Uganda Money Information and Tips for Tourists – Travelers
Money tips and Advice for travelers to Uganda
Uganda for the most part is a cash based society and though the Uganda Shilling is the Currency – the Currency of is US Dollar. Here and there you can use your credit card, (Visa cards are most readily accepted, Master Card is next, but not Discover Cards and American Express at a few spots) and usually it means 5 to 6 or more% surcharge for the privilege for using your card (due to fees that are incurred by merchants in Uganda). That means one needs cash while in the country. Many hotels, safari companies and airlines will ask for US dollars. Uganda Shillings will be accepted in many cases instead, not always at market exchange rate. Traveller Cheques are often harder to cash and are cumbersome requiring extra fees in banks. Most Forex Bureaus will not take traveller cheques from you. Below are some tips that will make your visit to Uganda smoother in regards to money.
Most permits such as the ones for gorillas must be paid in US Dollars. Euros and UK Pound are ok for changing money into Ugandan currency. It is important that you obtain dollar bills newer than 2003 and no tears or blemishes on them. This helps your exchange rate and getting them accepted. (2003 is due to forgeries in times past)
Important -use 50 or 100 USD for best Exchange Rate
Forex Bureaus are readily available in the downtown area of Kampala:
The ones at the Grand Imperial Hotel gives you the best rates in town. Late at night, you can also go into Kampala Casino and they will give you a good rate since they will think that you are gambling it away. Look into the daily newspapers for today’s rate. Avoid the Forex Bureau in Kabalagala, they will consistently give you one of the lowest rates around (personal experience) and they also give you the hardest time with the slightest imperfection on a bill. In other words – check around for best rates.
Banks in Uganda:
You can always exchange money at a Bank and it might take a bit longer but in most cases you get a reasonable rate. You can use your credit card to get cash at banks, it may take a bit of time and there are fees.
You can also change your traveller cheques there however contrary to suggestions from American Express Traveller Cheques you will need proof of buy and passport to prove ownership of cheques you want cashed – you will also receive a lower rate than cash.
If you have a visa debit card it is easy to get the best rate from your country’s currency converted into Shillings. The limit is 500,000 shillings per day (that is changng with some) with them- reality is that you can put your card in again and take out more- normally up to daily limit your bank allows at home. You can also use a visa credit card if you have a pin number…alert your bank that you will be doing withdrawals in Uganda otherwise you will not get any money out of the machine here in Uganda. Use a Visa ATM card, not having a Visa ATM will cause you some grief.
Safety and Security with ATM Machine is addressed in the above link.
Even the UK government suggests not using credit cards in Uganda due to the possibility of someone stealing your card information. Cases of such have happened even in high-end hotels according the UK government website. Cases of employees stealing your credit card information has happened here and other African Countries. If you have no other choice, the first choice of Credit Cards here is Visa and secondly Master Card.
Companies such as Kabiza Wilderness Safaris that use PesaPal make it even easier to use credit cards and the charge are less that using a Bank Merchant Services that is available in Rwanda.
Use American Express ones only. All others you will have a harder time getting money or no money at all. You will pay a fee for exchanging them into ,money. Plus in spite of suggestions from American Express you will need proof of purchase and passport to prove ownership of the cheques you want cashed. You will also receive a lesser exchange rate than using Cash.
Using Traveller Cheques in Uganda becomes a nuisance and investment of time.
Wear a money belt around your waist to hide cash. Use safe in Hotel to put your airline ticket and also your passport. Make copies of passport, airline tickets and anything else that is an important document. Never flash any money in public such as in restaurants or public places since it will attract unwanted attention and it will be your loss.
Never pull out large amounts of money in a restaurant, bar, market – it makes you a potential target that you certainly do not want to be.
Avoid them. At border crossings you will be haunted by them and many are con-artists who can make you think you are getting one amount, while in reality you will get a lot less. Even if you are counting along, their hands are quicker than your eyes.
The best advice – avoid Money Changers at the Border.
Avoid using dollars when buying things such as crafts and souvenirs. You will lose money in the process. Convert your money to shillings at a Forex Bureau. Try to use Uganda Shillings in most cases – anytime you use US Dollars to buy things you will lose money in the exchange rate that you will receive.
This includes paying for hotels that is priced in shillings in US Dollars
Best to use Western Union or MoneyGram since you will get the money. Bank to bank takes much longer and is tougher to get. Money transfers such as Western Union will be paid out in Uganda Shillings. If you need US dollars you can then buy them at a Forex Bureau. You can now use Western Union and send money directly to someone using an MTN Phone in Uganda and they go and receive the money from an agent in Uganda.
The Best Way to send money to someone in Uganda is to use WorldRemit – the money is transferred in two hours to your MTN Mobile Money Phone account and the fees are very low. Read about it on our blog.
The present exchange rate in Uganda for the US Dollar means bargains for Tourists As of July– 2015 the exchange rate of the US Dollar to Uganda Shilling is 3500 UGX. This can mean some real bargains for tourists and visitors to Uganda is you follow certain rules: Stay in Hotels that charge in Shillings. Do not change US Dollars into Shillings at Hotels – you most often get a very low exchange rate.
Be wise where you exchange your money.
Hopefully the above advice will be helpful in making your time in Uganda more enjoyable…from Kampala…jon
“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)
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