Although Uganda does not have a national carrier, flying to and from Uganda is very easy. The main airport, Entebbe International Airport is located in Entebbe town, 40 kms from the capital in Kampala. The airport is currently under expansion and renovation to improve its capacity and international travel handling. Because Uganda is a rather small country, few urban areas are located more than a 6 hours drive from Kampala. Flying is therefore not an option that is frequently used by most people unless they are going to Kidepo Valley National Park which takes 12-14hours to reach by road, depending on the route taken. Three operators, Fly Uganda, Aerolink and Eagle Air offer scheduled and chartered flights to airstrips inside or close to 5 of Uganda’s best parks.
This is the most widely used means of transport in Uganda on a well-developed public roads system that connects Kampala with tourist destinations across the country. Northern Kampala is the traditional exit to the major tourism areas and national parks, via the Northern Bypass and the Southern Bypass is currently under construction, to improve connections between Kampala and Entebbe. In recent years, most highways that connect Kampala to the regions have been rehabilitated and in many sections, new roads have been constructed – it has never been easier or faster to transit from Entebbe to any one of Uganda’s 10 spectacular national parks. The same cannot be said about Kampala and some of the other major towns and cities where the roads, especially in the suburbs, are in much need of repair. Uganda’s roads also provide vital transport corridors from the sea to the land-locked countries of Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Buses do not operate inside large towns and cities in Uganda. They are mostly used for long distance travel that takes over 6hours, to link remote areas of the country and for cross border travel into the DRC, Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania. Buses operate routes to many of the urban centres in the regions, some of which are located near national parks like Kisoro, near Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Generally, bus travel inside Uganda does not cost more than $10.
These 14-seater minibus taxis are the most commonly used means of road transport. In Kampala, they operate between the suburbs and the main city centre, making drop offs and pick ups along their designated routes. They also operate on routes to towns that are within about 5hours drive from Kampala, which includes many tourist towns like Entebbe, Fort Portal and Jinja. Matatus generally cost a little more than buses but are more flexible, especially for travelling between neighboring towns. All matatus by law now have to have a distinctive blue-and-white band round the middle.
One of the most popular ways of getting around in Uganda is the motorcycle-taxis called boda or boda boda in full, so called because they were first used to ferry smuggled goods across the borders on hidden footpaths. Bodas are great for short trips in the town centres and in places outside the towns where public transport is non-existent. Fares are usually only a little over a dollar and are negotiable. A word of caution with using bodas; many riders are poorly trained in traffic navigation and road safety and as a result many accidents occur every day that involve them. Travellers should exercise caution in selecting the rider that they use and should not hesitate to disembark if they feel that the rider is not being cautious enough. In Kampala is best to use riders from registered companies like SafeBoda (link to safeboda.com) who are trained and accountable, provide helmets and are easily identified by operator numbers.
Special Hire Taxis
These are privately owned taxis, and taxi companies that are usually found parked in designated areas, usually close to suburbs, shopping malls and other busy areas. They are the most costly way to travel within the city, but are exclusive – no new passengers can be added to a trip.
Uganda’s major roads are in the generally good condition that visitors should have no problem driving on. Newly rehabilitated and constructed surfaced roads spread out from Kampala to the four regions where Uganda’s parks are located, but in the regions many roads remain un-surfaced and their condition may vary from season to season, particularly when the rains come in. Car rental companies operate out of Kampala, but it is also common practice for individuals to offer their cars for self-drive, with or without the option of a driver. Google maps are sufficient to locate the best roads to use both in Kampala and the regions. The designated driving side for Uganda is the Left and a valid certificate of insurance and driving license are a must at all times.
Uganda’s water transport is not as well developed as it should be, considering that one fifth of the country is covered by water. A new passenger and vehicle ferry works the route between Entebbe and the Ssese Islands, including the Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary route, and local boat services connect fishing villages on Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga and Lake Albert. Passengers that use small boats on any of Uganda’s lakes are advised to always wear a life jacket even if they are good swimmers, and especially in the rainy season when sudden storms can sweep in from nowhere.
Most tourist destinations in Uganda offer boat cruises for prime game viewing and birding, and exploring the cultures of nearby communities. These include two of Uganda’s best, the Kazinga Channel Launch Cruise in Queen Elizabeth Park and the Murchison Falls Launch Cruise in Murchison Falls Park.