Money Or Currency In Uganda
Understanding Ugandan Currency
Coming to terms with currency for Uganda can be very confusing for first time travellers to Uganda. You will find a miniature of Ankole Kingdom’s long-horned cattle on some of the notes or a fish (Nile Perch) on some of the coins, which, one could say, indicates a cash cow on the one hand and a fish-out-of-water representing a visitor’s unfamiliarity with Ugandan currency on the other.
However, it is simpler than that.
Money in Uganda
What is the currency in Uganda?
The national currency of Uganda is Ugandan shilling or simply referred to as shilling. The currency code for Ugandan Shillings is UGX and the sign is USh.
The Ugandan bank currency notes are in five different denominations: UGX 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, and 50000.
The Ugandan currency coins are to the values of UGX 100, 200, 500, and 1000.
What is the highest currency in Uganda?
The 50000 shillings note is the highest currency in Uganda.
Can I use US dollars in Uganda?
Yes, the US dollar is a recognized currency in Uganda, and is now widely accepted for cash payments in most tourist focused businesses like hotels, restaurants, for safari tours, and at the airport. Actually, if you decide to pay for a Uganda tourist visa on arrival at Entebbe airport, you will be required to pay in dollars, about $50 for a tourist visa. Though these tourist geared establishments usually list their prices in dollars, we recommend against you paying with the dollars or any other foreign currency because you will end up paying more due to the inflated exchange rates used by such businesses.
Money Exchange in Uganda
What is the best currency to take to Uganda?
The US dollar is the best foreign currency to bring to Uganda.
Uganda is majorly a cash or paper money economy so you should prepare to get your foreign currency exchanged upon arrival.
The (June 2020) exchange rate between the Uganda shilling and the US dollar was 3724.54.
The (June, 2020) exchange rate between the Uganda shilling and the British Pound was 4729.57.
But you can also check the current exchange rates via XE.com
Where to change money in Uganda?
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.
When exchanging dollars, small denominations like $1, $5, $10, and $20 always get poorer exchange rates than the larger $50 and $100 notes – so carry larger notes when travelling to Uganda. These dollar bills should be newer than 2006 and in near-pristine condition. Blemishes, ink markings or any other sort of damage will invalidate or reduce their rate of exchange for Ugandan Shillings.
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 money at hotels and lodges but their rates are not as good as those of forex bureaus.
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.
These should be avoided like the plague. Even when you are counting the money with them, they may con you by sleight of hand, and make off with your money by undercutting the exchange rate.
Important points about money exchange in Uganda
- Avoid changing money on the black market as you may probably just end up with counterfeit notes or being shortchanged.
- Avoid changing too much money in one go, or you will end up carrying pocketfuls of Uganda shillings around, which may not be safe.
- 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.
Making Payments in Uganda
When making payments at restaurants and at retail shops it is better you pay in local currency as you will lose money in the conversion process if you pay in US dollars.
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 don’t get any change back from local merchants, or simply you won’t be able to purchases the items or services you need.
Money Transfer in Uganda
Money gram and Western Union outlets are common across Kampala and in all major towns around the country.
Banks in Uganda
In Uganda, Banking hours are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays and those that open on Saturdays usually open from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Most banks are closed on Sundays.
Kampala city’s banking is centered on Kampala road and Nile Avenue in Kampala. Most major banks in Uganda have a presence along these streets.
ATMs and Credit Cards in Uganda
ATMs machines are widely available in the Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. You can use your debit card to withdraw small amounts for light purchases.
Though cash is the major medium of exchange, credit cards are widely accepted at most big 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 don’t accept credit card payments. Still note, for those that do accept credit card payments, they 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.
Always carry $100 – $200 or its local equivalence as backup cash for emergencies especially when bank ATMs jam or when your card stops working.
Important things to note when 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.
What can one US dollar buy in Uganda? (2020)
- I litre of petrol or gasoline
- 3 litres of bottled water
- 1 cold Nile Special beer
- 12 minutes of airtime on MTN or Airtel mobile network
- 500 MBs or 0.5Gbs of internet data on Airtel of MTN mobile network
- 9 eggs
- 2 rolex sandwiches
- 1kg of sugar
- 1 litre of milk
Tipping in Uganda
There is no traditional culture of tipping in Uganda but it is highly appreciated. When tipping, it is better to use local currency because most locals have limited access to money exchange points. Of course, tipping is entirely optional and not always expected except when dealing with tourist geared businesses and personnel like guides and hotel staff who are accustomed to tips from their guests.
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.
How much do you tip in Uganda?
The amount of the tip given is completely up to you the tipping individual but when tipping guides and drivers a tip of $10 – $20 dollars per day is reasonable if you think they have done a great job.
If you have more questions about Uganda currency or want to get some professional travel assistance to East Africa, feel free to contact our travel experts for help. You can also choose one of our tailor-made safaris in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania with our local guides.