Dear Pandemic, I am Visiting Uganda
For reasons such as study, work or joining family, one may leave Uganda to settle in another country. However, every once in a while, home does call you back and that call can be hard to ignore even though there is a difficulty brought by the pandemic. So, how do you travel back to the refreshing air of a place so familiar when movement has become so stifled?
Andrew Mugasha* left Uganda about 9 years ago to settle in the United States of America. After that lengthy absence, he returned to Uganda in 2021 for a short visit.
“I came back to visit family and to explore parts of the country that I had not seen before” Andrew told us in an interview.
You too may have your own reason for coming to Uganda, but here are a few things you can learn from Andrew to have a smooth, memorable travel and stay here.
To make that journey, Andrew didn’t just wake up and hop onto a plane the next day. There were a number of considerations to make; the length of the journey, multiple stop overs in other countries, the expenditure on arrival at home and most importantly, the pandemic. This required Andrew to have an intricate plan for everything to be seamless.
“I had to consider the time of the year I wanted to travel, the people available to visit and spend time with and how much time I could get off work. I made a list of places to visit in Uganda after weighing costs like accommodation, food and transport” Andrew adds.
It is also a good idea to consult from friends in Uganda before travelling so that your budget is befitting. Finally, Andrew advises that it is important to check with your physician so that you can align with the medical requirements of your stops as you travel.
Pick an activity that will keep you busy on the journey. This could be a couple of books, or movies, or music on your device. Ensure that you have these ahead of time. Then you can get your plane ticket, pack and wait for take-off.
COVID 19 Guidelines
Andrew had already been vaccinated before his trip, so you too may consider getting vaccinated ahead of time, because you will need the vaccination card on arrival at Entebbe International Airport. On top of that, most of the airlines have strict travel requirements such as a COVID test that was taken less than 72 hours before travel date, and some other security checks like sharing address information for countries like Belgium.
Remember to mask up all through your journey. You can get creative with your mask you know? Add Graffiti, or wear an Ankara-print one. Either way, just have your mask and sanitizer on hand.
Entebbe Airport Checklist
On top of your Visa, Passport and Vaccination card, endeavor to have a yellow fever vaccination card. Andrew says that the time he visited, this wasn’t asked for but he had it nonetheless. It probably was ignored because COVID had the airport security unsettled, but it would be terrible to be asked for it and you don’t have it. So, get the yellow fever vaccine and have your card with you as well.
Uganda’s Rich Tourism Basket
“I visited Western Uganda-Kasese, Fortportal and Mbarara. There was a lot to see like Mabeere Ga Nyinamwiru, Kazinga Channel and crater lakes. As a Ugandan I was amazed at the progress the country has made and what it has to offer for tourists” Andrew notes.
True to this, Uganda really has a wide range of things to see and experience. From cuisine to culture, historical sites, physical features and infrastructure, your visit will be memorable.
Due to the pandemic, the government of Uganda limited resident Ugandans from moving inter-district. This meant that they couldn’t consume the tourism sector, yet those who traveled from abroad could. Andrew thinks this was largely unfair, because the resident market has a lot of potential for tourism benefit. That limitation caused dullness and negative economic impact as different stakeholders had to rely on foreign customers.
“At Kazinga Channel, the tour guide told us we were the first group he guided in over 2 months, while the visitors’ book at the safari lodge where we slept hadn’t been signed in 3 months” Andrew remarks. This could have been combated by allowing resident Ugandans to tour their country with strict observance of SOPs, so that you don’t create a divide where foreigners enjoy the country more than the residents.
For a non-resident of Uganda, this may not affect you. Andrew advises that once you are here, you “be patient because some people who are key to your visit lack a sense of urgency. Be present, ask questions, account for all sorts of miscellaneous things happening, and enjoy yourself. Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa”
*Names have been altered to keep the source anonymous