There are two kinds of shopping in Uganda – shopping in the local supermarkets or shopping in the much bigger ‘western’ style stores. The latter usually have large stocks of consumer goods, prices are fixed and the layout includes aisles and checkout counters. Wealthy Ugandans and foreigners are the common shoppers in these stores, which are located only in Kampala and the other large cities and towns.
Rural markets are the norm in Uganda. Located in the centre of each town or village the markets sell almost everything imaginable and offer a true Ugandan shopping experience.
Our comprehensive safari Guide tells you all about where to shop in Uganda and what to shop for. Our safari guide still has details about traditional Ugandan cuisine and will take you to recommended local restaurants, bars and eateries.
Sole proprietors businesses are the norms in Uganda. Their sizes and styles range from a pile of goods on the road to small stalls and shops without aisles or checkout counters. Travelers and those who live outside the large urban areas shop in these small stores where you may have to bargain over prices, unless prices are fixed. Stalls in Ugandan markets sell all kinds of goods imaginable, from towels and locks to bicycle tyres and beef!
Shopping in Kampala
Kampala offers you the greatest variety in shopping. African, Western, old, new, basic and luxury goods are all easily available here. Markets in certain parts of the city still look like they probably did two centuries ago, but walk a little further and you might come across a modern and sophisticated shopping and office complex with designer labels and the latest technical equipment. If you happen to be looking for something unique or sophisticated, Kampala is the most likely place to find it. The chances of finding your required item anywhere else are rather slim.
Ugandans produce a great variety of handicrafts. Villagers excel at their craft and create beautiful and colourful pieces of modern and traditional handicrafts. Women, specialized craftsmen and the different tribes all produce a wide and distinct range of articles in different patterns and colours. Most of the articles are very useful and are designed to reflect the local culture.
Some of the common handcrafted articles are raffia baskets and bowls from Ankole and Toro, colourful mats bearing traditional designs from Buganda, whose residents also produce the famous Buganda drums, and traditional musical instruments from Busoga and the West Nile. The raw materials for these products are all available locally. They include banana fibre, gemstones, horn, local grasses, local leathers, palm leaves, papyrus, seeds, skins, and different kinds of wood. The beautiful cloth made from the bark of the Omatuba tree is used to make cushions, hats and mats. The locally made jewellery for both men and women stand out for their unique designs and materials. The traditionally carved wooden pieces from the Karamoja region make for some great Ugandan souvenirs. It is handy to know that many craftsmen across the country will happily create an item according to your specifications.
You can buy handicrafts from roadside stalls, village markets, or from shops in the urban areas where you are likely to find a wider range of products. The Crafts Village in Kampala is located behind the National Theatre and you can pick up some handicraft pieces from possibly one of the widest selections of handicrafts available in Uganda.
You will come across rural markets either in the centre of the town or village, or by the roadside just outside the town or village. Rural markets that operate on certain days of the week at convenient locations such as a road intersection or by the lake are quite common too. Markets in Kampala are easily noticed by the high walls or fences that surround the market and the large crowds of shoppers thronging the area.
All kinds of essential items are sold in these interesting markets, from bottled water, fruits, vegetables and meat, to footwear, clothing and household goods. The ‘meat’ may still be living and in its feathers! Another common feature is the presence of a few electrical goods stalls where you can buy second hand radio sets, and a few repair stalls where items such as shoes, bikes, and utensils are repaired. All in all, shopping in Uganda for essentials is a breeze but shopping for items such as toothpaste, deodorant sprays or new books is quite a difficult task.