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Home / General Travel Tips /
XYZ Consular Info: Uganda

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XYZ Consular Info: Uganda

Uganda Consular Information Sheet
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
April 29, 2002
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Uganda is a developing east African nation. Infrastructure is adequate in Kampala, the capital, but it is limited in other areas.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. U.S. citizens can obtain a visa either at the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda in Washington, D.C. or on arrival at Entebbe Airport, near Kampala Further information may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda, 5909 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011; telephone (202) 726-7100; web site: www.ugandaembassy.com; e-mail: ugembassy@aol.com. Information may also be obtained at the Ugandan Permanent Mission to the United Nations, telephone (212) 949-0110. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Ugandan embassy or consulate.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: U.S. citizens living in or planning to visit Uganda should be aware of threats to their safety from insurgent groups, particularly in the northern region near the border with Sudan, and the western region near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These groups have at times specifically targeted U.S. citizens. They have engaged in murder, armed attacks, kidnapping, and the placement of land mines. Although isolated, incidents occur with little or no warning. Armed banditry is common in Karamoja (northeastern Uganda).
Due to potential security concerns, U.S. government employees must have permission from the Chief of Mission to visit the following districts: Kotido, Moroto, Nakapiritpiriti, Apac, Lira, Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Arua, Nebbi, Kisoro, Kanungu, Kasese, Yumbe, Moyo, Adjumani, and Bundibugyo. The above-named districts include districts containing all or part of several national parks. Tourists contemplating travel in any of these districts are advised to seek the latest security information from Ugandan authorities, tour operators, and the U.S. embassy.
The Government of Uganda has taken significant steps to improve security in national parks since the 1999 attack in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park that claimed the lives of American and other tourists. Continuing instability in Congo and parts of northern Rwanda make parks in the border area potentially vulnerable to incursion by rebel and vigilante groups operating in Congo and Rwanda. The Ugandan army, charged with the safety and welfare of travelers, accompanies tourists on gorilla tracking and has greatly increased its presence in the parks. The U.S. Embassy currently recommends against travel to Mgahinga National Park due to continuing rebel activity across the Congolese/Rwandan border. There are security concerns associated with pre-dawn driving if one chooses to use accommodations located far away from the gorilla parks. In addition to the general risks of higher accident rates, pre-dawn and nighttime driving also increase the risk of banditry. Rwenzori National Park has recently been reopened by the Ugandan Government in response to decreased rebel activity on the eastern slope of the Rwenzori Mountains and environs.
There have been periodic bomb attacks at various public places in Kampala, most recently in March 2001, when three bombs were detonated. As a general rule, U.S. citizens in Kampala should exercise caution and be alert when visiting both indoor and outdoor public facilities such as bars, restaurants, hotels, and markets, as well as when using local and inter-city public van service ("matutus") and larger buses.
The Peace Corps, which suspended operations in May 1999, resumed operations in March 2001.
REGIONAL TERRORISM: Rwandan rebel factions with anti-Western and anti-American ideologies are known to operate in areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo that border Uganda. One such rebel group is believed to be responsible for the March 1999 kidnapping and murder of several tourists in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in western Uganda, as well as the August 1998 abduction of three tourists in a Congolese national park contiguous with Uganda's Mgahinga National Park.
CRIME: Armed home burglaries sometimes turn violent. In two separate home burglary incidents in 2001, one American was shot dead and two were wounded by gunshots. Incidents of armed vehicle carjackings and armed highway robbery are frequent throughout the country. Although these attacks are often violent, victims are generally injured only if they resist. U.S. Embassy employees are generally advised against using roads at night in non-urban areas. Carjackings sometimes take place on the road from Entebbe Airport to Kampala. Females traveling alone are particularly susceptible to crime. Crimes such as pickpocketing, purse snatching, and thefts from parked vehicles or vehicles stalled in traffic jams are common. These offenses also occur on public transportation. Passengers should not accept food or drink from a stranger, even a child, because such food may contain narcotics used to incapacitate a victim and facilitate a robbery.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The pamphlets, "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa," provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available at the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page, http://travel.state.gov, and from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 or via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities in Uganda, including Kampala, are limited and not equipped to handle most emergencies, especially those requiring surgery. Outside Kampala, hospitals are scarce and offer only basic services. Equipment and medicines are often in short supply or unavailable.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at telephone 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC's Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Uganda is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Most inter-city transportation in Uganda is by small van or large bus. Many drivers of these vehicles have little or no training and are often reckless. These vehicles are usually poorly maintained, travel at high speeds, and are the principal ones involved in the many single and multi-vehicle accidents along Ugandan roads. Large trucks on the highways are often precariously over-loaded with cargo inadequately secured. Alcohol frequently is a contributing factor in road accidents, particularly at night. Drivers are advised to take extra care when driving. Driving standards are low, vehicles are often poorly maintained, large potholes are ubiquitous, and adequate signage and shoulders are almost non-existent. Highway travel at night is particularly dangerous. Pedestrians often walk in the roads and may not be visible to motorists. Large branches or rocks in the road sometimes indicate an upcoming obstruction or other hazard.
Traffic accidents draw crowds. Ugandan law requires that the driver stop and exchange information and assist. In some cases where serious injury has occurred, there is the possibility of mob anger. In these instances, Ugandans often do not get out of their cars, but drive to the nearest police station to report the accident.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Ugandan driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Uganda Tourist Board, IPS Building 14, Parliament Avenue, Kampala, Uganda; telephone 256-41-242-196/7. You may also consult the web site: http://ugandaweb.com/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the United States and Uganda, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Uganda's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Ugandan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the importation of pets. A Ugandan import permit is required along with a current USDA certified health certificate and vaccination certificates. It is advisable to contact the Ugandan Embassy in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Ugandan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Uganda are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Once imprisoned in Uganda, there are frequently long delays in judicial processing. Food, sanitation, and medical care in the overcrowded Ugandan prisons are poor.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: ATM machines in Uganda are available, particularly in downtown Kampala, but they do not yet function with overseas accounts.
PHOTOGRAPHY PROHIBITION: Photography in tourist locations is permitted. However, taking pictures of military/police installations or personnel is prohibited. Military and police officers have also detained tourists for taking photographs of part of Entebbe Airport and of the area around Owen Falls Dam.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our web site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Kampala and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Uganda. The chancery is located at Gaba Road, Kansanga, Kampala; telephone 256-41-234-142; fax 256-41-258-451; e-mail: uscons@infocom.co.ug.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet of March 16, 2001 to update the sections on Entry Requirements, Safety and Security, Regional Terrorism, Crime, Medical Insurance, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Customs Regulations, and Special Circumstances.