Ultimate Guide to Tipping in Uganda

Tipping can be a confusing practice, especially when traveling to a new country. In Uganda, knowing when and how much to tip can be a challenge for many tourists. Even coming from the USA where tipping is prominent, a different country means different protocols. 

Tipping is widespread in Uganda and is expected regularly. This can be surprising for visitors who are from countries where tipping isn’t customary.  

Whether you’re dining at a restaurant, taking a taxi, or staying at a hotel, knowing when and how much to tip in Uganda can enhance your overall experience and show appreciation for good service. In this ultimate guide to tipping in Uganda, we will explore the customs and practices to follow to ensure you tip appropriately and respectfully during your visit.

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Important Information for Tipping in Uganda

If you’re bringing cash (United States Dollars) please make sure that they are clean (no marks/writing) and crisp. The bills should also be dated after 2009. Many guides to tipping don’t mention this for Uganda and we ended up having to go to a bank to take out Ugandan shillings so we had enough to tip all the staff and our driver. The bank limited us to 1 million shillings each which at the time was about $270. So please make sure the bills you get are good! 

The reason is that the banks value these marked and super-folded bills as less than what they are actually worth. 

Our group with our guide in Uganda!
My family with our guide Hamza! (Who definitely got a tip!)

Why you should tip during your Uganda safari

Tipping is not only a way to show appreciation for the service provided, but it also helps support the local economy and the hardworking individuals who contribute to making your safari (and/or gorilla trekking) experience memorable. In Uganda, tipping is a common practice and is greatly appreciated by guides, drivers, lodge staff, and other service providers. By tipping during your safari, you not only express gratitude for the excellent service but also contribute to the livelihood of those who work tirelessly to ensure you have an incredible and unforgettable safari experience.

Do you tip with cash or a credit card?

When it comes to tipping for different types of services, the method of payment can vary. For city drivers and trekking teams, it is advisable to tip in cash. This is because they may not have access to credit card machines, and cash is often the preferred form of payment. It is also more convenient for them to receive tips in cash.

On the other hand, at safari bush lodges, you probably have the option to tip on credit card. Our tour included meals, but we paid for any drinks other than water, so it was easy to add the tip to the bill. You can also do this by speaking to the lodge manager or front desk staff on your last day in camp. This is more convenient for both the guests and the staff, as it eliminates the need for carrying large amounts of cash and provides a paper trail for the tips.

In what currency do you tip?

When visiting Uganda, it is customary to tip in cash using either US Dollars or local currency, the Ugandan Shilling. Both currencies are widely accepted for tipping purposes. However, if using US Dollars, it is important to note that bills/notes should not be older than 2009, as local establishments may not accept older bills.

While credit cards are widely accepted for main transactions, it is preferred to use cash when tipping. This is because many smaller establishments and service providers may not have the facilities to accept credit card payments. Additionally, tipping in cash tends to be more convenient and appreciated by the recipients.

My dad with a guide on a monkey trek with an iguana.
My dad with a guide on a monkey trek with an iguana. Guides help make these small moments incredible!

Who to tip and how much?

It is important to know the general guidelines for tipping to ensure you show appreciation in a customary and respectful way. Whether you are dining at a restaurant, staying at a hotel, or receiving a service, understanding who to tip and how much can help navigate the often confusing world of gratuity. Let’s explore the customary practices for tipping in various situations.

Lodge/Hotel staff

When staying at a hotel or lodge, there are various staff members that you may want to consider tipping for their services. These staff members include chefs, security guards, housekeepers, waiters/waitresses, and other hospitality workers who have made the stay enjoyable and comfortable. At most lodges, someone took our luggage from the safari vehicle to our rooms as well. 

While there isn’t a set figure for tipping hotel or lodge staff, a suggested amount is between $5 and $10 per traveler per day. This amount can be adjusted based on the level of service received and the traveler’s budget.

To ensure that all staff members receive a fair share of the tips, many hotels and lodges have a designated tipping box where guests can deposit their gratuities. This way, the tips are shared among all the staff members, including those who may not be directly visible to guests. We’ll go over this in more detail below. 

Safari driver/s

Tipping etiquette for safari driver/s usually encompasses giving a gratuity of $10 to $20 per person per day to the safari guide. Typically, one person in the tour group to present the tip on behalf of the whole group after the safari. We all did the tip separately so we could give him our thanks on our own. The safari driver plays a crucial role in ensuring a memorable and enjoyable experience, and acknowledging their efforts with a generous tip and sincere thanks is a way to show appreciation for their exceptional service.

Park Rangers

During your Uganda safaris, it is important to address park rangers with respect and appreciation for the valuable work they do in preserving the country’s natural beauty and wildlife. These dedicated individuals receive fair wages, comprehensive training, and are provided with health insurance and uniforms to ensure their well-being and professionalism. When addressing park rangers, it is respectful to use their official titles and to show gratitude for their hard work and dedication.

Generally speaking, it is recommended to offer a tip of $10 to $20 per person per activity as a token of appreciation for the efforts of the head guide, backup guides, and trackers, if applicable. This tip helps to supplement their income and serves as a recognition of the valuable knowledge and expertise they bring to your safari experience. The cost can depend on how large the staff group is. For example, for our golden monkey trek, we only had four rangers with us, but for gorillas, we had six plus porters. 

A guide on a trek with protection if needed.
One of our guides with a gun on a monkey trek for protection. Photo by The Directionally Challenged Traveler.


Porters play a crucial role in supporting wildlife and adventure tourism in Uganda. Whether it’s assisting visitors during gorilla tracking or mountain climbing, porters offer vital assistance in carrying equipment, ensuring the safety and comfort of tourists. Their role is especially important in the rugged terrain of Uganda’s national parks and mountains. I believe that everyone should hire a porter for gorilla trekking. 

Typically, the wage for porters ranges from $10 to $20, depending on the location and the specific duties required. For example, just to hire a porter in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for gorilla trekking was $20 USD (tip not included). Hiring a porter not only employs local communities but also contributes to conservation efforts by showcasing the value of wildlife and nature to the local population.

To further support these communities and conservation efforts, it is recommended to tip porters an additional $5 to $10. This extra income can make a significant difference in the lives of the porters and their families. My porters were all amazing, patient, and understanding so they definitely got big tips from me! I don’t think I would have been able to do everything I did without them. 

Transfer drivers

When it comes to tipping transfer drivers, the appropriate tipping range is typically between $5 to $10 for shorter transfers. For longer transfers, it is recommended to tip a higher percentage, around 15-20% of the total fare.

If a transfer driver goes above and beyond, such as helping with luggage or providing exceptional service, it is considered generous to tip on the higher end of the range, or even more.

It’s important to consider the level of service received and the overall experience when determining how much to tip the transfer driver. If the driver was courteous, and helpful, and provided a smooth and comfortable transfer, a generous tip is appropriate.

When tipping transfer drivers, it’s best to provide the tip in cash directly to the driver at the end of the transfer. This ensures that the driver receives the full amount of the tip. If paying by credit card, consider asking the driver if they can accept tips on the card.

Restaurant waiters/waitresses

In Uganda, at restaurants, it is customary to leave a tip of around 10% of the bill. This is seen as a sign of appreciation for the service provided.

Tipping is important as it is an expression of gratitude for the hard work and effort put in by the restaurant staff. Tipping is greatly appreciated by restaurant staff as it acknowledges their efforts and can make a significant difference in their livelihood. It also serves as an incentive for them to continue providing excellent service.

Food in Uganda
Food in Uganda at the lodge!

How to Tip on Safari

Proper tipping etiquette can vary depending on the specific destination and the services provided, so it’s essential to be aware of the appropriate customs and protocols for tipping while on safari. There are a variety of ways that you can tip on safari. We’ll go over the protocol for each one below.

1. Placing Cash in a Communal Tip Box

Many of the lodges we visited had a communal tip box, which was new to me. Locate the locked box in the main area or mess tent, and ensure that you place your tip securely inside. In some cases, there may be separate boxes for front and back-of-house staff, so be sure to place your tip in the appropriate box.

One of the advantages of this system is that it eliminates the awkwardness of directly handing a tip to a specific staff member. It also ensures that staff members do not know how much specific guests have tipped them, which can help to create a more equitable distribution of tips.

The manager is typically responsible for sharing the accumulated tips at regular intervals, ensuring that all staff members receive their fair share.

2. Handing Money to the Manager When You Leave

A few of our lodges had the option to give cash to the manager directly. There was a welcome letter that described the services of the lodge (such as laundry, wifi, etc) and had a few sentences about the manager being available if needed. They often described the communal tip box or if you wanted to give the manager the tip you could hand it to him directly on the day of departure.

3. Handing Cash to Individual Staff

You may want to tip individual staff members such as guides, trackers, waitstaff, and housekeeping. When tipping these individuals, it’s important to do so discreetly and respectfully.

For guides and trackers, it’s typical to hand them the tip in cash at the end of a tour or excursion. This should be done in a discreet manner, such as folding the cash and slipping it into their hand, or placing it in an envelope and handing it to them personally. For waitstaff, a tip can be left on the table after a meal, or discreetly handed to them when thanking them for their service. Housekeeping staff can be tipped by leaving cash in an envelope in the hotel room with a note of appreciation.

We also tipped bar staff directly in the same manner for outstanding service. Tipping this way helps guarantee that your tip goes to the camp staff that you want it to go to instead of a communal box.

4. Leaving Cash in Your Room When You Depart

When you check out of the lodge, you have the option to leave cash in your room for the housekeeping staff as a token of appreciation for their services. It is customary to leave the cash in an obvious location so that it is clear it is intended for the staff. This could be on the pillow, on the welcome packet, or any other visible spot in the room. We opted for the welcome packet on the desk.

Typically, the amount left for the housekeeping staff is between $2-$5 USD per room per day, but you can adjust this based on the level of service you receive.

5. Adding It to a Credit Card Bill

When staying at lodges or camps with credit card machines, adding a tip to your credit card bill is a simple process. Once you are ready to settle your bill, you can inform the manager or staff that you would like to add a tip to your credit card payment. They will typically ask you for the amount you would like to add as a tip.

The manager or staff will then make a note on the credit card slip indicating the additional tip amount. After the transaction is processed, your credit card statement will show the total amount, including the added tip.

It’s important to note that some lodges or camps may have surcharges for adding a tip to your credit card bill. To avoid any extra fees, it’s best to inquire about this with the manager or staff beforehand. If you don’t have enough cash for a generous tip, adding it to your credit card bill can be a convenient solution.

Our lodge in Uganda
Our lodge in Uganda before gorilla trekking!

Advice For Easier Tipping on Safari

Embarking on a safari adventure can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but navigating the etiquette of tipping can sometimes be overwhelming. Tipping is an essential part of the safari experience. In general, our tour organizer recommended $60/day in cash, but I would recommend about $75 in cash for spending and shopping. This gives you a bit of wiggle room for great services (and awesome souvenirs).

1. Examine Your Itinerary

To prepare to carry a decent amount of cash for tips for your safari, the first step is to examine your itinerary to figure out who you’d be tipping. Our itinerary included when we’d have trekking, guides, porters, and of course each lodge we were staying at.

Calculating ahead of time made sure that we had enough cash on hand (even though it wasn’t all crisp at the time).

2. Divide the Tips Into Separate Envelopes

To divide the tips into separate envelopes, first, decide whether to allocate based on accommodation or per day. Then, gather the cash in either US dollars or the local currency. If distributing based on accommodation, label each envelope with the lodge name and the room number. For per-day distribution, label the envelopes with the date.

It’s essential to keep track of the cash and ensure it is distributed to the appropriate staff. Consider using a log to record the amount given to each staff member to avoid any discrepancies. We did this on Keep to make sure we had cash throughout the rest of the trip.

Dividing tips into separate envelopes not only organizes the distribution but also shows gratitude for the hard work of each individual staff member. Remember that every tip is a gesture of appreciation for their excellent service and dedication.

We also kept the envelopes in different parts of our luggage (some in a main bag, some in a carry-on, some in a purse, etc) so that way if one bag went missing, we’d still have cash available.

3. Bring Cash With You

When preparing for a safari in Uganda, it is essential to bring cash with you for tipping and other expenses. ATMs may limit cash withdrawals, so it is important to ensure you have enough on hand for tipping your guides, rangers, and other staff who provide excellent service during your safari experience.

During our visit, we found that ATMs in Uganda limited us to taking out 1 million shillings, which was equivalent to $265. Therefore, it is advisable to plan ahead and bring enough cash with you for tipping purposes. It is also important to keep your cash secure by using the in-room safe provided or by asking the lodge manager to store it in the lodge’s safe or strongroom.

This recommendation for bringing cash with you is not only applicable to Uganda, but also to other safari destinations such as South Africa. By being prepared with enough cash for tipping and other expenses, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable safari experience without having to worry about running out of funds.

Giraffes on safari in Uganda
A large group of giraffes on our last safari in Uganda.

4. Get Small Bills Like USD 5, 10 & 20

When traveling to East Africa, it’s essential to have small bills on hand, such as USD 5, 10, and 20. These denominations are easier to hand over and widely accepted in many African countries. Larger bills like $50 or $100 may be difficult to break, especially in smaller establishments or more remote areas. The only time we had larger bills on our trip was for the visa entering the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Reminder, it’s important to ensure that the bills are free of marks, and rips, and are crisp. Asking your bank for newer bills is a good idea in this case, as banks in Uganda, for example, give a better exchange rate for cleaner bills.

5. Keep Your Cash Secure

When traveling to safari destinations in Uganda, it is essential to keep your cash and other valuables secure. One way to do this is by using the in-room safe provided by the lodge or asking the manager to store your valuables in the lodge’s safe or strongroom. This is important because it reduces the risk of theft and ensures that your money and passports are well-protected.

Leaving cash in your room when you depart poses potential risks, as it can become an easy target for theft. Therefore, it is crucial to take precautions and not leave your valuables unattended. If any valuables are found by the staff, they are trained to handle them with utmost care and security measures in place.

I also kept some cash in my travel scarf for safekeeping. I recommend keeping cash separate among your luggage and items so that way you do not have a large wad of cash on hand.

6. Take US Dollar

The US Dollar is the best currency for traveling across East Africa (Kenya, Rwanda, DRC, and Uganda), especially for safari destinations, for several reasons. Firstly, the US Dollar is widely accepted in Uganda, making it convenient for travelers to use in multiple destinations, including safari lodges and national parks. This eliminates the need to constantly exchange currencies or deal with the complexities of using local currencies.

Additionally, using US Dollars eliminates the difficulties often associated with local currencies, such as fluctuating exchange rates and limited acceptability. This simplifies transactions and minimizes the risk of running into issues with unfamiliar or unreliable currencies. Furthermore, having smaller bills in US Dollars can be necessary for purchases in rural areas or with smaller vendors who may not have the ability to provide change for larger denominations.

Final Thoughts

Tipping in Uganda is not mandatory but is greatly appreciated as a way to show gratitude for the hard work and dedication of those in the tourism industry. Whether you are on a safari, dining at a restaurant, or taking a taxi, a small tip can go a long way in supplementing the income of those providing services. It is important to tip with discretion and sensitivity and be aware of local customs and practices. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your tipping in Uganda is done in a respectful and appreciative manner.

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Ultimate Guide to Tipping in Uganda on safari
Ultimate Guide to Tipping in Uganda on safari
Ultimate Guide to Tipping in Uganda on safari

4 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Tipping in Uganda”

  1. This is sooo helpful. Tipping is always so confusing since every country has a different take on how it should be done. We had the same issue with bills in Morocco – if they weren’t in perfect condition, they wouldn’t take them, so that’s good to know about Uganda too.

  2. This is helpful, as I’m thinking of going on a safari this year. I mean, there’s not-mandatory and then there’s not-mandatory – It runs the range from ‘insulted you even tried’ all the way to ‘hurt and discouraged there wasn’t a tip’. The range of people falling in the latter bucket makes a huge difference for planning amount and type of cash to bring. I do plan to absorb a little bit of casual tipping or gifting, but as someone from a non-tipping culture, I do appreciate advance warning if the local expectation is much more across the board.

    1. Exactly. Some of the places we paid to hire people and then tipped on top of that, which I was surprised about, but glad I had the extra money. It’s also important to note the income where you’re traveling and how they make their money. Often the tip is their livelihood, and safaris go in season, so the porters aren’t making the same amount of money in the rainy season, so our tips also help them survive those low-tourist months. Personally, I’d rather bring more cash than needed for unexpected spending and tips (i.e. we had a local dance school come dance at one of the lodges which ws definitely an unexpected tip, but this is apparently becoming more common).

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