Uganda’s reputation for political instability and the looming shadow of Idi Amin have long-and unfairly-blighted Uganda’s fledgling tourism sector. Now, though, things are looking up for the East Africa nation once described as “the pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill.

And a brief look around is enough to show you why. From the second you step off the plane, the overwhelming impression of Uganda is one of rich natural diversity, friendly locals and a burgeoning cultural scene that is currently producing some of the most exciting artists in Africa.

Culturally, much of the action happens in the capital, Kampala, a hilly urban sprawl ringed by farmland and perched on the muddy banks of Lake Victoria. While most foreign travelers confine themselves to the city centre or the diplomatic quarter, Kololo, its worth venturing into the busting bars and clubs of Kabalagala, where expats and locals meet for a slug of the local Nile beer and a friendly game of pool.

Away from the capital, Uganda’s towns and cities have little in the way if diversions (although Jinja’s location on the banks of the River Nile has made it a favorite with thrill-seeking rafters). Instead, head west towards the Congo border where, along with the fascinating pygmy people of Fort Portal, Uganda’s natural wonders reveal themselves. A popular spot for wildlife watching is Queen Elizabeth National Park. Which is home to four of the big five, a flock of flamboyant flamingos and the rare tree-climbing lions of Ishasha the star attraction, though, is the iconic mountain gorilla, which can be found further south in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. While you’re down there it’s also worth taking a detour to Lake Bunyonyi, a mountain retreat famed for its stunning vistas and freshwater crayfish.

More natural wonders await in northern Uganda, home to the magnificent Murchison Falls, and in the east, where visitor will find the outstanding desert crags and ossified anthills of Kidepo.

Regardless of where you go in Uganda, when it comes to leaving, it will be with a reluctant heavy heart.


Landlocked, Uganda lies between the eastern and western sections of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. The country shares borders with South Sudan to the north, Kenya to the east, lake Victoria to the southeast, Tanzania and Rwanda to the south and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the west, whilst the landscape is generally quite flat, most of the country id over 1,000mm (3,280ft) in altitude.

Mountainous regions include the Rwenzori Mountains that run along the border with the DRC, the Virunga Mountains on the border with Rwanda and the DRC, and Kigezi in the southwest of the country. An extinct volcano, Mount Elgon, straddles the border with border with Kenya.

The capital city, Kampala, lies on the shores of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa and second-largest freshwater inland body of water in the world. Jinja, located on the lake, is considered to be the start point of the River Nile, which traverses much of the country.

The varied scenery includes tropical forest, a semi-desert area in the northeast, the arid pains of the Karamoja, the lush, heavily populated Buganda, the rolling savannah of Acholi, Bingoro, Tororo and Ankole, tea plantations and the fertile cotton area of Teso.

Weather and climate

Uganda has a warm tropical climate; with temperatures ranging from 25-29oc (77-84of), apart from in the mountainous area, which is much cooler, and the top of Mount Elgon is often covered with snow. The hottest months are December to February Evening can feel chilly after the heat of the day with temperatures around 17-18oc (63-64of).

Most region of Uganda, apart from the dry area in the north, has an annual rainfall of between 1,000mm and 1.500mm. There is heavy rain between March and May and between September and November, making road travel difficult in parts of the country. The best time for trekking is during the dry seasons, between January and February and June to August. Wildlife viewing is best at the end of the dry seasons when game is more concentrated around water sources.

History of Uganda

Before the arrival of Europeans in the 19th century, the Buganda Kingdom had become the ascendant dynasty in the region, having edged out other contenders with well-developed armed forces and agriculture.

From the 1840s, Muslim traders entered the region from the India Ocean coast. In 1862, British explorer John Hannington Speke became the first European to visit the Kingdom, soon followed by a number of Christian missionaries, who were welcomed by the Bagandan king, Mutesa. The territory, renamed Uganda, officially became a British protectorate in 1894.

The country officially gained its independence from Britain in 1962, and most of its post-independence history has been characterized by politically inspired violence. President Obote, who banned opposition parties in 1969, was overthrown by the notorious and murderous Idi Amin, who remained in power until he has deposed by a joint force of Tanzanian forces and Ugandan exiles in 1979.

Obote subsequently returned to office but he too found himself fighting guerrilla groups-the remnants of Amin’s army and Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA). The third major military force in the country was the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), led by Tito Okello.

In July 1985, Obote was overthrown once again, this time by a military council with Okello at its head. The Okello government lasted just six months, and the NRA took control of the capital in 1986, establishing the National Resistance Council to govern the country.

By the early 1990s, Museveni had succeeded in restoring order and a measure of prosperity to most of the country. Presidential elections, comfortably won by Museveni, were held in 1989. Museveni continues to hold the presidency today, having won subsequent elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011.

For decades after Museveni came to power in 1986, two regions of northern Uganda, Gulu and Kitgum, continued to be embroiled in a civil war. This resulted in a civilian death toll of 10,000 people, most at the hands of the extremely violent Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a quasi-religious anti-government outfit that terrorized the border regions of northern Uganda by deliberately targeting civilians.

While the Uganda army failed to formally end the war, the LRA hasn’t been active in northern Uganda since 2005 and the region and its people have finally been able to join the rest to the country in a prolonged period of relative peace and stability.

Did you know?

  • Winston Churchill dubbed Uganda the “Pearl of Africa” when he visited in 1907.
  • Uganda has repeatedly been ranked in the top 25% in alcohol consumption.
  • In 2016 nearly half of Uganda’s populations were under the age of 14, making it the youngest country in the world after Niger.

Uganda Culture

Religion in Uganda

84.5% Christian and 13.7% Muslim with the remaining being atheist, or belonging to traditional religions. There are tiny minorities that practice Hinduism and Judaism.

Required clothing

Lightweight clothes with a warm cover up-for the evening are advised. Short or revealing clothes should be avoided-women should avoid shorts in particular. Knee-length skirts of dresses are more acceptable. Tale a pair of good walking shoes or boots for forest trekking and long-sleeved tops to protect against mosquitoes. If you’re planning to go to mountainous areas, be sure to take warm clothing, as temperatures drop substantially. White clothes won’t stay white for long with Uganda’s red dust roads, so go for darker colors. Travelers can also pick up bargains at second-hand clothes markets in Kampala, Jinja and Fort Portal, which sell trouser, boots and fleeces.

Social Conventions in Uganda

Visitors to the country will generally find Ugandans to be warm, friendly and relaxed. Shaking hands is the normal from greeting and it’s considered rude not to greet a person properly before rushing into asking them a question. Most people will know ‘Hello; but the Swahili ‘Jambo’ is also used. Casual dress is usual for most occasions in the daytime or evening.

Ugandans have adopted a socially conservative culture and expressing emotions or affection in public is best avoided. Expressing anger is also frowned on and generally counter-productive, so try and keep calm in frustrating situations.

Drug abuse is illegal and widely condemned, as is homosexually. There has been much publicity in recent years regarding Uganda’s hard-line approach to homosexuality, with the government proposing in 2009-it was later overturned in 2014- an anti-Homosexuality bill which would have include death penalties for anyone proved to be indulging in same-sex activities. While the bill provoked strong international condemnation, homosexuals in Uganda still regularly face persecution, outings in the media or through the church, eviction, arrests and violence. As such, any LGNTQ+travelers to the country are advised to be extremely cautious.

Photography: Since 1992, photography has been allowed in all areas with the exception of airports or military installations. However, some areas are still sensitive and it is advisable to take local advice. Commercial photograph of people, ask their permission first

Language in Uganda

English is the official language, with Swahili, Luganda and other Bantu Languages like Runyoro (by the Banyoro) and Rutooro (by the Tooro people) are also spoken.

Doing business in Uganda

Formal greetings are important to Ugandans, so always be polite, shake hands and enquire how they are when meeting someone. To make a good impression at business meetings, men should war a smart suit and tie, while women should dress professionally. English is generally used for all business discussions and as a rule; all finish later than originally pained as punctually isn’t enforced.

Office hours

Monday – Friday 0800-1300 and 1400-1700

Saturdays- 0800- 1400


Agriculture dominates the Uganda economy, accounting for half of total output and employing around 69% of the workforces in 2017. The industrial sector produces textiles, cement, fertilizers and metal goods. There are deposits of copper and cobalt in addition; there are known deposits of tin, tungsten, and beryllium and tantalum ores.

The economy recorded fairly steady economic growth throughout most of the last decade (4.4% annual growth as of 2017) but growth of 2.3% in 2012 is one of the lowest recorded for more than 10 years. Inflation stood at 6.8% in November 2013, as the country recovered from droughts earlier in the year. Increased periods of drought high energy costs, poor transportation infrastructure and instability in the surrounding regions inhibit Uganda’s economic development, but there is optimism that the discovery of oil and gas will lead to a boost in the country’s economy.

The most pressing problem has been the country’s debt burden. Its total external debt now stands at just under us$5.8 billion. In exchange for debt cancellation programs, the government has been obliged to introduce a series of economic reforms, principally the removal of price controls and trade restrictions and a reduction in Government spending. Uganda is a member of the African Development Bank and of the common market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). In 2003, Uganda joined with neighboring Kenya and Tanzania in a plan to revive the east African customs Union (a previous attempt folded in 1977).


US$25.53 billion (2017)

Main exports

Coffee, fish and products, tea, tobacco and horticultural products

Main imports

Capital equipment, vehicles, petroleum, medical supplies and cereals.

Main trading partners

Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC), Kenya, Belgium, UAE, China and Netherlands

Keeping in Touch in Uganda

Coverage extends to all major towns and international roaming agreements exist with international mobile phone companies.


There are internet cafes in most large towns


Uganda has been a pioneer of liberalization in the African media private radio and television stations have thrived since the government loosened its control of the media in 1993, with over two dozen daily and weekly newspapers and many radio stations. Ugandans have unrestricted access to international media and around 15% of the population accessed the internet in 2012.

While the country’s laws allow for freedom of expression in the press, there have been clashes between media outlets that have been critical of policies and the government.

English-language papers include private daily The Monitor ( and state-owned daily New Vision ( Vernacular papers include state-owned Bukedde (, Etop ( and Rupiny  (

Post office hours

Mon-Fri 0800 – 1230 and 1400 – 1800. Some post offices are open Sat 0900 – 1400.

Embassies and tourist offices

Embassy of the Republic of Uganda in USA

Telephone: +2027267100.


Address: NW.5911 16th Street, Washington, 20011,

Mon- Fri 0900-1600, 0930- 1500 (visa section)

High commission for the Republic of Uganda in the UK

Telephone: +442078395783


Address: Trafalgar Square. Uganda House, 58-59 Spring Gardens, London,


Opening times:  Mon- Fri 0930- 1600, 0930-1300 (visa section). Closed between 1300 and 1400 for lunch

British high commission in Uganda

Telephone: +256312312000


Address: 4, Windsor loop, P.0. Box 7070, Kampala

Opening times: Mon- Thu 0830- 1300 and 1400- 1700, Fri 0830- 1300

Health Care

Visitors should bring personal suppliers of medicines that are likely to be needed, but enquire first at the embassy or high commission whether such supplies may be freely imported. Comprehensive health insurance is essential and should include cover for emergency air repatriation in case of serious or accident or illness. The Ugandan health service has still not recovered from the mass departure of foreign personnel in 1972 and there are medical facilities of a reasonable standard only in large towns and cities.

Uganda Public Holidays

  • New Year’s Day- 01stJanuary
  • Liberation Day – 26thJanuary
  • International Women’s Day- 08thMarch
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Sunday
  • Easter Monday
  • Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
  • Labour Day- 01stMay
  • Martyrs’ Day- 03rdJune
  • Heroes’ Day- 9thJune
  • Eid al-Adha (Feast of sacrifice)
  • Independence Day- 09th October
  • Christmas Day- 25th December
  • Boxing Day- 26th December

Getting Around Uganda by Air

Fly Uganda (, Eagle Air (

Aerolink ( offer scheduled and charter internal flights.

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