Avoid Uganda Visa Worries by Flying through Kigali

Uganda equator in Queen Elizabeth National Park; photo by Owen Bright
Uganda equator in Queen Elizabeth National Park; photo by Owen Bright

Uganda is following in the footsteps of Rwanda and Kenya by introducing online visa applications. The plan was announced on the Uganda Immigration website in December 2015 and the latest information is that the new arrangement will start on 1 June 2016. (Update: it eventually got implemented on 1 July 2016.)

Keeping in mind how, without any prior announcement, the Uganda visa fees doubled overnight on 1 July 2015, it is understandable that the change worries the tourism fraternity. Will it happen abruptly, meaning that visitors expecting to get a visa on arrival will be turned away?

Prof. Dr. Wolgang Thome yesterday helpfully summarised the unfortunate learning experience Kenya went through when switching to a similar system in 2015. This debacle didn’t go unnoticed in Uganda, so it is expected that a more gradual implementation will take place.

To get first-hand information, we visited a number of offices at the Kampala Immigration Headquarters today. Nobody was in a position to give any clear guidance but the following was shared informally:
– nothing has yet been finalised or officially announced (the widely quoted page https://visas.immigration.go.ug is now down, indicating that it may have been published accidentally)
– if visitors follow the existing procedures, they cannot be surprised in June

In other words, if you apply for your visa through a Ugandan embassy, you will be on the safe side. If you plan to simply fly in next month, better keep an eye on what is happening.

As far as visitors to the Gorilla Highlands are concerned, our advice has always been: fly in through Rwanda’s Kigali. Rwanda has the oldest and most robust online application system, Kigali is closer than Entebbe and the East African Tourist Visa (covering Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda) costs the same as a Ugandan visa ($100). For more on that see our Visa advice page.