Travel & Safari Tips

planning for your trip

1. Eat the Local Food

One of my biggest regrets from the first year of my travels was that I wasn’t brave enough to try any of the local food. I was raised a picky eater and that, coupled with crippling anxiety, led to me believing that I would hate or be allergic to anything I hadn’t tried before.
Food is now my absolute favourite way to get to know a place better. I love trying new things, and I’ve found a thousand amazing dishes that I never would have discovered if I’d continue to eat from supermarkets. Trying new food isn’t scary, and you’ll build your confidence up as you fall in love with more and more things. Try everything, even if you have no idea what it is. I promise you won’t regret it.

2. Plan as little as possible

One of the first lessons I learned on the road was that your plans will nearly always change. You’ll arrive in a place and hate it and want to leave immediately, or you’ll fall in love with a destination and want to spend longer there. You’ll make friends with a group of awesome people and want to change your plans so you can travel with them for longer, or you’ll find out about an amazing town that’s nearby and want to head there instead.
Sure, you should have a rough plan for your trip, but don’t book everything in advance or you’ll likely feel too restricted and end up regretting it. Book a one-way ticket and your first few nights of accommodation — you’ll figure the rest out along the way. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds. If you’re in a tourist destination there’ll always be someone who’s willing to take your money by giving you a place to stay.

3. Your Safety & well Being

Your personal safety and wellbeing are our prime concerns during your safari. Please take care of all your possessions at all times – don’t tempt theft by displaying large sums of money, especially when near markets or in the centers of cities/towns and other large towns. When leaving the vehicle in towns, please ensure all the windows are shut and that you take your valuables and cameras with you for safe keeping. Valuables especially cash, credit cards and electronics should be kept on your person at all times. A “moon bag’ or “body belt” is handy for storing cash and other valuable small items.

When at lodges/hotels, we recommend you either keep your money and valuables with you or use the safe keeping facilities provided. Please also be ensure to check your room and ensure you have everything packed before moving to a new place.

4. Visas

Most nationalities require a visa to enter Uganda which must be applied and paid for online prior to arrival. A single entry tourist visa is paid for on arrival for US$ 50 per person, single entry.
The EAC Visa allows entry into Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya for one fee of US$100 – handy if you are visiting all three regions.

5. Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance is advisable to all guests travelling.

6. Health

Yellow fever & malaria prophylactics are required.

For gorilla trekking it is imperative that you are healthy and free of any disease or virus – officials do have the right to refuse entry if you are found to have or show any signs of communicable illnesses.

Should you opt to spend time participating in the UWEC Wildlife Integration programmes, you may require additional inoculations and health clearances. Please enquire at the time of booking. These activities must be booked well in advance.

7. Safari Etiquette

Photography; It is acceptable to take pictures of streets/scenes but do ask permission if wishing to photograph individuals or specific groups of people. Payment maybe requested and we leave it up to you to decide and agree on an acceptable amount. Do not photograph police, military personnel or installations. If in doubt, please ask your safari guide for assistance.

In the Vehicle;
Fellow members of your group may have individual interest on game drives and other activities, please be accommodating. Do rotate seat positions in the vehicles so everyone gets time in the front seat and next to the windows in each row. Take care when standing up in the vehicle on game drives. Hold on to the viewing hatch. Smoking is not permitted in the vehicle.

Mobile phones;
Uganda has a good mobile phone network supporting local and international calls. Please appreciate that many people find the use of mobile phones intrusive in lodges, shared vehicles and wilderness environments. If you carry a phone, please use it discreetly with a quiet and unobtrusive ring tone or vibration mechanism.

Your guide will tell you when the next toilet stop is. If this seems uncomfortably distant, please advise the guide and he will make arrangements. If in the bush, bury all waste including paper.

Meeting people;
East Africans place great importance on proper greeting before any form of conversation. Even if you merely wish to ask directions or make a simple enquiry, start off with “How are you?” Shaking hands also considered important by both sexes. While not all hotel staff would expect to be greeted thus, as a general rule, one can never shake too many hands in East Africa.

8. Drinks & Beverages

You will generally be expected to purchase your own drinks on safari. Most camps/lodges have a reasonable selection of wines and spirits with the more upmarket ones generally offering more choice. Beer, soft drinks (soda), bottled water, local gin are available everywhere. Prices vary depending on the location. Some lodges supply courtesy bottles of mineral water in the rooms. Please utilize this rather than tap water for health reasons.

A cold box or small fridge is kept in the vehicle for some drinks and bottled drinking water – useful for early morning game drives, keep you hydrated and to supplement packed lunches during long days of travel. Please discuss any special requirements with your guide.

Estimated cost of drinks at lodges and camps;

Prices may be listed in local currency at the locations but below prices are all is US$ for easy reference.
Water: $1 - $2 per liter.
Sodas: $1 - $2.50 each
Beers: $2 - $4.00 each
Spirit (imported): $4 - $7 per drink
Wine (imported): $5 - $7 per drink
Wine (imported): $25 - $50 per bottl

9. Tipping

In East Africa, tips (gratuities) are not given as a requirement but as an appreciation of good service. The size of a tip is at your discretion and the following is a guideline only. Tipping can be done in US Dollars or local currency which is appreciated at remote locations where banks are scarce to change currencies. If unsure, please ask your guide and he will gladly advise.

Gorilla and Chimpanzee guides: Tips should be placed in the central tip box if provided or given to the main guide who will distribute amongst all the trackers and game guards – in the region US$20 per guest for the main guide. If no tip box, then give to the head guide. Please note, this is for the total trackers or rangers, not per tracker/ranger.

Forest/Gorilla and Chimpanzee porters: This is an optional extra for guests and they are normally hired for around US$20 per porter per day SALARY and the tip will vary depending on the work load – around US$5 per porter.

Safari Driver/guide: US$5-10 per day per guest for 4-6 guests in a vehicle. If travelling in a smaller group, please tip at your discretion.

Lodge/camp staff: We suggest US$3 -5 per guest per stay. Many of the smaller lodges have central tip boxes. At hotels and larger establishments, tips maybe given at your discretion to individuals who have performed well.

National Park Guides (cruises/bird walks/game drives): Depending on the experience provided o effort involved, US$3 -5 per guest per activity in local currency. Porters at lodges/hotels: US$1 -2 in local currency. Waiters/Bar staff: 10% of the bill, or say US$2 -4 per guest as a tip for service.

10. Laundary

Laundry is possible at most lodges and camps at an additional cost. Hand washing and outside drying is a common place so please allow 1- 2 days to ensure you don’t travel with damp washing. Bwindi is particularly wet so avoid washing here if possible.

11. Power

Uganda and Rwanda both use 240V British Standard Electricity. 3 – Pin British style sockets are usual in Uganda while Uganda uses European style 2 pin. Electrical equipment such as hair dryers and electric shavers may be used in larger lodges and hotels in towns. The more remote lodges and camps are often solar powered and cannot cope with high consumption equipment. Take advantage of main electricity when available to charge your phone and electronics.

12. Internet Access

This is a service which is available at some locations, more especially those in town. Up country, if the service is available it can still be limited and quite erratic due to the quality of the network signal and so it should not be relied upon. Some places do charge for it separately and you should check this policy upon check in at the establishments.

13. Flights

It is imperative that you reconfirm your onward/return flights. Our office in Kampala - Uganda can assist you with this.

13. Flights

Gorilla tracking is the most popular tourist activity in both Uganda and Rwanda. Mountain Gorillas are found only in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and in the Virunga Volcanoes which are divided between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. The Uganda portion is the Mgahinga Game Park, the Rwandan and Congolese sections lie in the Volcanoes and Virunga National Game Parks respectively.

For Gorilla tracking, come prepared and expect a strenuous day in a dense jungle on steep terrain in a weather that can change quickly from hot and dry to rainy and cool. It is impossible to predict the duration of the activity since the gorillas move continuously through the rain forest. You may encounter your gorilla group within an hour or two – or it might take 6 – 8 hours to locate the gorillas and return the trailhead. Chimpanzee tracking is generally less strenuous than gorilla tracking but still can be a hard hike and requires a good level of fitness – especially if you need to follow the chimps which can move swiftly through the forest.

To limit disturbance when viewing the gorillas and chimps, you will be required to remain at a distance of between 5 -7 meters from the primates. Photography and video filming is allowed but, for your safety, flash photography is strictly forbidden. Ensure the flash function on your camera is off.
Note: Mountain gorillas are wild animals and, as such, sightings cannot be guaranteed. However viewing success rates are over 90%.

13. What to Pack for your Tracking Activity

  • Comfortable walking/hiking boots
  • Small day/backpack for carrying your items required whilst on the gorilla trek
  • Plenty of water 1 -2 liters per person.
  • High energy snacks – in addition to your packed lunch provided by your lodge/camp
  • Gloves (gardening type recommended) and Gators can be helpful.
  • Waterproof bag – to protect photographic equipment
  • A hat, sun screen, mosquito/insect repellent and band aids are useful.
  • A lightweight waterproof jacket
  • Walking stick are provided at the start of Gorilla tracking to assist you on the steeper and more slippery tracks.

With the compliments of Route Wild Safaris Uganda, we hope you enjoy your safari with us.