Nicknamed the Pearl of Africa, Uganda lies at the heart of the continent. And though the country may be landlocked, it doesn’t disappoint in terms of impressively diverse landscapes, from waterfalls and lakes to the glaciated and snow-peaked Rwenzori Mountains.
Straddling the equator, Uganda has relatively pleasant weather year round, albeit humid. Ugandan people are equally warm and famous for their hospitality and welcoming nature. Making friends and meaningful connections shouldn’t be hard.
Living in Uganda as an expat
Communication barriers are unlikely to present a major culture shock. Uganda is a multilingual country, with English and Swahili as its official languages. The country also has a rich, welcoming culture, making it easy for expats to settle in.
Most visits to Uganda are also trouble-free. Despite terrorist threats, there have been no major attacks since 2010. Most crimes committed against expats in Uganda are opportunistic, and common crimes are burglary, muggings and credit card fraud. It is best to exercise caution and avoid walking city streets at night.
Since the discovery of oil, Uganda’s economic prospects have improved, and its expat labour force is employed in various sectors. Many foreigners work as journalists, diplomats or aid workers in NGOs, and some are in the financial sector or major industries, such as coffee.
Accommodation in Uganda is relatively cheap. That said, renting property in a safe expat neighbourhood in Kampala could cost two or three times as much as elsewhere in the city. Most expats choose not to compromise on safety and security, and end up staying in one of these areas.
Public transport in Uganda is largely rather informal. Many cities rely on minibuses and boda bodas (motorcycle taxis). The country does have a small railway system, but it operates severely under capacity. Cycling on Ugandan roads can be dangerous, as little space is left open for cycling lanes. The country’s roads are often filled to the brim, and conditions are generally rather poor, so expats driving in Uganda should remain vigilant and drive defensively.
Public health services are free here, but public hospitals are understaffed and underfunded. The country does have private healthcare options, which is usually the route expats take when medical attention is needed. Expats will need to invest in a comprehensive international health insurance policy before moving to Uganda, as treatment in private hospitals can be expensive. Malaria and bilharzia are health issues in certain parts of Uganda and expats planning on living or working in rural areas are advised to take preventative measures.
Cost of living in Uganda
New arrivals will enjoy an affordable cost of living and will likely find themselves living comfortably in a major urban area, such as Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city. Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2023 ranked Kampala at 166th out of 227 cities surveyed. Similarly priced cities include Lima, Peru and New Delhi, India. Despite Uganda's low cost of living ranking, however, salaries may be less glamorous than in other expat destinations and certain things might prove more expensive than expected.
Expat families and children
Uganda offers its residents enrolment in the Universal Primary Education (UPE), but the quality of schooling is generally poor, with schools being underfunded and understaffed. Expat families will be glad to hear that there are several international schools in Uganda's capital, but the fees for these are high. It’s worth trying to negotiate an allowance for this as part of an employment package.
Expats can expect to get out and about here, with many things to do and see in the country. A visit to Lake Bunyoni is always refreshing, or expats can go trekking for mountain gorillas. The crater lakes make for beautiful natural scenery, and the Queen Elizabeth Nationals Park has myriad animals to marvel at.
Overall, expats moving to Uganda will have a chance to interact with friendly locals while enjoying spectacular landscapes, a mosaic of cultures and exciting wildlife. While expats may miss certain home comforts, they will surely be treated to an unforgettable experience.
Population: Over 45 million
Capital city: Kampala
Neighbouring countries: Uganda is a landlocked country surrounded by Kenya to the east, South Sudan to the north, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, Rwanda to the southwest and Tanzania to the south.
Geography: Uganda lies in the Nile basin and a substantial portion of Lake Victoria lies in the south of the country. Uganda has a varied but generally moderate equatorial climate.
Political system: Unitary dominant party presidential republic
Major religion: Catholicism, Christianity, Islam
Main languages: English, Swahili
Money: The Ugandan Shilling (UGX) is the country's official currency. Some ATMs may be available in major urban centres, but expats in more rural areas will struggle to find these.
Tipping: It's customary to tip a guide, driver, porter or cook depending on the level of service.
Electricity: 240V, 50Hz
Internet domain: .ug
International dialing code: +256
Emergency contacts: 999 or 112
Transport and driving: Ugandans drive on the left side of the road. Public transport is rudimentary and mostly in the form of minibus taxis.