Self drive is probably one of the best ways to explore Uganda because you can go at your own pace and enjoy peace of mind to drive your own planned adventure.
However self drive in Uganda is not straight forward if you are anon resident without any prior experience driving in Africa. Many environmental differences ,weather challenges and generally the nature of the roads in Uganda is different from the one of your usual environment. Roads in Uganda are mainly murram/dirt road but well maintained and manageable in most rural areas and that is especially where all the major points of attraction are found but the main city and all major towns and high ways are tarmac.
Here are tips to keep in mind for your travel through Uganda.
- Unless you have you your own vehicle or other arrangements, i would recommend pre book a vehicle before you arrive in Uganda with a company that is known in the business and preferably a member of AUTO.(Association of Uganda Tour Operators)
- Learn how to change a tire – Most roads around Uganda as you drive away from the major towns and highways are badly corrugated with large pot holes and can be extremely dry and dusty during the dry months or can be extremely muddy, slippery and impassable during the rainy months. Make sure you know how to change a tire in case you get a flat or else you could be waiting on the road for a few hours for a mechanic from the next town/petrol station to help you.
- Avoid driving at night – Whether self-driving, or taking bus, i would advise against any kind of night driving because most Ugandan roads have no street lights.
- Stock water and food – No matter what kind of transport you use, it’s important to stock up on food and water, many Western-style supermarkets can be found in Kampala city and Entebbe. However major towns along high ways also have super markets which may not meet all your needs. There are also many restaurants and hotels in major towns where you can stop for a hot local meal.
- ATMs can only be found in main cities and towns – You will be able to withdraw cash in Entebbe, Kampala and all major towns in Uganda. Make sure to have enough cash on you to make it to your next major destination, as credit cards aren’t widely accepted and even where it is accepted usually there is a network interference with the operations and services. Almost all places in Uganda accept the American dollars but it is safer to have the Uganda shillings.
- Prebook Accommodation, Permits for Gorilla and Chimps–High season in Uganda runs from -June to September and from Mid-November to March, so I would recommend booking your accommodation and other services that can be booked for these months ahead of time.
- Stay safe – Uganda is one of the safest countries in East Africa. However, it is still a developing nation, and common sense should be applied, especially in the capital of Kampala and all major towns. Don’t show signs of wealth and use vigilance, and all should be OK.
- National parks fees in Uganda – Entrance fees cost $40 per person for 24hrs from time of entry for all major parks apart from entrance to Mt Ruwenzori, Semiliki, Mt Elgon which is $35 per person. Vehicle entry fees in all National parks cost $15 if Ugandan registered. The wildlife spotting is fantastic in the dry seasons.
- Take care of your electronics and valuables –Cameras, laptops, and even cell phones should be well protected from the dry dust that can easily find its way into the tiny crevices of your valuables.
- WI-FI/internet –Wi-Fi in Uganda is best in major cities and towns but limited services especially in the rural and remote areas where the national parks are located. Midrange hotels/lodges and Luxury hotels and lodges will provide free wifi for guests with strong signals however sometimes its not reliable. If you pick up a SIM card, i would recommend MTN or AIRTEL.
When you drive through Uganda, you will realize the country is vast and has so many interesting things to offer which cannot all be explored in one adventure trip.