Uganda - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel. 

Last published date: 2021-11-12

Business Customs

Ugandan business people value decision-making through consensus and place a strong emphasis on developing relationships.  Ugandans place high importance on protocol and begin most meetings with introductions, including the participants’ business backgrounds and families, so all parties are comfortable working with each other.  As a result, business transactions take time as parties build their relationships.  A trusted third-party introduction eases familiarity and makes contact with a Ugandan business easier.  An introduction from a mutual friend, acquaintance, or known business associate before initial contact can help alleviate some of the problems prior to initial correspondence or meetings.  The U.S. Embassy’s Commercial Section has contacts within government agencies and the business community and can facilitate introductions.  Formality is common in Ugandan business transactions.  Ugandans consider it polite to address contacts using their titles such as Honorable (for members of parliament and ministers), Mr., Mrs., Miss, Dr., followed by the family name.  It may be regarded presumptuous to address someone by their first name during initial meetings. 

Successful investments in Uganda require numerous business meetings, with a strong preference for face-to-face discussions over telephone calls or emails.  Uganda is a hierarchical society, so we recommend that investors request initial meetings with the top official in the organization.  

While introductions may be formal, business meetings tend to be informally structured, often lacking agendas.  It is not unusual for other people to be called into the meeting after the meeting starts.  We recommend that potential investors identify the business official in charge of decision-making before an introductory meeting.  Ugandans dress formally for business meetings.  Normal business attire consists of a suit and tie for men and suit or dress for women.  Open collar shirts and slacks may be worn to more informal meetings.

Travel Advisory

For the latest travel-related information, please see the consular information sheet for Uganda at U.S. Passports & International Travel - Uganda.

Visa Requirements

The Ugandan immigration service requires visitors to apply for visas online via Uganda’s eVisa application system prior to their arrival and present a confirmation barcode at the airport.  Please apply at least three weeks prior to departure.  Per the Ugandan Embassy website (Embassy of the Republic of Uganda - Visa Requirements; http://washington.mofa.go.ug/visa/uganda-electronic-visapermit-application-system) a single-entry visa costs $50, a multiple-entry visa costs $100, and an East Africa tourist visa valid in Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya costs $100.  As of July 2021, the Ministry of Health requires that COVID-19 tests be taken at an approved facility within 72 hours of departure for both inbound and outbound travel to/from Uganda for all travelers, regardless of vaccination status.  As of July 2021, arrivals from Category 1 (India) and Category 2 countries (USA, UK, UAE, Turkey, South Africa, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, and Tanzania) to Uganda will be subjected to PCR COVID-19 testing on arrival.  Fully vaccinated, asymptomatic travelers from Category 2 countries with proof of vaccination status will be exempted from the arrival PCR test. However, these procedures are not always uniformly implemented.

Visa requirements, Embassy of the Republic of Uganda in Washington, D.C.:

Embassy of the Republic of Uganda – Visa Requirements: http://washington.mofa.go.ug/visa/uganda-electronic-visapermit-application-system

Uganda eVisa: https://visas.immigration.go.ug/

https://visas.immigration.go.ug/

U.S. Embassy to Uganda’s Consular website:

U.S. Embassy in Uganda - U.S. Citizen Services

U.S. Embassy in Uganda – COVID-19 Information

Currency

The official currency for Uganda is the Ugandan shilling (UGX), which trades freely on the open market.  As of July 31, 2021 the exchange rate was UGX 3545.8 to $1.  Major commercial bank ATMs are available in all major towns and hotels.  Real estate transactions and large import orders are conducted in USD, while day-to-day transactions are conducted in shillings.  Some hotels may take payment in USD and most large-scale chain hotels will take credit card payments.  Outside of major hotels, major supermarkets, stores in shopping malls, and some restaurants, few businesses accept credit cards and U.S. investors are encouraged to have sufficient cash on hand for transactions.

Telecommunications/Electronics

The largest telecommunication companies in Uganda are:  MTN, Airtel, Uganda Telecom, Africell, Smile Telecom, and  Smart Telecom.  The mobile phone network covers urban and most rural areas, though reception quality can be erratic.  SIM cards for U.S. visitors coming to Uganda with compatible triband phones cost less than $2 and are available at authorized telecommunications offices.  To purchase and register a new SIM card, customers must present their passport, and provide a passport photo and a copy of their passport bio data page.  A satellite telephone is recommended for persons working in remote areas.  U.S. cell phones work in Uganda in roaming mode.  T-Mobile’s international service works through its partnership with local networks.  Google Project Fi also works in partnership with local networks.  WiFi is readily available in major hotels across Uganda, although speeds may vary.

Electrical outlets in Uganda operate at 220 watts on G-type plugs.  Uganda’s underdeveloped power distribution network results in frequent power surges.  A surge protector is highly recommended for travelers. 

Ugandans, especially in urban areas, increasingly rely on WhatsApp text messages as their primary method of communication, for personal and business needs.  Many Ugandans check their email infrequently and often miss messages.  Fax and copying services are available in shops in Kampala and at major hotels.

Transportation

Although the government has invested heavily in the country’s road network and several major highways have been improved, many roads are in poor condition.  Paved roads connect Kampala to border crossings with Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Tanzania.  Uganda’s first four-lane expressway between Kampala and Entebbe opened in June 2018.  Due to poor drainage, driving conditions worsen during the rainy season.  With vehicle ownership in Kampala increasing 10% per year, unpredictable traffic congestion continues to worsen.  Routine trips across Kampala can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.  Secondary roads throughout the country remain undeveloped and a vehicle with high clearance is strongly recommended.

Uganda’s public transport system is unreliable and dangerous.  Fourteen-seat commuter buses (referred to locally as “taxis” or “matatus”) are used within the cities and for long-distance travel.  Due to poor vehicle maintenance, rough road conditions, and aggressive driving, these buses are neither safe nor reliable.  Larger 62-seater buses are also used for long distance travel, but there have been concerns over their safety due to accidents on major highways in part due to speeding and reckless driving.  Uber has become a prevalent means of transportation and is considered safe to use.

Entebbe International Airport offers non-stop flights to regional, European, and Middle Eastern destinations.  Frequent regional flights include: Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Addis Ababa, Juba, Mogadishu, Kinshasa, Bujumbura, and Kigali.  Other non-stop international destinations include: Johannesburg, Cairo, Istanbul, Dubai, Doha, Brussels, and Amsterdam.  There are no direct flights to the United States, although Delta and United offer codeshares with European, African, and Middle Eastern carriers.  Small private carriers recently have established scheduled commercial services between Entebbe and several domestic safari sites popular with tourists.  Uganda relaunched its national airline (Uganda Airlines) in July 2019 with four Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft operating on routes in East and Central Africa. The airline also acquired two Airbus A330neo aircraft, delivered in December 2020 and February 2021, aimed at extending the airline’s routes to Europe, the Middle East, and China.  It is still unclear when these flights will commence. 

Language

English (British English) is the official language of Uganda.  Bantu languages dominate in areas south of Lake Kyoga, while Nilotic languages dominate in the North.  Swahili is commonly used near Uganda’s borders with Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Health

Travelers are encouraged to carry their own medical supplies as some medications are either not available in Uganda or only available in generic form.  According to the World Health Organization, as of July 2021, Uganda has administered at least 1,110,867 doses of COVID-19 vaccines,  reaching only about 1.3% of the country’s population.  As of July 2021, the Ministry of Health requires that COVID-19 tests be taken at an approved facility within 72 hours of departure for both inbound and outbound travel to/from Uganda for all travelers, regardless of vaccination status.  Malaria is widespread and the use of appropriate prophylaxis and bed nets is strongly recommended to lower the risk of contracting malaria.  Typhoid fever and Hepatitis A and B immunizations are also recommended as is the meningococcal immunization.  Yellow fever is particularly present in northern Uganda, but can be reliably prevented with the required Yellow Fever vaccine.  Uganda requires proof of Yellow Fever immunization to enter the country.  Please be sure to have your immunization card appropriately stamped with the Yellow Fever immunization stamp.  Due to poor sanitation  throughout Uganda, enteric diseases including E. Coli, giardia, amoebic dysentery, and shigella are common.  Travelers should not eat roadside foods and are encouraged to drink bottled water as typhoid and cholera outbreaks are common.  Although tap water is treated, water from taps is not potable and should be boiled for five minutes and filtered before drinking.  Fruits and vegetables should be soaked for 20 minutes in chlorinated water if they are to be eaten uncooked.  Most lakes and rivers are infested with bilharzia, limiting water-based recreation.  Restaurant food should be hot and cooked.  Uncooked foods, salads, and fruits without their peels should be avoided as they could cause enteric diseases.  Stray animals, to include cats and dogs, should be avoided as they may carry rabies.  Adult HIV prevalence is about 6.2% (7.6% among women and 4.7% among men).  Prevalence is much higher in major cities and regions that depend on cross-border trade. 

Health conditions rapidly change and travelers are advised to visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Uganda website for the latest information on local health conditions: 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Health Information for Travelers to Uganda Traveler View

If you need to consult a doctor, please check with the receptionist at your hotel.  Pharmacies in Uganda are usually open from 8:00 a.m. to about 9:00 p.m., and on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  A few pharmacies open on Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 

Private Hospitals:

International Hospital Kampala

4686 Barnabas Rd, Kampala, Uganda

Tel: +256 (312) 200400

 

Medipal International Hospital

John Babiha (Acacia) Ave, Kampala

Tel: +256 (417) 799900

https://medipalhospital.com/

 

Nakasero Hospital

Plot 14A Akii-Bua Road, Nakasero, Kampala, Uganda

Tel: +256 (414) 346150

http://nakaserohospital.com/

 

Unihealth Medical Centre (UMC) Victoria Hospital

Plot 1495 Bukoto, Kira Road, Kampala, Uganda

Tel: +256 (772) 406612

https://www.uganda.umchospitals.com/

Clinics:

  • The Surgery 
  • Plot 42 Naggulu Drive, Naguru, Kampala, Uganda
  • Tel: +256 (312) 256 001/2/3
  • AAR Health Service
  • Plot 6 Makindu Close (off Windsor Crescent), Kololo, Kampala, Uganda
  • Tel: +256 (414) 258615
  • International Medical Group Clinics
  • Plot 37, Yusuf Lule Road, Nakasero, Kampala, Uganda
  • Tel: +256 (312) 188 800
  • The Clinic
  • 2nd Floor, The Village Mall, Plot 47A Spring Road, Bugolobi, Kampala, Uganda
  • Tel:  +256 (392) 177 283

Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays

Uganda is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and does not observe daylight savings time.  Office hours typically are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, though in practice, office hours vary and workers frequently go home by noon on Friday.  

The following is a list of official holidays in Uganda for 2021:

Date

Day

Holiday

January 1

Wednesday

New Year’s Day

January 26

Monday

Liberation Day

February 16

Tuesday

Janan Luwum Day

March 8

Monday

Women’s Day

April 2

Friday

Good Friday

April 5

Monday

Easter Monday

May 1

Saturday

Labor Day

May 12

Wedesday

Presidential Inuaguration Day

May 13*

Monday

Eid al-Fitr

June 3

Thursday

Martyrs’ Day

June 9

Wednesday

National Hero’s Day

June 25

Friday

National COVID-19 Prayer Day

July 20*

Friday

Eid al-Adha

October 9

Saturday

Independence Day

December 25

Saturday

Christmas

December 26

Sunday            

Boxing Day

 

* Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are based on the Islamic lunar calendar and the precise dates will be determined later based on the sighting of the moon.

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

Persons bringing goods into Uganda temporarily need to execute a bond through a clearing agent.  Personal effects typically are not taxed, though a sizeable consignment of personal effects might attract the attention of Ugandan Customs and a person bringing in such a consignment should contact a clearing agent.

Travel Related Resources