Ultimate Budget Backpacking Guide to Uganda: Entebbe to Bwindi Adventure

Entebbe – Kampala – Fort Portal – Kibale – Queen Elizabeth National Park – Buhoma Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

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Can I backpack Uganda on a Budget? The truth is, if you want to hit the unique and mind-blowing natural wonders of Uganda, you’re going to have to fork over some cash. Permits to see the mountain gorillas and chimpanzees, as well as permits for safari game drives can be expensive. On top of that, there are many little fees that add up such as tipping guides and drivers. But there are ways to save some serious cash by planning your own route through Uganda instead of paying for a group tour package, by staying in budget lodgings, and by taking the bus or public taxi vans when possible. Keep reading below for budget transport and accommodation options.

What currency do they accept in Uganda? In Uganda, the most accepted form of payment is Ugandan Shillings (UGX). In 2022, these exchange roughly 10,000 UGX = $3 USD. Even though you are quoted almost always in US Dollars, Ugandans expect you to show up with Ugandan Shillings and pay in cash. Occasionally, national parks and larger tour companies will accept credit card, but be sure to check in advance and ask what currency they charge (every bit of savings counts when you travel on a budget, and if you are charged in shillings your credit card provider may charge a 2.5% fee and even an additional “exotic currency” fee). Check ahead of time if they accept USD or Credit Card if you wish to pay this way. US cash bills must be 2009 or later and in good condition.

Are there ATMs in Uganda? Yes, there are ATMs, but only in major cities such as Kampala and Fort Portal. For smaller towns check ahead of time with your hotel manager or tour agent, or check google maps. Stanbic Bank charges 10,000UGX per withdrawal max 1 million UGX. Note that you can pull out twice (or at least we were able to in 2022).

Are there budget restaurants in Uganda? Yes! Meals usually cost between 18,000-30,000UGX ($4-$9 USD), and they are often so large that they can be shared, such as a whole fried fish or a stew with rice and vegetables. Most hotels and lodges have their own kitchen serving a meal of the day. We actually very rarely ventured out to a restaurant. The food is flavorful and delicious, though often very salted. The meat can sometimes be a bit tough.

Do you tip in Uganda? From our experience, it seems that a regular tip is 10-20% for drivers, $10 USD per day for a private driver, and 20,000UGX ($6 USD) for a game drive guide. You can, of course, tip for other services if you are extra happy, but it is not expected.

Backpacking Entebbe – a lush village on the banks of Lake Victoria When entering Uganda, you will most likely land in the international airport in Entebbe. Staying in Entebbe is much more serene and peaceful than bustling Kampala. Most hotels in Uganda provide meals from their kitchen. While in Entebbe enjoy a whole fried tilapia fish! *Tip – Cell Phone Plan in Uganda: before leaving the Entebbe airport, pick up an Airtel SIM and data plan for about $8 USD (3,000 shillings for SIM, 20,000 for 8gb data). For calling, you can add a plan but we were tricked! The calling minutes we purchased were only applied to calls to other Airtel SIMs, so when adding minutes be sure to clarify that they are good for any local numbers.

How to get from Entebbe to Kampala on a budget (around $9 total)

  1. Get a taxi from the airport to the Entebbe taxi terminal (an area about 10 minutes away with many mini-busses). Cost: 10,000 UGX about $3 USD.
  2. Catch a minibus for another 5,000 UGX pp to Kampala.
    • The buses can be a little crammed with up to 14 people, but it’s much cheaper than taking an airport taxi (they charge $30-40 USD!) Uber is also expensive for this trip for some reason around $30 USD. This takes about 1 hour on a mostly smoothly paved road and takes you to the minibus “Usafi taxi” terminal.
    • *Note there are at least 3 major taxi parks in Kampala, so be sure to know the area of your destination and if you are on the right taxi. People in Uganda are very friendly and almost always willing to help out, so just ask around if you’re lost. If you are backpacking with a large backpack, it can be a bit hard to navigate the packed buses, but again people will help you get your luggage on board.

A guide to Budget Accommodations in Kampala While in Kampala, we stayed at a budget hotel, one of the few we could find. We made a reservation in advance, and when we got there, the owner apologized but they were full. We would recommend making a reservation at more than one place, and if they don’t answer your call or email, just keep looking. The place we did stay at was a “hostel” by the name of Sheraton (not to be confused with the Sheraton Hotel!). We paid $35 USD per night for a double room with a bathroom and fan. The shared bathroom option was $30 USD.

Traveling from Kampala to Fort Portal on a Budget Bus or private taxi! You can get a bus from the Usafi taxi terminal. There are other taxi terminals (for example the Banda taxi terminal) so again, make sure you’re in the right place. Cost is about $7-9 USD depending on the time of day and the company. You can hire a private taxi, however, this option will be much more expensive. The bus journey is long (about 5-7 hours) and the roads can be rough, but the ride is very scenic. If you take a public bus, there are little to no breaks and the driver may drive very fast. You might be able to get them to stop for a bathroom break, but don’t count on it.

If you have any specific questions or if there’s anything else you’d like to know or discuss, feel free to ask below!

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