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First time in Uganda - Itinerary, expenses, travel tips

Popularly known as the “Pearl of Africa,” Uganda is a landlocked country located in East Africa. It is one of Africa’s top destinations when it comes to wildlife, culture, and adventure. About half of the world’s population of the endangered mountain gorillas are found in Uganda. It is also home to 10 national parks where tourists can see the wild’s “big five” – rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo, and elephant as well as zebra, giraffe, hippopotamus, crocodile, impalas, and a whole lot more of African wildlife.

First Time in Uganda: What to Expect, Itinerary, Expenses, and Travel Tips
Source of the Nile

If you plan to visit this gorgeous country for the first time, then this travel guide is for you. Based on experience, visiting Uganda is pretty easy. Most nationalities are eligible to get an e-Visa online so it’s hassle-free and convenient. The single entry visa cost is only USD50 or roughly around Php2,600. You can also get an East Africa Tourist Visa for USD100 that entitles you to enter Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda for 90 days. Check out our Uganda Tourist Visa Application Guide to know more about the requirements and other details.

Important Things to Remember When Visiting Uganda for the First Time

  • Make sure you have a shot of Yellow Fever Vaccine and always carry your Yellow Card when you explore East Africa. If you don’t have one, you can read our guide in getting a Yellow Fever Vaccine in the Philippines.
  • If you are coming from the Philippines, book in advance or consider going to other countries closer to Africa like India. I flew to India and took a flight from Mumbai to Nairobi then took a bus to Kampala. Flying direct to Uganda’s Entebbe Airport is quite expensive than cutting flights.
  • Book a return flight as it is way cheaper than booking separate one-way flights.
  • Apply for an e-Visa online at least 10 days before your scheduled departure.
  • Book your accommodation in advance as it is a requirement when applying for an e-Visa. I stayed at Hotel Acacia City and I had a nice experience. It is very close to the Acacia Mall and a walking distance to Uganda’s National Museum.
At the Source of the Nile River

What to expect when you arrive in Uganda?

  • The most common mode of transporation in Uganda are matatu and boda-boda. Matatu, a van service is usually used for long journeys. Boda-boda, on the other hand, is used for journeys within the city.
  • Uber is operational in the capital city of Kampala. You can either take a car or a boda-boda.
  • English is widely spoken in Uganda so you should be able to communicate well with the locals.
  • The local currency in Uganda is Ugandan Shilling. One US Dollar is about UGX3,750.
Lush vegetation along the Kampala-Jinja Road

Uganda Itinerary and Expenses

I only had three days in Uganda so I wasn’t able to explore the country as much as I should have. One of the reasons visited Uganda was to see the source of the Nile River. If I had more time, I would have visited the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and see the endangered mountain gorillas. [Check out our list of top things to do in Kampala]

Rubaga Cathedral
Rubaga Cathedral

Day 0-1: Departure from Kenya to Uganda

  • Mash East Africa bus from Nairobi to Kampala. Cost is listed in my Kenya Itinerary and Expenses.
  • Single Entry Visa Cost – USD51.5
  • Taxi from the bus terminal to the hotel: UGX20,000. I was obviously overcharged here but it was raining and I was tired so I settled. He initially asked me to pay UGX25,000. Ideally, you should not pay more than UGX10,000. If you have an internet connection, use Uber.
  • Grocery – UGX36,000. I bought some Ugandan coffee to bring home and some food supply.
  • Lunch – UGX14,500.
  • Boda-boda to the cathedral – UGX4,000.
  • Boda-boda from the cathedral to the national mosque – UGX2,000.
  • Boda-boda from the national mosque to the market – UGX3,000
  • Boda-boda back to Acacia Mall – UGX3,000.
  • Alcogel – UGX7,000.
  • Early Dinner and coffee – UGX30,000
  • Total Expenses Day 0-1: USD83.5 / Php4,345 / UGX312,942
Nile Bridge
Nile Bridge

Day 2: A Visit to the Source of the Nile River

  • Uber to Jinja City – UGX87,000. Jinjia is where the source of the Nile River is located. I could have taken a matatu to save money but since I don’t have a lot of time and I woke up late, I decided to take an Uber instead.
  • Lunch – UGX137,000. I treated my Uber driver for lunch since he agreed to accompany me to the source of the Nile and basically tour me around. It was also my first pork meal after a couple of weeks on the road. This also includes a bag of ground Ugandan coffee from Java House.
  • Entrance to the Source of the Nile – UGX30,000.
  • Parking fee – UGX5,000
  • Uber back to Kampala City – UGX100,000
  • Uber Boda to the bus station to book a bus ticket to Mwanza – UGX3,000.
  • Boda-boda back to the hotel – UGX3,000
  • Water UGX3,000
  • Dinner – UGX12,000
  • Total Expenses Day 2: USD101 / UGX380,000 / Php5,275
Nile River

Day 3: Kampala City Tour + Off to Tanzania

  • Uber Boda to Kasubi Tomb – UGX3,000
  • Boda-boda to Kampala’s Crafts Market – UGX3,000
  • Brunch – UGX17,000
  • Boda-boda to Acacia City Mall – UGX3,000
  • Dinner – UGX27,000
  • Uber Car to the bus station – UGX6,000
  • Bus fare from Kampala to Mwanza, Tanzania – UGX65,000
  • Total Expenses Day 3: USD33 / Php1,720 / UGX124,000

Total Expenses in Uganda: USD217.5 / Php11,320 / UGX815,230

Kampala's Crafts Market
Kampala’s Crafts Market

Travel Tips

  • Buy a local sim to get connected to the internet and avoid getting lost.
  • Exchange some currency to Ugandan Shillings. You can also withdraw cash from the ATM if you have a debit card with Visa or Mastercard logo.
  • Download so you can access an offline map.
  • Use Uber or Bolt (formerly Taxify) as much as possible to avoid getting scammed.
  • Avoid riding unmarked taxis.
  • You can reduce the expenses significantly if you stay in hostels or travel with another person to divide the hotel room cost.
  • Flying with a combination of full-service airline and a low-cost carrier will also help you save money if you are traveling on a budget.
Kampala City
Kampala City

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