Getting Around Uganda
Domestic bus travel is cheap, but departures aren’t always on schedule. There are two classes of bus travel – matatu (minibus) or kigati (van) which travel fixed routes, and larger coaches or buses. Self-drive and hiring a private car with a driver are other options.
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The roads are of variable quality and radiate from Kampala, although the network is sparse in the north. While some major roads are paved, the majority of minor and side roads are unpaved and can be bumpy and pot-holed, so drive with caution, especially in the rainy season. Note that there are still some army and police checkpoints on roads. Always keep vehicle doors locked and valuables out of sight.
International hire companies are based near Entebbe International Airport and in the centre of Kampala. A 4-wheel drive is recommended for rural areas.
Private taxis are identifiable by their black and white stripes. Boda-bodas (motorbike taxis) are often a cheaper option and, while fun, are not for the faint-hearted. Don’t be afraid to ask your driver to slow down if necessary, as accidents are common. Like Uber, you can hail a boda-boda using the app SafeBoda.
Cycling in Uganda requires nerves of steel; many roads are dusty or under construction and motor vehicles rarely allow cyclists room. Always wear a helmet and use rear-view mirrors. Avoid cycling at night.
Uganda’s coach and bus services connect all major towns. The Post Office’s Post Bus Service (www.traveluganda.co.ug) offers relatively comfortable buses and is more safety-aware than some other bus companies.
Most major routes are also covered by smaller white minibuses. These are faster than coaches, but drivers wait until they are full before leaving and departure times are not fixed.
The speed limit is 50kph (31mph) in built-up areas, 80kph (50mph) outside built-up areas and 100kph (62mph) on highways. Also, drivers must give way to traffic on their right when at intersections.
Most car hire companies include breakdown cover. The Automobile Association of Uganda (+256 41 4255917; aau.co.ug) can provide information and assistance.
An International Driving Permit and adequate third-party insurance is required. UK driving licences are accepted. Drivers must carry their vehicle log books and must pay for a temporary road licence.
Be aware that there have been accidents involving long-distance bus services between Kampala and Kigali, Nairobi and Dar es Salam, which are often due to speeding and reckless driving. There have also been reports of long-distance overnight buses being held up and robbed by criminals posing as passengers.
There are no passenger services, other than a Kampala-Namanve commuter service, which launched at the end of 2015.
A passenger ferry links Nakiwogo Dock in Entebbe to Lutoboka on Buggala in the Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria. There is also a free vehicle ferry which runs from Bukakata, 40km (25 miles) east of Masaka, to Buggala. Lake taxis also link some of the other islands. Popular with travellers, the Sseses offer plenty of opportunities for walking, birdwatching and beach activities.
You can take a variety of boat trips from Paraa to the base of Murchison Falls, and kayak and raft at Bujagali Falls near Jinja.
Passenger boats can be overloaded in Uganda. There have been several accidents, usually during the rainy season, which can bring storms and high winds. Always make sure boats have life jackets before you set off.