Practical Tips and Advice for the Volunteers going to Uganda
Things to know about Volunteering in Uganda – Short-Term Missions Information
If you are coming to Uganda as a volunteer – short-term missions – this page is for you
It is good to know what to expect in Uganda. You are coming to Africa – to Uganda which is quite different from your country of origin. We have created this page to make your time here more enjoyable and prepare you as to some customs, cultural mistakes to avoid, where to stay and what to do.
Tips and Advice for Volunteers – Short-Term Missions to Uganda
Change Agents – contributing to an emerging, ever-changing Uganda. As you embark on your volunteer trip to Uganda one needs to realize that you can be a partner in a better Uganda – one that you are helping to build by coming here and volunteering your time and resources.
Volunteers to Uganda come in many varieties from short-term missions to medical volunteer, or as a builder of a school or orphanage – the opportunities are limitless..
The Link above takes you to our Out of Africa – Too Blog where you will find lots of helpful information written for person or group that will spend some time in Uganda Volunteering in one fashion or another.
Enjoy your time in the Pearl of Africa impacting the World in which we all live.
Now that you are planning to volunteer in Uganda the issue of money always comes up. Here you will find some practical ways how one goes about raising money for your trip and also for your project in Uganda.
Today we can use Social Media to give us that extra financial boost to make that Volunteer Trip to Uganda a reality beyond the dream that it presently is.
It does take money to travel to Uganda from faraway places such as North America or Australia and one thing about most volunteers – they will have to do some fundraising, networking, start a blog and other ways of networking in order to get the word out about what you will be doing during your time in Uganda.
Be resourceful and invent some new ways of raising funds for your volunteer trip to the Pearl of Africa,
Packing for a trip is always most exciting thing, packing for a volunteer takes some extra planning and packing with a purpose in mind.
One suitcase is with you in mind, the second one is for your volunteer purpose. Depending on what your project will consist of in Uganda.
If you are coming to an orphanage or school, books for children, crayons, pencils, pens, deflated soccer balls. dolls will come in handy and make you many friends.
Medical thins such as a Stethoscope, blood pressure reading kit, syringes, etc will come in most handy.
You can always ask your Ugandan contact as to what is needed and what would be helpful.
Here you will find advice and tips as to how to get here and what you will have to do one you arrive at Entebbe International Airport. including going through customs and immigration, your luggage and more.
There are more and more International Airlines flying to Uganda from various parts of the world and at times you can find trips here at a promotional discount.
Flying to Uganda from North America can be done with British Airways, KLM and Northwest. Qatar, Emirate, Brussels Airlines, Ethiopian, Kenya Airways, Turkish and Egyptians Air. Most arrive in Uganda late in the evening or at night. There is also South African Airways, Rwandair and others.
Uganda presently has no National Airlines but is served by many other carriers.
A Visa for Uganda can be either obtained from the Ugandan Embassy in your country, if an embassy exists there or you can obtain a visa at the point of Entry into Uganda which for most business Travelers would be Entebbe International Airport which is 45 minutes to one hour away from Kampala by vehicle.
Volunteers can get their visa as they arrive in Uganda such as Entebbe Airport without any problem and you do not incur extra cost of overnight mail obtaining it from the Ugandan embassy in your country of origin.
If you are visiting Uganda and then on Rwanda – click on our Rwanda Visa Requirement – many different nations are exempt from obtaining a Visa before they arrive in Rwanda.
Uganda remains the easiest country where you can obtain a visa for your volunteer trip.
East African Tourist Visa 2014 is now available – one Visa – three countries – Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.
Uganda for the most part is a Cash-Based society where the US Dollar is the currency of choice after the Ugandan Shilling
The US Dollar is good to have with you – 2003 or newer, clean and unmarred bills. 50 or 100 USD Bills receive the best exchange rates at Forex Bureaus. Do not use the Hotel Front-Desk to change your USD into Uganda Shillings, you’ll receive a much lower exchange rate depending on which hotel you are staying at.
If a business accepts credit cards you will often pay a 5% or even higher surcharge, a common practice East Africa. One could say that Uganda has a Cash based price and a higher credit Card Price.
Using Traveler Cheques in Uganda is a cumbersome and time-stealing process and you definitely receive a lower exchange rate – some Hotels in Kampala accept them and at banks you have to prove that you bought them and show your documentation for that.
ATM Machines are readily available and it is best to have a Visa Card in order to withdraw money – Master Card gives you limited access and you can forget about using American Express.
If you are in Uganda – forget using Buses – too many accidents, forget using our Boda-Boda Motorcycle Taxis which have one of the highest accident rates in Uganda resulting the number one cause for emergency hospital admissions in Kampala.
You can use a for-hire Taxi to get you to your business appointments or you can hire a quality vehicle and driver from a company such as ourselves. Do keep in mind that transport in East Africa is considerably higher than in other parts of the world because of higher fuel costs. Even the barrel of oil price has considerably dropped, in Uganda fuel prices remain stable at a high rate of 1.30 usd per liter.
The best choice for volunteer groups is to have a personal driver who knows the in and outs of Uganda. knows how to bypass traffic jams by taking alternative routes and who knows the Ugandan culture and ways. Vans and Coaster Buses can be hired by the day or for the duration of your volunteer trip here.
Stay close to where you are going to have your volunteer dealings. Your Ugandan hosts may already have a guest-house where you can stay during your time in Uganda.
There are budget hotels that are often lower in price than some guest houses and offer additional services – plus a restaurant in most cases.
There are some things to consider in choosing a hotel and or guest-house for your tam and one of them is Internet access – we now have close to 4G speed in some hotels but for the most part you will have to have some patience for pages to load.
We are a landlocked nation, getting things here including internet takes more work. However things are always improving in Uganda with more lodging choices for the Volunteer or Short-Term Missions Team.
Kampala has many outstanding restaurants that you can choose from with various cuisines such as Indian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Greek, Spanish, Continental, Ugandan traditional food, Congolese, Nigerian, German,French, Belgian, Dutch, South African, Japanese including Sushi, English, Mexican, Kenyan, Ugandan Pork Joint Restaurants and much more.
The choices on where to eat for the Business Travelers is endless, even if you are a Vegan or Vegetarian there are many alternative places to for you.
Volunteer and Short-Term Missions Teams often have a going away dinner with their Ugandan hosts at a restaurant such as Fang-Fang Chines, Haandi’s Indian Restaurant, etc.
We would suggest for your well-being to avoid roadside vendors of popular foods such as Rolex - not the watch but rolled eggs in a chapati and those hawking Beef, or Chicken Brochettes.
Staying well whilc in Uganda on business is most important since you do not need any downtime with a case of an intestinal version of Idi Amin’s revenge.
Uganda – is not a tipping culture, however at the larger hotels such as the Serena or Sheraton Hotel tipping is expected since business travelers and tourists have done so for years.
Volunteers and Short-Term Missions Teams may want to leave a group tip at their guest-house or hotel at the end of their time in Uganda.
One does need to keep in mind that wait-staff salaries in Uganda are low and your tip on a business trip here does make a difference in life of a Ugandan and their family.
A tip will also get you quicker and better service the next time you are in that restaurant or from hotel staff that will attend to every need you might have.
We do not have a tipping culture in general however in Tourism and Business establishments it is more or less expected and appreciated.
Again if you want improved service and attention – faster service – special requests – try tipping.
Uganda is one of Africa’s most secure, stable and friendliest countries in all of Africa. You will be safe and secure here.
There are however some basic precautions one should take while in Uganda. The need and greed factors can lead to petty theft by hotel staff and when going to town always keep your money in your frontpocket where you can put your hand over it and protect it from a thief. The same applies for your mobile phones since they are popular objects of theft.
Leave your jewelry at home – you can always buy some handmade African ones in Uganda – low in price and no one will try to steal them.
Travelers to Africa are always concerned about Safety and Security in Africa – however you might find quite safe her and your Ugandan hosts will do everything they can to keep just that way,
Most Volunteers will have no health problems while in Uganda, especially if some basic precautions are taken while in Uganda such as not drinking tap-water, avoiding salads except in better restaurants, not eating buffet food that is not adequately heated, avoiding food from street vendor and keeping the windows closed to your room if air-conditioned.
If your room is not sprayed for insects such as mosquitoes in teh evening, you can always purchase a spray-can of Doom that will do the job of eliminating pesky insects in your room.
If you need to receive quality care while on your business trip to Uganda you can visit the Surgery in Kololo or the International Hospital in Muyenga, two of Kampala’s finest medical treatment centers.
You can bring an unlocked International Quad cell Phone with you and purchase a Ugandan Sim Card from MTN, UTL Airtel,or Ora. This way you avoid high roaming charges.
UTL and Warid international calls are at 20 cents a minute to places such as Europe, Asia and North America, whereas MTN charges about 30 cents a minute for such calls.
You can even buy a local phone with sim-card for as low as 8 USD and give as a gift when you leave Uganda.
Another choice for Volunteer to stay in touch with home if you will be in Uganda for an extended stay is to set up a Skype number in your home country which people there can call and you can receive it automatically on your local Ugandan Mobile Phone. This is an added convenience at a most reasonable price for volunteer travelers to Uganda.
You can also leave your phone as a gift to a Ugandan that does not have one.
You can access at one of the many Internet cafe’s that you will find in Kampala and most larger Ugandan cities. There is also WiFi at better Hotels in Uganda that will give you Internet access with your laptop, smart phone or Tablet or iPad. Many restaurants also provide WiFi for customers – there are also Hotspots throughout the city.
Better Hotels also have business centers that you can use if you came without laptop or other device with Internet access – Boutique Hotel have such centers on a smaller scale
Another choice is have a USB dongle at MTN, Orange with data time and use it with your laptop giving you Internet Access while you are in Uganda – advantageous if you are here for a longer period of time- for groups routers that are inexpensive can be purchased.
Speeds can be had up to 4G and 3.5G which will meet the needs of most Volunteers to Uganda.
Electrical Current – Plugs and Power Availability:
240 volts is the voltage in Uganda and you will need a UK plug. You can buy a converter plug that will make your appliance fit locally.
Power supply is iffy in Uganda – therefore it is best to stay in a hotel that has a generator system or solar alternative in place.
Uganda can have extended power outages that last 12 hour or. It is also good if you are using a laptop that you have a surge protector of one kind or another.
Most better hotels will have uninterrupted power for their guests since they automatically switch to alternative power when there is a blackout.
In Uganda you can easily buy electrical strips with outlets that will work with your devices.
Volunteers will find out rather quickly that the Ugandan Attire is more formal – Suits for Men with Tie and Women in Business will dress what one calls in Kampala-Smart.
Uganda is a conservative Country and during the daytime while conducting business the emphasis should be on dressing in a similar fashion as Ugandan Business Men and Women.
Dressing appropriately and as Ugandans say smartly will gain you immediate respect. Often people may feel that they are in Africa one can dress down and that includes business traveler.
However the opposite is true – Ugandans in Kampala are considered by other Africans as quite fashionable but during the daytime the style is conservative – at night that is another story in the city that never sleeps.
African Time – the Concept of Time in Uganda can frustrate Westeners:
The African Concept of time – Ugandans may tell you they are on the way but still a long way off. Punctuality is more often concerned when it comes to doing business for Ugandans.
The concept of time is based more on relationships than on punctuality. In non-business dealings a person who told you that they would be there at 7 pm may show up at 8pm or later.
If you are dealing with government institutions those meeting you will usually be on time and prompt about it.
If you are visiting someone on an unscheduled visit you will be most often gladly welcomed and given time – be sure to allow for lengthy greeetings before dealing with the reason for which you came for.
African – Ugandan Culture is quite different from most anywhere in the world – it is based on relationships. Confrontational Conversation is simply not accepted here.
Ugandans will aim to please you and agree to doing what ever is necessary by saying yes, please but you better check up since it may not get done.
Direct eye contact is not the norm in Kampala – that is a cultural practice here. Meeting people – always shake hands (presently shaking of hands is out due to the West African Ebola Crisis) – Uganda however is Ebola-Free. Handshakes will be rather light than firm, younger people will add an African Twist to the Handshake that you will soon learn.
English is the official language but like in every country where English is spoken certain local words – phrases are added – in Uganda it is called Uglish which is Ugandan English. If someone says to you that they have to go make a short call – that is not a phone call but a trip to the bathroom. If someone asks you to extend that means move over.
You will soon get used to it but such things are good to know. The link above and the Uglish link will give you some good idea about conversation Ugandan style.
It is also good to know some Luganda Phrases - that will endear yo to the Ugandans that you are voluteering with.
Volunteering in Uganda makes knowing Conversation Ugandan Style a necessity so that you are on the same page as the Ugandans that you are dealing with are.
You are in Africa – in Uganda on business, most business travelers do not realize that while here they can take a few days and track gorillas, chimpanzee, see the big game and other African wildlife that is in Uganda.
Take two to 5 days and explore the African Wild in Uganda – fulfill your lifelong dreams to go on an African Safari, while you are in Uganda – you can.
If you simply want to relax and chill out for a couple of days you can do that too. Visit one of our islands on Lake Victoria or spend time along scenic Lake Bunyonyi, an island on the Nile River and more.
There are many safaris to choose from – discover another face of Uganda, its wild spaces, scenic wonders, primates, and wildlife.
Question about doing business in Uganda that you might have
“The Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale. The scenery is different, the climate is different and most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa….what message I bring back….concentrate upon Uganda – ‘The Pearl of Africa’.” Winston Churchill (My African Journey – 1908)