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Budget Guide To Uganda

Grand Escapades’ Budget Guide To Uganda – Killing Your Budget?

Gilles, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, North Uganda, Africa

Gilles, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, North Uganda, Africa

Type Of Travel

We decided to use the services of a local Tour Operator to visit a string of National Parks in the West of the country during two weeks. The third week, we splurged at the cozy 2Friends Guesthouse in Jinja. So this ended up as one of the most high-end and most expensive trips we have ever done!

Itinerary & Time Of The Visit

In August 2011, we visited the string of National Parks in western Uganda, starting with Lake Byunyonyi, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Queen Elisabeth National Park including the Ishasha Sector, Kibale Rain Forest, Semliki National Park, Murchison Falls National Park including Budongo Forest and last but not least Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. This journey can leisurely be done in two weeks. Kidepo National Park in the north east we skipped, too remote and too expensive.

2 Friends Guesthouse, Jinja, Uganda, Africa - Definitely one of the best and most pleasant places we ever stayed in!

2 Friends Guesthouse, Jinja, Uganda, Africa – Definitely one of the best and most pleasant places we ever stayed in!

The third week, we crashed at the fabulous 2Friends Guesthouse in Jinja and used it as a base for numerous activities and outings, like walking to the source of the Nile, marveling at soon to – disappear Bujagali Falls and volunteering at Soft Power Education. Last but not least, we did some serious rafting over grade 5 Rapids on the Nile.

Rafting the Sources of the Nile with N.R.E., Nile Rafting Explorer, near Jinja, Uganda

Rafting the Sources of the Nile with N.R.E., Nile Rafting Explorer, near Jinja, Uganda

Global Budget

Uganda, one of the poorest countries, is NOT cheap… IF you live and move in the “tourist bubble”. That is difficult to avoid when visiting the National Parks in a reasonable time!

We chose the cheapest of the expensive options, a two week private tour for 2.900 USD per person for two weeks, including pretty much everything (transport, accommodation, three meals, all permits, park fees).

What makes such a trip so costly? Permits and park fees are a big chunk (gorilla permit 500 USD p.p., two Chimpanzee permits at 100 USD p.p. each, National Park fees 30 USD p.p. per day). Accommodation in the national parks is absurdly expensive or rock bottom. On top of that, distances are long and a gas sucking 4WD is necessary for many areas. The price for gasoline was 1.5 USD per liter at that time and yes, you burn an embarrassing lot.

Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Beringei), Family Habinyanja, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, West Uganda, Africa

Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Beringei), Family Habinyanja, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, West Uganda, Africa

If you throw in a day of rafting plus a photo CD, add another 150 USD, a few nights in the cozy 2 Friends Guesthouse in Jinja for 110 USD per night and you get the whole picture…

It never felt as if we were deliberately throwing money around, it just burned at an unbelievable pace! So we end up spending around 4.000 USD per person for 3 weeks, plus 1.000 USD for the flight. That makes it the most expensive trip we ever did.

Hostels & Hotels

This was part of the Tour, we have no split about those costs

Restaurants & Food

This was part of the Tour, we have no split about those costs

Drinks & Going Out

This was part of the Tour, we have no split about those costs

Transport – Tour operator, car rental or public transport?

All major cities in Uganda are connected by frequent bus services that travel mostly on paved roads, but this is not where and how the “Mzungos” travel. The Nationals Parks is where they are heading. To get there, and above all in reasonable time requires private transport.

Lion (Panthera Leo), Murchison Falls National Park, North Uganda, Africa

Lion (Panthera Leo), Murchison Falls National Park, North Uganda, Africa

Would we use again the service of a tour operator to visit the National Parks in western Uganda? Probably not, but rent a car with a driver instead. Of course a tour operator gets better rates at the really expensive lodges in the National Parks, organizes your permits, knows the best lodges, no time is wasted with decision making and the drivers are very experienced.

But we simply missed the flexibility to stay and stop and yes, weigh the pros and cons of doing so. No matter how well you plan, some things pop along the road, like the fishing village of Butiaba or the Salt Garden at Kibero. It always seemed an annoyance to ask for these changes and extra miles. At times, it was simply impossible.

Worried about permits? Any company can get you a gorilla permit for an extra 50 USD fee (on top of the 500 USD, of course). On a short notice this might be challenging in the high season, but for one or two persons it is not impossible. Chimpanzee permits are much easier to get and can even be arranged at the park itself, without notice.

And of course, traveling during the high season requires a certain amount of planning unless you do not mind pitching a tent at the many camp sites, if certain lodges are booked.

More than full - The public transport: up to 5 people on a motorbike, up to 11 people in a normal car, and we stopped counting on mini buses, buses or trucks…

More than full – The public transport: up to 5 people on a motorbike, up to 11 people in a normal car, and we stopped counting on mini buses, buses or trucks…

Tours & Activities

See above

Splurge At Reasonable Costs?

As always, travel in Africa is high-end or rock bottom. Anything close to Western standards cost Western prices. So any splurge will immediately affect your budget.

That said, we observed an increasing number of backpackers in Uganda (as in large parts of East Africa), so things are obviously widely improving in this field.

Reduce Costs?

Concentrate on a few highlights near or on main bus routes, like Murchison Falls National Park, Budongo Forest for Chimp tracking or the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Then use local transport, like motor-bike taxis, for the final leg. No matter what, do not skip the mountain gorillas, they are too unique!

There are a few hostels / backpacker options around the main attractions, like Red Chilli in Kampala and Murchison Falls National Park or the Explorer Backpackers in Jinja.

In Jinja, Uganda

In Jinja, Uganda

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2 Responses to Budget Guide To Uganda

  1. Julioa 16. August 2016 at 13:14 #

    Thanks very much for the report, it will help many to truely understand the meaning of trips especially to African Countries like Uganda where the trip was based. Not wondering why Uganda is called a pearl of Africa, its because of the gifted nature it is.
    Yes transport remains a great challenge when organizing private trips to Uganda since most of the National parks are not near the main roads or airports for example one has to Drive for 8 hours on road to rich Bwindi and the whole day to reach to Kidepo. Worse of it even some parks which can be directly accessed by public means, their is a lot of over loading by public transport making the trip to be at great risk and not enjoyable.
    Its also nice to advise fellow travelers to rely on tour operators for they are efficient and trusted since they are local based they can bargain much and may not charge you high for the trip.

    Iam sorry for some challenges they happen in life when ever things are done though i ask up on all operators to be professional when carrying out their duties if any changes are to be made consult your client and make changes together not to rush accept payments then laiter change your mind for the benefit of your side and affecting the client side.
    Thanks may God bless Uganda!!

    • Gilles Barbier 17. August 2016 at 3:01 #

      Hi Julioa,
      Thanks for your kind feedback.
      Of course tour operators can make things much easier, but independent trip is also possible in Uganda, depending on your expectations, budget and the time you are ready to invest preparing for the trip…
      And yes, Uganda is an amazing destination
      Cheers, Gilles

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