Kampala, Uganda Report of what it's like to live there - 12/27/18
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?
I have also served in Bogota, San Salvador, and Accra.
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?
My home city is Los Angeles. It takes about 24 hours to get to Kampala from the USA. On the current contract carrier, flights from the USA arrive in Brussels, then depart Brussels for Kigali (8.5 hours), then on to Kampala (Entebbe airport) (1 hour). Including layovers it is about 24 hours total. I would recommend breaking the trip in Brussels (one or two nights stay) before going on to Entebbe, if you can.
3. How long have you lived here?
A few months.
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?
Housing is largely single family homes scattered across seven neighborhoods. The commute is pretty long, unpredictable, and the pollution from vehicles and motorcycles is choking. Some (rare) days a normal 15 minute commute can turn into two hours. There is no traffic management plan and the roads are full of potholes. If you bring a vehicle, it should be an SUV.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are available, but expensive (e.g., whipped cream and beef bacon are the equivalent of US$10.00). Mostly European products available in stores and boutique shops. Items are available, but you will pay for it. There is no commissary at post, so if there are particular American items you like they should be sent via CNS.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are a few American fast food chains (Pizza Hut, KFC) and food delivery is plentiful and inexpensive. Most nice restaurants are located in the greater Kampala area with good/varied food options.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitos are very prevalent, some are malarial.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Via the Embassy. There is a local post office in town, but I have never been to it.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is about US$200.00 to $400.00 per month, depending upon how generous one is.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are a number of gyms throughout the city and prices vary from moderate to ridiculous.
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?
Cash is the primary form of payment. The main supermarkets (Shoprite and Game) take credit cards. Hotels take credit cards, but many assess a surcharge for their use. Gas stations, taxis (including Uber) are on a cash basis. It is best to pay with cash.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Many religions cater to English-speaking audiences (Anglican, Seventh-day Adventist, Church of Latter Day Saints, Catholic, etc.).
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is widely spoken.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Driving in Kampala (and Uganda in general) seems perilous. A driver must always pay attention to driving due to bad roads, animals, erratic drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians all jockeying for space on the roads. Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way on the roads and hit-and-run cases are not uncommon. It is not advisable to take buses or local vans for transportation needs.
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?
Toyota, Land Rover, and Mitsubishi are the most common vehicles. It would be best to bring/purchase an SUV of one of these brands.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is available, but expensive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Local phones can be purchased for as little as US$20, but those are not smart phones. The more expensive phones (iPhones, etc.) can be very expensive to purchase locally as well as other electronic products. It would be better to obtain a local plan as international (home) plans may impose roaming charges.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Kampala is rated critical for crime.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is not to western standards. Many viral outbreaks (Ebola, Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever, Zika) begin in Uganda. HIV/AIDS rates are higher than in other countries.
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?
Very bad. One can see the haze in the near distance and vehicles emit profuse amounts of exhaust to the point you cannot drive with windows down. There are 195 capital cities in the world. Kampala was ranked as the 28th worst city for air pollution in 2016 (https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/the-most-polluted-cities-in-the-world-ranked/4/).
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
A staple food of Uganda is the ground nut, which is similar to the peanut. One should be aware that this product is used extensively in local foods.
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?
The weather is semi-tropical in Kampala. There is no excessive humidity. I would say it is similar to southern California in the spring time but with adequate rainfall. Overall it is quite pleasant.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are several International schools. We have been very pleased with the International School of Uganda (ISU). This school is located in the Kampala suburb of Lubowa, which has less pollution than central Kampala.
1. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Uganda is one of a handful of countries in the world where gorillas can be seen in their natural habitat. There are also several national parks teeming with African wildlife. Accommodations range from basic to luxurious, however the price/satisfaction ratio is not as high as what you would receive in Kenya/Tanzania/Botswana/S. Africa safaris.
2. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not really. It is best to travel to other countries in the region for ethnic shopping.