Travel Advice for Uganda
Last updated 16.12.2013
Irish citizens travelling for purposes of tourism receive a free visa (stamp in passport) at Entebbe airport or border entry points. Immigration officials may issue a visa valid for three months if they believe you are entering solely for tourism purposes; however, you should be aware that recent practice has been to issue visas of one month validity. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Uganda; you may be refused entry at the border or when trying to board a flight to Uganda if you have less than 6 months validity. Irish Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Uganda. You must supply a yellow fever vaccination certificate if you have travelled from a country with yellow fever; if you do not have a valid certificate, you may be denied entry.
The attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya on 21 September 2013 is a reminder of the threat posed across the East Africa region by the Somali based Islamic terrorist group Al-Shabab. There is a continuing threat of terrorism in Uganda. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. Political demonstrations in Uganda can also often turn violent and unpredictable. The Embassy advice is to remain vigilant regarding personal security, be alert to surroundings, report suspicious activity to local authorities, and avoid demonstrations and rallies where possible.
Avoid travel by road outside major towns at night. We advise against all travel to Karamoja in north eastern Uganda, with the exception of Kidepo Valley National Park. If you are considering travelling to northern and western Uganda, we advise you to research the security situation very well and take appropriate precautions, particularly near the borders with Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
Safety and Security
The attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya on 21 September 2013 is a reminder of the threat posed across the East Africa region by the Somali based Islamic terrorist group Al-Shabab. There is a continuing threat of terrorism in Uganda. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. Large crowds of people and public places may also be targets. Somali insurgents have threatened to carry out attacks in Uganda in response to the Ugandan military presence in Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping force. This threat was realised on 11 July 2010 when there were three bomb attacks in Kampala: one device at a restaurant in Kabalagala (Tank Hill Road) and two at a rugby club in Lugogo (Jinja Road), all areas popular among tourists and expatriates. Over 75 people were killed, including an Irish citizen, and significant numbers injured. The risks of further attacks, at any time, cannot be ruled out. The Ugandan authorities remain concerned about the possibility of a further attack and have issued a number of alerts warning of a heightened risk of terrorism. The Embassy advice is to remain vigilant regarding personal security, be alert to surroundings, and report suspicious activity to local authorities.
We advise against all travel to Karamoja in north eastern Uganda (Kotido, Kaabong, Abim, Kapchorwa, Bukwa, Moroto, Katakwi and Nakapiripirit districts), with the exception of Kidepo Valley National Park, which we advise should be accessed by air rather than by road. Road ambushes and violent clashes, while considerably less than in earlier years, can still occur.
If you are considering travelling to northern and western Uganda we advise you to research the security situation and take appropriate precautions – particularly near the borders with Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] and Southern Sudan. Care should be taken to avoid the DRC border area around Lake Albert unless all arrangements have been made in advance with the Ugandan and DRC authorities. If using a gorilla trekking operator, please ensure they do not cross into eastern DRC. Before travelling to the border area of Kisoro and Kanugu Districts please contact Ugandan Wildlife Authority and your lodge/hotel for the latest advice. Travel can be difficult and dangerous so only go outside the main towns if you are confident of your safety. We strongly recommend that you do not travel outside of towns after dark.
Please contact the Ugandan Wildlife Authority for up to date security information before travelling to any of the National Parks: www.uwa.or.ug.
· For Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest it is normal for security personnel to accompany tourists when gorilla tracking.
· Please seek local travel advice before travelling to Bundibugyo District, Semiliki National Park and Wildlife Reserve in western Uganda. There have been violent incidents involving Ugandan forces and Allied Democratic Forces rebels in Bundibugyo District; the situation is now under control but a recurrence is possible.
· Travel to the northern part of Murchison Falls National Park should only be undertaken in the company of an armed game warden who has functional communications equipment.
Political demonstrations in Uganda can turn violent and unpredictable. There have in the past been instances of demonstrations on political issues becoming violent without warning, causing loss of life and injury. In June in Kampala traders demonstrated in the immediate area around Kiseka market, and there were demonstrations outside the offices of the Daily Monitor newspaper in the Namuwongo area of Kampala on 28 May, with reports in both incidents of the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by the police. There were also serious opposition protests in Kampala in September 2009 and October 2011. We recommend that you exercise caution and avoid all demonstrations and rallies where possible.
Avoid travel by road outside major towns at night and avoid, if possible, travelling between Kampala and the airport at Entebbe between midnight and dawn, as there have been reports of attacks on vehicles or attempts to force them off-road in recent months. Inside major towns and cities, though cheap, matatus (minibuses) and boda-bodas (motorbike taxis) are generally in poor condition, badly driven and often without proper insurance cover; accidents are common.
Although the capital of Uganda, Kampala, is a relatively safe city, wherever you are in Uganda you are advised to take the usual sensible precautions with your personal belongings. Do not carry all of your money at once and please ensure that your passport and valuable belongings are kept securely at all times. Opportunistic crime like burglaries, muggings, drive-by bag snatches and thefts from cars and taxis while stationary in traffic do occur. We strongly advise against walking after dark.
You are advised to drink or use only boiled or bottled water.
The danger of Ebola and other hemorrhagic diseases has lessened in recent months. However, there have been outbreaks of Ebola in Luweero, about 60km from the capital, Kampala and of cases of Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever in late 2012. Both outbreaks were subsequently declared over in January 2013. WHO did not recommend any travel or trade restrictions on Uganda as a result of these outbreaks.
Local Laws and Customs
Uganda is a very friendly, if socially conservative country - overt displays of affection, in general, are not encouraged, whatever the gender. Homosexuality is illegal and there is very little social tolerance of homosexuality in Uganda. Further information is available from the Embassy should you require it.
Natural Disasters and Climate
The rainy seasons extend from March to May and from October to
November, although in common with other regions of the world,
climate change has impacted the predictability, periodicity and
volume of the rains. Flooding and mudslides may occur throughout
the country as a result of the ferocity of the rains. There
have been reports of mudslides in the Mount Elgon region. The
rains can have a major impact on road conditions.
Natural disasters are possible due to regional volcanic activity. Uganda is located in a seismic zone.
Travellers should pay careful attention to regional weather forecasts and to all warnings issued.
Additional Country Info
Bribery and corruption
Certain Irish criminal laws, such as those relating to the bribery of foreign public officials, apply to Irish nationals overseas: Irish nationals who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Ireland or by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] and United Nations: both international organisations promulgate the anti-bribery conventions.
Traffic drives on the left. There are many road accidents causing death in Uganda. A lack of traffic signs, local driving habits, wandering animals, pedestrians, and poor road conditions pose risks. Pedestrians should exercise caution when crossing roads. Pedestrians are at particular risk: paths and street lighting are rare, even in built up areas of Kampala.
As noted elsewhere, the Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before travelling to Uganda. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Emergency treatment and/or evacuation are very expensive in Uganda. If participating in extreme adventure sports (white water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping etc.), you should check whether these activities are also provided for in your insurance. Travellers should be aware that many of these adventure sports operators are unregulated and so care should be taken in selecting reputable tour companies.
Irish citizens should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.