Uganda

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Letters take a minimum of two weeks to arrive in Uganda if sent by airmail; packages will take longer. If family and friends send letters within the first five weeks after your departure, you can use the following address:

“Your Name,” Peace Corps Trainee
P.O. Box 29348
Kampala, Uganda

You are responsible to provide your address to those who will send letters and packages.

Email Access and Telephones

Email access is limited. Volunteers often purchase portable Internet connection modems and/ or travel to an urban area for access at Internet cafes. This may mean access as little as once or twice a month depending on the Volunteer’s location. Volunteers typically purchase mobile phones and secure local phone services through a “pay as you go” plan. This means they pay for every minute when they place a call. Unlike the U.S., received calls are free to the receiver. Most Volunteers bring a laptop computer with them for work, maintaining social connections and leisure. While many have full size laptops, netbook computers are lighter and more packable. The possibility of solar charging is a bonus.

Housing and Site Location

Volunteers live in urban, semi-urban, and rural areas in village and town neighborhoods, at school campuses, and in clinic compounds. Living conditions vary widely. The host organization is required to provide you with two rooms, access to good water, bathing, and toilet facilities. One room typically serves as a bedroom and the other room a kitchen and sitting room. These rooms can be standalone small houses or attached to a row of houses. You may have some basic furnishings provided and you also receive a modest settling-in allowance provided by the Peace Corps to help you with additional basics for setting up a household. Most houses do not have running water or electricity. You should expect to use a pit latrine and a kerosene lantern and stove. Although the Peace Corps staff makes every effort to collaborate with communities and organizations to see that housing is ready for Volunteers when they arrive at their sites, because of limited resources, sometimes there are delays. At nearly all sites, privacy will be extremely limited. Children may be around constantly, demonstrating their curiosity about you. You will have to adapt to a more public life.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. 

Food and Diet

You will generally buy your food from outdoor markets or small shops. Most Volunteers cook for themselves. The local diet is basic but healthy, including a variety of plant protein foods (beans, peanuts, soybeans) and there are a lot of vegetables, greens, and starches. Fish and meats are easily sourced. There are likely to be some local restaurants at or near your site. Imported foods, while expensive, can be found in larger towns and serve as a great treat. During training, there will be sessions on safe food preparation and proper nutrition. There is a Peace Corps/Uganda cookbook that demonstrates how to use local ingredients. A vegetarian diet is relatively easy to follow in Uganda after one becomes familiar with the local food. Vegetarians should be prepared to explain to home stay families and others the concept of vegetarianism.

Transportation

Volunteers travel primarily by foot, bicycle, or public transport. Public transportation to and from the nearest urban or trading center is available near every site—in most cases several times a day. Public transport is likely to be crowded and uncomfortable. Sometimes transport is infrequent and unreliable. . To facilitate fieldwork, Volunteers are given an allowance to purchase a bike. Still, many of the communities and jobsites Volunteers visit may entail a long and challenging ride. Some Volunteers must be able to ride a bicycle in order to do their jobs. When riding a bicycle, Volunteers must wear helmets (provided by the Peace Corps). Please come to Uganda with this as an expectation. When traveling to and from major cities, there are large, comfortable buses that operate on schedules. Tickets that designate specific seat numbers are purchased in advance or near the time of departure. To move about among specific places within a city, Volunteers often use taxis known locally as “private hires.” The Peace Corps/Uganda prohibits the use of motorcycles by Volunteers as drivers or passengers because of the extreme safety risks they pose. In some cases, special permission is granted to use motorcycle transportation for work-related reasons. There is a detailed process with strict guidelines to secure the permission.

Social Activities

The most common form of entertainment is socializing among friends and neighbors. You will find it easy to make friends in your community by participating in weddings, funerals, birthday celebrations, and other social events. Volunteers also visit other Volunteers at their sites or other locations on weekends or holidays. Some Volunteers run while others hike and bike. Playing games, local and otherwise, are also options. Football (soccer) is a passion as is cricket. Basketball can be found in certain locations. Billiard tables are commonly seen in semi-outdoor locations. Some larger towns have cinemas as well. It cannot be overemphasized the rewards of establishing rapport with one’s supervisors, co-workers, and other community members. A sincere effort to learn the local language will greatly facilitate these interactions. The Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to remain at their sites as much as possible to develop relationships with community members. There are opportunities for eco-tourism—birding, wildlife viewing, and hiking. River rafting is also popular. Local rafting companies assert that exposure to fast-moving white water during rafting and kayaking presents a low risk for “schisto,” a parasitic infection caused by schistosome flukes. The risks related to “schisto” are permanent as there is no absolute cure.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Ugandans view dressing appropriately as a sign of respect for others. Dressing in neat, clean, and conservative clothes can assist integration into your community and enhance your professional credibility and effectiveness. For male Volunteers, clothing should include smart casual pants and a dress shirt. Ties typically are worn for work in urban environments and for major functions. For female Volunteers, slips, skirts, and dresses below the knees are appropriate in most professional environments; short skirts and low-cut or sleeveless tops are highly inappropriate. Blue jeans, T-shirts, and casual sandals are not considered appropriate during training, in the workplace, or during visits to the Peace Corps office. Shorts are not worn outside one’s house. Facial piercings are not generally accepted in professional settings, and may make it more difficult to integrate into your community. Discreet studs are likely your best option as hoops could present a safety issue. If you have tattoos, please be prepared to cover them whenever possible, especially when you are in your community. For men, beards are acceptable as long as they are neat and trimmed. Norms for dress are conservative.