Uganda is seeing ever-growing numbers of travelers as a safari destination. It’s not surprising that you’re eyeing it for your next holiday journey and you need proven easy steps to planning a successful trip to this gorilla destination.
The “Peal of Africa,” as admirers would call it, is nothing short of startling beauty wherever you experience it. From the eastern Elgon Mountains across Lake Victoria to the snow-covered ‘Mountains of The Moon,’ Uganda has some of the most verdant lands in Africa.
The region has copious rainfall, bright sunlight, mountain gorilla giants, numerous rivers and lakes, and highlands and lowlands. There are impressive national parks, coffee, tea, banana plantations, and many towns and villages with exciting people and remarkable history.
If you have yet to explore the “Pearl of Africa,” it’s time to plan your first safari holiday expedition. Even those that have ventured into its country lands before are more likely that they can’t wait to go back.
Here are ten simple steps to make your dream African Holiday in Uganda a reality.
With 10 National Parks and 4 Wildlife Reserves, and many towns, cultural villages, and communities to choose from, deciding where to go in Uganda can be daunting. The first step is determining the kind of vacation you want or the specific things you’d like to see and do.
Are you looking for a classic safari experience? Then perhaps Queen Elizabeth National Park or Murchison Falls National Park is the right choice for you.
Are you enjoy discovering great ancient cultures? Karamoja in the north or Kidepo Valley may be more your speed.
Perhaps, getting deep into nature or trekking into ancient jungles is for you. Then, consider the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest—home of the mountain gorillas, or Kibale Forest, where you can meet our tree-dwelling cousin chimpanzee bands.
If you’re an avian friend looking to tick off your birding list, Entebbe near Lake Victoria and western Uganda’s conservation areas should be where you go birding.
For buzzing city culture, people, and adventure, Kampala capital or the colonial Jinja town (where you’ll find the source of the Nile) will keep you awake night and day.
Suppose you’re traveling with small children who can’t take prophylactics. In that case, you should avoid Uganda, where malaria looms, especially in the low altitudes where mosquitoes breed profusely. Otherwise, Uganda is excellent for family journeys, and there are ways to avoid catching malaria during your holiday.
The Best Tourist Destinations in Uganda
Once you’ve chosen your destination, the next step is to decide when to travel. Uganda has two optimum travel seasons that most travelers consider; the Dry season and Rainy Season.
Usually, most travelers will explore Uganda during the Dry Season (June to September and December to February). It is the best time for gorilla trekking adventures. During this time, the forest floors are less damp, trails are passable, and your photography equipment will not get drenched in torrential downpours. However, it would be best if you didn’t rule out rain while hiking in Uganda’s rainforests.
The Dry Season is also the best time to journey into the wildlife savannah reserves to watch crowds of animals across vast plains. During this time, clear skies, less rain, more sunshine, and vegetation are excellent for wildlife photography. Animals gather around main water holes, making wildlife easier to spot.
The dry season is the best time to take that boat launch safari on Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth NP and Victoria Nile in Murchison Falls NP.
If work commitments, school breaks, or world health concerns mean traveling is a restriction at certain times of the year. You will want to look deep into finding the right time on your calendar to match Uganda’s travel calendar before deciding which activities to do.
Detailed recommendations on when to go.
Next, you need to decide whether you’re going to travel solo or with the help of a tour guide. Also, will you plan the trip yourself or find a tour operator to take care of the local travel logistics?
An all-inclusive guided safari is a preferred option for most foreign tourists. With it, your tour operator organizes the itinerary details like accommodations, meals, transport, activities, and guides. You pay the tour operator, and they’ll pay the service provider and manage your entire trip, chauffering you from one place to another.
Even if you decide to book everything yourself, especially if you are a foreigner, you’ll probably have to arrange transport and permits through a specialized safari company.
Ununless, you are a resident and understand the local languages and travel logistics. Also, taking a self-game drive to accessible destinations like Lake Mburo National Park or Queen Elizabeth National Park is easy to plan for a self-planner.
If you’re looking for a trustworthy local operator to give you a great experience in planning and managing your Uganda safari holiday, I would like to recommend Nkuringo Safaris.
They have been operating Ugandan expeditions since 2007 and own strategically located award-winning eco-lodges for tourists coming into Uganda. Papyrus Guesthouse at Entebbe near the International Airport and the charming Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge in the southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park—an excellent base for gorilla trekking excursions.
Get in touch with your preferred local operator sooner than four-twelve months beforehand. It’s a good idea to book your gorilla permit well in advance because seeing the mountain giants is highly restricted to a few people a day.
Depending on where you’re flying from, flights to Uganda can be expensive, and a limited number of carriers often means that seats fill up quickly. For the best rates, book as far in advance as possible.
If you have air miles, check whether the corresponding airline flies to Entebbe International Airport ( EBB, Uganda’s only international Airport. If not, use a flight comparison website like Skyscanner.com to guarantee the lowest fare.
Try to communicate your international flights with your local operator when booking, so the ground handler or first-night hotel will be responsible for arranging airport transfers.
By this time in the planning process of your safari trip to Uganda, you’ll have invested a significant amount of money—in flights, tours, and your accommodation. It would be best if you had protection at this point.
Travel insurance is essential, especially in Africa, where airlines cancel flights without warning regularly, and state hospitals are not places you want to end up after an emergency.
Besides medical costs, your insurance should cover trip cancellation, loss of valuables, baggage loss, or theft. If you’re traveling to a remote spot, ensure that your insurance covers medical evacuation.
Several months before your departure date, check with your consulate whether you need a visa. That is determined based on your nationality, not your country of residence. Uganda visa rules change anytime, so checking with an official government source is essential rather than relying on advice from outdated travel websites.
Uganda’s immigration requires all persons intending to travel to Uganda for holiday, tourism, etc., to apply and obtain a visa online at https://visas.immigration.go.ug/.
Even if you don’t need a visa, there may be some special requirements for your passport, like your passport should be valid for at least six months from the date of entry.
Uganda issues single-entry visas valid for three months from the date of issue and multiple-entry visas valid for six months. See https://www.immigration.go.ug/content/visas-and-passes for more details.
Uganda Travel Advisory
At least two months before you depart for your Uganda trip, you must visit a travel clinic and determine what vaccinations they recommend for Uganda.
Hepatitis A, typhoid, and rabies are good ones to have. Uganda immigration will require proof of yellow fever vaccination as a condition of entry, and malaria is prevalent throughout most regions.
Be sure to consult your doctor before deciding which anti-malaria prophylactic to take, as they all have different side effects. Pregnant women should know that the Zika virus is also a problem in some areas.
Ensure you’re up-to-date with current Covid-19 recommendations for travelers by checking https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/ frequently.
The fun part of planning your impending safari trip to Uganda comes from buying all your specialized equipment. Your shopping list may include items from mosquito repellents to a good set of binoculars and a pair of durable hiking shoes.
Be prepared for all kinds of weather. Nights in the southwestern highlands can be freezing even in the dry season. Yet days are unpredictable, with random tropical showers and bursts of hot sunlight.
Think about preserving your memories, whether investing in a quality camera, expanding your smartphone camera space, or buying a scrapbook and a spare set of pens.
Another essential purchase is a first aid kit, complete with any personal medications and all items you’ll need to treat minor pains and injuries.
Essential things you must pack for gorilla trekking in Uganda
Decide what to do about money a few weeks before you travel. In Uganda, carrying large amounts of cash around isn’t safe; however, ATMs are not necessarily available on every street corner. Avoid traveler’s checks, as they’re rarely accepted as a viable currency.
Generally, your best bet is to withdraw enough cash at the ATM with your credit or debit card upon arrival to take you through your trip. Remember that ATMs may not be able to break down the bills. So visit a Forex Bureaux on arrival, change some cash into smaller bills, and exchange some into Uganda Shillings (UGX). The local currency is suitable for tipping service personnel.
Fortunately, almost all modern safari camps and lodges in Uganda accept debit/credit cards. Confirm this with your local safari operator before your trip.
For safety, divide your cash, and keep it in several locations. Make sure your credit card has a Visa or MasterCard logo. When planning your Uganda safari journey, alert your bank to avoid canceling your card on suspicion of fraud when you use your card abroad.
Researching about Uganda before you get there is a great way to increase your excitement level and improve your local knowledge.
An online travel guide like Destination Uganda Traveler or a good guidebook like Bradt Travel Guides can give you valuable insight into a country’s history, culture, and lesser-known things to see and do.
Phrasebooks are a good idea, too, because knowing even a few local language sentences will go a long way towards helping you make friends. Try Swahili or Luganda-English phrases for travelers.
Lastly, fictional books written by African writers or set in Uganda should be you’re traveling companion to help give you a sense of what to expect before you travel.