Is Uganda Safe To Visit in 2024?

Is it safe to travel to Uganda? Generally, Uganda is safe for travel—however, the below is meant for travelers exploring a post-pandemic world. Otherwise this guide to Uganda safety, which covers everything from the coronavirus to what solo travelers should keep in mind.

Uganda is generally safe to visit and for tourism. It is considered a politically stable country with securely operated borders. However, opportunistic crimes such as petty theft, credit card fraud, and home robbery occur, just like in any other country. Contemporary crime threats, terror-prone areas can be avoided when you observe caution and follow local laws.

For LGBTQ travelers? Ugandans don’t police homosexuality; they are the most hospitable people (according to Expat Insider). Away from bigoted laws, politicians, and hyped media, Ugandans are private people in matters of sexuality. They don’t discuss or attack anyone who respects their rooted cultures. Besides, Africa is the cradle of humanity and culture; we are yet to understand and adopt the Western world’s new ways. Come and enjoy Uganda’s wildlife, peoples, and cultures, but don’t preach or promote your sexual rights (so the new law says).

Is Uganda Safe To Visit or Travel To in 2024?

Are terrorists killing people in Uganda? Will my camera be snatched in the streets of Kampala? Am I safe in a car, or should I be worried about carjackers? Are the food and water safe for consumption? These are all general questions we ask before traveling to foreign lands.

It is to be expected for a visitor to be anxious about traveling to an unfamiliar place. Uganda is rising in the ranks as a popular vacation adventure destination, with thousands of travelers safely visiting every year, especially to watch the mystical primates in their ancient tropical forest.

According to the UK foreign travel advice, around 15,000 British nationals safely visit Uganda annually. Most visits are trouble-free. You’re more likely to be killed by a terrorist attack in London or New York than when in Uganda. And no, there’s no war in Uganda; there hasn’t been war since the ’80s.

And yes, Uganda is a safe destination for female tourists. While there is some crime in the country, most of it targets locals, not female tourists. Exercise caution while you’re here and avoid going out alone at night.

However, the fear of the unknown can only be put to rest when you have all the facts together. So this text should serve as your Uganda travel advisory guide.

“You’re fifty times more likely to be killed by a terrorist attack in London or New York than when in Uganda. And, there’s no civil war in Uganda; there hasn’t been civil war since the ’80s.”

top 20 things to do in Uganda
A foreign tourist enjoys a local bike ride commonly known as “boda boda”—the commonest and simplest way to navigate Ugandan cities.

Terrorism and Regional Security.

On October 17, 2023, assailants carried out a brutal attack resulting in the tragic deaths of a honeymooning couple and their safari guide in what authorities describe as a “cowardly terrorist act” within Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwest Uganda. Such large-scale incidents have been rare in Uganda for an extended period, causing us to lose sight of the realities of terrorism. Our condolences extend to the victims, and security measures have been intensified to apprehend those responsible.

It’s crucial to note that the park incident appears to be an isolated occurrence, and we have confidence in our security forces to swiftly address the situation before sensationalized media coverage takes hold, as is often the case. Uganda remains a secure destination for tourism. We encourage travelers not to cancel their plans, emphasizing that nearly 10% of Ugandans depend on income generated from tourism. Furthermore, many residents inhabit peaceful rural areas unaffected by the heightened tension portrayed in biased travel advisories.

Ugandans have enjoyed long periods of terror-free spaces for quite some time because of very active security forces and a vigilant population. The country’s security forces have been engaged in collective wars against terrorism for a long time, whether it is the homegrown terror cells like Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), or the cross-border Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Ugandan men, and women have been leading at the frontline.

Unfortunately, irrespective of the amount of vigilance, a few manage to pass the security lines and claim innocent lives in the name of their religion. Another recent sad incident is of November 2021; there was a high threat of terrorism across the East Africa region responding to a trio of suicide bombs that went off in Kampala, claiming the bombers’ lives and four nationals. The GoU issued a number of alerts warning of a heightened risk of terrorism after experiencing a number of bomb blasts in the same month. However, the threats were neutralized within no time.

Terror Attacks Are Uncommon

Terror attacks can be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers. Large crowds of people and public places may also be targets.

Regional security forces collectively engage in efforts to deny terrorists any havens, eradicate sources of terrorist financing, reduce state vulnerability, and enhance emergency preparedness and response capabilities. Under the auspices of the African Union, Uganda is the biggest contributor to the AMISOM forces. In that capacity, Uganda has been at the forefront of fighting the Al-Shabaab terrorist group.

Uganda’s neighboring Governments have been cooperative in facilitating the arrest of terrorist ring leaders. Within Uganda’s borders, the public members have been mobilized to be vigilant and always be on the lookout. These efforts have been successful, leading to the capture of terrorist operatives before they could carry out their evil operations.

Uganda continues to pursue the terrorists and stop them in their tracks before they can cause mayhem and suffering to innocent people.

You should be vigilant at all times, especially in crowded areas and public places like hotels, transport hubs, restaurants, and bars, and during major gatherings like sporting or religious events, and when in close proximity to Government buildings or security installations such as police stations. Previous terrorist attacks and disrupted attacks in Uganda have targeted the security forces, places where football matches were being viewed, restaurants, buses, and government buildings.

The Uganda Police Force regularly issues alerts, particularly around public holidays or religious events. You should remain vigilant at all times and follow the advice of the local authorities.

uganda security
Uganda Wildlife Authority Police who patrol protected reserves and national parks.

Safety and Security

Like all other countries globally, crime threats are present but can be avoided when you observe caution. Uganda is a very safe country, but opportunistic crimes such as petty theft, credit card fraud, and home robbery occur, just like any other country. Chances of being a victim are rare, and incidences would most probably be in 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.

The Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), commonly known as the local police, attempts to deter crime have increasingly succeeded with regular patrols and deploying in strategic crime-prone locations. The police’s presence is noticeable everywhere, with camouflaged security deployed at the airport, borders, and public places.

Across Uganda’s National Parks and tourist destinations, the tourism police, park rangers, military army, and hotel/lodge security personnel are all present to ensure tourists’ safety.

Is Uganda Safe for same-sex or gay couples to visit?

Although the Uganda president passed the Anti-Homosexuality Law in June 2023, it hasn’t changed the cheerful atmosphere and welcoming spirit that pervades Ugandan societies. The law basically prohibits the promotion of homosexuality in children and publicly but doesn’t persecute the gay. Gay couples can visit Uganda without any threat from Ugandans or lawmakers, and all they have to do is respect the country’s culture and not preach LGBTQ rights during their visit. Besides, such bills are mostly political and have little or no negative force on culture change.

Did you know that across the United States, at least 417 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures since the start of 2023? Yep, read this article from CNN.

In Uganda, like most African countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) rights are not yet socially accepted compared to Western countries. It is one of those things we leave in the privacy of the individual, although Ugandans know that there are people sexually oriented that way. Uganda is one of the 34 states recognized by the United Nations, African Union, or both where homosexuality is outlawed. Many laws that criminalize the promotion of homosexuality in these African countries are colonial-era laws in the shadow of religion.

When visiting Uganda as a gay or LGBTQ person, avoid evangelizing your sexual orientation and respect local cultures. No gay visitor to Uganda will be harassed or not welcomed for the only reason they may be gay. Cultural policies are important to Ugandans; we ask visitors to respect them—for example, Ugandans don’t publicly discuss sexual matters and will scowl at public displays of affection from even opposite-sex couples, like holding hands, embracing, or kissing publicly.

Oddly, it is standard for friends of the same sex (gay or not) to walk holding hands publicly. Don’t be shocked when a close Ugandan friend of the same sex reaches out for your hand and grips it upon meeting you. It’s a warm greeting gesture, one notably considered appropriate for friends.

Although homosexuality is taboo in Uganda, it would require some pretty overt behavior on the gay visitor’s part for any Ugandan to take offense or attack you, for that matter.

So when visiting Uganda as an LGBTQIA person, try and refrain from claiming sexual rights and enjoy your safari vacation in Uganda; we can assure you that not a single Ugandan will be interested in your sexual orientation.

Gay couples can visit Uganda without any threat from Ugandans or lawmakers if they respect the country’s cultures and keep their sexual orientation private.

Political Situation – Civil Unrest

In the past years, travel advisories warned against travel to the Karamojong region in northeastern Uganda. The Lord Resistant Army (LRA), an insurgent group that caused unrest in northern Uganda in 2005 had battles with the Uganda military. The national army drove the rebel group out of Uganda into South Sudan and that region is back to flourishing.

In 2016, the tension between the government and the Rwenzururu Kingdom in West Uganda escalated and turned violent. Although sadly losing 100 lives in the process, the situation was calmed, and the region is now safe to travel by road.

Overall improvement in security situations has been restored. The international community, civilian police, and Uganda Government have accomplished efforts to remove any threat by these groups.

Uganda, like many other democracies across the globe, occasionally goes through short periods of political change. The most political unrest in Uganda is usually centred around Kampala city, far from its magnificent safari attractions. Political violence, strikes, and demonstrations can surface sporadically without warning. Though protests are more often controlled, they can be at times aggressive and violent.

It is advisable to avoid crowds and demonstrations. Following local media updates helps you remain vigilant during these situations, and you can easily avoid any situation that can put you at risk.

The Ugandan countryside is as peaceful as the bottom of the ocean. However, metropolitan cities like Kampala, in this Coronavirus age, are a hotbed for infections, annoying traffic jams and bothersome political rallies. It would be rewarding to avoid Kampala if you dislike crowds.

The city you jet into the Pearl of Africa is Entebbe, a quiet suburb 34 kilometres outside the capital city housing the statehouse with beefed-up security. Entebbe is a great city to relax, take stroll and get introduced to Uganda.

Although, in some instances, you’ll drive or fly out of Entebbe immediately after landing, heading to the countryside attractions.

Diseases and Health

Uganda suffered the same fate as the rest of the world in the latest COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. The country impressively stabilized the outbreak situation with all hands on board, and things have returned to normal with travelers freely crisscrossing the country’s attractive destinations.

There was an outbreak of yellow fever in northern Uganda in 2010. The MoH still maintains that anyone is prone to yellow fever infection anywhere in Uganda. Today, all travellers entering Uganda are required to have taken a Yellow Fever Vaccination jab and carry an international vaccination certificate.

Ebola Outbreak.

On 20 September 2022, the Ministry of Health in Uganda, together with WHO AFRO, confirmed an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease EVD due to Sudan ebolavirus in Mubende District, Uganda, after one fatal case was confirmed. Ebola infected more than a hundred people and killed more than 50, including 19 health workers.

However, the government of Uganda and world health organisations were quick to take action, locking down the three districts more than 34 kilometres outside the capital.

Currently, Uganda is free of the Ebola virus outbreak. The Uganda Ministry of Health, on 11 January 2023, made the declaration after 42 days had passed without reporting any case since they released the last case from care. (ECDC report)

Other outbreaks

Outbreaks of the black plague have been experienced in the west of the Nile River. We all are aware of the Covid-19 pandemic around the world. Uganda is no exception.

Malaria is high risk in most areas and during the rainy season, apart from high altitude mountains over 2,000m. Management of these outbreaks by the government has been impressive over the years.

Excellent health services may be limited in the areas you’re visiting (esp in the remote countryside), and travelers are advised to travel with their own supplies of prescription and preventive medicine or a doctor’s note describing the medication. Medevac services available locally can be very expensive. Please consult with your medical insurance company before traveling abroad whether the policy applies to emergency evacuation expenses.

You must obtain relevant vaccinations before you travel to Uganda. We recommend that your read this great piece about watching your health when in Uganda.

Staying safe in Uganda

Traffic and Road Safety

There are reported traffic fatalities, but these can be avoided when you observe and follow traffic rules. However, when driving on Ugandan roads, you will encounter careless drivers, pedestrians walking in the street, livestock in the roadway, poorly maintained vehicles (lack brake/indicator lights), poor road conditions, lack of non-functional traffic lights, and poorly lit roads. Driving during the day is considered safer, but varying road conditions and careless drivers can still be fatal.

If you are driving in Uganda, please exercise all defensive driving skills to ensure your safety and the safety of other road users at all times. The police enforcement of traffic laws is minimal, but there has been an improvement.

At Nkuringo Safaris, our drivers are highly skilled and very experienced in driving on Uganda’s roads. They know these roads better than most and will do their best to make sure you have a very safe and comfortable journey.

Disaster and Environmental Hazards.

Disasters or environmental hazards reported range from heavy rains causing flash floods or landslides, infectious disease outbreaks, and short-term food security—disasters primarily from food insecurity due to drought and other factors contributing to the root cause. Most communities in the northern region under the insurgent group (LRA) have little or no cash to purchase food and can only cultivate in small plots of land with livestock.

From observing the safety concern, we can conclude that these facts make Uganda safe to travel.

  • There is no travel alert statement from travel advisories.
  • Since 2010, there has not been any terrorist attack in Uganda because heightened security has been enforced.
  • Security protocols enforced in public places such as malls, hospitals, and hotels are all in place to ensure tourists and Uganda citizens’ safety.
  • Any infectious disease outbreak is immediately quarantined and managed, ensuring all citizens and foreigners are safe from contracting contagious diseases.
  • Booking with Nkuringo Safaris, our experienced driver guides, will ensure your safety on the roads as you tour Uganda and enjoy your holiday.
Uganda trek
Foreign tourists adventure into Uganda’s countryside warmly greeted and welcomed by locals.

Go on a Uganda safari safely with a trusted operator

You must be cautious of your surrounding and remain vigilant by equipping yourself with crime and safety tips. Obtaining comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel will cover you against any unforeseen emergencies. Consume foods or drinks from sources that are hygienic to avoid cases of food poisoning or cholera.

Many visitors have reviewed and shared their experience of their visit to Uganda in forums citing a secure, safe and welcoming environment without any feeling of intimidation.

Is it safe to travel to Uganda? In our opinion and our experience – yes! Uganda is a safe safari destination. Through an organized safari by Nkuringo Safaris, you can enjoy a safe, stable, and secure holiday with all your family. Don’t just take our word for it; view our reviews on Trip Advisor.

You will undoubtedly have a sense of comfort and security when you are met at the airport on arrival and are in the care of a Nkuringo Safaris guide or driver throughout your visit to Uganda.

Dreaming of an Uganda getaway but unsure how to start planning? We can help!

Jumpstart your Africa safari to Uganda by working with a local to build a bucket list. You’ll get personalized recommendations for when travel is safe again. Plus, locals will include ideas for how you can enjoy Uganda’s culture at home. Please send an inquiry via our contact us page or email info@nkuringosafaris.com.

Quick Links

ECDC EU – Ebola Outbreak in Uganda.

UK Foreign Travel Advice

UK Gov: Reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad

UG Gov: Covid-19 Status

Tailor your own private Uganda Gorilla Safari with Nkuringo, like these below!

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Is Uganda Safe To Visit in 2024?
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