From a visitors point of view I believe that my two most important messages are (1) that Uganda is a place where you feel at ease – also when you bring two young girls with you. At no point did I feel threatened in any way – actually I felt much saver in Uganda than I do in most major European cities. (2) not all people are very efficient – but on a whole Ugandans are simply spreading good vibrations.
With regard to souvenirs, we did not spend much time on this. 12 years ago the number of souvenir shops was really really limited. Today there are a lot. In Kampala we had a look at 1000 Cups. Their souvenirs are much better than their food – and we bought various items. We also passed through the souvenir shops across the road from 1000 Cups, but the quality did not appeal to us. In the Garden City Mall we had a look at Banana Boat. The quality looked fine, but it was really pricy.
Back in Entebbe we bought some items at the shop in the Lake Vic Hotel – quality was allright and prices also. We also went to the shop at the Gately’s. Quality and prices are basically equal to those found at the Lake Vic Hotel (although the price of the postcards was extreme – we later found out that postcards can be bought at the post office at good prices).
Unfortunately we also had to test the Ugandan medical system since my older daughter fell ill. We went to the International Medical Centre (following a recommendation from the embassy) and it worked out well. My daughter proved to be suffering from a bacterial infection and she was treated with penicillin. Whilst the system worked nicely, there was a problem regarding payment: even though we had international health insurance coverage we were required to pay on the spot – and only in UGX in cash. On the other hand, they only required us to pay following the examinations had been carried out, and I had just enough cash on me to be able to pay and receive the medicine.
I tried to purchase insect repellent based on DEET. We only found it in the pharmacy of the supermarket in Garden City – and only in a very small dosis at a very high price. No other pharmacy I visited had DEET-based insect repellent.
Some general recommendations:
1) Bring your mobile phone and buy a SIM-card and plenty of airtime upon arrival. In this way you can call/be called on a Ugandan phone number. This is also attractive when people are calling from at home (at least if you pay your phone bill yourself). Mobile phones are the easiest way of getting in touch – whether you need to book a hotel, getting a special hire, or set up a meeting.
2) Bring a visa-card together with a fair amount of USD in cash. There are plenty of ATMs around, where you can get UGX (the new notes). Most hotels add a 5% visa-fee to payments by Visa. It is possible to pay Visa in the largest supermarkets, but it can be somewhat complicated – UGX cash is much easier.
(Correspondent requested anonymity)