Here are some of the myths and misconceptions about Uganda
Imagined Reasons why some will not visit Uganda
Uganda – the Pearl of Africa – a place that I love a lot often gets a bad wrap – is misunderstood, misrepresented and wrongly maligned by a number of myths that are simply myths and not the reality about Uganda. I am a German-American who has come to Uganda since the early 90’s, live here, and like it here. Here is my take on some of those myths about Uganda.
- Uganda – Oh, that is where Idi Amin lives: Idi Amin was in power as President of Uganda from 1972 to 1979 – He came to be president with power of the gun and he was overthrown with the power of the gun. Most Ugandans were not alive during that time period. He wound up living out his days in Riyadh-Saudi Arabia where he died in 2003 of Kidney Failure and was buried there. He loved the attention of the world and mostly likely he would have enjoyed the movie (based on a novel) “The Last King of Scotland.” No – Idi Amin does not live in Uganda – however many of his family members still do.
- There is War going on in Uganda – it dangerous: This myth about Uganda is kept alive on websites, blog posts, mainly small town American Newspapers, University and College News site –Invisible Children the so-called non-profit organization that became involved in the Gulu area of Uganda during its turbulent times in the north. On their website they tell you the reality – but at their fundraising endeavors the lines become blurred regarding a war in Uganda. Reality – Joseph Kony and the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) are not in Uganda and there is no ongoing war in Uganda. The conflict with Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army ended in 2006 with the signing of (cessation of hostilities agreement by the Government of Uganda and the LRA). Northern Uganda is rebuilding – the roads to the north are safe to travel, (In spite of some outdated foreign government advisories). Murchison Falls National Park has seen a dramatic increase of tourists since that time – several new lodges are coming on line and the exclusive 5 star Chobe Lodge has been rebuilt and is in operation. Joseph Kony and his now diminished LRA have been causing havoc in other countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and even Darfur but not in Uganda – there is no war going on in Uganda.
- You will get Aids if you travel to Uganda: Simply setting foot into Uganda will not give you Aids – it does not float around in the air, you do not get it by visiting with Ugandans, having a drink with them, conversations, swimming in one of the pristine lakes, going rafting, or going gorilla or chimpanzee tracking – you can expose yourself if you engage in high risk behavior with the Ugandan ladies of the night – the mosquito girls whose sting just might infect you – best not engage in high risk behavior – enjoy the people, the wildlife, the scenery – but follow the ABC rule of Uganda to avoid HIV infection – Abstain-Be Faithful-Condoms.
- Uganda is not safe for Travelers – it is violent place: Ugandans are some of the friendliest people in Africa. I as a Westerner living here feel safer here, on the streets of Kampala than I would in some neighborhoods in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London. There are several pages on Travel Safety in Uganda – plain advice that will help you to have a safe time in the Pearl of Africa. You will not get robbed in Uganda – in spite of misconceptions you might have – especially on a safari tour of Uganda. You might get cheated when you buy goods or services and are given a high price – simply bargain down.
- You will get Malaria and it will kill you: Most travelers and visitors to not contract malaria – it is a rarity. Most visitors to Uganda should be on a malaria regiment which protects you. Use the mosquito nets provided by hotels and lodges. Better hotels even spray the room while you are at dinner and you can always purchase a spray can of Doom to eliminate those pesky critters. Apply Off, Cutter or RID insect repellent to your skin and clothing, wear long sleeved shirts in the evening and long trousers when going out. Should you contract malaria while in Uganda – there are good hospitals such as International Hospital in Kampala where they can effectively treat you. Over the years I have had malaria on several occasion, the latest treatment available here is quite effective and rather quick. Malaria does kill and unfortunately many Ugandans die daily from it because of wrong treatment or no treatment, however visitors coming here are quite safe if the above steps are followed.
- The food in Uganda is lousy and will make you sick: Even the President of Uganda recently said “I eat only eat local food.” He was not addressing visitors of Uganda however – the Food in Uganda is quite nice. The fruit is excellent – there is no better pineapple than a ripe Ugandan one, the small eating bananas are fabulous, the ripe Mangoes – sweet and juicy, and one could go on – try Jack Fruit while here – almost honey like. Uganda has many lovely restaurants – Ugandan, Fabulous Indian, Italian, Chinese, German, Japanese, Greek, Thai just to name a few – one can get sick anywhere in the world – I have eaten food in US restaurants that have made me ill and also in the UK. What one should avoid is buffets where the trays are heated with just with small flames especially those containing sauces, curries, etc. Avoid fresh salads, uncooked vegetables – but having said that – more restaurants are preparing very hygienic salads – at my home I eat daily salads with dark green leaves that rival such lettuce anywhere in the world. Avoid Street Vendors including those on major roads. Enjoy Uganda – some of my loveliest meals have been here…and at the lodges while on safari – especially in the moderate and up-market range – you are left wondering as to how they do it – away from everything – in the African Wild of Uganda – simply lovely meals.
- Don’t Drink the Water you will get typhoid: Bradt Guide to Uganda –(Phil Briggs-the author) the 6th additions claims the water in most towns is safe-the best choice is bottled water – it is inexpensive – safe and tastes nice and no chance of typhoid. Does the Rwenzori Brand come from the pristine mountains – I doubt it – but it certainly served me well over the years. You can also buy juices (at restaurants if you order juice such as passion fruit- ask what kind of water they added). When you buy juice – look at the label – the Ugandan brand “Splash” claims to be pure juice, however if you read the fine print – you will notice sugar – I guess in Uganda sugar is natural and not a refined and processed ingredient as in the rest of the world. The soft drinks here are inexpensive and range from the normal Coca Cola brands but Coca Cola also makes Krest Bitter Lemon – my favorite- a great thirst quencher. Pepsi Cola includes Mountain Dew and the Mirinda fruit sodas (no real fruit extracts). Try Tangawizi Soda – you either love it or hate it. Maybe Ugandans have read the same myth about the water since Ugandans consume the most alcohol per capita than anyone in the world – they love beer more than the Irish and Germans – beer for the most part is with sugar added or with cornstarch – only Moonberg Lager is pure malt-hops and water. Local wine is available – but sorry Uganda – ghastly for the most part-wine is expensive here since it is imported, hard liquor – the triple distilled Gin – Waragi-is safe and inexpensive – the packaged Coffee Spirit liquor is unique and not found elsewhere. Stay away from locally brewed liquors that are in made in villages and not by a government licensed distilleries.
- It is difficult to get around to see things: Book a safari in Uganda and tour operators will arrange it in such a way that it takes in travel times and minimizing them – do not risk just by hiring a Ugandan driver with a vehicle who has no knowledge of the parks, the places that you just might want to see and activities you might want to do-such a venture will result in a classical horror story. Transport on the poorest continent in the world is not done on the cheap (there is no hitchhiking here – you always have to pay something if you do get a ride) – you want a quality driver-guide-Ask yourself – do you want to experience Uganda at its best – or you want to take a mere miserable drive around Uganda with someone who knows nothing about Uganda, its scenery, its wildlife and background and history. (sorry – most Ugandans do not realize the treasures tucked away in the various locations of this country-they have never experienced and seen – hopefully that will change in the future as domestic tourism turns into reality instead of a mere slogan.)
- Going into the African Wild of Uganda means roughing it: They have never been to the Ugandan wild with its fabulous lodges and permanent tented camps- they can be simply luxurious, you have choices – of taking something like a truck safari where you are bounced around on the back of a truck and stay in smaller tents, sleeping bag or you can go for better budget, moderate facilities that are much more than what you expect.
- Gay Travelers will not be allowed into Uganda: Uganda like most African countries has restrictions and laws regarding gay people living within the country – and it is my personal opinion that the legislation proposed by David Bahati will never come into law. The present laws dealing with the local gay community are very similar to laws in surrounding states such as Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania where many gay people visit on a safari tour. If you are gay – no one will ask you at immigration when you apply for a visa if you are gay. I was asked that at the American Consulate in Frankfurt Germany in the the 60’s as I applied for a visa to the United States (also if I was a communist). You will not be asked such questions here. Here is a statement from the Uganda Tourism Board“condemns any form of discrimination against Ugandan citizens and all other nationals for their religious, cultural and sexual orientation. We would also like to clarify that the anti-homosexuality bill that was tabled in the Uganda Parliament last year was in fact a private member’s bill which the government of Uganda withdrew. Uganda Tourism Board welcomes all intending visitors to Uganda regardless of their sexual or cultural orientation and will continue to work with the Ugandan police and other agencies to ensure that their stay is peaceful and enjoyable.”
Uganda is much more than a bunch of myths – it is a reality – it is unique, beautiful, diverse in cultures, endowed with plants, trees, primates, species of birds not found elsewhere – it is the Pearl of Africa – it is best you come and discover this fabulous country yourself…from Kampala…jon
“If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.” John Hemingway, African Journeys