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Uganda

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Uganda because of the threat of terrorist attack, civil unrest and criminal activity. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to within 50 kilometres of Uganda's border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Mgahinga Gorilla Park, and the Murchison Falls National Park because of the risk of banditry and attacks by armed groups. See Safety and security.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the Karamoja region of north-eastern Uganda, including Kidepo National Park, because of the risk of banditry and inter-tribal clashes. See Safety and security.

  • Do not travel within 50 kilometres of the border with South Sudan because of the serious risk of banditry and risk of cross-border attacks by rebel groups. See Safety and security.

  • A terror attack could happen anywhere and at any time in Uganda. Heightened security arrangements are in place in public places, including borders and at the international airport. Expect body, car and luggage checks when travelling in Kampala. See Safety and security.
  • Protests occur in Kampala and other parts of Uganda. Some protests and demonstrations have resulted in deaths and serious injuries. Avoid large gatherings, political rallies, protests and demonstrations. See Safety and security.
  • Clashes between armed groups and security forces are possible. In November 2016, clashes in Uganda's west resulted in several deaths and injuries. Armed groups are active in some regions. See Safety and security.
  • Homosexual relations are illegal in Uganda and are not tolerated. Westerners have been prosecuted for homosexual activity in Uganda. See Laws.
  • Australia has a Consulate in Uganda, headed by an Honorary Consul. The Consulate provides basic consular support (not including the issue of passports). The Australian High Commission in Kenya provides full consular assistance to Australians in Uganda. See Where to get help.

    See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

You'll need a visa to visit Uganda.

One option is the East African Community's EAC Tourist Visa, which allows travellers multiple entries to Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda for a period of 90 days.

Apply for the EAC Tourist Visa or a Ugandan visa using Uganda's online visa application portal.

Otherwise you will need to apply for a visa from the Government of Uganda. Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the High Commission of Uganda for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

You'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Uganda. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease that is preventable by vaccination. It is endemic in Uganda. Read Yellow fever for information on re-entry to Australia following exposure to yellow fever. More information: Yellow fever risk and certification requirements (by country, WHO)

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Ugandan Shilling (UGX). Declare all foreign currency on arrival or you may have difficulties seeking to depart with foreign currency. Only exchange currency exchange at licensed commercial banks and exchange bureaux. The USD is widely accepted. You may not be able to exchange US notes printed prior to 2006.

Travellers cheques, credit cards and debit cards aren't widely accepted in Uganda. Bring sufficient cash to meet your needs.  

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat in Uganda. Somali-based terrorists have threatened to attack the interests of east African governments supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), including Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Burundi. The 21 September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 67 people, and several additional attacks throughout Kenya in 2017, showed that Somali-based terrorists are capable of carrying out these threats.

In response to the threat of terrorist attacks, Ugandan authorities have implemented heightened security arrangements in public places, including borders and at the international airport. Be prepared for body, car and luggage checks when travelling, especially in Kampala.

Possible targets for future terror attacks include clubs, hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship, airports, markets and marketplaces, shopping centres, political and high profile sporting events, public screenings of such events, outdoor recreation events, bus terminals, public transport infrastructure, Ugandan government buildings, crowded public places and tourist areas.

  • Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Uganda.
  • In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided.
  • Be alert to possible threats at all times.
  • Report any suspicious items or activities to police.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so.
  • Avoid the affected area in the aftermath of an attack because of the risk of secondary attacks.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Civil unrest and political tension

Violent protests occur in Kampala and other parts of Uganda. Peaceful demonstrations and protests can turn violent without warning.

There's a military presence in north western Uganda in response to cross-border threats from armed groups.

Some areas are particularly prone to politically-motivated violence and unrest.

  • Kasese district - clashes between armed groups and security forces near Kasese throughout 2016 resulted in several deaths and injuries. The situation remains volatile.
  • Karamoja region of north-eastern Uganda (particularly the Kotido, Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Katakwi districts north of Kate Kyoga) - clashes between tribal groups have occurred, frequently with no warning. There is an ongoing risk of inter-tribal clashes and banditry.
  • Areas bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo - the situation over the border in the DRC is extremely unstable and cross-border attacks by rebel groups can occur without notice.  
    In July 2014, over 90 people were killed in violent attacks against security installations and civilians in Bundibugyo, Kasese, and Ntoroko districts in this region. Tourist destinations, including Rwenzori Mountains and national parks, are in this area. There's no indication that foreign nationals were targeted but the situation remains volatile. Banditry is also a risk. 
  • Areas bordering South Sudan - The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) was responsible for several attacks that killed or wounded foreign aid workers in the past. The LRA is no longer active in Uganda but continues to operate in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic. Further attacks in Uganda could occur. Landmines remain a danger.

Security personnel are usually required to accompany tourists on gorilla trekking visits in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Mgahinga Gorilla Park, Murchison National Park and other parts of western Uganda because of the ongoing risk of armed attacks. Violence against tourists has occurred and security circumstances can change with little warning. More information: Ugandan Wildlife Authority

  • Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Uganda.
  • Avoid large gatherings, political rallies and demonstrations.
  • Monitor the media for reports of planned or possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Follow instructions from local authorities.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the Karamoja region.
  • Reconsider your need to travel within 50 kilometres of Uganda's border with the DRC. Do not take gorilla trekking tours that cross into the DRC.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Mgahinga Gorilla Park and Murchison National Park in western Uganda. If you decide to travel to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla Park, fly rather than travel overland.
  • Do not travel to areas within 50 kilometres of the border with South Sudan

Crime

Pickpocketing, bag snatching and other petty crime occurs, especially on public transport. Theft from vehicles that are stationary in heavy traffic or stopped at traffic lights occurs frequently. 

Armed robbery and carjacking are risks, particularly when travelling outside Kampala. Isolated incidents of violence also occur in urban centres, such as Kampala, Jinja and Kasese. Residential burglaries can turn violent.

You could encounter drink- or food-spiking. Victims of spiking are more easily robbed and assaulted.

Security risks increase after dark.

  • Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Uganda. Be alert to your surroundings at all times.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid displaying expensive watches, jewellery, phones and cameras.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Keep vehicles doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight at all times, including when moving.
  • Secure your accommodation against intruders, including when you're in it.
  • Avoid walking in isolated areas or along dark streets at night.
  • Never accept food, drinks, gum or cigarettes from strangers – it could be spiked with drugs.
  • Never leave your food or drink unattended.
  • If you're not confident food or drink is safe, leave it.

Scams

A number of financial scams have originated in Uganda. Some scam victims' lives have been endangered when they travelled to Uganda to try to get their money back.

Bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes are operating from some African countries. These scams typically result from connections made through internet dating schemes or chat rooms. Once a virtual friendship develops, you'll typically be asked by your 'friend' or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable them to travel to Australia, or to facilitate some other requirement. In some cases the relationship is terminated with very little chance that any funds can be recovered. In other cases, foreigners are lured to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner and become victims of crime including kidnapping, assault and robbery.

Credit card fraud is also a risk.

  • Scrutinise all approaches originating in Uganda from people you don't know.
  • Take legal advice before proceeding with any commercial arrangement.
  • Don't send money to anyone in Uganda until proper checks are made.
  • If you are the victim of a scam, get legal advice. 
  • Don't to travel to Uganda to try to get your money back (or otherwise fix the situation).
  • Keep your credit card in sight when making transactions.

More information: Scams

Local travel

National parks

Several of Uganda's national parks are in areas with significant security risks. See Safety and security.

  • Contact the Uganda Wildlife Authority for up-to-date advice on security risks, park fees and other conditions in national parks, before you travel.
  • Consider the security risks when deciding which park(s) to visit, if any.
  • Follow all park regulations and instructions of local authorities including park wardens.
  • Use a reputable, registered tour operator.

Tours and adventure activities

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators aren't always met, including for adventure activities such as white water rafting. Recommended safety precautions and maintenance standards may not be followed. Safety equipment such as lifejackets and seatbelts may not be provided.

If you plan to participate in adventure activities:

  • first talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy
  • check operators' credentials and safety (including communications) equipment before booking
  • use only reputable, registered tour operators
  • don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements
  • always use available safety equipment, even if others don't
  • if appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider.

Swimming

Don't swim in lakes and rivers because of the possibility of attacks by wildlife.

Road travel

You are five times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Uganda than in Australia. Traffic accidents are common and pose a significant risk to tourists. Driving hazards include, poor road and vehicle conditions, bad driving habits, excessive speeds and poor lighting, especially at night.

The Ugandan Government periodically closes tourist areas considered to be at risk of rebel activity.

  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Drive defensively.
  • Be alert to possible hazards, especially at night.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Get up-to-date local advice on road conditions, including security risks and road closures, before travel outside major centres.
  • Do not travel between towns after dusk, with the exception of Kampala to Entebbe.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in Uganda with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Due to the high risk of crime, use only registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel. Do not use unofficial taxis or taxis hailed on the street as robberies occur.

Public transport

Long-distance bus travel can be hazardous. Accidents are common. Some overnight buses have been robbed after being forced to stop by roadblocks or by criminals posing as passengers.

Minibuses ('matatus') and scooter taxis (boda-boda) are generally in poor condition and badly driven.

  • Avoid using matutus and boda-boda, where possible.
  • If using a boda-boda, always wear a helmet.

Boat travel

There have been a number of passenger ferry accidents attributed to overcrowding. Use a reputable transport provider and wear a lifejacket at all times, even if others don't.

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Uganda.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. If you're convicted of a drug offence, you'll face a lengthy jail sentence and heavy fines.

Other laws

Serious crimes, such as treason and murder, carry the death penalty. Penalties for some crimes, including rape and robbery, include corporal punishment.

Activities that are illegal in Uganda include:

  • homosexual acts – more information: LGBTI travellers
  • photographing military establishments, government buildings, diplomatic sites or other infrastructure
  • wearing military-style or camouflage clothing.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Uganda recognises dual nationality. More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

You're likely to require a specialised insurance policy for any travel to 'do not travel' destinations. Some Australian insurance policies may not cover you for travel to 'do not travel' destinations.

Regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

 

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

Yellow fever is endemic and malaria occurs widely throughout the year. Other insect-borne diseases (including pneumonic plague and Chikungunya) also occur. 

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel – see Entry and exit
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

Bird flu

In January 2017, local authorities confirmed cases of avian influenza (H5N1, 'bird flu') in wild birds and domestic poultry in Lutembe Bay near Entebbe and Masaka District. Avoid contact with dead and living birds.

More information:

HIV/AIDS 

HIV/AIDS is a risk. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, meningitis, tuberculosis, meningococcal and viral haemorrhagic fevers) occur, with more serious outbreaks from time to time. 

  • Consult your travel doctor on vaccination against typhoid before you travel.
  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

 Medical facilities

Medical facilities outside Kampala are very limited.

If you become ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to Nairobi, Kenya, or another destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

Natural disasters

Uganda can experience earthquakes, flooding and landslides.

The rainy seasons are from March to May and October to November. Flooding can cause landslides, displacing large numbers of people and blocking some roads.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

More information:

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 999
  • Medical emergency: phone 999 or go to the nearest hospital
  • Crime: phone 999 or visit the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism products and services

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

The Australian Consulate in Kampala, headed by an Honorary Consul, provides limited consular assistance to Australians in Uganda. The Consulate doesn't issue passports. Full consular assistance is available from the Australian High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya.

 

Australian Consulate, Kampala

Plot 22, CNOOC Building
(Next to Khana Khazana)
3rd Floor – Left Wing with Simba Signage
Acacia Avenue
Kampala, UGANDA
Phone: +256 31 2515865 or +256 77 2202285
Email: australianconsulate.ug@gmail.com

Working hours: Monday to Friday 9:00am to 12:30pm and 2:00pm to 5:00pm.

 

Australian High Commission, Nairobi

Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road)
Nairobi, KENYA
Phone: +254-20 4277 100
Fax: +254-20 4277 139
Website: kenya.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in East Africa
Twitter: @AusHCKenya

Check the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the High Commission In a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional resources