Uganda for the most part is a cash based society. Here and there you can use your credit card, (Visa cards are most readily accepted, Master Card is next, but not Discover Cards and American Express at a few spots) and usually it means 5 to 6 or more% surcharge for the privilege for using your card (due to fees that are incurred by merchants in Uganda). That means one needs cash while in the country. Many hotels, safari companies and airlines will ask for US dollars. Uganda Shillings will be accepted in many cases instead, not always at market exchange rate. Traveller Cheques are often harder to cash and are cumbersome requiring extra fees in banks. Most Forex Bureaus will not take traveller cheques from you. Below are some tips that will make your visit to Uganda smoother in regards to money.
US Dollars are the currency of Choice:
Most permits such as the ones for gorillas must be paid in US Dollars. Euros and UK Pound are ok for changing money into Ugandan currency. It is important that you obtain dollar bills newer than 2003 and no tears or blemishes on them. This helps your exchange rate and getting them accepted. (2003 is due to forgeries in times past)
Forex Bureaus are readily available in city/town centres:
Look into the daily newspapers for today’s rate. Avoid shady Forex Bureau, they will consistently give you one of the lowest rates around and they also give you the hardest time with the slightest imperfection on a bill.
You can always exchange money at a Bank and it might take a bit longer but in most cases you get a reasonable rate. You can use your credit card to get cash at banks, it may take a bit of time. You can also change your traveller cheques there however contrary to suggestions from American Express Traveller Cheques you will need proof of purchase and passport to prove ownership of cheques you want cashed.
If you have a visa debit card it is easy to get the best rate from your country’s currency converted into Shillings. The limit is 500,000 shillings per day. 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.
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. If you have no other choice, the first choice of Credit Cards here is Visa and secondly Master Card.
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. Plus in spite of suggestions from American Express you will need proof of purchase and passport to prove ownership of the cheques you want cashed. You will also receive a lesser exchange rate than Cash.
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.
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.
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.
Best to use Western Union or MoneyGram since you will get the money. Bank to bank takes much longer and is tougher to get. Money transfers such as Western Union will be paid out in Uganda Shillings. If you need US dollars you can then buy them at a Forex Bureau. You can now use Western Union and send money directly to someone using an MTN Phone in Uganda and they go and receive the money from an agent n Uganda.
Restaurants & Hotels: Avoid Hotels that charge in USD, it limits where you can stay but if you come from the USA your dollar converted will stretch further. Use Uganda Shillings at restaurants and hotels.