Uganda Travel Guide: What every tourist needs to knowby | July 28, 2023
A Uganda travel experience is unlike any other. In this small African country coexist many years of history and amazing wildlife, including endangered species like the white rhino or the mountain gorillas.
Here you will find all the information you need to enjoy the offers of the Uganda tourism industry to the fullest.
Flag of Uganda
Uganda’s flag has six horizontal stripes in black, yellow and red. In the center, a white circle shows the national symbol: a gray crowned crane.
Each color has its own meaning:
- Black symbolizes the Uganda people
- Yellow represents sunshine
- Red stands for brotherhood
Geography of Uganda
Where is Uganda, Africa? In Uganda’s map we can see that it borders Kenya to the east, South Sudan to the north, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west and Tanzania and Rwanda to the south.
Uganda’s area is 241.038 km². Uganda’s population as of 2023 is 49.984.456.
The country is located in a plateau, but it has many different ecosystems: mountains to the east, valleys, swamps in the Albert Nile River, rainforests and more.
The southeast corner of Uganda comprises Lake Victoria, the second largest inland freshwater lake in the world. It’s shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
Uganda’s time zone is East Africa Time (UTC+3). There’s no Daylight Savings Time.
History and Heritage of Uganda
During the 19th century, in the area surrounding Lake Victoria coexisted the independent states of Bunyoro-Kitara and Buganda. By the end of the century, Buganda was expanding to the expense of Bunyoro-Kitara, who had lost some of its influence.
In 1862, the first European explorer reached the state of Buganda and, as time passed, Christian missionaries became more and more embedded into Buganda’s politics. By 1894, what is now Uganda became an official British protectorate (although it was never fully colonized).
This was the political situation until October 9th, 1962: that’s the date of Uganda’s independence from the British.
Milton Obote, leader of the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC), won the country’s elections in June 1962 and became Prime Minister.
In 1972, a coup by the Army Chief of Staff, General Idi Amin, deposed him and the General established a violent dictatorship that lasted until he was overthrown in 1980. That is when an election was won again by Obote’s party (the UPC).
His second presidency ended with him overthrown again in 1985 and exiled in Zambia.
After many years of upheaval, the Ugandan people voted in 2005 to restore multiparty politics and democratic elections, although not uncontested, have been taking place ever since.
Culture and Traditions of Uganda
In Uganda religion is diverse: you can find indigenous religions, Islam and Christianity all coexisting. Most of Uganda’s population is Christian.
Uganda’s language is officially English, but Swahili and Luganda are also prominent. In terms of indigenous languages, the most important ones are Bantu, Central Sudanic, and Nilotic.
The arts also have a place in the culture of Uganda, especially theater. Not only is it a means of entertainment, but it’s also used to educate Uganda’s people on various subjects. Television is not as widespread as in the rest of the modern world, but it’s still available in Uganda’s cities and some rural centers.
The most developed artforms are carving, ironworking and ceramics.
Sports are enjoyed by most of Uganda’s people, especially football/soccer, boxing and wrestling.
Uganda’s holidays are taken from different religions and national traditions. For example, there are Christian and Muslim holidays (like Easter or Ramadan). There are also national events like Martyr’s Day or Independence Day, in June and October respectively. You should try to fit in at least one of these holidays in your Uganda trip!
Gastronomy of Uganda
Uganda’s people grow their own food (except those who live in the city), and the actual cooking is in the hands of the women and girls.
Breakfast is usually tea or porridge, and the main meals are lunch and dinner. The Ugandan tea is called Chayi: it can be made with water or milk, boiled with ginger, basil leaves, cinnamon leaves and lemongrass.
Matoke (plantains) is the key ingredient of Uganda’s food. Other prominent ingredients are:
Banana leaves are used in various dishes, mostly spicy stews with vegetables and fish or meat.
The customs of Uganda for mealtime are to wash the hands because they eat with their hands. Afterwards, all the family sits down together on the floor and says a short prayer.
It’s considered rude to reach for elements on the table, the correct thing would be to ask someone sitting closer. The same goes for leaving the room while somebody is still eating. It’s extremely frowned upon to lean on your hands or stretch your legs while sitting down to eat.
Uganda’s people don't eat dessert after they’re done eating, they just drink water (not during the meal, only afterwards).
Even though there isn’t a national dish, these are worth trying if you travel to Uganda:
- Chapati (tortillas)
- Rolex (omelet wrapped in chapati)
- Kagoto (matoke with a sauce)
- Namungodi (rice balls or rolls)
- Luwombo stew (meat wrapped in banana leaves with vegetables)
- Muchomo (roasted meat)
- Kikalayi (fried pork)
- Firinda (boiled beans)
- Roasted maize
Weather in Uganda
The weather in Uganda is tropical and warm all year long, altered by the lakes and the elevation.
There are only two seasons: the dry season (November to March) and the rainy season (April to October).
If your idea of Uganda travel doesn't include heat, we recommend traveling during June or July: they're the coldest months of the year. The hottest time to travel to Uganda is from October to March, but it’s not as extreme as in other parts of Africa.
The Uganda currency you will use for Uganda tourism is the Ugandan shilling (UGX). Sometimes the symbol USh is also used.
The banknotes available today are of 1.000, 2.000, 5.000, 10.000 and 50.000 Ugandan shillings. The coins are of 50, 100, 200 and 500 shillings.
Main tourist attractions of Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Uganda is home to half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas, an endangered species that can only be found in this African country and Rwanda.
If you have the chance, plan your trip with anticipation so you can join a Uganda gorilla trekking to find these animals in the jungle. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience key for the Uganda tourism industry that only 8 people a day get to enjoy.
Try to avoid doing this Ugandan safari during the rainy season. It’s a difficult trek through the jungle and it’s necessary to be in shape to get through it (it takes many hours).
Queen Elizabeth National Park
The Queen Elizabeth National Park is an excellent choice if you want to take a safari through the savannah of Africa.
Enjoy the best of Uganda travel and find the famous tree-climbing lions, along with many other species like buffaloes, hippos, elephants, crocodiles, leopards and more.
One of the most common activities in the park is a trek to find chimpanzees.
Kampala is the capital of Uganda and the most modern city in the country.
If you find yourself in Kampala, you should visit the following attractions: Baha’i Temple, the Gaddafi National Mosque, the Shri Sanatan Dharma Mandal Hindu Temple and Kabaka’s Palace.
Uganda’s capital is also the home of the Kasubi Tombs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where four kings of Buganda rest.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
There aren’t any rhinos living in the wild in Uganda: they were all killed by poachers (the last one in 1982).
The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary was born to help them survive and it’s now the home of several white rhinos, a unique experience in Uganda travel.
Take a one or two-hour trek through the sanctuary to spot these endangered animals, one of the few places you will be able to do so. They also offer nighttime walks!
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest national park in Uganda.
Home of four of the “Big Five” (buffaloes, leopards, lions and elephants), the park is filled with many different species of animals, including primates, hippos, antelopes and birds.
One of the most special species is the Rothschild giraffes: three quarters of the world’s population lives inside the park.
The best time for Uganda travel to this park is during the dry season, from December to mid-February.
Safety in Uganda
Is it safe to travel to Uganda? Yes! Uganda travel will be safe if we stay in certain areas and take some sensible precautions.
The safest areas are:
- The city of Kampala and its surroundings
- The northern part of the country
- The area surrounding the border with South Sudan
The following are the areas to avoid at all costs:
- The Karamoja region
- The districts of Nakapiripirit, Moroto, Katakwi and Kotido
- The border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Visa for Uganda
You can apply online, in person at an Embassy or consulate or on arrival at the airport.
The following Ugandan visas are available online:
- Single entry visa for tourism. Duration: 3 months.
- Transit visa. Duration: 24 hours.
- Multi-entry visa. Duration: 1 or two years.
- East African visa Uganda. Duration: 90 days. It allows holders to visit Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya without having to apply for an individual visa for each country.
To learn more about the application process, read the article on how to get a visa for Uganda.
Make sure to check the current Uganda entry requirements as they can change over time.