Cycling opportunities are growing in Uganda for good reason. Once you get on country roads, the possibilities are nearly endless, with a pleasant climate and good scenery to fuel the trip. Consult with Red Dirt Mountain Biking in Kampala for tours, rentals or repairs.
Boat travel in Uganda is limited to reaching the Ssese Islands, either by ferry from Nakiwogo (in Entebbe), Bukakata (east of Masaka) or small fishing boats operating from Kasenyi (also near Entebbe).
Standard buses and sometimes half-sized 'coasters' connect major towns on a daily basis. The longer your journey is, the more likely it will be on a bus rather than a minibus. Bus fares are usually a little less than minibus fares and buses stop far less frequently, which saves time. Buses generally leave Kampala at fixed departure times; however, when returning from provincial destinations, they usually leave when full. There are many reckless drivers, but buses are safer than minibuses. Night travel is best avoided.
The safest option is the post buses run by the Ugandan Postal Service (UPS). Post buses run daily (except Sunday) from Kampala to Kasese (via Mbarara), Kabale (via Masaka and Mbarara), Soroti (via Mbale) and Hoima (via Masindi).
Uganda is the land of shared minibuses (called taxis, or occasionally matatus), and there's never any shortage of these blue-and-white minivans. Except for long distances, these are the most common vehicles between towns. There are official fares (you can check at the taxi-park offices if you want), but in reality the conductor charges whatever they think they can get, and not just for a muzungu (foreigner) but for locals as well. Ask fellow passengers the right price.
Minibuses leave when full and 'full' means exactly that. As soon as you're a fair distance away from towns, where police spot-checks are less likely, more passengers will be crammed in. As is clearly painted on their doors, minibuses are licensed to carry 14 passengers, but travelling with fewer than 18 is rare, and the number often well exceeds 20. For all but the shortest journeys, you're better off taking a bus as they stop less frequently and are safer due to their size. Many minibus and bus drivers drive too fast to leave any leeway for emergencies. Crash stories are regular features in the newspapers. Most crashes are head-on, so sit at the back for maximum safety.
Way-out-of-the-way places use shared-car taxis rather than minibuses, and these are similarly overloaded with passengers. If the roads are exceptionally bad, then the only choice is to sit with bags of maize and charcoal, empty jerrycans and other cargo in the backs of trucks.
Car & Motorcycle
There’s a pretty good system of sealed roads between most towns in Uganda. Keep your wits about you when driving; cyclists, cows and large potholes often appear from nowhere.
The quality of murram (dirt) roads varies depending on whether it's the wet or dry season. In the dry, murram roads are very dusty and you'll end up choking behind trucks and minibuses while everything along the road gets covered in a fine layer of orange-brown dust. In wet season, a number of the murram roads become muddy mires, almost carrot soup, and may be passable only in a 4WD vehicle. If you're travelling around Uganda in wet season, always ask at the car-hire agency about the latest road conditions before setting off on a journey.
As with other transport, avoid travelling at night due to higher risks of accidents and banditry. Take care in the national parks where there's a US$500 fine for hitting animals and US$150 for off-track driving.
If you have an International Driving Permit, you should bring it, although you really only need your local driving licence from home.
Fuel & Spare Parts
Petrol prices rise as you move out into provincial areas. Like everywhere in the world, petrol prices are highly volatile.
Filling and repair stations are found even in some small towns, but don't let the tank run too low or you may end up paying an extortionate amount to fuel up from a jerrycan in some really remote place.
Due to high taxes and bad roads, car-hire prices tend to be expensive compared to other parts of the world. Add fuel costs and there will be some real shock at the total price if you're considering driving around the country.
While all the major international franchises have offices in Kampala and at Entebbe International Airport, in virtually all instances it's better to deal with one of the local companies. Quoted prices for a small car with driver can range from US$50 to US$150. The highest prices are just rip-offs by companies who hope wazungu (foreigners) don't know any better, but with the others, the difference is in the details. Always ask about the number of free kilometres (and the price for exceeding them) and driver costs for food and lodging. Try negotiating with special-hire drivers, but generally speaking they aren't as reliable. Red Chilli backpackers offers very good rates for car hire.
Road Trip Uganda Popular company hiring self-drive fully equipped RAV4s from US$59 per day. Also offers a car with driver, travel itineraries and emergency car services.
Alpha Car Rentals A car with driver costs USh80,000 for the day around Kampala, while a 4WD with driver is US$100 (the driver's food and lodging is included) if you head up-country, or US$70 for self-drive. It also has RAV4s from US$50 per day. All prices exclude fuel, but have unlimited mileage.
Wemtec Well-known company based in Jinja but delivers countrywide. Hires a variety of Land Rovers with driver from around USh200,000. Prices all-inclusive (minus fuel), with no limits on mileage.
Ashiraf Mwanje This helpful professional driver knows all of Uganda, speaks several local languages as well as English and offers private tours with his own 4WD vehicle.
Without your own transport, hitching is virtually obligatory in some situations, such as getting into national parks. Most of the lifts will be on delivery trucks, usually on top of the load at the back, which can be a very pleasant way to travel, though sun protection is a must. There’s virtually always a charge for these rides.
Hitching is never entirely safe, and we don’t recommend it. Travellers who hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk.
Kampala has a local minibus network, as well as special-hire taxis for private trips. Elsewhere you'll have to rely solely on two-wheel taxis, known as boda-bodas as they originally shuttled people between border posts: from 'boda to boda'. Never hesitate to tell a driver to slow down if you feel uncomfortable with his driving skills, or lack thereof. Outside Kampala, there are few trips within any town that should cost more than USh3000.
While boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) are perfect for getting through heavy traffic, they're also notorious for their high rate of accidents. Most incidents occur as a result of reckless young drivers: the New Vision newspaper has reported that on average there are five deaths daily as a result of boda-boda accidents. If you decide to use their services, get a recommendation from your hotel for a reliable, safe driver. It's also very wise to find a driver with a helmet you can borrow, and to insist they drive slowly.
There are no train services available currently in Uganda, though a restoration of original lines which would connect Uganda to the Kenyan coast is in the works.