Kampala, Uganda Report of what it's like to live there - 11/18/19
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?
Kampala is my 4th post. I have previously served in the Middle East and Europe.
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?
Getting to post from DC takes about twenty hours. From Dulles, people take either the direct flight to Brussels or to Amsterdam, layover, then to post.
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?
I love our house. It’s very spacious with a lush, large garden/yard. It’s Africa so we have a lot of MyService requests, but in general the house is great. I’d definitely recommend the Naguru and Kololo neighborhoods. Both have gyms and restaurants and if your kids attend KISU then their commute will be short. Your commute to the office though will be unpredictable. On average it’s 40 mins. In my opinion, the traffic here is debilitating.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Well, you have Amazon, so there’s that. There are a couple of other import stores where you can get good cheese, imported US breakfast cereals, spaghetti sauce, etc. The US Embassy has a Friday market where you can get fresh veggies, coffee.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Lysol wipes, shelf stable milk, quality pet food.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Kampala actually has a number of very good restaurants. Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Italian options are here - and quite good. We also have Jumia, a food delivery service which finds my house 85% of the time.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants are everywhere - residences, offices, everywhere.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We have a DPO which is not known for its speediness. Usually takes two weeks until it’s in your hands.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very available, we have a wonderful nanny and gardener/driver.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are a couple of great gyms and they are expensive, but worth it if exercise is important to you. Running in Kampala is terrifying and not recommended, not only because of the horrific driving that goes on here but the air quality is very bad.
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?
They are widely accepted but we are discerning in their use. We use cash mostly.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Uganda is an English-speaking country.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
I think very, very difficult.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
They are not safe and we are prohibited by the Embassy from using boda bodas (motorcycle taxis). I see a boda accident or near accident almost daily.
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?
One that you can rely on, mechanics here, in my opinion, are awful. The roads are beyond terrible and the drivers here - well, let’s just say I feel sure there is no test for a license and I don't think most drivers even have one. You can drive to a number of safari lodges and you’ll want a reliable four wheel drive SUV.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It’s available, Zuku has proven to be pretty good. It didn’t take long to install, a few days after arrival.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Definitely a local provider.
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?
We found a good vet who makes house calls. They are not quarantined upon arrival. The pet food isn’t the best quality.
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?
Many work in EFM jobs in the Embassy or at the two international schools.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Yes, there are many all over Uganda.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes. I've heard snatch and grabs are very common. Traffic accidents seem to abound and I've heard there have been attempted home invasions and robberies.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria is an issue, people do contract it in Kampala. Also, the air quality makes it hard for respiratory issues.
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?
Terrible to me. It's been described to me like second-hand smoking all day long. All residences are given air purifiers.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
I think it could be a challenging post for folks with food allergies.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Just intense anger at the traffic.
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 wonderful here. It’s rarely very hot. Usually about 78 during the day, 68 at night more or less every day of the year.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
We have kids at the Kampala International School of Uganda (KISU) and we love it. They’re in the primary school and the kids also love it. It’s a British curriculum. I have heard people are less happy with the Upper School but I can’t comment from first hand experience. The other school is ISU located closer to Entebbe, but if you live in Kampala, it’s a an hour commute on a good day.
My kids are too young for that and I was uneasy with them in a bus for that long knowing how people drive here. Their commute to KISU is 10-15 minutes. As like most posts, there is a fierce ISU vs. KISU debate and people feel strongly on both sides. Just make the decision based on what you know would be best for your kids. I should also note people are happy with Ambrosoli school as well and it’s also better located in Kampala.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Both KISU and ISU do offer accommodations.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
I’d say it’s good overall. A lot of people really love it here.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for families, so much for kids to see and experience.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No, it’s actually illegal here.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Ugandans are very nice, polite people.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Gender equality seems to me to be light years behind.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Great weekend trip options like safaris and mountain waterfall hikes. These have been the highlight. The roads outside Kampala are manageable with gas stations along the way.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
A lot of great, beautiful African crafts and art.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather and the cool art/crafts to buy.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
People say the traffic is bad. I’ve lived where I thought the traffic was bad. This is indescribable. It impacts everything.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Complaining. If you are a complainer you will sink into a depression. Come with a sense of adventure and a lot of patience.
4. But don't forget your:
Patience and good hiking shoes.