Whether you are planning the trip of a lifetime to Uganda, or you live here and are planning a trip for visiting friends and family, choosing a tour company is one of the most important decisions you will make. But, with such a wide selection of tour operators to choose from where do you start? Here are three easy steps to help simplify the process.
- Know what you want to do;
- Research tour companies;
- Validate and select a company.
First, before you contact companies make sure that you have the answers to what you want to do. Tour companies often specialize in certain types of tours and this will help you, and them, make sure you have a great trip.
- How many people will be in your party? Do you have any special requirements (elderly? Children?)
- What are your interests? Big game? Birds? Trekking? Bungee-jumping, speedboats and rafting?
- How much time do you have for your trip? And what time of year do you intend to travel (rainy season travel can be cheaper but will slow you down)?
- How much are you willing to spend? Is this a budget trip or do you want luxury all the way?
- Do you want everything planned for you – from the moment you leave home until you return?
This last question is the most important; it will guide whether you choose a local company or an international operator. If you are coming from abroad and not able to take the time to engage in the details of planning your trip you should look for an international tour company. These companies provide an all-inclusive package that will ensure you see what you want to see in the time you have. However, if you are in Uganda, are planning a budget trip, or want to be engaged in all the details then go local. In today’s online, connected world you can have plenty of contact and communication with your tour company even if they’re a local provider.
Now, you’re ready to research some different tour providers. While a healthy dose of scepticism is good in any transaction where you’re potentially spending thousands of dollars/pounds/euros don’t assume that local operators are out to rip you off or can be bargained down to the lowest possible price. Most will quote you a fair price at the outset given that they assume you are checking around.
The best place to start looking for a tour operator in Uganda is through the Association of Ugandan Tour Operators (AUTO) which vets its members and provides some assurance of their credibility and services. You can find their members directory here. There is also a Uganda Tourist Association which provides information on both what Uganda has to offer as well as a list of operators found here. The Uganda Tourism Board also offers a list of operators: http://www.visituganda.com/directory/.
After selecting a few different operators who seem aligned to the type of tour you are seeking it’s time to get online and communicate – either with them or with travel forums about them. Fellow travelers will probably have plenty to say about different tour companies and can help you in the selection. Try these travel forums:
At this point you should have a good idea of who you intend to use. Here’s a few additional do’s and don’ts:
- Don’t assume the guy at the airport who claims he is a tour guide or can arrange a tour for you actually is one or can.
- Do find out drive times between locations. Charter flights around Uganda are available but expensive but otherwise be prepared to spend many hours in a vehicle to get to some of Uganda’s best locations.
- Do find out what a tour company’s exchange rate is and whether payment is expects in USD or UGX.
- Do find out what the payment policy and cancellation policy is.
- Do find out what is included in your tour price. Will you be expected to pay for hotels/lodges as you go? Is food included? What about water and snacks? Park entry fees? Petrol?
- Do find out if your selected company accepts credit cards and if there is an additional charge for using them.
- Do ensure there is some flex time built into the schedule. Rushing from one site to the next can leave you exhausted and what happens if you go chimp trekking and you don’t find them? Can you stay for another day?