Are US Dollars accepted in Uganda?

Are US Dollars accepted in Uganda?  : Yes, the US Dollars are most accepted and used foreign currency in Uganda in all towns and citizen of Uganda, though Euros and pounds sterling are also accepted but only in Kampala and Entebbe and not upcountry. You need to first have an understanding of the Uganda currency.  For first time travellers’, coming to terms with the Uganda currency can be very confusing. The Uganda’s currency structure consists of notes and coins. The Uganda currency is called Uganda shillings and it’s the official currency of Uganda abbreviated as UGX ad with a sign Ugsh.

The Uganda currency has changed to about 7 times in the last years and as a tourist, you must know the correct currency before your travel to avoid being deceived and given wrong and fake currency. Following Uganda’s independence in 1992, the central bank of Uganda – Bank of Uganda introduced the first banknotes of 5, 10, 20, and 100 shillings and coins of 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 shilling and 2 shillings. However, as politics evolved in Uganda with different presidents, the Uganda currency also kept on changing and modified and the recent currency change happening in 2010. So currently Uganda has banknotes of;

  • 1,000 Uganda shillings
  • 2,000 Uganda shillings
  • 5,000 Uganda shillings
  • 10,000 Uganda shillings
  • 20,000 Uganda shillings
  • 50,000 Uganda shillings

And used Uganda coins include;

  • 100 Uganda shillings
  • 200 Uganda shillings
  • 500 Uganda shillings
  • 1,000 Uganda shillings

Both Uganda banknotes and coins features several heritage symbols that gives a hint on the Uganda cultural and natural attractions and heritage. For example, in the coins, you will find a miniature of Ankole Kingdom’s long-horned cattle in the 100 Uganda shillings, a fish (Nile Perch) on the 200 Uganda shillings coin, Uganda emblem on the 1000 Uganda shillings while on the bank notes, the 50,000 Uganda shillings represents the main tourist attractions of Uganda the Mountain gorillas, other notes represent the deepest lake in Uganda – Lake Bunyonyi, the great Sipi falls, agriculture as Uganda main economic earner, the Independent Monument as a symbol of Uganda’s independence and the several crater lakes in Uganda.

Can I use Dollars in Uganda?

Yes, the US dollar is a recognized and accepted currency in Uganda and it’s the currency choice of trade and tourism in Uganda. Most of the business areas especially those focused to Tourism related experiences like hotels, tour companies, airlines, restaurants recommend payments in US Dollars. For example, if you book a Uganda safari tour, must will be required to pay US Dollars ONLY. Uganda shillings are best recommended if one desires to purchase personal items in Uganda and also purchasing souvenirs while on your trip. Though payments are made in US Dollars, we recommend against you paying with the dollars on local products or any other foreign currency because you will end up paying more due to the inflated exchange rates used by some businesses.

How and where do I exchange cash in Uganda?

Uganda is majorly a cash or paper money economy so you should prepare to get your foreign currency exchanged upon arrival or as advised by your tour operator. You can exchange your foreign currency for local Ugandan currency in local banks, at money exchange points or forex bureaus, at the airport, and at hotels and lodges. Banks in Uganda will exchange most major foreign currencies like Euros, Pounds, Dollars, Japanese Yen, but the US dollars are the most welcome. There are also several money exchange points or Forex bureaus around Kampala city where you can buy or exchange Uganda shillings. You can also exchange your foreign currency at the airport upon arrival.

Changing US Dollars to Uganda shillings is very easy to do in the several available forex exchange bureaus and banks available in Uganda. These services are available as soon as land at Entebbe international airport and also scattered around Entebbe and Kampala.  The exchange rate between the US Dollars to Uganda shillings fluctuates from time to time however it is always around 3,560.  Other currencies like pound sterling and Euros can also be exchanged in Uganda and have their own exchange rate in all banks in Uganda.

Are US Dollars accepted in Uganda?
Are US Dollars accepted in Uganda?

For the best exchange rate, the best place would be Kampala capital city when you arrive in Uganda, it’s a 45 minutes’ drive from Entebbe international airport. Also you need to be advised that Uganda does not accept US Dollar old bills of 2009 and above. The notes must be clean and neat with no writings, ink-markings, stamps, labels, signatures and no any other sorts of damage on the notes. If you have such dollar bills, they will automatically be rejected. When exchanging dollars, small denominations like US $1, $5, $10, and $20 always get poorer exchange rates than the larger bills of $50 and $100 notes, we recommend that you carry larger notes when travelling to Uganda.

Note: The airport and banks tend to give worse exchange rates than the money exchange outlets around the country though there is better security in the banks and airport. There are also varying exchange rates from outlet to outlet but Kampala outlets tend to give better exchange rates than those in other parts of the country. You can also exchange US Dollar money at hotels and lodges but their rates are not as good as those of forex bureaus.

Important information about money exchange in Uganda

  • Avoid changing money on the black market as you may probably just end up with counterfeit notes or being short-changed.
  • Avoid changing too much money in at once because you will end up carrying pocketful of Uganda shillings which may end up being unsafe for you.
  • Don’t accept any damaged or marked dollar bills from others, as it will be hard for you to exchange them elsewhere in Uganda.
  • Always check the hidden image element especially in the large currency notes like the UGX 50,000 note to ensure they are genuine.
  • Familiarize yourself well with the local currency notes of Uganda and always make sure you count your money carefully to avoid being cheated.

Can I use my Visa credit and debit credit cards in Uganda?

Yes, you can, ATMs machines are widely available in the Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. You can use your debit card to withdraw small amounts as most balance have a withdraw limit. Though cash is the major medium of exchange, credit cards are widely accepted at some hotels and expensive restaurants although you should expect occasional network outages. Even though the numbers of businesses and restaurants that accept credit cards in Uganda have increased over the years, most businesses still do not accept credit card payments because of the delays that come along with them.

Note, for those that do accept credit card payments, usually add percentage surcharge fees to every transaction in addition to the international transaction fees charged by your credit card issuing company.

Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards in Uganda so your trip to Uganda, you must inform your bank at home that you will be using your card in a foreign country.

Although cards are accepted, ensure that you carry some cash on as backup cash for emergencies especially when bank ATMs jam or when your card stops working. It is also advisable to have a mix of ATM and cash funding sources especially if you are to spend considerable time in the country.

Your cash withdrawals should be planned out wisely to avoid having a lot of unused local currency as you leave the country.

Important things to note when using ATMs in Uganda

 All ATMs in Uganda only give out Uganda Shillings.

 Different bank ATMs have varying withdraw limits for the same kinds of transaction.

 Each ATM withdrawal carries a fee which varies from bank to bank.

Be cautious of those around you as you withdraw money from the ATM and try to limit your ATM visits to day time hours.

Note: If you intend to use your foreign issued ATM card in Uganda, apply for one from a bank which doesn’t charge fees for withdrawing internationally. The same applies to credit cards; make sure you carry or apply for the ones that don’t charge international transaction fees. Be sure to also let your bank know how long you intend to stay abroad to avoid unnecessary inconveniences.

Can I use US Dollars to make payments in Uganda?

Yes, you can but when making payments for a service or any item in Uganda, it is better you pay in local currency as you will lose money in the conversion process if you pay in US dollars. However, if you are in Uganda for a safari, most hotels, lodges, restaurants, and shops that are tourist-oriented will accept dollar notes and credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa.

Travelling within Uganda without Ugandan currency might get you into situations where you do not get any change back from local merchants or simply you won’t be able to purchases the items or services you need.

Can I transfer US Dollars in Uganda?

Yes, you can by using Money gram and Western Union which are commonly used outlets across Kampala and in all major towns around the country. Here you are will be able to receive money within minutes and one receives money already converted in Uganda shillings. Alternatively, you can transfer via a direct bank transfer however, sending money from Europe, Asia, or from America still remains different as it takes days to receive the money and also challengers of fraud in Africa.

There are various online money transfer platforms like Pesa Pal, world remit and remit that act as middlemen between the sender and receiver.  World remit and remit can wire transfer money from a foreign account to Ugandan mobile money phone accounts within minutes. Most tour companies in Uganda use pesa pal online credit card system to make payment for their Uganda safaris tours. This system is instant and one is able to get money immediately the transaction is successful.

Can I tip in US Dollars while in Uganda?

Yes, tipping is a culture here in Uganda and this is very common in the tourism sector of Uganda and its being adapted by other businesses. Even though tipping is a culture in Uganda, it’s upon a tourist’s satisfaction that they can tip and they are free not to top if are not pleased with the services.

Although tipping in US Dollars is accepted, when tipping, it is better to use local currency because most locals have limited access to money exchange points. We also recommend you tip directly to the service personnel as some of these tips never reach the intended persons when another individual is involved.

Since tipping in Uganda is out of courtesy, the amount to tip doesn’t matter. The main persons to tip while on a Uganda safari are the hotel staff, safari drivers, park rangers, and porters. For example, the amount of the tip given park ranger guides and drivers is about US $10 – $20 per day is reasonable if you think they have done a great job.

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