Are you thinking about visiting Uganda but concerned about safety? You’re not alone. In this guide, we’ll answer the question, ‘is Uganda safe?’ We’ll look at the facts and help you make an informed decision about whether or not Uganda is a safe destination for your next trip. We’ll also tackle common safety concerns such as crime, scams, terrorism, health, road safety, and other potential risks that travelers should be aware of when traveling to this East African nation. Hopefully, this guide makes your trip to Uganda a bit smoother and safer.
Table of Contents
- Info About Uganda
- Theft and Pickpocketing
- Violent Crime
- Transportation and Road Safety
- Scams in Uganda
- Police in Uganda
- Corruption and Bribes
- Drugs and Alcohol Related Crime
- Disease- Malaria, Yellow Fever, Traveler’s Diarrhea, Typhoid, Ebola, etc.
- Healthcare in Uganda
- Dangerous Animals
- Weather in Uganda
- Natural Disasters: Flooding and Mudslides
- Emergency Services in Uganda
- FAQ About Staying Safe in Uganda
- My Experience
A Bit of Info About Uganda
Nicknamed the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is a landlocked country located in East Africa. Uganda is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to the south by Rwanda and Tanzania. Uganda sits on the north shore of Lake Victoria.
The terrain of Uganda is made up of hills, valleys, and mountains which surround a large plateau in the center of the country. Uganda offers an incredibly diverse landscape from lush rainforests to the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains to savanna grasslands and immense freshwater lakes such as Lake Victoria. It is a stunningly beautiful country.
Temperatures throughout the year remain fairly mild due to Uganda’s location on the equator. There are two rainy seasons in Uganda.
Uganda is home to many wildlife species. Its national parks are some of Africa’s most impressive reserves for watching wildlife in their natural habitat. Popular parks include Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, and Bwindi Impenetrable national park, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
The people of Uganda are a diverse and vibrant community. With over 50 tribes and an even larger number of languages and cultures, the nation is a colorful collage of different peoples and beliefs. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming to foreigners. There are lots of reasons to visit Uganda.
When you announce to your friends and family that you’re traveling to Uganda, they may ask, is Uganda safe? This guide will answer that question.
Crime in Uganda
Uganda has a relatively high crime rate. Unfortunately, locals, foreign visitors, and organizations all fall victim. Crime is prevalent in both cities and rural areas. It is essential for those traveling in Uganda to stay vigilant and take precautions to reduce risk.
In this section, I’ll outline some common crimes in Uganda and explain how to minimize the risk of falling victim. We’ll look at both petty crime and violent crime.
Petty Theft and Pickpocketing in Uganda
As a visitor, the most common forms of crime you’re likely to encounter while visiting Uganda are petty theft and pickpocketing. When you’re in a crowded area, such as a city center, shared taxi, or large market, it’s easy for a criminal to snatch your bag or sneak their hand into your pocket and take your belongings without your noticing. Even if you notice, the criminal could easily disappear into the crowd.
A few steps you can take to reduce the risk of falling victim to a thief or pickpocket include:
Keep an eye on your possessions at all times. Never leave a bag unattended.
Store all of your valuables in pockets that zip or button closed.
Keep your hands on your valuables while walking through a crowded area.
Don’t carry anything that you’re not prepared to lose.
Store your valuables in a backpack and keep it zipped.
Wear your backpack on the front of your body while walking through a crowded area.
Keep your valuables out of sight. After taking a photo, store your camera in your backpack. Don’t leave it hanging around your neck.
Limit the amount of cash that you carry. Only carry enough cash for the day when you’re out and about.
Leave all valuables, such as your passport, credit cards, jewelry, and electronic devices locked in your hotel room safe.
Keep a low profile. Don’t dress flashy and don’t wear jewelry while out and about.
Be extra cautious while walking through crowded areas such as downtown areas, taxi parks, and markets.
Secure all belongings while riding in taxis. My phone was pickpocketed from a taxi in Tanzania. Luckily, I got it back.
Tip: Wear a Money Belt
To reduce your risk of falling victim to pickpockets, consider carrying a money belt. A money belt is a hidden pocket that you wear under your clothing. Some models attach around your waist, like a belt. Others hang around your neck like a necklace. When properly hidden, the money belt is pretty much pickpocket-proof. Criminals won’t even notice you’re wearing it. They can’t access it.
A money belt is a great place to store important documents and valuables such as your passport, cash, and credit cards. In some models, you can even carry your phone, keys, and other important items.
I use the Eagle Creek Silk Undercover Moneybelt. I’ve been carrying the same moneybelt for 10 years and it’s still holding up well. For more info, check out my review of the moneybelt here.
Hotel Room Theft
It is not unheard of for hotel employees to steal from guests while they’re out of the room. This isn’t an issue at large hotels in the city. It is somewhat common in smaller hotels and guest houses outside of the big cities. You could return to your room to find that your cash, camera, or laptop is missing.
When staying in small hotels, never leave your valuables in the hotel room while you’re out. Take them with you. If you can’t take them with you, lock them up. If the hotel room has a safe, use it. Otherwise, place your belongings in a secure piece of luggage and lock it. Lock your luggage to a piece of furniture if possible.
Violent Crime in Uganda
Unfortunately, Uganda has a relatively high rate of violent crime. Muggings, armed robbery, home invasions, terrorism, and kidnappings all occur in the country. These crimes aren’t necessarily common but it’s important to be aware that they do exist.
Local police often lack the resources and skills to respond to many violent crimes. Response times are slow. Criminals often get away. In this section, we’ll take a look at different violent crimes that exist in Uganda and explain how to minimize the risk of falling victim.
Robberies and Muggings
In Uganda, robberies and muggings are an unfortunate reality. Visitors should take extra precautions to stay safe, especially at night.
Robbery is probably the most likely form of violent crime for a visitor to encounter. In cities like Kampala, residents are sometimes exposed to mugging and violent robberies.
Robbers usually operate in groups. They may carry dangerous weapons such as guns or machetes. Robbers usually attack in deserted areas late at night. They could hide in the darkness on the side of an empty road and wait for a victim. Sometimes robbers will ride up on a motorcycle, hit the victim, then steal their belongings. Robbers can also wait outside of bars and clubs. They wait for a drunk victim, follow them to a deserted area, then rob them.
Travelers should also be aware that criminals may use tactics like asking questions as a ploy to lure someone into unsafe situations. Someone may approach you, act like your friend, then invite to join them, then rob you once you’re in a deserted location. Criminals can also carry out robberies from vehicles such as taxis or boda bodas. A boda driver could take you to a dark alley and rob you.
It is important for visitors to remember that robbers often target people who appear vulnerable or alone. Tourists aren’t usually targeted but they are still at risk.
To avoid getting robbed in Uganda
Walk in groups if possible. There is safety in numbers.
Avoid walking after dark. Most robberies occur at night. Always take a taxi or boda boda to your destination after dark.
Avoid isolated areas. You are unlikely to get robbed when you’re on a crowded street.
Try to remain vigilant of your surroundings at all times while out on the streets.
Avoid carrying valuables or large sums of cash. Keep only the amount of money you need that day. Leave valuables somewhere safe, like your hotel room. This limits your losses if you are robbed.
Don’t dress flashy or wear flashy jewelry. A robber is less likely to target you if you don’t appear to have anything of value. If you wear expensive clothing, you may make yourself a target.
Don’t hire a random driver off the street at night. They could take you somewhere deserted and rob you. Even boda boda drivers can pose a risk. Some have been known to rob unsuspecting riders at night.
When traveling by night, always try to arrange transportation through reliable sources. Use the Safe Boda app, Uber, or call a driver that you know.
If you do get robbed, it is best to remain calm and avoid any confrontation. Give the robber what they’re demanding. Usually, they just want your wallet and phone. If you give them what they want, they will leave you alone.
If you refuse to give the robber what they want or you try to fight, all bets are off. You could be badly injured or killed. Robbers often carry weapons. In many cases, they are not caught.
Home Invasions in Uganda
Home invasions are a serious problem in Uganda. Armed criminals break into homes and commit robberies. Sometimes they hide outside until someone opens a gate or front door. They then attack and rob the individual. This isn’t a particularly common crime but it does happen.
Home invasions often turn violent if the victim is home. You can read about a recent home invasion on the Uganda Police Force website. In this unfortunate case, six criminals waited outside of a woman’s house with a gun and machetes. When she came out to lock the gate, they attacked her and robbed her of her cash, electronics, and car. She and two others who were at the home ended up in the hospital.
To reduce the risk of home invasion, every home has bars over the windows. Apartment buildings have 24 hour security guards, called askari. These guards are usually armed. Private homes have large walls around the property with barbed wire or electric fences. Wealthier people live in gated communities. All of this security is necessary to keep robbers out. When booking accommodation, make sure it is secure. Most hotels advertise the security they have.
There are some additional steps you can take to improve security. When leaving your home, be sure to securely lock all doors, windows, and gates. Close the curtains so criminals can’t see in. If they see valuables through the windows, they will be more likely to attempt a break-in. At night, consider leaving a light on so criminals think someone is home. If you have an outdoor light, leave it on so thieves can’t hide around your front door.
Terrorism in Uganda
The risk of terrorism is currently considered medium in Uganda. Tourists are generally not targeted but can still be victims of terrorist attacks if present during an incident. As such, it is important to remain vigilant at all times while traveling around Uganda. You should also try to stay informed about any potential security threats.
When entering any official building, travelers should expect to go through security checks including body search and luggage check. When you enter a mall or supermarket, you will have to check your luggage.
It’s important to stay alert and follow safety instructions while attending large public events such as sporting events or religious gatherings. You should also stay vigilant while in crowded areas such as transport hubs, bars and restaurants, and large hotels. You must also exercise caution while traveling in close proximity to Government buildings or security installations like police stations and military bases. These places could be targeted.
Terrorism has been a threat in Uganda for many years now. Al-Shabab is the most active terrorist organization in the country. Several other terrorist groups are also active.
The last major terrorist attack took place in 2010 when suicide bombers attacked crowds during screenings of the World Cup final. This attack killed 74 people. The most recent attacks occurred in December of 2022 in Western Uganda. In 2021, there were multiple bombings in and around Kampala. Several people were killed.
For more info, check out the Uganda travel advisory from the U.S. Department of State.
Kidnapping in Uganda
Kidnappings occur in Uganda but they are not common. Female kidnappings are increasingly common in some regions. Tourists are generally not targeted in kidnappings.
There are exceptions. In 2019, an American woman was kidnapped in Queen Elizabeth National Park. She was held for 5 days until she was rescued by Ugandan authorities. You can read about the kidnapping here.
Transportation and Road Safety in Uganda
As a visitor, your biggest danger while visiting Uganda is probably the roads. Road safety is poor in Uganda. Auto accidents and traffic deaths are extremely common.
According to this interesting article from Nile Post, “For a period of 45 days, 329 people died on Ugandan roads, a trend that is worrying.” According to the WHO, Uganda has one of the world’s highest traffic death rates at 29 per 100,000. To compare, the traffic death rate in the United States is around 12.4 per 100,000. Pedestrians account for about 40% of traffic deaths in Uganda. Motorcycle riders account for around 33% of road deaths.
Traffic is dangerous in Uganda for a number of reasons. First, the roads are often in poor condition. There are large potholes, that drivers swerve to avoid. There are also many unpaved roads in the city. Traction can be poor in the rain. The roads are crowded as well. People walk in the road because there are often no sidewalks. This all contributes to the high traffic death rate.
The main modes of transportation in Uganda are shared minibusses (called taxis), motorcycle taxis (called boda bodas), and buses. There are dangers to all three transportation options.
Taxi drivers are often poorly trained. They sometimes drive recklessly, when they’re in a hurry. They will drive on sidewalks and road shoulders to avoid traffic. To make some extra money, many shared taxi drivers overload the taxi with passengers and cargo, making them difficult to maneuver. Many shared taxis also fail to meet basic standards for vehicle maintenance such as brakes and steering systems, which could cause an accident with serious consequences if the driver loses control of the vehicle. Accidents happen.
I was once in a taxi when the driver decided to race his friend. We sped along a highway until we passed the other driver. When we stopped to let a passenger off, the other taxi sped past us. Of course, my driver had to speed up to pass his friend. This game of cat and mouse continued all the way to my destination.
In this case, I should have gotten out and waited for the next taxi. If a taxi feels unsafe, get out and find another. Changes are another taxi will pass by in 10-15 minutes.
Boda Bodas (Motorcycle Taxis)
Motorcycle taxis, or boda bodas, are the most common form of transportation in Uganda. These are the fastest transportation option in cities but they are dangerous. Many drivers are not well trained. They make risky maneuvers in traffic, such as running red lights and weaving through traffic. Many motorcycles are not well maintained.
I was involved in one minor accident while riding a boda. A car was coming down a hill too fast and my driver decided to make a right turn in front of him. Luckily, the driver saw us and slowed down. He still hit the front of the bike. No one was injured but it was a frightening experience.
The lack of regulation has also resulted in unsafe practices and significant fatalities. Many drivers and passengers do not wear helmets, which increases their risk of head injuries from falling off the bike or being hit by another vehicle. Nighttime rides can be especially dangerous as some motorcycle taxis have poor lighting.
While visiting Uganda, consider buying your own helmet to wear while riding a boda boda. It could save your life. If you’re on a boda and you feel that the driver is driving recklessly, get off, pay, and find another boda with a safer driver. It’s never a problem to find another boda.
Some boda boda drivers are also criminals. It is not safe to take a random boda that you flag down on the street. The driver could drive you to a deserted area and rob you. Alternatively, they could drive you to their accomplices who are waiting to rob you. Use Safe Boda or call a trusted driver if you need to move at night. During the day, it is safe to flag down a random driver.
Trucks are another road hazard. They are often overloaded. The cargo is often not properly secured. This can present a danger if the truck tips while taking a corner too quickly or if the cargo falls onto the road while the truck is moving. Drivers sometimes go too fast and lose control.
Outside urban areas, carjackings sometimes occur when travelers pass through isolated areas. Bandits have also been known to create roadblocks and stop vehicles before assaulting and robbing drivers and passengers at gunpoint.
Bus robberies have also been known to occur. For example, you can read about this case where a group of gunmen robbed bus passengers of their cash and phones. Anyone who didn’t comply was beaten.
Avoiding travel at night greatly reduces the risk of falling victim to carjacking and robbery. If you must travel at night, always travel in a convoy.
Civil Unrest in Uganda
Demonstrations, protests, and strikes sometimes occur in Uganda. Police suppression can become violent if these demonstrations become disruptive. To stay safe, it is best to avoid large demonstrations. Leave the area immediately if the situation starts to escalate.
Scams in Uganda
There are a number of scams to look out for in Uganda. Tourists are targeted by scammers because it is assumed that tourists have money. Most scams aren’t too elaborate but it’s easy to fall victim if you’re not careful.
Overcharging is probably the most common scam you’re likely to encounter in Uganda. Boda boda drivers might charge you 15000 shillings for a ride when a local might only pay 5,000. A fruit vendor might charge you 3000 per mango when the price is actually 2000.
The only way to avoid this scam is to know your prices. If you’re unsure, ask a local how much something should cost. You will still get overcharged but at least you can negotiate if you know the correct price.
Romance scams are also common in Uganda. If you meet someone while online dating, they may tell you a sob story and then ask you to send money to help pay for hospital bills for a sick family member, school fees, or their rent. These are scams. A date could also ask you to send transport money and then not show up. Never send money to someone that you haven’t met in person.
People may also pitch you investment opportunities, like buying land or gold. In the end, the scammer just takes off with your money. These scams can get pretty elaborate, involving fake bank accounts and forged documents.
For more info, check out my guide to 25 common travel scams and how to avoid them.
LGBT Safety in Uganda
Uganda is not a safe country for LGBT travelers. LGBT individuals in Uganda face discrimination and worse. Same-sex relationships are criminalized. It is important to exercise caution and remain aware of your surroundings if you are an LGBT traveler in Uganda.
Kissing and Public Displays of Affection in Uganda
Kissing and public displays of affection are frowned upon in Uganda. Particularly among the older generation. It is important to exercise caution and discretion in showing affection in this country. Kissing someone in a public place could draw unwanted attention.
Couples can show some affection in public spaces such as holding hands or hugging. Such behavior is tolerated. It is advisable to be respectful of local norms when expressing love and affection in public.
Police in Uganda
The Uganda Police Force is tasked with maintaining law and order. Unfortunately, they do not have the resources necessary to adequately perform this job. The police force is limited. Supplies are also limited. The police do have radios, vehicles, and weapons to help them carry out their duties.
Mobile patrols are common tactics used by the police to deter crime. You’ll regularly see police vehicles driving around the city. There are also motorcycle police.
In Kampala, the police have made huge advancements in their ability to respond quickly and efficiently to criminal offenses in recent years.
Due to the lack of adequate policing capacity, many businesses choose to employ private security guards as an extra measure of protection. These security guards can be of varying quality and training levels.
The national emergency number in Uganda is 999. This number connects you to the police. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, don’t hesitate to call.
Corruption and Bribes in Uganda
Uganda has long been plagued by corruption. Despite recent efforts to crack down on such practices, many people are still forced to pay bribes to get access to basic services. These bribes usually take the form of cash payments. Unfortunately, this type of pervasive corruption makes it difficult for ordinary citizens to go about their daily lives.
Unfortunately, police corruption in Uganda is also extensive. If you get pulled over by the police while driving, there is a good chance the officer will try to solicit a bribe. Bribes to get police assistance are often required as well. For example, you may need to pay a bribe to get a police report. If you need the help of the police in Uganda, be prepared to pay for it. If you are out and about minding your own business, it is unlikely for the police to stop you and bother you.
Management is trying to crack down on officers who ask for bribes. Still, you may not be able to rely on the police to respond if you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
Recently, there was also a problem with corrupt immigration agents requesting bribes before allowing people to depart Uganda through Entebbe International airport. It was all over social media. The government seemed to crack down on this pretty quickly. You can read more about this issue in this article.
As a visitor, you are unlikely to experience this corruption. You may be asked to pay a bribe if you’re pulled over by the police if you commit a traffic infraction. Usually, these bribes can be avoided if you have patience.
Drugs and Alcohol in Uganda
Alcohol use in Uganda is high. In fact, at one point, Uganda had the highest annual consumption of alcohol. According to this study, almost 10% of the population has an alcohol use disorder. Ugandans like to drink.
This high rate of alcohol consumption leads to a number of potential safety issues. Drunk driving is common in Uganda. You need to be cautious while near the road. Particularly while you’re walking. Try to walk in the direction of oncoming cars (on the right side of the road in Uganda) so you can move out of the way if a driver is coming too close.
Alcohol consumption can also lead to an increased risk of violent behavior. Assaults aren’t common in Uganda but they can happen when people have been drinking.
Some alcohol produced in Uganda is not safe to drink. Ugandan Waragi is a homemade gin that contains around 42% alcohol. The alcohol content can be much higher. Bootleg versions of the drink sometimes come laced with methanol. Recently, 12 people were killed and 18 were hospitalized after drinking Waragi. Check out this article to read more about the incident.
To stay safe, you should only drink alcohol from a major manufacturer. Only drink at legitimate bars and restaurants. Don’t drink homemade alcohol.
In terms of organized crime, Uganda’s porous borders make it susceptible to illegal activities including drug smuggling. Uganda lies on a narco-smuggling route. Drugs are smuggled from West Africa through Uganda into the Middle East and Asia. Traffickers also use Uganda as an entry point for shipping consignments of illicit drugs worldwide. Drug trafficking has increased over the years. Cannabis is also grown in Uganda. Crime comes along with narco-trafficking.
To avoid this type of crime, don’t buy or use any illegal drugs while visiting Uganda. As a foreigner, you are unlikely to encounter any drug-related crime as long as you stay away from drugs.
Drugs are illegal in Uganda. Enforcement is pretty lax. Uganda’s anti-narcotic force is underequipped, poorly trained, and not well-manned. Foreigners are occasionally arrested for the possession of illegal drugs.
In 2021, an American man was arrested for possessing a small amount of cannabis. While visiting Uganda, you should never use illegal drugs. You could end up with a big fine or jail time if you’re caught.
Staying Healthy and Avoiding Disease in Uganda
It is important to stay aware of risks related to diseases while traveling in Uganda. There are a number of deadly diseases that exist in the country. Knowing how to prevent exposure is essential for protecting your health while in Uganda. In this section, I’ll outline some of the most common diseases that exist in Uganda and explain how to avoid them.
Traveler’s Diahhrea/Food Poisoning in Uganda
According to the CDC, upset stomach or traveler’s diarrhea is the most common travel sickness. Traveler’s diarrhea is a type of gastrointestinal illness that commonly affects people who are traveling to new or unfamiliar places. This can be caused by consuming contaminated food or water or even touching surfaces that have been exposed to bacteria. It is estimated that up to 80% of all international travelers suffer from some form of traveler’s diarrhea during their trips. In Uganda, locals refer to traveler’s diarrhea as ‘having a runny tummy’.
Food poisoning is extremely common in Uganda due to unwashed produce and unsafe food preparation and storage practices. It’s common to see foods sitting out in the open where they can become contaminated. Many street food stands don’t have refrigeration. At butcher shops, meat sits out in the open. Power outages are also common. Food can spoil while the power is out. For these reasons, it is important for travelers to take certain precautions when visiting the country.
Symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea typically come on quickly and can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and cramps, fever, chills, and sweating. Some people experience fever and headache.
To avoid traveler’s diarrhea in Uganda, avoid drinking tap water. Use bottled water, purified water, or boiled water instead. Drink hot beverages such as tea and coffee or carbonated beverages. Wash, dry, and peel fruits and vegetables before you eat them. Only eat at reputable restaurants or street vendors. Avoid eating at roadside stands and street food stands where food may not be properly handled or stored. Only eat food that is freshly cooked and served hot.
If you spend enough time in Uganda, you will get traveler’s diarrhea at some point. There is no avoiding it. It’s not the end of the world if you get sick. Traveler’s diarrhea is common in Uganda and is usually easily treated. If you get sick from drinking contaminated water you should:
Drink plenty of clean water- Buy bottled water that you know is clean and drink lots of it. Your body gets dehydrated quickly when you have diarrhea. It’s important to stay hydrated.
Drink rehydration salts- You can buy these in most pharmacies. Rehydration salts help your body rehydrate if you’ve lost too much salt or other minerals from vomiting or diarrhea.
Follow the BRAT diet- BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are easy on the stomach and may help to reduce your symptoms.
Try taking some over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medicine- There are numerous over-the-counter medications available. You can buy anti-diarrhea medicine at any pharmacy.
If the sickness is particularly severe, visit a clinic. The doctor may conduct tests to determine the cause of your infection before prescribing antibiotics which should effectively rid you of your symptoms within two days of starting treatment.
Rehydrating fluids may also be recommended during this time period so make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout your recovery process.
Malaria in Uganda
Malaria is one of the most dangerous illnesses found in Uganda. In fact, it is the leading cause of death in the country. It is endemic in 95% of Uganda. Almost everyone who travels to Uganda is at risk.
Malaria is a disease that is caused by a parasite. It is spread through a bite from an infected mosquito.
Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, vomiting, chills, and fatigue. If left untreated, Malaria can cause death.
In Uganda, malaria is common in rural regions. It is less common in Kampala but it does exist.
The best way to avoid malaria is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes in the first place. To reduce the likelihood of getting bitten:
Use an insect repellent with DEET to prevent bites from malaria-infected mosquitoes. I use Sawyer Products Premium MAXI DEET.
Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and socks that cover your ankles in the evenings. This helps keep mosquitos away from exposed skin.
Always sleep under a mosquito net. You are much more likely to contract malaria during the night because mosquitoes can feast on you.
Most visitors should also take malaria prophylactic while traveling in Uganda. Before your trip visit a doctor for a malaria consultation. They will prescribe you the best malaria pills for your trip. Alternatively, you can buy malaria pills when you arrive in Uganda. They are affordable and easy to get.
If you start feeling malaria symptoms while visiting Uganda, visit a clinic as soon as possible. Every clinic offers malaria tests. There is a clinic in every neighborhood. You can take a malaria test for just a couple of dollars. It only takes 15 minutes to visit a clinic and get tested. If the test comes back positive, the doctor will prescribe you medication on the spot. If you catch it early, you should start feeling better in a few days.
For more in-depth info on malaria in Uganda, check out this interesting article.
Typhoid Fever in Uganda
This is another serious illness that exists in Uganda. Typhoid is a bacterial infection. If you’re infected, it can spread through the body and affect multiple organs.
Typhoid is usually spread by consuming contaminated food or water. Symptoms include high fever, headaches, stomach pain, diarrhea or constipation, and sometimes rash.
To reduce the risk of contracting typhoid fever while traveling in Uganda it’s best to drink bottled water. Only eat foods that have been cooked thoroughly. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables that can’t be peeled. Only eat in restaurants and street food stands that appear clean. Also, make sure you wash your hands before eating any type of food.
It’s also a good idea to get a typhoid vaccine before your trip to Uganda. The vaccine is available in both oral and injectable forms. Visit a travel vaccine clinic in your city to get vaccinated.
Uganda is prone to yellow fever outbreaks. Yellow fever is an acute viral disease spread by mosquitoes, which can be found in certain parts of Africa and South America.
Symptoms of Yellow Fever include fever, chills, headache, back pain, nausea, vomiting, and muscle pain. Complications can lead to death in up to 50 percent of cases. With proper precautions, the chances of contracting the disease can be greatly minimized.
To prevent getting infected, it’s important to get vaccinated for yellow fever prior to your visit to Uganda. In fact, a yellow fever vaccine is an entry requirement. You can’t even travel to Uganda without a yellow fever vaccine certificate. The vaccine is highly effective.
Additionally, it’s important to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Wear long-sleeved clothing and use insect repellant. Always sleep under a mosquito net.
Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis) in Uganda
Bilharzia, also known as schistosomiasis, is a parasitic infection caused by larvae from the genus Schistosoma. It is found all over Africa and is prevalent in Uganda. Most commonly, it is transmitted through freshwater snails.
The infection can cause severe health problems if not treated, including anemia, malnutrition, liver disease, and renal failure. According to this study around 25% of the population of Uganda is affected by bilharzia. In Uganda alone, it has been estimated that as many as 10 million people are affected by schistosomiasis.
The primary way to contract bilharzia is through contact with freshwater bodies such as lakes, rivers, and streams that have been contaminated with the larvae of the parasite. Infection can occur through swimming or other activities where contact with infected water is made.
In order to prevent bilharzia infection, it is important to avoid swimming in any freshwaters that may be contaminated with the parasite. It is wise to wear protective clothing such as waders or waterproof boots when fishing or performing any other activity where coming into contact with potentially infected water may be unavoidable. In general, it’s best not to swim in any lakes in Uganda, including lake Victoria.
When it comes to treating bilharzia infections, there are several drugs available on the market for those who have contracted the virus and need treatment. If you think that you have been infected with bilharzia, visit a clinic to get tested and treated. Luckily, the infection is pretty easily treatable.
Ebola is a deadly virus. Outbreaks have been known to occur in Uganda from time to time. In 2022, there was an ebola outbreak in Uganda that caused 55 deaths. You can read more about this outbreak here.
Ebola has no vaccine. It is also very deadly. Avoiding contact with people who demonstrate symptoms or have recently traveled from areas highly affected by this virus is key for preventing infection.
Signs of Ebola include sudden fever, muscle aches, vomiting, abdominal pain, rashes on the skin, bleeding both inside and outside of the body, red eyes, joint/muscle pain, etc. If you show these symptoms while visiting any part of Africa seek medical care immediately.
Ebola is taken very seriously in Uganda. It’s a good idea to read the news and stay up to date with the latest information regarding any outbreaks in Uganda. This will help you stay safe and informed during your travels. If an outbreak is ongoing, consider postponing your trip.
I was traveling in Uganda during the 2022 Ebola outbreak. I was worried that the country would go into lockdown to prevent the spread. Luckily, they were able to get it under control quickly.
In some cities in Uganda, there is a risk of cholera. Cholera is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It is commonly found in contaminated water or food, particularly in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene.
In Uganda, cholera outbreaks aren’t necessarily common but they do happen. Particularly during the rainy season when well water becomes contaminated with sewage. Cholera can spread quickly if left unchecked, causing a rapid onset of severe diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and dehydration which can lead to death if untreated.
The most effective way to avoid getting cholera is by using clean water for drinking and washing. If you’re in an area where there is a risk of cholera, only drink bottled water. Use bottled water or water that has been boiled for at least one minute. You should also practice good hygiene. This includes washing hands regularly with soap. In addition, avoid raw foods. Only eat foods that have been cooked or peeled.
Treatment options for cholera include antibiotics. Vaccines are also available. Visit a travel vaccine clinic before your trip to Uganda to determine whether or not you need the cholera vaccine.
Healthcare in Uganda
Travelers to Uganda should be aware that the healthcare system in the country is limited and inadequate. Hospitals are few and far between. The equipment is often outdated. Many hospitals and clinics lack the modern equipment and technology needed to properly diagnose and treat illnesses or injuries. In addition, medicines and supplies are often in short supply or unavailable altogether. Hospitals are also overcrowded. There is also a lack of healthcare workers. This leads to poor service. Emergency medical care is limited due to the lack of skilled personnel and resources.
These difficulties have especially profound impacts on remote rural areas where access to the most basic medical care may be difficult, if not impossible. Even the best hospitals in the capital, Kampala, suffer from many of these issues.
It is strongly recommended that travelers who plan to visit Uganda obtain sufficient travel insurance prior to their departure. Your travel insurance should cover medical evacuation if the need arises. If you suffer a major injury or disease, you may need to be evacuated to another country with better healthcare infrastructure. For travel insurance, I recommend SafetyWing*.
It is also advisable for travelers to bring any necessary medications from home in order to ensure that they have access if needed while abroad. Some medications are not available in Uganda. Some medications are hard to find.
Overall, it is important for travelers planning a visit to Uganda to be aware of the healthcare system deficiencies so that they can take the necessary precautions during their stay in order to ensure their safety and well-being while traveling.
Dangerous Animals to Avoid While Visiting a National Park
Visiting Uganda can be a great opportunity to experience its rich wildlife. Uganda is home to a number of dangerous animals.
The most dangerous animal in Uganda is the mosquito. Mosquitoes transmit malaria, a deadly and often fatal disease. It is estimated that almost 20,000 people die from malaria each year in Uganda alone. Cover up and wear insect repellent to avoid getting bitten. Consider taking malaria pills while traveling in Uganda.
When it comes to wild animals, one of the most dangerous animals in Uganda is the hippopotamus. They are one of the most aggressive animals in Africa. It’s best to keep your distance if you see one while on safari in a national park. Other dangerous animals include the Nile crocodile, Cape buffalo, and various species of venomous snakes such as the Black Mamba or Gaboon Viper. While gorilla trekking, you’ll encounter powerful mountain gorillas.
These species are not commonly encountered by visitors due to their limited range. It’s important to remain aware that they do exist if you’re traveling through certain areas of Uganda. You can encounter all of these animals in Uganda’s national parks.
When visiting a national park or other wildlife reserves while in Uganda, it’s important to follow safety guidelines so as not to put yourself at risk of encountering dangerous animals. Make sure to stay within designated viewing areas in the national park and never leave vehicles unattended or wander away from your guide unaccompanied.
Additionally, always listen carefully for instructions from park rangers as they will be able to inform you about potential hazards early on so that you can avoid them. If possible, also try and join a tour group led by an experienced guide while visiting the national parks. They can help ensure your safety during the duration of your visit.
By taking these few simple steps when traveling in Uganda, you can minimize your chances of becoming an unfortunate victim of a potentially dangerous animal encounter. For most travelers, the risk of having a dangerous animal encounter is incredibly small. Even while visiting a national park.
Weather in Uganda
The weather in Uganda is varied. In Uganda, there are distinct wet seasons and dry seasons. The wet seasons occur twice each year. The first wet season runs from March to May and the second runs from September to December. However, the northern region of Uganda only experiences one wet season which begins in March and ends in October. During the wet season, showers vary in intensity but typically last for an hour or two at most. Humidity levels tend to be higher during these times as well.
Visitors will find the best time to visit is during the dry season from June to September. During this time, the days are sunny and hot while the nights are cool. Expect temperatures in the 70s and 80s every day.
Uganda’s landscape is also highly varied, consisting of grasslands, jungles, deserts, plateaus, and mountainous regions. Each area has its own unique climate that is influenced by its altitude, geography, and proximity to water sources such as rivers or lakes. For example, highland areas tend to experience cooler temperatures than other regions due to their elevation above sea level while some desert areas may see higher temperatures than average due to their arid climate conditions.
Overall, Uganda provides a diverse range of climates across its various landscapes with conditions ranging from hot and humid in some areas to cool and temperate in others. It’s important to check the forecast before your trip and pack the right clothing so you’re prepared for the weather.
Natural Disasters in Uganda: Floods and Mudslides
Uganda is prone to a number of natural disasters. Chief among these are floods and mudslides, which often occur during the wet seasons. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by these disasters.
Floods can be either flash floods or slow-onset floods. Flash floods are caused by rapid rises in water levels due to heavy rainfall. Slow-onset floods are the result of prolonged periods of rain that gradually increase the level of water in rivers, streams, and other bodies of water. Flooding happens every year. Last year, there were 29 fatalities caused by flooding in Eastern Uganda, according to this article.
Mudslides and landslides also happen in some regions of Uganda when there is excessive rain or soil erosion due to deforestation or overgrazing. These events can cause significant damage to buildings and infrastructure, as well as put people’s lives at risk. Mudslides happen every year. For example, last year 16 people died in Western Uganda during a mudslide according to this article from CNN. Mudslides and flooding are particularly common in Western Uganda.
The best way to stay safe from floods and mudslides is to visit Uganda during the dry season when there is minimal chance of experiencing one of these natural disasters. Those who do venture out during the wet season should take precautions such as avoiding areas near rivers, streams, or lakes that could overflow their banks with flood waters and avoiding hilly areas where mudslides can occur.
Also, keep up with the latest weather forecasts and take basic safety measures such as wearing appropriate footwear for slippery terrain and avoiding walking through unknown areas unaccompanied.
Emergency Services in Uganda
In Uganda, emergency services are available to help people in the event of a crime or other emergency situations. The national emergency number for Uganda is 999. If you fall victim to a crime during your travels, contacting the local police is always the best course of action. Generally, reporting crimes in person at a local police station will result in a faster response from authorities.
Your embassy can also provide assistance if you fall victim to a crime while traveling in Uganda. In addition to helping you contact family or friends back home, they can also provide guidance on navigating the legal system if needed. Your embassy can also help you in case you need emergency medical assistance or if you need to return home unexpectedly.
Many criminals do not get caught in Uganda. It’s important to be aware and take steps to ensure your own safety. The police force is understaffed and under-equipped.
When traveling in Uganda, it’s also important to make sure you have traveler’s insurance coverage. Make sure that you’re familiar with your plan’s provisions for emergencies which may include medical evacuation and repatriation costs should you require them. This can greatly reduce any financial burden associated with being taken care of in an emergency situation. It’s a good idea to also select a policy that covers trip interruption and theft.
For non-emergency situations such as filing reports or submitting complaints regarding minor crimes, it is recommended that individuals visit their closest police station to get a police report. It’s a good idea to always file a police report if you fall victim to a crime. You will need the report to make an insurance claim.
FAQ About Staying Safe in Uganda
Is Uganda safe? In this section, I’ll answer a few frequently asked questions about staying safe in Uganda.
Is Uganda Safe for Female Tourists?
Yes. Uganda is safe for female tourists. Foreigners are usually not targeted in crimes. That said, there are certain precautions that female travelers should take when visiting the country.
Women should take extra care at night. Avoid isolated areas and avoid displaying valuables in public. Don’t walk around alone at night. Always keep an eye on your drink while at a bar. If your drink leaves your sight, get a new one. Don’t be overly trusting of strangers that you just meet.
When out in public, it is also recommended to dress relatively modestly. It is frowned upon for women to show too much skin in Uganda. It is a conservative and religious country.
Is Uganda Safe for Solo Travelers?
Yes. Uganda is a great destination for solo travelers. Uganda has plenty of tourist spots that can solo travelers can explore with ease. Tourists are rarely targeted in crimes. Most crimes are committed against locals. That said, you do need to take a few basic safety precautions when visiting Uganda.
Research in advance about the areas you will visit and the security measures you need to take. Generally, the capital is safe but there are some dangerous regions, in the north and west of the country. Make copies of your important documents and ensure that someone back home knows when and where you plan to travel. Remain aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts.
Most crimes experienced by tourists are crimes of opportunity, such as petty theft and pickpocketing. As long as you keep a close eye on your belongings and avoid wandering around alone at night, you shouldn’t have any issues while traveling in Uganda alone. With due diligence and vigilance, solo travelers can have an amazing time exploring all Uganda offers.
Is Uganda Safe for Families?
Yes. Uganda is a safe destination for families to explore. The country has a relatively low crime rate and the locals are friendly and welcoming. With its stunning landscapes, national parks, wildlife reserves, and lake-side activities there is plenty to do that everyone in the family can enjoy. Kids, adults, and older travelers alike can all enjoy wildlife viewing, cruising on the Nile, and viewing stunning waterfalls.
It’s important to note that young kids are not allowed to go gorilla trekking. The minimum age for this activity is 15.
Is Kampala Safe to Walk Around?
Yes. Kampala is generally safe to walk around during the day. Visitors should still take certain precautions. Always keep a close eye on your belongings. Watch your pockets. There are plenty of pickpockets, scammers, and thieves working in Uganda.
At night, it’s best to limit your travel. Try to stay in well-lit and populated areas. Avoid deserted streets. It’s not safe to wander around at night. Always take a taxi or boda boda to your destination after dark. Try to only accept a ride from a boda driver you know or one you hire from an app, like Safe Boda. Uber is also a safe way to get around at night.
To remain safe while out wandering around, dress modestly and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Avoid displaying valuables like jewelry or electronics in public. Also, carry an adequate amount of money for emergencies. As long as you’re cautious and prepared, you’ll be able to continue exploring Kampala without compromising your safety.
Is Uganda Safe at Night?
It is generally safe to go out in Uganda at night. Kampala has some excellent nightlife. There are certain precautions you need to take to stay safe in Uganda at night.
Stay in well-lit and populated areas. Avoid deserted streets. Don’t walk in unfamiliar areas. Wear sensible clothing that won’t draw unwanted attention. Keep your valuables like cell phones and wallets tucked away safely. Better yet, leave your valuables locked in your hotel room. Only carry the cash that you need.
When taking public transportation like taxis and bodas, always check the fare before you get in. Also, ensure that the driver doesn’t deviate from the agreed route. It is possible to get robbed by a boda driver at night. Take a Safe Boda or Uber instead of catching a random boda from the street.
By following these simple steps, solo travelers can have a memorable night out in Uganda without compromising on safety.
Are Uganda’s National Parks Safe to Visit?
Yes. Uganda’s national parks are perfectly safe to visit. There is almost no crime to worry about in the national parks. That said, there are some safety concerns that need to be taken into account.
Travelers should still take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from potential harm from dangerous wild animals. To stay safe while visiting Uganda’s national parks, all visitors should be sure to follow the rules put forth by park staff and other relevant authorities. Also, listen to the advice of your guide while visiting the national parks in Uganda. They can help you stay safe.
Is Gorilla Trekking in Uganda Safe?
Yes. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is safe. That said, you must take the necessary precautions to ensure your safety.
You must be accompanied by a professional guide at all times while visiting the mountain gorillas. In Uganda, all encounters with the gorillas will be done from a respectful distance. You must remain around 7 meters from the gorillas unless they approach you. Additionally, all trekkers are required to wear masks while on tour to protect the animals from any possible illness that humans may carry. As long as you follow proper guidelines and listen to your guides, gorilla trekking in Uganda can be a safe and enjoyable experience.
In Uganda, you can go gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
How Should I Dress in Uganda?
It’s important to dress modestly when traveling to Uganda. The country is fairly conservative and respectful dressing is appreciated.
Women should opt for clothes that cover the knees and shoulders. Tank tops, short shorts, and tight clothing are not recommended. Men should avoid wearing sleeveless shirts.
It’s always a good idea to carry a light jacket or sweater. Temperatures can drop significantly in the evenings. Particularly in higher elevation areas and during the rainy seasons. During the evenings, it’s also a good idea to cover your arms and legs to avoid mosquito bites. This greatly reduces your chance of contracting malaria.
Uganda is known for its vibrant colors and prints. Consider buying some clothes during your visit. Custom clothing is affordable. You’ll find some great deals on clothes downtown. You can even buy custom-made clothing.
My Experience Traveling in Uganda
I’m currently traveling in Uganda as I write this. I’ve been in the country for about 4 months. This is my second trip to Uganda.
So far, I have not encountered any crime. I do take a few precautions to stay safe. When I’m out and about, I try to carry cash in at least two places. I carry some in my pocket and some in another zippered pocket. That way, I still have enough cash to get back home if I get robbed or pickpocketed.
I also travel with two phones. One good phone and one old phone. I leave my good phone locked up in my hotel most of the time and I carry my old phone around for navigation. When I go out sightseeing, I take my better phone to take photos. If my old phone gets stolen, I can easily replace it.
I also wear clothing with zippered pockets. I store my valuables in a pocket that zips closed. Sometimes, I carry my money belt.
I’m also cautious when traveling at night. I avoid taking random bodas. I only hire drivers that I trust.
The only danger I have encountered during my time in Uganda was a minor boda accident. A driver tapped the front of the boda that I was riding. Luckily, it was a slow collision. My least favorite part of Uganda is the transportation system. Bodas are dangerous and taxis are slow and uncomfortable.
Final Thoughts: Is Uganda Safe?
Yes, Uganda is safe for tourists to visit. The country has made great strides in ensuring the safety of its citizens and tourists alike. There are numerous security measures in place to protect visitors. The government is committed to maintaining a secure environment. There is law and order in Uganda. Crime is treated seriously.
Of course, there are still some risks to be aware of. Petty crime like theft and pickpocketing is relatively common. Particularly in crowded areas. Robberies happen as well. There are also some dangerous tropical diseases that you have to be aware of including malaria and typhoid fever. If you take the precautions outlined in this guide, you can enjoy a safe and exciting trip to Uganda.
Whether you’re looking to tour the stunning national parks in Uganda, enjoy some of the world’s best wildlife viewing experiences, or hang out in bustling Kampala, Uganda is an excellent destination for your next trip. So go ahead and book that ticket, you won’t regret visiting this beautiful nation in East Africa.
If you’re still unsure, check out my guide: Is Africa Safe? for more general safety info.
Have you traveled to Uganda? Is Uganda Safe? Share your experience and tips in the comments below!
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