The people of Uganda use the Ugandan shilling as their daily currency. It is distributed by the Bank of Uganda and is represented by the ISO code UGX.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
In the past the shilling was divided into 100 cents. However thanks to the ever-present nature of inflation this is now no longer the case. When you visit Uganda today you will only see coins and notes in the form of shillings.
While there are officially five coins in circulation two of these – the lower denominated two – are not often seen nowadays because they are simply not worth that much. These are the 10 shilling and 50 shilling coins. The ones you will see are the 100, 200 and 500 shilling coins.
There are several banknotes in circulation though – six in all. These are the 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 shilling notes. As you can see you could easily spend thousands of shillings in one go thanks to the level of inflation!
From past to present – the history of the Ugandan shilling
You may not be surprised to learn there has been more than one version of the Ugandan shilling in circulation. The first version came in back in 1966. This was done to replace the East African shilling that was currently in use there. The new introduction was made at par with the old currency so it was only really the appearance of the notes and coins that made a difference.
The first shilling lasted until 1987 when the second shilling was introduced to combat the level of inflation. Even at this point the cents were still in use, and they would last all the way through until 2013, when they finally disappeared.
How to get hold of the Ugandan shilling
The first challenge you will have is that you cannot get hold of the Ugandan shilling while you are still in the UK. This means you won’t have the easy task of going to your travel agent or bureau de change to order some. Instead you should take in some of your own currency and exchange it for the shilling when you touch down at the airport before you head for your accommodation.
You can exchange your own currency elsewhere too, although the US dollar, British pound and euro will likely be the best currencies to exchange for the most convenient rates (the US dollar, ideally). Make sure you only have high value notes to exchange – they will very often not accept smaller ones. This means if it is all you have you could end up with lots of small notes and no way of exchanging them.
You should forget about taking traveller’s cheques as these won’t be welcomed (this is much the same in many other countries in the world now too, as they are becoming very outdated). Your other option is to get hold of cash via a cash machine. It might be worth taking more than one card with you just in case you find your first option doesn’t work. Do also alert your card issuer so they know you are going to be abroad, otherwise they may assume your card is being used by someone else and they will stop it.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Ugandan shilling
You can do this by using any standard currency converter you find online. Most people will look for their own currency first and then enter the Ugandan shilling by looking for the ISO code (UGX). You might want to enter one unit to see how much this is worth before checking to see how much a larger sum gives you.
One useful website you might want to visit is the official site for the Uganda High Commission in London. This gives you lots of interesting and useful information, any of which might come in handy if you are considering visiting the country at any point. The website can be found at http://www.ugandahighcommission.co.uk/.
Travelling safely with the Ugandan shilling
Needless to say wherever you go in the world you want to know you will be safe there. At the time of writing the UK government was advising against travelling to the north-eastern part of the country for any reason. The rest of the country was fine however. As such it is a good idea to check the latest information before you plan any trip to Uganda. This will enable you to work out where you can go and which areas you should stay well clear of. Some border areas with other countries are also dangerous at times, so make sure you know where you are safe.
If you have read travel information on any other country in this selection you will have noticed a pattern. Mostly opportunistic crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching are the types of crime to protect yourself against, and this is also the case in Uganda. When you carry cash on you make sure you divide it into different pockets. Another option is to carry as little as you can rather than taking out large amounts via cash machines less often. Be alert as to who is around you whenever you use the machines: it is often safer to go inside the bank instead of using ones outside if you have a choice.
If you use your credit cards make sure you never let them out of your sight. Really many of these rules apply just as they would at home. In fact it is advisable not to use your cards at all if you can help it – fraud is a major problem here.
Where to spend your shillings in Uganda – and what to spend them on
Uganda is located in eastern Africa. Its northern border is shared with South Sudan, while Kenya can be found to the east. The southern border faces Tanzania and the small country of Rwanda is on its south-westernmost corner. To the west you will find the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While the country is strictly a landlocked one, Lake Victoria forms part of its southern area. Indeed the borders with both Kenya and to a larger extent Tanzania run right through the lake itself.
The capital of the country is a city called Kampala. This is popular with those who visit the country and it is – perhaps surprisingly – a modern city. The city has spread since its inception, most recently in 2001 when the limits were expanded to include many areas that up until that point were thought to be outside it. The city has plenty to offer and there are some nice markets here. Take a closer look at Nakasero Market for example – you can buy everything from food to electronics here and the prices are very reasonable indeed.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn the country has some UNESCO World Heritage Sites to share with its visitors, and one of these can be found in the capital. Look for the Kasubi Tombs, burial grounds for former kings of the region. The tombs were seriously damaged in a fire a few years ago so it is thought they could be out of bounds to tourists for some time.
Uganda is also home to a variety of national parks. Take the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for example – what a name! Many tourists go here every year and the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a challenge to even reach the park but once you are there you can stay there in a lodge, while enjoying the ability to go on a guided walk through some parts of the park.
The Kidepo Valley National Park is another good park to try. You can take guided tours here in vehicles to watch game, which can be seen across the vast and relatively flat expanse of land. Uganda may not be the first country that comes to mind when you are considering a safari to watch game, but as you can see you do have some excellent opportunities to do just that.
Uganda isn’t for everyone. However if you want to see this part of Africa it certainly has a lot to share with its visitors. From the surprises of the capital city – perhaps more modern than you might have thought – to the natural sights spread out all over the country, Uganda has many attractions. They all draw in the tourists on an annual basis.
Perhaps you will pay a visit to the Uganda Museum or see the Ssese Islands. Maybe you would want to see the Murchison Falls National Park. Whatever you decide to do this country is more than worth visiting if you would like a holiday in this part of the world. Just remember the information given above with regard to money, safety and which areas of the country you should steer clear of. This will help you create a wonderful holiday you won’t soon forget.