Welcome to Kampala. Once here, take your time and relax as you enjoy your drive from the airport down to Kampala. This may take about 45 minutes or slightly more with traffic jam. While in Kampala, you can get around by train, bus, car (special hire taxi) or Passenger taxi (matatu) or motorbike (boda boda).
Getting around the City
The best way to get around Kampala city and the neighbouring towns is by using minibus-type taxis called matatus. This is the most efficient and cost-effective method of transportation in urban areas, but try not to get ripped off by the conductors as they sometimes try to overcharge tourists. The Matatus are crowded, cheap, frequent, and make lots of stops.
They run along fixed routes, picking up and dropping off people on allocated stages along the route. If you want to get on, stand at the side of the road and wave your arm. To get off, say “stage” “Maso Awo”and the driver will pull over and let you off. They’re not marked with destinations, so you’ll have to listen to the destinations that the drivers are yelling out the window or in the designated taxi parks in the City. If you’re not sure where to catch a taxi going to your destination, just ask a nearby driver or conductor, and they’ll probably be able to point you in the right direction. Taxis, called special hire taxis, are available in the city. Fares are negotiable over long distances.
Pioneer Bus / City Buses
Pioneer Bus is a very nice option to take around town. You can identify these buses by their orange and black colors and large size.
How these buses operate is similar to the matatu system except more organized. You will find the conductor and driver wearing nice clean uniforms with ties. The service is very professional and friendly. There are set bus stops all over town, which eliminates the sudden stopping and starting. And perhaps the best part of all is that these buses have a standard fare no matter how far or near you travel.
Bus / Coaches
Several bus companies offer direct lines between Kampala and neighbouring countries have stations in the city. A night bus from Kampala could start at 16:00hrs to arrive at 06:00hrs in Nairobi.
Uganda has decent bus system. There are two classes of buses. The “matatu taxis” are actually minibuses or commuter vans which run fixed routes. Then there are the real buses which run less frequently, usually leaving Kampala early in the morning. There are many companies which almost all leave from the same general area. Domestic bus travel is reasonable and cheap between major centers, and is a good choice for backpackers with time, but may not run reliably on schedule.
Note that both buses and “taxis” do not run on fixed schedules; rather, they leave their terminus stop when they are completely full. On heavily-travelled routes they fill up within minutes and this is not a problem, but on less-travelled routes (or if getting on a large bus), be prepared to wait a while before departure.
Special Hire Taxi
Probably the safest and fastest way for a group of 4 to 5 people to travel in Kampala is by Special Hire Taxi.
In general, white or yellow Toyota Corolla’s seem to be the taxi of choice and can be identified by the “taxi” sign on top of the car or by the man yelling out his window at you. There are many taxi stages around town including Garden City, the National Theatre, and Pioneer Mall. The price is dependent on where you are going and how far it is.
The roads in Kampala are good. When planning to move around Kampala it is best not to ask how far it is but to ask how long it will take. Local drivers normally have a good idea of how long journeys will take. There saloon vehicle hire companies in the city. This will cost upwards of US$50.00 per day (not including fuel).
Perhaps the most adventurous thing you can do in Uganda is ride on a boda boda. These are commercial motorbikes. While they may be quite risky to use, they are the fastest and can get you to your destination in a split of seconds. They have mastered the art of manoeuvring their way through heavy traffic thus a favourite for many. Always be cautious while using a boda boda, you can tell the rider to go slow or fast if you so desire and be careful not to miss carrying your helmet.
You will definitely wish to try them.