The continent of Africa is an exciting place to hear about - all the countries have a unique culture and a completely different perspective on life in comparison to the Western countries.
While Uganda wasn't my first choice for a job, I'm glad I went despite getting into a serious accident a month after arrival. While medical care is fairly primitive in comparison to Western standards, there are various other aspects of the country that are marvelous!
But with every other tourist I met, none were prepared for the reality of the country as they could have been and this lack of preparation hindered their overall experience. Even for myself, I wish I knew many things beforehand.
The following ten tips should make you that much more aware of the culture!
Always check beforehand if your country needs a tourist visa – particular citizens who have the benefit of not needing pre-entry visas need to keep this especially in mind.
Visa HQ is a great first step but also very important to check out Uganda’s embassy website in external countries as those tend to be more reliable, such as the Ugandan embassy in the UK, than the country’s own website.
The reason for this is that when entering the country for the first time, some Ugandan officials may try to get $50 USD from you if they sense you are unsure about it. So let’s avoid that altogether and use that money somewhere else because believe me, you’ll need it!
African countries may seem cheap but it really isn’t. Unlike Europe or North America, there aren’t monthly passes to buy for transportation. Surprisingly, it saves a lot of money and in Uganda, you must negotiate.
The most to pay from Kampala to Jinja is 2000 USH, equivalent to $2 USD. For boda-boda (which shouldn’t be taken unless absolutely necessary as they are very dangerous – I would know since I got into a boda-boda accident), 1500 USH is what they charge locals. These people will try to cheat you so hold strong.
As well as transportation, you will be charged the ‘international’ price for food or clothes at markets and be a target for theft.
Native Ugandans & Indian Ugandans do not like one another, generally speaking. There is resentment from the Natives that the economy is driven by Indians and resentment from Indians that the Natives have a bad work ethic.
There are numerous theories why they don’t like one another though and the above is just one. Expect to hear bad things from both sides and honestly speaking, it’s a two way street of hatred instead of a one-way street.
Not all of them dislike one another though – just the majority of them.
Internet is almost scarce. Africa uses the modem system where a customer needs to buy a modem from a provider and constantly buy airtime every day or every so often, depending on the package bought.
I initially used Warid but their service became terrible. Orange is arguably the best but it’s the most expensive. I would recommend Orange if you want a stable connection.
Also, black outs happen constantly. Don't be too surprised if it happens 3-4 times a week.
Bring a minimum amount of technology with you and ones that are easily replaceable. Make sure to back up all of your contacts, pictures, etc. just in case of theft. Locals don’t even spare other locals so don’t expect special treatment!
NEVER wear a backpack a normal way in downtown Kampala as thieves are incredibly stealthy and will take things without your knowledge. And if someone 'loses' something in a matatu - don't help them look! Such distractions are common so your bags aren't guarded well.
This is mostly for females – be careful with dressing. Incredibly short shorts are not the best idea and mini skirts are now illegal since they are considered 'pornographic'. It may be okay in your country but not so much in Uganda, especially if visiting villages. It’s unfortunate but the law doesn’t protect females, local or international, in cases of rape as much as Western countries.
Many locals want a bribe or a tip. Giving into bribes isn’t a necessity though, especially if you didn’t do anything wrong. The authorities are terrible for this since they abuse their power.
When people asked it of me, I used logic to my way out of things. Luckily, it worked for me but it isn't a guarantee it'll work every time.
Blackouts happen constantly - don't be surprised if the light goes out 3-4 times a week. Keep in mind that internet goes down as well if there's a blackout unless you're using a modem.
Many Africans are bad with time and Uganda isn't an exception - set a meeting at 1 p.m. then people end up showing at 3 p.m. Sometimes traffic is an issue so if you want to get somewhere on time, it's best to leave at least 30-45 minutes beforehand.
4:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. coming from town is almost madness at times. It's tempting to take a boda but if you can avoid it, please do. It's law to wear a helmet so consider buying one if boda is going to be your primary way of riding.
The majority of Africans hate or dislike homosexuals. Museveni, the Ugandan President, has recently signed the bill which allows authorities to jail homosexuals for up to 14 years.
Almost all of the hatred comes from religion - 85% of the population is Christian and they have it in their minds that homosexuals are the ruin of the country and are the devil's work.
Be careful of what and how you say something. The right attitude is always important - nothing more annoying than an international constantly criticizing the country. I'm sure Ugandans would be open to properly worded discussion though!
There are so many more things I could tell you about Uganda but it wouldn't be the same as experiencing the country for yourself.
Yes, Uganda has gotten a lot of international criticism for their ways but the country itself is a beautiful place - it is the native home to Gorillas!