Welcome to Kampala, a traffic filled chaotic city! I’ll give you the low-dow on how to get around the easiest, cheapest and of course, safest way possible.
Safety warning, especially for solo female travellers like me: It is NOT advisable to be out in Kampala at night by yourself. I have not taken a safe boda or uber when it is dark out and I have been advised from my landlord, friends and other locals not to do so. If you don’t have a choice this isn’t to say that something bad is absolutely going to happen to you.. I’m just saying to be smart and be safe and use your best judgement! x
Safe Boda is really the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to get around the city. Traffic jams here are nightmares and there’s no escaping them. Although riding on a boda takes a bit of getting used to (as your driver weaves in and out of traffic) they are the most common mode of transportation within the city. You can download the app on your phone and it will tell you how much the ride is going to cost – very similar to Uber. The drivers have ratings, they come a helmet for you to use, they also have their names and driving number on their helmet and vest.
Uganda has Uber, and thank god! Uber has been awesome to use here and the prices are quite reasonable too. I’d recommend downloading the app before you come. While it works great within Entebbe and Kampala, it is limited in any rural region outside of the cities. Uber can be a bit frustrating here so be patient. Drivers have difficulty find you, at times you get overcharged (and then you just need to go to the app to adjust it and Uber will give you a credit), and you can’t avoid that Kampala traffic. But I would say that Uber is overall the safest way to get around the city.
These “Ugandan taxi’s” are wild! They are absolutely the cheapest way to get around Kampala but they are in no means the fastest or the safest. They are essentially the public means of transportation here, so they are very popular for the locals and you can get them all around Uganda. While I’m not sure if they have “official routes,” I do know that if you see one passing by you can easily flag it down and hop on. I haven’t used one, and I wouldn’t recommend it. The drivers as you will soon come to realize are reckless, there are definitely no seat belts, and they will pack them with way more people that they should hold. If you do end up using one, make sure you ask others inside the reasonable price so you aren’t overcharged and be very careful of your belongings.
In Uganda, it is common to get the numbers of Uber drivers or Boda drivers who you meet that are good at what they do. If you need a driver to commute to work each day, or just want a regular one that you can rely on, they are very easy to find after a week or two in the city. It’s best to find one that you used through Uber/Safe Boda, or ask other travellers or locals for suggestions. This way you can arrange a price that works for both of you and the money can go directly to them rather than service operators like Uber. If you are moving to Kampala and want a suggestion for a good driver definitely email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you feel comfortable driver here then first of all kudos to you! There are lots of options to rent a car here and I’m sure if you’re here for longer stretches of time you could negotiate prices. You will have to be generally careful of the other drivers on the roads as many do not have proper training and don’t know the rules of the road. If you’re venturing out of Kampala or driving at night be aware of police road checks. Some are real.. and some are not. The ones during the day should be legit but I’ve heard of them happening at night where people will pretend to be police officers to get money out of you. The fake ones will ask for your documentation and then won’t give it back until you give them money. A way around this could be to make photocopies, but either way use good judgement and be safe!
****Don’t be surprised if 9 out of 10 times your boda or uber driver asks you for directions. While this can be extremely frustrating when you’re new to the city and have no idea where it is you’re going or are, try to be patient and download maps.me (a free offline map) to help you locate your destination.
*****ALSO don’t use your phone when you’re stuck in traffic and your window is down or the door is unlocked. it is very common for people to reach inside vehicles and grab phones – it’s best to put it away or put up your window.