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Visas: A valid passport is mandatory at least 6 months from the date of your return to the USA. Visitors should purchase multiple-entry visas for safaris which re-enter Rwanda/Uganda from the other country, preferably before arrival or can be purchased on the spot at Entebbe International Airport or at any overland border. Single entry visas are available on arrival in Uganda or Rwanda.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON PASSPORT PAGES: It is the responsibility of each traveler to make sure their passport is valid and has sufficient “VISA” pages to stamp entry visas. Please note the last 3 pages on the passport are “NOT VISA” pages; they are amendment pages, and thus visas cannot be stamped on these pages. There should be at least a minimum of 2 blank (unstamped) “VISA” pages for each country to be visited. Failure to have 2 blank (unstamped) “VISA” pages you run the risk of being denied entry even when in possession of valid passport.
Ugandan visas are required by citizens of the European Union, the USA and Japan; other nationals should check. Visas can be obtained at Ugandan missions overseas or at Entebbe Airport or land borders. A single entry visa to Uganda costs US$ 50, and is good for three month. A multiple entry visa is US$ 90, and is good for six months. In the USA the Uganda Embassy is located at 5811 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20011. Telephone: +1 202 726 7100.
Rwandan visas are NOT required by nationals of Canada, Germany, South Africa, Sweden, UK and USA. Other nationals can obtain them at Rwandan missions overseas or at Kigali Airport or at land borders. A single entry visa to Rwanda costs US$ 60 and a multiple entry visa is US$ 80. In the USA the Rwandan Embassy is located at 1724 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DE 200091. Telephone: +1 202 232 2882.
Getting Around: Main roads are generally good but travel is much slower than on European or American roads. Secondary roads are of variable quality and often slow and bumpy especially around the gorilla parks. Four-wheel drive vehicles are required for certain routes in the rainy season. Light aircraft can also be chartered to the main airfields.
Clothing: Ugandans and Rwandans appreciate those who maintain a sense of decorum. Cotton clothing is the most comfortable during the day. Uganda and Rwanda are warm in the plains but often cold in the hilly and mountainous areas; a rain jacket, heavy sweater and boots are therefore essential. See also equipment for Gorilla tracking and Rwenzoris.
Electricity & Voltage: Uganda: 240 volts. 3-pin (square) sockets. Rwanda: 230/240 volts at 50 Hz. 2-pin (round) sockets. Some camps do not have power but arrangements for recharging batteries can usually be made. If you travel to Uganda with a device that does not accept 240 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. British style 3-pin plugs are used - two parallel flat pins with ground pin.
If your appliances plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter. Depending on how much you plan to travel in the future, it may be worthwhile to get a combination voltage converter and plug adapter.
There are three main types of voltage converter. Resistor-network converters will usually be advertised as supporting something like 50-1600 Watts. They are light-weight and support high-wattage electrical appliances like hair dryers and irons. However, they can only be used for short periods of time and are not ideal for digital devices.
Transformers can often be used continuously and provide better electricity for low wattage appliances like battery chargers, radios, laptop computers, cameras, mp3 players and camcorders. However, they are heavy because they contain large iron rods and lots of copper wire.
Please consult with lodge managers about charging your equipment. Many properties are run on generators that are only turned on at certain times of the day, usually in the early evening and turned off in the late evening at bedtime.
Accommodation: Uganda and Rwanda have only re-emerged as tourist destinations in the last few years. Their lodges and camps are not as luxurious as in some African countries. Generally accommodation in towns is in three to five star hotels. Up-country it is in lodges or tented camps of varying standard, often without running water or electricity; some camps have long-drop toilets. Accommodation is based on two people sharing a room, except when a single room supplement is paid. The food may not be sophisticated but benefits from the inclusion of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Simplicity, however, does not mean a lack of comfort! Volcanoes’ (ground operation) own properties are as eco-friendly as practicable and built in a culturally appropriate way to provide comfort and style in the context of remote Africa. Clients are looked after by our carefully trained local staff who takes a tremendous pride in ensuring clients have a comfortable and enjoyable stay.
Laundry services in Africa are very good and available at nearly all of our safari camps, lodges and hotels. This means that you can travel light and still enjoy clean fresh clothing throughout your journey.
Begging: We recommend clients not to give money to beggars; it is better to give donations to established charities that help the homeless or street children or schools. Exercise books, pens and pencils are useful gifts but not money or sweets as they create a dependency culture.
Equipment for Gorilla Tracking: Warm clothes, fleece or light wool sweater, moisture wicking undergarments, lightweight wool socks, long-sleeved shirt, strong waterproof walking boots, sturdy trousers, sunglasses, a torch, fast film, binoculars, sun screen, a sun hat, a breathable lightweight rain poncho or parka with a rain hat, gloves to grip vegetation and a small backpack to carry water and a packed lunch. It is best to have layers of clothing as temperatures tend to change. The guides will make you a walking stick if needed.
Equipment for Rwenzoris: Climbing - mountain gloves or mittens / overmitts for climbing; climbing rope; crampons; ice axe; climbing harness; carabiners; slings; day pack/climbing pack; tent; sleeping bag; sleeping mat; waterproof sacks, such as large canoe bags (Ortleib) for tent, gear and sleeping bag and clothes. Clothing - hats for sun/rain; warm hat for high altitude climbing; mountain jacket; rain gear; fleece jacket and sweater; long sleeve trekking shirts; T-shirts; hiking, climbing pants; shorts; light weight long underwear; light pair of gloves for camp. Footwear - camp shoes or sandals, walking shoes (runners) gaiters (aset for low and high altitudes); and mountain boots that can fit crampons for going to summit. Medical -Malaria prophylaxis; Diamox (helps acclimatization and reduces risk of edema); non-prescription painkillers (like panadol - avoid aspirin); sleeping pills (for those who find it hard to sleep at altitude); first aid kit; medication; sun screen, about 45 or 60 spf; dark sunglasses.
Gorilla Tracking and Permits: On receipt of payment, Gorilla permits are arranged. Each gorilla park has different numbers of permits, separate procedures and tariffs. At the moment (May 2003) the number of permits available per day is as follows:
Uganda: Bwindi 16 permits, 6 for Mubare and Habinyanja (A) and 4 permits for Habinyanja (B) which are 3-10 hours¹ walk; Mgahinga has 6 permits for group Nyakagezi and is 2-4 hours¹ walk.
Rwanda: 30 permits. Group 13 and Sabinyo are 3-4 hours¹ walk, Amahoro is 2-3 hours¹ walk, Susa is 5-6 hours¹ walk. DRC: Djomba remains closed. Permits are non-refundable except for medical reasons and a medical certificate has to be provided. Gorilla viewing can be denied at short notice because of national park or border closures, security changes or gorillas going out of range. In such circumstances refunds are at the discretion of the authority and are not within the company's control. Obtaining a gorilla permit therefore is not a guarantee of seeing a gorilla. To protect gorillas from disease, no children under 15 or people with illnesses may go tracking. One hour is allowed with the gorillas, at a distance of at least 5 metres. Flash photography is not allowed, so fast film is useful (400-1600 ASA). Personal video recorders are allowed. Professional film makers require permission and need to purchase filming permits. Trackers must be fit, in good health and properly equipped (see Equipment). Tracking in thick forest at heights up to 3,000m traversing steep-sided mountains and ravines can be tough, arduous and wet. Porters can be hired to carry equipment. Part of the gorilla permit fee goes to communities living around the gorilla parks.
Tipping and Gratuities: These are at the discretion of the client and there are no set percentages; any token of appreciation is gladly received. A tip of about 3-5% in restaurants is generally adequate. At camps a tip of US$ 5 per guest for a stay of 1-2 days is generally adequate. For guides US$ 5-10 per day is suggested. In other cases seek advice from guides.
Money & Tipping: The unit of currency in Uganda is the Ugandan Shilling (Ush). There are coins in the following denominations: 50, 100, 200, 500 in circulation concurrently in with notes of similar denominations. Eventually, notes of 50 to 500 will be phased out and replaced by coins. There are bank notes in denominations of 1000, 5000 and 10000.
Health: Seek medical advice before traveling. Bring any personal medication required. Anti-malaria tablets and mosquito repellent are essential. Seek advice on vaccinations and inoculations that may be required. Travel from some African countries requires a Yellow Fever inoculation. Drink bottled or boiled water only. Medical services, especially up-country, are basic. Ensure the insurance cover includes medical cover.
Insurance: It is a condition of booking that all clients must have, and must demonstrate to the company prior to their departure, adequate insurance for the duration of the tour. Such insurance should fully cover death; personal injury; medical expenses; repatriation in the event of accident, illness or death; cancellation or curtailment of the tour by the company or client; and loss of, damage to, or theft of the clients' personal property. Activities with a greater inherent risk, such as mountaineering, animal tracking on foot and white-water rafting should be covered. Theft, personal injury or any disruption to arrangements should be reported immediately to the company and where necessary to the nearest police station. Clients undertaking a full safari package with the company are covered for evacuation insurance.
Luggage: On safari, luggage should be limited to two items of baggage per person.
Money: Relative to other African countries, Uganda and Rwanda are expensive destinations. Most costs are covered in the safari. For personal expenditure Travelers Cheques and some cash are best; US$30-50 per day is a reasonable minimum. One US Dollar is about 2000 Ugandan Shillings and 500 Rwandan Francs (May 2003). High denomination US Dollar bills (only post-1990) and credit cards are accepted by some outlets in Kampala and Kigali and a few hotels/lodges up-country.
Photography: Bring the photo equipment you are used to working with. A trip like this is not the best place for trying out a new camera. If you spend all of your time learning how to use a piece of equipment, you may not learn how to shoot good images. Bring the instruction manual. Keep in mind that too much equipment can be a hindrance, while leaving behind a piece that could be useful is also a mistake. We suggest bringing an 8" x 5" beanbag to use as a tripod to hold your camera steady when shooting from the vehicle. Bring a combination of lenses that range from 25mm to 300mm.
We suggest an average of 2-3 rolls of film per day of game viewing. Most of your game viewing is in the early morning and mid to late afternoons. For protection from airport X-ray machines, pack all film in lead-lined shield bags. Film and batteries are not available in the African bush. You will find them in the major cities, but they are very expensive.
Digital photography is here. Digital photographers will have to plan for how to save images while in the field. Multiple storage disks are less cumbersome than bringing a laptop to download images to.
Whichever film type you select, the slower ASA films (50-100) generally produce higher quality photos. I would bring a slow film and a faster one (400) for low-light situations.
Note: Always ask before photographing the native people. Do not take pictures of military installations, police stations, airports, soldiers, police or border posts - you may have your film confiscated.
Telephone Communications: International telephone communication is very good from Kampala and Kigali but more difficult from some up-country areas. The mobile telephone network is good and rapidly expanding. European or American mobile phones with a roaming agreement work in Uganda and Rwanda. Local SIM cards can also be purchased in many outlets. Internet facilities are available in Kampala and Kigali. Volcanoes camps are linked by two-way radio
Time: Uganda is three hours ahead of GMT. Rwanda is two hours ahead of GMT.
Uganda and Rwanda are both near the Equator. As a result the climate does not change much and they can be visited throughout the year. 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 gorilla parks areas. Travel can be slower in the rainy season but the views are often better. Gorilla tracking can be muddier but it can certainly be done. In the mountainous areas it is much colder than on the plains and the rainfall is greater. The temperatures on the plains tend to be between 68 °F and 86 °F and in the mountainous areas they can go down to 50°F in certain months. So our advice is to travel when it is most convenient and usually the rain, which is often for short periods, is part of the great experience. A client may avoid tracking in the "official" rainy season only to find that it pours throughout his visit during another period! For this reason we do not close our camps during the rainy season as they do in savannah countries.
The Africa factor: Expect the unexpected. Despite our efforts to have every safari run perfectly, things are going to happen that are simply out of our control. We will do what we can to minimize these situations however, things will still occur albeit a canceled flight beyond our control, rogue warthogs wandering in our camp, flat tires, floods, all or none may occur.
• Health Certificates
• Travelers Checks
• Money belt
• Xerox copy of passport, travelers checks
• 2 passport photos
• Airline Tickets
• Spending Money
• Proof of insurance
Note: Before you leave home, we suggest you make photocopies of the information pages in your passport and carry them separately from your passport. We also recommend bringing at least two extra 2"x2" passport photographs. This will facilitate the replacement of your passport and visa(s) in the event your passport is lost or stolen.
• 1 bag/backpack - max 30 lbs
• 1 small day bag
• Travel pillow
• Travel alarm clock
• Luggage lock
• Travel umbrella
• 2 pair shorts
• 2 pair lightweight pants
• 3 lightweight shirt
• 1 long-sleeved lightweight shirt
• 1 sweater/fleece
• 1 warm windproof jacket
• Swim Suit
• Undergarments & Socks
• 1 pair all weather sandals
• 1 pair lightweight walking shoes
• 1 pair evening shoes for lodges and cities
• Men: one nice collared shirt
• Women: dress or skirt and blouse
D. Field Gear
• Video camera/tapes/batteries
• Binoculars (Extremely Important)
• African Field Guild
• Journal & Pens
• Map - Michelin #955 is best
• Water Bottle
• Flashlight & Batteries
• Wide-brimmed hat, baseball cap and/or bandanas
• General - toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, razor, shampoo, etc.
• Insect repellent (containing DEET - 20% is optimal)
• Lotion/sun protective lip balm
• Small bottle of Woolite or washing detergent for undergarments
• Contact lenses/solution/glasses
• Hairdryer (requires a converter 220-240 volt AC 50 Hz
D. First Aid Kit
• The basics: bandages, antibiotic ointment, anti-diarrhea tablets, antacid tablets, pain reliever, waterproof tape, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, etc.
• Allergy pills
• Prescription drugs w/original label
• Malaria Tablets
Uganda: An introduction: By African standards, Uganda is a postage stamp-size country, at the heart of the continent, sandwiched between Kenya, Rwanda, Congo, Sudan and Tanzania. It is roughly the size of Great Britain or the State of Oregon in the USA. Uganda's most alluring features are its forests, lakes and mountains. Most of the country is 1,000 m above sea level and there are three mountainous areas - the Rwenzoris, Mount Elgon and the Virunga volcanoes.
Wildlife has steadily increased and many species of game can be seen. Game viewing is free of the mass tourism in some countries. Primates, especially the mountain gorilla and chimpanzees, are a special attraction together with over a thousand species of birds.
Most of Uganda is well-watered and fertile. Although it lies on the Equator, the climate is tempered by its altitude. The Nile starts its long journey to the Mediterranean from Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, and traverses Murchison Falls National Park. The population is about nineteen million, largely Christian, but with sizeable Muslim and Animist communities.
The central area is largely Bantu-speaking with the Baganda as the largest group. The Northern tribes are Nilotic in origin; the north is also the home of the nomadic Karamajong and the remote mountain tribe - the Ik. There are pygmy communities (the Batwa) in some forest areas. More than 30 languages are spoken - with English, Luganda and Swahili being the most widely used.
Lord Lugard established a British East African Company base in 1890 in Kampala and shortly afterwards Uganda became a British Protectorate, centred around four old African Kingdoms. The Uganda Railway linking the interior to the coast reached Kisumu (in Kenya) on Lake Victoria in 1901 and Kampala in 1915. The system of indirect rule gave Uganda greater autonomy than elsewhere in British-ruled Africa. At independence in 1962, Uganda was a prosperous and peaceful country. It went through a turbulent period after Amin seized control in 1971 and expelled the Asians. In 1986 the National Resistance Movement, lead by Yoweri Museveni, took control of the country. Today, the country is progressive, peaceful and inviting. The old kingdoms, abolished in the 1960s, were restored in 1993 and the monarchs have now re-emerged as symbols of traditional society. The 36th Kabaka of the Baganda, Ronald Mutebi, was crowned in 1993 and married in 1999, to great public rejoicing.
Rwanda: An Introduction: A tiny, landlocked republic in Equatorial Africa, Rwanda lies on the eastern rim of the Albertine Rift and the watershed between Africa¹s two largest river systems: the Nile and the Congo. Often called the "land of a thousand hills", Rwanda is a mountainous country with a moist, temperate year-round climate.
Rwanda has a number of unique delights to offer travelers. Parc National des Volcans in the Virunga volcanoes is home to the Mountain Gorillas to which Dian Fossey dedicated her life. Nyungwe Forest, one of the largest montane forests in Central Africa, is renowned for its large troops of colobus monkeys and rich variety of orchids. Akagera National Park is a savannah park with elephants, hippo and crocodile. Lake Kivu is a beautiful inland sea enclosed by steep terraced hillsides. There are a large variety of birds. Rwanda has a rich culture with its second city,
Butare, having one of the finest cultural museums in Africa.
Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. French, English and Kinyarwanda are the most widely spoken languages and the population of about 10 million people is largely Christian with some Muslim and Animist communities.
Originally the domain of hunter-gatherers, Rwanda emerged into a centralized state with a feudal monarchy in the fifteenth century. It became a German colony in 1890 and was mandated to the Belgians after the First World War. In 1962, under Prime Minister Gregoire Kayibanda, Rwanda gained independence. Ten years later Major General Juvenal Habyarimana came to power. His death in a plane crash in April 1994 unleashed the genocide in which about one million Rwandans are thought to have been killed and nearly twice as many fled into exile. In recent years, as peace and stability have returned under President Kagame, many Rwandans have come back. Local elections were held for the first time in 35 years in 2001 and are an encouraging sign of the steady return of stability to the country.
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