1. Download safe boda
Getting around Kampala can be hectic especially during rush hour. Trips that should take 20 minutes can end up taking hours if you’re in a car. Scooters (or boda’s as they’re known in Uganda) weave through traffic and are realistically the best way to get around in the city. That being said, most boda drivers off the street are extremely risky to ride with and they don’t have helmets for you to use. “Safe Boda” is very similar to an uber app where you see the name and rating of your boda driver. They also have helmets and hair nets for you to use!
2. Download maps.me
But be warned that most boda drivers will want you to explain how to get around – which is really difficult to do when you’re new to the city. If you download an offline map like maps.me then it’ll make your trip a lot easier. Also know though that they don’t go by street names (and there usually aren’t even street names). Just find common landmarks to explain where you are for pick up such as by X gas station on the curve doing towards X highway). They’ll also typically call you asking for directions (which brings me to tip #3).
3. Get a SIM card
Having a SIM card will make your trip much easier in Uganda. It’s hard to navigate the cities without a SIM because you’ll need to be able to call boda drivers, tours, accommodations, etc to set stuff up.
4. Bring a solar powered light with you
The power in Kampala goes out fairly often in rainy season so make sure you have some sort of light source to help you out. The water also ran out a few times while we were there so many sure you have extra water bottles with you just incase!
5. Go to Red Chilli Hideaway to find budget tours and safaris
6. Don’t be out at night alone as a female
I would advise people not to be out at night in the dark by yourself and if you are going to go out to a bar/club to make sure you’re with a group of people you feel safe with and trust.
7. Join facebook expat groups for good tips and safe but cheap rentals
Expat groups are a great way to ask questions because they’re usually people who understand your perspective and concerns. This can be helpful as situations and things are always changing. Expats are always the ones who have the best up to date knowledge and can help you out or answer your questions!
8. The markets are very crowded so be prepared if you want to go
We only tried to go to the markets in central Kampala once and it was INSANE. There were more people in one space than I had ever seen and we did not run into one other tourist while we were there. Once you enter into the market it is also really difficult to find your way out so be cautious of your surroundings and your belongings.
9. Watch out for your phone and belongings with open windows
It is a common thing for people to grab cell phones from outside vehicles with windows open. You’ll notice if you’re in an uber or something the driver will do up the windows when they stop because they’re concerned someone will grab your things. Just make sure your phone is out of sight because people will fight you for it and will do whatever they can to grab it from you.
10. Coffee shops and restaurants for free wifi
There are plenty of incredible coffee shops and delicious restaurants in Kampala which have free wifi you can use. The wifi is not guaranteed the best ever (which is why I do recommend getting a SIM card) but it’s better than nothing! My fave place was Holy Crepe in Kololo which not only had delicious crepes (gluten free and vegan options) but also had an incredible view of the city.