Traveling Luck for Uganda

Uganda is located in Eastern Africa, west of Kenya.

Uganda has borders with Congo (Kinshasa) for 765km, Kenya for 933km, Rwanda for 169km, Sudan for 435km and Tanzania for 396km.

Land in Uganda is mostly plateau with rim of mountains.

Ugandan land covers an area of 236040 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than Oregon

As for the Ugandan climate; tropical; generally rainy with two dry seasons (December to February, June to August); semiarid in northeast.

Ugandan(s) speak English (official national language, taught in grade schools, used in courts of law and by most newspapers and some radio broadcasts), Ganda or Luganda (most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages, preferred for native language publications in the capital and may be taught in school), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Swahili, Arabic.

Ugandan National Map

Ugandan Map

Regions of Uganda

Uganda achieved independence from the UK in 1962. The dictatorial regime of Idi AMIN (1971-79) was responsible for the deaths of some 300,000 opponents; guerrilla war and human rights abuses under Milton OBOTE (1980-85) claimed at least another 100,000 lives. During the 1990s, the government promulgated non-party presidential and legislative elections.


Uganda Country Profile

Uganda has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, and sizable mineral deposits of copper and cobalt. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing over 80% of the work force. Coffee accounts for the bulk of export revenues. Since 1986, the government - with the support of foreign countries and international agencies - has acted to rehabilitate and stabilize the economy by undertaking currency reform, raising producer prices on export crops, increasing prices of petroleum products, and improving civil service wages. The policy changes are especially aimed at dampening inflation and boosting production and export earnings. During 1990-2001, the economy turned in a solid performance based on continued investment in the rehabilitation of infrastructure, improved incentives for production and exports, reduced inflation, gradually improved domestic security, and the return of exiled Indian-Ugandan entrepreneurs. In 2000, Uganda qualified for enhanced Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief worth $1.3 billion and Paris Club debt relief worth $145 million. These amounts combined with the original HIPC debt relief added up to about $2 billion. Growth for 2001-02 was solid despite continued decline in the price of coffee, Uganda's principal export. Growth in 2003-05 reflected an upturn in Uganda's export markets.

Ugandan natural resources include copper, cobalt, hydropower, limestone, salt, arable land

landlocked; fertile, well-watered country with many lakes and rivers

Ugandan religion is Roman Catholic 33%, Protestant 33%, Muslim 16%, indigenous beliefs 18%.

Natural hazards in Uganda include NA.

Travel Advice on Uganda

Uganda

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment Health section (meningitis).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • We advise against all travel to northern Uganda (Kitgum, Pader, Adjumani, Gulu, Apac and Lira districts) because of banditry and rebel insurgency.  Please see the Local Travel section of this travel advice for more details.

  • The Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army signed a “Cessation of Hostilities” agreement on 26 August 2006, which came into effect on 29 August 2006.  The situation on the ground in northern Uganda has yet to stabilise fully.  Reports of clashes in Southern Sudan have added tensions to an already fragile process.  We are keeping the situation under close review.

  • The Lord’s Resistance Army is present in Democratic Republic of Congo, in the areas bordering Sudan and Uganda.  We advise against all travel to the region known as West Nile (Nebbi, Arua, Moyo and Yumbe districts in Uganda’s far north west), with the exception of trips by air to Arua town.  Please see the Local Travel section of this travel advice for more details.

  • We advise against all travel to Karamoja region in north eastern Uganda (Kotido, Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Katakwi Districts).  This area also covers the Kidepo National Park.  If you wish to visit this Park you should only travel there by air.  You should also seek local advice before embarking on any journey to the Park.  Please see the Local Travel and National Park sections of this travel advice for more details.

  • In November 2005, a British national was killed in Murchison Falls National Park.  We advise you not to visit this Park.  If you travel to the Park against our advice you should exercise extreme caution and take local advice.  Please see the National Parks section of this travel advice for more details.

  • We advise against travel by road at night except in central Kampala, and between Kampala and the airport at Entebbe.

  • Uganda shares with neighbouring countries a threat of terrorism.

  • Around 15,000 British tourists visit Uganda every year.  Most visits are trouble-free.  The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Uganda is for replacing lost or stolen passports.  You should take the usual precautions against crime, especially when going out at night.  Keep a photocopy of your passport data page and Ugandan visa in a safe place.

  • If you intend staying in Uganda for more than a month you should register with the British High Commission.

  • We strongly advise that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime

Kampala is a relatively safe city.  By day you can walk the streets and visit local markets.  But opportunistic crime such as burglaries, muggings and drive-by bag snatches do occur in Kampala.  In recent months there has been an increase in theft from vehicles and muggings, some involving violence, in the Kololo Airstrip area of Kampala.  We strongly recommend that after dark, you avoid going out on foot.  You should not make yourself an obvious target for muggers and pickpockets by carrying large sums of cash in the streets or wearing expensive looking jewellery or watches.

In December 2006 there have been cases of bus travellers going to the extreme south-west of Uganda being drugged and robbed.  You should be aware of what you are eating and drinking

In urban areas keep car doors locked and windows shut at all times.  There have been a number of thefts of personal property from cars and taxis while stationary in traffic.  If stopped by armed men, do not attempt to resist.  Avoid travelling outside main towns after dark.

Take care of your passport: replacing lost or stolen passports is our most common consular task.

Political Situation

A rebel group known as the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) has been active in northern Uganda and southern Sudan for 19 years and has been responsible for a large number of murders and abductions.  More than 1.7 million people are currently living in camps for internally displaced people in northern Uganda.  In October 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) unsealed  arrest warrants for five LRA Commanders.

Talks between the Government of Uganda and the LRA have been ongoing in Southern Sudan since July 2006.  On 26 August 2006 the parties to the talks signed a “Cessation of Hostilities Agreement”.  This agreement came into force on 29 August 2006.  Part of this agreement sets time limits for LRA members to assemble in agreed locations in Southern Sudan.  Few LRA members assembled before the deadline passed.  The peace process remains active but the situation on the ground continues to be potentially unstable.  Since 16 October 2006 there have been reports violations of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and of clashes in Southern Sudan which have added to the tensions in this already fragile process.

Political tensions can flare up, often with little warning.  There are cases ongoing in the courts relating to opposition figures that can also be a potential cause of friction.  You should exercise caution and avoid demonstrations and rallies in Kampala and other towns.

Uganda Country Profile

Local Travel

Northern Uganda

Because of rebel insurgency and banditry we advise against all travel to the districts of Kitgum, Pader, Adjumani, Gulu, Apac and Lira. These are all areas of recent LRA activity, including two fatal ambushes of vehicles in October 2005 near Anyeke (just north of Murchison Falls National Park) and Kitgum respectively.  The LRA (see Political Situation section) is thought to be responsible for a number of separate attacks in October and November 2005, against vehicles containing aid workers in northern Uganda and southern Sudan.  These attacks resulted in the deaths of at least five people and others were seriously injured.  If you are currently in northern Uganda you should exercise extreme caution and think carefully about your security.

North West Uganda

We advise against travel to the region known as West Nile (Nebbi, Arua, Moyo and Yumbe districts in Uganda’s far north west), with the exception of trips to Arua town.  Arua town should only be visited by air and you should remain within the confines of the town.  The LRA is present in Democratic Republic of Congo, in the areas bordering Sudan and Uganda.  In response, the Ugandan armed forces have built up a stronger presence in West Nile, particularly along the border with the DRC.

The situation in eastern DRC remains extremely volatile and unpredictable (see separate Travel Advice for DRC, which advises against travel to eastern and north eastern DRC, including entering from Uganda).  Some gorilla trekking operators cross into eastern DRC.  We strongly advise you not to take these tours.

North East Uganda

We advise against all travel to Karamoja (Kotido, Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Katakwi Districts) in the north east.  Lawlessness there is endemic (e.g. road ambushes).  Tribal clashes are frequent and unpredictable in Karamoja.  In late October and early November 2006 there was an increase in clashes between the army and armed cattle herders.  Following a large military operation the situation is generally calmer but the risk of further clashes remains.

West Uganda

In April 2006, there were outbreaks of fighting between Ugandan forces and Congolese rebels along the border between DRC and Bundibugyo District in western Uganda.
In December 2006 a large number of refugees crossed the border into Kisoro District in south western Uganda to escape fighting in DRC, most have now returned.  Anyone planning to visit the area should exercise caution and seek local advice before embarking on their journey.

National Parks

There have been armed attacks on vehicles in the Murchison Falls National Park, most recently on 8 November 2005, which resulted in the death of a British national.  We advise you not to visit this Park.

There were violent clashes in Karamoja between the army and armed cattle herders in late October and early November 2006.  Following a large military operation, many of the belligerent groups have now left the Kidepo National Park area. All facilities in the Kidepo Valley National Park are open and aircraft are flying into the Park as usual.  If you wish to visit the Park you should only travel there by air.  The situation may change rapidly and you should seek local advice before embarking on any journey to the Park.

The National Parks in the extreme south-western corner of Uganda, Bwindi Impentrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla, border the DRC and Rwanda.  The situation over the border in DRC has a history of instability and problems can flare up with little notice, most recently in December 2006 when clashes between dissidents and Government troops, resulted in a number of refugees fleeing into Uganda.  Anyone planning to visit this south-west corner of Uganda, including the National Parks, should exercise caution and seek local advice before embarking on their journey.

Uganda's other National parks attract thousands of overseas visitors each year.  Queen Elizabeth National Park and those in its vicinity are popular with tourists and locals.  We strongly recommend that you only use reputable, registered tour operators.
Other national parks include Mount Elgon National Park, Kibale Forest, Lake Mburo, Semliki and Rwenzori Mountains.  You may travel to these parks by road (though see below for advice on road safety).
Road Safety
By far the biggest hazard you will encounter is other road users.  Driving standards are low, vehicles are often poorly maintained and the accident rate is high.  Other road users may well be driving without lights and livestock cross roads completely unpredictably.  The Jinja-Kampala road is a particular accident black spot.
We strongly advise against driving after dark except in central Kampala and between Kampala and Entebbe International Airport for reasons of road safety and security (see Crime section).  Always keep vehicle doors locked.
There have been a number of serious accidents involving Ugandan long distance bus services many of which ply the roads linking Kampala with Nairobi, Kigali and Dar es Salaam.  In July 2005, a coach accident resulted in about 40 dead.  Vehicles are often poorly maintained, and driven at excessive speed even on badly maintained roads.  Furthermore there have been incidents on the overnight buses between Nairobi and Kampala when bandits posing as passengers have forced the buses to stop and have robbed the passengers.   You are advised not to travel on these overnight long distance buses.
Other common forms of public transport are matatus and boda-bodas (scooter taxis), Matatus are usually a private minibus using a specific route.  Though very cheap to use, matatus and boda-bodas are generally in poor condition, badly driven and often without proper insurance cover.  A matatu accident close to Kampala in July 2006 caused 30 deaths.  We therefore advise great caution before using using matatus and boda bodas.  If doing so you should select a vehicle that appears in good condition, consult other passengers and if using a boda-boda always wear a crash helmet.
The Ugandan authorities accept UK driving licences.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Ugandans are by nature outgoing and welcoming people.  But their culture is socially conservative and formal, eg dress codes for business.  Homosexuality is illegal and social tolerance of it is low.  Penalties for drug trafficking are severe.  Drug abuse is neither widespread nor accepted.  Do not take photos of military, official or diplomatic sites, including Owen Falls Dam at the source of the Nile near Jinja.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

British nationals need to have a visa to enter Uganda.  This can be obtained from the Ugandan representation in the UK, or at the International airport at Entebbe (though expect a long queue if travelling at peak holiday times).  If travelling by road, it is usually easier to get a visa from the Ugandan High Commission or Embassy before leaving the neighbouring country.

Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country, or in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration, please contact the Ugandan High Commission in London before travelling.


HEALTH

We strongly advise that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  This should include cover for unexpected losses such as cancelled flights, stolen cash cards, passport or luggage.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance
Only limited medical facilities are available outside Kampala and, in the case of serious accident or illness an evacuation by air ambulance may be required.
Serious illnesses, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, are widespread in Uganda.  More than three-quarters of British travellers who contracted malaria in 2005 did not take preventive measures, such as malaria prevention tablets.  However, malaria can occur despite appropriate prevention, and therefore you should promptly seek medical care in the event of a fever or flu-like illness in country or in the first year following your return from travelling to a malaria risk country.  Before travelling you should seek medical advice about the malaria risk in Uganda.
You should take medical advice on appropriate vaccinations before travelling.  You should have a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate with you on arrival.
Heavy rains at the end of 2006 and poor sanitation caused outbreaks of cholera in Kampala and throughout Uganda. Drink only sealed, bottled water.  Care should be taken when eating out as levels of hygiene at some eating places can be very low.
Since October 2006, there has been an outbreak of measles in Uganda.  You should ensure vaccination against measles is up to date, this is particularly import for any young children travelling with you.
Since December 2006, there has been an outbreak of meningitis in parts of northern Uganda.  Cases have so far been reported in Kotido, Yumbe, Koboko and Arua districts.  You should ensure vaccination against meningitis is up to date.  Even if you have been vaccinated, there is still a risk of infection; if you fall ill during or after visiting one of the affected areas you should seek immediate medical attention.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at:  www.dh.gov.uk.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see:  What We Can Do To Help

There are currently power shortages in Kampala and across Uganda.  Power supply can therefore be intermittent and can fail without warning.
Money

Credit cards are not widely used in Uganda.  Fraud is commonplace.  We advise you to carry sufficient travellers’ cheques to meet normal expenses, though be aware that they can only be cashed in major towns and at a significantly lower rate of exchange than cash.  So also bring sufficient US dollars in cash to meet any essential or emergency expenses.  US dollars dated earlier than 2000 and notes smaller than US $50 are usually only exchanged at a less favourable rate and in some cases not accepted for exchange at all.