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Uganda

If you’re travelling to Uganda, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information. 

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. You should be aware that many adventure sports operators in Uganda are unregulated, so only choose reputable tour companies.

Overview

Security status

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Uganda.

We advise against all non-essential travel to Karamoja in north-eastern Uganda, except Kidepo Valley National Park. 

There have been reports of violence between Ugandan security forces and armed elements in the western district of Kasese near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), resulting in the loss of life. Indications are that foreign nationals are not being targeted. However, the area is near popular tourist destinations such as national parks and the Rwenzori Mountains and we recommend that you exercise a high degree of caution if travelling to the area, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media reports.

Health Status

On 16 January, the Agriculture and Health Ministries confirmed cases of avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds and domestic poultry in Lutembe Bay near Entebbe and Masaka District. The Ugandan government activated its emergency plan for epidemics control and advised people to be vigilant, report suspected cases to the authorities immediately and not to touch dead birds.

Citizens are advised to follow the guidance of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC)

Please note the recent increased incidence of Hepatitis B in Northern and Western Uganda. People travelling to these areas should take extra precautions.

As of 23 May 2017, Entebbe Airport and other ports of entry into Uganda have introduced entry screening due to some confirmed cases of Ebola in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

Irish citizens can get a visa on arrival in Uganda; there is no fee. Irish citizens are not currently required to apply for a visa online, however, this subject to change and we advise citizens to check back here and on the website of Uganda's Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration regularly. It may be useful to print off this page from Uganda's Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration should any issue be encountered at your point of embarkation or transit.

Immigration officials may give permission to stay for three months if they believe you are entering solely for tourism purposes; however, you should be aware that recent practice has been to give one month permissions. It is important to make sure that your passport is stamped on arrival as there have been recent cases where this was not done.

Emergency assistance

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

If there is an emergency, or if you need help and advice, you can contact the Irish Embassy in Kampala.

If you phone outside of working hours, you should call the out of hours Emergency Consular Assistance number +256 772 744 400

Our tips for safe travels:

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
  • Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.

Safety and security

Practical advice

  • Get advice locally about areas of risk and security concerns
  • Take common-sense precautions about safety and security
  • Know who to contact in case of an emergency

Political unrest

You are advised that political demonstrations in Uganda can take a violent turn without warning. You should avoid all political gatherings including demonstrations and rallies, remain vigilant at all times, and follow local media for updates.

Avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, which can sometimes turn confrontational and stay away from military sites – taking photos of, or near, military or security installations, and some public buildings, may be prohibited.

Crime

Opportunistic crime like burglaries, muggings, drive-by bag snatches and thefts from vehicles do occur in Kampala and other areas of Uganda. The Embassy advice is to remain vigilant at all times regarding personal security, especially in crowded areas and public places like transport hubs, hotels, restaurants and bars, and during major gatherings like sporting or religious events.

You should report suspicious activity to local authorities. When travelling by road keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags and phones out of sight to prevent opportunistic snatching if you’re stopped at traffic.

You are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together – leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafes, train and bus stations
  • Avoid walking after dark and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
  • Bag snatches by thieves on boda bodas are becoming more common; always remain aware of your surroundings, day and night.

Reporting a crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Uganda, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy if you need help.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in Uganda, you should be extremely careful. Road safety standards are low, particularly outside towns and cities. Accidents are frequent and are often caused by poor driving, badly maintained vehicles, a lack of traffic signs, wandering animals, pedestrians and inadequate lighting.

  • Remember that traffic drives on the left.
  • Avoid travel by road outside major towns at night and avoid, if possible, travelling between Kampala and the airport at Entebbe between midnight and dawn.
  • Inside major towns and cities, other common forms of public transport are common. Matatus (minibuses) and boda-bodas (motorbike taxis) though cheap are generally in poor condition, badly driven and often without proper insurance cover; accidents are common sometimes resulting in fatalities or very serious injuries requiring medical evacuation, especially where helmets are not worn. In addition, there have been recent incidents of foreign nationals being mugged whilst using matatus and boda-bodas.

If you want to drive:

  • Bring your international driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and keep your bags and phones out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped in traffic.

Hiring a vehicle

  • If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
  • Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Terrorism

There is a threat of terrorism across the East Africa region from the Somali based Islamic terrorist group Al-Shabaab. The Ugandan authorities have issued a number of alerts warning of a heightened risk of terrorism. Terror attacks can be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. Large crowds of people and public places may also be targets.

The attack on Garissa University in Kenya in April 2015 and the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya on 21 September 2013 are reminders of the threat posed across the East Africa region by Al-Shabaab.

Somali insurgents have threatened to carry out attacks in Uganda in response to the Ugandan military presence in Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping force. This threat was realised on 11 July 2010 when there were three bomb attacks in Kampala: one device at a restaurant in Kabalagala (Tank Hill Road) and two at a rugby club in Lugogo (Jinja Road), all areas popular among tourists and expatriates. Over 75 people were killed, including an Irish citizen, and significant numbers injured. The risks of further attacks, at any time, cannot be ruled out.

The Ugandan authorities remain concerned about the possibility of a further attack and have issued a number of alerts warning of a heightened risk.

Regional travel

Travel can be difficult and dangerous so don’t go outside the main towns unless you are well prepared. We recommend that you don’t travel outside of towns after dark.

We advise against all travel to Karamoja in north eastern Uganda. Road ambushes and violent clashes are unpredictable in the region. The exception is Kidepo Valley National Park, which we advise can be visited by air rather than by road.

If you’re thinking of travelling to northern and western Uganda, we advise you to research the security situation very well and take appropriate precautions, particularly near the borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. In the past there have been violent incidents involving Ugandan forces and Allied Democratic Forces rebels in and around the Rwenzori mountains. The situation is now under control but a recurrence is possible.  On 5 July 2014, there were violent attacks by local armed men against police and army installations and some civilians in Bundibugyo, Kasese, and Ntoroko districts, in which over 70 people were reported killed. Seek local advice before you set off to these areas.

Avoid the DRC border area around Lake Albert unless all the arrangements have been made in advance with the Ugandan and DRC authorities. If you’re travelling with a gorilla-trekking operator, please ensure they don’t cross into eastern DRC.

Before travelling to the border area of Kisoro and Kanugu Districts please contact Ugandan Wildlife Authority and your lodge/hotel for the latest advice. 

National parks

Please contact the Ugandan Wildlife Authority for up to date security information before travelling to any of the National Parks.

For Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, it is normal for security personnel to accompany tourists when gorilla tracking. 

Get local travel advice before travelling to Bundibugyo District, Semiliki National Park and Wildlife Reserve in western Uganda.

Travel to the northern part of Murchison Falls National Park should only be undertaken in the company of an armed game warden who has functional communications equipment.

Kidnapping

Foreign nationals are potential targets for kidnapping so you should take particular care when travelling in Uganda:

  • Get advice from your local contacts about staying safe
  • Avoid travelling at night, particularly inter-city
  • Avoid travelling alone
  • When driving, ensure all car doors are locked
  • Vary your routes and departure times – avoid patterns which could be tracked
  • Pay careful attention to local media for reports of kidnapping activities

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Local culture

Uganda is a friendly, if socially conservative country. Overt displays of affection, in general, are not encouraged.

Bribery and corruption

Certain Irish laws, such as those relating to the bribery of foreign public officials, apply to Irish nationals overseas: if you commit these offences while abroad you may be prosecuted in Ireland. 

Homosexuality

Homosexual activity is illegal and there is very little social tolerance of homosexuality in Uganda.

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms.

Natural disasters and climate

Practical advice

  • If you’re travelling to Uganda, make sure you know what to expect – then plan and pack so that you’re prepared
  • Get local advice on how to manage in the case of a serious incident or dangerous conditions
  • Co-operate with local authorities and emergency services in the case of serious incidents 

Rainy season

The rainy seasons in Uganda normally run from March to May and from October to November. You should pay close attention to local and international weather reports and follow the advice of local authorities.

Flooding

Flooding and mudslides may happen throughout the country as a result of heavy rains. If you’re travelling to Uganda, monitor local weather forecasts and know what to expect 

Volcano

Uganda is located in a seismic zone and natural disasters are possible due to regional volcanic activity. At the moment, Mount Elgon is stable. You should pay careful attention to all warnings issued.

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

From 19 May 2017 to 31 August 2017 Irish citizens do not need to apply for a visa on line. Irish citizens can get a visa on arrival, there is no fee. Please see https://www.immigration.go.ug/media/ireland-and-36-other-countries-whose-nationals-are-visa-fee-exempt-uganda-and-can-get-visas. It may be useful to print off this page from Uganda’s Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration should any issue be encountered at your point of embarkation or transit.

Immigration officials may give permission to stay for three months if they believe you are entering solely for tourism purposes; however, you should be aware that recent practice has been to give one month permissions. It is important to make sure that your passport is stamped on arrival as there have been recent cases where this was not done.

Immigration officials may give permission to stay for three months if they believe you are entering solely for tourism purposes; however, you should be aware that recent practice has been to give one month permissions. It is important to make sure that your passport is stamped on arrival as there have been recent cases where this was not done. 

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Uganda; you may be refused entry at the border or when trying to board a flight to Uganda if you have less than 6 months validity.  Irish Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Uganda. 

Yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from all countries. Irish citizens will be asked to show proof of Yellow Fever vaccination upon arrival and departure. Passengers without Yellow Fever certificates/cards shall be vaccinated at their own cost.

If you are unsure of the entry requirements for Uganda, including visa and other immigration information, ask your travel agent or contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Uganda.

Health

Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for this country. Medical facilities in Uganda are limited. Medical help at the scene of an accident is likely to be limited. In the case of serious accident or illness, evacuation by air ambulance may be required. Adequate insurance can be crucial in helping people get the medical attention required.

Water

Drink or use only boiled or bottled water.

Adventure sports

If participating in extreme adventure sports (white water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping etc.), you should check whether these activities are provided for in your insurance, and arrangements for accessing medical facilities in case of emergency.  Travellers should be aware that many of these adventure sports operators are unregulated and so care should be taken in selecting reputable tour companies.

Malaria

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes. You cannot be vaccinated against malaria. Malaria can be contracted throughout the year and anywhere in Uganda, including in Kampala. It is highly advisable to take precautions:

  • Avoid mosquito bites by covering up with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers, especially after sunset, using insect repellents on exposed skin and sleeping under a mosquito net.
  • Check with your doctor or nurse about suitable antimalarial tablets.
  • If you develop a fever, you are advised to seek medical attention promptly
  • If travelling to high risk malarious areas, remote from medical facilities, carrying emergency malaria standby treatment should be seriously considered.

Ebola

Kampala was officially declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation on 16 January 2013, having observed a 42 day post-surveillance period after an outbreak of Ebola in Luweero in November 2012. Ebola has not been found in Uganda during the recent Ebola crisis in West Africa.