzania and Rwanda to the south, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the west, South Sudan to the north, and Kenya to the east. With a land surface of 241,139 square kilometers, Uganda occupies most of the Lake Victoria Basin, which was formed by the geological shifts that created the Rift Valley during the Pleistocene era. The Ssese Islands and other small islands in Lake Victoria also lie within Uganda’s borders. Ecologically, Uganda is where the East African Savannah meets the West African jungle.
Weather and Climate
Uganda has the gift of holiday weather all year around! There are two reasons: one is its location on the Equator and the other is its elevation. Both of these give Uganda the gift of perfect weather.
The majority of the country has a tropical climate which varies according to altitude. The hottest months are from December to February when the temperature reaches 29 degrees Celsius while rainy seasons are from April to May and October to November. The wettest month is traditionally April (although global warming is making this less predictable). Even during the two rainy seasons, the sun is out most of the time and rain often occurs with a most delightful thunderstorm. When it rains, it pours – but soon the sun’s rays have dried up the earth once again.
Temperatures in some parts of the country can be quite cool owing to the country’s high altitude, despite its position on the Equator. The mountain areas become much cooler and the tops of Mount Elgon and Rwenzori Mountains are often covered in snow. Other parts of the country are much warmer.
Uganda has the world’s youngest population with a median age of 15. The country’s estimated population in 2010 was 33 million.
People and Culture
Uganda has a very strong cultural heritage. It is composed of many regions, each with different cultures. The recent restoration of kingdoms has boosted cultural sites. These include Buganda, Busoga, Bunyoro and Toro. Ugandans hail from a diversity of rich cultures and life styles and are remarkably hospitable. Each tribe has its own traditional dance; the Banyankole perform their Kitaguriro dance, the Banyoro have their Runyege, Acholi have the Bwila and Otole dances. The Alur have the Agwal dance and the Bagisu have the Imbalu dance during the biennial circumcision ceremonies.
Culture and traditions are also expressed through a wide range of arts and crafts made from wood, papyrus reeds and local materials. These include blacksmith implements, beaded jewelry, wood carvings and batiks. They can be found all over the city in village bazaars, gift shops, hotels, urban galleries, the National Theatre and Baganda Road craft markets. While on your Uganda travel or safari, consider taking a cultural tour. Community tourism involves local people and your tourist dollars can go a long way in helping lift them from poverty.
Uganda is a fast growing tourist destination ‘Gifted by Nature.’ Political stability, hospitable communities and a high quality range of wildlife products offered at a competitive price, provide an awesome holiday experience.
While the cultural diversity and effortless warmth of Ugandan people are remarked upon by all who visit the country, most itineraries revolve around the protected areas under the direction of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). These are magnificent. They encompass not only the conventional Savannah – mesmerizing tracts of African bush teeming with antelope, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, zebra, forest hogs and big cats – but also the snowcapped peaks of Africa’s tallest range of mountains, tropical rain forests of mind boggling biodiversity, and atmospheric lakes and rivers heaving with hippos, crocodiles and birds.
As yet untouched by mass tourism, Uganda’s parks are ideal retreats for the discerning eco-tourist. Uganda is the world’s premier primate viewing destination, home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas, large populations of chimpanzees and a dazzling variety of monkeys. For bird lovers, Uganda is practically peerless: it has a record of more than 1,060 bird species, 50% of the continent’s species. Each park offers a memorable experience!
How to get to Uganda
Uganda has several Airlines flying in and out of the country. Kampala’s international airport is Entebbe. Scheduled airlines flying to Entebbe include: Air Burundi, Air Rwanda, Air Tanzania, British Airways, SN Brussels, East African Airlines, Emirates, Gulf Air, South African Airways, KLM, Kenya Airways, Rwandair Express, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Eagle Air and United Arab Airlines both Direct flights from Europe and from other African countries.
Buses and taxis are available from the airport to the city. Wide networks of buses/taxis run throughout the country connecting almost every town. Within Kampala, taxis, special hire taxis and motor bikes provide transport within the city and its suburbs. These are found on major roads in the city center, as well as the two taxi parks. The journey time is approximately 30 minutes and fare is about $20USD.
By water: ferry services operate from Tanzania, Mwanza to Port Bell, on Lake Victoria.
There are several airstrips within the country; this has made flights to tourism destinations very accessible. Examples of airstrips can be accessed in destination areas to include Kidepo, Queen Elizabeth, Murchison falls and more airstrips are almost in every part of the country national airport or at any overland boarder.
Passport and Visas
A valid passport is mandatory. Visa requirements sometimes change so check before traveling. A visa to Uganda is issued at Uganda missions abroad and entry points. All countries that require visas for Uganda are also visa prone in Uganda.
Travelers are advised to contact the Uganda representative in their countries or regions to determine whether vaccination is necessary before entry into Uganda. A yellow fever certificate is required if you have been transiting infected areas. Malaria is prevalent in Uganda and it is advisable to take anti-malarial and to utilize mosquito repellents. Malaria Prophylaxis is recommended. It is not recommended to drink tap water. Boil it or buy bottled water from the shops. The equatorial sun can be deceptive even on overcast days. Sun glasses, sun creams and hats are recommended to avoid sunburns.
Security and Safety
Uganda is increasingly developing to one of the top safari holiday destinations in the world. With the improvement of infrastructure and political stability, the tourism industry is soaring to greater heights. The country is very safe both in cities and remote areas. However some common sense precautions should be taken. Do not flaunt your wealth by wearing expensive jewelry or carrying large wads of money openly. Avoid changing money in the streets. Likewise avoid overcrowded streets. Leave your valuables with the hotel for safe keeping. You will come across misleading information on various websites regarding as to how insecure Uganda is for travel. They are however usually outdated and do not reflect the present state of Uganda.
Uganda Banks and Money
The Banking Sector in Uganda is growing stronger every year with local and foreign owned commercial banks and forex bureaus in Uganda. The Central Bank is Bank of Uganda.
Working hours for most of the Banks are 8:30 to 4:00pm every Monday to Friday while on Saturday they operate half day. Most forex bureaus are open on weekends and some run for 24 hrs. The Uganda shilling is the legal currency in Uganda. There are no restrictions on money transfer in and out of the country. The Uganda shilling is divided into denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 for paper notes, while coins are in the denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 for coins.
Uganda offers a range of dishes ranging from continental, Italian, Chinese, Ugandan, Indian and more. The finest restaurants and hotels in Uganda are located in Kampala, the capital city, although 4 and 5 star lodges in the National Parks boast excellent cuisine.
No visit to Uganda is complete without trying local food. High in carbohydrates, you will not go hungry! Staples include: matoke (steamed green banana), posho (maize flour porridge), sweet and Irish potatoes, chapati, cassava, yam, rice, goat stew, bean or beef stew, fried chicken and groundnut sauce.
Entebbe International Airport is the main gateway from/to Uganda, it is 40KM from the capital city Kampala. British Airways, Kenya Airlines, Ethiopian Airways, Gulf Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Tanzania and Egypt Air fly direct to or from Entebbe. A departure tax of US$ 30 per person is payable by passengers on international flights at the airport.
For passengers on private charter flights from neighboring countries it is no longer necessary to clear immigrations at Entebbe Airport. It is now possible to arrange for advance clearance at your proposed destination, saving time by flying direct into the tourist region.
The unit of currency is the Uganda Shilling which is easily convertible to United States Dollar and British Pound. The exchange rates of both units fluctuate from time to time.
For visitors to Uganda it is safe to carry sterling pounds or US $ (travelers cheques and cash).
January 1st, Islamic Holiday (moveable, towards the end of March), Good Friday, Easter Monday, May 1st (Labor Day), Islamic Holiday (moveable towards the beginning of June), June 3rd (Martyrs' Day), June 9th (Heroes' Day), October 9th (Independence Day), 25th December Christmas Day.
Visitors to Uganda are required to take vaccination shots against yellow fever and cholera. A dose of anti-malaria tablets is strongly advised. For those intending to go on camping trips, a mosquito repellent is highly recommended. Bilharzia is common in some lakes and swimming is not recommended except in designated areas. Only drink bottled or boiled water; in hotels/ lodges safe drinking waters is always provided. Medical facilities are easily available in all medical centers. Please note that insurance should be taken at place of origin before departure.
WHAT TO WEAR
Clients intending to engage in gorilla tracking and mountaineering in Uganda must be aware of hash conditions. Gloves, Jackets, waterproof jeans, jumpers, sweaters, sunglasses, and strong working/hiking boots/shoes are recommended. While on any other safaris sports shirts, slacks, light cotton dresses, skirts and tops can be suitable.
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