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10th Dec 2013 9:25am | By Amy Fallon
Despite still making headlines for its past menaces - dictators and warlords - the landlocked country dubbed the "Pearl of Africa" by Churchill is now peaceful again, with a booming middle class and a tropical climate.
Uganda was named the world’s number one country to visit by Lonely Planet in 2012, and the accolades keep coming. This year, National Geographic praised it as one of its favourite places to visit worldwide and, perhaps more importantly, Ugandans were crowned Africa’s biggest drinkers.
The nation is also said to be the planet’s most ethnically mixed country, and its people are undisputedly among the friendliest. Tip: Although its capital is a modern city with ATMs scattered across it, Uganda is mostly a cash-based society and many places don't accept credit cards. Carry US dollars to pay for hotels, park entrances and gorilla permits.
A hot, dusty and chaotic city, Kampala is home to about 1.7 million people, including hundreds of expats. While it may boast only a handful of tourist attractions, it’s arguably east Africa’s party capital and also offers several art galleries and a theatre. But a few days here will probably suffice when there’s so much to see ‘up-country’.
Things to do: They may be described as ‘death traps’ but bodabodas – the country’s ubiquitous motorbike taxis – are the cheapest and most efficient form of transport. One entrepreneurial local Walter Wandera now runs boda tours (walterstours.com), which take in the Bahai Temple, one of only seven in the world, and Kampala’s best craft markets, among other sights. Passengers can also sink their teeth into a rolex role and the local dish, matooke, along the way. And don’t worry, everyone gets a helmet!
Where to stay: Kampala has two hostels, one (backpackers.co.ug) located just 2km from town and Red Chilli (redchillihideaway.com), a bit further out. Both can arrange package tours of the national parks and other places. A pricier but more convenient option is the Golf Course Hotel (golfcoursehotel.com), next to Garden City and Oasis Malls, where there are supermarkets, banks, internet cafes and pharmacies. For the most stunning view of Kampala try Cassia Lodge and Restaurant (cassialodge.com/home.html).
Going out: Kampala boasts so many good going out spots that it’s hard to narrow down the best. But to meet other westerners check out the Camel Club (camelclubuganda.com) or anywhere on nearby Acacia Avenue. To drink Waragi (the local gin) until dawn with locals go to Iguana (+256 777 667909) at Kisimenti or anywhere on the Kabalagala strip.