Even if this article is about things you should avoid doing while in Uganda, Uganda is a very free and accommodating country. The people are extremely friendly and hospitable. Its relatively safe and you shouldn’t have any worries while visiting the Pearl Of Africa.
I do not want to create the impression that you will be on the watch out for this or that while visiting Uganda. In fact the only one thing you probably need to have a great visit is some common sense and politeness.
That said, every community has some dos and don’ts. These are some of the things you should avoid doing while in Uganda.
1) Avoid Self Drive!
Without any doubt, self drive is thrilling. You get to go at your own pace and you have full privacy while you travel. As I earlier stated, Ugandans are very Kind and respectful people. I only forgot to add, BEFORE THEY SIT BEHIND THE WHEELS.
If you are a first time traveler in Uganda, you will find driving in Uganda very chaotic and frightening to be honest with you. Its not because there are no traffic rules. The rules exist and probably one of the best you can ask for. However selective enforcement by the local traffic police means most of them are ignored.
There is also a group of road users who ride motor bikes called Boda Bodas, these are “above the law”. They do not keep any traffic law. If you are visiting for the first time, keeping up with these riders will be a bit hard. If you knock one of them, even if you are in the right, you will be surrounded and intimidated by hundreds of other bikers in a few minutes.
Its not all about the human road users. There are animals too. Goats, cows and pigs could cross the road at unmarked locations. If you are unfortunate to hit one, you could end up surrounded by an angry mob. In such events drive to the nearest police station and report your self. DO NOT stop at the scene.
The roads are also challenging if you are coming from the smooth roads of America and Europe. There traffic bumps in many sports and some are not well marked. Many roads have potholes . A combination of these and drivers who are blatantly ignoring the traffic laws simply makes it a no to Self Drive for first time travelers.
In addition, there are many unmarked addresses in the country. Even on GPS, its quite easy to get lost especially outside the city. In fact, Even the Uganda Wildlife Authority, a promoter of tourism in Uganda, cautions against Self Drive for first time visitors. If you would like to hire an experienced driver or a car with a driver guide, we recommend Uganda Car Hire.
2) Avoid Traveling at Night.
Yes stick to day time travel as much as possible. As already stated there id general road use indiscipline. The presence of some traffic policemen enforces some level of sanity. In the night, there no Policemen.
Uganda is among the world’s Most alcohol consuming countries. Add the fact that there no policemen in the night. You are looking at an indiscipline drunk driver right there! Take it for my word, I live here and I know my people, try to stick to day time travel as much as possible. If you must move at night, I recommend you use an experienced sober Ugandan Driver. Hiring a designated driver could cost you about $30 a day but it might be better than facing the chaos head on.
So you know, Most tourist agencies do not recommend night driving apart from airport pick up and drop offs. The UK and USA embassies also do not recommend night time driving apart from airport pick ups.
3) Avoid Boda Bodas – Motor Cycles
One of the things you should never do in Uganda as a tourist is riding on a passenger motocycle – Boda Boda. Yes its fast, cheap and might appear to be fun but do not ride on one. As earlier stated these riders do not keep a single traffic law. Some have never been to a driving school and have no driver’s license. The worst part is many of the riders are driving under the influence.
Boda Bodas are responsible for more than 60% emergency accident cases in Ugandan Hospitals. They account for more than that number in the Bone and causality ward in the National Referral hospital. There is every statistic to persuade you not to use a boda boda while on your visit to Uganda.
4) Do Not Cross The Road Where There is No Traffic Policeman
If you are in the city of Kampala, simply do not cross the road where there is no helping Policeman. Forget about your fear of snakes, Ebola and HIV combined, the real danger you face in Kampala is being knocked by a car or boda boda.
Ohh and while ensuring you are not hit by a car or boda, mind the open manholes. There open manholes in some places in the city and you don’t want to end up falling in one do you?
5) Do Not Show People Your Money.
Well probably never a good thing to do anywhere in the world but just so we are clear, do not flash your cash while in Kampala. There are ATMs and POS in most upscale places in the city. Do not carry huge sums of money as that will make you a potential target for robbery.
You may also consider leaving your expensive watches, phones and Laptops at your hotel when you go out in the city especially in rush hours and the night.
6) Do Not Swim In the Lakes and Rivers.
Uganda has a lot of water bodies. You will see water body on your safari most likely but clear as it might look and refreshing as it sounds, DO NOT SWIM in the lake or river. There are snakes and crocodiles in some water bodies and they often make attacks on the locals. But that aside, you could easily catch Bilharzia from the water.
7) You should not Drink Tap Water.
Uganda has Fresh water. But the water that runs on the tap is not fit for human consumption. Its not because the water is not purified before sending it from the main but mainly because it first goes to a storage tank before you get it in the tap. The tanks can get dirty and contaminate the water again.
For Drinking and brushing your teeth, we recommend you use bottled water. Rwenzori Mineral bottled water is probabbly the most consumed water in Uganda. The water is part of the Coca Cola group in Uganda. Despite the Name Rwenzori, the water is purified and packaged in Kampala not from the Rwezori Mountains as you might be mislead to think.
Most tourist travel companies will give their travelers free bottled water. Hotels often serve 2 complimentary water bottles. You may buy bottled water from almost any grocery store across the country.
8) Do not Go to the Club Alone
Kampala has one of the best night life in Africa. If you like to party, here the party never stops all night. In fact if its your thing, welcome to Uganda! However as you plan a night out, here are some things you shouldn’t do.
First do not go to the bar alone. Its best to go out with at least one Local in your company. Its never very safe for foreigners to be out late in the night alone. You do not who what’s safe and what’s not in the city.
Also carry only enough money you need. Most high end bars and clubs will have a POS machines so you could pay with your ATM instead of carrying huge cash around you.
Do not leave drinks on your table unattended. If you have to use the rest rooms, do so in turns leaving someone on your table to mind the drinks. And finally while you are out, avoid prostitutes. They will most likely be in your face all the time and innocent as they may look, you are not safe with them. They are after your money and they can do anything to have it including setting you up with hard core thieves!
9) Go Slow on Local Food
Uganda is home to some delicious fresh foods. A mere look is really tempting and some taste really so nice. The people are generous they will even offer you free food but there is only one problem. Your stomach! Your stomach may not be used to these foods and may not stay stable after you eat it. Its best to eat only what seems familiar and in moderation. Many tourists get stomach upsets after eating local foods because they are not familiar with it or the way its prepared.
10) Avoid Demonstrations
Kampala can sometimes have political demonstrations. But even if they were not political, just avoid demonstrations of any nature. Demonstrations in Uganda even when called peaceful demonstration often end in violence and sometimes death.
I hope this was helpful. Our mission is to make sure travelers make the best of their tours. Welcome to Uganda and Enjoy your Safari in the Pearl Of Africa. If you have questions or need any recommendations, we are glad to offer that free of charge. Stay safe!
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