Top travel tips for Uganda?
February 1, 2012 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Hurrah! I have both a visa and a return flight organised for Uganda at the end of March. Share with me your top tips! Caveat: I'm on a really tight budget.
posted by ozgirlabroad to Travel & Transportation around Uganda (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm an experienced traveler, including all of East Africa, and I don't what motivated you to buy a ticket to that particular hellhole on Earth.

But since you're going: the good news is your budget will not be destroyed. I would be considerably lacking if I told you the sights and sounds to experience, without mentioning tips on safety and health.

Danger in Uganda is found in trinity: man, nature & food. I don't know if you are a frail man or of considerable immunity, but here's my advice - Watch the people around you carefully for potential crime or violence. Avoid large street gatherings and do not discuss religion or politics. Become fully versed in the CDC's vaccinations and med prep for Uganda - and take all of them. Do not touch things when out an about in nature. "Look, but don't touch."
Regardless if you are a man or woman, consider activities of the intimate kind with the local population as high risk fun.
If you are an American, register with the U.S. Embassy, but do not get a hotel close to it.
posted by Kruger5 at 2:17 PM on February 1, 2012

If you don't already have it planned, start saving NOW for a gorilla trek. Not cheap, and you only get an hour or so with them, but worth it.
posted by trialex at 2:20 PM on February 1, 2012

Also, study the US State Dept. notes on travel in Uganda about crime, threats to security, lack of medical infrastructure, vaccinations for travelers. Especially: avoid anywhere shots are being fired or bombs are exploding!
posted by exphysicist345 at 2:31 PM on February 1, 2012

Best answer: Wow, i don't know what made Kruger5 so incredibly negative about Uganda - I lived in Kampala for two years and loved it, and have never heard ANYONE, even those who didn't enjoy their time there, refer to uganda as a hellhole or filled with danger. So... take that with a grain of salt.

But anyway, things to do:
- Spend a day or two at the beginning and end of your trip in Kampala enjoying the nightlife. It has some of the best nightlife around!
- Go to Jinja and go white water rafting
- Go to Queen Elizabeth National Park and go see the chimps (this costs substantially less than going to see the gorrillas - it was $60 when i went in 2005 - and i personally found it more fun and rewarding than the gorillas
- If you do plan on seeing the Gorillas in Bwindi, book in advance (like, book it now.) In addition to being crazy expensive, it's also very popular and there are limited spots available each day.
- Look into staying at the Red Chili Backpackers, and on going on a safari with them
- Consider going to tiny, beautiful, Lake Nkruba (a crater lake) in western uganda
- Don't worry too much - while there's a higher likelihood of getting your wallet or cell phone grabbed than there is at home, the chances of any serious crime or violence is very low.
posted by Kololo at 2:36 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I hope I haven't come across as naive in anyway - just a bit overexcited. I'm an experienced solo traveler to off the track places and very safety and health conscious. Have booked in for vaccinations. I haven't stinted on travel insurance. I have no intention of getting intimate with anyone there, but that is sensible advice for anywhere one travels! I also don't intend taking anything with me that I'd not want to lose. And considering that last summer I was right in the middle of the London riots, well, that danger can happen anywhere!

Kololo - I'll definitely be booking one of those Red Chili trips to Murchison Falls. I'd love to see the gorillas but sadly I don't think I'll be able to this time around - but I plan on returning to visit Kenya and Rwanda in 2013-4 when I've saved up properly. The chimps sound like a good alternative and will take me to a bit of the country I'd love to see. The Red Chili backpackers has been recommended, will keep it in mind as a back up as hopefully an expat friend in Kampala will be finding me a place to sleep there. Will be looking at Lake Nkruba too. Thanks for your tips!
posted by ozgirlabroad at 3:09 PM on February 1, 2012

Kololo - you seem familiar with Africa, so, you then have some idea about me, given my name here is "Kruger5."

I've stayed in Hong Kong 5* luxury where for hours I literally didn't have to lift a finger, and also stayed in remote regions on this earth where taking a shit including fending off wild animals at the same fucking time. I know my travels. I will advise my fellow Western bretheren who might be in for a shock, having never experienced some of the out-of-control conditions in some parts of the Earth. I bear no hatred for any country, but such danger must be respected and not trivialized.

Ozgirlabroad - warned you of dangers that are specific to Uganda. I know everyone is going to recommend places; I wanted to offer a different concern.

Health insurance should be an Evac insurance - Ugandan medical care is the actual danger. Uganda has militias - they are not noble. These are not London rioters. Do not venture off the beaten path.

Yes, calling Uganda a hellhole is subjective - the dangers I listed are not.
posted by Kruger5 at 3:32 PM on February 1, 2012

Seconding the surprise at Kruger5's response. I've also lived in Kampala and traveled throughout Uganda, and as long as you exercise the same common sense you'd exercise when traveling elsewhere (don't flash money around, don't get super drunk with strangers, don't stupidly put yourself in the middle of dangerous situations), you'll be fine.

With respect to the State Dept. warnings, they tend to be slightly overcautious, but I'd recommend staying away from Karamoja unless you're traveling with someone experienced who has a real reason to be there, and should the Walk to Work protests start up again in earnest, stay away from those as well.

That said, on to the fun stuff: definitely check out Kampala's nightlife and spend a day in Jinja white water rafting (or bungee jumping! or just hanging out with the rescue kayakers and raft guides at one of the hostels at night). If I were you, I'd head east from Jinja and plan for a day or two in Sipi Falls—beautiful hiking and incredible views, plus a nice cluster of hostels/round huts for rent/tent camping. If the Crow's Nest is still open, stay there—it's at the highest elevation of all of the various places to stay, and there's a rope swing that reaches out over a little cliff that is amazing.

If you have time, go south to Lake Bunyonyi, canoe around for a bit, swim, read, and relax in a geodome (open air cottages with awesome views of the lake) at Byoona Amagara. BA also has dorms, if that's what your budget allows.
posted by rebekah at 6:45 PM on February 1, 2012

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