Discovering Uganda: A First-Timer's Guide To Traveling In The Pearl of Africa

By Mabel Collins

Uganda, also known as the "Pearl of Africa", is a country rich in natural beauty, with breathtaking landscapes and fascinating wildlife. 

Traveling in Uganda is an exciting off-the-beaten-path experience. It won't be like your typical trip to Europe or the United States, and while it does involve a bit extra planning, traveling to Uganda is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While many visitors come to Uganda to see the mountain gorillas, the country has much more to offer. Some people still believe that Uganda is dangerous, so don't be concerned. It is a perfect destination for first-time travelers who want to experience Africa's wildlife, scenery, and culture.

To prepare for your trip, we will share with you our greatest Uganda travel guide for first-time travelers.

What To Know When Traveling To Uganda

Where Is Uganda Located? 

Uganda is bounded to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. The country's southern region comprises a large chunk of Lake Victoria, which it shares with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda is largely located in the African Great Lakes region, is part of the Nile basin, and has a diverse but usually modified tropical climate. 

Best Time To Visit

Uganda has a tropical climate, which means that it is warm and humid all year round. The best time to visit Uganda is during the dry season, which starts from December to February and from June to September. Compared to June and July, most of the southwest region gets a little more rainfall in December, January, and February. But the north is mostly dry with little or no rain. During this time, the weather is sunny, and there is less rainfall, which makes it easier to navigate the country's attractions.

Uganda is a must-visit destination for travelers who love nature

Uganda is a must-visit destination for travelers who love nature

Uganda Currency

Uganda Shillings are the country's currency; ''UGX'' is the currency code for Uganda shillings, while the sign ''USh'' is used to signify the currency locally. The Bank of Uganda is the only organization in Uganda with authority to manage and regulate currency. 

Other international currencies, like dollars, euros, and pounds, can be used to make payments in addition to Uganda Shillings, particularly in major hotels and tour firms. As of April 2023, 1 US dollar is equal to around UGX 3,735, 1 pound is 4,618 UGX, and 1 EURO is equal to 4,087 UGX. 

When visiting Uganda, you may exchange your native money for Ugandan cash either before or after you arrive. Banks and forex offices (bureaux de change) in major towns in Uganda will convert your money to local currency. 

When exchanging money for Uganda shillings, it is advised that you request smaller banknotes because bigger notes may be difficult to acquire change for in some places. Furthermore, smaller notes make tipping easier.

If you wish to use an ATM in Uganda, you will almost certainly require a Visa debit or credit card because Visa is the primary payment method in this nation. Except in big hotels, expensive restaurants, and safari lodges, credit cards are not frequently accepted in Uganda as they are in other countries.

Uganda Languages 

Uganda is a multilingual East African country. Uganda has forty extant native languages, which are classified into three linguistic families: Bantu, Central Sudanic, and Nilotic. The Kuliak language family is responsible for two more languages spoken in the nation. English was introduced during the country's colonial period and is still an official language today. Swahili, a regional language, is also an official language and has been adopted by the country.

Moreover, Luganda, the national language, is widely spoken across the country, as are various additional languages such as Lango, Acholi, Runyoro, Runyankole, Rukiga, Luo, and Lusoga.

Getting To Uganda

The best way to get to Uganda is by flying into Entebbe International Airport, which is located about 40 kilometers from the capital city of Kampala. Several airlines fly to Entebbe, including Emirates, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, KLM, and Ethiopian Airlines. There are also direct flights from some African cities like Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and Kigali. Once you arrive at Entebbe International Airport, you can hire a taxi or use public transportation to get to your hotel or destination.

Traveling to Uganda is simpler nowadays

Traveling to Uganda is simpler nowadays

What To Eat

During your Uganda safari, one of the factors that will enhance your love for this beautiful little country is its cultural food.

Ugandan cuisine has a distinctive flavor. While similar food may be available abroad, it does not necessarily taste as good as it does in Uganda. This is all thanks to Uganda's excellent weather and fertile soils, which drive the country's economy.

People in various regions of Uganda cultivate a variety of food, including grains, cereals, tubers, and fruits that grow abundantly and all year.

You can refer to the Uganda cuisine that travelers must try once in their life!

Where To Stay

There are several accommodation options in Uganda, ranging from luxury hotels to budget-friendly lodges. Kampala, the capital city, has several international hotels, including Sheraton, Serena, and Hilton. Outside of Kampala, there are several lodges and campsites that offer a more authentic experience. Some of the most popular lodges include Murchison River Lodge, Bwindi Lodge, and Ishasha Wilderness Camp.

What To Do In Uganda For First-Time Travelers 

Uganda is a land of natural wonders, with several attractions that are sure to leave you in awe. Here are some of the top things for travelers to do in Uganda.

Gorilla Trekking

Uganda is home to over half of the world's population of mountain gorillas. The gorillas live in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is located in southwestern Uganda. Gorilla trekking involves hiking through the forest to find the gorillas in their natural habitat. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is sure to leave you with valuable memories that will last a lifetime.

Wildlife Safari

Uganda is an extraordinarily lovely nation that draws thousands of visitors each year who are captivated by its stunning natural beauty, rich culture, gorgeous and energetic people, unusual animals, and diverse ecosystems. 

Queen Elizabeth National Park, situated in western Uganda, is one of the most popular parks. It is home to elephants, lions, leopards, buffaloes, and several species of antelope. Other popular parks include Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, and Lake Mburo National Park.

Uganda offers travelers many natural attractions and wildlife animals

Uganda offers travelers many natural attractions and wildlife animals

Visit The Source Of The Nile

The Nile River, the world's longest river, starts in Uganda. The source of the Nile is in Jinja, a small town located about two hours east of Kampala. You may take a boat ride on the Nile or go white-water rafting on the rapids.

Cultural Tours

Uganda has a rich cultural heritage that is worth exploring. Uganda is composed of over 50 different ethnic groups, each with its own unique culture and traditions. You can take a cultural tour to learn more about the local customs and traditions. 

Some popular cultural tours include the Batwa Trail, which takes you through the forest with the Batwa people, and the Karamojong Cultural Experience, which takes you to northeastern Uganda to learn about the Karamojong people's way of life.


Uganda is home to a number of slopes and hills that provide good hiking possibilities. Mount Rwenzori, commonly known as the Mountains of the Moon, is Africa's tallest mountain range and offers difficult treks. Mount Elgon, Mount Moroto, and Sipi Falls are among the famous trekking sites. 

Uganda Travel Information For Newcomers

Planning to visit Uganda is a complicated progress that travelers might be confused about when considering what to do before traveling. Uganda Immigration Services is here to support you in having a vacation without difficulties: 

1. Get the necessary vaccinations: You may need additional vaccinations, such as yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, and typhoid, depending on your itinerary and length of stay. Consult with your doctor or a travel health clinic for specific recommendations.

2. Get your Uganda e-visa in advance: Visitors to Uganda require a visa, which can be obtained online at the link. Before you apply, remember to check your eligibility to make sure that your nationality has enough conditions for an Uganda e-visa. If you do not qualify for an e-visa, please apply through the Uganda Embassy. 

3. Get your appropriate clothes: Uganda has a tropical climate, so pack lightweight, breathable clothing, comfortable shoes, and a hat for sun protection. Mosquitoes are common, so bring insect repellent and long-sleeved shirts and pants for the evenings.

Travelers must prepare well before traveling to Uganda

Travelers must prepare well before traveling to Uganda

Besides, Uganda is generally a safe country to visit, but it is always important to take precautions to ensure your safety. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

1. Be aware of your surrounding areas, especially in crowded places.

2. Avoid walking alone at night, especially in unlit areas.

3. Keep your valuable items, such as your passport and money, in a safe place.

4. Only use licensed taxis or public transportation.

5. Follow the instructions of your tour guide, especially during wildlife safaris.

As a first-time traveler to Uganda, it is important to plan your trip well in advance, take precautions to ensure your safety and be open to experiencing the local culture and traditions. With its natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and welcoming people, Uganda is truly a gem of East Africa.

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