The Top Things to Avoid and not to do in Uganda
Here are the Top 14 Things to avoid in Uganda that will keep you safe and healthy.
Every country in the world has things to avoid. Here are the Top 14 Things to avoid in Uganda. Travel to and in Uganda is not so much about the things to avoid, but what you can do and see here.
Each one of us has been endowed with a measure of Common Sense. When we toss it aside while traveling, we start having troubles. It all begins with common sense, something that should not be left at home while traveling to Uganda.
Some have unnecessary trepidations when they consider traveling to Africa, to Uganda. Fears based on what they assume what it will be like visiting Uganda.
The good news is that 99% of visitors admit leaving the country that they were wrong about their assumptions. That Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, was a totally different place than they thought it would be.
Uganda is welcoming, friendly, hospitable, safe, and incredibly beautiful. Two quotations come to mind. The first one is by Aldous Huxley, the author of the novel “Brave New World.” To our knowledge, he never traveled to Uganda. Still, his words are smack on when he wrote, “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”
The second quotation is by Winston Churchill, who wrote in 1908 book, “My African Journey,” the following words.
“The Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale. The scenery is different. The Climate is different. 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 on Uganda…It is the Pearl of Africa.”
With these quotes in mind, let us look at the Top 14 Things to avoid in Uganda. Keep in mind that every country in the world has things to avoid. Below are the things to avoid while in the Pearl of Africa. They were written to give you a heads up to make your stay, your Safari more memorable.
The Top 14 Things to avoid in Uganda
1. Avoid Self-Drive in Uganda:
Uganda is a country of 45 million generally friendly and gentle-spirited people. That is until they get behind the wheel of a vehicle and their foot hits the pedal. A transformation takes place, and they seem to become a totally different person. Might make one right is the general rule of the road.
Uganda has excellent traffic follow, but they seem to be there to be broken and ignored. There is little and selective enforcement by the so-called traffic police.
Enter you, the visitor to Uganda, an experienced driver, having driven in North America, Europe, the UK, and even Australia. You want to drive yourself on a Safari through the Pearl of Africa. Even the Uganda Wildlife Authority, a promoter of Tourism, recommends avoiding self-drive for first-time visitors.
The accident rate in Africa, in Uganda, is high due to inexperienced drivers ignoring laws, road conditions, drunk drivers, and unsafe vehicles. Most go made between the potholes and the unmarked speed bumps—the lack of road signs where one can easily get lost even with a GPS device onboard.
Driving conditions will seem chaotic unless you are one of those rare people that thrives on chaos. Should you hit someone’s goat and kill it, keep driving to the closest police station to report it. If you stopped, you would most likely be surrounded by an angry group of people. Frustrated is what many become attempting to drive themselves on a safari in Uganda. All that might be fine if you come to Uganda to drive yourself around. If you came to see the primates, wildlife, meet the people, and see the scenic leave the driving to a local. Go with an experienced Ugandan driver guide and enjoy the Safari.
That is the last thing that you want since it takes away from your safari holiday. Follow the example of the man on top, President Yoweri Museveni; he avoids self-drive in his own country; he is driven. For more detailed information, please read our page on self-drive.
2. Avoid Crossing the Road in Uganda:
In Uganda, where vehicles and drivers rule and the pedestrian is seen as a nuisance, crossing the road is one of the most dangerous activities you can engage in. Pedestrian deaths being hit by vehicles run high.
A pedestrian also has to be on the lookout for things such as open utility hole covers since you certainly do not want to fall into one of them while on Holiday.
Getting hit by a vehicle is a more significant hazard, a greater danger than getting Malaria, HIV, Ebola, COVID-19 bitten by a snake. Or any of the things that you might imagine in your mind. The reality is that crossing the road in Africa is the most dangerous thing.
Even if you are on a one-way road – still look on both sides before crossing. Even the Bradt Guide on Uganda will tell you how dangerous it is to cross a road in Uganda.
Being on Safari is the safest way to see Uganda; you will not be crossing the road in Kampala.
3. Avoid Boda – Boda – Motorcycle Taxi Transportation:
The number 1 reason for emergency-room treatment in Uganda is Boda-Boda motorcycle taxi-related accidents. They range from burned legs from the exhaust system to broken limbs and death. Often passengers are thrown off a Boda-Boda Motorcycle Taxi. My maid of many years died after being hit by a vehicle while on a Boda-Boda.
On the positive Boda-Boda, Motorcycle Taxis are the quickest mode of transport in Kampala. However, they are also the fastest way to a hospital emergency room for treatment.
Should you avoid using Boda-Bodas, especially in busy Kampala? If staying well is a priority in your life? Then the answer is to avoid riding one altogether.
Picking the suitable Boda-Boda Motorcycle Taxi Driver is the real issue at hand. Most of us cannot diagnose the vehicle’s mechanical state, which is also a primary reason for accidents.
In recent years, efforts have been made for Safe Boda Operations. Riding one is even advertised as a Tourism experience. Sounds like a wonderful experience but is it?
Not too long ago, I met a European using a crutch to get around. After greeting, I asked Boda-Boda? I was correct in my assumption. Remember that Boda accidents are the number one reason for Emergency Room Admissions. If you want an adrenaline-rush adventure, try White-Water Rafting or Bungee-Jumping on the Nile in Jinja. For more information, read our Boda-Boda page.
4. Avoid Nighttime Travel in Uganda:
Daylight travel is much safer than it is driving at night in Uganda or Rwanda. Alcohol consumption in Uganda and is relatively high, and so is drunk driving.
We avoid nighttime driving for the safety of our clients. Realizing the danger of nighttime driving, both the US and UK embassies do not recommend nighttime driving except in between Kampala and the airport. Our recommendation and practice are to place incoming or outgoing clients in an Entebbe hotel for safety and convenience.
Additionally, there have been occasional nighttime road holdups and robberies. Avoiding nighttime driving is the safest way to enjoy Uganda. There is enough to see during the daylight hours.
Stay Safe and Avoid Nighttime Travel in Uganda
5. Avoid Idi Amin’s Revenge – foods that might make you ill:
Idi Amin’s revenge and intestinal problems are some of the most frequent problems travelers to Uganda incur. Your stomach may not be used to local foods and the way that they are prepared.
For most visitors, it is best to avoid street food such as the Rolex Chapatti, meats roasted on the side of the street, and more. Street Foods are not always prepared and served following hygienic practices.
At the same time, many visitors love the Rolex in Uganda and the roadside snacks and fast food one can buy along the road almost everywhere in Uganda. Our advice is to avoid eating most of them.
Avoid raw uncooked things such as salads or fresh cabbage except at better hotels. At buffets, see if the food, especially sauces and curries, is kept warm with candles.
Food is at its best and safest when piping hot. Suppose you are going on Safari with us using moderate or upmarket lodges. In that case, you will be most often be just fine. Safari Food usually is prepared following acceptable hygienic standards.
6. Avoid drinking water from the Tap
The Bradt Guide for Uganda states, “Tap water is reasonably safe to drink in larger towns.” If water were directly piped from the mainline to a hotel, that would be true. Water mains bring it to a storage tank that you see everywhere on your travel through Uganda. The hygienic condition of the storage tank can be a problem.
Tourists and visitors to Uganda should use bottled water. Rwenzori Water is the top brand. Do not think that Rwenzori is pure glacial water from the Rwenzori Mountains, but Kampala water, purified and treated for safe consumption.
It is best to use bottled water for drinking water and brushing of teeth. Rarely will you find icecubes being used except at upmarket hotels and lodges. Lodges use purified water when preparing drinks such as passionfruit juice which is often served when welcoming guests. Bottled water is readily available in most stores and shops.
Many hotels or lodges will put complimentary drinking water in your room as a convenience to you. We provide unlimited bottled water in the vehicle for our clients on Safari with us. You do not have to bring filtration devices. The locally bottled water is fine.
7. Avoid the Nightclubs – Bar Scene:
Kampala is a city that never sleeps, and the bars never close. People from all over Africa are attracted to Kampala because of its vibrant nightlife.
If you want to enjoy a night out in the town, do not go on your own since it is overwhelming for most. Go with a local, enjoy Kampala with a Ugandan. That is the safest and most secure way to enjoy Kampala at night.
Here are some tips, avoid leaving your drinks unattended (I recently received an email from a man who was robbed with his friend as they were drugged and stolen). Avoid flashing your money. Avoid using an ATM in a bar since it will make you a focal point, especially if you are withdrawing large amounts of cash.
Avoid putting your mobile cell phone on the table -it may not be there when you return from the bathroom, for example.
Avoid Mosquito Girls: You should stay away from the ladies of the night, beautiful, seemingly friendly, but as some mosquitoes can carry Malaria, so some of the mosquito girls carry a lot more than a beautiful smile, but a sting that includes STD’s and even HIV, besides they are prone to rob their so-called clients. If you want to meet a Ugandan woman, go to Church.
8. Avoid Flashing your Cash-Jewelry-Valuables:
When you flash your cash, you draw attention to yourself as a potential target for theft. Leave your jewelry and expensive watch at home. You can buy some locally made attractive necklaces, bracelets.
Do not carry a large amount of cash on you. You can use an ATM with a Visa card and withdraw the money you need. Most lodges and hotels have a secure area where you can store valuables, including cash.
On a safari in Uganda, theft of valuables from your room or luggage is a rarity.
It can happen and does happen. You are visiting a country where poverty is the way of life for most. Need and Greed are forces that drive people to steal from you. Someone might target you if you have flashed your valuables around. Below you will find links to two pages that give you detailed security and money information.
9. Avoid Swimming in most Rivers and Lakes:
We do not recommend swimming in most lakes and rivers in Uganda unless you enjoy swimming with dangerous hippos and crocodiles. Crocodiles and hippos are found outside of National Parks.
There are often attacks on villagers as they come to a lake or river to do laundry or fetch water. Each year the Uganda Wildlife Authority removes man-eating crocodiles taking them to the Nile banks in Murchison Falls Park, where they are released.
Besides the danger from Crocodiles and hippos, there is the danger of contracting bilharzia while swimming in lakes or rivers. You can read our Avoiding Bilharzia information page here.
Lake Mutanda, Lake Bunyonyi, some crater lakes, and other water bodies are free of bilharzia.
White water rafting, kayaking are safe adrenaline-pumping activities done on the fast-moving waters of the Nile, where there is little danger of contracting bilharzia. We think it is best to err on the safe side and stick to Swimming Pools at lodges and hotels.
Many Ugandans head for the beaches on Lake Victoria. We suggest that you avoid swimming in Lake Victoria except if you can do so away from the shore from a boat.
Use common sense, keep safe, and swim in pools.
10. Avoid getting sick in Uganda-take preventative Steps:
Staying healthy is the norm on a Safari. Most arrive visitors to Uganda arrive healthily and depart that way. Most tourists and visitors take some preventative steps before arriving in Uganda.
It begins with a visit to a tropical clinic or a doctor familiar with tropical diseases. Suppose you do not have a Yellow Fever Certificate,, and vaccination. In that case, you will be required to have it to enter Uganda. Find out more here.
You should obtain a Malaria regimen prescription, Mefloquine or its generic equivalent is the best.
We suggest that you read our “Staying Well on Safari” page. There what is covered in part will be covered in detail. We have never had a client come down with Malaria and never had a client come down with a significant Safari illness with us.
Our Clients have enjoyed the Safari, and your well-being is even more secure in moderate and upmarket hotels and lodges. We strongly suggest that you take out a travel insurance policy for your Safari for your peace of mind. We, in turn, cover you with an Amref-Flying Doctors Air-evacuation policy to Nairobi. Your insurance policy should cover the rest.
11. Avoid Getting COVID-19 on Safari
The good news about COVID-19 in Uganda is that you have less chance of contracting here than in your country. The COVID-19 pandemic impact has been relatively mild when compared to other countries.
That also includes other safari destinations in Africa. In April 2021, Uganda is the only country in East Africa that is not on the US State Department’s no travel list or the UK’s Red List.
While Kenya sees its third lockdown, Uganda has opened up, including to tourists.
Tourism COVID-19 protocols are in place to protect you against becoming infected while on Safari. COVID-19 protective measures are also in place to protect Uganda’s great apes. They include the wearing of surgical masks during Gorilla tracking.
We suggest that you read the COVID-19 Tourism Standard Operating Procedures and how they apply to you.
12. Avoid Getting bit by Insects – Fight the Bite on Safari
As Bert McCoy said,” If you stay long enough in paradise, you’re bound to get bitten by mosquitoes.” Most likely, you will not leave Uganda unscathed and get bitten by a mosquito or tsetse fly. There are simple ways that you can fight the bite by taking preventative measures.
Here are a few, such as using an effective multipurpose insect repellent. We recommend the product because it fights off mosquitoes and tsetse flies, plus flies even repulses wasps. You can obtain it online.
Wear neutral-colored, long trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Use the mosquito net provided by the lodge or hotel. Turn the fan on if available; mosquitoes hate moving air. Forego sweet food and drinks. While going to dinner, have or spray your room with Doom insecticide.
Here is the reality about insect bites in the words of Brian Jackman Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is the worst of all.” Enjoy your time on a safari in Uganda.
13. Avoid Cultural Mistakes:
How do I avoid embarrassing cultural mistakes visiting Uganda on a Safari? You will probably make a few since you do not know the cultural norms that exist in Uganda. Do not worry. You will be forgiven in most instances.
Come with an open mind and leave your preconceived ideas at home. Be humble and learn from those that you meet. It will enrich your time here and give you lasting and cherished memories.
For those on a Safari, Cultural Mistakes are easily avoided. Still, it is good to know what might be offensive in Uganda.
Know Uganda before you go is the best advice we can give you.
Avoid embarrassing Cultural Mistakes by reading our page about Cultural Mistakes.
14. Avoid Protests-Political Demonstrations and Rallies:
Uganda is getting settled down after the election. Ugandans may disagree politically but will decide that life must go on. The western Press and, in particular, such as BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, CNN keep pushing the narrative that Uganda is on the edge of the abyss, which it is not.
There were pre-election riots which turned ugly and led to over fifty death. Some of the killed had no part in the demonstrations taking place. President Museveni, who has re-elected, promised to follow up with investigations. The government also promised help who incurred the loss of a loved one.
In the meantime, all is quiet in Uganda. The traffic jams going to town were frustrating as usual. Major Supermarkets were doing brisk business. Ugandans were going on with their lives.
If you come upon protests, political rallies while visiting Uganda, go the other way. If you are coming to Uganda for a Safari, the safest place is on a Safari, and we make sure that you avoid them.
Our Take on What you Should Avoid in Uganda
Now you know what to avoid while visiting Uganda on a Safari. Many of the things to avoid could be applied to many other countries. We would add, don’t avoid coming to Uganda. When you tour the country on a safari, you will soon realize why it is the Pearl of Africa.
We would love to introduce you to Africa as you imagine it, only better in Uganda. We listed fourteen things to avoid. We could easily give you fifty incredible things to do and see in the country we love.
The wise Safari Traveler is informed – they know before they go. Read the local newspapers online, ask us -Forums are useful. Still, often those writing their opinions have never been here or just dipped their toes into the Pearl of Africa. Enjoy the Pearl of Africa – we do…Safe – Secure – Stable – Friendly and Welcoming.
Obtain Travel Insurance before going on Safari.
Uganda in 2019 was named for the 2nd time in 6 years as one of the top countries to visit National Geographic – this time the “Cool List” National Geographic Traveller – UK.
If you have any questions about the Top 14 Things to avoid in Uganda – please contact us.