The Ugandan shilling is relatively stable currency and floats against the US dollar. It is also fully convertible (ie, you can by Ugandan shilling with US dollars or US dollars with Ugandan shilling) at the bank and foreign exchange bureaus. Notes in circulation are Ush 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000 2,000,1,000 and coins in 500, 200, 100, 50 Ush. Travellers should note that the bank of Uganda has since April 2010 printed new bills, same denominations but completely different looks. It was at this very time that a Ush2000 note was brought into circulation.
Assuming you're carrying all your money in US dollars cash (denominations of $50 or higher printed after the year 2000) or in pounds sterling and euro, that you never stray outside of Kampala, and that you hibernate over weekends and public holidays, the process of converting these funds into local currency in Uganda could scarcely be more straightforward. Banks and bureaux de change (known locally as forex bureaus) all around the capital will convert US dollars cash to local currency at a moment's notice. At a private 'forex', this transaction seldom takes more than a minute or two, and no passport or other documentation is required. A bit more paperwork is involved at banks. The exchange rate against US dollars is generally more favourable at a forex than at any bank, and the previous day's rate offered by a selection of the capital's more prominent bureaux is listed daily in The Monitor and New Vision newspapers. Being more specific, bills printed in 2006 after are acceptable all over Uganda and will be considered with no compromise,.. a “give and take” deal!...hope this makes sense.
Banks are open from 8.30 to 16.00 on weekdays (though some banks on Kampala Road do stay open later) and from 09.00 to 13.00 on Saturdays. Forex offices open up earlier, they typically close at 17.00 and are also open on Kampala, your best bet on Sunday are the private forex offices within the Speke Hotel, Garden City shopping mall and the Grand Imperial Hotel which are open seven days a week, as are forex bureaux and banks at Entebbe International Airport which normally stay open late enough to serve passengers on all incoming and outgoing flights. If later you do find you exchanged more than you actually required in Uganda, it's straightforward to convert it back to foreign currency in a matter of minutes at any forex bureau in Kampala or at Entebbe International Airport, albeit at a slight loss So far, so good! But there are a few complications. In Uganda, as elsewhere in East Africa, US dollar banknotes printed before 2000 are not accepted, owing to aprevalence of forgeries dating from this period. Nor will banks or forex bureaux accept any torn or blemished notes, no matter how insignificant the damage.
Also, significantly poorer rates - up to 20% lower - are offered for bills/denominations of US$20 or less. Furthermore, many financial institutions will look upon with suspicion - or reject altogether - your travellers' cheques. The story is that a few years back some Ugandan banks were defrauded by a series of forgeries that left the banks substantially out of pocket and understandably reluctant to accept traveller'. cheques at all, let alone without backup documentation.
The prime exceptions are a few major international banks, notably Stanbic, Barclays (a maximum of US$500) and Standard Chartered which will accept American Express travellers' cheques. They may also accept Thomas Cook cheques but this seems to be at the discretion of the branch. As is normally the case, you'll need to show the bank your passport, but it is also likely they'll demand to see the proof of purchase.
With recent developments however, travellers cheques can generally be exchanged at most banks in Uganda and most foreign exchange bureaus. Rates offered are generally slightly lower than those advertised for cash. It is also possible to buy US dollar travellers cheques from Barclays, Standard Chartered and Stanbic Banks in Kampala for small fees. If you’re uncertain about the use of traveller cheques in Uganda, feel free to contact us, we’ll be willing to help you through free of charge.
This situation presents something of a quandary to anybody carrying travellers' cheques. The sole advantage of travellers' cheques over cash (and the reason that they effectively cost more) is the guarantee of a refund should they be lost or stolen, which will be nullified should the proof of purchase be lost or stolen at the same time. In other words, while the issuing companies decree that one should never carry travellers' cheques and the related proof of purchase in the same place, the banking rules in Uganda enforce one to do precisely this, and in the circumstance where arguably they are most exposed to theft - walking the streets of the capital. Fortunately, unlike Nairobi, Kampala is not a city that carries a significant risk of daylight theft, but clearly it does make sense to carry the travellers' cheques and proof of purchase separately on your person, or for couples to divide the two between them, reducing the risk of both being stolen at the same time. Should you not have your proof of purchase to hand, the Standard Chartered Bank on Kampala Road may exchange travellers' cheques after a grilling by the bank manager, but this is a lengthy process, with an uncertain outcome. It's worth double-checking before you sign any travellers' cheques that you have presented all the necessary paperwork and have an acceptable brand, and that the cashier is ready to accept them. Should you do so and the bank decides for whatever reason to decline them, you won't, of course, be able to use them elsewhere.
Use American Express ones only. All others you will have a harder time getting money or no money at all. You will pay a fee for exchanging them into, money.
Out of Kampala, forex complications have become things of the past with the expansion of private banks, notably Stanbic, into most regional towns. It's a pleasure to find that you can change cash or travellers' cheques for US dollars. Pounds sterling and euro at fair rates established by the banks' head offices in Kampala. While these rates are slightly inferior to those offered by private forex bureaux in the capital, they are an improvement on the rotten rates usually offered by their upcountry counterparts. In fact, in the face of corporate competition, most regional forex bureaux outside hotels and other umbrella institutions have disappeared.
The most extensive banking network is operated by Stanbic which occupies the upcountry branches of the former Uganda Commercial Bank in Jinja, Mbale, Fort Portal, Kisoro, Mbarara, Hoima and Masindi. Barclays Bank operates in Jinja. Entebbe and Mbale; Crane Bank operates in Jinja and Mbale. Standard if this seems quoted in Uganda shillings, but some hotels and backpacker hostels do have set ial prejudices US dollar rates, which can be paid in local currency at the current rate of exchange. This duality is epitomised in the official UWA rate sheet. Visitation fees, for instance, are quoted in US dollars, though they can be paid either in US dollars or in Uganda shillings. Gorilla-tracking permits are also quoted in US dollars, but cannot be paid for in local currency, while most fees for accommodation, guided walks and launch trips are quoted in local currency, and are normally paid for in Uganda shillings. Such inconsistencies present a slight dilemma in the context of presenting prices in a travel guide.
There is a case for quoting all rates in US dollars, which are likely to mean more to readers at the planning stage of the trip, and which, given the instability of African currencies in general, is likely to be more accurate than local currency rates in the long term.
ATM Machines: If you have a visa debit card it is easy to get the best rate from your country's currency converted into Shillings. One can use a bank ATM and pay no fees with their bank back home. The limit withdrawal varies between 500,000 to 600,000 Shillings per day with them. At Barclays, they say the limit is 500,000 Shillings, but you can withdraw 400,000 first and then 200,000 more for a total of 600,000. You can also use a visa credit card if you have a pin number...alert your bank that you will be doing withdrawals in Uganda otherwise you will not get any money out of the machine here in Uganda. Use a Visa ATM card. If your card is eaten by the machine, you can go to the bank the next business day with passport and get it back.
Credit Cards: Even the UK government suggests not using credit cards in Uganda due to the possibility of someone stealing your card information. Cases of such have happened even in high end hotels according the UK government website. Cases of employees stealing your credit card information has happened here and other African Countries. Credit Card fraud and thefts have been on the rise in Uganda and become more sophisticated, and credit card fraud or theft has even been reported in major International Hotels If you have no other choice, the first choice of Credit Cards here is Visa and secondly Master Card. Barclays, Standard Chartered and Stanbic banks, have now been upgraded to accept international credit cards.
In your country you can use your credit card for a purchase and that is what shows up on your bank statement at the end of the month – use your credit card to pay for your safari in Uganda – you will pay a minimum of 5% more – in some cases tour operators charge you 10% above the price. Hotels, Restaurants, Shops that do take credit card will all add a processing fee charge of at least 5%. I have seen cases where they charged up 15%. Its such a great option when transfering money less than $1500 and beyond that bank wire transfers will be a better option.
Money Safety: Wear a money belt around your waist to hide cash. Use safe in Hotel to put your airline ticket and also your passport. Make copies of passport, airline tickets and anything else that is an important document. Never flash any money in public such as in restaurants or public places since it will attract unwanted attention and it will be your loss.
Money Changers: Avoid them. At border crossings you will be haunted by them and many are con-artists who can make you think you are getting one amount, while in reality you will get a lot less. Even if you are counting along, their hands are quicker than your eyes.
Purchasing Items: Avoid using dollars when buying things such as crafts and souvenirs. You will lose money in the process. Convert your money to shillings at a Forex Bureau.
Bank Wire (bank to bank) Transfers; This is the primary manner in which money sent to Uganda. You can wire / telegraphic transfer (the common term here) money directly into any bank account from anywhere around the world by using the bank information provided by your Uganda contact. Note that even when this is a popular option in which our people send payments including for gorilla and chimp permits, there are costs attached and its best if you compare the various charges you may incur sending the money to us. please contact your nearest local bank for the information you need and the likely charges.
These are actually more straight forward than you might imagine, but are an expensive way to get your hands on cash. Wire transfer via Western Union or MoneyGram is the fastest method to send and recieve cash BUT PLEASE DO NOT USE THEM FOR THIS PURPOSE!!!...And if you have no option, forget!! Western Union and Moneygram allow the scammers to anonymously collect the money from any victim without fear of the transaction being traced back to them. They can even claim to be in one place and in reality be in a totally different one.
Fake IDs make it highly unlikely the scammers can be traced when they receive the payments this way. WU and MG are perfectly legitimate services that the scammers have - once again - learned how to manipulate for their own needs.
Also transfers such as Western Union and MoneyGram always pay out in Uganda Shillings (or destination country's currency)....but the US dollar rules in Uganda's tourism industry.,...you then buy them at a Forex Bureau, you lose in the process.
Restaurants & Hotels: Avoid hotels that charge in US$, it limits where you can stay but if you come from the USA your dollar converted will stretch further. Use Uganda Shillings at restaurants.
AMEX, Visa, Visa Electron, MasterCard and JCB are the only accepted at a few choice establishments and in banks in the cities. You can now use your visa card to draw money from your bank account in Europe or America. If you are planning to pay for your safari, gorilla/chimpanzee tracking permit or car rental, go here to see the possible options. The Shilling is the currency used in Uganda but some people will take dollars and pounds in cash. The exchange rates vary from time to time but are readily available from banks and Forex bureaus.
Finally, please note that prices quoted here were collected during the middle of 2011. They will almost certainly increase noticeably during the lifetime of and exacerbated by international increases in oil prices
Whether you are looking for additional Uganda safari information, Safari itineraries, competitive quotes, or have any other questions, feel free to contact us at or even just call +256 (0) 777201697, we are always happy to answer your questions