Uganda – Kelly Grafing (2006)

Kelly Grafing was a medical resident in pediatrics at the University of Minnesota in 2006. Kelly used her $1000 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation to support her participation in an elective program in Kampala, Uganda where she provided inpatient care to children with extreme malnourishment and rare diseases.

Here are Kelly’s travel safety tips:

  1. Make two copies of your passport prior to leaving. Leave one behind in your home country after telling a trusted person where it is located. Take the other copy with you storing it in a different location than your passport. This is to have documentation of your passport should it become lost or stolen.
  2. Carry your passport and money in a travel safety pass to prevent getting your pocket picked.
  3. Registering with your local embassy either prior to leaving or upon arrival is a good idea.
  4. Malaria prevention is key. Take your anti-malarial medications as prescribed daily. Also prevent bug bites with bed nets and bug repellant. A recommended bug repellant would be Ultrathon Bug Repellent lotion or Sawyer Extended Release Bug Repellant. The key is the extended release of the DEET component. These products are available at camping stores.
  5. Protection from the sun is also important. Have a sunscreen with you always for frequent reapplications. Drink plenty of safe water. Bring a hat and long sleeved clothing to block the sun effect.
  6. Ugandan currency is the Ugandan shilling. As of spring of 2006, 1800 Ugandan Shillings are equal to 1 US dollar. To ensure the best exchange rate, bring $100 or $50 US dollar bills that are new, crisp, and dated after 2000. Many places will not accept bills printed before 1999. ATMs are available but having your own US currency is recommended.
  7. If working in the hospital, open toe shoes are acceptable but otherwise dress is very formal. You will be expected to wear a white coat daily. Men are to wear a shirt and tie.
  8. Shower shoes are a must.
  9. Transportation around Uganda comes in many fashions. Private cabs are safe, often provide seatbelts, but are more expensive at about 5000 shillings. Matu Matus are minivans that function as taxis for the general public. These are safe and cost considerably less at about 300 shillings. Boda Bodas are motorized scooters that you can ride on the back of. I would not recommend this mode of travel, as it is unsafe and known for many traffic accidents.
  10. Walking is safe in Uganda, but should be done in pairs and during day light hours for maximum safety.
  11. Women are safe to travel in Eastern Africa , but should not travel alone. I would recommend that everyone travel in pairs regardless of sex.
  12. It is important to keep up to date on the news occurring in the country you are traveling to or in. Many countries in Eastern Africa are currently not safe to travel in due to political situations. This information should be checked prior to travel as well as while there.
  13. Water from the tap is not safe to drink unless boiled thoroughly. This means it is not to be used for brushing teeth, cooking, or accidentally swallowed in the shower unless treated first. Tap water can be made safe to drink either by boiling it, filtering it, or adding iodine tablets which are available at camping stores.
  14. A flashlight is a must as the power is very unreliable. I would recommend having one that can be carried on you at all times.
  15. You can keep in touch with your friends and families via email that is readily available at many Internet cafes taking into mind the power is working while you are there. Cells phones are cheap to purchase in Uganda , and your family can call you on your cell phone after purchasing an international phone card in the US for about 8 cents per minute. You will need a SIM card if you purchase a cell phone so that it can receive calls. You can call internationally from payphones in Uganda but will have to purchase a local phone card at a rate of about $1 per 30 seconds to 1 minute.