Is it Safe to travel in Uganda?
Uganda is generally a very safe country and its inhabitants are considered among the friendliest and most welcoming people in East Africa. Feel free to meet and talk to them, as they will be most honored.
Kampala the capital is safe, but like in any foreign city you should be very cautious when traveling about. Be responsible and cautious during your tour and use taxis/uber when you go out at night and always keep a close watch over your belongings. Traffic in Kampala can be rather hectic and sometimes even dangerous if you use the otherwise convenient boda-bodas (motor bike taxis).
Contact your local embassy for more safety instructions during your tour.
How Sure Am I That StarMount Safaris Exists and Is A Reliable Operator?StarMount Safaris is a Ugandan-owned tour company that has been offering tours in East Africa for over 5 years. We are fully registered and are also members of the tour operator networks.
Can I safely swim in Lake Victoria or other lakes in Uganda?
Most lakes in Uganda as well as the River Nile contain Bilharzia and are not considered safe for swimming. The flukes (microscopic worms) reproduce in snails which inhabit warm stagnant water on the edges of rivers and lakes.
If you choose to swim here anyway or if you go rafting on the Nile, we advise that do a check-up at least two months (standard incubation period for the flukes) after you have been swimming.
The health impacts vary from slight discomfort to serious organ damage if the Bilharzia goes untreated.
The two lakes in Uganda that are 100% Bilharzia-free and safe to swim in are Lake Bunyonyi and Lake Mutanda.
Can StarMount Safaris give me medical advice about malaria prevention and treatment?
StarMount does not have the mandate to give medical advice but suggest you should contact your family doctor 8 weeks before your trip to inquire about necessary vaccinations or other preventive measures. Proof of a Yellow Fever inoculation will be requested by immigration officials.
Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and useful information about healthcare abroad, including a country-by-country guide of reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, is available from NHS Choices.
Medical facilities in Uganda are limited, particularly outside the capital city. In the case of serious accident or illness, evacuation by air ambulance may be required. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Which area should I pick to go gorilla tracking?
There are an estimated 750 mountain gorillas in the forested highland area shared by Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
By booking your Uganda tour well in advance, you will have a higher chance of securing a permit for the specific gorilla group you wish to visit. The permits often sell out well in advance, so it might be that StarMount Safaris will have to choose from the few remaining permits for your dates.
What chance do I have of actually seeing the gorillas?Chances of seeing the gorilla are over 95%. If you are in the very unlikely situation not to have seen them, you will be given the choice of either a 50% refund of the cost of your gorilla permit or another chance to spot them the next day (when permits are available). Please note that it is the national wildlife authority that issues the refund. Your driver/guide will be happy to assist you in the procedure, but StarMount Safaris cannot return the funds directly.
How tough is it physically to do gorilla tracking?
The ease of seeing the gorillas depends on the movements of the gorilla family on that particular day. For Uganda, some say that the Rushegura group in Buhoma is easy to spot, but we cannot guarantee this. In general, you can expect the tracking to be quite tough, so we advise you to train for the gorilla tracking. Altitude averages 2000 meters, the muddy hills of Bwindi are steep. The time it takes to find the gorillas can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 8 hours.
If you have a low level of fitness which limits you from walking long distances in rugged terrain, we advise that you consider tracking in Rwanda where the rangers will assign you to an easier or more difficult tracking according to your fitness level. The gorilla permits in Rwanda, however, are more expensive.
What should I wear during the gorilla tracking?We advise you to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirt made of light-weight material. You’ll want to tuck the cuffs of your pants into tall socks to prevent safari ants from entering. It is also wise to wear a hat to prevent ticks from getting in your hair. Bring a rain jacket and rain pants in your daypack, as well as an extra t-shirt and a sweater for when the tracking gets long and the forest gets cooler. Make sure you have good hiking shoes and don’t worry about the weight of your backpack: porters are available for a US$ 20 fee which helps families from the communities around the park.
What are the social customs and norms in Uganda?Ugandans are very welcoming. They are very interested in meeting you and discovering more about your home country. Do not be afraid and be open to a small conversation. As a greeting, make sure you always shake hands, but do not hug women. If you wish to ask someone a question, make sure you start by: “how are you?” If you would just walk up to someone and ask “where can I find the supermarket”? it will be very likely that he will answer with” I am fine…”!
Should I bring clothes, gifts or money for the local community?Of course we understand that you wish to support or do something when you are in a developing country. However, we advise you not to bring any gifts to give directly to the local community. It’s often the same people that receive items each time and very often they are not the neediest people in Uganda.
Can I get a visa at the border or do I have to apply in advance?Citizens of most countries can get a visa at the point of entry at US$50 though you can get one online but also require a valid yellow fever vaccination card.
How do I make sure I pick the type of accommodation that I like?It essentially only depends on availability. StarMount Safaris has selected accommodation all over the country for a range of budgets. Our selection criteria are based on the view, service, location, style and price of each lodge. We also select accommodation based on the feedback from previous clients. Check our suggestions for budget, mid-range, and luxury categories on each itinerary.
Can I design my own tour?Yes, we can tailor-make your tour in every detail. Please fill in the booking form and we will send you a detailed proposal.
Can I pick different types of transport to suit my budget and needs?Yes you can choose your preferred mode of transport, according to your budget and desired level of comfort.
Can I add or cancel day(s) before, after, or in between one of the standard tours on the website?Yes, you can. As you are booking a standard tour, just inform us about your additional wishes. And you can cancel 14 days before you safari date.
What are the average prices for meals and drinks (when not included in the program)?
In general, these will be the average prices when eating at proper restaurant or lodges in Uganda:
Soda US$ 1 Beer US$ 2 – 3 Wine US$ 4 – 8 Spirits US$ 2 – 5 Breakfast US$ 3 – 8 Lunch US$ 6 – 15 Dinner US$ 8 – 20
Do you have any guidelines for tipping?Clients are advised to give a fair, reasonable tip to the local guides, cleaners, drivers, hotel staff, etc. We advise only to give tips when you are honestly happy with the service provided.
Can I use a credit card during my tour?Credit cards are widely accepted in Uganda at major hotels, up-market lodges and a few fancier shops.
Does StarMount Safaris accept credit cards?Not yet, but this will be possible starting in July/August 2017. For now we can only accept bank transfers.
Is it easy to exchange currency?You can change dollars, pounds and Euros at many Forex exchange bureaus around capital cities. In up-country cities, the exchange rate is less advantageous and it becomes difficult to exchange Pounds and Euros. Dollars are the most used currencies, but bear in mind that US dollars given out before 2006 is not accepted and denominations below 100 are exchanged at a lower rate.
What are the exchange rates of the most used currencies?Exchange Rate depends on the period you enter the country. We can provide those details two weeks before entry. Check the current exchange rates at www.xe.com to get a rough idea of what to expect.
What is your tour cancellation policy?See Terms and conditions.
What should I bring on my tour?
We request that you to bring a bag or suitcase made of soft material. Hard cover suitcases are difficult to place in the car and could break on the bumpy roads.
The most important items to bring:
- Vaccination records
- First aid kit
- Mosquito repellent
- Sun block
- Small backpack (daypack)
- Chargers for camera, phone, tablet, etc.
- Multi plug
- Clothes with long sleeves
- Clothes for both warm and cool weather
- Rain jacket
- Hiking boots for gorilla tracking or other hiking activities
- Money belt and a separate day wallet
Since East Africa lies on the equator, isn’t it always hot? Does it rain a lot?Uganda is on the equator and has an average inland altitude of 1200m and the climate is pleasant throughout the year. Temperatures rarely go above 30 ºC, nor below 20ºC (expect certain high mountain areas). Across the region, there are generally two rainy seasons in which humidity can be higher and roads more difficult to traverse.
What is the best time of year to visit the region?During or just after the rainy seasons is normally the most beautiful and affordable time of year to visit. Flowers are blooming, new grass is growing and this attracts many animals. Many young animals are born in this time of year as well. Another advantage is that prices are normally lower and the national parks are even less crowded than usual.
There is a stretch of 200km where you mention it takes 6 hours driving. How is this possible?Road conditions in Uganda are extremely poor and after a rain shower the dirt roads become difficult to pass. All of our vehicles have 4-wheel-drive and our drivers are experienced in handling the difficult road conditions, but speeds are necessarily low to make sure that you are safe and the car does not break down.
Can you arrange my international flight?Yes, we can.
I have a gluten-free diet. Is this a problem during my tour in Uganda?It’s not a problem at all, since nearly everything grows in Uganda’s fertile soils and you don’t need to depend on pasta and wheat bread, etc. Please tell us in advance of your dietary restrictions and we will be happy to make appropriate arrangements.
I am a vegetarian. What can I eat on my tour?
Fresh vegetables are in plenty. Also, beans, peanuts, sesame and eggs can provide alternative sources of protein for vegetarians.
For those who enjoy fish, the lakes and rivers of the region are replete with Tilapia and Nile Perch. It would be helpful if you could let us know in advance so we can make preparations with the restaurants and lodges on your itinerary.