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Uganda is a country in East Africa. It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the southwest by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. Famously called the Pearl of Africa by Winston Churchill, it is home to one of the most diverse and concentrated ranges of African fauna including the highly endangered mountain gorilla and the endangered common chimpanzee. During Uganda's era of British colonialism, settlement by Europeans was not allowed, and today there are few Caucasians in Uganda. The term for whites is muzungu (plural wazungu), and Caucasian visitors should get used to hearing it shouted out by children in every corner of the country. It is not a derogatory term per se, but originally referred to being confused and wandering about aimlessly. While it may seem as an insult, its present meaning comes down to 'white person'. You can choose to ignore it, or wave back, depending on the situation.
Uganda is accessible and affordable, but not up to the high tourism standards of more mature destinations such as Kenya or Tanzania, much less South Africa. This gives it more edge, more authenticity and less predictability. This does not mean danger (but see Stay Safe section below), rather greater opportunities for delight -- and frustration. This is real Africa, the dirty urban bustle of Kampala bursting at the seams then giving way to lush subsistence farming and small villages. Roads are rough, people are friendly, everything seems to have a smell all its own, and not everything moves according to schedule or to plan.
Most travellers come for the gorilla safari, but other major draws are the chimpanzees, ornithology, trekking the Rwenzoris and visiting the source of The Nile river.
The people of Uganda were hunter-gatherers until 1,700 to 2,300 years ago. Bantu-speaking populations, who were probably from central and western Africa, migrated to the southern parts of the country. The Empire of Kitara in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries represents the earliest forms of formal organization, followed by the kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara, and in later centuries, Buganda and Ankole.
Arab traders moved inland from the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa in the 1830s. They were followed in the 1860s by British explorers searching for the source of the Nile. Protestant missionaries entered the country in 1877, followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879. The United Kingdom placed the area under the charter of the British East Africa Company in 1888, and ruled it as a protectorate from 1894. As several other territories and chiefdoms were integrated, the final protectorate called Uganda took shape in 1914. From 1900 to 1920, a sleeping sickness epidemic killed more than 250,000 people.
Uganda won independence from Britain in 1962, and the first elections were held on March 1, 1961. Benedicto Kiwanuka of the Democratic Party became the first Chief Minister. Uganda became a republic the following year, maintaining its Commonwealth membership. In succeeding years, supporters of a centralized state vied with those in favor of a loose federation and a strong role for tribally-based local kingdoms. Political maneuvering climaxed in February 1966, when Prime Minister Milton Obote suspended the constitution and assumed all government powers, removing the positions of president and vice president. In September 1967, a new constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic, gave the president even greater powers, and abolished the traditional kingdoms.
On January 25, 1971, Obote's government was ousted in a military coup led by armed forces commander Idi Amin Dada. Amin declared himself 'president', dissolved the parliament, and amended the constitution to give himself absolute power. Idi Amin's eight-year rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and massive human rights violations. The Acholi and Langi ethnic groups were particular objects of Amin's political persecution because they had supported Obote and made up a large part of the army. In 1978, the International Commission of Jurists estimated that more than 100,000 Ugandans had been murdered during Amin's reign of terror; some authorities place the figure as high as 300,000.
In October 1978, Tanzanian armed forces repulsed an incursion of Amin's troops into Tanzanian territory. The Tanzanian army, backed by Ugandan exiles waged a war of liberation against Amin's troops and the Libyan soldiers sent to help him. On April 11, 1979, Kampala was captured, and Amin fled with his remaining forces. This led to the return of Obote, who was deposed once more in 1985 by General Tito Okello. Okello ruled for six months until he was deposed after the so called "bush war" by the National Resistance Army (NRA) operating under the leadership of the current president, Yoweri Museveni, and various rebel groups, including the Federal Democratic Movement of Andrew Kayiira, and another belonging to John Nkwanga.
Museveni has been in power since 1986. In the mid to late 1990s, he was lauded by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders.
Although generally equatorial, the climate is not uniform as the altitude modifies the climate. Southern Uganda is wetter with rain generally spread throughout the year. At Entebbe on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, most rain falls from March to June and the November/December period. Further to the north a dry season gradually emerges; at Gulu about 120 km from the South Sudanese border, November to February is much drier than the rest of the year.
The northeastern region has the driest climate and is prone to droughts in some years. Rwenzori in the southwest on the border with DR Congo receives heavy rain all year round. The south of the country is heavily influenced by one of the world's biggest lakes, Lake Victoria, which contains many islands. It prevents temperatures from varying significantly and increases cloudiness and rainfall.
Ugandan visas are issued at Missions/Embassies and also at all Entry/Exit Points. The Uganda Visa Policy uses the principle of reciprocity, that is all countries that require visas for Ugandans are visa prone in Uganda.
Visa Fees: Single Entry for 3 months US$100; Inland Transit US$100; East Africa multiple entry visa good for 90 days US100;
Countries exempted from visa requirements to Uganda; Angola, Antigua, Bahamas, Botswana, Barbados, Belize, Comoros, Cyprus, Eritrea, Fiji, Gambia, Grenada, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
East Africa Borderless Visa: The East Africa Tourist Visa will allow travel between Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda with the same multiple entry visa. It costs US$100 the same price as the single entry visa. and is also issued on arrival at the airport.
Entebbe Airport is the hub for Ugandan air travel. Many flights to cities in Africa take place from here.
South African Airways has daily flights direct to and from Johannesburg.
British Airways has flights every second day to London Heathrow. Turkish Airlines has direct flights to and from its Istanbul hub. Emirates offers direct flights from Entebbe to Dubai with onward connections to Europe, North America, and Asia from Dubai. Ethiopian Airlines offers service to Addis Ababa on Boeing 737s.
Kenya Airways flies to Nairobi four times a day.
Kenya Airways/KLM fly daily from Entebbe to Amsterdam either via Nairobi or direct.
Brussels Airlines flies non-stop from Entebbe to Brussels
Egypt Air flies three times a week to Cairo.
Qatar Airways flies daily to Doha
Fly Dubai from Dubai
There is only one railroad which is called Uganda Railways also known as The Lunatic Express.
In theory, travellers with their own vehicles should be able to enter Uganda at any of the border crossings which lie on a main road, such as the roads from Kenya through Busia and Malaba. A Carnet du Passage is required for private vehicles, including motorcycles, while a 90-day tourist visa should be easily obtained (US$100).
Uganda is well serviced by a number of reputable international bus companies. Several bus companies offer direct routes from Nairobi, Kigali, Bujumbura, Goma, Juba, and Dar es Salaam to Kampala. All of these buses will, in theory, allow travellers to alight at main towns along the route, e.g. in Jinja if coming from the Kenyan border to Kampala. A typical journey between Kampala and Nairobi lasts approximately 12 hours, including the border crossing.
There are ferries going to Sesses Islands in Lake Victoria. Uganda has some brilliant island resorts.
There are many ways how to get around! The most common is to book with one of the many companies, which bring you around in a car, bus or truck and guide you through the whole journey. The advantage of this kind of tourism is - assumed you booked with the right company - that you experience places and things which you might not be able to find and see alone. Especially if you are in Uganda on a short term trip for 2 - 3 weeks. There will be a lot of time wasted by looking for where to go, by waiting and missing the bus, by looking for accomodation and so on. With a guide and a tour company you are safe and time-economical and can be sure that you get (in your short time) all you expect. On the other hand you pay for all this services. The prices vary depending on company and Itinery. But good ones can be already found from an dayly average price of 80-100.- dollars a day (coffeetours.com or uganda-travel.jimdo.com) all inclusive. meanwhile others are costing 150.- to 200.- dollars/day (not all inclusive).
The other way is "individual travelling". Backpackers go often alone, without a company or tour guide. The below noted means con show how to get around in this way of travellling. However you will have to switch between the different means, and you will have to improvise, so that you finally reach you desired location. Mostly you will need a combination of BodaBoda, local taxi ("matatu" in kenya), bus and evtl. private car (National Parks).
In Kampala and some other towns, the boda-boda is a good way to get from place to place. These are small mopeds, motorcycles, bicycles or scooters with cushions on the back and are cheap transport as used by locals. If using a boda-boda, be extremely careful as they are frequently involved in accidents; however, in spite of this, they are a fun and fast way to get around. Note that if you advise the driver that you want him to drive slower and safer, he may actually listen to you.
Make sure you agree on the price before you get on the bike. They will try and charge more claiming it was further than thought. Some may get aggressive; say you will call the police and they will calm down. Always be polite and non aggressive.
NOTE: Make sure you tell them to drive SLOWLY. Many foreigners and locals are injured and killed on boda-bodas in Uganda.
Uganda has a decent bus system. There are two classes of buses. The "taxis" (also called "matatus") are actually minibuses or commuter vans, which run fixed routes.
There are also real buses which run less frequently, usually leaving Kampala early in the morning. There are many companies which almost all leave from the same general area. The buses fill up, so if you get on mid-trip, you'll be spending some time standing or sitting in the aisle before somebody gets off and you can get a seat.
Both buses and taxis run along most roads between cities, paved (sealed) or dirt.
Domestic bus travel is reasonable and cheap between major centres, and is a good choice for backpackers with time, but may not run reliably on schedule. A trip from Kampala to Masindi takes about 4 hours and costs approximately 8,000 Uganda shillings.
Note that both buses and "taxis" do not run on fixed schedules; rather, they leave their terminal stop when they are completely full. On heavily-traveled routes, they fill up within minutes and this is not a problem, but on less-travelled routes (or if getting on a large bus), be prepared to wait a while before departure.
Domestic flights might be a good and fast alternative to dusty bus rides.
The best way to get around Kampala and the neighboring towns is by using minibus-type taxis called "taxi". This is the most efficient and cost-effective method of transportation in urban areas, but try not to get ripped off by the conductors as they sometimes try to overcharge tourists. They usually take 14 passengers plus a conductor, though in smaller country towns overcrowding still occurs. Minibus taxis are relatively cheap, frequent (in Kampala), and may make lots of stops along the way.
They run along fixed routes, picking up and dropping off people anywhere along the route. If you want to get on, stand at the side of the road and wave your arm. To get off, say "stage" and the driver will pull over and let you off at the next boda boda waiting area. You can also just say "Driver, please pull over at X". They're not marked with destinations unless you are at the central taxi parks, so you'll have to listen to the destinations that the drivers are yelling out the window. If you're not sure where to catch a taxi going to your destination (especially at Kampala's two taxi parks, which are huge!), just ask a nearby driver or conductor, and they'll probably be able to point you in the right direction.
Private taxis - those which you can hire for yourself only, are called special hire taxis, and are available in most every decent sized town. Fares are negotiable over long distances as there are no meters.
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