The ultimate travel guide to help you plan your first Uganda safari holiday
Jun - Aug
Planning a safari holiday in Uganda doesn't have to be daunting for first-time travelers because you can find the essential information in this Uganda travel guide. Uganda is a wonderfully diverse safari destination, offering everything from rainforest jungle to traditional savanna safaris. On a single trip, you can encounter the mystical mountain gorillas, walk with wild chimpanzees, go on wildlife game drives, and marvel at big game on a boat safari. Bird watchers will find top-of-the-list birding spots, while you can enjoy plenty of authentic cultural experiences away from the parks. Let our local experts guide you in planning your first safari journey to the 'Pearl of Africa'.
Uganda's uniqueness attracts many first-safari travelers hoping to explore these outstanding highlights.
- Coming face-to-face with four hundred pounds of a silverback mountain gorilla in the impenetrable jungle and on the bamboo-clumped slopes of the Virunga mountains.
- Following a narrow rainforest trail awkwardly with the heart-throbbing pant-hoot chorusing of chimpanzees
- Cruising the Kazinga Channel in the shadow of the Ruwenzori mountains while elephants drink from the nearby shore
- Watching a prehistoric shoebill swoop down on a lungfish in the brooding reed beds of Mabamba Swamp.
- The roaring, spraying sensory overload standing on the tall rocks above Murchison Falls, bungee jumping, or rafting grade-five rapids on the Nile.
- Walking through native remote villages, speaking one of the 52 native languages, moments with a most generous population, and experiencing evocative traditions on a cultural trail.
- Marvel at more than 1000 colorful bird species found within the most accessible birding habitats on the continent.
- Hiking the tallest mountain ranges in Africa, through alpine forests and glaciers to the highest summit on Mount Stanley, Margherita Peak, reaching a 5109-meter altitude.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
January through February is a relatively hot season with clear skies, minimal rains, and more sunshine. It is an excellent time to visit Uganda for gorilla trekking and walking with chimpanzees in lush forests.
The country's north can be pretty hot and dusty during this period.
March marks the beginning of the rainy season, a perfect time to spot the birth of many animals. Birdwatchers will enjoy spotting many colorful winged creatures during this time.
April is the wettest month in Uganda, parks are quieter, and many roads can be impassable. On the other hand, it's low season, perfect timing for discounted hotel and lodge rates.
May ends the first rainy season of the year with lesser downpours and incredible greenery in the countryside.
June is the start of the peak season because of its gorgeous dry weather, extending into August. It's the best time for a Uganda safari, attracting the biggest number of tourists to the country. Gorilla trekking permits and premium safari lodges can get booked out during this time; book well in advance to avoid unnecessary bother.
July is also excellent for gorilla trekking excursions and wildlife safaris in Uganda. Wild animals congregate around water sources, making them easier to spot.
August is fantastic for game-viewing safaris, and boat safaris and parks don't feel crowded.
September is usually the end of the dry season, but depending on when the rains arrive, you may experience some downpours on your Uganda safari. September is not ideal for gorilla trekking excursions. However, those who can brave the downpours will undoubtedly save on travel costs.
October is not a busy month for a safari in Uganda. Prices are reasonable, and this is a good time of year for specials on gorilla trekking permits. Most game parks are still accessible at this time, but the rainfall can be a little unpredictable.
The rains continue into November, turning the countryside plains into a vibrant green perfect for wildlife and landscape photography. The November rains hold back many travelers, so the low season extends into December.
December ends the wet season with relatively short rains paving the way for the peak season. It's the best time to travel north to Kidepo and Murchison for excellent game-viewing safaris. It is also a good time for bird-watching, with a wide variety of migratory birds making their way into the area.
Parks you must visit on your first Uganda safari
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Bwindi Impenetrable is an ancient rainforest spread over steep ridges and valleys that form a protective habitat for almost half of the last mountain gorillas. It is the best park to watch silverbacks, hike through the impenetrable forest, and meet locals.
Kibale National Park
Kibale Forest and the nearby crater lakes are nature lovers’ dream destinations. The rainforest park has the densest population of primates, with 15 primate species jumping the forest canopy. It is here that you will meet cheeky chimpanzee troops up close.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth is the best park in Uganda for a family safari and big game viewing. Game drives will bring you close to the elephant, lion, leopard, but just as well, boat safaris on Kazinga channel have excellent encounters with thirsty visitors.
If you have time, also include...
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National is the smallest wildlife park located 230 kilometers outside Kampala. This small park is usually included on Uganda safari packages as a buffer between Kampala and Bwindi and offers decent wildlife sightings.
Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is located in the northwestern region, a bit far from the famous western safari circuit, but worth a first-time visit. Here, you'll marvel at the mighty waterfall, cruise the Nile, and take a game drive to get close.
Kidepo National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park, a classic African wilderness, is Uganda’s remotest safari destination, sitting in the extreme northeastern arid corner. Wildlife viewing in Kidepo is exceptionally rewarding, and the park is literally unknown to crowds.
Tailor-made Uganda Safari Packages
These are example Uganda safari packages to inspire you in planning your first-time trip.
Must have safari experiences in Uganda
Meet the locals and explore cultures
As a first-time visitor, you can experience Uganda beyond the gorillas and animals. Watch in on a traditional dance, visit hidden tribes, walk through remote communities and explore Uganda's diverse cultures.
What is the cost of safari in Uganda?
|Vacation Camps & Lodges||under $150||$150 - $400||over $400|
|Restaurants (per meal)||under $15||$15 - $30||over $30|
|Safari Vehicle (per day)||under $100||$100 - $250||over $250|
|Local Guide (per day)||under $50||$50 - $150||over $150|
Most Uganda safaris refer to an all-inclusive (full-board) per person rate, including taxes, and assuming double occupancy. A few lodges operate on a half-board rate, and rare ones offer bed & breakfast except city hotels.
Our top selected safari lodges in Uganda
These are our most trusted service providers for mid-range to luxury accommodation including full-board meals.
Rwakobo Rock Lodge
From $155 pp
Rwakobo Rock Lodge is a wilderness retreat secluded on a rocky outcrop at the edge of Lake Mburo National Park’s northern border. The lodge provides private getaways in the locally-styled cottages dotted around a massive granite outcrop, with stunning views over the wilderness plains.
Apoka Safari Lodge
From $775 pp
The pioneer luxury safari getaway is located on a picturesque rocky kopje overlooking the Narus valley in the southwestern sector of the park. The lodge has a relaxed classic safari feel, quietly providing a peaceful and private wildlife experience from the privacy of your veranda.
Mount Gahinga Lodge
From $880 pp
Nestled in the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes, Mount Gahinga Lodge is an exclusive vacation lodge with a tranquil charm enthralled by the dramatic backdrop of three of the extinct Virunga volcanoes. Its rustic charm creates an absorbing atmosphere of tranquility and the region’s history.
Uganda Travel Essentials
Uganda is still a low-key travel destination with literally no tourist crowds. Group tours seldom exceed six in number, and even the most popular wildlife game-viewing circuits retain a relatively unconstrained atmosphere. The pearl’s plethora of forested and game reserves remain highly accessible to independent travelers and relatively affordable to those on a limited budget, such as off-the-beaten-track gems, the Ssese Islands, Katonga Wildlife Reserve, Sipi Falls, and Kasenda Crater Lakes.
Uganda travel enjoys one of the healthiest reputations of any African country regarding crime directed at tourists. The level of day-to-day hassle faced by independent travelers is negligible. And Ugandans as a whole — both those working within the tourist industry and the ordinary man or woman on the street — genuinely come across as the warmest, friendly, and most relaxed hosts imaginable.
Phone & Internet Connection
Entebbe, Kampala, large towns, and tourist areas are covered by numerous phone networks, although signals may be on and off. Local SIM cards are cheap, and international calling bundles make calling home easy. Ideally, have your mobile phone unlocked before you arrive. Phone unlocking is possible in Kampala but may delay your safari. Wi-Fi, of variable quality, is available free in almost all lodges in the countryside.
Health & Vaccines
Visitors to Uganda must present proof of yellow fever vaccination and Covid-19 PCR test certificate done not more than 72 hours upon arrival at the airport. MoH recommends Hepatitis A and B vaccinations. Adventurous eaters and travelers to rural areas should also consider the typhoid vaccine. Malaria is a risk in Uganda, so consult with your doctor on antimalarial tablet options. At the very least, sleep under a mosquito net at night and wear insect repellent during the day. Drink bottled or filtered water.
Security & Traditions
Uganda is a very secure destination for tourists. Although petty theft and muggings do occur, don’t wander around alone at night, particularly in urban areas. Ugandans are generally tolerant people, but most hold traditional beliefs, so Ugandan frown upon public displays of affection (even between a man and a woman). LGBTQ+ travelers can easily travel through the country without instance if they keep their desire to demand their rights bagged during their vacation: Ugandans don’t police for sexuality.
Uganda’s shilling (UGX) has an exchange rate of Ush3,500 to US$1. Although larger hotels and tour companies may accept U.S. dollars and credit cards, expect to pay in shillings at local shops and restaurants. You can withdraw local currency at ATMs, in large towns, or exchange your U.S. dollars at the airport, foreign exchange branch (known locally as forex), and local banks. US$50 and US$100 bills fetch better exchange rates. Bills printed before 2006 may not be accepted. Later bills get better exchange rates.
A single-entry, three-month tourist visa costs US$50. All visa applications should be made via the Uganda immigration online system at visas.immigration.go.ug. You’ll need a completed application form, two passport-size photos, and the correct visa fee two months before travel. You can no longer secure at Entebbe International Airport. Your passport must be valid for six months from the intended travel date and contain at least one blank page.
Best Time To Go
Uganda sits squarely on the equator with an average altitude of around 1,000m, which tempers the heat and means this is a year-round destination. March-May and Oct-Nov see the highest rainfall, but gorillas are still lurking in the mist – although trekking to find them will be slippery and slower. However, accommodation and even gorilla permits can be much cheaper at this time. The best time to visit Uganda is June-Sep, the peak season – but Uganda remains happily oblivious to mass tourism, and you won’t need to worry about crowds.
Uganda Travel Q&As for planning your first trip
Uganda is a very safe country to travel to, but like most destinations, opportunistic crimes such as petty theft, credit card fraud, and home robbery do occur. Chances of being a victim are rare, and incidences would most probably be in crowded cities like Kampala. When in public places, please be vigilant and cautious by avoiding drawing too much attention to yourself and being less susceptible to pick-pockets.
Covid-19 is still a threat in Uganda, so be cautious in crowded places. Uganda is open for travel with relaxed COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Most importantly, it’s compulsory for all incoming travelers who are not fully vaccinated to carry a Negative PCR Test certificate with samples taken 72 hours before your flight. If you received your vaccine jabs, you won’t need to take the test.
There are no mandatory tests but there is random scanning at all entry points for temperature spikes, coughing or sneezing.
Before you travel to Uganda on safari holiday, make sure all your routine vaccinations are up to date. The risk of malaria is low in the higher altitudes (like Bwindi) but high in lower altitudes especially near Lake Victoria. It is higher if you are going into rural areas and villages outside the parks and reserves. Check with your travel doctor if you need vaccinations, and be sure to get them timeously.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travelers aged one year or over arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. WHO vaccination recommendation: yes
Malaria risk due predominantly to P. falciparum exists throughout the year in all parts of the country except the high altitudes where mountain gorillas live.
Entebbe Airport (IATA: EBB, ICAO: HUEN), also known as Entebbe International Airport, is the largest airport in Uganda. It is Uganda’s main international airport and serves the area of Entebbe. Entebbe Airport has non-stop passenger flights scheduled to 27 destinations in 15 countries. At present, there are 5 domestic flights from Entebbe.
There are no direct flights to Uganda from the United States, Canada, Southern America, Central America, the Caribbean, Southern Asia, China, Japan, Eastern Asia, South-Eastern Asia, Central Asia, or Oceania. The only intercontinental flights operating from Entebbe International Airport (EBB) are between Entebbe and Europe and between Entebbe and the Middle-East.
But there are connecting flights from major cities across the world and the cheapest ones are Kenya Airways through Nairobi, Rwandair through Kigali, Ethiopia Airlines through Addis Ababa, South African Airways through Johannesburg.
The newly launched Uganda Airlines will be launching direct flights between Entebbe and London in November 2022 and others soon to come. For now, the national carrier operates direct regional flights.
Non-stop flights from Entebbe to Europe
- Brussels AirlinesBrussels Airlines (Star Alliance): year-round to Brussels (BRU).
- KLMKLM (SkyTeam): year-round to Amsterdam (AMS).
Non-stop flights from Entebbe to the Middle East / Western Asia
- Ugandairlines: year-round to Johannesburg (JNB)
- Ugandairlines: year-round to Dubai (DBX)
- Emirates: year-round to Dubai (DXB).
- Flydubai: year-round to Dubai (DXB).
- Qatar Airways (Oneworld): year-round to Doha (DOH).
- Turkish Airlines (Star Alliance): year-round to Istanbul (IST).
Foreigners travelling to Uganda do not have to go through the hassle of applying for visas. With US$50 and a couple of questions, you get a visa online at visas.immigration.go.ug.
However, if you intend to also travel to Kenya and Rwanda, you can purchase a single tourist visa for the three countries at US$100.
Essential Uganda travel requirements for getting the visa include a passport copy, yellow fever card copy, and dynamic COVID-19 travel restrictions. Here are links to help you get started: visas.immigration.go.ug
Generally, a Uganda travel vacation is good all year round. Travelers use many factors to tell when the best time is for a safari travel to Uganda is. Basically, your available budget, which places you will be visiting, how much time you have for a vacation and the weather seasons will determine the best time to travel to Uganda.
Game viewing in Uganda’s savannah parks is best at the end of the dry seasons – February and March and September/early October – when wildlife is concentrated around water sources.
Bird watching is fantastic all year round but is at its peak between November and April when migrant species are present. Even when considered, the rainy season of April to May is a great time for a trip to Uganda to see the mountain gorillas. The views are stunning during this time and it rains mostly in the afternoon for 1 hr and not tempering with activities.
However, most travellers will avoid planning a Uganda trip during mid-March’s downpour through May and September through November, the rainy season. But we would urge you to travel during this time if you want to avoid the crowds and take advantage of off-season discounts.
Read more in this detailed post
Although gorilla trekking is a year-round activity, the best time for a gorilla trekking trip is during the region’s two dry seasons: January and February and June to September. There are fewer rains during the dry season, the roads are more comfortable to navigate, and you’re sure your itinerary will not be interrupted by a downpour. During this time, everyone else will be thinking of traveling to see mountain gorillas, which makes permits very scarce, accommodation is expensive, and privacy hard to secure.