ganda has been home to some of the more gruesome atrocities in modern African history since its independence in 1962, particularly under the heinous dictator Idi Amin, but in the years since 1987 things have consistently improved. Today, in 2009, the single party state is relatively stable after 25 years of stereotypically ‘strong man’ rule by Yoweri Museveni. Kampala has changed into a major center of East African trade.
Travel north to Murchison Falls National Park and Ajai Game Reserve is perfectly safe. Note that overlanders from Tanzania and Kenya regularly make the trip routing through Jinja. As in any urban area, Kampala can be dodgy. One is well advised to remain in tourist areas, but sensibly garbed visitors not dangling the latest cameras, flashy jewellery or bulging bags are not likely to draw unwanted attention to themselves.
However, any Caucasians walking in the street stand out and are likely to be stared at openly, which may cause discomfort to those unaccustomed to travelling in Africa. What little begging exists is some of the most polite and inoffensive to be found in African cities. Small children are sadly becoming a nuisance in some rural spots frequented by tourists doling out sweets and coins, but nowhere near the swarming throng one can attract in many cities around the world.
In the gorilla tracking region of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park near the border with the DRC there was one incident in the late 1990’s in which bandits attacked a group of tourists and killed several people. Since then there have been no incidents and all groups now go out with armed guards (which was not the case before). There is a visible security presence in the region, but this is a preventative measure rather than a response to anything specific.
Take precautions against malaria! It is worth seeking out a packet of Artenam while you are in Kampala if you are travelling up-country. Artenam is a reliable treatment and works on chloroquine-resistant malaria strains too. Remember, that many of the lakes have bilharzia. Check with the locals and do not paddle on the lake shore if you’re not sure.
Facts about Uganda -Respect
Uganda has a fairly conservative Christian/Muslim based society. It is not considered acceptable for women to wear skimpy clothing or to have overt displays of sexuality. Most Ugandans go to church / mosque regularly and consider religion an important part of a moral society. Never criticize religion in presence of an Ugandan!
You will not be taken seriously if you wear shorts outside the obvious tourist destinations and no adult Ugandan would ever wear shorts. Use a pair of light trousers to blend in better. Don’t be surprised if you see two men holding hands. They are not gay, since homosexuality is forbidden by law and is indeed punishable. Good friends do this often.