Uganda is a fast-growing Africa safari destination that is seeing ever-growing numbers of travelers. If you’re eying this destination for your next Africa holiday trip, we’ll give you ten easy steps to planning a successful journey to this gorilla destination.
As the high-soaring crowned eagle flies from Mount Elgon across Lake Victoria to the snow-covered ‘Mountains of The Moon,’ it peers down upon one of the most verdant lands in eastern central Africa: Uganda. The region has copious rainfall, much 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 visit the “Pearl of Africa,” it’s time to plan your first safari expedition. If you’ve been there before, it’s more than likely you can’t wait to go back.
Plan Your Uganda Safari in 10 Easy Steps
Here are 10 basic steps to make your dream African Holiday in Uganda a reality.
- Decide Where to Go
- Decide When to Go
- Book Your Tour Activities and Lodging
- Book Your Flights
- Buy Travel Insurance
- Check Your Visa Requirements
- Organize Travel Medication
- Buy Your Travel Equipment
- Decide What to Do About Money
- Read About Your Destination
1. Decide Where to Go
With 10 National Parks and 4 Wildlife Reserves to choose from, deciding where to go in Uganda can be daunting. The first step is to determine the kind of safari vacation you want or the specific things you’d like to see.
Are you looking for the classic safari experience? Then perhaps Queen Elizabeth NP or Murchison Falls NP is the right choice for you. Want to discover great ancient cultures? Karamoja in the north or Kidepo Valley may be more your speed. For forest jungle trekking, 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 should be where you go birding. For buzzing city culture and adventure, Kampala capital or the colonial Jinja town (where you’ll find the source of the Nile) will keep you awake throughout the night.
If you’re traveling with small children who can’t take prophylactics, you will probably need to avoid Uganda, where malaria looms, especially in the low altitudes where mosquitoes breed profusely. Otherwise, Uganda is excellent for a family trip.
Top 10 Destination in Uganda
2. Decide When to Go
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, the dry season is better for most Uganda safari trips. The Dry season (June through to September) is the best time for gorilla trekking adventures because the forest floors are less damp, trails are passable, and you’re sure you and your photography equipment will not get drenched in the torrential downpours. However, it would be best if you didn’t rule out rain because you’ll be hiking in a rainforest.
The wildlife savannah reserves during the dry season, skies are clear, less rain, more sunshine, and vegetation is less distracting for wildlife photography. At this time, the 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 on Victoria Nile in Murchison Falls NP.
If work commitments or school breaks, or world health concerns (like COVID-19) mean you’re restricted to traveling at certain times of the year, you may want to tackle this step before deciding on your destination.
Detailed recommendations on when to go.
3. Book Your Tour Activities and Lodging
Next, you need to decide whether you’re going to travel solo or with the help tour guide. If you opt for an all-inclusive guided safari, your tour operator should organize details like accommodations and tours for you.
Even if you decide to book everything yourself, you’ll probably have to arrange treks and safaris through a specialized local safari company (unless you’re taking a self game drive in easy destinations like Lake Mburo NP or Queen Elizabeth NP).
The best local operator to give you a great experience in planning and during your trip is Nkuringo Safaris. They have been operating Ugandan expeditions since 2007, and they own strategically located award-winning eco-lodges for your trip to Uganda. Papyrus Guesthouse at Entebbe near the International Airport and the exquisite Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge in the southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It’s a great base for gorilla trekking excursions in Nkuringo & Rushaga Sectors.
Get in touch with your preferred local operator as much as a year beforehand, and it’s a good idea to book your gorilla permit well in advance because seeing the mountain giants is limited to eight trekkers per habituated gorilla group.
4. Book Your Flights
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, make sure to 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.
5. Buy Travel Insurance
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 headed to a particularly remote spot, make sure that your insurance covers medical evacuation as well.
6. Check Your Visa Requirements
Several months before your departure date, make sure to check with your consulate whether you need a visa. This will be determined based on your nationality, not on your country of residence. Uganda visa rules change at any time, so it’s important to check with an official government source rather than relying on advice given by outdated travel websites.
Uganda’s immigration allows you to purchase a visa upon arrival, but also you can apply online in advance from your home country. Even if you don’t need a visa, there may be some special requirements for your passport; like entering Uganda, your passports should be valid for at least six months from the date of entry for all nationals.
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.
7. Organize Travel Medication
At least two months before you depart for your Uganda trip, you need to visit a travel clinic and determine what vaccinations are recommended for your destination.
Hepatitis A, typhoid, and rabies are good ones to have. Uganda immigration will require proof of yellow fever vaccination as a condition of entry, while malaria is prevalent throughout most regions.
A negative PCR COVID-19 test certificate is a mandatory entry requirement in Uganda. That and other entry requirements you should look out for.
Be sure to consult your doctor before deciding which anti-malaria prophylactic to take as all of them have different side effects. Pregnant women should be aware that the Zika virus is also a problem in some areas.
Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we travel, and on safari trips, we lookout for yours and our protection. Make sure you’re up to date with current coronavirus recommendations for travelers like checking https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/ frequently.
8. Buy Your Travel Equipment
Now comes the fun part of planning your impending safari trip to Uganda: buying all of 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 because, even in the Dry season, nights can be incredibly cold. Think about preserving your memories, whether that means investing in a quality camera or buying a scrapbook and a spare set of pens. One essential purchase is a first aid kit, complete with any personal medications as well as all items you’ll need to treat minor injuries.
What should you pack?
9. Decide What to Do About Money
Decide what to do about money a few weeks before you travel. In Uganda, carrying large amounts of cash around isn’t safe; however, ATM’s are not necessarily available on every street corner. Avoid traveler’s checks, also, as they’re rarely accepted as a viable currency.
Generally, your best bet is to draw enough cash upon arrival to get you to the next big town, where you should be able to draw more money with your credit or debit card. Remember that ATMs may not be able to get you to change, so visit a Forex Bureaux on arrival, change some cash into smaller bills and also exchange some into Uganda Shillings (UGX). 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 different locations. Make sure your credit card has a Visa or MasterCard logo, and during planning your Safari Trip to Uganda, alert your bank to avoid canceling your card on suspicion of fraud the first the card is used abroad.
10. Read About Your Destination
Researching your Uganda before you get, there is a great way to increase your excitement level and improve your local knowledge. An online travel guide like this one or a good guidebook, such as Lonely Planet or Bradt Travel Guides, can give you valuable insight into a country’s history and culture while also advising you on 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 are written by African writers or set in the country you’re traveling to help give you a sense of what to expect before you travel.
Destination Uganda has one trusted local ground handler in Uganda. Once you’re ready to start Planning your Safari Trip to Uganda, we’ll connect you directly—no third parties, and you can avoid the expensive fees charged by tour Agents in your country. The consultants on the ground have first-hand knowledge and will avail all to your planning process. From the planning to operating your safari trip, someone will be with you all the way. Please send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to start planning right away.
Uganda safari trips
These guided Uganda trips will be tailored to your private specifications to suit your own travel style with a local expert safari consultant’s help on the ground.