A relatively small country, Uganda is 241 136 sq. km. in extent, of which 44 000 sq. km. is fresh water. Situated astride the Equator, average day time temperatures usually range between 24-28 deg C. An annual rainfall of 125 mm over two periods - April /May and November to early December. But with the sun still shining during the rainy season, and the rain still falling during the dry months, it provides the country with a suitable all year round climate for visitors.
The main language is English, and the basic infrastructure is sound and rapidly becoming better. The ecology varies from savanna to forest to snow capped mountains, a great diversity which shows in its recorded bird list of over 1000 species.
Official Language: English and currency: Uganda Shilling Approximately 2800 Uganda Shilling = 1US Dollar (as at January 2015)
Rwanda is a small, land locked country in eastern / central Africa of approximately 26,340 sq km. It has five prominent volcanoes and 23 lakes as well as several rivers. A large part of the country has an elevation of between 1,500 and 2,500 meters AMSL.
In prehistoric times as much as one third of Rwanda was covered with montane rainforest. Today the only large tract of forest left in Rwanda is Nyungwe in the southwestern part of the country; it covers almost 1000 square kilometers. Some areas of forest are also found in the Volcanoes National Park in the northeast, but most of the natural vegetation here is bamboo forest and open moorland.
The highlands in large parts of the country are now dominated by the terraced agriculture that gives the Rwandan countryside its beautiful and pleasant character. The eastern part of Rwanda has entirely different vegetation, the typical African bush, a mix of savannah and grassland dominated by acacia trees. Average temperatures are between 24 - 27 degrees with the hottest months from August – September.
Official languages; Kinyarwanda, French, English & Kiswahili
Local Currency; Rwanda Franc Approximately 600 Rwandan Franc = 1US Dollar (as at January 2014)
VISA FOR UGANDA AND RWANDA
Uganda – Most nationalities require entry visas when travelling to Uganda. Visas can be purchased on arrival at the airport for USD 50, or can be issued by Ugandan High Commissions in countries where they are represented. The fees for visas issued at Ugandan high commissions abroad are generally more. USD notes have to be dated 2006 or newer and be in good condition with no tears or marks.
Rwanda – AUSTRALIA, GERMANY, ISRAEL, NEW ZEALAND, SOUTH AFRICA, SWEDEN, UK AND USA are issued with a Rwandan entry visa upon arrival without prior application. The entry visa fee is $30 and is valid for a period of 30 days.
Nationals of SINGAPORE, HONG KONG, MAURITIUS AND PHILIPPINES are exempt from entry/tourism view for a stay up to 90 days.
EAC nationals will be issued with a 6 months visitors pass (renewable) at entry points with no fee.
All other nationalities will be required to purchase visas with the cost varying, depending on the nationality, up to USD60 for a single entry. These countries should apply for a visa BEFORE travelling and pay the presubscribed fee.
IMPORTANT: The visa documentation / permission MUST BE DONE in advance of your arrival irrespective whether you fly or drive there - through their closest Rwandan High Commission abroad - this is as below.
RWANDA VISA ENTRY FACILITY
All visitors / tourists (by road and air) who are not eligible for the free 90 day entry into Rwanda or able to get their visa upon arrival without prior application are required to complete an "entry facility application" on the Rwandan immigration authority's website - www.migration.gov.rw - under the topic "Public service" click on "entry facility" and on the form that appears clients fill in the basic details like name, passport number, arrival date and port of arrival - and submit it over the web. It is advisable for clients to process this application as soon as possible to allow plenty of time for the application to be approved. It’s good for clients to print out a copy of their submission in case their copy is not at the visa counter when they arrive.
Upon re-entry in to Uganda, e.g. from Rwanda by road, a transit visa for USD15 MAY be possible, depending upon your itinerary and where you are going in Uganda & for how long BUT if not then a full new single entry visa at USD50 will be charged.
It is YOUR responsibility to ensure that your passport is valid for a minimum of six months and has several clear pages for visas prior to departure. If you are travelling on a British Passport new regulations require that your passport is valid for 12 months for entry into Uganda. It is suggested that you check your status as regards visas prior to travel with your agent or Wild Frontiers - they change on a regular basis, and some of these states embassies will INSIST you get one prior to travel, whereas they may be freely available on arrival - embassies make money out of this.
Yellow Fever inoculation is required should you travel between East African countries, and should you be flying into SA after visiting East Africa. This must be done no later than 10 days prior to your departure. If you have a history of liver disorders (hepatitis etc) you must consult your physician first.
Typhoid may be requested from the authorities when crossing into Rwanda, although it is unusual for it to be requested. This can be done by your local GP or through a travel clinic. There is also the tablet form available - only available from certain pharmacies.
Tetanus is also recommended, as is Cholera, but are not compulsory.
Hepatitis inoculation is at the discretion of the traveler.
Malaria prophylactics are a must and can be purchased from your local pharmacy. Please consult your pharmacist/doctor. It is also a good idea to bring some insect repellant with you to spray on your self in the evenings and early morning when mosquitos tend to be about.
Diarrhoea / Giardia etc - good personal hygiene and control over the quality of your drinking water should avoid this, bottled water is readily available throughout the country, but take along some medicine in case, particularly if you are planning to spend some time traveling alone and not with a tour. We recommend that guests either buy bottled water, or take along water purification tablets and look after your own drinking water.
As with all medical requirements, your doctor or travel clinic will provide the most up to date information - the above is a guide only.
Gorilla and Chimpanzee Tracking Health Requirements
Mountain gorillas and Chimpanzees are highly susceptible to human diseases including flu and colds. If you are participating in a gorilla / chimp trek then you need to be free of any visibly contagious diseases and this is checked at the start of the trek by the Park Authorities. If they are in any doubt of your condition, they reserve the right to prevent you from continuing on the trek. Our advice is that if you feel you are worried about this aspect, you please inform your safari guide as soon as possible, and he will seek advice as to the best way to manage the situation.
If you are participating on a NGAMBA ISLAND SANCTUARY CHIMPANZEE INTERACTION (NOT the day visits – the actual INTERGRATION WITH THE CHIMPS or CAREGIVER PROGRAMMES where you overnight on the island) please refer to the documentation provided on booking regarding which SPECIAL, ADDITIONAL vaccines and health certificates are required to be presented to ensure participation.
While travelling through Uganda/Rwanda, you will be mostly on tarred roads and they are in reasonably good condition by African standards. There may be some VERY LONG days in the vehicle, but the interesting and diverse scenery generally makes up for it! There are however, some really bad sections of dirt road, especially in the more mountainous areas. In these areas travel will be slower, quite bumpy and there could be a lot of dust experienced en route. There are options for scheduled or charter flights for the longer routes – please enquire for prices and feasibility of this.
The safari vehicles you will be traveling in are customized 4x4 vehicles which have been converted for local conditions – they have good leg room and seat between 4-7 persons, depending on the seating configuration, and have opening roof hatches for optimal game viewing. They are a little slower on the road than a saloon vehicle or a smaller 'family' 4x4 and do have air conditioning. Your safari vehicle is generally used through out the safari for travelling between destinations as well as for game drives and other activities at the lodges and within the National Parks.
Depending on the class or style of your safari, your accommodation may range from luxurious to moderate or budget. There are many different styles of accommodation in Uganda/Rwanda varying from large hotels to smaller more intimate lodges and tented camps. Please consult your personalized itinerary for full details of each place you will be staying on your safari.
Should you stay in the more modest local hotels/guest houses you will have the use of showers and toilets, hot water cannot always be guaranteed. The hotels/guest houses themselves are very basic and generally clean, the staff are friendly and helpful. These hotels/guest houses are mainly utilised by local businessmen as not many tourists pass through these areas. They can be fairly noisy, especially on weekends but the atmosphere is friendly and accepting. Food is generally good, hearty African fare, sometimes there are European/Western items available.
Due to space limitations in the vehicles it is imperative that luggage be kept to a minimum. We suggest a barrel or soft bag (15 kg maximum) for your main gear, plus a camera bag or smaller 'day pack ' for inside the vehicle. Samsonite / hard bags / suitcases, etc. are not suitable as it makes packing very difficult. If you are travelling internationally with one we suggest you repack safari items into your soft bag, before the safari, and then leave your hard suitcase at your return point eg Entebbe Hotel to collect later.
Charters luggage allowance - If you are traveling on a light aircraft within Uganda, then the luggage restriction is dependent on combined client and luggage weights and varies from plane to plane and routing but usually only up to 10kg per person in soft bags and this is strictly adhered to for safety reasons. Please check your personal allowance on confirmation of itinerary and aircraft.
CLOTHING ON UGANDA/RWANDA SAFARI
On a trip through Uganda/Rwanda you can experience all four seasons. It will also be necessary to take some wet weather gear as it does rain in the mountainous areas of Uganda and Rwanda on a regular basis. We suggest lightweight rain gear for the hike to view the gorillas.
During your safari, depending on the style of trip chosen, dress code may vary slightly. Women are advised to cover knees and shoulders when in a rural village or market. None of the lodges/hotels insist on any formal type of dress – ties, jackets etc – so the norm would be casual or smart casual depending upon the level. In towns and cities, and at certain of the more up-market lodges and hotels then long pants and shirt / golf shirt would be more appropriate (especially in the evenings), or ladies may wear a skirt of course!
Bush gear ie hard wearing clothes, no bright colours, eg greens, khaki and similar neutral clothes are recommended. In the day time on safari, generally shorts or lightweight trousers, t-shirts, hat, sunblock etc are recommended as it is generally fairly warm (25-35 degrees C average). Avoid wearing blue colours in areas where you may find tsetse flies, as they are often attracted to these colours, (this would be in small parts of Murchison Falls for example, check with your guide).
We suggest you take something warm eg tracksuit, fleece or sweater for the mountainous areas i.e. Bwindi or Virungas. It is at a higher altitude and will therefore be cooler in the evenings. - a rain jacket/anorak is also suggested as it rains, regularly in the in the rain forest areas, even in the drier months. Long trousers and long sleeved shirts are also recommended for general evening use to assist in the prevention of mosquito bites and also as it’s generally cooler than during the day.
While gorilla and chimp tracking you will need a comfortable, hard wearing, pair of walking shoes or boots. Conditions are generally very muddy/slippery. There are uphill sections which may be quite steep and strenuous. It is also advisable to wear a long sleeve cotton shirt and lightweight long trousers to protect yourself from the undergrowth, stinging nettles and biting ants. (Tracksuit pants often get caught on bushes, thorns, etc and jeans can get very heavy when wet). Gloves are also highly recommended – just cheap gardening gloves will do – this will prevent your hands being scratched when holding onto vegetation for support, through dense parts of the forest. Tuck your long pants into your socks/boots to avoid biting insects. Your clothes will in all likelihood get very muddy and may not recover to their original state - therefore take old clothing for the gorilla trekking.
NON COMERCIAL VIDEO AND PHOTOGRAPY
There is no charge for personal filming of gorillas and other scenes with personal video cameras, eg digital, slr etc in Uganda or Rwanda.
Professional photographers, film makers or media should advise us at the time of booking as special procedures are required as well as costs to be incurred for photographing and filming.
Most lodges operate on solar power and so have limited facilities for charging batteries and some none at all, so come prepared with extra, just in case and charge up where ever it is possible en route on your safari – do not wait until down to your last battery!
Do not photograph any government buildings, police or military posts. Ask permission before photographing local tribesmen. For gorilla photography a 35 - 70 mm zoom, or 50 mm fixed is usually sufficient, but you may want to carry a longer lens but remember you may well be in low light conditions. Take fast film if using film (200-400 ASA plus), as you are not allowed to use a flash. Please check your camera beforehand to ensure you know how to turn it off manually.
Game & bird photography obviously longer lens would be recommended 80-300mm ideally.
Do not spend all your time with the gorillas trying for the classic photograph, look around you and observe and enjoy these gentle animals.
LAUNDRY IN UGANDA AND RWANDA
Laundry is possible at most establishments in Uganda at an additional cost. Mostly it is done by hand and dried naturally outside and so this requires at least 1-2 days for turn a round depending upon the location and weather. Please check the system upon arrival at each lodge to ensure you are not caught short with wet washing – especially in high rainfall areas eg Bwindi.
ELECTRICITY IN UGANDA
Electricity spec Uganda: 240 volts British Standard, generally through 3 pin square plugs.
Rwanda: 240 volts but using the 2 pin European style plugs.
Some lodges and camps have power only at certain times of the day, and in some charging facilities are centralised. You will need your own charger.
In lodges/ camps utilising solar power systems, the amount of power available for charging often depends on how sunny the weather has been and how busy the lodge is with charging equipment, so whilst they will always try to assist, continuous charging cannot be guaranteed at all times to be available.
Use of specialized breathing machines, hair dryers, curling tongs, shavers and other electrical equipment is possible at hotels in towns and at lodges with large generator power back up systems but generally not possible at solar powered lodges – please check your detailed itinerary to ensure you are aware of where you can utilise these items and advise your agent in advance if special arrangements need to be made eg for breathing machines.
The safari vehicles you travel in may also have invertor systems for charging items but this facility is not guaranteed.
MONEY-PLEASE READ THIS CAREFULLY
US Dollars cash is the preferred option to bring when traveling to Uganda/Rwanda.
Once in Uganda/Rwanda, we advise guests to change some dollars into local currency for use as spending money on the road eg for drinks, curios. We suggest a combination of small denomination notes (USD 1, 5, 10, 50) as well as USD 100 bills - make sure they are POST 2006 as generally only post 2006 series are accepted in Uganda and have the ‘large heads’ on – (the older notes depict the various senators with ‘smaller heads’ – this may sound a bit cryptic, but when you compare the notes it will become clearer). Please ensure that all USD bills are in good condition, i.e. without rips, tears and any mark. Note that whilst more convenient in terms of changing currency and not having to carry around huge amounts of local money, there is normally a surcharge on the smaller notes when changing them. Keep your slips, you are able to change surplus local money back to cash if you have proof of purchase when leaving the country.
Travellers cheques are difficult to change and REALLY bad rates of exchange generally apply, and are often VERY difficult to cash, even in large towns and especially over weekends and after hours. Throughout the rest of the country, changing TC’s is almost impossible.
There are only a few banks in Kampala (to our knowledge) that are authorised to give cash advances on credit cards. Visa cards are generally fine BUT Mastercard are NOT guaranteed and will only be cashed IF they clear certain internal security checks. There is a limit on amounts that may be drawn, and only during banking hours. Exchange rates will be poor, and they may also charge a hefty service fees.
Payment for services by credit card can only be done by VISA card or MASTERCARD in some places. Only large hotels generally accept this means of payment and they will also levy a fee of at least 5% on top of any bills. So the long and short is keep your credit card for EMERGENCIES ONLY.
ATM Machines - they are often not working although there are now some in Entebbe, Kampala and also some in larger up country towns. They pay LOCAL MONEY only and the client needs an international use PIN code to draw money and it can only be done with certain cards. Maximum Ush2 million per day (about USD1200 equivalent) but also depends on the clients own individual bank set up so may well be less.
Please also be aware that the traffic in & out of Kampala is terrible and so going to the bank can take up to one hour just standing in traffic in the city.
DRINKS ON A UGANDA SAFARI
You will generally be expected to purchase your own drinks on safari. Most camps/lodges have a reasonable selection of wines and spirits – with the more upmarket ones generally offering more choice. Beer, cool drinks (sodas), bottled water, local gin, etc. are readily available everywhere. Prices vary depending upon where purchased. Please be aware that you should only drink bottled water, not from the taps for health safety reasons. Bottled water is available for purchase everywhere en route and some lodges also supply limited courtesy bottles in the rooms. Please bring your own supply of water purifying tablets, or your own water bottle if you prefer.
It is a strong recommendation that you are covered by some type of medical insurance. Should
you require further information please do not hesitate to contact us. Minimum cover should be
$50 000 for medical and related expenses.
AIRPORT DUTY FREE SHOPPING
The Entebbe airport has a reasonable duty free section – with an array of curios, t-shirts and books, maps etc – for last minute shopping. Certain of the more up-market lodges also have curio shops. There is also a limited choice at the curio markets around the country and in Kampala. Speak to your guide for advice if you are looking for something in particular. Duty free allowance is 2 bottles of wine/spirit, and 200 cigarettes.
SAFETY OF OUR CLIENTS
Your personal safety and well-being is our prime concern. Please take care of all your personal possessions at all times - do not tempt petty theft, pickpockets, etc with displaying large amounts of money, especially when near markets or in the centre of Kampala / Entebbe / Kigali. Valuables, especially cash, travellers cheques and credit cards should be kept on your person at all times. A "moon bag" or “body belt” is a useful item for storing cash and other valuable small items. When leaving the vehicle in towns, please ensure all the windows are shut and that you take your valuables and cameras with you for safe keeping.
When at lodges / hotels we recommend you either keep your money and valuables with you or utilise the safe keeping facilities provided at the various establishments. Please also be sure to check your room and ensure you have everything packed before moving on to a new place.
A thorny issue that often raises questions. It is at your discretion as the guest, customary in this part of the world, but not compulsory, and based upon service levels received. Our guidelines per passenger travelling are:
Gorilla & Chimpanzee Guides: Tips should be placed in the central tip box if provided or given to the main guide who will distribute amongst all the trackers and game guards – region of USD15 for the main guide (per guest)
Porters: This is an optional extra and they are normally hired for around USD15 per porter per day and the tip will vary depending on the work load – between USD15-20 per guest for each porter.
Safari Driver/guides: USD 5 to 10 per day – per guest, averaging 4-6 guests in a vehicle. If you are traveling privately, ie just two of you, please tip at your discretion.
Lodges /camp staff: We suggest USD3-5 per guest per stay. Many of the smaller lodges have central tip boxes. At hotels and larger establishments it is generally given at your discretion to individuals who have performed well.
National Parks Guides (cruises / bird walks): For each guide USD 3.00 to 5.00 per guest in local currency.
Porters at hotels : Around USD1-2.00 in local currency
Waiters / Bar Staff : 10% of bill, or say Uganda Shillings 2000-3000 as a tip for service.
LOW IMPACT AND RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL
A suggestion from past guests is to mention that if people want to help the poorer Ugandans /Rwandans they could bring old clothes etc with them to give to appropriate organizations/places. If you are interested in this option you should advise us before travel as we can set up times/days on safari where you can visit an orphanage, or school, assist or give a donation for “something specific”. Or we can refer you to various organizations that we work in conjunction with for various community assistance and uplift programmes we can monitor and ensure that the appropriate funds are received by the right people! Handouts of money (except as genuine tips) sweets, pens etc is to please be avoided. It creates a system of begging and invariably causes fights amongst the children when there is not enough to go around.