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Helpful Uganda Money Information – Tips – Advice for Travelers and Visitors

Posted by on August 10, 2020

Uganda Money Information and Tips for Tourists – Travelers

FAQ’s-The Frequently asked Questions about Money that Visitors ask

Uganda Money InformationUganda Money Information – Tips – Advice for Travelers – The Frequently asked Questions about Money that Visitors ask. Uganda, for the most part, is a cash-based society. Although the Uganda Shilling is the official currency, the Currency of choice, Commerce, and Tourism is the US Dollar.  Here and there you can use your credit card, Visa cards are most readily accepted. Master Card, American Express, are harder to use. Usually, it means a 5 to 6 or more% surcharge for the privilege of using your card. (due to fees that are incurred by merchants in Uganda by Banks).

That means one needs cash while in the country.  Many hotels, safari companies, airlines, Uganda Wildlife Authorities for Gorilla Permits, and Park Fees will ask for US dollars. Ugandan Shillings will be accepted in many cases; instead, not always at the market exchange rate.  Traveler Cheques are often harder to cash and are cumbersome, requiring extra fees in banks.  Most Forex Bureaus will not take traveler cheques from you.

Below are some Uganda Money Frequently Asked Questions – Information – Tips – Advice for Travelers that will be of great help to you.

FAQ’s-The Frequently asked Questions about Money that Visitors ask

Practical Uganda Money Information – Tips – Advice for Travelers

What is the currency of Choice for Visitors?Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and Visitors

The Ugandan Shilling is the official currency in Uganda. However, Uganda, like many other African Nations, uses the US Dollar as the currency of trade, commerce, and tourism. As a Tourist, you will need both the US Dollar and some locally acquired Ugandan Shillings.

Many prices, especially those for Tourists, will be in US Dollars, Euros and UK Pound, are ok for changing Money into Ugandan currency.

You must obtain dollar bills newer than 2003 and no tears or blemishes on them.  This helps with your exchange rate and getting them accepted. (2003 is  due to forgeries in times past, including by an American in Uganda).

It is best to use 50 or 100 USD Bills for the best Exchange Rate – if you use smaller or older bills, you will get less money in return.

Do not use US Dollars in restaurants, bars, for buying souvenirs since you will lose money in the process.

Tips for services rendered by Ugandans should not be in US Dollars but in Ugandan Shillings.  Ugandan Shillings can be immediately used by the person that you are tipping.

Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and VisitorsAre there Forex Bureaus for the exchange of Money?

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 provide you with a reasonable price 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 the best rates.

You can also check for the latest rate – type into Google USD – UGX, and you will have the current exchange rate for the day, though you will receive less than the posted figures.

Security – if you are on foot – do not use a Forex Bureau at night.  If you are on Safari with us, your Driver-Guide will be with you as you exchange Money.

How much money should I bring on my Safari?Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and Visitors

We suggest that you carry a small amount of cash. You need enough to pay for your visa. We recommend that you have no more than $500 on you. You can always withdraw from your account in local currency using an ATM.

Money draws unnecessary attention that you do not want. Your driver will have mobile Money on his phone, and Money can be sent to that number from anywhere in the world.

ATMs are located in cities and towns, and you can easily withdraw Ugandan Shillings at your convenience.

All this avoids having a bunch of cash on you that you do not need. Meals, Hotels, activities are all included in your Safari.

The only thing that you need is Drinks, Souvenirs, Tip money. There is no need to canny Cash,

It is best to avoid carrying a lot of cash.

Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and VisitorsCan I use the 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 traveler 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 to be cashed – you will also receive a lower rate.

Use an International Bank for the best service.  Most Visitors to Uganda will not have to use a Bank except for their ATMs.

Going inside of a bank can be overwhelming since often, the lines will be extended.

Have a small amount of Cash on you.

Do they have ATM’s in Uganda that a visitor can use?
Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and Visitors

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 what your home bank sets per day with the opportunity that you can put your card in again and take out more Money- generally up to the daily limit your bank allows at home, which you in many cases can also reset.

Use a Visa ATM card, not having a Visa ATM will cause you some grief at most Bank ATMs in Uganda.  Master Card is not the Debit or Credit Card that is preferred here for some reason.

Safety and Security Issues with ATMs are addressed in the above link. Always attempt to use an ATM that gives you a bit of privacy and shield your PIN input.

Do not allow any so-called good Samaritan to assist you; most often, they are local con artists.

Notify your bank that you will be using your Card in Uganda, you will avoid your card being blocked.

Can I use my Credit Card in Uganda?Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and Visitors

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 to 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 is less than using a Bank Merchant Services that is available in Uganda.

It might come as a surprise to you, but if for example, a hotel rate is 100 USD per night, you will have a 5% minimum service charge added onto your bill making it a 105 USD – this is common here, even if there is nothing to suggest a service charge, it has been added to the price.

Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and VisitorsCan I use Travellers Cheques in Uganda?

Use American Express ones only.  All the others, you will have a harder time getting money or no money at all.

You will pay a fee for exchanging them into cash.  Plus, despite suggestions from American Express not to reveal such information, you will need proof of purchase and passport to prove ownership of the cheques you want to be cashed.  You will also receive a lesser exchange rate than if you use Cash.

Using Traveller Cheques in Uganda becomes a nuisance and investment of time, often with moments of frustration added.  The best advice is, do not bring Traveller Cheques, use an ATM card instead.

TravelerCheques – at least in Uganda, are not the best way to bring Money, it takes too much time and effort to cash them.

Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and VisitorsHow secure is my Money while visiting Uganda?

Wear a money belt around your waist to hide cash.  Use a safe in the Hotel to put your airline ticket and your passport.  Make copies of passport, airline tickets, and anything else that is an important document. Put all of those items in a Sealed Envelope.

If you do not have a money belt, put the cash in your pocket, not a back pocket where you can put your hand over it as you walk in downtown Kampala.

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 use large amounts of money in a restaurant, bar, market – it makes you a potential target that you certainly do not want to be.

Do not use an ATM in a bar – where people are watching you, and you become a target after withdrawing Money.

Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and VisitorsIs it safe to use Money Changers?  

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. One can almost guarantee you that you will be cheated.  Fake Ugandan currency is also used at times.

It is best to go to a Forex Bureau or a Bank and not use a Money Changer.  Money Changers are primarily found at the point of entry into Uganda and rarely in larger towns such as Entebbe or Kampala.

The best advice – avoid Money Changers at the Border, such as the Rwandan – Ugandan Border Crossings for those who fly into Rwanda and Trek Gorillas in Uganda.

Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and VisitorsHow do I buy local items in Uganda?

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 at the exchange rate that you will receive.

That includes paying for hotels that are priced in shillings with US Dollars.  Use your US Dollars sparingly and try to use Uganda Shillings -UGX- whenever you can.

When it comes to Taxis – Uber Taxis are now available in Kampala.  When it comes to the few metered Taxis – called for Hire here, negotiate a rate; otherwise, you will pay extra as your meter runs in Traffic Jams in Kampala.

Aggressive Bargaining is not culturally accepted.

Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and VisitorsAre Money Transfers safe to Uganda?

Best to use Western Union or MoneyGram since you will get the Money.  Bank to bank takes 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 payment from an agent in Uganda.

The Best Way to send money to someone in Uganda is to use WorldRemit. Also, PesaPal has an even lower price system – the Money is transferred in two hours to your MTN Mobile Money Phone account, and the fees are meager.

Most Ugandans have a Mobile Phone Money account and can receive Money on their phone – Western Union, as well as WorldRemit, works on MTN Mobile Money, a phone-based program.

What is the US Dollar Exchange Rate in Uganda?Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and Visitors

The present exchange rate in Uganda for the US Dollar means bargains for Tourists. Presently the exchange rate hovers around 3,600 UGX to the US Dollar.

This can mean some real bargains for tourists and visitors to Uganda is you follow specific rules: Stay in Hotels that charge 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 since it will directly save you money, use a bank or Forex Bureau, even your ATM Card withdrawals will save you money.

Even when you tip, always use Ugandan Shillings, the person receiving the gratuity will be able to use the Money immediately if in Shillings.

Present Exchange rate hovers at above 3,600 Shillings plus for one US Dollar.

Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and VisitorsDo I save money on a “Do-It-Yourself-Safari?

Making your own travel arrangement is an everyday thing in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. Some African Travelers think that they can do the same, putting together a Safari on their own.

Often, that African Traveler is looking National Lampoon-like holiday.  From Disaster to Disaster.  From obtaining Gorilla Permits to booking lodges close to the activities. From Road Conditions and local driving habits.

There are simply too many unknown factors to the uninitiated, and often such a person is taken advantage of, pays too much, or does not receive what they paid for.

The profit a Ugandan Tour Operator adds onto a safari is minimal compared to the Money potentially lost attempting a do-it-yourself Safari.

Use a Tour Operator and save money

Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and VisitorsHow do I pay for my Safari?

Safari Payments are made either by Credit Cards or Wire-Bank to Bank Transfers.

You usually have two payments. There is the Safari Down Payment, which covers lodge and permits amount. The down payment is followed by the final payment 30-Days before the starting date of your Safari.

Our Merchant Service Provider charges 3.5%, which is lower than the regular service charge for Credit Cards in East Africa.

The lowest cost way, in most cases, is a Bank to Bank Transfer. We use ABSA formerly Barclay Africa since it is an international bank that makes money transfer more comfortable.

Large money transfers are checked by the Bank of Uganda for money laundering, which takes one day. Standard transfers take about 5 business days. No payment has ever been lost.

Does my Money stretch further in Uganda?Helpful Uganda Money Information - Tips - Advice for Travelers and Visitors

Going on a Safari is an investment in yourself.  Gorilla Trekking is the most expensive Tourism Activity in all of Africa.  Let us show you how to stretch your dollar further in Uganda.

Uganda is the most bio-diverse country in Africa with something for everyone.  Gorilla Trekking is the top-attraction in Uganda, and visitors wanting to track Gorillas have increased dramatically since Rwanda increased its Gorilla Permit Price to 1500 USD.

Uganda’s permit price is 600 USD. That is a 900 USD Saving for you, and that is just the beginning. We are one of the leading Gorilla Habituation Safaris Tour Operators and know all the ins and outs of Gorilla Trekking, let us know it is on your Bucket List and we will make it a reality.

Your Money stretches further in Uganda.

Uganda Money Information – Tips – Advice for Travelers – be wise – use common sense