Kampala

Kampala; The City of Seven Hills, is the capital city of Uganda and is, by a very large margin, the largest conurbation and only true city in the country. It's in the South Central part, near Lake Victoria.

Understand

The people of Kampala, and Ugandans in general, are very kind, friendly and approachable. Kampala feels safe to walk around, even at night, a welcome fact for many a high-strung visitor arriving from Nairobi.

Kampala, with a population of approximately 2.5 million, is by far the largest city in Uganda. Although a smaller city, with less suburban sprawl that Nairobi or Lagos, the traffic jams and pollution can be every bit as bad. If you are travelling around the city, plan your days carefully to avoid spending many hours in the city traffic.

Uganda, as the recipient of massive amounts of Western aid money, hosts large numbers of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Most of those NGOs are based in Kampala, so there is an established expat scene in the city.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 28.5 29.3 28.7 27.7 27.2 26.9 26.7 27.2 27.9 27.7 27.4 28.0
Nightly lows (°C) 17.9 18.3 18.2 18.1 17.9 17.7 17.2 17.0 17.2 17.5 17.5 17.8
Precipitation (mm) 71 54 119 174 124 66 56 91 106 126 152 86

Source:w:Kampala#Climate


Heritage

The Kasubi Tombs, the site of the burial grounds for four kabakas (kings of Buganda), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site partially damaged by fire in 2010.

UNESCO site Kasubi Tombs

Get in

Entebbe Airport

By plane

When coming to Kampala by air, you will actually arrive in the city of Entebbe, 35km (22 mi) southwest of Kampala.

You can get from Entebbe airport to Kampala:

Get around

There are three methods of public transport: boda-bodas, matatu, and special hires.

By boda-boda

The fastest and most dangerous method is the boda-boda: motorcycles that you see all over the city. You won't be in Kampala long before being propositioned by a boda driver. If you're not interested, a simple 'no' will get them to leave you alone. You can get most anywhere on the back of one for UGX3000-5000, but make sure to agree on the fare before the ride begins. Men usually ride facing forward while women are expected to ride side saddle; very risky. Females can get away with riding facing the front, but may be accused of riding "like a man," though the locals are fairly understanding of female tourists doing this.

Boda-bodas are extremely dangerous as their riders will do whatever it takes to get you to your destination quickly. Expect to dart in front of and against traffic and even though crowds of pedestrians when necessary. Boda-boda accidents account for most of the hospital visits and traffic fatalities in Kampala; you have been warned!

Boda Bodas

Boda-bodas got their name from the bicycle taxis that operated at some of the busy border crossing points. Buses had to discharge their passengers at the exit border control, who then had to walk to the entry border control. The distance across no man's land at some borders can be considerable. Hence the bicycle taxis would cry "boda-boda" (a corruption of the English "border to border") to the weary travellers. These bicycle taxis can still be found in most smaller Ugandan towns, however, in Kampala they have been replaced by motorcycles. Boda-bodas charge UGX3000-5000 for trips within Kampala (foreigner price; correct at July 2011). It is almost impossible to get anywhere for under UGX2000, and longer trips may run you up to UGX7000.

By matatu

Matatus are a series of minibuses that follow relatively pre-set routes all over the city and many other parts of the country. Confusingly, they are known as taxis in Uganda. It might be a bit confusing in the beginning how to use the matatus to efficiently get where you want to go, but it's really not so difficult.

Their routes usually go between the city centre and some suburb. The majority of matatus to/from the suburbs leave/finish inside or around the   old taxi park. Some, e.g. those going along Ggaba road to Kabalagala, Kansanga, Bbunga, Ggaba and Munyonyo, leave inside the   Cooper Complex. This can be hard to find since that's basically inside a shopping mall. Other matatus leave directly from the streets around the old taxi park or farther away up to Kampala road, and some leave from the   new taxi park. Although that park is mainly reserved for matatus and larger buses going further out to all corners of Uganda and neighbouring countries.

A matatu and boda bodas in Kampala

Matatus will stand in the park until they are full, something that normally takes less than 15 minutes, but can take over half an hour (or even over one hour late at night or on Sundays). Matatus that leave the area around the park are hence full, which makes it difficult to hop on a matatu at other places in the city centre. Unless you're very lucky, you'll have to go to where the matatus start in order to leave the city centre.

Each matatu has a driver and a conductor. Don't be frightened if you can't understand what they're saying. Ask one of them for your destination and you'll be told yes or no. When you get in, expect to be squeezed. Each vehicle is licensed to carry 14 people, but they will pack in as many will fit (and their belongings). If you don't like this it's a good idea to sit in the back of the vehicle, since usually the squeezing is limited to the first 2 rows. Once the matatu starts moving people can get off at any time. When you reach your destination, tell your conductor "Stage" and they will stop the van.

Whenever a matatu has empty space the driver will go slowly and honk repeatedly. If you want to get on, just make some gesture and it will slow further down and shout out the destination, just shout your destination as response and they will pick you up if it's along the way. There are often also a number of further staging points along the way where the driver will again stop and wait until they can fill the vehicle. This can take a few seconds or several minutes; just be patient. In some cases drivers won't take you if you only go relatively short distances, since that will mean they'll risk losing money if they can't fill your place quickly once you're dropped. You pay the conductor when you exit, although some people give the conductor money while the vehicle is moving so that he can make change ahead of time. The normal fare is UGX 500-1500 per person when driving into the city (Nov 2015).

Going with a matatu is generally cheap, safe, slow and nice. Ugandans are often happy to start up a conversation or help you out, and if the conductor tries to overcharge you or make you take an inefficient route, passengers are likely to point that out to you and scold him. People also complain if a driver takes too long to wait for passengers or drives recklessly and will even collectively quit the van in protest if a driver drives too bad.

By special hire

If you aren't up for the thrill of the bodas and don't have time for a matatu, taxis, also called special hires, are readily available at most central locations. A few taxis have meters, but most have not. Be sure to agree on the fare before you get in the car or you may be in for a nasty shock. Don't be afraid to haggle either; most destinations can be reached for UGX15,000 or 20,000.

Yellow taxi company is reliable, offering 24 hour service, phone +256 713 133 331, with fixed prices: UGX10,000 for trips within Kampala; 60,000UGX for trips to/from the airport. Prices correct at Dec 2010. They also have an allocated single taxi rank space outside Nakumat.

By City bus

Recently the government has introduced larger City buses that run on fix routes. This mode of transport is still limited but some buses run along Jinja Road, which has some designated bus stops. all the city buses start at Constitutional square on Kampala road. the fare is Ugx 1000. one city bus goes to and from Constitutional square passed Acacia mall. and one bus goes to and from Constitutional square passed Lugogo Mall.

See

Do

Inside the city

Farther away

Both Entebbe and Jinja can be easily reached from Kampala in around an hour in reasonable traffic, so day trips to these cities and the activities surrounding them are possible from Kampala. Most excursions and safaris farther away will involve overnight stays. The closest real safaris are in Murchison Falls National Park and Lake Mburo National Park, about 4 hours away.

Around Entebbe

Around Jinja

Buy

Large parts of Uganda are very suitable for agriculture and as a result Kampala has some very large and diverse food and agriculture markets. Traditional handmade tools, arts and crafts are also big. However there are also several large western style malls and supermarkets (e.g. Shoprite from South Africa., Tuskys from Kenya, and Nakumatt from Kenya). If you're in the market for souvenirs, check out the Exposure Africa Crafts Village on Buganda Road or the slightly larger Uganda Arts & Crafts Village behind the National Theatre, near the Garden City complex. Also on Buganda Road across the street from the craft market you find a number of tailors if you are looking to have clothes sewn. And if you're tired from shopping the (upscale) cafe 1000 Cups of Coffee is a relaxing Mzungu hangout.

Kampala Market
Nakasero Market

Supermarkets

Eat

There are a number of dining options in Kampala ranging from the cheap and local to the very fancy (and very expensive).

Budget

Everywhere you go you'll see signs for little hole-in-the-wall restaurants (including some called "pork joints"). Most of these places don't have menus, so you'll have to ask what's available. Common options include meat (usually beef), rice, beans, Matoke (steamed green bananas, served mashed). Common dishes that can be found in most of the city restaurants and in the country side are Fish and Chips and chicken and chips. These meals vary in servings and will cost between UGX4500-9000. Be sure to ask the price ahead of time so that you don't get surprised later on. Prices are typically UGX500 per item, but can vary. Sodas and bottled water will cost more too. Matoke with groundnut sauce can be delicious!

For a street snack, the famous "Rolex" is very enjoyable. It is made out of a chapati (kind of a pancake) wrapped around an omelet, with cabbage and tomatoes. Expect to pay UGX700-1000. Other street food includes roast chicken, goat and beef. This is usually served with chips or a salad or both. Pricing is per piece UGX2000-4500. If you are looking for something healthier but still want to enjoy the experience of roadside eating, the best bargain is with roasted corn or maize. The white maize is slow roasted on a charcoal grill and is available for UGX500-600 per cob. Freshness is guaranteed as Maize is a common plant found throughout Uganda. Usually the vendors will have a stall close to a source of maize plantation.

Mid-range

Jinja Road is a good place for a variety of meals.

Splurge

There are many Indian Restaurants in Kampala, like Haandi on Kampala road, Masala chat and Govinda on Dewington Road, Khana Khazana and Khyber Pass Speke Hotel behind NSSF, and Indian Summer in Tankhill Parade.

Drink

Drink only bottled water - spring water brands like Rwenzori and Blue Wave can be trusted - or tap water that has been boiled/treated appropriately.

Alcohol

If you feel like going out, go out, you should be safe, just exercise common sense. Ugandans are very sociable. Kampala's nightlife centers around the neighborhoods Bukoto and Kabalagala. Several clubs are also in the Industrial area (e.g. along 1st/6th Street) and along Kampala road plus Acacia Avenue. Popular clubs are Club Silk, Venom Club, Club Amnesia, Casablanca, Cayenne Restaurant and Lounge, the Mask Lounge Club and Ange Noir. Going out clubbing in Kampala can be very expensive.

Uganda does, however, have a serious drink problem with the U.N. saying it has the highest alcohol comsumption rate in the world, much of this is sold on backstreets, hence official figures don't rate it so highly. Don't let this put you off, the city is still safe even with this undesired tag.

Coffee and Juice

Sleep

Budget

Backpacker Hostels

All the Backpacker hostels in Kampala set prices in US dollars at Ugx 3500 to one.

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Kampala is a relatively safe city. It is fairly safe to walk or take matatus around some areas at night, but don't take unnecessary chances.

Boda-boda motorcycle taxis are notoriously dangerous, but are sometimes so convenient it's difficult not to use them. If you do decide to use them regularly consider buying a helmet (they are not provided by the driver). Although it defies logic at first glance, you might want to consider taking a boda-boda in which the driver does not have a helmet. Drivers without helmets tend to drive slower, and as they never have helmets for the passengers, this means that you are a bit safer.

Don't plan on using your credit card. If it is accepted, there is a good chance of fraud. Safer is withdrawing money from ATM's using your Master-card or VISA-card. Many ATMs take Master-card or Visa-card. Stanbic is one of the banks that takes MasterCard branded cards. Barclays bank Uganda has a fee at all its ATMs for all overseas banks cards

To stay safe, also be aware of the large number of prostitutes in Rock Garden at Speke Hotel. There are several stories about guys being duped, drinking beers laced with rohypnol, ending up short on cash, cell phones, credit cards and bank cheques.

Connect

Internet

In May 2013, the Sheraton Hotel had unsecured Wi-Fi. Although the connection is not particularly fast or the signal strong on the ground floor or first floor buffet breakfast restaurant, "executive floor" 4 has a strong and fast connection and comfortable sofas to the left of the lift. There's a good 360 degree view of the city from the rooftop at stop 11 of the elevator.

Internet cafes

From UGX 1000 PER HOUR.

Media

Radio

TV

Satellite TV is widely available in bars, hotels, restaurants, etc. Stations available include Al Jazeera, BBC World News, CNN.

Cope

Embassies

Go next

Any place in Uganda can be easily reached from Kampala in less than one day. Most popular destinations can be reached in less than half a days driving time, however if you use public buses, allow for some hour(s) waiting time before the bus leaves, and sometimes the bus will get stuck in traffic when trying to leave Kampala.

Many safari tour companies operate out of Kampala and drive their customers to the national parks, but it is also possible to arrange trips in Fort Portal for example (or go with your own car of course).

Matatus and larger buses out of Kampala leave mainly from the new taxi park. A few may still also leave from the old taxi park. There are many companies (almost 100) that run larger tour buses that leave from numerous bus terminals/stations surrounding the new taxi park, or for buses going east into Kenya at De Winton Road. You can take buses of differing sizes and quality going to all major cities in Uganda and to Juba (South Sudan, min. 12h), to Malaba, Eldoret, Nakuru, Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya, and to Kigali (Rwanda); amongst others. Sometimes there are more or less direct buses to Tanzania (like Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi and Bukoba), but those lines do not seem very profitable since companies pop up and disappear quickly (TZ is not so nice with border fees/customs/trade/immigration/etc. so there is less demand for travel there combined with higher costs).

In general bus operators, schedules, prices and routes change constantly, so information found on the internet will often be out of date. As of March 2015, the following bus companies are not operating anymore: Scandinavia Express, Gagaa coaches, Kampala Coach, Akamba Bus Services... (Please update this list!). If you want to go somewhere it is best to try to find a phone number where you can confirm departures or just ask around where buses going there and there leave, and go there early in the morning. Keep in mind that some companies will consistently employ bad drivers, and accidents do happen, so it is worth using a company that has a good reputation (some of which should be listed below). Also, while the minibuses (matatus) are relatively safe when traveling in Kampala's crowded and slow moving traffic, they are generally considered relatively unsafe on the fast roads in the countryside populated by heavy trucks and buses. Bigger buses are safer, especially since at least some of them are run by larger companies that care about their reputation and are better regulated/monitored by the government. An up to date list of bus routes going east is this. An older but more comprehensive list of bus routes out of Kampala is here.

Major bus terminals/parks and companies for leaving Kampala


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, March 11, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.