Uganda

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Sunday, 14 September 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and Security (on 13 September 2014, Ugandan authorities announced the seizure of explosives and arrest of suspected terrorists planning attacks in Kampala. Australians in Uganda should expect heightened security in public places while police investigations continue. You should monitor the media for latest information and follow instructions of local authorities. Australians are encouraged to avoid potential targets such as high profile sporting events, large public gatherings such as concerts and rallies, shopping centres and malls, hotels and other crowded public places). We advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to areas bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. We also strongly advise against all travel to the Karamoja region of north-eastern Uganda, and areas bordering South Sudan due to the serious risk of banditry. The overall level of advice for Uganda is exercise a high degree of caution due to the threat of terrorist attack, civil unrest and criminal activity.

Uganda overall

Areas bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Karamoja region and areas bordering South Sudan

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Uganda because of the high threat of terrorist attack, civil unrest and criminal activity.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media about possible new safety or security risks.
  • The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Uganda, authorities have implemented health screening at Entebbe International Airport for all travellers from affected west African countries and the DRC. An isolation centre has been established at the airport for any suspected EVD cases. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin.
  • On 13 September 2014, Ugandan authorities announced the seizure of explosives and arrest of suspected terrorists planning attacks in Kampala. Australians in Uganda should expect heightened security in public places while police investigations continue. You should monitor the media for latest information and follow instructions of local authorities. Australians are encouraged to avoid potential targets such as high profile sporting events, large public gatherings such as concerts and rallies, shopping centres and malls, hotels and other crowded public places.
  • Ugandan authorities remain concerned at the possibility of terrorist attacks and have implemented heightened security arrangements in public places, including borders and at the international airport. You should be prepared for body, car and luggage checks when travelling in Kampala.
  • Violent protests can occur in Kampala and other parts of Uganda. Some protests and demonstrations have resulted in deaths and serious injuries. You should exercise particular caution when travelling, including by avoiding large gatherings, political rallies, protests and demonstrations. You should monitor radio and other local media for updated advice.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel to areas bordering South Sudan because of the serious risk of banditry.
  • We also strongly advise you not to travel to the Karamoja region of north-eastern Uganda, including Kidepo National Park, because of the risk of banditry and inter-tribal clashes. If you decide to visit the Kidepo National Park we recommend you fly rather than travel overland.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Mgahinga Gorilla Park, and the Murchison Falls National Park because of the risk of banditry and attacks by armed groups.
  • Homosexual relations are illegal in Uganda and are not tolerated. Westerners have been prosecuted for homosexual activity in Uganda. See the Laws section for more information.
  • Australia has a Consulate in Uganda, headed by an Honorary Consul. The Consulate provides basic consular support (not including the issue of passports). The Australian High Commission in Kenya provides full consular assistance to Australians in Uganda.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Uganda, authorities have implemented health screening at Entebbe International Airport for all travellers from affected west African countries and the DRC. An isolation centre has been established at the airport for any suspected EVD cases. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Uganda for the most up-to-date information.

The East African Community (EAC) has developed an EAC Tourist Visa allowing travellers multiple entry, for a period of 90 days, to Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Uganda is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into Uganda.

For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Uganda because of the high threat of terrorist attack, civil unrest and criminal activity. You should remain vigilant, pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Widespread armed conflict in Somalia has heightened the risk that active terrorist groups pose to nearby countries, including Uganda.

On 13 September 2014, Ugandan authorities announced the seizure of explosives and arrest of suspected terrorists planning attacks in Kampala. Australians in Uganda should expect heightened security in public places while police investigations continue. You should monitor the media for latest information and follow instructions of local authorities. Australians are encouraged to avoid potential targets such as high profile sporting events, large public gatherings such as concerts and rallies, shopping centres and malls, hotels and other crowded public places.

Ugandan authorities are concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks and have implemented heightened security arrangements in public places, including borders and at the international airport. You should be prepared for body, car and luggage checks when travelling in Kampala.

In March 2014 Ugandan authorities issued a warning that terrorists may be planning attacks on petrol stations, fuel depots or fuel tankers in Uganda.

The 21 September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 67 people, underscores the ongoing threat posed by Somali-based terrorists across east Africa. Somali-based terrorists have threatened to attack the interests of east African Governments supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), including Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Burundi. In October 2013, the US Government warned that a Westgate-style attack may occur in Kampala.

Somali-based terrorists claimed responsibility for attacks in Kampala at crowded public venues in the areas of Kabalagala and Lugogo in 2010, which killed over 70 people and injured many more. Foreign nationals were among those injured and killed.

In planning your activities consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets which include clubs, hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars, schools, places of worship, airports including civil aviation, markets and marketplaces, shopping centres and malls, political and high profile sporting events, including public screenings of such events, outdoor recreation events, bus terminals, public transport infrastructure, Ugandan government buildings, large public gatherings, crowded public places and tourist areas.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/political tension

Violent protests can occur in Kampala and other parts of Uganda. Some protests and demonstrations have resulted in deaths and serious injuries. You should avoid large gatherings, political rallies, protests and demonstrations and monitor radio and other local media for updated advice.

North-eastern Uganda: We strongly advise you not to travel to the Karamoja region of north-eastern Uganda (particularly the Kotido, Moroto, Nakapiripirit and Katakwi districts north of Kate Kyoga), because of the risk of banditry and inter-tribal clashes. Clashes between tribal groups have occurred, frequently with no warning. If you intend to travel to the Kidepo National Park we recommend you fly there rather than travel overland.

Areas bordering South Sudan: We strongly advise you not to travel to areas bordering South Sudan because of the serious risk of banditry and crime in these areas.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is no longer active in Uganda but continues to operate in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic. The LRA is believed to have been responsible for several attacks that killed or wounded foreign aid workers in the past. Further attacks could occur. There is a military presence in north western Uganda, especially the areas bordering South Sudan and the DRC. While de-mining operations are continuing in northern Uganda, landmines remain a danger for travellers.

Border with Democratic Republic of the Congo: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Uganda’s border with the DRC, due to the risk of banditry and cross-border attacks by rebel groups. The situation over the border in the DRC is extremely unstable and attacks can occur without notice. We strongly advise you not to take gorilla trekking tours that cross into the DRC.

On 5 July 2014, there were violent attacks against security installations and civilians in Bundibugyo, Kasese, and Ntoroko districts in western Uganda near the border with DRC. Over 90 people were reported killed. Tourist destinations, including Rwenzori Mountains and national parks, are in this area. While there is no indication that foreign nationals were targeted, the situation remains volatile. You should monitor the local media for developments which could affect your safety.

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Mgahinga Gorilla Park and Murchison National Park in western Uganda. Security personnel are usually required to accompany tourists on gorilla trekking visits in this region, as armed attacks have occurred in recent years. If you decide to travel to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla Park we recommend you fly rather than travel overland, use reputable, registered tour operators and closely follow park regulations. The Ugandan Wildlife Authority has more information on travelling to national parks, including fees.

If you choose to visit Uganda's national parks, despite our warning on some areas, we strongly recommend the use of reputable, registered tour operators. Violence against tourists has occurred and security circumstances can change with little warning. There is a history of armed attacks in the Murchison Falls National Park.

Crime

Petty crime such as pickpocketing and bag snatching can occur, especially on public transport. Theft from vehicles which are stationary in heavy traffic or stopped at traffic lights occurs frequently. You should ensure valuables are out of sight and that vehicle windows are up and doors are locked.

There is a risk of armed robbery and carjacking when travelling outside the capital, Kampala, particularly to the east and in areas around Lake Victoria.

Isolated incidents of violence have also occurred in urban centres, such as Kampala, Jinja and Kasese. Residential burglaries have turned violent. If you are attacked, do not resist. Security risks increase after dark.

Do not accept food or drink from strangers as it may be drugged.

A number of financial scams have originated in Uganda. Consider unsolicited offers carefully and take legal advice before proceeding with any commercial arrangement. Some victims have had their lives endangered by criminals while in Uganda. If you are a victim of a financial scam, we advise you to obtain legal advice and not to travel to Uganda to seek restitution as there is a risk of physical harm from the perpetrators.

Bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes are operating from some African countries. These scams typically result from connections made through internet dating schemes or chat rooms. Once a virtual friendship develops, the Australian citizen may be asked by their friend or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable travel to Australia or to facilitate some other requirement. In some cases the relationship is terminated with very little chance that any funds can be recovered. In other cases, foreigners may be lured to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner and can become victims of crime including kidnapping, assault and robbery.

Our information on international scams provides more details.

Money and valuables

Travellers' cheques and credit/debit cards are not widely accepted in Uganda. Travellers may find that they cannot exchange US notes printed prior to 2006.

You should be sure to keep your credit card in sight when making transactions to lower the risk of fraud.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

The Ugandan Government periodically closes tourist areas considered to be at risk of rebel activity. You should seek local advice about the current situation prior to travel. You should not travel between towns after dusk, with the exception of Kampala to Entebbe.

Driving in Uganda can be hazardous due to poor road conditions, the low standard of vehicle maintenance, bad driving habits, excessive speeds and poor lighting, especially at night. Traffic accidents are common and pose a significant risk to tourists. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Long distance bus travel can be hazardous due to the risk of accidents. Some accidents have resulted in fatalities.

Travellers using forms of public transportation such as matatus (minibus) and boda-boda (scooter taxi) should exercise caution. These vehicles are generally in poor condition, badly driven and can be prone to accidents. If using a boda-boda, you should always wear a helmet.

There have been a number of passenger ferry accidents. These accidents have been attributed to overcrowding.

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, especially for adventure sports such as white water rafting, may not be of the same level as in Australia. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if the locals don't. We recommend you use only reputable, registered tour operators.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Uganda.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Uganda, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and heavy fines.

Serious crimes, such as treason and murder, carry the death penalty.

Penalties for some crimes, including rape and robbery, include corporal punishment.

Homosexual relations are illegal and are not tolerated. Westerners have been prosecuted for homosexuality in Uganda. On 1 August 2014 the Ugandan Constitutional Court annulled a law passed in February 2014 which had increased existing penalties for homosexual activity and introduced new penalties for promoting homosexual activity. See our LGBTI travellers page.

It is illegal to photograph military establishments, government buildings, diplomatic sites and other infrastructure.

It is illegal to wear military-style or camouflage clothing. The penalty may include a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Uganda recognises dual nationality.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in west Africa is the most serious in recorded history. In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease into Uganda, authorities have implemented health screening at Entebbe International Airport for all travellers from affected west African countries and the DRC. An isolation centre has been established at the airport for any suspected EVD cases. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in West Africa travel bulletin.

Medical facilities outside Kampala are very limited. In the event of an accident or illness, medical evacuation by air ambulance to Nairobi would be necessary and, if serious, a medical evacuation from Kenya to a destination with the required facilities would be recommended. A medical evacuation from Uganda could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Uganda is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Uganda. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Malaria occurs widely throughout the year in Uganda. Other insect-borne diseases (including pneumonic plague) also occur. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, light coloured, loose-fitting clothing, and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, hepatitis, meningitis, tuberculosis, meningococcal and viral haemorrhagic fevers) occur, with more serious outbreaks from time to time. We recommend you boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. The national emergency number is 999.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

The Australian Consulate in Kampala, headed by an Honorary Consul, provides limited consular assistance to Australians in Uganda. The Consulate does not issue passports. Contact details are:

Australian Consulate, Kampala

Plot 40 Kyadondo Road, Nakasero
P.O. Bx 9421
Kampala, Uganda
Telephone: +256 31 251 5865
Facsimile: +256 41 434 4149
Email: australianconsulate.ug@gmail.com
Working hours: Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 12.30 pm and 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm.

You can obtain full consular assistance from the Australian High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya. Contact details are:

Australian High Commission, Nairobi

Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road)
Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone: +254-20 4277 100
Facsimile: +254-20 4277 139
Website: www.kenya.highcommission.gov.au

If you are travelling to Uganda, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the High Commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The rainy seasons are from March to May and October to November when flooding may occur, causing landslides, displacing large numbers of people and blocking some roads.

Uganda is located in an active earthquake region.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Wildlife

Prior to travel, we recommend you contact the Uganda Wildlife Authority for information about the latest security advice and arrangements and information on park fees. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and warden’s advice.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.