Uganda is a relatively small country and it is possible to see most of the highlights in about two weeks’ time. Principal roads are typically in good condition, but travel is a great deal slower than you may be used to in Europe or the US. The road from Kampala to Entebbe and Jinja is busy. Allow some 2 hours to reach Entebbe and 3 hours to reach Jinja. Travel time from Kampala to Fort Portal is about 5 or 6 hours, to Pakwach – Murchison Falls is about 7 hours and to Kabale is about 6 or 7 hours. On average you will drive about 60 km/hour.
How does it work with navigation?
We used to have GPS systems with Tracks4Africa. However, the maps on these systems are very poor for Uganda. Therefore we stopped this service. Nevertheless, we can suggest better alternatives:
Most smartphones are equipped with a GPS location system. It’s possible to download maps up front so to use them offline. We use the app Maps.ME. You can download the map (15Mb) in the app for offline use. These maps systems are much more detailed and have all major roads, most locations and places of interest set-out for you.
There's absolutely something to say for going offline with the good ol’ map in your hands. This map is not super detailed, but main roads are highlighted properly. You can also check the maps in the Bradt guide.
How are the road conditions?
By East African standards, the road conditions throughout the country are good and ever improving as a result of major roadworks programme being implemented. All the primary roads radiating out of Kampala to the North, East, South and West are asphalted. Standards of highway maintenance are low though, and there always seem to be one highway in a state of disrepair, meaning potholes and delays because of construction works. The road from Fort Portal via Hoima to Masindi, from Masindi to Murchison Falls Park, from Soroti to Mbale and North beyond Gulu are unsurfaced, which will greatly increase the travel time. The condition of these roads and the minor roads (as around the Bwindi area) tend to be variable from one season to the next, and are most difficult during the rainy season. Minibus drivers are notorious for overtaking on blind corners and the big coaches feel on top of the food chain, so keep an eye on your rear-view mirror and if necessary, just pull off the road in advance to let the coach pass.
Is Uganda safe for self-drive?
Yes. The country is known to be one of the safest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with the friendliest people. Ugandans are very forthcoming and helpful and will surely assist you to change your tyre or show you the way (although their sense of distance and time is not always the most accurate). Moreover, it’s hard to get lost as there are only a few principal roads crossing the country. The Uganda Roadmap which comes with the car is accurate and detailed. Armed attacks or any violence toward travellers is unheard of. While on the roads, it is always recommended to drive defensively and at limited speed, lock your doors and avoid driving after dark. Do not leave valuables in your car when the car is unattended and always carry cash, water and a charged mobile phone with you.
How much are the park entrance fees?
The Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) manages the parks in Uganda. The rates for 2016 are US$ 40 / 24h for non-residents, US$ 30 / 24h for foreign residents and UGX 15,000 for East African Citizens (the rate for your driver in case you have one). The rates for Kidepo, Semuliki, Mt Elgon and Mt Rwenzori are US$ 35 / US$ 25 and UGX 10,000. For the car you pay UGX 30,000 per multiple day visit. For an overview of the rates, check the UWA tariffs guide.
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes, you need to have travel insurance. Only the car is comprehensively insured for third party liability, fire, theft and accidents. You are not insured for loss of your personal belongings, or any personal accidents.
Do I need a visa to enter Uganda?
Yes, you need a Tourist Visa in order to enter Uganda. Arrange this easily at https://visas.immigration.go.ug/ at least 7 days in advance of arrival. A singly entry visa is valid for 3 months and costs $50 USD per person. A tourist Visa for East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda) costs $100 USD and allows you to freely move between these countries. All visa fees are payable in cash in USD at the airport or border posts.
Can I get a visa upon arrival, when crossing the border to Uganda’s neighboring countries?
In East Africa, you can usually obtain a visa when crossing a border overland, the exception being Rwanda. We don't allow Roadtrippers to take the vehicles across the border to DR Congo. Visa applications for Rwanda can easily be made online at the site of Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration. Within three days, you receive an entry visa acceptance by email. Bringing this acceptance letter, the visa will be issued at the border. The visa fee is paid at the border.
Is it easy to withdraw money from an ATM across Uganda?
Uganda is a cash economy. Most restaurants, lodges or campsites do not accept cards. However, ATMs are widely available across the country in all bigger provincial towns. Stanbic Bank and Barclays are your most reliable banks accepting MasterCard, Maestro and Visa. We recommend that you bring some additional Euros or US Dollars with you in cash, as the daily uptake from the ATMs with a foreign card is limited. US Dollars and Euros can easily be changed to Ugandan shillings at any Forex Bureau in most provincial towns.
How to organize your game drive?
Most Roadtrippers do the game drives by themselves. If you are a bit unlucky viewing game and you have the feeling you're missing out, you can always arrange for a ranger then and there. The costs for a ranger are $20 for a morning or afternoon. A tip of around $10 is highly appreciated though.
What is the mileage / fuel consumption?
Driving a Toyota Rav4 is very cost efficient. The exact mileage / fuel consumption depends on the terrain and your driving behaviour, but is around 11km per litre. Petrol typically costs between US$ 1.40 – 1.50 per litre. Keep in mind that fuel is paid for in Ugandan shillings! Petrol stations are widely available in Uganda. Keep in mind that not all the national parks have a fuel station inside and these stations are very expensive. We advice to top-up fuel before you enter the national parks.
When is high tourist season?
Tourists come to visit Uganda year–round, but there tends to be a peak from December to January, in April (around Easter) and from June to September.
Do I need to book my accommodation in advance?
In case you go camping, you do not need to book in advance. In case you sleep in a lodge, booking in advance is recommended during high-season. Most lodges will ask you to make a deposit.
When is the best time to visit Uganda?
Uganda is nice to visit year-round. It never gets cold, and even during the rainy season your travel will not be hindered as the rains can be heavy but are typically short. The country has one long, hot dry season from about December until the beginning of April, when the temperatures rise to an average of 30oC and even warmer in the North. The rainy season generally lasts from April through May, and September to November, the latter typically being the wettest month. However, Uganda’s weather can be unpredictable and visitors should be prepared for rain at any time of the year. The warmest regions in Uganda are around Murchison Falls and further north and around Queen Elizabeth. The cooler regions are obviously at higher altitudes - around Mount Elgon, Rwenzori Mountains, Bwindi/Virunga National Parks and Lake Bunyonyi.
Are camp sites widely available?
Uganda is a very suitable for camping. What many people do not realize is that most lodges will allow you to pitch your own tent, allowing you to stay at a secured site with good amenities whilst sleeping in your own tent. The more fancy lodges will charge about US$ 10 pp. Basic nature campsites costs as little as US$ 5 / tent. Wild camping is not recommended. Kindly refer to our Campsites & Lodges page for more information on nice campgrounds. Also, the Bradt Travel Guide has excellent, detailed and updated information about most campsites. Your rental car comes with a copy of the Bradt guide in which your fellow travellers have left written comments which might come in handy. Also check out the Bradt Uganda Update website for the latest news.
Where can I buy my gorilla and chimp permits?
If you are planning to visit the gorillas or chimpanzees, it is recommended that you reserve the permits well in advance. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquartered in Kampala issues the permits only upon cash payment in full (no pre-booking). Roadtrip Uganda can arrange the permits for you. In order to do so, we need (1) full name asit appears on passport, nationality, date of birth and passport number of all the people trekking, (2) preferred trekking location and date. Once proof of payment has been sent, we will purchase the permits on your behalf. For this service we charge a fee of US$ 25 (gorilla) / US$ 15 (chimp) per permit. Refer to National Parks >Bwindi Section for more information, or contact us for your request.
What should I pack?
Have a look at the camping gear list posted on this website to see whether it contains all you need. Bring an audio cable (mini-jack) and / or USB stick to listen to your favourite roadtrip songs. A fleece blanket is nice for chilling on the grass or to cover up during the chillier nights. Definitely bring insect repellent (best with DEET) and sun block, as this is also more expensive in Uganda. The southwestern region in Uganda is cooler, due to higher altitude and nights may be chilly so, you may need a fleece or jumper. Note that Kampala has many well-stocked supermarkets and pharmacies where you can buy almost anything you might have forgotten. Obviously, this is not the case for the provincial towns in Uganda.
Do the cars have a radio?
All our cars have a radio / MP -player / SD-card / and take a mini jack for easy access to all your favourite music. Cables to connect equipment you'll have to bring yourself. TIP: Audiobooks!