Tourists visiting Uganda’s wildlife will now need smart cards to access national parks, including game activities, Mr Jossy Muhangi, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) spokesperson, has said. According to UWA, the new mode of payment replaces the receipting system where payments were made in cash.
“Instead of carrying cash, it is loaded on the card and works like a debit card,” said Mr Muhangi, adding: “Besides being safe, the card is convenient as cash is loaded once at any of the UWA offices around the country.
The wildlife card system allows UWA to capture details of activities a tourist intends to carry out in the park after payment.
Mr Muhangi said the card will also help weed out extra charges to tourist. “Once the card is lost, the money is not transferrable since it possesses a Personal Identification Number (PIN),” said Mr Noah Thembo, an accounts clerk at Lake Mburo National Park, as he demonstrated how the card works to journalists last week at Nshaara Gate.
However, some travel companies recently complained of the new card system, saying it would put them out of business. They also wondered why UWA, a government agency would be the sole dealer of the card.
The smart card was first piloted in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in December last year and has since been rolled out to four other parks, including Lake Mburo National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kibaale National Park and Murchison Falls National Park.
The cards are in three categories, citizens, foreign residents and foreign non-residents with one going for $10 (Shs26,500) for permanent ownership while free for temporary use.
The citizen smart card caters for both Ugandan nationals and all other East African nationals; however, it is different from the Single Tourist Visa for East Africa, which took effect on January 1.