The local currency of Uganda is the Uganda Shilling. There are 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2000, 1,000 shilling notes and 1,000, 500, 200 and 100 shilling coins. You may not get any balance if you pay using large paper notes at the local markets or shops within the rural areas, so request for some notes of small denomination when you exchange money. In case the charges are less than 100 shillings, they are rounded off.
Payments in foreign currencies are limited to upmarket accommodations, travel agencies and some souvenir shops only, so it is necessary to exchange foreign currency to the local currency. You can exchange US Dollars, Euros and British Pounds at exchange counters in Kampala and Entebbe.
There are few exchange counters in many towns except Kampala and Entebbe. So we recommend you exchange enough money before you leave Kampala or Entebbe. It is possible to exchange local currency to the foreign currency at end of the trip.
For the case of US Dollar, exchange rate for small notes like 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 is low, so we recommend you exchange 50 or 100 dollar notes.
Credit card payment is becoming common, but it is limited to hotels and restaurants with many foreign customers, large supermarkets in Kampala, travel agencies and a few souvenir shops. ATMs are located at shopping malls, fuel stations and bank branches. It is possible to withdraw cash in local currency. Please cross check if your credit card can be used in Uganda before traveling.
Culture of tipping is becoming common at tourism spots since most of the tourists come from the Western world. It is a good idea to tip someone if a good service has been offered to you.
Prepaid SIM cards for voice call and data communication are sold at the airport and in many towns at less than a dollar. After the purchase, you have to present your original passport and take your photograph at a mobile shop or kiosk as process of SIM card registration. After completing the registration process at the shop, and it is approved by the government department / responsible authorities, then the SIM card gets activated. You will have to have an unlocked mobile phone so as to be able to use the local SIM card.
Data communication by use of a smartphone or a modem with a SIM card is the most commonly used way of accessing internet in Uganda. You can use them as long as it is with the local mobile network that serves as the Internet service provider. Many hotels offer Wi-Fi services but the internet speed can be very slow or area of usage is limited.
If you need fast and steady data communication, we recommend you bring a smartphone or a modem without SIM lock and insert a local SIM card in it, or bring a rental Wi-Fi router which can work in Uganda from your country.
The first language for most Ugandans is the various local languages of their ethnic groups and the second language is English which is Uganda’s national language. However, Ugandan English has different pronunciation from the normal English, so when speaking it, try talking to people slowly in order to be understood.
Power outage/ Water shortage
Due to lack of proper infrastructure, power outage occurs sometimes. Though many hotels have a standby generator, charge your appliances when power is available, and have a flashlight near your pillow before you sleep. Cases of water shortage are rare. No hot water from the showers or the water pressure can be weak at times.
Accommodations far from town like those in and around national parks are off grid of power transmission line or water supply system, they use generators and water pumps. Some of them offer power for a limited period of time and area.
Although the security in developed countries is better, Uganda is one of the safest countries in Africa.
Be cautious of the following points while taking a stroll through Kampala city:
- There are many crowded and busy places in Kampala such as the big markets, taxi and bus parks, so be cautious of pickpockets while walking through these areas.
- While navigating through the busy streets in Kampala, make sure the windscreens of your vehicle are up all the time to avoid your phone or camera from being snatched from your hands by street thugs especially during the traffic jam.
- Try walking as much as possible during the day. Avoid walking during the night as it is very dangerous.
- Expensive jewelry such as necklaces and earrings are prey to being stolen, so let’s ensure to take them off while walking through the streets of Kampala.
Aragaki chocolate –This is Ugandan chocolate which is carefully grinded using organic certified cacao from Uganda’s rich fertile soils and it’s processed manually. The chocolate has no additives or vegetable oil, so you can enjoy the original flavor of the cacao as much as possible.
Coffee and tea – Uganda is well known for its unique coffee and tea which is available throughout the year and this is because of the steady rainfall and the very rich fertile soils of the country. This coffee and tea can be purchased cheaply in Ugandan supermarkets around the country and can make a perfect souvenir to carry back home with you.
Uganda waragi - Uganda waragi is just like any other gin but this unique gin is characterized by its great tasting aromatic flavor which is a unique blend of strong, tangy lime flavor that comes from the zest of a lime and juniper berries from Greece. It also comes in the flavors of sweet coconut and pineapple.