Nicknamed by Winston Churchill as the “Pearl of Africa” in 1907 for its amazing landscapes, plentiful wildlife, and many water bodies, Uganda is a delight to visit.
This small country, which is located in East Africa is popular for gorilla trekking. But given that it’s also blessed by nature, you cannot fail to find an activity of your liking. So, if you’re planning a visit to Uganda, here are some impressive and helpful things you should know about it before you travel:
1. The country has some of the best weather in the world. Its tropical climate ensures that you can bask in the sun most of the time. And even when it rains, the sun tends to shine bright immediately after it stops.
2. It’s best to visit Uganda in the drier seasons between June to mid-September and December to mid-March for spectacular sightseeing, especially on game drives. On top of that, you can obtain your visa online before visiting the country or get it on arrival at the airport.
3. The country has two official languages – English as the first language and Kiswahili as the second. But you’ll find it easy to interact with the locals in mainly English because people are still adapting to the recently officialized Kiswahili.
4. The plugs used in Uganda are type G with a standard voltage of 240 V and frequency of 50Hz. Therefore, pack an adapter of that type or buy a universal one that you can as well use in other countries.
5. The Uganda shilling is the national currency, and it tends to rank lower than most foreign currencies, most especially the dollar, pound, and euro. So when you exchange your money for the shilling, you’re bound to be a “millionaire” and as a result, enjoy all that Uganda has to offer to the fullest.
6. Which brings us to the other thing you should know before travelling to Uganda. The country is majorly a cash economy so it’s advisable to carry some on you. Though, you can still use debit cards and credit cards in the greater part of Kampala, and at upscale facilities in the entire country. Note that most tour companies accept Visa and Mastercard’s.
7. Kampala, the capital city of Uganda is the largest city in the nation, and it’s regarded as the “Las Vegas of Africa” for its wild nightlife.
8. The mighty River Nile, the longest river in the world, and its source are both found in Uganda. And it’s near the source of the Nile that Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes are said to have been scattered in the river as per his wish before he died. In fact, there’s a monument to pay homage to him in the vicinity.
9. Uganda is host to the largest tropical lake in the world – L. Victoria, which also happens to be the largest lake in Africa by area.
10. If you happen to go on a tour to Kibale national park to see chimpanzees, check out Lake Africa found in Fort Portal town, and marvel at how it’s shaped like the map of Africa.
11. Half the world’s endangered and commanding mountain gorillas live in Uganda within Bwindi Impenetrable national park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park, where you can track them on an exciting tour.
12. Other notable primates found in Uganda include chimpanzees found majorly in Kibale national park, Budongo Forest, Kalinzu forest and Kyambura Gorge, rare red monkeys in Bwindi, the golden monkey in Mgahinga national park, and the rare L’Hoests monkey in Kibale Forest as well as the Rwenzori Mountains.
13. An astounding total of 56 tribes live in Uganda with each ascribing to different traditions and cultures. This cultural diversity offers lots of fascinating cultural dances, music, attires, and sites plus languages.
14. Ugandans are friendly and hospitable people who always have a ready smile for foreigners, and are always willing to point you to your destination if you get lost. That’s one of the things people remember Uganda for – its welcoming people notwithstanding its beauty.
15. Some international celebrities of Ugandan descent include Daniel Kuluuya, Micheal Kiwanuka, Florence Kasumba, and Lou Bega. However, we love to claim them as ours entirely without considering the countries they grew up in.
16. You can go white water rafting and bungee jumping in Jinja only in East Africa. And with other activities like jet boating, kayaking, river boarding, and quad biking carried out in the same city, it no surprise that Jinja is also known as the “Adventure Capital of East Africa.”
17. Margherita Peak, which is the third highest in Africa is found on Rwenzori Mountain. The mountain is an enigma in itself with its snow-capped ranges in a tropical climate country.
18. For such a small destination, the country boasts 10 national parks which offer memorable safari experiences. You can enjoy sightings of almost all the famous big five (leopards, lions, elephants, and buffaloes) in either Murchison Falls national park, Queen Elizabeth national park, or Kidepo national park. Rhinos, which wrap up the big five family can only be seen at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary en route to Murchison falls park.
19. It’s worth noting that you can cross the equator line in two places in Uganda: along Masaka road in Kayabwe town and while on a tour in Queen Elizabeth national park. Also, you can enjoy photo moments at the equator monuments.
20. According to CNN, the most beautiful national park in Africa – the Kidepo Valley national park- is found in Uganda.
21. With over 1,500 species of birds in its domain (half of Africa’s birds), the country is surely a birder’s dream destination. You can find many sought-after birds in Africa here, such as the Shoebill stork, Black bee-eater, Yellow-footed flycatcher, Forest Francolin, Nahan’s francolin, and African pita.
22. If you’re a waterfall lover, then some of the amazing falls you must see while visiting Uganda are the Aruu Falls, Murchison Falls, and Sipi Falls.
23. For all that Uganda has loads of tribes, there are three tribes – the Karamojong, the IK, and the Batwa whose uniqueness stands out, making them worth visiting to learn more about their culture. The Karamojong have similar traits to the Maasai of Kenya, and the IK are a small endangered tribe living in isolation atop Mt. Morungule. Whereas, the Batwa are a pygmy tribe living in the forests of Mgahinga and Bwindi.
24. Though Uganda is run by a president, cultural kings still wield a lot of power over their subjects in that most people pay more allegiance to them than the president.
25. Uganda is home to the most celebrated religious martyrs (45 of them) in Africa, and people from all over the world travel annually to celebrate them on 3rd June – Uganda Martyrs Day.
26. The second deepest lake in the world – Lake Bunyonyi – which is also known as a birder’s paradise for its numerous birding sites on 29 islands is found in Western Uganda.
27. Uganda’s national emblem is the Crested Crane (grey Crested Crane), and you might spot it while touring Murchison falls national park in the savannah grasslands and near the country’s various lakes and rivers.
28. Uganda is a religious country with Christians taking up the highest percentage at around 84% and Muslims – the second-largest religious sect at 14%. But even with the diverse faiths, Ugandans respect each other’s beliefs and live harmoniously together.
29. Uganda Waragi, which is the country’s response to Russia’s Vodka is worth a try while on your visit.
30. One of the lakes with a high proportion of varied fish in Africa – Lake George, is located in Western Uganda.