Uganda Culture

Cultural highlights Uganda

If you’re looking to learn a little more about Uganda and the culture it has to offer, read our guide on Uganda’s rich history, the friendly people, and some cultural highlights and activities we recommend – all with responsible and authentic tourism in mind.

Covered in this Guide 

A Brief History of Uganda

Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country, including the capital Kampala. Five traditional Bantu kingdoms have remained, and they have retained some cultural autonomy. The five kingdoms are Toro, Buganda, Busoga, Bunyoro, and Rwenzururu. There are around 56 distinct tribes that exist in Uganda.

In 1894, the Uganda area was ruled by the United Kingdom, which established laws and regulations across the territory. Uganda gained independence from the UK on October 9th, 1962. Although Uganda has experienced unrest in the past, it’s now a peaceful, safe, and tranquil place.

Five Fun Facts About Uganda

1. Pan fried grasshoppers, Nsenene, are the ultimate delicacy in Uganda. If you’re offered Nsenene, don’t skip out on your chance to try them!
2. Over 30 indigenous languages are spoken in Uganda. Although English and Swahili are the official languages, many people speak Luganda. Try saying ‘Asante Sana!’ (Swahili), or ‘Webale Nyo!’ (Luganda) – those both mean thank you very much! 
3. Entebbe used to be the capital of Uganda before independence in 1962. 
4. Uganda is home to one of the smallest churches in the world. On the top of Biku Hill in Nebbi Town is Bethel Church. It’s only 2.3 m wide and 2.4 metres tall and was constructed in 1996.
5. The equator runs through Uganda! You can see it and take a picture at the monument for free. If you’re travelling west, you’ll see it around 420 kilometres outside of Kampala in Kampala-Masaka road. 

People of Uganda: Friendly, Funny, Reserved

Many people who visit Uganda fall in love with the country because of the hospitality they receive. To match their kindness and customs, it’s important that you begin every conversation with lots of pleasantries. Ask people “how are you?” and other friendly questions before you get to the point.

Once you do strike a conversation, they’ll open up and crack jokes with you. Ugandans are joyful and expressive with their voices. Prepare to hear cheerful “EeeEee!!”.

Ugandans also love to hear about your family. They want to know if you’re married, if you have kids, see pictures of your parents, learn about where you come from. Don’t take this as an invasion of privacy - family is very important to them, so these questions are just their way of getting to know you.

They’re proud of their country and culture, and if you’re open to it, they’ll be happy to share it with you. Do your best to bust a dance move, speak Luganda, and try some matooke, and we bet you’ll make instant friends.

Experience Uganda’s Culture

Experiencing Ugandan culture is less about seeing something specific and more about interacting with individuals and learning about their opinions and way of life. That is also why we love self-driving and raodtripping so much compared to organised tours, it allows for unexpected and authentic encounters. 

The best way to understand Ugandan culture is to get off the beaten tourist track. Don’t forget to buy a rolex from the stand outside your hotel, opt for homestays, or have a chat with a local boda guy. These experiences might feel low-key, but it’s the most authentic way to understand the modern culture of Uganda.

Having said that, there are plenty of organized ways you can delve into Ugandan culture and contribute to responsible tourism. Check our list below. 

List of best cultural activities in Uganda

Here's a list of our favourite cultural and community tourism activities in Uganda: 

  • Ndere Centre, Kampala - the Ndere Cultural Centre opened in 2003 and is now the home of one of Uganda’s best cultural dance groups, the Ndere Troupe. They perform every Wednesday and Friday at 7pm, and do a family show at 6 pm. The centre is also home to unique art, artefacts, and architecture.
  • Boda Boda Tours, Kampala – Want to see all of Kampala’s attractions while getting around like a local? Join a motorcycle tour and hit up all of Kampala’s main attractions. Get in touch with Ricky’s Bodaboda City Tours or Walter’s BodaBoda tours for more info.
  • Visit Karamoja – located in the northeast of Uganda and named after the Karimojong people. If you walk through Moroto, you’ll learn about their pastoral lifestyle and cattle herding. In some ways, the Karimojong are quite isolated from the rest of Uganda, making them a cultural time capsule. Check  Kara-Tunga website for more information on excellent community tours and activities in the region. 
  • Kibale Cultural Tourism Centre - Kibale Forest is home to ancient tropical rainforest, chimpanzees, rich birdlife and dozens of unique crater lakes. The Tourism Centre in the village of Bigodi offers swamp walks, banana beer preparation and tastings, coffee processing experience, tea plantation visit, traditional healer experiences, and more. These responsible tourism activities are all brought to you by the local Kibale community.
  • Homestay, Boomu Womens Group - offers a campsite and banda's (basic), set in a nice garden at walking distance from the southern entrance gate to Murchison Falls National Park. You can order for tasty, home grown food. The camp is run by a women's organisation and all proceeds go to the community. 
  • Golden Monkey and Batwa Trail - Like mountain gorillas, golden monkeys are listed as an endangered species. In Mgahinga National Park, there are two habitated golden monkey troops which can be observed by visitors. The Batwa pygmies are the indigenous people from Uganda who were once hunter-gatherers but have since been removed from their forest life. On the trail, they’ll show you how they used to live, how they gathered food, and their music and dance. By visiting them, you’re helping keep their culture and heritage alive.
  • Hike around Sipi Falls – Enjoy the roaring waterfalls, thriving farms, and village landscapes of the Karamoja plains in eastern Uganda. Home of Friends organises hikes, cave adventures, coffee tours, and more.

We hope you found this Guide on Uganda Culture use-full and that it has raised your interest to get to know the country and its people.