Uganda Travel Guide
Uganda is the perfect destination for all wildlife enthusiasts: Home of the majestic Lake Victoria and boasting a diverse range of landscapes, this incredible landlocked country is a great destination for wildlife viewing in both the forest and savannah.
Most famously known for its large chimpanzee population and mountain gorilla trekking hotspots in Bwindi or Mgahinga, Uganda is also home to world-class national parks such as The Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo, and Murchison Falls, offering wonderful savannah safaris and unforgettable wildlife viewings.
If visiting this incredible gem of East Africa is yet to be ticked off your bucket list, this handy Uganda Travel Guide will give you all the information you need to know before you’re ready to pack up your bags and go.
What Is the Best Time to Visit Uganda?
So, what is the best time to visit Uganda? If you’re looking to make the most out of your trip by visiting some of the best wildlife viewing spots in the whole of Africa, the best time to travel to Uganda is going to be during the dry season.
As some of the best destinations for seeing majestic big apes like gorillas and chimpanzees, primate walks in the forest are usually some of Uganda’s biggest attractions, and a must for any visitor looking to make the most out of their safari.
Keep in mind that if you’re keen to visit the rainforest you will, unavoidably, find yourself in a wet, humid habitat, so you won’t be able to avoid the rain completely even during the drier months.
Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons you can expect when visiting Uganda during both the popular dry season and the wet season:
Traveling to Uganda during the dry season (June to August and December to February)
- These drier months are the best time for gorilla trekking
- While you can expect higher prices, parks won’t feel overly crowded during the high season (June to September)
- You can expect clear skies, sunshine, and very little rain
- Wildlife viewing is much easier, as animals will crowd around water sources and the surrounding vegetation is much more sparse
- If you’re planning to attend gorilla trekking, you should make sure to book your permit well in advance due to bigger crowds and expect them to be quite expensive too!
Traveling to Uganda during the wet season (March to May and September to November)
- You can expect lower rates as the wetter months are considered low season
- While not as easy to spot as during the drier months, you’ll still be able to see plenty of wildlife
- You can expect a greener, lush scenery that’s perfect for picture-taking
- You’ll be able to see plenty of newborn animals
- You won’t be able to change or reschedule your gorilla permit for any weather-related reason, so you might have to deal with either pouring rain while trekking or a lot of money wasted!
- The pouring rain might lead to challenging forest trails and stuck cars on the road
Weather & Climate
Uganda’s climate is characterized by very little fluctuation in temperature throughout the year, as the country straddles the equator.
The hottest months are January and February, experiencing average daytime temperatures that range between 24-33°C (52-91°F), with the northernmost parts of the country reaching as much as 40°C/104°F. The north has a relatively clear-cut wet season from March to November and a dry season from December to February, while the southern parts of Uganda experience two wet seasons, from mid-September to November and then again from March to May.
During the dry season (June to August and December to February), you can expect average temperatures of around 27°C/81°F in the afternoon and 16°C/61°F in the morning, while parks at higher altitudes (including the gorilla parks) will be considerably colder.
June and July are the driest months you will experience in the southern part of the country, but rain is still likely due to the wetter climate of southern Uganda.
Up north, June and July are considered part of the wet season instead, as the climate is much drier, semi-arid and prone to experiencing droughts.
December, January, and February are characterized by less rainfall than most of the year in the south, while in the north they are considered the peak of the dry season.
During the wet season, you can expect daytime temperatures to hover around 28°C/82°F, with cooler morning temperatures of 16°C/61°F. You can also expect the gorilla parks located at higher altitudes to be considerably colder in the south, while the northern parts of the country will be quite warm.
The months of March, April, and May are known as the wettest months of the year, where you can experience a lot more rainfall throughout the country, especially in the south. While you’ll be able to enjoy a little break of sunshine most days, these are considered the least travel-friendly months of Uganda, known for making safari travel considerably more difficult.
While still quite far from ideal and pretty similar to the March-May period, September, October, and November are generally considered better months for wildlife travel, as you’ll experience a lot less rain!
The Most Popular Safari Routes in Uganda
If you are planning on visiting Uganda, you definitely won’t have to spend too much time reading up on the best safari routes in the country: There is really just one amazing loop to follow!
While you can incorporate this itinerary into a bigger safari trip (maybe traveling to Kenya or Tanzania beforehand or right after), this incredible wildlife viewing circuit will show you all the best that Uganda has to offer, without having to incorporate any add-ons.
So, let’s get to the part of our Uganda Travel Guide you were all waiting for, the amazing sights to see!
The Wildlife Circuit (1 and a half weeks - 2 and a half weeks)
Visitors will arrive at Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport (EBB) and head out to Lake Mburo National Park from there, with the option of spending their first night on the shores overlooking the majestic Lake Victoria.
Here are the highlights you can look forward to when visiting Uganda’s main safari circuit:
- Lake Mburo National Park (1 to 2 days), close to Kampala, is a compact gem of wildlife viewing offering a diverse range of activities including game drives, boat trips, and horse riding.
- The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (2 to 3 days each), offering unparalleled gorilla trekking.
- The Kibale National Park (2 to 3 days), considered the best place for chimpanzee trekking in the whole of Uganda.
- Queen Elizabeth National Park (3 to 4 days), Uganda’s most popular savannah reserve offering a diverse range of habitats including lakes, grasslands, and forests.
- Murchison Falls National Park (3 to 4 days), offering scenic trips on the Nile.
- Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, the only place in Uganda to see the majestic African rhino.
On top of these world-renowned wildilife viewing hotspots, you can also choose to incorporate these lesser-known destinations:
- Kidepo Valley National Park, known for its remote wilderness appeal.
- Mount Elgon for scenic hiking.
- Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve for excellent bird-watching.
- Rwenzori Mountains, the highest sources of the Nile, perfect for experienced trekkers and keen birding enthusiasts.
- Jinja for getting your adventure on, offering activities such as white-water rafting and bungee jumping.
Before You Go (Visa and Vaccination Requirements)
Unless they are citizens of one of the exempt countries (such as Hong Kong, Ireland, and Singapore), visitors looking to enter Uganda will be required to obtain a tourist visa either online or on arrival, at the cost of 50 USD for single-entry and 100 USD for the East Africa Visa covering Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya.
When it comes to entry requirements in the wake of COVID-19, Uganda requires all visitors to provide a negative certificate issued no more than 120 hours before boarding or crossing land borders. On top of that, visitors from the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States are required to undergo PCR testing at the border, costing 65 USD.
Uganda also requires travelers aged over 1 to show a certificate of yellow fever vaccination.
Ready to pack up your bags and head over to the Pearl of Africa?
Then you’ll probably land at Entebbe International Airport (EBB), Uganda’s main point of entry, located about 46km/29mi from the capital Kampala.
While there are no direct flights to Kampala from the United States, you’ll be able to catch a connecting flight from either Europe or South Africa, with flights available from London, Brussels, Istanbul, and Amsterdam. If you’re flying from the Middle East, you’ll be able to get direct flights from Doha by Qatar Airways and Dubai by Emirates Airlines. Finally, the only direct flights between Uganda and other African countries are to Addis Ababa, Cairo, Nairobi, Kigali, and Johannesburg.
Water transport can also be used to travel in and around Uganda’s main wildlife destinations, whether it’s the ferry crossing from the south to the north of Murchison Falls National Park or the launch cruise to the bottom of the park’s falls.
The gorgeous Ssese islands in Lake Victoria are also easily accessible by ferry from either Nakiwogo or Bukakata.
Don’t worry too much about the details though, your local tour operator will make sure to collect you from the airport or Kampala hotel, arranging all further transportation from there as part of your package.
So, what are you waiting for? Discover the beauty and rich wildlife of Uganda by getting in touch with one of our featured operators, compare different options to plan your dream safari trip, and don’t forget to contact us for any questions you might have!