Kampala, Uganda Report of what it's like to live there - 06/24/22
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. We have also lived in Moscow, Jordan, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia among others.
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?
Washington DC-Kampala has flights through Brussels and Amsterdam as well as connections through Addis and Doha. Door to door is about 24 hours but can be less or more depending on connections/layover. The airport is easy to manage, not the most luxurious, but it functions well and has a small lounge. There are direct flights to other African cities and allegedly, soon to be more direct flights to Asia, India and Europe with Uganda Airlines.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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?
We love our house. We live in Muyenga and have a house with a large yard and a nice layout with lots of storage. The housing pool varies from large house with large yards and pools to apartment complexes or townhouse complexes. From our neighborhood, the commute to the Embassy post-Covid is about 15 minutes. On a very rare bad day, it can take 45 minutes in the evening but that's uncommon these days. The housing is spread among four areas of town and commute and convenience vary widely. Some neighborhoods are closer to the school and some are closer to more of the diplomatic community. Pros and cons to all.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Fresh fruit and vegetables are widely available but variety does not change as there are no real seasons here, just one long season. Pineapple, mango, many types of bananas, watermelon, passion fruit and local oranges are available very cheaply roadside and delicious year round. The grocery stores carry standard vegetables but nothing exotic. There is an excellent Belgian grocery with imported cheese and deli meats/salamis and a good meat counter as well as other European products. Most household supplies are available and price varies widely. We get most of what we need at a very affordable price and order some things from Amazon like toiletries and unscented laundry detergent.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
We did not have a consumables shipment. Everything we have needed has been able to be shipped through Amazon. The one lacking element is good wine/liquor. The selection here is limited and average.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is a wide variety-Asian, Latin American, European, Middle Eastern. Every restaurant delivers and the local delivery service has been mostly excellent, with food arriving within an hour of the order being placed on the app.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I don't know that there are any more pests than in DC, just different ones. GSO is great with a variety of pest control solutions. We had some snakes in the yard but after we got chickens, we never saw snakes again. We have every size of ant in the house but they seem to go quickly with the gel we use that GSO provided. Mosquitos come and go with the rains, slightly annoying but not swarms.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very affordable and a large pool of well trained employees. We have a housekeeper/cook/nanny, a driver and a gardener. Average pay now is 50,000 UGX a day which is around $13 USD. Our staff is full time but many friends employ people part-time and that seems to work out well also.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are growing options. I have a trainer that comes to the house at an affordable rate, friends also have judo instructors, gymnastics coaches, yoga teachers that come to their houses. There are boot camps and gym classes, as well as a few pilates/yoga studios. Rates are reasonable.
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?
We use our card at some restaurants we frequent regularly as well as at the grocery stores. We cash checks at the embassy as the ATM fees are really high, but the ABSA banks seem safe to use.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are many options for Protestant services, as well as Catholic churches. Beyond that, I am not so sure.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None. Nearly everyone speaks English fluently-there are Luganda tutors around at an affordable rate but it is not necessary to learn to speak it in order to communicate. There are a few simple phrases that are nice to know for respect.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. There are terrible roads, no sidewalks and very little infrastructure.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Affordable yes, safe, no. Usually everyone has their own car. We have used Uber on occasion and it's mostly fine, sometimes frustrating, but not unsafe. Those that don't have cars often find a local taxi and just use that person for all their transport 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?
Buy one here. It can take ages to get your car registered. A four wheel drive vehicle with high clearance is key. Many people drive Toyota Prados of varying vintages.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, with increasing speed and reliability. It has improved greatly during our tour and our fiber internet works well most of the time. There are multiple providers for fiber now and it depends on neighborhood and house location to know what is best for your area. Installation can be quick if you have the identification you need and if the companies have the routers, etc., in stock. I would recommend bringing a router with you as the ones the internet companies provide are not of high quality. We also use an extender/repeater which makes a big difference in the internet reaching various parts of our house.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We use locally purchases MTN sim cards.
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?
Most of our friends have pets and have been happy with vet services here. The vets make house calls for all services.
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?
The embassy has a wide variety of jobs available for EFMS.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Many options are available depending on interest, both in Kampala and greater Uganda.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Smart dress; everyone is always very put together and there is not a local culture of casual clothes.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Local crime of opportunity-purse snatching, phones stolen from cars. We are aware of our surroundings in the same way we would be in any big city and don't feel any particular danger beyond that.
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 fine but not great. We use the Med Unit at post and various providers on the local economy and it has been fine.
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?
The air is bad, but not nearly as bad as we had been led to believe. We run our embassy provided air purifiers 24/7 and clean the filters monthly and change them via GSO every 3 months.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
There is a limited variety of gluten-free things available in some shops. I would not trust most local restaurants to be able to accurate determine if something was GF as there is not a local awareness here and cross contamination is rampant. Our son has a variety of food allergies and I have felt safe here and he's had no incidents but we are careful. As far as environmental allergies, we take Zyrtec daily, but we likely would anywhere, as we have a lot of environmental allergies. We have had no specific issues here.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
not in our experience
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It's lovely! low to mid 70s all year and mostly sunny with blue sky most days. Some pollution haze some days and some bouts of rain, but it almost never rains more than a brief spell, and that's only a couple months a year.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are many school options, most embassy families go to ISU which is in a suburb and I hear generally positive things. There are embassy families at a variety of other schools and all speak very positively of their experiences. We have been very happy with the small international school in our neighborhood.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Limited. ISU has some specialists and can provide aid for some needs.
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, inexpensive and a wide range.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, lots of options. Many coaches come to your house for lessons-we have had gymnastics, yoga, piano, art, Spanish and others-all at our house for between 7-10 USD per hour of private lesson.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Very large and many people come here and stay, so there is a strong sense of community.
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?
Many options-running, sailing, music, diplomatic groups, art groups.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
We have a family and have friends in every catagory and all seem quite happy here.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Generally cautious due to local laws and culture.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not in our experience, there are some local prejudices among other African countries, but in general, it's a very mixed community and there does not feel like there is any blatant prejudice. Gender equality is better here than in many places.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
We have loved exploring Uganda-the parks, the villages, the various landscapes. We enjoy quiet pool days in Kampala and getting out and about as well. We really loved Fort Portal and the crater lakes, but we would be hard pressed to chose a very favorite as all of our incountry travel has been memorable and enjoyable. We really enjoyed the community and the ease with which people host, due to large yards and a sometimes quiet nightlife. We made many friends and saw them often, which was a huge benefit at this post. We will miss it so much!
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
We loved Fort Portal.
Rhino trekking on foot was great!
Karamoja was incredibly memorable and the village and mountain tribes there were fascinating!
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Lovely local baskets, great African artists and cultivated collections at local galleries
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can make a life where you live and really enjoy your neighborhood and local friends. It does not feel like an expat bubble.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
The med unit will provide meds BEFORE you travel for the inevitable e.coli/food or water illness.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely. It's been a great post for our family, many people extend, both single and married and with and without kids. And the brand new embassy is almost done!
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
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
6. Do you have any other comments?
Kampala came highly recommended to us and we have found it lived up to its reputation. There are hard things about living here but there are many wonderful and delightful things that outweigh the hard things.