Is Uganda Safe? Security and Safety Tips for Safari to Uganda
Is Uganda safe? This is one of the most frequently asked questions for anyone traveling to Uganda. This has been mainly because of lack of knowledge amongst many including journalists both within Uganda and outside her borders. It can also be attributed by the negative reportage by both local and international media. They often report a single incident in a small spot as if it were the whole country burning. It would be good to answer this question ‘is Uganda safe for travelers?’ With a resounding YES. According to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), approximately 15,000 British nationals visit Uganda every year. Most of these visits to Uganda are trouble-free. The U.S. government on the other hand, rates Uganda as a medium threat for terrorism, which is a global problem.
Some fifty years ago Uganda was the “Pearl of Africa.” This was a newly independent republic with a thriving economy and a functioning democracy with splendid national parks. Uganda was the place to take an African safari holiday. Here you would find yourself floating down the crocodile-flanked Nile or fishing on Lake Victoria, you may have wandered among the elephant herds of Queen Elizabeth National Park or listening to the roar of mighty Murchison Falls. The country was the darling of Hollywood filmmakers with films like “African Queen” shot on location.
Then all hell broke loose
The security deterioration started with the bloodthirsty reign of Idi Amin. This was the self-proclaimed President for Life, Conqueror of the British Empire and Last King of Scotland. It is from then that Uganda had four decades of violence, political turmoil and economic collapse. This ended with the religious psychopath Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army being repulsed off the borders of Uganda and deep into the Congo Forest. During these four decades, it was not just the people who suffered, the wildlife population in Uganda declined precipitously as the various ragtag guerrilla groups feasted on wild game. It is in the 80s that Uganda had the last of the Northern white rhinos.
Uganda becomes safe Once again for Tourists.
Order began to return back to Uganda after the capture of power by General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in 1985 who later became the president. He managed to banish the last of the warlords and kick started its economy. The country is drawing tourists again, a rising star in the safari world. According to the tourist board, almost 1.2 million tourists came to Uganda in 2013 an increase of 50% over five years. This has been majorly attributed to security and stability that Uganda is currently enjoying.
It is however important to note that there are still travel advisories for people traveling to Uganda. Majorly due to some regions which are mainly non touristic in nature experience conflicts. It is as a result that you will find FCO advising Britons against all but essential travel to the districts of Kaabong, Kotido, Abim, Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Katakwi, Amudat, Kapchorwa, Kween, and Bukwo in the Karamoja region of north eastern Uganda. This is with the exception of trips to Kidepo Valley National Park, which can be accessed by air. As mentioned earlier, the U.S. government rates Uganda as a medium threat for terrorism. Al-Shabaab has threatened attacks inside Uganda and in the region therefore they warn U.S. citizens to avoid large public gatherings.
It is important to note that cattle rustling, armed banditry, and attacks on vehicles are no longer common in the Karamoja region of northeastern Uganda. Therefore the U.S. Embassy advises there personnel that they are no longer required to take additional security measures to travel to the Karamoja Region. Basic services have been introduced to the region but emergency medical care and auto repair services are still lacking in remote areas. Road conditions in Karamoja are particularly poor, the use of four wheel drive vehicles is encouraged, and vehicle accidents occur at a high rate.
How to ensure your Stay in Uganda is safe and secure
Jewelry and Expensive Ornaments
Your value will be determined by what you are putting on. The value of the jewelry you have on you. For you to stay safe in Uganda, it is therefore important to take inexpensive jewelry with you if you have to. In cases where you have expensive ornaments, it would be advisable to leave them under the care of the hotel safe. This is because it is not advisable to leave any valuables in your rooms as you do not know who is cleaning the room.
Gold chains and jewelry can be ripped off you with little warning. Avoid expensive watches and if you are wearing one, have one preferably with leather strap that can be tightened and safely worn. You can have a long sleeved shirt or t-shirt that can easily cover the same from prying eyes.
Cash Items, Money and Travelers Cheques
As a rule of thumb, always carry what you need for the period you need it. If you want to be safe in Uganda and anywhere else, do not walk with bundles of money around. It is best to carry your money in the front pocket where you can put your hand over it rather than a back pocket where it can easily be stolen. Do not wear the various kinds of belted packs for money and valuables that are worn on the outside of your garments. It is also important to note that you should not flash money, pull out what you need and pay, never carry large amounts with you. Keep money and any other valuables in your hotel safe and especially with the front office desk.
Traveling Documents including Passport and Flight Tickets
You should not go with your passport around town. Pleas find time to make a copy and leave the passport in the hotel safe together with your valuables. If you are on an African safari tour package, keep it all such things in a small carryon bag that you can easily carry with you. It is best to carry that small Backpack even if you go on a game drive while on safari. It is always best to be on the safe than to regret. For these documents, they will not be of use to the robber but an inconvenience to you once stolen.
Walking at night
Any night solo excursions should be kept to a minimum, it is usually safe on a crowded street. It is best to be with a Ugandan or someone who knows the country and ways. Do not walk alone on your own in most neighborhoods to be on the safe side – what you would do at home, do here while visiting Uganda. You do not hear of many cases where Visitors to Uganda are robbed or harmed but it is best to be wise and smart to avoid walking at night in a place, town that you do not know. Don’t do things in Uganda that you would not do at home
Expensive here, about twice what it would cost you in your country of origin, so it is a temptation for some to steal yours. Keep it in a bag, strap it to you. When taking a picture, hold it with both hands and roll strap around your hand so no one can take it from you. Never loosely put a camera over shoulder on a strap, the same with binoculars if you should take them into town. Keep it safe is always the rule of the day – that is better than being sorry later. Cameras are expensive in Uganda and are a temptation to a street-thief – you will not have such a problem on a safari where you are with a driver-guide.
Never act lost even if you are:
That may sound as a joke, but when one acts and looks lost they make themselves vulnerable and a potential target for thieves. If you are lost, ask a police officer or go into a shop and ask for directions. Another thing is to jump on a Boda-Boda Motorcycle Taxi and have them take you there. Thieves always look in any town including in Kampala for people who seem lost – disoriented – even if you are lost – Act as if you know where you are going – ask the right people and you will be just fine.
Most of all-just use your head-keep aware and watch each other. Most of all think – Would I do this at home? If not there-don’t do it in Uganda. Keep your guard up when on your own along with a common sense. 99% plus of visitors love their time in Uganda and so will you, along with some practical common sense. Your basic instincts will keep you safe and sound in Uganda, common sense can be your guide. Once again, if you are on a safari organized by a Uganda safari tour operator such as ourselves, you will be just fine.
In conclusion, Uganda is one of the safest places to visit in all of Africa. Enjoy Staying Safe and Secure in Uganda, just follow some simple advice and you will be just fine. Uganda maybe just a bit safer than the country that you come from.