Right, you have made the decision to go to Uganda, first off fair play its a great choice! It's an indescribable place, you just have to experience it for yourself. I’d recommend it to anybody with a pretty solid roll. Water levels are prime 365 days of the year.
First stop is to the health clinic. All details for injections for Uganda can be found at www.mdtravelhealth.com. These injections are expensive but some will cover you for up to ten years. If you are planning a trip for less then two months I recommend getting the Malerone malaria tablets. They are more expensive but the best, other types can mess with your stomach and energy levels.
Next are your flights, the main advice I can give is obvious; the earlier you book, the cheaper flights will be. Both times I have traveled to Brussels and flown direct to Entebbe from there. Brussels airlines are great, hassle free and very friendly. If you contact Kayak the Nile, Sam and Emily will be delighted to book your flights through their contacts in Brussels airlines, this gets you the cheapest option with your boat and extra baggage included free of charge. There are other possibly cheaper options, I know Emirates fly from London to Dubai and then down to Entebbe and they are a solid bet as well. Some people fly with Ethiopian airlines; I have a friend who spent a week in an airport because of them! Long story short there are many airlines who will bring your kayak hassle free, do your own research and find the cheapest, reliable choice for you.
Tip: Always cover your boats and paddles in some kind of bag cover, use a roofrack strap to make a nice handle. It protects them and saves awkward questions. If you have bulky items like a towel or a hoody, tape it to your paddles, this saves space and provides protection.
On arrival almost every nationality will have to pay 50 € visa to enter the country. Luckily for the Irish, Ireland has a waiver to this and entry is free. To avoid any airport related stress, organise with Kayak the Nile for a shuttle from the airport. Tell them what time your flight is landing and they will pick you up and drive you to the river, it's a two hour journey. In this time you will become slightly accustomed to the madness that is the roads. The journey costs around 120,000 shillings for small car, 150,000 shillings for big car.100,000 Ugandan shillings is equal to 28 €.
You have three choices now that the Bujagali dam has flooded the Silverback section from Bujagali. Most people opt for the Hairy Lemon, it is pure paradise. A tropical island with monkeys and birds, delicious food, not mention that it is right beside the world famous Nile Special rapid. The price for the Lemon has gone up in recent times, this is mainly down to the vast improvement in food and the addition of flushing toilets and showers. It costs 55,000 UGS a night, which is 15 €. Not bad for three full meals (the evening meal is always two course). I've always liked the absence of power or internet here as well.
If you want to live ultra cheap, you will save quite a bit of money staying at the local village. It seems to be pretty cool living among the locals, on the other side of the river beside Nile Special. The downside is preparing your own food and the lack of any power. The standard thing to do is to set up your tent within a mudhut. This is possibly the better option if you plan to be in Uganda for a few months or more.
The third option is staying at the top of the river in Bujagali. Despite the dam which flooded the Silverback section and turned the famous tourist attraction of Bujagali Falls into a lake, this small town is home to an amazing and interesting community of people. Power and internet are commonly available here and it is only a fifteen minute journey from the city of Jinja. However, staying here to go kayaking requires much more logistics now. The closest whitewater is over a half an hour drive away and shuttles to and from the river need to be arranged every day.
A difficult question between whats essential and what is handy. I’ll try to be balanced here:
Tip: Buy a ridiculous suit and have a night in Jinja casino, you are playing with small cash by British and Irish standards but you feel and are treated like a high roller! Free beers accompany your participation! Go mad! Barry ended up winning two million shillings over a couple of nights in Jinja casino. Be warned, it can be addictive it is so much craic! Parties are still epic in the rafting company hub in Bugagali, especially on weekends. Treat your hangovers to some delicious chapatis (Nutella and banana ones are awesome).
That's a ton of information but I hope it proves useful. If you are still considering Uganda as a destination don’t think twice, do it! You won’t regret it – Andrew