In Uganda, like most countries, there is a general correlation between the range of shops and the proximity to a big city. The closer you are to a city, the greater the variety of shops that can be found.
Unlike many Western countries though, the difference between big cities and the surrounding rural areas is very pronounced. What many Americans or British may think of as 'rural' probably has more services and shops than most Ugandan towns have.
There are several reasons for this, chief among them being the low incomes in rural areas, the lack of a large resident foreign population and an unreliable electricity supply. Consequently, most rural shops concentrate on essentials such as food, clothing and domestic items. Luxury goods, especially those needing electricity for their storage (frozen or chilled foods etc) are a rarity.
Markets are usually found either at the road side on the outskirts of town, or in the centre of the town / village. There are also rural markets that are held on set days in 'meeting place' locations such as crossroads and lake sides convenient to the widely spread local population. Even Kampala has it's markets, easily spotted by the crowd of shoppers and the high fences or walls around them. The enclosed nature of markets can be off putting, generating concerns about theft and safety within what seems like a hot, gloomy and crowded area cut off from the rest of town. Don't be too worried, but if you sense danger or are alone, take sensible precautions. Keep money and valuables well secured, don't flash huge piles of bank notes when you pay for something, and try to keep track of your route. Being in a big enclosed market is probably similar to how those lab rats feel in a maze - too easy to lose your bearings with all the twists, turns and similar looking runs, so, if in doubt just penetrate the edges near the entrances on your first visit, or go with somebody who knows his/her way around.
Markets mostly sell essentials, with a good range of clothing, footwear, household hardware and foods including fruit, vegetables,meat (often still alive and with its feathers!) and bottled water. Markets will usually also include some electrical goods stalls such as second hand radio sets, and repair stalls for bikes, domestic utensils and shoes. These factors combine to make the purchase of food and essential living goods quite easy, and the purchase of 'luxury' items such as spray deodorant, toothpaste and new books just about impossible.
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