An expat guide to moving to Uganda
In short, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about living in Uganda as an expat or those that have decided to move to Uganda
If you’ve been wondering, “what is life like in Uganda?” keep reading.
Quick facts about living in Uganda:
- Official languages: English Swahili , Luganda (unofficial) but the most spoken in Kampala.
- Currency: Ugandan Shilling (UGX)
- Level of crime in Uganda: moderate
- Cost of living in Uganda: Low
- Quality of life in Uganda: Moderate, all the best services are available for those that can afford them
Kampala is the capital, and culturally, it’s easy to transition to. Foreigners are welcome, society is not highly conservative and most people speak at least some English, so it’s not hard to get to know the locals. As far as lifestyle goes, Kampala may not have the overwhelming choice of consumer items that the west does, but it does have pretty much everything you’ll need for a good standard of living.
The country obviously has its downside. It’s now a lower middle income class country, it has the typical problems associated with poverty: corruption, lack of infrastructure, poor health provision and high unemployment. Whatever your reasons for being here, whether for business, working for a diplomatic mission, religious motives or NGO work, you will most likely engage with these challenges on a daily basis.
Finding your away around a new country can be daunting and frustrating at first. If you are posted to Kampala through a business or organization you may well be informed by them about house agents, medical facilities, places to obtain essential items, and they may even appoint a ‘buddy’ to show you around when you first arrive. This can help you to meet people and start those all- important networks of friends.
Of course, not all new arrivals are so lucky, and anyway, you’ll want to explore the city and meet people by yourself. But whatever your circumstances, if you’re an expat arriving in Kampala for the first time with spouse and children, one of the things you’ll probably be keen to do is to find sources of recreation and entertainment for you and your family.
Housing can be surprisingly expensive if you are based in the city centre. If accommodation is provided by your organization, then great! If not, then you will probably be given a limited amount of time in hotel accommodation while you find your own. There are a number of property agents who can help you find what you’re looking for including the the upmarket agency Musbon Real Estate that majorly deals In properties for sale. Be careful to consider your or your spouse’s place of work as well as the location of potential schools when choosing an area to live in- this may make a huge difference in the amount of time spent stuck in traffic on Kampala’s extremely crowded roads.
Availability of expat-type accommodation ranges from impressive houses and gardens in secure compounds to condo-style blocks, to small family accommodation with modest gardens – again, usually with their own compound.
Driving, Roads and Traffic
Driving in Kampala can be nerve-wracking at first if you are not used to driving in a developing country, but you will be surprised how quickly necessity will force you to get behind the wheel. All driving is unpredictable although with the general pace being slow, it usually gives you time to react. Roads are often badly surfaced and potholed, although most in the city centre have tarmac.
Vehicles tend to weave around these potholes to avoid bone-shaking bumps, so get used to people suddenly heading directly towards you! Traffic is heavy and disorganized, lights and traffic wardens may actually exacerbate this. What may alarm you the most, however, is the way no-one pays any attention to road rules.
But if you really don’t want to drive, you can also make use of the local options, ‘boda bodas’ – the infamous but convenient motorbike taxis, or ‘taxis’ -Toyota Hiace vans converted to take around 14 passengers. Whatever your choice, you’ll eventually find the driving style here seems purely routine, just as it does at home.
You’ll Love It living in Uganda
Whatever your reasons for coming to Uganda, and staying in Kampala, plenty of opportunity exists for you and your family to have an enjoyable, interesting and rewarding cultural experience whilst not having to sacrifice the kind of conveniences you are used to at home. Welcome home.