Uganda Facts & Tips

A few helpful things to know for your time in Uganda, from one expat to another.

 

Food

 

A rolex is fried egg rolled up in a chapati (a thick, delicious tortilla-ish flatbread) - its an expat favorite.

Most local's main meal is posho (corn milled into flour then cooked with water into a solid paste) and beans.  Posho is much cheaper than rice, which is why its such a common food here, but has little to no nutritional value.

We eat street food all the time, it isn't as sketchy as you might think, except maybe the meat sticks.

Samosas are kind of like triangle spring rolls - stuffed with veggies or meat in a delicious fried shell.  They're yummy.

Beer is about $2 in half liter bottles.  Gin is even cheaper.

Potatoes are called "Irish" and Irish Chips are fries (not at all the crispy kind, but still delicious).

Peanuts are called "g-nuts" (stands for ground nuts) and are extra delicious here.

Sim-sim is sesame, you'll see little cracker looking things covered in sesame seeds.  They're delicious.

Roasted corn is either loved or hated by most visitors, but definitely worth a taste.

Goat is a common choice of meat here.  If cooked well its quite tasty.

Pork made in Uganda might be some of the most delicious pork on earth.

Coffee and tea are available here, locally grown and some imported from Kenya.

It's rude not to accept the food a local is offering you, and they'll expect you to eat A LOT of it too.  Luckily its usually delicious.

If you're part of a big celebration, you'll likely be asked to slaughter the main course.  It's considered an honor, but also I think locals get a lot of laughs out of it.

Your location will determine what food you have access to.  There are quite a few restaurants all over the country that serve a variety of food (American, Italian, Indian, etc).  The more remote the location the less you'll find those.  In Kampala you can find just about every type of food (with higher prices of course).

Transport

 

A matatu is a large van taxi, and a cheap way to get around, and while the vehicle has 15 seats, you'll often find 20+ people squished inside. 

A motorcycle taxi (boda boda, or just boda) is a very inexpensive way to get around town.  Crashes happen less than you'd think when you see how they drive, but it's still risky.  Bodas in Kampala are extremely dangerous.

It feels rude at first, but to get a boda's attention, clap your hands together so they can hear you.

Buses will you get you across the country better than matatus and you're less likely to have to share your seat with someone else. 

Most buses won't leave until all the seats are full (but some bus companies like Homeland leave on time).

Right of way goes to whoever is biggest.  As a pedestrian, it is your job to get out of the way, and always watch where you're going.

Most transport: boda, bus, or matatu have standard rates, so ask around first and don't be tricked into paying extra (especially true for boda drivers who are rather notorious for overcharging mzungus).

Boda rides are more expensive at night and in the rain.

Cultural Norms

People here will call you "mzungu" which means "wanderer" but often feels like it means "white person."

Don't say "hi", say "how are you?" and respond "I'm fine." Greetings are very important here, and you can sometimes be greeted 5 times "how is home, how is family, how is..." before you start another conversation.

Relationship is much more important than efficiency to Ugandans, which may feel very uncomfortable to those of us who don't like small talk. You'll get a lot further in relationship and business here if you put conversation before efficiency.

If someone says "You've grown fat" or "you've increased" its a compliment.

Bathrooms

 

For people who have been to other third world countries, you'll probably think the bathrooms here are quite nice.  To people who haven't, you may be pushed a little out of your comfort zone.

Latrine can mean a hole in the ground or a porcelain, flushable (sometimes), squatty potty.

No, they don't smell good.  No, they're not that bad. 

They are called squatty potties because you are meant to squat very low to the ground while standing over them.  DO NOT SIT ON THEM (yes, it's been known to happen).

Toilet paper in a restroom is not a guarantee.  Neither is soap.

Sometimes you'll have to pay to use a public toilet (toilet is a generous word).  The money will be collected by an attendant nearby.  They'll find you.

People do not lock bathroom stalls when they are in use, so be cautious when walking into a stall

Typically, lines form for each individual stall, like checkout lines at the grocery store.

Use the terms "short call" and "long call" when talking with Ugandans.