9 Useful Tips For Travelling in Uganda
From the source of the River Nile, to rolling hills, to rainforest and savanna, endangered mountain gorillas and giraffes, Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa.
After visiting Uganda in the summer of 2016 with the East African Playgrounds charity, Chelsea Smith almost feels as if she left part of herself there, and ever since has been aching to return.
Uganda is a country that will steal your heart, but before you leave for the adventure of your life, check out Chelsea's recommendations for things to do and a few tips to make sure your trip runs a smoothly as possible.
1. Travel Safe
Typically, Uganda is a safe country with a large tourist industry. However, occasionally disputes in neighbouring countries mean travel is advised against along certain borders. Check the FCO travel advice before departing to make sure you won’t get caught up in anything.
2. Visit Your GP Before Departing
Like many trips, it’s advisable to go to the doctors in advance to make sure you have all the vaccinations recommended for the country you’re visiting. When I arrived in Uganda my yellow fever certificate was checked, so double check with your GP if you’ll be needing this.
3. Pack Sensible Clothing
Depending on what you’re planning on doing, you’ll want to invest in some appropriate clothing. If you are going to book a tour of Uganda and go trekking into the rainforests, I would definitely say those expensive walking boots and trousers are worth it; trust me, anything that will make the hike a little easier is a god send. Also, long-sleeved tops are great for stopping the mosquitos eating up your arms. In Uganda it’s best to keep your shoulders covered and wear garments that fall below the knee to be in keeping with the local culture.
If you are looking to volunteer in Uganda, there are plenty of opportunities and a variety of UK-based charities out there, whether you want to work with animals or people. Have a little research – One World 365 has a handy search tool to help make sure you find the perfect volunteer program in Africa. I would personally recommend East African Playgrounds, a small but amazing charity that looked after me from the minute I stepped out of the airport.
5. Get Gorilla Permits
If you travelling in Uganda you cannot miss out on this. Heck, I would even say go to Uganda even if it is just to see the gorillas. The early morning starts, and the fast-paced tracking of these endangered creatures is 100% worth it. Seeing such incredible animals up close – close enough to hear them chew on their morning round of leaves – is an experience that fills you with such an amazing mix of pure excitement, adrenaline and fear. However, it does take some planning: you need permits to see the gorillas and must go with official guides, which must be sorted months in advance so make sure you’re organised and don’t miss out! Search gorilla safaris today.
6. Spend Some Time With Locals
All the people I met in Uganda were so welcoming, so friendly. When it was my time to say goodbye to the people I’d met, it was hard to keep back the tears! This is why volunteering is so great as it allows you to give something back to the people who have been so welcoming to you on your trip.
7. Experience the Boda Bodas
Bodas are motorbikes commonly used as taxi services in Uganda and they are so much fun. It’s a great way to get around and is cheap, but always make sure you agree on a price before you hop on. Plus, you get the added bonus of a cool breeze to give you a break from the stifling heat!
8. Have a Rolex
Rolexes are a staple Ugandan street food. They are essentially a wrapped omelette, traditionally with tomatoes and onion although many variations can be found. It sounds like a pretty simple and uninspiring dish, but after you’ve had your first Rolex there is no going back, and you’ll be forever hunting down a traditional recipe like me.
9. Kayak Down the Nile
The Nile in Uganda has some of the world’s best white waters. I was scared to death and came so close to backing out when I was faced with the first grade five rapid, but I got in the kayak and I paddled for my life, and I would do it all again. The exhilaration and the satisfaction of completing the rapids is unrivalled and cannot be missed. Plus, the calm waters in between rapids offer a chance to see some of the wildlife on the banks. If you do plan on trying out some extreme sports, you need to make sure you’ve got the right insurance that covers them.
By Chelsea Smith