Situated in East Africa, Uganda is a landlocked country surrounded by Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It has earned the moniker “Pearl of Africa” due to its stunning natural landscapes, diverse wildlife, and hospitable locals.
The lively capital city of Kampala boasts a unique blend of modern architecture and traditional markets. Tourists can visit popular landmarks such as the Uganda Museum, Kasubi Tombs, and the vibrant Nakasero Market.
Uganda’s natural wonders extend far beyond the city limits. The country is home to several national parks, including Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. These parks offer visitors the chance to see an array of wildlife, including gorillas, lions, elephants, and hippos.
Despite its many draws, you may be asking yourself ‘Is it safe to travel to Uganda?’
In this guide, we will provide you with valuable information to help you make informed decisions about your trip.
Crime in Uganda
The good news is that the level of crime in Uganda is much lower than in other African countries. However, visitors should take a few simple precautions to protect themselves and their belongings. Some of the most common types of crime include:
Petty theft and pickpocketing
Much the same as other countries, theft and pickpocketing is more common in urban areas and popular tourist spots in Uganda. Protect yourself by keeping your valuables hidden from sight and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
Robbery and carjacking
Although rare, robbery and carjacking can occur. These incidents usually happen in isolated areas or unfamiliar neighbourhoods at night, so it would always be wise to stay within busy tourist areas.
It is recommended to keep doors locked while driving and to park in well-lit areas to reduce the risk of carjacking. Visitors should also avoid displaying expensive items and carrying large amounts of cash in public to reduce the risk of becoming a target for robbers.
Kidnapping is often a concern for wealthy Ugandans and expatriates, sometimes occurring in urban areas. However, this isn’t something tourists should be too concerned about.
With that said, be aware of the risks and take precautions while out and about, such as not sharing personal information with strangers and avoiding unsecured areas.
Sexual harassment and assault are not uncommon crimes in Uganda, sometimes occurring in urban areas and tourist hotspots.
Women, in particular, may face unwanted attention or advances from local men. In this case, it would be wise to dress modestly and avoid walking alone at night to prevent unwanted attention.
LGBTQ+ individuals should also avoid displaying public affection as same-sex relationships are forbidden under Ugandan law, but are very much welcomed providing that respect is shown.
You can check out the latest crime rates in Uganda here.
Uganda faces several health challenges, including a high prevalence of infectious diseases and limited access to healthcare services in some areas.
Being a tropical and equatorial destination, Uganda poses a health risk for malaria. Prior to embarking on your vacation, it is imperative to consult with a medical professional to receive recommended vaccinations to prevent the transmission of malaria through mosquito bites.
Reducing exposure to mosquito bites is also crucial, particularly during dawn and dusk when they are most active. Wearing long-sleeved clothing acts as a physical barrier, as does sleeping under mosquito nets at night.
The country has also experienced outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola and Zika virus, although these have been contained in recent years. If you’re concerned about Ebola disease, you can keep up to date with outbreaks here.
To prevent contracting stomach illnesses during your visit, it is advisable to consume cooked foods that are steaming hot. Opt for bottled mineral water or branded soft drinks, and refrain from adding ice to your drinks unless it is made from mineral water.
Additionally, avoid consuming unpeeled fruits and vegetables. While bananas, mangoes, and oranges are safe to eat, steer clear of grapes and other fruits that cannot be peeled. Salads should also be avoided in favour of cooked vegetables.
The government has made strides to improve healthcare services and infrastructure in recent years. Visitors should seek medical advice before travelling, take appropriate precautions and ensure they have adequate health insurance to minimise their risk of illness.
Terrorism in Uganda
In the past, Uganda has experienced incidents of terrorism related to the activities of the Somalia-based militant group Al-Shabaab. Today, this risk has become less of a concern due to the government’s steps to improve security, as well as working with neighbouring countries to capture terrorist ring leaders.
Local citizens have also been trained to help identify and report any suspicious activity. As a result of these efforts, terrorists have been apprehended before they could carry out any attacks.
However, it is still important to be cautious and vigilant when in public places, especially crowded areas like hotels, restaurants, and transportation hubs, as well as during major events such as religious or sporting gatherings. The Uganda Police Force frequently issues alerts, particularly around holidays and events, and it’s essential to remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities to stay safe.
It is also recommended to follow the guidance of local authorities and report any suspicious activity to the police. You can check out the latest terrorism updates here.
Climate and natural disasters in Uganda
Uganda has a warm tropical climate, with temperatures that remain consistent throughout the year, hovering between 25-30°C (77-86°F).
The country experiences two rainy seasons, from March to May and from September to November, which can bring heavy rainfall and occasional flooding.
Uganda is also prone to other natural disasters such as landslides and droughts. Occasionally, Uganda experiences periodic outbreaks of diseases like cholera and meningitis, which are worsened by poor sanitation conditions in some areas and the rainy seasons.
Travellers should be mindful of natural disaster risks and plan accordingly by keeping up-to-date with weather forecasts and following guidance from local authorities.
Keep up to date with the latest natural disasters in Uganda here.
Road safety In Uganda
When travelling by road in Uganda, it is recommended to use licensed and reputable taxi or car rental services rather than public transport. If you plan on hiring a car, be cautious and attentive when driving on narrow, winding roads with poor visibility and unexpected obstacles.
If you’re concerned about road safety while travelling around Uganda, you can keep up with the latest news incidents here.
According to UK foreign travel advice, around 15,000 British nationals safely visit Uganda annually, and most visits are trouble-free. But we recognize that you may be, understandably, hesitant. Here are some common questions we encounter.
Uganda is generally considered a safe place for female tourists, but like any country, there are certain risks that women should be aware of and take precautions against.
Women are advised to dress conservatively, avoid walking alone at night, and be cautious in isolated or unfamiliar areas. Additionally, it’s essential to be aware of the cultural norms in Uganda, which may differ from those in your home country. Be respectful of local customs and traditions, such as covering your head and shoulders when visiting religious sites or wearing modest clothing in public.
Female travellers should also be aware of the risks associated with traveling on public transportation, particularly at night. It’s recommended to travel with reputable tour operators and use licensed taxis or ride-hailing services when possible, to avoid any danger.
Similar to any country, there are risks associated with being out at night in Uganda, particularly in urban areas or isolated areas where there are few people around. It is important to exercise caution and take steps to stay safe.
Some general tips for staying safe at night in Uganda include:
- Use a trusted taxi or ride-hailing service to get around at night, rather than walking or using public transportation.
- Stay in well-lit areas and avoid dark alleys or isolated places.
- Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts. If something feels unsafe, avoid it.
- Do not flaunt valuables, such as jewellery or electronics, and keep them out of sight.
- Try to stay with a group of people rather than going out alone.
Uganda’s 10 national parks are arguably the safest destinations in the country. Because of the well-trained staff and rangers, you would have to be very unlucky to be attacked by any of the wild animals that they protect. At the same time, their isolated nature, away from large towns and cities, means there’s little risk of being mugged or seeing personal items stolen.
As long as visitors follow standard safety tips, such as not leaving personal items unattended in rooms or camps, there’s a minimal risk of being the victim of a crime while in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo Valley or any of Uganda’s other seven national parks.
Big cities including the capital of Kampala are also generally safe for travellers to visit. Although there are areas that should be avoided, they are far from tourist attractions such as the Uganda Museum or Kasubi Tombs. It’s therefore relatively easy to stay safe in big cities, especially when you’re traveling using a reputable tour and travel company such as Home To Africa.
It’s generally advised to avoid demonstrating signs of potential wealth, such as wearing jewelry or making use of smartphones or other electronic devices in public places. You should also be careful to avoid showing large amounts of cash when paying for things.
When heading out after dark, such as to a restaurant for an evening meal, it is always best to use a private vehicle or taxi rather than walk. Most major hotels will have a list of trustworthy taxi drivers, and will also be able to tell you the approximate price of any journey. You may find taxis waiting in hotel car parks, although you should avoid hailing vehicles from the side of the road.
In addition, you should avoid getting involved with political rallies and demonstrations, which on rare occasions can turn violent.
Visiting the Ugandan countryside is one of the best ways of experiencing the country at its most authentic. But is it safe to travel to Uganda’s countryside?
For the most part, yes, it is. Even outside of Uganda’s safari destinations and national parks, the small villages which dot the countryside are usually incredibly safe, with residents caring deeply about the safety and security of those from outside of their communities.
Road conditions can be an issue, with roads deep in the countryside lacking maintenance and improvement. Often use of these roads can be exchanged for short internal flights to the likes of Kidepo Valley National Park from Kampala. When they must be used, it’s important to have an experienced driver who won’t be tempted to drive at dangerous speeds.
Uganda is generally a safe destination for tourists, but as with any travel destination, it is important to take precautions to ensure your safety. Here are some tips for staying safe in Uganda:
- Stay informed: Keep up to date with local news and events, particularly with regard to security and health issues. This will help you avoid any potentially risky situations.
- Be cautious: Be aware of your surroundings, particularly in crowded or unfamiliar areas. Avoid flashing valuable items, such as phones or cameras, and be cautious when withdrawing money from ATMs or carrying large amounts of cash.
- Use licensed transportation services: When traveling within Uganda, use reputable and licensed taxi services, particularly at night. Avoid using public transportation, particularly in rural areas.
- Avoid large gatherings and political demonstrations: Large gatherings and protests can sometimes become violent, and it is best to avoid them if possible.
- Respect local customs and traditions: Be respectful of local customs and traditions, particularly in rural areas. Dress modestly and seek permission before taking photographs of people.
- Take precautions against disease: Uganda is a country with a high prevalence of diseases such as malaria, so it is important to take appropriate precautions such as using insect repellent and sleeping under mosquito nets.
- Stay in touch: Keep your embassy or consulate informed of your travel plans and contact details, particularly if you are traveling to remote areas. It is also a good idea to share your itinerary with someone you trust back home.
Enjoy a safe trip to Uganda
Staying safe in Uganda is mostly a matter of taking necessary precautions and using common sense. By researching the areas you plan to visit and being aware of your surroundings, you can significantly minimise any risks and allow yourself to relax and fully enjoy your trip.
Don’t forget to consult with a medical professional before traveling, keep your valuables secure, and be respectful of local customs. With these tips in mind, you can fully immerse yourself in all that Uganda has to offer while staying safe and sound.