Kampala, Uganda Report of what it's like to live there - 08/12/15
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. London, New Delhi, Vancouver.
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?
USA - >24 hours via Amsterdam or London
3. How long have you lived here?
One year completed of a two-year post
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Trailing spouse to a diplomat
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is good and the yards are ridiculously awesome.
Traffic is awful (not as bad as Delhi) and it often takes 45-60 minutes to drive to the Embassy from Kololo. To give some perspective, it takes my husband 30 minutes to run home. People will often not go somewhere due to the traffic annoyance.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Inexpensive unless you are looking for Western foods, which cost a bit more.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
UPS devices!!!! if you want to keep your electronics functional - power is very dirty and outages are regular occurrences.
Transformers as they allocate only a small number
Dog crates (they sell for US$400 for small and US$700 for large ones)
Candles (can't ship)
Dog/cat food and cat litter if you don't have shipping through the Embassy
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
KFC is here. There are a range of restaurants and they are affordable.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes and ants. The ants are tiny and cute; they don't really bother us. The mosquitoes aren't too bad in the city and malaria is low in Kampala proper (there hasn't been a reported case in Kampala in 5 years). However, malaria is a serious risk as soon as you leave the city.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We just got DPO and the pouch is still available as well.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Readily available and very affordable.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
No good, affordable gyms, unfortunately. I use myyogaonline and my husband jogs to work.
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 do everything in cash, which we get from cashing checks at the embassy. No credit cards, though you can use them at some of the larger grocery stores.
5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
We aren't allowed to use any of these for transport.
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 for parts. You need a 4wd or a 4x4. It is worth it to bring tires with you if possible. You will need to replace them while you are here. Air filters are replaced regularly too and the good mechanics seem to charge inappropriately for them.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
See above in phone section
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
They all rip you off and it gets very, very frustrating. I came with an unlocked iphone and use MTN, which have been decent for the most part. Avoid Africell as I set them up and found them stealing my data (they claimed I used 1GB of data in 15 minutes and 200GB in 5 months). For home internet, I use Vodafone unlimited at 10MB speed. It is very expensive at >300,000 UGX per month, but it ends up costing the same and it is much faster than other companies (we can actually stream if we want). Vodafone (I live in Kololo) is new and I suspect they will become corrupt with time. Others like Smile too, which seems to work better for Tank Hill. Be sure to check the quality of the connection based on your neighborhood. Be mentally prepared to be very frustrated when dealing with phone/internet as there are no regulations and there is a lot of corruption.
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?
No quarantine. Decent veterinary care is available for maintenance care, but not surgical care. There is very poor hygiene as autoclaves are not available for sterilization. There are no gas anesthetic machines, so anesthesia is more risky. Dr. Gibson at Makerere University sterilizes his equipment with a pressure cooker and he has an American veterinary technician monitor anesthesia. However, I do not know how long he/she will be here.
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?
Yes. I have never met so many entrepreneurs in my life.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plentiful opportunities to volunteer.
Kids Club Kampala and the USPCA are great organizations and can always use volunteers.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Petty theft. Lock your doors at all times and keep your windows up. Al Shabaab is a threat, so we go to the malls/grocery stores in the morning and usually stay away on the weekends. However, we are likely being over-cautious about the latter.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Typhoid is a major issue here and the prevalence increases every year. Malaria is not a problem in Kampala proper, but it becomes a problem outside the city.
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?
Not too bad compared to other developing countries.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
75-85F year round. Two rainy seasons that are becoming less and less able to differentiate from the rest of the year. Even during the rainy season you will have hours of sunshine in one day.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Our girls (2 & 3 years old) go to Kampala Community International Preschool (KCIP) in Naguru and we could not be happier. The Swan preschool in Tank Hill has similar reviews. The KICU and Ambrosoli schools have great reviews, but the waiting lists are long and they are expensive. The International School in Lubowa has a decent reputation for older kids.
2. 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, very good and affordable
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There is a ballet class available. There is also horseback riding outside of Kampala for ages >4. Most schools have some sort of activities.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large expat community and very good morale.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Great for families, I'm guessing moderate for singles and great for couples.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No. It's a major issue here.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
We camp about 50% of our weekends and most people don't take advantage of this opportunity. Camping makes travel affordable and you will get fantastic close encounters with the wildlife that you cannot experience staying in the hotels.
5. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Kampala is really where you spend time with friends and family. Playgroups, parties, and dinners out are the main activities. The Speke resort is a nice place to spend the day, but it does get expensive. The Serena hotel will cost a family of 4 US$100 to visit for the day. There are a couple of forest walks that are good day trips. The rafting companies offer a fantastic day trip from Kampala that is worth the money.
6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Arts and crafts
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
House help, kid-friendly post, weather, wildlife/parks, cost of living.
8. Can you save money?
Yes! If you don't stay at the resorts.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
If you plan to travel to the national parks a lot, then it is worth investing in an annual pass (US$500/365 days for a couple, US$700 for a family of 4). The payment has to be made in cash at UWA in Kampala and it pays for itself after 9 days in any of the national parks.
Bring your camping gear and be prepared for awesome adventures if you camp. Camping is the only way it is affordable to travel regularly in this country. Be sure to camp on the Delta in Murchison Falls, on the Mweya peninsula in QENP, and campsite 3 in Lake Mburo. You will have hippos brushing up against your tent, but they really do leave you alone in your tent. We always camp with our 2 & 3 year olds, so the hippos definitely know we are there and they are not bothered.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes; it's a great post and treats us well. However, we take advantage of what Uganda has to offer.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Sense of adventure and motivation to travel!
Also, don't forget to do the wildebeest migration - 11 hour drive and camping available on the river in the Mara Triangle. You need to book about a year in advance!
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
God Loves Uganda,
Call Me Kuchu,
Machine Gun Preacher,
The Last King of Scotland
(but be aware this is fiction and there is very little truth in this movie),
Gorillas in the Mist
(be sure to read the IMDB facts about the making of this movie),
The African Queen
(filmed in Murchison Falls NP), Tarzan (filmed in QENP), Kony 2012 and the Virunga documentary.
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier - about child soldiers/militia;
Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption - a look into orphanages