Nature Friendly Safaris

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Travel tips

30
Apr 2014

Entry and Health Regulations:

Visitors must be in possession of valid visa and health documents on arrival in Uganda or Rwanda . Different regulations are applied according to nationality and country of origin and these should be checked with the nearest tourist office or diplomatic mission.

Diplomatic mission/Uganda/Rwanda Embassy or inoculation centers in the country of origin will provide information and health regulations and recommendations.

 

Accommodation

As regards places of stay, East Africa has a wide variety of accommodation - from five star hotels and first class luxury lodges, to rustic bush camps, guesthouses, hostels and campsites. In a few localities the lodges and hotels are not as luxurious as in some developed countries; there are a plenty of budget accommodation and reasonable lodging, and they provide fairly exotic services. In towns, accommodation ranges from 3-5 star hotels and guesthouses. Upcountry it is of varying standard, often with no running water and electricity, however with solar energy. Travelers must pay in US Dollars except for the smaller guesthouses where the local currencies dominate. Its best to travel with some local currency since a few small towns and lodges are not equipped to accept a traveler’s cheque and credit cards. Some ‘extra’s’ will be added onto your bill, especially in towns, at the airport and in parks – 2-10% service charge and 18% VAT.
Climate

Much of East Africa enjoys a tropical climate with rare uncomfortable extremes of heat. The annual temperature ranges between 21c and 28c however in higher altitudes (mountains of Rwenzori, Kilimanjaro, Kenya Elgon and the Virunga) temperatures are slightly cooler. The greater part of East Africa experiences two rainy seasons; from April-may and October – November, but it can rain at any time of the day, especially in forest ecosystems and Lake Victoria zone near the Equator. June to July and December to January are considerably dry.

Clothing

In the mountainous/ hilly environments, rain wear and warm raps are essential for early mornings and evenings. Light weight casual clothes can be worn all year round with a jacket for early mornings and evenings. Much of East Africa has mild winters and the summer days can get quite hot. On safari keep clothes to a minimum and mostly of neutral colorings of - khakis, browns and greens. A sunhat, sunglasses, sun cream and insect repellant are essential. Local persons appreciate those who maintain a sense of protocol, Try as much as possible not to expose much of your body in public. It is considered inappropriate in some cultures. (See also courtesies)

Communications

The Communication sector is developing at a faster rate in East Africa. There is a wide variety of communication channels for one to choose from. Postal services are fairly well organized thus you should have no problem sending or receiving letters. International call facilities as well as fax facilities exist at the main Post Office and in many Secretarial bureaus. Phone cards can be bought and used in public pay phones. Direct dialing to neighboring countries requires 2 sets of numbers: first the city’s code then the number. International calls require 4 sets of numbers: first the international prefix, then the country code, the city code, and the number. The IDD code for Uganda is +256, Kenya +254 while Tanzania is +255. International telephone communication is very good in East Africa nevertheless; from some upcountry areas it is more difficult. The mobile telephone network is good and rapidly expanding. A European or American mobile phone with a roaming agreement works in East Africa. Some Camps and lodges up country can be accessed by two-way radio communication. There are E-mail and Internet access services in East Africa’s major towns and upcountry centers.

Courtesies

It is usually important to recognize traditional courtesies when visiting another country. The East Africans tend to be so conservative at home but they are well aware of the form in other countries. While a hand shake greeting is normal, clothes such as brief shorts and swimsuits are not acceptable in towns and villages.

Driving

Visiting drivers must hold an International Drivers License. Drivers’ licenses from other countries are not valid. New residents are required to pass a driving test. A person driving into the country on business can have their car admitted without having to pay duty, provided they will not use it for hire or commercial purposes. They will also have to show that the car is owned by themselves or by their company. Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania drive on the left hand side of the road. Rwanda drives on the right-hand side of the road.

Energy / Electricity

Local voltage in East Africa is 240volts, 50 cycle AC. 3-pin (square) sockets. Electric switches generally switch on downwards. Some camps and lodges upcountry do not have power but management can arrange to recharge your batteries from a nearby town at a cost, alternatively a safari vehicle can be used for charging.

Entertainment

East Africa offers a variety of entertainment. There are a number of sporting, dancing and social clubs, theatres and other entertainment in the major towns. Visitors are usually welcomed. Some charge a temporary membership fee. Avoid staying up till late when you are traveling the next day. Interactions and friendly relations are at the prudence of the client, seeking your guide’s advice is important. [See also courtesies] Many of the main hotels have swimming pools, and there are excellent opportunities for golf, tennis and squash in Cities and in several other parts of the region. Football, rugby, tennis and cricket clubs are found in the main towns. Sailing and water-skiing are available on the Indian Ocean and Lake Victoria. Fishermen should head for the lakes and the River Nile.

Getting around

The Business hours for Government offices range from 0800hrs to 1630hrs, Monday to Friday. Bank hours vary from bank to bank but most are open from 0830hrs – 1530hrs, Monday to Friday. Only some are open on Saturdays. Forex bureaus are normally open till 1700hrs and are able to do electronic transfers to and from Overseas. Most banks also have a branch at the Entebbe International Airport to serve incoming and outgoing passengers. Shops are generally open from 0800hrs to 1700hrs, Monday to Friday and 0800hrs to 1300hrs on Saturdays; some in Kampala open from 0600hrs for up to 1600hrs. Main roads are generally good but travel is much slower than on European roads. Secondary roads are of variable standard, often slow and bumpy; some require high four-wheel drive vehicles. Light aircrafts can also be chartered to the main destinations. The major highways are two lane class 6 roads. Driving in East Africa is quite an experience, yet probably the best way to see the country. One however has to be cautious of Pedestrians, Cyclists, wildlife and Livestock on all roads.

Getting there and away

Uganda's main international gateway is the Entebbe International Airport. It is located some 40km south of Kampala, the Capital, in the lakeside town of Entebbe. Its setting makes a spectacular entry to the country with an approach over Lake Victoria. A number of International and regional carriers operate regular flights to and from Entebbe: Air Tanzania, British Airways, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airways, Gulf Air, Kenya Airways, South African Airways and Brussels Airlines. Kanombe, Rwanda’s international airport is about 5km away from Kigali. Several international and regional carriers, including Brussels Airlines, Kenya Airways, South African Airways and Ethiopian airlines operate regular flights to Kanombe.

International Carriers: Brussels Airlines flies four times a week from Brussels direct to Entebbe. British Airways flies three times a week from London, Gatwick. International carriers to Kigali (Kanombe, the main airport) include SN Brussels which flies three times a week. From USA, there are flights to Entebbe and Kigali via London or Brussels, or alternatively clients can fly from New York or Atlanta to Johannesburg with South African Airways and then take a connecting flight.From other parts of Africa Clients can fly into any of the listed African cities and then connect to Entebbe and Kigali. Ethiopian Airways provides connections from Addis Ababa. Kenya Airways flies daily from Nairobi. South African Airways provides connections with Dar-es- Salaam and Johannesburg. Egypt flies weekly from Cairo, only to Entebbe. Air Tanzania provides connections from Dar-es-salaam. Rwanda Air flies from Kigali, Johannesburg and Nairobi. Emirates fly twice a week from Dubai, only to Entebbe.

Domestic Air Services:Some attractions such as Bwindi, Mgahinga, and Kidepo in Uganda are far from Kampala/Entebbe, covering long distances of up to 500km and more with approximate driving time of 8-11 hours. It is advisable, where funds allow, using air charter to these far away locations. Apart from the weekly and sometimes scheduled flights to Arua, Ajdumani and other parts of the North where there are only some attractions, only non-scheduled, chartered aircraft can be used to fly to the other destinations, especially in the Western part of Uganda where most tourist attractions are. The major tourist destinations which are usually in remote parts of the country are always accessible by charter. Some air fields such as Kayonza near Bwindi, Paraa, and Jinja can only accommodate 3-5 seater aircraft. Others such as Kisoro near Mgahinga, Ishasha and Kasese near Bwindi, the Rwenzori Mountains and Queen Elizabeth Park, can accommodate larger aircraft. Much of Rwanda can be reached in a day by road. Some long distances that could require travel by chartered aircraft are; Kigali to Nyungwe/Cyangugu; and Nyungwe/Cyangugu to Ruhengeri. The approximate drive time between any of these localities is about 7 hours. At the moment there are no scheduled flights to these destinations. Small aircraft sitting up to 5 persons can be chartered from Kigali. Chartered aircraft from either Uganda or Rwanda to other countries in the region can also be arranged.

Arrival by Road: The main road border crossings are open at Malaba, Busia, Mutukula, Kisoro, Arua and Lwakhakha for Uganda. The main road border crossings for Rwanda are open at Cyanika, Katuna, Kagitumba, Cyangugu, on the outskirts of L.Tanganyika and a few border points with Tanzania and Burundi. Drivers require a valid international driving license, and must carry their vehicle log books. They will be expected to show adequate third party insurance, and pay a temporary road license.

Arrival by Water: Weekly services to Port Bell from Mwanza in Tanzania are normally provided by Tanzania Railways Corporation in conjunction with Uganda Railways Corporation. This service resumed from February 1999 but it is slow and erratic. The MV Victoria operates on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday between Mwanza, Bukoba and Port Bell. It leaves Mwanza on Sunday at 14.00hrs and arrives at Port Bell at 07.00hrs. It then departs at 16.00hrs same day. Travel to Rwanda by water could be via Lake Tanganyika from Tanzania but this method of arrival into the country is also erratic and travellers would better avoid it.

Gorilla tracking and permits

To track gorillas each person must have the day’s gorilla permit which needs to be arranged and paid for in advance. Each gorilla park (Bwindi and Mgahinga in Uganda and Pa rc National des Volcans [PNV] in Rwanda) has different numbers of permits per day (18, 6 and 32 for Bwindi, Mgahinga and PNV respectively). No person is allowed to track more than three times in three consecutive days. Permits are non-refundable except for medical reasons and a medical certificate has to be provided. To protect gorillas from disease and to avoid problems of arduous conditions in the forests young trackers below the age of 15 and those with illnesses are not allowed to track. Flash photography is not allowed and visitors are advised to use still cameras, at a distance of at least 5 meters away from the animals. Professional filming requires extra fees to be paid. Tracking through the thick jungle, traversing canopies of thick undergrowth can be tough, arduous and wet – the tracking can last from as little as 45 minutes to as much as 9 hours. Trackers therefore need to be well equipped with food and water, strong water-proof clothing and must be fit and healthy. Strong, light clothes could be carried, as well as rain jackets, a torch, sunglasses, a sun hat, gloves to grip vegetation, socks. Use jungle boots, long-sleeved shirt. A walking stick may be needed. Porters can be hired to carry equipment for all trackers (fees range between $5-20 per porter per day). Part of the fees paid to the park authorities goes directly to help local communities around the Protected Area(s).

Health

Visitors from or passing through a yellow fever and cholera zone (most of tropical Africa and South America) may be able to produce a valid International Certificate of Vaccination. Air travellers who only pass through the airports of such a zone are exempt from the requirement. It is also advised that all travellers be vaccinated against Meningitis, Typhoid and Hepatitis. As East Africa is within a malaria zone, visitors should also take prophylactics against malaria although the best way to avoid catching malaria is to avoid bites by using mosquito repellent and sleeping under a mosquito net. For your own comfort take a mosquito repellent. Mosquito nets are provided in most hotels, lodges and camps. Precautions should be taken against malaria both when visitors are in the country, and when they return home. It is advisable to drink only boiled or bottled water and avoid swimming in ponds and still water pools. While doctors and dentists are available throughout many areas of the country, the major hospitals are located in the main towns. Bring any special medication you may need, and carry medical insurance. Most chemists in the major towns are open from 08h30 to 12h30 and 14h00 to 17h00 Monday to Friday and 08h00 to 13h00 on Saturdays. There are no emergency chemists open after hours or Sundays.

Swimming in some lakes is not recommended except in designated areas. Consult our itineraries or ask your guide for bilharzias-free lakes open to swimmers.
Medical Insurance should be purchased before you leave your own country and should include emergency air evacuation coverage if you’re spending any time in remote parts of the country. There are some medical rescue organisations available.

Insurance

East Africa is served by a number of insurance companies covering a wide range of insurance policies. Visitors who are interested in local insurance cover policies are advised to purchase a third party insurance which can be obtained at the border or airport for a nominal fee. Evacuation insurance Clients are also advised to purchase evacuation insurance before traveling. This covers evacuation in case of an accident, health difficulties, etc. Evacuation insurance for mountaineering in the Rwenzoris and Kilimanjaro are covered in this package.

Health insurance

It is advisable that clients purchase the necessary health insurance for themselves. The company will not be held liable for sickness of a client as a direct or indirect consequence of traveling. Travel Insurance is a condition of booking that all clients must have, and demonstrate to the company prior to their departure, adequate insurance for the duration of the tour. Such insurance should fully cover death; personal injury; loss; accident; medical expenses; repatriation in the case of accident, illness or death; cancellation or curtailment of the tour by the company or client; and loss of, damage to, or theft of the clients’ personal property. Activities with a greater inherent risk, such as mountaineering, animal tracking, water rafting, swimming in lakes, should be covered.

Language

There are very many dialects spoken in East Africa which is a reflection of East Africa’s multi-tribal society. English, Swahili and French (Rwanda) are the official languages and most people are able to communicate fluently in English. All media and business is in English and most people speak it fairly well. Swahili is the next most commonly understood language in the East African region, Swahili, English and French are widely spoken and understood in Rwanda. French and Kinyarwanda are the official languages.

Laundry

Most hotels and lodges will offer a laundry service. For low budget travellers there are no coin operated Laundromats at all so consider drip dry clothing and be prepared for hand washing. In most places one could hire someone to do your washing.

Laws applicable to you

The importation and exportation of game trophies is prohibited by law. Offenders will be persecuted to the full extent of the law. Souvenirs may be exported without restriction but game trophies such as tooth, bone, horn, shell, claw, skin, hair, feather or other durable items are subject to export permits. Foreigners are not allowed to engage in the local politics.

Media

East Africa is awakening to reading and writing. A number of Newspapers are being published. The quality of the news content reveals East Africa’s prestigious quality education and training which has been a source of envy in the whole of Africa. East Africa (Uganda) boasts of the first and most prestigious Journalism and Mass communication Institute which plays a big role in replenishing East Africa's scribe folk. Many international newspapers and magazines are available in major hotels, restaurants, government and travel agencies.

Money

Clients are advised not to carry too much money around. Our safaris are all-inclusive and except for a need to tip, buy souvenirs and a few meals in towns, there may be nothing else in relation to your safari that you need to buy. It is best to budget for around US$30-50 a day as a reasonable minimum. Kampala is well serviced with banks. International Banks include Stanbic, Allied Bank, Barclays, Standard Chartered, and Tropical Africa Bank. The unit of currency in Uganda is the Ugandan Shilling (UGX). There are coins in the following denominations: 50, 100, 200, 500; and notes in the following denominations: 1000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000 in circulation concurrently with British Pounds Sterling, US Dollars, Euro, Japanese Yen, SA Rand notes. Kigali is well serviced with a few international banks, such as Stanbic, and a few modern local ones such as the Bank of Rwanda and the Bank de Kigali. The unit of currency in Rwanda is the Rwandan Franc (RWF). Coins in this currency are in the following denominations: 10, 20, 50, 100; and notes in some of the following denominations: 500, 1000, 5000, 10000 in circulation concurrently with British Pounds Sterling, US Dollars, Euro, Japanese Yen (rare), SA Rand notes.

There are no restrictions on importation or exportation of currency into or out of East Africa although any monies over US$5000 have to be declared to customs officials. Licensed Forex Bureaus can be found in all major urban areas and are abundant. Rwanda has no forex bureau to date but money can be exchanged from some international hotels and banks in Kigali. Some licensed individuals also exchange cash in Kigali and at borders. It is best to consult your guide for advice on the licensed and trustworthy money exchange agents. Individual Agents and forex bureaus will gladly exchange. It is safest to carry US Dollars. When changing traveller’s cheque a valid passport may be required, and the exchange rate for these could be less than that for real money notes. Some agencies may ask for your Sales Advice Slip. It is also important to note that small denomination bills of US$1, 5, 10, and 20 are changed at a substantially reduced rate, as are torn and soiled notes. This can be as much as a 5% difference or more.

Credit cards:Most hotels, restaurants, banks, travel agencies and the bigger shops will take credit cards in East Africa. Only a few hotels and banks in Kigali will accept credit cards. Most of the bigger banks and hotels will advance local currency against a credit card. The most commonly accepted credit cards are VISA, MASTER CARD, DINNER'S & AMERICAN EXPRESS.

Photography Before taking pictures of people it is polite to ask. Photographs should not be taken of people or religious ceremonies without their consent. Photography of the airport or strategic buildings, military installations and soldiers is NOT allowed. Bring sufficient films, including fast film for gorilla tracking and batteries although these can readily be bought. Only print film and processing is available, not slide. Keep your cameras in a dust resistant, padded case and out of the midday sun. A 200mm (or longer) telephoto lens will prove very useful on safari. Commercial photographers should consult the Ministry of Information for a permit.

Politics

The government of Uganda is elected a multi-party system general election every five years. The current government is led by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who was elected in the 2006 General Election. The government of Rwanda is elected multi-party system. The current government is led by President Paul Kagame who was elected in August 2003 in a general election. AFFILIATION – International, Commonwealth, GATT, ILO, IMF, NAM, UN, WB, WHO. Regional: African Development Bank, Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), OAU (now AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Preferential Trade Area (PTA) and East African Community (EAC). Rwanda is not yet a member of the EAC. Foreign visitors and tourists are not allowed to engage in local politics.

Public Holidays

It is important to note that Tourism being a year-round activity, these holidays do not affect the operations of travel agencies/tour operators, national parks and other tourism-service providers. The following are public holidays in Uganda on which offices, including banks and diplomatic missions, may not open: New Years Day (1st Jan); Good Friday (variable); Easter Monday (variable); NRM ruling Government Anniversary Day (26th January); International Women's Day (8th March); Labour Day (1st May); Uganda Martyr's Day (3rd June); National Heroes Day (9th June); Independence Day (9th October); Christmas Day (25th December); Boxing Day (26th December); Idd-el-Fitr (variable); Iddi Adhuha (variable).

On safari

Always remember that while some animals have become accustomed to the presence of people they are still wild animals. Keep your distance. It is illegal to feed any animal, make excessive noise to attract their attention, or to agitate and scare an animal, or deviate from designated roads for that closer photograph. Never get out of your vehicle except at designated points. Close all windows and zippers when you leave your room or tent and spray it with insect repellant.

Safety and Security Be quite alert when walking around carrying anything of value. As in all countries petty theft, including pickpockets is around in some places. Do not walk around at night unescorted before seeking advice. If possible, never leave your vehicle unattended and never change money on the streets. This is less of a problem in the rural areas. Carry minimum amounts of cash and keep it hidden or in a money belt, if possible. Secure your belongings such as passport or airline tickets and other valuables and documents; use safe deposit boxes where available. For the most part, however, East Africans are very friendly and helpful. If in doubt seek local advice. For specific questions on current security conditions please contact us.

Taxes
Departure tax was incorporated within the cost of the air-ticket. The following items may be imported into Uganda without incurring customs duty – these are duty free goods: 400 cigarettes or 500g of tobacco; one bottle of spirits and wine and 2.5 liters of beer (opened); 1oz bottle of perfume. Bona fide baggage, the property of and accompanying the passenger, may be imported into the country duty-free provided the goods are re-exported at the end of the stay. Duty-free allowances of consumables is as follows: Spirits, wines and liquors - In total, one (1) liter; Perfume and toilet paper - In total 500ml; Cigarettes, cigars, tobacco - In total 250gms.

Time
East Africa is GMT +3 hrs.

Transport Nature Friendly Safaris arranges your transportation while on the tour. Whether you need self-drive or chauffer/guide driven, we will arrange it for you. We charge a daily rate including fuel, mileage and government taxes. All clients purchasing a full safari or holiday from us need to have their own comprehensive Travel insurance. We can also arrange chartered aircraft to the various airfields.

Visas

A visa is a clearance permitting an individual to proceed to visit another country. Ugandan visas are issued at its Missions/Embassies abroad and also at the Entry/Exit Points such as Entebbe airport, Busia, Malaba, Cyanika, Katuna, etc. Underlying the Uganda Visa Policy is the principle of reciprocity that is, all countries that require visas for Ugandans are also visa prone in Uganda. Ugandan visas are required by the citizens of the European Union, the USA and Japan. Not required by nationals of many African countries, Bahamas, Seychelles, Jamaica, Mauritius, Madagascar, Italy (only Diplomatic Passports) and Cyprus. Other nationals should check. A valid passport with enough leafs for visa stamping and monitoring is mandatory in all cases. For a stay not exceeding 6 months, the single-entry visa fee is US$30 for Uganda; the multiple entry visa fee is about US$80. Others who need longer periods, as well as those who require Inland transit and student visa categories should check.

Weather

The East African region is astride the Equator. As a result the climate does not change much and the region can be visited throughout the year. The rainy seasons tend to be from March to April and October to November, but this varies in different areas and it can rain any time of year, especially in the forest and mountainous areas. Travel can be slower in the rainy season but the views are often better. Gorilla tracking can be muddier but it can certainly be done. In the mountainous areas it is much colder than on the plains and the rainfall is greater. The temperatures on the plains tend to be between 21°C and 30°C and in the mountainous areas they can go down to 10°C in certain months. So our advice is to travel when it is most convenient and usually the rain, which is often for short periods, is part of the great experience.

A client may avoid tracking in the named rainy season only to find that it pours throughout his visit during another period! For this reason camps and lodges are not closed during the rainy season as they do in savannah countries. It is important to be well equipped at all times and follow your guide’s advice.

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