Money and Costs
Uganda Shilling (USh)
Budget: Less than US$100
- Dorm bed: US$12–20
- Double room in a budget hotel: US$30–50
- Street-food snack: US$1–2
- Double room in a midrange hotel: US$60–150
- Meal in a good local restaurant: US$10–20
- Chimpanzee tracking: US$150
- National park entry: US$40
Top end: More than US$200
- Double room in a top-end hotel: from US$150
- Tracking mountain gorillas: US$600
- SUV hire per day: US$150
You'll usually need to bargain with boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) and special-hire drivers, though bear in mind that there are many honest drivers out there, and in many cases the price they propose is the standard fare for a journey.
The local currency is the Ugandan shilling (USh), though most tour operators and upscale hotels quote in US dollars. ATMs are abundant and US dollars are widely accepted.
The biggest banks (Barclays, Stanbic, Centenary, Crane, Orient and Standard Chartered) have ATMs that accept international cards. Even many remote small towns will have at least one of these banks, though try not to let your cash run out as the system sometimes goes down and machines sometimes run out of cash.
The Ugandan shilling (USh) is a relatively stable currency that floats freely on international markets. Most tour operators and upmarket hotels quote in US dollars (a few in euros), but you can pay with shillings everywhere.
Notes in circulation are USh1000, USh5000, USh10,000, USh20,000 and USh50,000, and commonly used coins are USh50, USh100, USh200 and USh500.
US dollars are the most useful hard currency, especially in small towns, though euros and pounds sterling are also widely accepted.
If you're using dollars, try to avoid bills printed before 2006, as often they're not accepted (due to a higher risk of them being counterfeit notes). If exchanging dollars, small denominations always get a much lower rate than US$50 and US$100 notes – so ask for larger notes when you collect your money.
The best exchange rates by far are offered in Kampala. Forex bureaus offer slightly better rates than banks plus much faster service and longer hours; but they're rare outside Kampala.
Note that Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) offers fair exchange rates for park fees and accepts dollars, pounds and euros and either cash or travellers cheques.
Practical Tip: Cash at the Airport
There are no banks, ATMs or forex bureaus before immigration, but, if you're in a pinch, an officer will hold your passport while you go get money from the ATM just beyond airport customs.
Credit cards are accepted at better hotels in larger cities, as well as smarter restaurants and safari lodges, but it's always a good idea to bring plenty of cash as a backup. There can often be a surcharge of 5% to 8% when making payments by cards, but these are slowly becoming rarer as companies become more accustomed to people paying this way. Visa is the most widely accepted card, but MasterCard is increasingly accepted.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Tipping isn't expected in Uganda but, as wages are very low by Western standards, it will always be appreciated. The size of a given tip is up to the individual.
- Restaurants USh1000 to USh1500 is enough in ordinary restaurants.
- Rangers USh5000 to USh10,000 is reasonable for ranger-guides in national parks.