If you're considering a visit to Uganda, but you or your family are too afraid its not safe enough, we would like to reassure you that Uganda is a much safer place than most people imagine. There are always risks when traveling, and there are always the bad seeds that spoil it for everyone else, but if your image of this place is savage, violent, or out of control we encourage you to think again. Ugandans are a very peaceful and beautiful people, and they will look out for you while you're here. So, with that said, these are the safety concerns you should keep an eye out for during your stay here.
According to the CDC Malaria is the second highest cause of death in Uganda. To be clear, Malaria can be deadly if left untreated, but treatment is widely accessible. It is a serious issue plaguing Uganda, but it may not be as scary as some people are led to believe. Expats take quite a few different views on the subject, which we discuss here.
Don't drink the water in Mexico. Don't drink the water in Uganda either. Some people, including local doctors, say the capital city has strong enough filtration to drink, but it's hardly worth the risk. The water is the most common way to contract typhoid (if you aren't vaccinated) or dysentery neither of which you want to deal with while you're here. Boiling the water will take care of that, although it's still not as clean as the fully filtered options.
If you've never seen an organized chaos driving system you'll be shocked when you get to Uganda. It doesn't feel like there are any rules, or if there are no one is following them. I assure you there is some method in the madness, however traffic accidents do occur more often than we'd hope, and first responders aren't really built into the system. Travel with drivers you trust, who have a license, good experience, and practice safety (although it may not look like safe driving to you at first).
Bodas in Kampala
The accident rate for bodas is quite high. The death rate for boda accidents in the Kampala city traffic is too high. Uber is available in Kampala now, and is almost the same price as a boda. Despite the numerous people who ride bodas around town every day with no problem, they're still not considered a safe choice.
You may not be considered wealthy in your home country, but you're coming to a country where the average monthly income is about $80.00 USD a month. You are a top target for petty theft here. Don't carry a bag that's easy to snatch and run, and don't have your phone out in public or even in the car with an open window. Phone and purse snatching is quite common in the big city if you're not careful. In smaller communities it is much less common, although still something to be cautious of.
Lake shores aren't typically something to be concerned about, but when you're standing in the most concentrated Schistosomes body of water, it definitely is. Bilharzia is a disease caused by the schistosome parasite that lives on snails in some bodies of water. Lake Victoria is riddled with this parasite. This disease is chronic, and can be serious if left untreated, but there is easy access to medication and the it is easily diagnosed with a urine test. Plenty of people contract it and treat it with no problems, but it is a little gross to think about parasites laying eggs in your organs.
Certain night clubs
Night life here can be fun, relaxed, non-threatening, and respectful. That's more often the case. But every town has the more notorious night clubs that are wise to avoid. Ask around before going out, and then treat it like a club in any other place in the world (be cautious of strangers, avoid being alone, and watch out for pickpocketing...aka the common sense your mom taught you).
Traveling Alone at Night
Just like anywhere else, it's not a smart move to be out alone at night. This is more true in Uganda simply because street lights aren't as common and power outages are, so you'll find yourself in dark spaces often. Crime is highest at night in remote, dark places, so just make sure you avoid those situations. Traveling by boda at night (with others) is just fine 99% of the time, just make sure your boda driver hasn't been drinking.
Most snakes in Uganda are actually non-poisonous. However, they're difficult to identify from one another, and no one wants to take that risk. Ugandans are well versed in killing snakes and are happy to help. If a snake is spotted, it probably won't last long. There are black and green mambas, cobras, and puff adders, which are known to be some of the most deadly snakes in the world. It is very important to be cautious around any snake you may encounter. That being said, snake bites are very rare, and shouldn't be a big concern.
Yes, unfortunately mob justice (when a group of people impose justice, typically violent or lethal, onto a person who has done something wrong in their eyes) does happen occasionally. Most likely, you can avoid seeing and experiencing this altogether, but if you find yourself in a situation that is escalating you need to get yourself away from that location as soon as possible. If you were part of the incident, get yourself to the nearest police station and let them tell you what to do next.