Uganda is a really safe and hospitable land but a large proportion of the population is very poor. With this in mind opportunistic crime is somewhat understandable and this is the most likely thing a westerner will experience in Uganda. Being sensible with your possessions, not displaying expensive watches, cameras and phones and making sure you don‟t bring out a wad of notes in a market will decrease your chances experiencing petty crime greatly. It also makes your actions a little more respectful of local people who may have never seen some of the items you take for granted.
While in Kampala
Big cities such as Kampala have a higher proportion of petty theft than local areas, where the community structure deters anything that would be an embarrassment to family and village. Walking around after dark outside of westernized parts of town, or carrying more than you require when out in town are two ways are making yourself a target. Pick pocketing is quite common so a well concealed money belt with small money in your pockets is advisable. Despite this, violent crime is extremely rare in Uganda, including Kampala.
Advice for Self Guided Tours
When assessing risk many people use the equation, likeability of it happening x consequences of if it does‟. Using this equation, vehicle travel and walking by roads are the most serious hazard‟s you will experience in Uganda. Many of the roads may be potholed or in bad condition and drivers take unnecessary risks despite often carrying dozens of passengers. If you are not happy about the way a vehicle is driven, or if you feel you would like to impose your own version of safe do this in a calm and collected way, explaining your thinking as this may be an alien concept to drivers.
Safari companies take vehicle safety very seriously and would always want to know if you have experienced an issue while under their care. Boda boda’s are the motorcycle drivers who drive around Uganda‟s cities at break net speed keeping transport moving during rush hour. While this is a normal method of travel for many Ugandans and ex-partriates we would very much discourage it. Helmets are rare and driving standards mixed with bad road conditions lead to many serious accidents and deaths every day. Matatu’s, the little minibuses who act as the local bus transport across East Africa can be equally as scary to be around. Standards of driving and other road user awareness leave a lot to be desired!
Organizing your own transport is always a challenge and something of a lottery from a long distance away. Using tour companies or hotels to arrange your transport to and from the airport will save you time, money and offer a safer option in the long run. If you are travelling on after your tour, ask your guide to assist you in arranging or understanding the best way to do this. Self driving will often double the price of vehicle hire and the norm is to book a vehicle with driver. Anyone from outside of Africa is not trusted without a financial penalty! Regardless, don’t travel at night as it increases the risks faced tenfold.