Money in Uganda

First stop in the Entebbe airport was a moneychanger, where I bought a couple hundred dollars worth of local currency. Here you encounter another vestige of British culture, the Ugandan schilling, abbreviated UGX, the official monetary unit in Uganda.

Ugandan Schillings
Ugandan schillings, both paper bills and coinage.

The coins and bills are quite pretty, featuring local wildlife and cultural icons. I do like the 1000 schilling note featuring the Ugandan Kob.

As the value of one shilling is fairly low after historical periods of inflation, there are no partial denominations such as cents or pence, the common coins are 100, 200, and 500 schillings. The most common bills are 1000, 2000, 10000 and 50000 schillings.

The current exchange rate is about 3,600 shillings per US dollar. A few benchmarks… A liter of petrol (gasoline) currently costs about 6,000 shillings, or about $6 a gallon. A classic glass bottle of Coca-Cola cost about 2,000 shillings or about $0.50. In an Entebbe store I found a washing machine on sale for 2.9 million schillings, about $780.

Dollars are very welcome most places in Uganda. Interestingly euros are not welcome despite the significant number of European travelers. Euros may not be accepted where US dollars can easily rent you a vehicle, pay a guide, or put a roof over your head.

I should clarify… Dollars may be welcome, but if paying in cash the dollars must be in good condition. Ripped, nicked, or badly worn bills are not accepted as the banks will not take them. I had one slightly ripped ten dollar bill I simply could not spend. Fortunately the pile of twenty dollar bills I had pulled from a First Hawaiian ATM were new and in great condition, I had no trouble spending them.

For small purchases I generally used shillings, for my guide and tipping I used dollars, for lodging and gas I used a credit card. The vehicle rental was paid for with a stack of $100 bills.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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