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Uganda travel guide

About Uganda

A 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 African 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 travellers confine themselves to the city centre or the diplomatic quarter, Kololo, its worth venturing into the bustling 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 of diversions (although Jinja’s location on the banks of the River Nile has made it a favourite 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 visitors 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.

Key facts

Area:

241,038 sq km (93,072 sq miles).

Population:

41,487,965 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

157.1 per sq km.

Capital:

Kampala.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni since 1986.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja since 2021.

Travel Advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Areas where FCDO advises against all but essential travel

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice.

Western Uganda

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to:

  • Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • the area immediately south-west of Kasese town – from the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at Kyabikere extending eastwards up to and including the A109 road and southwards to Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Semuliki National Park

Find out more about why FCDO advises against travel.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Uganda set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Ugandan High Commission in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

Uganda’s Port Health Authority may check your temperature on arrival. If your temperature is above normal or you display COVID-19 symptoms, they may ask you to take a COVID-19 test.

Passport validity requirements

Your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive in Uganda.

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen. 

Visa requirements

You must have a visa to enter Uganda. Check which visa best fits your needs.

Applying for a visa

You apply online to Ugandan Immigration, attaching the required documents and certificates including, in most cases, a yellow fever vaccination certificate. The immigration authorities will email you a letter of authorisation including a barcode. You print out the letter to present on arrival, where border officials will issue your visa.

Alternatively you can take the letter to a Ugandan embassy and they will issue the visa.  

You can also apply online for an East African Tourist Visa. This costs 100 US dollars and allows multiple entries into Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda over 90 days.

Airport entry restrictions

Only passengers with valid tickets and airport officials are allowed into Entebbe International Airport’s terminal building.

Vaccination requirements

You must bring the yellow fever vaccination certificate you used to get your visa.

For full details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Uganda guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods that can be taken into and out of Uganda. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice and regional risks advice.

Terrorism   

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.    

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.         

 Terrorism in Uganda

Terrorists are very likely to try and carry out attacks in Uganda.   

There is a growing terror threat in Uganda, including targeting of foreign nationals. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in major cities and places frequented by foreign nationals and tourists, such as:

  • hotels
  • transport hubs
  • restaurants and bars
  • places of worship
  • shopping centres
  • major gatherings such as sporting or religious events
  • government buildings
  • security installations such as police stations
  • national parks

Stay aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities. The Uganda Police Force regularly issues alerts, particularly around public holidays or religious events. 

Consider whether locations that you visit have effective security arrangements in place, like bag searches, physical security and guards. Avoid large gatherings of any kind in Uganda as these may be targets for an attack.

Previous terrorist attacks and disrupted attacks in Uganda have targeted the security forces, places where football matches were being viewed, restaurants, buses, schools, churches, national parks and government buildings.

There have been a series of terrorist attacks in areas of western Uganda near to the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including in national parks. You should exercise particular caution in these areas and follow the advice of local authorities. 

Recent significant attacks include: 

  • in December 2023, 10 people were killed in an attack on a bar and a farm in Kyabandara, and a further 3 people in an attack in Nyabitusi, in Kamwenge district near to Kibale forest
  • in October 2023, 2 tourists and their driver were killed by terrorists in Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • in 2023, 42 people were killed in an attack on a school in Mpondwe, Kasese District, western Uganda, close to the border with the DRC
  • in 2021, terrorists used 2 explosive devices in central Kampala killing 4 and injuring 33 people. The police disarmed 2 further explosive devices
  • in 2021, terrorists used an explosive device on a coach travelling on the Kampala to Masaka road near Mpigi killing one person
  • in 2021, terrorists used an explosive device to attack a restaurant in Komamboga, a suburb in the north-east of Kampala killing one person and injuring a number of others

Political situation

Political rallies, protests and violent demonstrations can happen anywhere in Uganda without warning, causing loss of life and injury. Incidents are more likely to happen around elections. The police have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse demonstrators. Avoid all demonstrations and rallies where possible.

In November 2020, there were election-related protests in Kampala and other locations across Uganda, with incidents of violence and a number of deaths. Country-wide internet shut-downs have been implemented around elections, other political events and during protests. Disruption to social media sites including Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp has also taken place.

Red and yellow are strongly associated with political parties in Uganda. Consider not wearing these colours around political events.  

If you get caught up in a political demonstration, remain calm and try to move away from the area by the safest possible route. If you’re in a vehicle, make sure that the doors are locked and windows are up. If you’re in your accommodation and there’s a demonstration nearby, remain inside if you judge that leaving is threatening or unsafe. Make sure you’re familiar with the security procedures in place at your accommodation.

Crime

Criminals may target tourists who show signs of wealth.

Organised crime groups operate in Uganda. However criminal kidnaps and targeted armed assaults are unlikely to be directed at tourists.

Street crime

You can reduce the risk of being followed and pickpocketed or mugged by:

  • not carrying large amounts of cash
  • using arranged transport to withdraw cash
  • using indoor ATMs
  • not wearing expensive-looking jewellery or watches
  • taking care of your passport
  • not walking after dark

Vehicle crime

Keep car doors locked and windows shut when driving in towns. Criminals may steal from cars and taxis while they’re stopped in traffic. Do not leave luggage or valuables in parked vehicles. If you are stopped by armed criminals, do not resist.

Foreign nationals using motorbike taxis (‘boda-bodas’) have been mugged. Some of these incidents have involved violence and the use of weapons.

Food and drink spiking

There have been instances of travellers being drugged and robbed on public transport and in bars. Do not accept food and drink from strangers.

Scams

Foreign visitors and residents may be targeted by scam artists. Be wary of strangers who:

  • approach you or your accommodation
  • contact you by phone asking for personal information or financial help

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

You may be stopped and asked for ID by officials. Always carry a copy of the photo page of your passport.

Public offences

It is illegal for anyone, including children, to dress in military-style clothing. This includes clothing with marks, badges or symbols and accessories associated with the Ugandan military, camouflage clothing and red berets. The offence carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment when convicted.

It is illegal and punishable by a fine and a possible prison sentence to offer money, food or clothing to children living on the streets in Kampala.

Smoking and e-cigarette bans

It is illegal to smoke in:

  • public places
  • workplaces
  • transport
  • outdoors if you’re within 50 metres of a public building

Electronic cigarettes and shisha (water-pipe tobacco) are illegal. There are penalties including fines and prison sentences.

Illegal drugs and penalties

Penalties for illegal drug possession and illegal drug trafficking are severe.

Using cameras in secure areas

Do not take photos of military, official or diplomatic sites. This includes Owen Falls Dam at the source of the Nile near Jinja.

If you are taking photographs of people, ask their permission first.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal and same-sex relationships are not tolerated in Uganda’s conservative society.

In May 2023, Uganda brought in the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023. This act introduces harsh prison sentences, and the death penalty in some cases, for same-sex sexual activity. There are also severe penalties for promoting LGBT+ rights.

Sexual activity with someone of the same sex carries the punishment of life imprisonment.

Offences classed as ’aggravated homosexuality’ carry a sentence up to the death penalty. ‘Aggravated homosexuality’ is defined as sexual activity with someone of the same sex who is:

  • a person aged 17 or under
  • a person aged 75 or above
  • a relative or someone under your care
  • disabled or suffering from mental health issues
  • a person who is unconscious or under the influence of medicine or other substances that impair their judgement
  • if the act is committed under duress, misrepresentation, through threats, or intimidation

A person who has a previous conviction of homosexuality or related offences can be charged with aggravated homosexuality for subsequent offences.

Promoting or supporting homosexuality carries up to a 20-year prison sentence. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • encouraging or persuading someone to perform a same-sex sexual act or anything that is an offence under the act
  • publishing, printing, broadcasting by any means, information that promotes or encourages homosexuality
  • providing financial or other support that encourages homosexuality or the normalisation of acts prohibited by the act

Some of the language in the law is vague and open to interpretation, and it remains unclear how this law will be implemented. The law could affect those who are exercising their freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association to show support for LGBT+ people and rights.

Anti-LGBT+ rhetoric by religious leaders, politicians, government officials and the local media can incite homophobia against the LGBT+ community.

LGBT+ people or those who are perceived to be LGBT+ may be at greater risk of harassment, imprisonment, blackmail and violence from people who view the law as justification for attacks.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs

It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts without a licence. If you’re caught buying or trafficking such goods you might be prosecuted and get a prison sentence or a fine.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Uganda, see information on driving abroad.

You can drive in Uganda with a UK driving licence for up to 3 months. For a longer period, you will need a Ugandan driving licence or a 1949 international driving permit.

Travelling by road can be hazardous, particularly outside the main cities. Driving standards are poor and the accident rate is high. At night, other road users may be driving without lights and livestock roam across the roads. Accidents regularly happen on the Jinja-Kampala and the Kampala-Masaka roads.

Speeding is illegal in Uganda and the police enforce speed limit laws. You could be fined, imprisoned or both if caught speeding.

Avoid travelling outside of the main towns after dark, except on the roads between Kampala and Entebbe International Airport.

Make sure your vehicle is in good condition and stocked with items you might need in case of a breakdown or other incidents.

Public transport

There have been some serious accidents involving Ugandan long distance bus services. These include:

  • buses between Kampala and other towns in Uganda
  • international services to Nairobi, Kigali and Dar es Salaam

Some overnight buses have been robbed after being forced to stop by roadblocks or by criminals posing as passengers.

Avoid using:

  • matatus (minibus taxis following a particular route)
  • boda-bodas (motorbike taxis)

Matatus and boda-bodas are cheap, but they do not meet UK safety standards. They are generally in poor condition and badly driven, and often do not have proper insurance. Accidents are common and can be fatal.

Boat travel

Large numbers of ferry passengers have died in accidents on Lake Albert and Lake Victoria in recent years often due to overloading of passengers and goods.

Use a reputable ferry company and if you believe a ferry to be overloaded or unseaworthy, do not get on. Make sure you are familiar with emergency procedures on board and make a note of where the life jackets and emergency exits are located.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Flooding

Localised flooding and landslides are common, particularly during the rainy seasons from March to May and October to November.

Earthquakes

Uganda is in an earthquake zone. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

This section has safety advice for regions of Uganda. It only covers regions where FCDO has specific advice.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice and safety and security advice.

Exercise extra caution near the borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. In DRC, FCDO advises against all travel to the provinces that border Uganda. In South Sudan, FCDO advises against all travel.

Uganda and the DRC conduct joint military action against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in North Kivu and Ituri provinces of eastern DRC, near to parts of the Ugandan border. Ugandan troops are present on both sides of the border as part of the joint operations.

This operation may affect the function of some border crossing points which could close at short notice. There is also a risk of banditry.

Western Uganda

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to:

  • Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • the area immediately south-west of Kasese town – from the border with DRC at Kyabikere extending eastwards up to and including the A109 road and southwards to Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Semuliki National Park

Tourists and foreign nationals may be targeted by the ADF in areas near the border with the DRC.

There have been several terrorist attacks in western Uganda in areas close to the border with DRC, especially around the Bwera border crossing. In October 2023, 2 tourists and their driver were killed by the ADF in Queen Elizabeth National Park. In December 2023, 10 people were killed in an attack on a bar and a farm in Kyabandara, and a further 3 people in an attack in Nyabitusi, in Kamwenge district near to Kibale forest. There are ongoing security operations in Kibale National Park, you should exercise caution and follow the advice of local authorities.

In June 2023, 42 people were killed in an attack on a school in Mpondwe, near to the border with DRC.

In 2022, the ADF carried out an attack in the vicinity of Bweramule Parish in Ntoroko District, on the border with DRC. If you are in the area, which is close to Semuliki National Park and Semuliki Wildlife Reserve, you should be cautious and follow the instructions of the local authorities.

South-west Uganda

The provinces of DRC bordering south-west Uganda have a history of instability and violent conflict and can this can flare up with little notice. FCDO advises against all travel to these DRC provinces. There is a potential for some spillover into Uganda. Take care when travelling in the area.

There are periodic clashes between DRC government forces and armed groups in the DRC close to the Ugandan border. Both the Bunagana border crossing and the Kitagoma-Buszana border crossing in Kisoro district are controlled by the M23 armed group on the DRC side of the border. If you are in this area, keep your security situation under constant review.

There were previous clashes on 12 June 2022, 23 May 2022 and 29 March 2022, and border crossing points were temporarily suspended. They could be closed again at short notice.

National parks near DRC and Rwanda

Use reputable, registered tour operators and contact the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) for up-to-date advice and information before you travel. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park are in the extreme south-west of Uganda near the borders with DRC and Rwanda. It’s routine practice for security personnel to accompany tourists on gorilla-tracking visits in this area.

Some gorilla trekking operators cross into DRC. Avoid taking these tours. FCDO advises against all travel to the provinces of DRC that border Uganda, including Virunga National Park.

North-east Uganda

There is an increased security presence in north-east Uganda in the Karamoja sub-region (districts of Kaabong, Kotido, Abim, Moroto and Nakapiripirit) due to cattle theft. Military and civilians have been killed during security operations. Armed raids to steal cattle and robberies related to cattle trading, some resulting in killings, have been reported in Karamoja. There have also been robberies in districts that neighbour Karamoja in the Teso and Acholi sub-regions. Foreigners are not usually the target of attacks but you should remain vigilant, exercise caution at all times and avoid any travel at night.

The north-east is susceptible to flooding during the rainy seasons, from March to May and October to November. Monitor local media and only use suitably equipped 4-wheel-drive vehicles.

Eastern Uganda

Travel to eastern Uganda is largely trouble-free, but during heavy rains there is a risk of landslides, particularly in Bulucheke sub-county in Bududa District near Mount Elgon National Park, a popular tourist destination.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Medical help at the scene of an accident is likely to be limited, particularly outside Kampala.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccination requirements

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:

Health risks

Ebola

There are occasional outbreaks of Ebola in Uganda. The authorities and the World Health Organisation declared the last one was over in January 2023. See more information on Ebola and similar diseases.  

Some countries have heightened health screening for travellers from Uganda. Check the entry requirements of the country you are travelling to or transiting.

Public Health England has guidance for humanitarian or healthcare workers travelling to countries at risk of Ebola.

See the TravelHealthPro Uganda guide for more details about health risks.

Drinking water

Only use boiled or bottled water, and avoid ice in drinks. Avoid eating food prepared by unlicensed vendors or where you have concerns about kitchen hygiene.

If you are staying in Uganda for a long time, store basic provisions (drinking water and non-perishable foods) at your accommodation, in case of supply problems.

HIV and AIDS

UNAIDS estimate that around 1,400,000 adults aged 15 or over in Uganda are living with HIV. Read more about precautions and how to avoid exposure to HIV or AIDS.

Medication

Laws and rules about medicines you can buy or get on prescription in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare facilities in Uganda

Medical facilities in Uganda are limited, especially outside Kampala. Many popular tourist attractions have poor medical facilities. If you are seriously ill or have an accident, you may need an air ambulance. Make sure you have accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

FCDO has a list of English speaking doctors in Uganda

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Uganda

Telephone: 999 (ambulance, fire, police)

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

Help in Uganda in an emergency

If you are in Uganda and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British High Commission in Kampala.

You can also contact FCDO online.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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