One of the things that can easily skip the mind while planning a safari is the extra cash you need on a safari. This money is for your personal spending for the duration of your safari and is used for buying some souvenirs, giving tips, buying a beer, and such expenditures.
Depending on your spending habits and your travel companions, this safari cash can be as little as possible.
Extra Money on Safari
US Dollars cash is the preferred option to bring when traveling to Uganda. Once in Uganda, we advise guests to change some dollars into local currency for use as spending money on the road e.g. for drinks, or curios.
Please ensure that the USD bills are in good condition and have no rips, tears, or markings. This is because marked notes are troublesome when taken to most banks and therefore most people will be cautious of them.
When you reach Uganda, change some of the money to Uganda shilling so that you will easily spend that as you visit various parts of the country.
Keep your foreign exchange recipes such that as you leave Uganda, you can change the money back to USD or any other currency you prefer.
Traveler’s cheques are difficult to change and really bad rates of exchange generally apply, and are often very difficult to cash, even in large towns and especially over weekends and after hours. Throughout the rest of the country, changing Traveler Cheques is almost impossible.
Most Ugandan ATM machines dispense local currency, and they are harder to find when you go upcountry to smaller towns. Some bigger establishments allow for paying with Visa and MasterCard but these are very few.
If you need to get money from the bank, it is better to do so while you are in Kampala where you might find these bigger establishments, or directly visit the bank headquarters to get your transactions done.
There are only a few banks in Kampala (to our knowledge) that are authorized to give cash advances on credit cards. Visa cards are generally fine but MasterCard is not guaranteed and will only be cashed if they clear certain internal security checks.
There is a limit on amounts that may be drawn, and only during banking hours. Exchange rates will be poor, and they may also charge a hefty service fee.
Payment for services by credit card can only be done by VISA card or MASTERCARD in some places. Only large hotels generally accept this means of payment and they will also levy a fee of at least 5% on top of any bills.
So the long and short is to keep your credit card for emergency situations only.
Related article: Tipping guidelines on a Uganda safari
As a safety precaution, we advise again carrying big amounts of cash and displaying it easily. One of the best technologies for moving any amount of money safely is mobile money. You can easily get a quick Sim card on arrival in Uganda and load some money on the sim card so that you can keep withdrawing when you run out of cash.
Every Ugandan who has a mobile phone uses mobile money regularly and you can even pay with cashless means such as using the mobile money service and the people you pay will go and withdraw the money later.
Changing your money from the US dollar to the Uganda shilling is quite easy in major towns and national banks. The exchange rate is around 3700 Uganda shillings for every 1 US Dollar. The exchange is not fixed and you should check for the day’s exchange rate when you are exchanging money.
Other currencies like Euro and the British pound are not so easy to exchange but you can change them back and forth easier in Kampala and in Entebbe at the Airport.
Carrying money on a safari is necessary because at times you want to tip someone who has given you heartwarming services or you want to buy a piece of art from a local and take it home as a souvenir to remember your trip.
While this extra ‘pocket money’ is a necessary part of your safari, it is not part of your package. So, keep in mind that this is more money than what your safari costs. Here is a full article to help you understand the details involved in the cost of your safari.
If you have any further questions about carrying money on safari, feel free to ask our recommendation. Additionally, we can help you get a Ugandan Sim card for the length of your trip so that you can pay for things with mobile money instead of cash.