Kampala, Uganda Report of what it's like to live there - 06/05/18
Personal Experiences from Kampala, Uganda
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, many others, but all in sub-Saharan Africa (for past 20+ yrs).
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Pittsburgh, PA. We take Delta/KLM via Amsterdam - 20+ hrs.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Great housing, great garden, nice residential neighborhood (green, fairly clean) yet close to restaurants and supermarkets. Any commute in Kampala is challenging, but that's the case in most capital cities these days...
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Certain things are more expensive, yet other things (fresh fruits & veggies) are cheaper. Overall, it evens out. Almost everything that you need is available year-round, supermarkets are generally well-stocked, farmers markets are available at different locations, and there's even a store that important all Costco & Sams Club products from the USA (a bit more expensive due to importation/transportation cost, but still great to have!).
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Laundry pods are not available (or at least I haven't found them).
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Any type of food is pretty much available at different restaurants in town. Good reliable food delivery services from all these restaurants as well (Jumia food).
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitos, termites and ants?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO (pouch), DHL, not sure about local postal facilities, as I have not used them, but I know other expats use different companies that provide shipping services to EU and USA.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is available, and not too costly. A full time household helper would run US$200-$300/month.
Typically people have housecleaners, cooks, drivers, nannies, and gardeners. A number of people also have staff who take on combined responsibilities.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Different hotels offer sports/workout facilities. They are generally of good quality but also rather expensive.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Some stores, restaurants and hotels offer reliable credit card services and I generally feel it's OK, but won't use it everywhere. Same goes for ATMs, there are available in many places, but you have to be selective in where/which ones to use.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, definitely, although I'm personally not very familiar with them.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is generally fine in Kampala - upcountry local language is useful but there are so many different languages spoken that it's difficult to pick one, as every corner of the country has a different language.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Hills can be challenging for people in wheelchairs, as it's VERY hilly! Also, I'm not sure how wheelchair accessible restaurants are here.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
The regular public transportation options are not the best. Uber is used quite a bit (or a similar taxi service called Friendship taxi) which works fairly well, is reasonably priced to cheap, and offers better quality services than regular public transportation.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
4X4 - not only to get through the potholes in the city but Uganda also has some amazing game parks (anywhere from 4-8 hrs drive from kampala) where use of 4X4 is advisable. Do not bring a car that doesn't have high clearance. Do not bring an American made/brand car as you will have trouble finding replacement parts.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
High speed internet is an issue in many expat residential neighborhoods, however optic fiber is being put in different places which seems to offer higher speed internet at lower cost that existing providers. However, not everywhere available yet but the next thing over the coming year.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Use a local provider as the cost is relatively cheap (for calls and data) and there's a good number of different providers to choose from.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Reasonably OK vet services available. No quarantine necessary, need them for regular shots for cats & dogs and certificates of good health, etc.
Not very familiar with kennel services, but many people will have household staff look after animals/pets when they travel, and in same cases dog walkers (available everywhere) will also look after pets.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Any jobs - from EFM positions at the mission to local hire NGO jobs, or international/expat jobs in International Development or Private Sector. Some also do virtual jobs. Salary scales and benefit packages vary depending on type of job, and full-time or part-time assignment. Many are also involved in consultancies (either in country or elsewhere with travel to and from post)
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Yes, many from health to education related opportunities, to working with animals and wildlife and conservation efforts.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
The dress is not very formal, pretty much anything goes in Kampala, but it's a bit more conservative upcountry.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
While there's some small crime, it's generally fairly safe in Kampala; you just have to be aware and vigilant, but that's in any large/capital city these days.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria and bilharzia are the main health concerns.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Moderate to sometimes bad, but that very much depends on the day/time of the year. It is partially because Kampala is very hilly so that bad air/exhaust from traffic sort of 'hangs' in the valleys in between the hills.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Some who are sensitive to certain pollen, yes, but nothing that's really specific to this country.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Uganda has a very moderate climate year round. It's often referred to as San Diego weather all year round, as it's so very pleasant. It can rain any time of the year but there's two rainy seasons during which is will rain more than other months. That also means that it's green year round and anything grows here. Evenings and nights are comfy (60's) and during the day it gets to 75-85 max.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Different accredited international schools are available, from British to French to American IB curriculum. Smaller elementary Montessori-like schools and play schools/kindergarten are also available. We are particularly pleased with ISU (Int'l School of Uganda) Pre-K thru 12 grade, American accredited IB (PYP, MYP, DP), on a great green campus (35 acres) which provides an amazing and rich learning environment for kids from over 60 different country. (see school report on ISU)
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
ISU is the best and main reason we came to Uganda for a special needs child. See more details in school report. Top priority is learning diversity and inclusion at ISU.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes, many preschool options available, but my kids are older so not much involved, except for great pre-K/Early learning center at ISU, which also offers after school care.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
yes local sports options, as well as music or theater/performing arts are available at post if your child is not interested in after school activities offered at school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
It is a large expat community between American/European/Asia. Generally good morale and good 'mixing' of different expats (much of which might also related to the international school community you're part of).
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Going out to restaurants, bars, movies, or upcountry camping and game parks. Biking and hiking clubs are also available and very active. They are based out of Kampala with sometimes upcountry activities/outings.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good city for all! Different groups seem to all find each other.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No, Uganda seems to have some serious limitations of gay rights, so that's definitely something to review. I have heard that many LGBT expats are suggested to 're-closet' during their posting here (at least in public).
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Gender based violence (combined with alcohol abuse) is a serious issue in Ugandan society and worrisome as it's not enough addressed as being an issue (particularly in rural areas). There's different ethnic groups and religions but not sure that there's a real prejudice though at that level.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Different national parks, camping along the Nile and crater lakes, the sheer beauty of this country and even the birdlife in the middle of the city in Kampala, the amazing vegetation year round.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Crater lakes (Fort Portal or Lake Bunyonyi areas), camping in the wild in national parks (Murchison Falls NP, Queen Elizabeth NP), walking with the zebra and antelopes (Lake Mburo NP), camping and biking along the Nile... the list goes on!
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
It's not bad, there's interesting cloth, baskets, wood work, and artsy jewelry. No real antiques though.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Climate; it's perfect year round!
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
More about the different ethnic groups/local customs/cultures.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Boat/kayak - nearly all lake water (especially near Kampala) has bilharzia, so no boating or swimming to avoid contracting that.
4. But don't forget your:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Queen of Katwe is THE best movie made about a slum girl in Kampala, and many scenes depict Kampala. Even Black Panther has scenes filmed in Uganda. Bird of Uganda is a great book - must have if you come here.
6. Do you have any other comments?
It's a great family post!!