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Grand Escapades’ Budget Guide To Uganda

Simply Overpriced!

Public Transport at Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

Type Of Travel

The type of travel you choose in Uganda will have a direct and significant impact on your travel budget:

  • Either you decide to go on a Safari type of experience, and Uganda will be one of the most expensive countries you can experience, actually much more expensive than other Safari destinations like South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe or parts of Tanzania
  • Or you decide to ignore the National Parks and focus on the actual country, and you can discover Uganda on a tight budget.

I only have a limited experience of the second approach, and will hence focus on the Safari type of travel. If you are on a budget and decide to skip the National Parks, check the excellent website of Viajes Con Mochila (in English).

Of curse, you can have a mix of the 2, backpacking through Uganda and joining one or two of the tours offered by Red Chilli in Kampala. This might create an interesting mix, as those tours are globally very fairly priced, considering the costs of National Park in Uganda.

 

Itinerary & Time Of The Visit

I visited Uganda twice. In August 2011, during 2 weeks, I discovered the string of National Parks in western Uganda, starting with Lake Bunyonyi, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Queen Elisabeth National Park, Kibale Rain Forest, Semliki National Park, Murchison Falls National Park and last but not least Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. The 3rd week, I used Jinja as a base to discover the area.

In January 2017, I spent 2 weeks and refocused on the National Parks I preferred most (except Bwindi, as I went Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda): Lake Bunyonyi, Queen Elisabeth National Park, Kibale Rain Forest, Murchison Falls National Park & Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

 

Global Budget

Uganda, one of the poorest countries on this planet, is NOT cheap… IF you live and move in the tourist bubble that is difficult to avoid when visiting the National Parks!

Actually, if Uganda was already expensive back in 2011, prices have gone through the roof in the last few years, and quotations I received from local agencies were simply OUTRAGEOUS! The probable cause for this is that locals consider that “Mzungus” able to dish out 650 USD for a Gorilla Permit (now 1.500 USD in Rwanda) will be able to pay any ridiculous amount of money. This has created an insane discrepancy between the reality of the country and the prices tourists have to pay in National Parks.

Back in August 2011, we chose the cheapest of the expensive options, a two week private tour for 2.900 USD per person for two weeks (that’s 207 USD per day including a Gorilla Permit), 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 was 500 USD p.p., two Chimpanzee permits at 100 USD p.p. each, National Park fees 30 USD p.p. per day). On top of that, distances are long and a gas sucking 4WD is necessary for most areas…

In January 2017, I was about to give up when I found a new agency, Tour Land Uganda, that offered me an option that was far cheaper than its competition… 2.200 USD for 9 days (that’s 244 USD per day excluding a Gorilla Permit – Mind-Boggling), which already seems mind-bogglingly expensive, especially since I went Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda and not in Uganda!

 

Hostels & Hotels

There is now a very decent range of hostels and small guesthouses in Uganda, offering very reasonable accommodation for a good price. Even in National Parks, accommodation can be comparatively cheap, though at times very basic.

Of course, if you are looking for high-end options, you have a wide range of possibilities, but expect to pay premium prices that will remind you more of Paris or New York than a third world country.

City Hostel / Hotel
Name
Type of
Accommodation
Type of Room Price
per Night (€)
Evaluation
(1 to 5 Stars)
Rutinda / Lake Bunyonyi Bunyonyi View Gorilla Packers Hotel Single Room 33,11 ***
Queen Elisabethh NP River Ishasha Lodge Lodge Single Room 85,14 ****
Queen Elisabethh NP Engiri Game Lodge Lodge Single Room 47,30 ***
Kibale Kibale Forest Camp Lodge Safari Tent with
Shared Bathroom
55,81 ***
Murchison Falls NP Red Chilli Rest Camp Lodge Single Room with
Shares Bathroom
37,84 **
Kampala Red Chilli Hide Out Hostel Single Room with
Shares Bathroom
28,38 ****
Total Uganda 43,99  

 

Restaurants & Food

There are comparatively very few restaurants, and restaurants with a pleasant setting are not cheap! Since I was on a tour, I have a limited experience, though…

City Restaurant
Name
Type of Meal Type of
Restaurant
Price
Food (€)
Evaluation
(1 to 5 Stars)
Rutinda / Lake Bunyonyi Bunyonyi View Gorilla Packers Diner Hotel 6,66 ****
Kampala Red Chilli Hide Away Diner Hotel 6,04 ****
Total Uganda 6,35  

 

Drinks & Going Out

Beer is widespread and cheap in Uganda. If you fancy something else, like international liquors or wine, expect to pay premium prices.

City Bar
Name
Type of Drink Type of
Bar
Price
Drink (€)
Evaluation
(1 to 5 Stars)
Rutinda / Lake Bunyonyi Bunyonyi View Gorilla Packers Beer Hotel 1,31 ****
Ishasha Sector
Queen Elisabeth NP
At the River Ishasha Beer Hotel 1,84 ****
Queen Elisabethh NP Engiri Game Lodge Beer Hotel 1,31 ***
Kibale Kibale Forest Camp Beer Hotel 1,31 ***
Murchison Falls NP Red Chilli Rest Camp Beer Hotel 1,31 ****
Kampala Red Chilli Hide Away Beer Hotel 1,31 ****
Total Uganda 1,40  

 

Transport

From To Ville Type of Transport Distance
Route
(KM)
Travel Duration
(Hours)
Average
Speed
(KM / H)
Gisenyi Rutinda Rutinda Bus 210 4,50 47
Rutinda Ishasha Sector Queen Elisabeth National Park Car 135 4,00 34
Ishasha Sector North Queen Elisabeth NP Queen Elisabeth National Park Car 80 2,00 40
North Queen Elisabth NP Kibale Kibale Car 100 4,00 25
Kibale Murchison Falls
National Park
Murchison Falls National Park Car 440 8,50 52
Murchison Falls National Park Kampala Kampala Car 295 5,00 59

All major cities in Uganda are connected by frequent bus services that travel mostly on paved roads. Nonetheless, reaching most Nationals Parks in reasonable time and above all, traveling within them requires private transport (and not always a 4WD). Self-driving in Uganda is probably only an option if you are very experienced with bad roads and aggressive drivers.

Should you rent a car with driver or use the services of a local agency ?

It is possible to rent a car with driver for approx. 60 USD a day, and a 4WD will cost you approx. 100 USD a day. Except in the middle of the summer (July & August), very few places are fully booked, so you can decide a few days in advance where you should go, or even on the spot…

Worried about permits? Any company can get you a gorilla permit for an extra 50 USD fee (on top of the 650 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.

 

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 significantly.

That said, there is now a decent range of hostels and small guesthouses catering for backpackers and offering very decent and pleasant options.

 

Reduce Costs?

My recommendation? Have a mix of backpacking through Uganda to discover the actual country and join one or two of the tours offered by Red Chilli or a competitor in Kampala (Murchison Falls, Chimpanzees Habituation and of course Gorilla Tracking). This might create an interesting mix, as those tours are globally very fairly priced, considering the costs of National Park in Uganda.

Permits are extremely expensive, though: 650 USD for Gorilla Tracking, 220 USD for Chimpanzees Habituation…

 

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