General Information

Introduction

We are very positive that have many questions about your traveling and volunteering experience in Uganda and we hope the below info will help answer some.  If you have any questions remaining, please shoot us an email! In this rough guide we give you information about Uganda, Mukono, Travel and Volunteer Project. 

Location 

The country is steeped in history, lauded with bountiful natural beauty, and renowned for refining its rustic ambiance and cultural elegance. As a matter of fact, Uganda may simply be the best-kept travel secret in Africa. The fascinating places are treasured for their beauty and they offer unequaled opportunities to unwind and relax in African style; thus making Uganda a beautiful country to visit.

Uganda is home to wildlife like lions, mountain gorillas, elephants and rhinos. Uganda is a land where you can experience a truly welcoming culture and natural beauty, offering an abundance of diverse wildlife, jaw-dropping scenery, and bountiful opportunities.

Volunteering in the heart of the community of Mukono, you will put smiles on the faces of the children of Uganda by teaching and helping with community work. During your time here, you will discover the rich and colorful markets, historical sites, taste the delicious cuisine grown traditionally on the land and sample both rural and city life.

Getting Here

You need to fly into Entebbe International Airport. This airport services numerous international carriers including the national airline Uganda Airlines. Uganda has good connections to destinations throughout Europe, the Asia- Pacific region, USA and Africa.

Uganda can be accessed by road from Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan. Immigration should be processed at land border stations.

Upon arrival, you will be met by a friendly staff of SunTrack Adventures and transferred to your hotel or Nomads Home. Our staff must be carrying a poster with SUNTRACK ADVENTURES / NOMADS HOME or THE BEACON OF HOPE FOUNDATION.

If you have any problems locating the staff upon arrival, please do not accept any offers to take you anywhere, instead, contact the number provided in the ‘Communications’ section of booking document.

When you arrive at immigration you MUST request a tourist’s visa and state the following: If asked to give an address of where you will be staying in Uganda, please state: Nomads Home – Mukono.

Life and Work On The Project      

People who choose to volunteer with us, enjoy an extremely unique experience not only in the work they do but also in the atmosphere they live in. Volunteers in Uganda are housed at our warmly Nomads Home in Kalagi, Mukono. The home allows volunteers to meet other travelers and to get to know each other better outside the work-site and forge friendships that will last a lifetime.

The accommodation is clean and comfortable and will quickly become your second home. The African style toilets, WC and shower facilities are shared between 4 and 10 people and, while we can’t always guarantee the hottest water, the facilities are more than adequate. The home is equipped with a lounge, TV, Kitchen, hand washing facilities, telephone, and spare electricity sockets. Life at the accommodations facilities is simple, unsophisticated and fun, perfect for unwinding from a busy day!

Meals

You will be provided with three good quality meals every day, so you shouldn’t ever feel hungry. The food you will be provided with will consist of delicious local dishes, using fresh produce to create a cultural and tasty experience! Typically your diet will consist of rice, bread, matooke, cassava, sweet-potatoes, beans, beef, fish, noodles, corn bread with vegetables such as cabbage, avocado, spinach and eggplant. Water and tea/coffee are included throughout your stay whilst soft drinks (coke, sprite etc) and other beverages can be purchased from our “restaurant & bar”.

Weekend & Evening Free Time

The hard work volunteers put in during the week undoubtedly warrants some fun and relaxation during evening free time and on the weekends. During the week we organize a variety of activities for volunteers in the evenings. We often play football (soccer), cards and board games or chill out around the bar or go out for a dance getting to know fellow volunteers from around the world. Musical ballads are known to break out from time to time as well as the always entertaining pub-quiz nights.

Yet one of the biggest perks of volunteering in Uganda lies in the plethora of weekend outings we organize. We arrange day tours and long-weekend safaris. No matter what your interests, there is always something for everyone to enjoy!

Volunteering Projects

This program aims to promote and create awareness on: healthcare, education, environment conservation, women empowerment, support to childcare projects like orphanage centres, construction projects, sports and games coaching projects, music and dance projects, wildlife conservation and general community development amongst rural and sub-urban communities.

Projects can be diverse and it might be a rural community to improve on their healthcare, working with orphans to improve their standard of living, building a community school, or just participate in the community outreaches organized by our coordinators or helping youth with their ventures.

Your duties will vary depending largely on your own background, skills and experience. The program provides a great deal of freedom to lead the projects direction and focus and so it needs participants who are self-starters.

This program therefore requires a certain amount of initiative and the ability to be proactive, working closely with the local staff, to bring incredibly rewarding results.

Volunteers will also be given the opportunity to immerse themselves within all aspects of community life throughout this unique project. You may have the opportunity to teach at the local school as well as participate in a range of community initiatives such as construction projects.

Depending on your skills and qualifications, you could be providing counseling, collaborating in education and prevention programs, or developing the administration and future objectives of the program, including liaising with or assisting other groups engaged in other related programs.

All people and institutions involved in this program are consistently evaluated to ensure a successful volunteer placement. While we are committed to ensuring that the volunteer placements are a success, we ask our volunteers to show patience, maturity and initiative. It is inevitable that at times there will be cancellations, delays and changes. The most successful volunteers are able to be flexible and enthusiastic about working where they are needed most.

Weather       

Due to Uganda’s location on the equator and its elevation, Kampala has the gift of beautiful weather year round. Even during the two rainy seasons, the sun is out most of the time and rain often occurs at night and during the early morning hours, along with the most amazing thunderstorms! In the dry season between February and August there is little, if any, rain. The temperature varies between 16°C and 28°C in the rainy season, but regularly reaches over 30°C in the dry season.

For the most part, there are three seasons in Uganda:

Cool and dry season (February to May)

Nights and early mornings are cool and can reach as low as 180C while mid-day heat can reach up to 26.30C. If you arrive during this time, be sure to bring warm clothing, and know that even though it is the dry season you should still be prepared for the possibility of rain.

Hot and dry season (June to October)

The hottest part of the dry period occurs between the months of June to October. Temperatures range from 18ºC to 30.30C for most parts of the country. Be sure to wear loose fitting, cotton based clothing, but be prepared for the occasional cool morning as well.

Warm Wet Season (November to February)

Days and nights can get very hot and sticky. You need light clothes although there might be a day when the temperature drops, so bring a sweater. Bring a light raincoat, waterproof shoes, and plenty of clothes you can change into just in case you get caught in a downpour.

For both the dry and wet seasons, you will need to bring a hat and a high SPF sun block—the sun is extraordinarily strong and harsh to your skin. Also, this weather information is just a guideline; it’s possible that you could have twenty days of rain in the dry season. For your own comfort, be sure to bring the proper gear to prepare you for any weather.

Lastly, regardless of the season, you will be playing with children and/or working in a community, so bring comfortable clothes, preferably cotton – ones you could throw away if necessary. Wearing shorts (not too short) is appropriate for men and women, as long as they reach to the knees.

Local Uganda women rarely (if ever) wear shorts, so women might consider bringing pants, long skirts, or Capri pants to wear in town.

NOTE: The clothes you wear to your project should not be revealing or inappropriate in any way.

Cultural Considerations    

Uganda’s population is around 40 million, and composed almost entirely of Africans, though there are some smaller minority groups including Europeans, Asians, Americans, Indians and others. Uganda is home to 56 different, unique cultures that have come together to form its identity.

The Ugandan culture is very modest and conservative thus it is not a good idea to walk around in revealing clothing. You will earn more respect if you keep your legs (to the knees) and shoulders covered up. This is especially true when you are in rural areas. Dress codes are stricter for women than for men. Please be aware that you will be working with local staff, so be sensitive. Rural Uganda is still relatively free of tourists so you may be viewed as a bit of a novelty! The small villages base life around local tribal customs, so it is important to respect their traditions and accept them with an open mind.

As with the rest of Africa, the pace of life is a lot slower than you may be used to. Everything does eventually work out itself, but maybe not the time (or even day!) you are expecting it to do so. It is best to just accept this and enjoy your surroundings in the meantime.

There are many different cultural groups in Uganda and different dialects spoken, though English is spoken by almost everyone. As you will see, there are cultural differences throughout the country, just as there are in different parts of most other countries as well.

Almost 70% of the adult population is literate, and most Ugandans are enthusiastic conversationalists. They will be eager to assist you when they can, and to help you learn about their country and customs as they learn about yours as well.

Greetings

Ugandans like many Africans are used to a more leisurely lifestyle than most Westerners. Because of this, you should greet people in a leisurely way; say good afternoon and ask how the person is doing before you ask for what you need. If you’ve been introduced, or are greeting someone you have previously met, greetings also start with a hand shake, it’s not appropriate to kiss and hug a Ugandan in public. (Hugging ONLY for people of the same sex or the elites only but not the local village people)

It’s also important to know that both familiar and unfamiliar adults in Uganda always address each other as Mr. So and So, or Mrs. So and So, using the person’s last name whether they are in the upper class, lower class, educated or uneducated, rich or poor, villager or urban dweller or the person is your employee, your taxi driver, waiter or waitress, boss or subordinate. Addressing or calling them aloud by their first name is considered disrespectful, unless they are a child or your counterpart (the educated/elites)

Lastly, an interesting thing about Ugandan culture is that after greetings have been exchanged and you are just socializing, it’s considered normal for a guest and host to sit quietly without any conversation for a while. That silence may be torture to a westerner but most Ugandans find it normal. So don’t try to fill empty silent moments by just saying something because you are feeling uneasy or bored.

Culture Shock

Culture Shock is the reaction of your mind and body to the change from a familiar environment to another environment that is unknown. Almost everyone experiences culture shock to some degree. In your own culture, you know the language, all the ways a person behaves in different situations, the non-verbal behaviors, the values, and the ways of reasoning. You are able to do things automatically and without thinking. For example, you know how to greet someone on the street, how to answer the telephone, how to dress for different occasions, and how to ask for assistance if you need any. In a foreign culture, you do not have any of this knowledge. You have to think about how to do the smallest thing. After the newness of the foreign culture wears off, and you begin to notice the many subtle differences, you begin to have language, food, money, social and even health problems.

Money

The local currency is the Uganda Shilling (UGS) which exchanges at around 3500 UGS to the USD $1.

Uganda like many other African countries operates a mainly cash-based society. There are plenty of banks and ATMs in major towns; withdrawals may have a small surplus charge although this is likely to be similar to traveller’s cheque commission rates. It is best to bring US Dollars, euros, and Great Britain Pounds changed in the main cities. A credit card will come in useful in the event of an emergency. If you are planning to travel afterwards, you may want to bring enough bills to cover this. You may also want money for extra activities such as sight-seeing, sports, safaris, cultural experiences and so on.

Because customs can be so hectic, we ask that you avoid changing money until you are picked up by your coordinator, who can then suggest where you might want to go. ALWAYS BRING BIGGER AND NEWER NOTES WITHOUT ANY DAMAGES!

Most hotels, restaurants, and the bigger shops will take credit cards and US$ and GBP cash but only in cities. Credit cards are pretty useless in the rest of the country, where only local currency is accepted.

A word of caution: Do not attempt to change currency with money-changers at land border stations — they’re notorious for their dishonesty. It is better to try to change money in town at the banks or even at one of the Forex Bureaus. Lastly, using money changers on the black market is illegal and you run the danger of being ripped off.

Spending Money: In terms of spending money—it depends largely on what you want to do while you’re here. Adventure excursions can add up quickly so if you plan on participating in these, please plan your budget accordingly. If you carry USD cash to the project please ensure the bills are dated later than the year 2010 as any bills that are older (i.e. 2000 and earlier) cannot be accepted as payment for excursions and safaris.

Kit List (Supplementary)

When buying your kit, please use an element of common sense. The kit list is intended to cover all of the items that you could possibly need. While some items are compulsory, others you will manage without, but many of these you will probably be very grateful to have brought with you.

Furthermore, flight companies are becoming increasingly strict on weight allowance, so pack with caution. Please do not bring expensive clothes or equipment. Likewise, expensive items such as jewelry and fancy watches will attract attention from the locals and will be a temptation to steal. At the end of the project any clothes, medical equipment, stationery, toiletries or other things you leave behind will be donated to the local community.

Electricity – The local voltage is 220V, delivered at 50Hz. Sockets fit plugs with square pins, like the UK Design, so be sure to buy a universal adaptor if need be.

Travel – For travelling bring a rucksack (65 litres should be adequate) and day pack (20-25 litres).

Zip lock bags – Useful for keeping everything (especially electrical items) dry and dirt-free.

Torches and batteries – Bring a torch with some batteries. Even if where you are staying has electricity, power cuts are common and a torch will be useful for after dark.

Clothing – Light clothing such as shorts, trousers, t-shirts and shirts are appropriate attire. A waterproof jacket and a long sleeved top to protect against mosquitoes are useful items. A warmer top such as a fleece will come in handy for those cooler nights.

Footwear – Bring a pair of sturdy, comfortable trainers or walking boots.

Medical & Hygiene – Check out with your medical personnel for suggestions. No matter how careful you are, you will always find yourself getting numerous small cuts and grazes. Make sure you have plenty of plasters, bandages, decent tape, lots of cotton wool and an adequate supply of Betadine and Cicatrin powder and talc.

The Basics:

  • It is highly recommended that you bring malaria pills. However, there are two you might want to avoid: Larium(sometimes known to cause hallucinations) and Doxycyclene (This can make you more susceptible to sunburns)
  • If you need medical attention in Uganda please head to a private hospital, where you are likely to find English-speaking physicians and adequate medical care, provided you have health insurance.
  • Although Ugandan pharmacies carry a wide variety of good drugs over the counter (just remember to check the expiration date), it’s a good idea to bring a small First Aid kit. Include your preferred drugs— enough to last you for the entire trip, plus a bit more.
  • While in Uganda, you are advised not to swim in or drink water in the country’s dams, streams and rivers as it may be infected with the Bilharzias (Schistosomiasis), a disease caused by parasites.
  • The water in most towns isn’t likely to have any pathogens but it will probably still cause an upset stomach in visitors. Because of this, you should make sure that all water used for drinking or washing food in Uganda has been purified, boiled, filtered, or treated (with chlorine or iodine tablets).
  • Indigestion and traveller’s diarrhoea are the most common travelling illnesses. Both are a result of eating a new diet. If your diarrhoea is persistent, please visit a doctor. But always remember to stay well hydrated and, if need be, drink supplemental salts.
  • The sun in Uganda may be much stronger than you’re used to, so it’s important that you take preventative measures to protect yourself.
  • In Uganda, public restrooms are rare, and wherever they do exist toilet paper and soap are far from guarantees, so be sure to carry your own supply.
  • In Uganda malaria and yellow fever are potential threats. Since malaria is a mosquito-borne disease, the best way to prevent it is by avoiding mosquito bites. Use DEET-based repellent, and cover up with long pants and long sleeves. Because of DEET toxicity, repellents with a 50% concentration are considered effective yet non-toxic. You’ll want to talk to your doctor about anti-malarial drugs and take them as instructed.

Music – You are welcome to bring any music and mp3 players you may have, however make sure you have plenty of batteries as you may not be able to recharge where you’re staying in case of camping or rural community setting.

Other – Insect repellent is a must, there are a number of different brands but make sure you find one of suitable strength. Also, do not forget to bring lots of suncream (at least factor 15), sunglasses, and a wide brimmed sunhat.

Visas

Obtaining your visa – overseas volunteers

The cost of your visa is not included in your program costs. Please contact the Uganda immigration website for full details and forms at https://visas.immigration.go.ug/

Volunteers in Uganda are required to have a Tourist Visa. The Tourist Visa can be arranged either in your home country with the Uganda High Commission, online (eVisa) or upon arrival in Uganda. Credit cards are not accepted at all land border crossings.

Insurance

If you have not already done so, you will need to purchase appropriate travel insurance covering your participation on a project. You will not be able to come out with us without appropriate travel insurance.

Before you come, check with your health insurance company to ensure that you are covered outside your home country.

Note: Visitors to Uganda must take out a comprehensive medical insurance policy to cover them for emergencies, including the cost of evacuation to another country within the region (in case facilities are not as comprehensive in Uganda).

Please make sure that you are covered for the whole duration of your trip (from the day you leave your country to the day you return to it).

For the most part, using common sense as a traveler should suffice, but here are some useful tips:Uganda is considered a safe country—it is seen as one of the most politically stable countries in Africa. However tourists are always targets for pickpockets and thieves and you should be aware of certain safety concerns. Please educate yourself about Uganda before you come by doing your own independent research so that you can be alert for all types of situations.

  • Travel in pairs – It is a good idea to travel in pairs or groups, especially at night. Even if you are in a group, at night it is often best to take a taxi rather than walk. (Remember only to travel with a group you know people who are involved in it.)
  • Use caution in unfamiliar locations – Do not wander into unfamiliar areas alone without knowing where you are going. It is best to consult a map before setting out to explore new areas.
  • Safeguarding valuables – Remember foreigners are easy targets for thieves; don’t let yourself be the victim. You should always safeguard your money and belongings and never leave them unattended. You may want to bring a money belt for your money, or carry a fake wallet with a little bit of cash to give up in case you are in a compromising position. Do not show a lot of cash in public, and you should think twice about carrying expensive devices, such as cameras, in public.
  • Avoid flashy dress – Never wear expensive jewelry, etc. while traveling. Don’t carry all your credit cards and other valuables with you. All you should need for everyday use is one form of ID and a small amount of cash. If you need to wear a watch, bring a cheap one.
  • Backpacks and purses – These should be worn in front of you when in public places to avoid being pick-pocketed. It may also be wise to put locks on your backpack’s zippers. A man who carries a billfold should place it in a front pocket while in crowded areas. In restaurants, etc. Don’t leave your backpack or purse on the seat next to you, or hanging on the back of your chair. Keep it on your lap or at your feet (with your foot through the strap) at all times. If you carry a daypack, put your valuables in the largest pocket, because this tends to be a more difficult pocket for pickpockets to access.
  • Photocopy important documents – Keep copies of your passport, credit cards the phone numbers of your bank and credit card companies in a safe place just in case you are robbed. It is also wise to keep original documents in a safe place and carry photocopies of them with you.
  • Public demonstrations – Avoid any kind of public demonstration. Although these are rarely violent, there is always the possibility that one could turn violent.
  • Female travelers – For females, it is important that you learn the local attitudes, project a certain level of confidence, and develop conversational techniques to avoid overt male attention. Also, as a general rule, women should try to be fairly formal in their interactions with men they encounter in everyday situations (taxi drivers, shopkeepers, etc.), because sometimes men mistake informality for disrespect or interest in forming a deeper relationship. For the same reason, it’s also a good idea to ride in the back seat of a cab instead of next to the driver.
  • Awareness –Be aware of your surroundings at all times and always try to look in control. Even if you are lost walk purposefully rather than in circles scratching your head.
  • Swimming – Before swimming, inquire about the safety of the water in that area.

Miscellaneous and Volunteer Expectations

Uganda provides an ever-changing environment with frequent power failures, water shortages, temperature fluctuations and other uncontrollable situations. Also, ‚African time‛ can be difficult and frustrating for those used to a very structured life. Work can often be delayed or interrupted because of holidays, weather, vacations or unexpected events. Volunteers need to remain flexible, patient, understanding and good humored.

Rules and guidelines

You will be given a complete orientation upon arrival at the project. Please be aware of all the rules and respect the areas in which you are working and your project leaders. If you are put in an uncomfortable position, please let us know how you feel about it. We also would like to emphasize flexibility. Open-mindedness will go a long way in ensuring an enjoyable volunteer experience.

Fundraising: If you made your media debut and got a picture/article about yourself in the paper, please let us have a copy for our files, so that your fame can live forever as future volunteers read about it! Also if you did anything truly amazing, wacky and original in terms of fundraising we would love to hear all about it as well.

Photography: Be sure to ask for permission before taking photos of Government buildings, private properties and our properties, as this is occasionally regarded with some suspicion. Out of respect you should also ask for permission before taking pictures of locals.

Business Hours: Government offices are open from about 8am to 1pm and from 2pm to 4pm, Monday through Friday only. Banks are open from about 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday. Most banks are open on Saturday from 9:30am to 12:30pm.

Nightlife: Most of Uganda’s nightlife consists of drinking and dancing, or chatting at a local bar. Because some of the dance clubs can get pretty wild at night, it’s advisable to travel with a trusted counterpart.

A Few Points to Keep In Mind:

Relationship: AIDS is widespread throughout Uganda and as such we do not encourage any sexual relationships while on your placement. It is not only your own health you are risking, but also the health and safety of others around you. In addition, volunteers who enter platonic or sexual relationships with staff that cause any problems for management should remember that such behavior will have serious consequences for the staff member involved, and may include dismissal.

Drugs: If you use, abuse or even come in contact with drugs, drug users, drug pushers or anyone remotely connected with drugs, illegal or otherwise (other than for medical reasons), your placement will be terminated immediately, your visa will be withdrawn, and you will be deported from the country with no compensation. If you are taking drugs for medical reasons, and have not informed us of your condition prior to departing for your placement, the same condition applies. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS RULE.

Discrimination on any grounds: If you see, hear or encounter any discrimination of any kind, do not challenge that person or intervene. If you feel that you need to express your views, please tell the project manager and they will take the necessary actions. Our organization is totally against any form of discrimination and any information given to us is taken very seriously.

Throughout your stay in Uganda you will have support and guidance of the local project team. They will provide you with competent assistance and help you with any questions or advice you may need during your stay. Uganda is a wonderful country to experience, the scenery is spectacular and the people are very friendly and hospitable. If you come prepared to learn and to give your best, you will be rewarded with a fantastic experience and take home wonderful memories.

Important note: As a safety precaution, make sure to make a photocopy of any important personal documentation. This includes the first page of your passport, your passport’s entry stamp, return plane tickets, credit card contact information, health insurance, etc. If you want to be especially secure, it is a good idea to make electronic or scanned versions of your documents and send them to yourself via email. Always separate the original from the photocopy, but always keep one form of documentation (preferably the photocopy) with you at all times and keep whatever documentation you receive at the airport.

Finally, good luck with any remaining fundraising and preparations and we look forward to meeting you all soon!

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