GMT + 3 hours
English is the official national language. Luganda, the most common of the many indigenous languages, is also widely spoken.
The Ugandan shilling is issued in denominations of 1000, 5000, 10000, 20000 and 50000 shillings for notes, while coins are issued in denominations of 10, 50, 100, 200 and 500 shillings. The local currency can be obtained at authorised facilities (such as banks and foreign exchange bureaus). Foreign currency can also be changed at the airport on arrival. Many establishments will only change USD issued after the year 2003. Be aware that only paper currency will normally be accepted for exchange. Travellers cheques are not widely accepted outside of Kampala. In Uganda, credit card use is usually restricted to major banks and hotels and most shops will not accept other methods of payment other than cash. Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp accepts Visa, MasterCard, Amex and JCB credit cards which attract a surcharge of 5%.
Tipping is not compulsory, nor are there any fixed amounts. The customary gratuity is about 10% of the cost of the service. Tips are usually given in Uganda Shillings or US Dollars.
Driver-Guide in Bwindi: a tip of about US$10 per transfer is appropriate for your transfer driver.
On a Gorilla Track: If you choose to take a porter (highly recommended), the minimum recommended tip is US$15 per traveller per track.
Guides (usually 1 per group), Trackers (usually 2-3 per group) and Security personnel (usually 2-4 per group) do earn salaries.
A recommended tip of about US$20 per day of tracking per traveller may be placed in the appropriate tip box for your gorilla group (found at Park Headquarters) for distribution amongst the staff.
PASSPORT & VISA INFORMATION
Each traveller must be in possession of a passport that will remain valid for at least six months beyond the completion of his/her trip. Travellers should check for visa requirements pertaining to their citizenship, as entry requirements vary.
In Uganda days are warm, but it almost invariably rains, except in the very driest months of January and February. It can get very cool at night. The year-round weather stays within this range.
You should discuss health precautions for your travel itinerary with a qualified health professional at least six weeks before you depart. If you are arriving from a country where yellow fever is endemic, you are required to have a yellow fever vaccination. Anti-malarial medication is strongly recommended for all travelers to East Africa. It is also recommended that all international travellers ensure that their tetanus, Hepatitis A, and polio vaccines are up-to-date. Do not drink (or brush your teeth with) the tap water. Mineral water is available at the Gorilla Forest Camp.
In Uganda, electricity runs at 220/240 volts. You may want to bring an international converter kit complete with a set of adapter plugs as lodges are unable to provide adapters. We do, however, suggest that you consider battery-operated appliances wherever possible - and bring a supply of extra batteries. However, be aware that overnight recharging may not be possible where generator use restricts the availability of electricity.
Flash photography is prohibited when tracking gorillas. We recommend that you bring all the photographic equipment you will need from home, including an ample supply of film, additional memory cards and rechargeable batteries. Many travelers, viewing this as their "trip of a lifetime" for animal photography, bring more than one camera in case of a malfunction. Sun filters will help block glare and heat haze. A dustproof camera bag and an air brush will help protect your equipment from heavy dust.
If you plan to travel with digital photographic and/or video equipment, make certain to pack the specific charging apparatus for each piece of equipment (as well as the appropriate socket plug adaptor and voltage converter if required).
When photographing people, especially members of the local tribes, always ask permission first. Because so many local people are asked for permission to be photographed, many will expect a tip or an outright fee for this. Always be considerate of anyone's desire not to be photographed. There are some places where photography is prohibited, and these areas are usually clearly marked.
Dress on safari is entirely casual. Because it can be dusty, neutral colours are most practical for game viewing. Remember to include one or two smart casual outfits for dining. Temperatures tend to be cooler in the early morning and after sunset - but warm up by midday. To be prepared for such temperature variations and to maximise the versatility of your travel wardrobe, we recommend packing lightweight clothing that can be layered. Casual clothing of "breathable" fabric (such as cotton) is the most comfortable.Pack a heavier jacket, sweater, and pair of slacks made of warm, lightweight material (such as wool). Good sunglasses and sun block lotion are essential for protection from the strong sun. You may also want to bring your own fold-up sun hat. Binoculars will maximise the enjoyment of game viewing and bird watching. A compact and lightweight pair is suggested.
For the Gorilla Track:
- It often rains heavily, even in the dry season, so a light raincoat will be useful.
- Sturdy walking boots with good ankle support and grip are also recommended.
- A light shoulder bag or small rucksack is useful to carry your packed lunch, water bottles, raincoat, camera and other essentials. Local porters are also available.
- Strong gloves are of enormous help, as you will be hauling yourself uphill by grabbing the bushes, and often sliding downhill on the seat of your pants.
- During the track, wearing a pair of walking trousers or gaiters will prevent cuts and scratches.
- Carry a water-proof plastic bag to wrap your camera and film or memory cards in.
- Flash photography is strictly prohibited as this may upset the gorillas. Make sure you bring ample supplies of high-speed film or memory cards to counter this. Also make sure you are completely familiar with the workings of your camera before you observe the gorillas.
For the Camp:
- Evening dress is 'smart casual', there is no formal wear required. We advise guests to dress in a way they feel most comfortable.
- The altitude at Bwindi is just over a mile high. Evenings can get chilly, so it is advisable to carry a sweater. For the daytime, light clothes usually suffice.
Please note: TSA Bans Powerless Devices From Flights
According to recent rules issued by the US Transport Security Administration (TSA), passengers travelling from Europe, the Middle East and Africa to the US must be able to turn on their electronic devices to prove they are genuine, "Powerless devices" - cellphones and computers that cannot be turned on will not be permitted on board the aircraft.
This was followed by an announcement by the UK Department for Transport regarding stepping up some aviation security measures. "In line with the US advice, passengers on some routes into and out of the UK may now also be required to show that electronic devices in their hand luggage are powered up or face not being allowed to bring the device onto the aircraft." According to Reuters, TSA officials singled out smartphones, including the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy, for extra security checks on U.S.-bound flights from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.