Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it safe to travel in Uganda?
A:
Uganda is generally a very safe country for travelers. Ugandans are considered among the friendliest and most welcoming people on planet earth. Feel free to meet and talk to Ugandans, as they will be most honored. Kampala is known to be one of the safest capital cities in Africa, but you should use common sense when traveling in any big city. Be responsible and cautious during your tour and use taxis when you are going 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.

Q: Can I safely swim in Lake Victoria or other lakes in Uganda?
A:
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.

Q: Which area should I pick to go gorilla tracking?
A:
There are an estimated 800 mountain gorillas in the forested highland area shared by Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Habituated families can be visited in Uganda and Rwanda and African Volunteer Adventures offers a variety of trip options to both.
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 African Volunteer Adventures will have to choose from the few remaining permits for your dates.

Q: What chance do I have of actually seeing the gorillas?

A: 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 African Volunteer Adventures cannot return the funds directly.

Q: How tough is it physically to do gorilla tracking?
A:
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.

Q: What should I wear during the gorilla tracking?
A:
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.

Q: What are the social customs and norms in Uganda?
A: Ugandans are very welcoming and among the friendliest people in Africa. 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…”! When you go to someone’s private house, to a church, a school or any official place, make sure you wear normal shoes, long pants (or dress) and a shirt/ blouse with long sleeves. 

Q: How can I make my tour more ecologically/socially sustainable?
A: Tourism has a lot of positive influences in Uganda. It supports the economy, creates awareness and it helps to protect national parks and its wildlife. Without tourism, the gorillas and many other animal species would likely be extinct by now. However, tourism has negative influences, as well. As a tour operator we have the responsibility to limit the negative influences on socioeconomic and environmental aspects as much as possible.

However, there are ways you, as a traveler can help us achieve these goals:

A: Offset the carbon impact of your flight
B: Add one of the Community Projects in your tour, Amatsiko in Uganda (Website) a Lamp For Future Life in Ghana (website)
C: Buy your items locally and hire local guides and porters for optional programs
D: Collect your waste and bring it to a place where they have a proper waste management.
E: Bring used batteries back home, as there is no proper disposal available in East Africa.
F: Respect the local customs and traditions
G: Take photos of local people only after getting their permission. If you promise to send them a photo, do keep your promise.
H: Support a local NGO or community project. 

Q: Should I bring clothes, gifts or money for the local community?
A:
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. Moreover, it can create a begging culture. Instead, we suggest that you consider supporting an NGO structurally. Maybe you can visit this particular NGO, while you are on your tour and maybe you can bring something from home that this NGO has expressed a specific need for.

Q: What are the average prices for meals and drinks (when not included in the program)?
A: In general, these will be the average prices when eating at proper restaurant or lodges in Uganda and Tanzania:


Soda


US$ 1

Beer

US$ 2 – 3

Wine

US$ 4 – 5

Spirits

US$ 2 – 3

Breakfast

US$ 3 – 4

Lunch

US$ 6 – 10

Dinner

US$ 8 – 15

Prices in Rwanda tend to be around 20 percent higher.

Q: Do you have any guidelines for tipping?
A: 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.

Tipping suggestions:
Your driver/guide: US$ 3 – 5 per person/per day
Porters: US$ 5 for half-day (3 – 4 hours) or US$ 10 per full day
Hotel porters: US$ 1 per person
Rangers and local guides: US$ 10 – 20 per activity (divided by number of persons) Restaurants: 5 – 10% of the pre-tax bill
Hotels: US$ 1 – 2 per person/per night

Q: Can I use a credit card during my tour?
A:
Credit cards are not widely accepted in Uganda, Tanzania or Rwanda. Only at major hotels, up-market lodges, and a few fancier shops can they be used.

Q: Does African Volunteer Adventures accept credit cards?
A:
Not yet, but this will be possible starting in the near future. For now we can only accept bank transfers.

Q: Is it easy to exchange currency?
A:
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.

Q: What are the exchange rates of the most used currencies?
A: Exchange Rate 2013: (This was the exchange rate in November 2013).


Euro - Dollar


1.33   

Euro - Ugandan Shilling

3350

Euro – Tanzanian Shilling

2159

US Dollar - Euro

0.73

US Dollar - Ugandan Shilling

2500

US Dollar – Tanzanian Shilling

1607

Pound Sterling - Dollar

1.58

Pound Sterling - Ugandan Shilling

3900

Pound Sterling – Tanzanian Shilling

2554

Check the current exchange rates in the Ugandan news paper: www.newvision.co.ug or at www.xe.com

Q: What should I bring on my tour?
A:
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:

- Passport
- Vaccination records
- First aid kit
- Mosquito repellent
- Sun block
- Sunglasses
- Hat
- Small backpack (daypack)
- Binoculars
- Camera
- Chargers for camera, phone, tablet, etc.
- Multi plug,  to be sure you can charge all your items
- 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

Q: I have a gluten-free diet. Is this a problem during my tour in Uganda?
A:
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

Q: I am a vegetarian. What can I eat on my tour?
A:
The countries where African Volunteer Adventure operates are generally quite fertile and most fresh vegetables can be found. 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 it in advance so we can make preparations with the restaurants and lodges on your itinerary.