People, Culture, Customs & Religion
You should ensure that you dress modestly and respectfully during your time in Uganda. Shorts and vest tops are fine whilst on safari, however you should dress conservatively outside of the national parks and you should ensure that you cover your knees and shoulders (this applies to both men and women).
During your time in Uganda you should try to interact and engage with the Ugandan people as this will offer a much more meaningful and enriching travel experience. If you book a Wayfairer tailor-made holiday to Uganda we can include a visit to Sipi Falls where you can take a hike with a guide in the surrounding areas and you’ll have an opportunity to interact with the locals who work on the coffee plantations. We can also include a visit to Moroto Town in the North Eastern region of Uganda where you can meet Karamojong tribe people and experience the local food and culture, and you can even spend the night in the village which offers an opportunity to get a wonderful insight into their way of life.
Always ask permission before taking photos of anyone, including children, and respect people’s privacy. We suggest that you try to engage with the locals rather than simply taking photos of them and showing them the image on your camera afterwards is a nice gesture. Cultural exchange is a two-way street and it is worth considering that you are also an object of fascination.
A visit to a school can be a fascinating experience, but please bear in mind that tourists coming into classrooms every day to take photos can be disruptive to children’s education. If you do visit a school, you should ensure that it is planned and coordinated by a responsible tour guide and authorised by the head teacher of the school. Gifts and donations should be given to the head teacher rather than the children, who may start to see foreigners as a source of presents and money.
Lugandan, along with English and Swahili, is an official language of Uganda. Travel with a Lugandan phrasebook in your hand luggage and make an effort to learn some key words and phrases. The ability to speak some basic Lugandan, such as ‘Oli otya?’ (how are you?) and ‘weebale’ (thank you), will undoubtedly win you many smiles from the friendly locals who you come into contact with during your time in Uganda.
Shopping & Food in Uganda
Support the local economy by buying authentic handmade products such as cotton fabrics, wood carvings, pottery and silver jewellery at markets, villages and small-scale souvenir shops rather than hotel tourist shops or on organised shopping trips. Please be aware that some craft markets in larger towns and cities sell imported crafts from across Africa, so where possible shop in local communities, where you can see the crafts being made.
In Kampala it is worth visiting the Ndere Centre and Banana Boat (which has three outlets in Kampala). They sell Ugandan crafts from around the country, and support local initiatives.
Coffee is Uganda’s number one export. Buy a bag of beans from the excellent Good African Coffee which is grown, processed and packaged in Uganda – meaning all income stays in the country.
Never buy crafts or products made from protected or endangered animals, such as ivory, fur or feathers.
When ‘bartering’ over the price please bear in mind that the seller might accept a price below its cost price because they need cash to feed their family, so don’t push too much just to save yourself a few pounds. Stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!
Be adventurous and eat in local restaurants and cafés. Not only does this help to support the local economy, but it will also give you a more authentic holiday experience. Try ‘Rolex’, the local street food which is best described as an omelette rolled up in a chapatti – literally 'rolled eggs'.
Wayfairer Top Tip: Buy delicious snacks, such as roasted corn, barbecued meat or tropical fruits including bananas, mangos, pineapple, and papaya from roadside vendors.
Wildlife & Conservation in Uganda
Gorilla tracking: You will be accompanied by an experience guide who will brief you in detail on the various aspects of ‘gorilla etiquette’. You will not be allowed to track them if you’re suffering from any illness including a cold or flu which can be transmitted to the gorillas and you will be asked to declare this before you start off. You should talk in a low voice whilst you’re with the gorillas and you must try not to make any loud noises or sudden movements. Of course you’re going to be excited, but you should try to express your excitement quietly. You’re requested to keep a five metre distance from the gorillas and you must not touch them under any circumstances. Even though the gorillas are used to seeing people on a daily basis, they are wild animals and they can sometimes react unexpectedly, so it is essential that you listen to your guide’s and trackers’ instructions. Flash photography is not allowed so make sure that you disable the flash on your camera or mobile phone before you get to your group of gorillas.
Whilst visiting national parks and reserves ensure that you don’t leave any litter – everything you carry in you must carry out. Aside from the environmental damage, litter can be harmful to the wildlife.