BEFORE YOU GO
RWANDA AND UGANDA
If you're interested in a trip to Rwanda and or Uganda, you've come to the right place.
Below you'll find all the information you need about how to pack for your adventure, what to prepare for logistically with your flights and travel documents, and details on gorilla trekking. Take a look and let us know if you have any additional questions! We're always happy to chat and can be reached directly at 1.888.870.0903.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: WHAT'S THE WEATHER LIKE?
The best time to go to Rwanda and Uganda is during the dry seasons, January to February and June to September. 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 areas where gorillas live. As with anywhere in Africa, in the mountainous areas it is much colder and rainier than on the plains. The temperatures on the plains tend to be between 70°F and 90°F and in the mountainous areas they can drop as low as 50°F.
Q: DO I NEED TO PACK ANYTHING SPECIFIC?
Yes! You'll want breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics in khaki, olive green, and brown colors. Bright colors (especially white and red) can startle the animals and attract bugs. Avoid black, denim, blues, and purples. We love to travel with a pair of blue jeans for the evenings and khaki or olive colored light weight pants and shirts. Ex Officio and Prana make some great options.
Q: CAN I USE MY CELL PHONE?
Even if you have an international plan, you may or may not get service in Rwanda and Uganda. Check with your provider before leaving the country. But hey, don’t you want to unplug anyway?
Q: HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD I BRING?
U.S. bills are widely accepted in Rwanda and Uganda. Aside from tipping money, it’s a good idea to carry about $400 per person in USD (just make sure your bills are 2006 or newer to prevent fraud issues). Credit cards are less widely accepted, but Visa is the most commonly used. Don't forget to let your bank know that you will be traveling! Come with a few options so you’re not scrambling, and remember to store everything in a money belt or pouch for safe keeping.
Q: WHAT'S THE DEAL ON TIPPING?
Tipping is a personal and individual matter; the decision to tip and how much to give is entirely yours. When you depart from the safari property, simply give the gratuity to your host. It will then be evenly distributed among all guides and staff members. We suggest bringing extra tipping money for guides you feel have given exceptional service. General tipping guidelines below:
- Restaurants: 3-5%
- Lodge/Camp staff: $3-5 per person per day for a stay of 1-3 days
- Guides/Drivers: $10-15 or more per day per person
- Community walk guide/Batwa trail guide: $5 per person
- Channel/boat trip staff: $5-8 per person
- Gorilla tracking rangers/guides: $10-15 per person per day. There will be two main guides and several rangers. It is advised to pay the main guides separately. The rangers can be given another donation.
- Porter at park/on gorilla treks: $20-25 per person per day. Porters can be hired at park entrances. When gorilla tracking they will help carry your bags and help you with the thick foliage and the steep terrain.
- Hotel/lodge baggage porters: $1-2 per person
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS AND VACCINATIONS
PASSPORT & VISAS
Rwanda and Uganda both require a visa upon entry. Please allow 2-3 weeks to process your visa application. Visas are not required for minors 16 years and under.
- Rwanda visa fees are $50 per person and can be obtained upon entry or applied for online. Visit the Embassy of Rwanda for more information.
- Uganda visa fees are $50 per person for single entry. Application must be done online. Visit the Embassy of Uganda to apply and for more information.
- If are traveling to any combination of Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda you may apply for an East Africa Tourist visa for $100 online.
- Visa applications for minors under 18 years traveling alone or with only one parent/legal guardians should be accompanied by a notarized letter, jointly signed by parents or legal guardians approving the minor to travel and a copy of both parent’s passports.
Before you leave home, make several photocopies of your passport. We also recommend bringing at least two extra 2x2 passport photographs. This will facilitate the replacement of your passport in the event your passport is lost or stolen. Keep your passport, money, vouchers, and international air tickets in a money belt or pouch.
- Your passport must be valid for six months after your date of entry into antarctica
- Please have 4 blank pages in your passport, you world traveler you!
Rwanda and Uganda are typically healthy and hospitable regions to visit. However, health concerns throughout the world change regularly so we strongly recommend that you consult your physician regarding medications and immunizations that are recommended or mandatory. You can also check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The following vaccinations are recommended:
- Hepatitis A& B
- Malaria prophylactic
- Typhoid (please note it takes 14 days for this vaccination to become effective)
YELLOW FEVER UPDATE
Yellow fever is a risk in Uganda, and is recommended (but not required) for all travelers. However, if you are participating in gorilla trekking, you are required to have proof of vaccination.
If you are traveling to Rwanda you are now required to have a vaccination for yellow fever. Unvaccinated visitors have to pay $40 at the airport to be vaccinated on arrival if they don't have the proof of vaccination certificate.
CHARGERS AND ADAPTORS
Rwanda & Uganda operate on 220/240 volts & 50 Hz electricity, so converters and adapters are necessary. In Rwanda you'll need plug type C, and in Uganda you'll need a plug type G. Several safari properties provide charging stations, but it is advised that you bring your own adaptors for charging equipment.
THINGS YOU'LL NEED
- 5-6 short sleeve shirts
- 2-3 long sleeve shirts
- 2-3 pair of casual pants/shorts (think hiking or yoga-style gear)
- Underclothes and socks
- Rain jacket
- Hiking boots & comfortable sandal with back-strap
- Fleece/sweater or sweatshirt
- Gloves for bushwhacking
- Gaiters for mud & sticky bushes
- Warm socks and clothing for sleeping
- REMEMBER: Neutral colors work best on safari with breathable, lightweight fabrics.
- Insect repellent
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, and scarf or hat
- Binoculars: our favorites are Maven or Leica brand with a magnification of 10x42
- Small amount of laundry detergent to wash undergarments
- Extra money and money belt to securely carry all passports, vouchers, and air tickets
- Normal prescriptions and traveler’s meds
- Doctor’s note if you have a metal hip, knee replacement, etc.
Remember! Your carry-on should include your passport, money, toiletries, camera, and a spare set of clothes.
WHEN YOU'RE IN THE AIR
Check-in time for all international flights is three hours prior to departure time. This allows for delays at the security screening units in each terminal. There is no first class fast track through security screening, so get there early to avoid any stress.
All scheduled and charter flights are subject to a weight limit of 33 pounds that cannot be exceeded for safety reasons. If this limit is exceeded, you will be held responsible for the extra costs incurred to upgrade the flight. In the event of bad weather, it may be necessary to upgrade to a twin-engine plane, which is approved for instrument flight conditions. If this occurs, the extra cost of the twin-engine plane will be your responsibility. All flights are subcontracted to independent aviation companies who are entirely responsible, and therefore liable, for all aspects of the flying operation.
First of all, take a deep breath. You’ve already packed a spare set of clothes, your passport, money, and camera in your carry-on. Next, provide your airline with contact and delivery information for your first stop. Let our ground operator there know that your luggage has been lost, and they will track it while you enjoy your stay.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
If you're planning a trip to Rwanda and or Uganda, chances are you want to see the primates! To be sure, nearly all of our guests who have gone gorilla trekking have described the experience as nothing short of life-changing.
On the day of your gorilla trekking, you’ll set off very early in the morning to track to the apes from the edge of the forest. Your driver will take you from your lodge to the park headquarters in Kinigi village where you will meet your guide. They will be taking you to a specific group of ‘habituated’ mountain gorillas who are used to human visitors and which the guides know well. You’ll be divided into parties of eight and after a briefing on safety and gorilla trekking etiquette, you’ll be driven to the start of the trail to reach your mountain gorilla group. Your guide will then lead you along generally clear paths up into the forest, in radio communication with the trackers that stay with the group so that they can be located. The altitude is over 8,000 feet, so although the pace is unhurried, the hike is tiring and can be steep in parts, taking from 30 minutes to a few hours. Don’t be surprised if you feel a bit breathless at this altitude—this is perfectly normal. Most first-timers are a little apprehensive—a large silverback male gorilla can weigh up to 450 pounds, or three times the weight of the average man, but the apprehension usually vanishes when you see the group. Often the gorillas will be spread around a small area of dense vegetation. They’ll continue with their feeding and interactions, nonchalant about their visitors, though watching you with interest. Occasionally one, often a playful youngster, will approach you with curiosity— sometimes coming so close that you’ll have to move away.
For more information about gorilla trekking with Outside GO read Don and Alex Morgan's interview.
Mountain gorillas share 98% of our DNA and as such are very susceptible to catching human infections, particularly respiratory ones. Unfortunately, they don’t have a strong enough immune system to combat them—a common cold could eventually prove life-threatening. Various rules for gorilla trekking are therefore in place to help protect these precious primates. If you have a cold, flu, or other contagious infection, you should not trek. Only one group of tourists can visit the mountain gorillas each day and once you’ve found them, you’ll have just one precious hour in their company. You should keep a distance of 22 feet from the gorillas, although of course the gorillas themselves are unaware of this and will often get very close, in which case you should try to move away.
When you’re with your group, you should try not to make sudden movements and to keep your voices low so that the group remains relaxed. Although these mountain gorillas are now used to seeing people, do bear in mind that they are still wild animals and can sometimes react unexpectedly, so always heed your guide’s and trackers’ instructions.
- No eating or drinking when you’re with the gorillas
- Flash photography is not allowed
- Bring a pair of gloves to grip vegetation (gardening gloves work perfectly)
- You will be provided with trekking poles, no need to pack them!
IN CASE YOU MISS US
If your family needs to contact you for emergency reasons while you are away, please have them call the Outside GO office in Santa Fe at (505) 795-7710.
For after hour emergencies, please use the following:
SANDY CUNNINGHAM | (505) 231-0699 | firstname.lastname@example.org
BRITTANY BENGRY | (616) 401-9058 | email@example.com
CHIP CUNNINGHAM | (505) 231-0355 | firstname.lastname@example.org
- When dialing from the United States, the U.S. exit code “011” must be dialed prior to the international number
- When dialing locally within Rwanda, the country code “250” should be dropped and replaced with a “0”