Our essential guide to getting around Uganda in a wheelchair, travel with disability including transport, and handy travel tips for disabled persons
In recent years, Uganda’s natural beauty has made it an African safari destination of choice for travelers worldwide, including persons traveling with a disability. In retrospect, Uganda’s highlights often involve trekking in rough terrain and do not lend themselves to people with limited mobility. On top of that, Uganda as a whole has a tourism industry that is relatively young by East African standards, meaning safari access for disabled travelers is rarely a consideration and never a priority.
However, depending on your determination and ability, and aided by African resourcefulness, a rewarding trip is possible for most disability travelers.
In General, it is not easy to find disabled-friendly accommodation in Uganda. Only top-of-the-range safari lodges and hotels have ‘accessible’ rooms. Occasionally (more by accident than through design), bathrooms are wheelchair accessible, but they usually contain standard fittings.
Persons traveling with a disability on a budget will definitely need to compromise, as cheap guesthouses and lodgings are often small, and campsites are basic and not ideal for wheelchairs. The best advice is to research your options in advance. Tour operators will normally take time to listen to your needs (look out for Nkuringo Safaris reviews), or if you prefer, many hotels can be found and contacted directly online.
By air: Entebbe International Airport has wheelchairs, and a narrow aisle chair is also available. And at least all domestic airfields allow for a wheelchair, and assistance will be given to travelers with a disability.
By bus: Buses and matatus (minibus taxis) are cramped, with no facilities for wheelchairs, and getting off and on is often a hectic affair. You may need fellow passengers to help you to your seat, it is usually crowded by passengers, and there will not be an accessible toilet.
Therefore, unless you can walk at least to some degree, then a private hire taxi is going to be your only easy way of getting around. If you can cope with Uganda’s public transport difficulties, traveling by bus is feasible and is the cheapest transport method for traveling with disabilities in Uganda.
By car: Most tour companies use 4x4s, and minibusses are higher than standard cars, making transfers is challenging. Drivers and guides are generally happy to help, but they are not trained in this skill, so you must thoroughly explain your needs and stay in control of the situation during any transfers.
Distances are great, and roads are often bumpy, so if you are prone to skin damage, you need to take extra care. If you use one, place your own pressure-relieving cushion on top of (or instead of) the original car seat and, if necessary, pad around knees and elbows. Most importantly, make sure your local safari manager knows before you travel to Uganda.
Gorilla tracking is literally a stumble in the jungle; even for non-disabled people, hiking the terrain is physically demanding. You don’t need to be super-fit but check with your tour operator if you think your disability may exclude you.
Kibale Forest trails and other primate walks are generally less arduous for people travelling with a disability but are not designed with wheelchair users in mind. It is also worth remembering that Uganda has fairly high rainfall, and because most of these trails are not purpose-built and rather hewn from continued use, they quickly become muddy in wet conditions.
On the plus side, pleasant forest walks can be had following the main trails, and, although you may need to be helped over obstacles and up steps, there will always be plenty of willing hands to do this.
The best activity is the on & off-the-beaten-track in the wide savannah plane. The BIG 5 and the small savannah dwellers will draw out the tension in you and the golden sunsets, aah! Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, and Lake Mburo are easy to access for game drives and boat safaris. You’ll not find it hard to get the assistance you want for a perfect African holiday.
Ugandan hospitals and pharmacies are often basic, so, if possible, take all essential medication and equipment with you. It is advisable to pack this in your hand luggage during flights if your main luggage gets lost. Doctors will know about ‘everyday’ illnesses, but you must understand and explain your particular medical requirements. The good energy vibes steam around Uganda people will have you taken care of as soon as your limited mobility is noticed.
The usual security precautions apply, but it is also worth remembering that you may be more vulnerable as a disabled traveler in a foreign land. Stay aware of where your bags are and who is around you, especially during car transfers and similar activities.
There are few or no operators in Uganda who specialize in disability safari trips. Having said that, most travel companies will listen to your needs and try to create an itinerary suitable for you. It is possible for a disabled traveler to limit potential surprises by contacting a local operator in advance.
Our local safari expert on the ground is willing to give you the help you need. Directly, you’ll communicate with them and craft a Uganda safari that suits your limited mobility travel style and also be able to enjoy your dream of Africa like any traveler would. You can take a look at some of the previously planned Uganda safari trips to get inspiration for email or customer care desk directly to have that connection firstname.lastname@example.org.