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Latest travel advice for Uganda including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2017-01-17T06:15:30.375+00:00: Summary – Cases of avian influenza (bird flu) have been reported in Lutembe Bay near Entebbe and Masaka District in January 2017

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises 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 with the exception of trips to Kidepo Valley National Park, which you should make by air. See Local Travel

Cases of avian influenza (bird flu) have been reported in Lutembe Bay near Entebbe and Masaka District in January 2017. Find out more about how to reduce your risk of infection on the NHS Choices website. See Health

Between 24 and 27 November, 2016, there were a series of violent clashes in Kasese District (western Uganda), including the town of Kasese, between the Ugandan security forces and the royal guards of the Rwenzururu Kingdom, resulting in significant loss of life. You should exercise caution if travelling to the area, which is close to popular tourist destinations including Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Kibale National Parks. There’s no indication that foreign nationals are being targeted, but the situation on the ground is unpredictable. You should avoid crowds and follow local media for the latest developments. These incidents follow previous incidents of violence and deaths in the Bundibugyo and Kasese areas during 2014 and early 2016. See Safety and Security.

General elections took place in February and March 2016. There was some violence during and after the election period, including use of tear gas and live ammunition by police against demonstrators, at least one death and several injuries of protestors in Kampala. Deployment of security forces in and around Kampala have increased.

The opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has held further demonstrations since the elections. Remain vigilant, avoid large crowds and public demonstrations and follow local media for updates. See Political situation.

There is a general threat from terrorism. On 2 May 2016, the Ugandan police announced that it had received information about a terrorist threat to airports and government installations in Entebbe and Kampala. The police announcement also referred to churches, schools, business centres and congested areas as potential targets related to this threat. The police encouraged people to be vigilant and report suspicious objects and individuals to the authorities, including unidentified luggage on buses and in taxis. The Ugandan police has previously issued alerts about possible threats to locations in Kampala and the surrounding area. These have included hotels, educational institutions, public places and the venues for sporting and religious events.

You should be vigilant at all times. See Terrorism

Avoid travel by road outside major towns at night, except between Kampala and the airport at Entebbe. See Crime

Around 15,000 British nationals visit Uganda every year. Most visits are trouble-free.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

Crime

Opportunistic crime like burglaries (some using chloroform gas), muggings, drive-by bag snatches and thefts from vehicles do occur in Kampala and other areas of Uganda. There have been a few cases of individuals being drugged and robbed on public transport and in bars.

Don’t carry large sums of cash or wear expensive looking jewellery or watches. Take particular care of your passport. Take extra care when going out on foot and avoid walking after dark wherever possible.

Keep car doors locked and windows shut when driving in towns. There have been a number of thefts from cars and taxis while stationary in traffic. Don’t leave valuables in vehicles. If you are stopped by armed criminals, don’t resist.

Local travel - north-east Uganda

Rural areas, particularly in the north eastern parts of Uganda, experience cattle rustling, banditry and tribal clashes. Foreigners are not usually the target of localised violence and banditry, but you should take great care. Small arms are widespread and there are regular deaths or injury from gunshot wounds. The north east is susceptible to flooding during the rainy season. Monitor local media and take care in all remote areas including the use of suitable 4 wheel drive vehicles.

Local travel - northern and western Uganda

Take great care near the border with Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. There have been some clashes and there is a risk of banditry. If you travel outside the main towns (Lira, Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Arua) you should do so with experienced local guides.

Local travel - west Uganda

A series of violent clashes in Kasese District, including the town of Kasese, between Ugandan security forces and the royal guards of the Rwenzururu Kingdom in late November 2016 resulted in significant loss of life. There were violent clashes and deaths in Bundibugyo and Kasese districts during and after the February 2016 elections. There had previously been violent attacks by local armed men against police and army installations and some civilians in Bundibugyo, Kasese, and Ntoroko districts in July 2014, causing over 90 deaths.

There has been no suggestion that tourists or foreign nationals have specifically been targeted in these incidents, but if you plan to visit these areas, which are close to popular tourist destinations including Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Kibale National Parks, you should remain vigilant, exercise caution, avoid crowds and follow local media for updates on the current situation.

In the past there have been violent incidents involving Ugandan forces and Allied Democratic Forces rebels in and around the Rwenzori mountains. The situation is now under control but a recurrence is possible.

Local travel - south west Uganda

The parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo immediately neighbouring southwest Uganda have a history of instability and violent conflict can flare up with little notice. Some Congolese refugees have crossed the border into Kisoro district in Uganda. Take care when travelling in the area. Fighting and refugees have in the past spilled over the border into Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks. If you are planning travel to Kisoro and Kanugu Districts, seek local advice before you set off.

Local travel - eastern Uganda

Travel to eastern Uganda is largely trouble free, but during heavy rains there is a risk of landslides particularly in Bulucheke sub-county in Bududa District near Mount Elgon National Park, a popular tourist destination.

Local travel - National Parks

Use reputable, registered tour operators and contact the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) for up to date advice and information before you travel. If you travel to Kidepo Valley National Park you should do so by air rather than road. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Parks are in the extreme south west of Uganda near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. It’s routine practice for security personnel to accompany tourists on gorilla-tracking visits in this area.

Gorilla Trekking

Some gorilla trekking operators cross into the Democratic Republic of Congo. You should avoid taking these tours.

Road Travel

You can drive in Uganda using a UK driving licence for up to 3 months, after which you will need to get a Ugandan driving licence from the Uganda Revenue Authority or an International Driving Permit.

Travelling on the roads can be hazardous, particularly outside the main cities. Driving standards are poor, vehicles are often poorly maintained and the accident rate is high. Other road users may be driving without lights and livestock roam across the roads. The Jinja - Kampala and the Kampala - Masaka roads are particular accident black spots.

Speed limits in built-up areas are generally 50km/h and out of town 80km/h. The police enforce this law and breaking speed limits can result in a fine, imprisonment or both.

For reasons of road safety and security you should avoid travelling outside of the main towns after dark, except on the road between Kampala and Entebbe International Airport.

Make sure your vehicle’s in good condition and stocked with items you might need in case of breakdown or other incidents.

There have been a number of serious accidents involving Ugandan long distance bus services, linking Kampala with other towns in Uganda and internationally with Nairobi, Kigali and Dar es Salaam. Some overnight buses have been robbed after being forced to stop by roadblocks or by criminals posing as passengers.

Other common forms of public transport are matatus (minibus taxis following a particular route) and boda-bodas (motorbike taxis). Though cheap, matatus and boda-bodas don’t meet western safety standards, are generally in poor condition, badly driven and often without proper insurance cover. Accidents are common, and can be fatal. There have been recent incidents of foreign nationals being mugged whilst using boda-bodas; you should avoid using matatus or boda-bodas.

Boat Travel

Large numbers of ferry passengers have died in accidents on Lakes Albert and Victoria in recent years. Police believe the accidents were caused by the overloading of passengers and goods.

Political situation

Political and other demonstrations can become violent without warning, causing loss of life and injury. There have been political protests in Kampala in recent years. The police have been reported to use tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse demonstrators. You should take great care and avoid all demonstrations and rallies where possible.

If you find yourself caught up in a political demonstration, remain calm and try to move away from the area by the safest possible route. If you’re travelling in a vehicle, ensure that the doors are locked. If you’re in your accommodation and there’s a demonstration nearby, remain inside if you judge that leaving your accommodation is threatening or unsafe. Familiarise yourself with the security procedures in place at your accommodation, and make sure appropriate precautions are deployed as necessary.

Until 2006, the Lord’s Resistance Army was active in northern Uganda. There’s been no Lord’s Resistance Army activity in Uganda since 2006, but the group continues to attack civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan.

Contacting the British High Commission

You can keep up to date with travel advice by subscribing to email alerts. You can see messages about travel advice on social media by following @FCOTravel and @UKinUganda on twitter and fcotravel and ukinuganda on Facebook.

You can also subscribe to an SMS alert system which the British High Commission uses to alert British nationals to incidents related to safety and security. To subscribe for SMS alerts, email your name, Ugandan mobile telephone number and British passport number to Consular.Kampala@fco.gov.uk, indicating in the subject line that you wish to register for SMS alerts. If you do register for SMS alerts, please instruct your Ugandan mobile telephone service provider to remove any “do not disturb” filter on your number (usually put in place to block SMS advertising), as this filter may prevent SMS alerts reaching you.

The British High Commission in Kampala operates a system of consular wardens. Contact the High Commission at Consular.Kampala@fco.gov.uk to ask for details of the warden who covers the area you’re visiting or living in.

Read the FCO’s How to deal with a crisis overseas page for more information and advice.

Terrorism

There is a general threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Large crowds of people and public places may be targeted. The Ugandan police regularly issue alerts about possible threats to locations in Kampala and the surrounding area. In the past, these have included hotels, educational institutions, public places and the venues for sporting and religious events.

You should be vigilant at all times, especially in crowded areas and public places like hotels, transport hubs, restaurants and bars, and during major gatherings like sporting or religious events. Previous terrorist attacks in the region have targeted places where football matches are being viewed.

In 2010 there were bomb attacks in Kampala at venues screening the World Cup final killing over 70 people and injuring many more. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility and linked the attacks to Uganda’s military presence in Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission, and threatened further attacks in the region.

The Ugandan authorities continue to work to reduce the risk of further attacks. There may be additional security checks, including baggage and car searches in public places, including hotels.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

Homosexual activity is illegal and not tolerated in Uganda’s conservative society. Public displays of homosexuality like kissing in public places could lead to arrest and imprisonment. An Anti-Homosexuality Act was signed into law in early 2014 which increased penalties and created new criminal offences. However it was overturned a few months later.

It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts without a licence. Uganda is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which bans trading in ivory. If you’re caught buying or trafficking these goods you’re liable to be prosecuted and receive a prison sentence or a fine.

Penalties for drug trafficking are severe.

Don’t take photos of military, official or diplomatic sites, including Owen Falls Dam at the source of the Nile near Jinja. If you are taking photographs of people, ask their permission first.

You may be stopped and asked for ID documents by officials. Carry a copy of the personal details page of your passport (the page with your photograph) with you at all times.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas 

British nationals need a visa to enter Uganda. With effect from 1 July 2016, Uganda has introduced an ‘e-visa’ system. You should apply online for an ‘e-visa’ as far in advance of travel as possible.

If successful, you’ll receive an authorisation document by email, which you should print out and give to immigration officials on arrival in Uganda (or at the Ugandan High Commission or other Ugandan diplomatic mission overseas if you wish to apply for a visa to be issued in your passport in advance of travel).

The Ugandan Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a statement on 22 July 2016, announcing that the cost of a standard, single-entry visit visa had been reduced to $50. You’ll need to bring this amount with you in cash (US dollars only) on arrival. Check the Ugandan Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control website for the latest information on visa fees.

Ugandan immigration officers decide how long tourists are permitted to stay in Uganda when they enter the country. This is usually between 2 weeks and 3 months, and the immigration officer will normally enter a handwritten note of this period next to the entry stamp in your passport. You can be fined and/or imprisoned for overstaying your visa. You can apply to extend the period of your stay at Ugandan immigration headquarters on Jinja Road in Kampala.

For more information about entry requirements, visit the Ugandan Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control website. If you’re arriving by road, it’s usually easier to get a visa before you travel.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Uganda.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Uganda. ETDs must be valid for 6 months.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

Medical facilities in Uganda are limited. Medical help at the scene of an accident is likely to be limited. 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.

In January 2017 the Agriculture and Health Ministries confirmed cases of avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds and domestic poultry in Lutembe Bay near Entebbe and Masaka District. The government activated its emergency plan for epidemics control and advised people to be vigilant, report suspected cases to the authorities immediately and not to touch dead birds. Find out more about how to reduce your risk of infection on the NHS Choices website.

In March 2016 the Ministry of Health confirmed an outbreak of cholera in Bulambuli district (Eastern Uganda). Shortages of anti-cholera medication were also reported in this region.

In March 2016 an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in Kabale district (south-west Uganda) was confirmed by the Uganda Virus Research Institute. A National Task Force has been set up by the Ugandan Ministry of Health to address this outbreak.

Only use boiled or bottled water, and avoid ice in drinks. Do not eat food prepared by unlicensed vendors or where you have concerns about kitchen hygiene.

Particularly for longer periods of residence in Uganda, it’s good practice to keep spare basic provisions (eg, drinking water, non-perishable foods) at your accommodation, as there can be supply problems from time to time.

In the 2013 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 1,400,000 adults aged 15 or over in Uganda were living with HIV; the prevalence was estimated at around 7.2% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Money

Credit cards are not widely used and there have been reported incidents of credit card fraud, even in international hotels. Carry travellers’ cheques or cash in US dollars. Travellers’ cheques can only be cashed in major towns, often at a much lower rate of exchange. US dollars dated earlier than 2001 and notes smaller than US$50 are usually exchanged at a less favourable rate and in some cases not accepted at all.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

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  • British High Commission Kampala

    Title:British High Commission Kampala
    Email:Kampala.Bhcinfo@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    British High Commission
    4 Windsor Loop, P. O. Box 7070
    Kampala
    Kampala
    Uganda

    Contact: Enquiries: Telephone +256 (0) 312 312000
    Enquiries: Fax +256) (0) 414 257304
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  • Department for International Trade Uganda

    Title:Department for International Trade Uganda
    Email:Commercial.Kampala@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    Windsor Loop, Lincoln Lane
    P.O. Box 7070
    Kampala
    Uganda

    Contact: Enquiries: +256 31231200
    Visiting:
    Services:
  • DFID Uganda

    Title:DFID Uganda
    Email:Enquiry@dfid.gov.uk
    Address:

    4 Windsor Loop
    Lincoln Lane Entrance
    PO Box 7306
    Kampala
    Uganda

    Contact: Tel: +256 312 312000
    Fax: +256 414 257304
    Visiting:
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