Kampala 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, relatively close to the shores of Lake Victoria.
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.
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.
When coming to Kampala by air, you will actually arrive in the city of Entebbe, 35km (22 mi) southwest of Kampala.
Typically you will be required to pay USD50 for the entry visa, so have the money ready in cash (USD or Ugandan shillings) to pay at passport control - they do not accept credit cards. In any case check whether a visa is required before arrival for your specific nationality. Normally you will need to show an international vaccination certificate for Yellow Fever, but this rule is not applied strictly.
You can get from Entebbe airport to Kampala:
- via Private Hire taxi (approx UGX63,000 one way)
- Via the Airport Shuttle (known as the "green airport bus" (it's not green, but has the word green on it) UGX2,500 from the main airport exit (where all the private hire taxis are) to the main roundabout in Kampala. It runs every hour (although the private hire taxi drivers will try and persuade you otherwise)
- shared taxi (matuta) (approx UGX2,500 one way), this requires you to take the short distance (5km) from the airport to Entebbe city in a taxi, since Matatus and boda-bodas are not allowed at the airport
- hotel shuttle (e.g. if you have a reservation with Sheraton ask for their shuttle - 39,000 USh added to your hotel bill, for one way trip if shared -chances are very high there are other hotel guests arriving on your flight).
There are three methods of public transport: boda-bodas, matatu, and special hires.
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 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.
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.
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 UGX1000-1500 per person when driving into the city (Mar 2014).
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.
Recently the government has introduced larger 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.
- National Theatre (Uganda National Cultural Centre), De Winton St (next to Parliament), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A big cultural centre with a theatre that also hosts dance shows/lessons/events, comedy, movies, concerts, jam sessions, improv and discussion nights. The current program can be found at the entrance or on-line. There's also a library, a restaurant and a large African Crafts Village with dozens of shops selling souvenirs, crafts, and also some stuff that is more artsy then all the stuff you can find everywhere else. Worth visiting.
- Nommo Gallery, Victoria Ave (next to State Lodge, 400m north-northwest from Sheraton Hotel), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Uganda’s National Art Gallery. Calm, spacious, green oasis in the middle of the city with art exhibitions (paintings and sculptures that can be bought) and two restaurants frequented by government employees.
- Uganda Museum (Uganda National Museum), Kira Rd (4km north of city centre, to the west of Kololo hill behind the golf course), ☎ . Daily 10:00-18:00. A natural history museum, with some static displays commencing from the stone age and moving forward to Ugandan traditional life. UGX5000 entrance.
- Uganda National Mosque (Gaddafi National Mosque), Old Kampala Hill (on top of the hill next to the new taxi park). Big, beautiful modern mosque commissioned by Muammar Gaddafi, the ex-Libyan despot, as a gift to Uganda and completed in 2007. Said to be second-largest in sub-Saharan Africa. Great, relatively close-up bird's-eye view of Kampala from up the minaret/tower. UGX10,000 to go inside and up the minaret with a guide.
- Bahai Temple (Bahá'í House of Worship), Kikaya Hill (8km north of city centre, probably best to take a boda-boda or taxi), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 09:00-17:00. Beautiful and incredibly peaceful place. Nice view too.
- Kasubi tombs (Ssekabaka's Tombs), Kasubi Hill (5km north-west of city centre along Hoima Rd), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Burial ground of four Kabakas (kings) of Buganda and important place for the Baganda people. UNESCO World Heritage site. Nearly completely destroyed in a 2010 fire, but largely reconstructed with foreign aid.
- Wamala tombs (14km (30min) north-west of city centre along Hoima Rd, take matatu to Nansana, then boda-boda), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Tombs where the remains of some of the earlier Buganda kings were buried including Kabaka Ssuuna 11 (1836-1856). During his time he had 148 wives and produced 218 children! The single tomb building was also completely destroyed by fire in 2012, and has now been reconstructed. Meaning there are no original tombs left in the city. No fixed entrance fee. 20,000 UGX charged by security. May be negotiable..
- Buwama (Masaka rd), Namirembe Hill (on hill 1km west of Gaddafi Mosque), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. By European standards, a small Anglican cathedral. Not very interesting of itself, but good view of the city...
- St. Mary’s Cathedral (Rubaga Cathedral), Lubaga Hill (1 km west of Mengo Hill). Another cathedral, catholic this time.
- Lubiri (Mengo Palace), Mengo Hill (large empty hill 1km south of the city centre, seen from most places). Royal compound of the Kabaka/king. Historically significant place, but not much to see. The original Lubiri was destroyed in 1966 when Milton Obote took power and the Kabaka fled the country.
- Parliament of Uganda, Parliament avenue (from the taxi parks walk east along Kampala/Entebbe Rd until you reach Parliament Ave). Designed to represent the whole country and with visitors/tourists in mind; eg, look at the gate with the symbols of Uganda's different tribes or the giant carved wood art covering the lobby walls.
- Independence Monument, Speke Rd / Nile Ave (between Grand Imperial and Sheraton hotels). Small monument, but of large symbolic importance.
Inside the city
- Sunday boda boda tour around town. Go on a Sunday morning, when streets are largely empty in stark contrast to other days, to cruise around the city on a boda-boda, get a feel for the different parts of the city and see lots of stuff in little time: Like the docks, beaches and fish markets at Ggaba or Port Bell, all the wonderful hills providing great views and nice buildings on top, and the extreme contrasts between different neighbourhoods. For an extra trustworthy driver use one associated with the place you stay at and make them arrange an extra helmet. UGX20,000-30,000 will last you a couple of hours.
- Speke resort Munyonyo (Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort) (11 km south-east of city center along Ggaba road and right before reaching Ggaba beach. Matatus go there from the Cooper Complex.), ☎ , e-mail: , email@example.com. Speke is a very posh resort where rich people stay, but during the weekends it also serves as a recreational place for Kampala's aspiring middle class (especially the younger generation). There is ample of space to play volleyball or football, and there is a large well-kept pool (large enough to actually swim in) with an adjacent gym and squash courts. The park is also a good place to go for nice, relatively private but 100% secure romantic evening walks along the shores of Africa's largest lake. Just hanging around the resort gardens is free, 10.000 UGX to enter the pool area and gym (if you're not staying there).
- Book safari directly with Uganda Wildlife Authority, Kira Road (use phone, normally no need to go to there physically), ☎ , e-mail: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Arrange park entry, gorilla trekking and other tours directly with the Uganda Wildlife Authority. It does have some of its own safari packages and can provide assistance (information, guides, vehicles, ...) to people wanting to organize a safari more independently.
- Book safari through a tour operator. Normally done via internet/phone/mail, but sometimes it can be convenient to visit the operators offices to arrange details or make payments. A complete list of members of the Association of Ugandan Tour Operators (AUTO) can be found here.
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.
- Go for a safari in one of Ugandas national parks or game parks listed at Uganda#Other_destinations.
- Excursion to Entebbe to the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, where you can watch chimps being fed, which is even more entertaining than it sounds. Boats leave from near the zoo at 9AM and 1PM, price is $70, for 4 hour round trip.
- Visit the Zoo, beaches and Botanical Gardens in nearby Entebbe, (40 min. on Boda motorcycle taxi, 15-20k Shillings)
- Raft the headwaters of the Nile. Three companies offer this service: Nile River Explorers, Adrift and ""Nalubale Rafting.""The rafting has been (as of October 2011)terminated following the extension of a hydropower dam that submerged the former rafting area downstream of River Nile.
- Bungee jump dipping your head in the headwaters of the Nile, near Jinja.
- Jet-Boating on the Nile, up and down some of the smaller rapids.
- Do an ATV safari along the headwaters of the Nile, driving through various small towns.
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, Uchumi and Nakumatt). 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.
- Owino market (in city center close to the taxi parks, just south of the Nakivubo Stadium). Owino market is one of the largest in this region of Africa. The endless booths that line the chaotic alleys of Owino offer a mind-boggling array everything from homemade irons, to American hand-me-down-clothes with the Goodwill price tags still on then, to an amazing array of African foods, to any and everything else under the sun. Everything at Owinio starts cheap and gets cheaper with bargaining. Owino was completely destroyed by fire mid-February 2009, but has since been reopened. Owino is located near the center of Kampala, and any Boda or taxi driver will know how to get you there. Come prepared for a crowded maze of goods and people.
- Nakasero market (between Old Taxi Park, Kampala Road and Entebbe road). A lot smaller and more pleasant than Owino, good for fruit and veg. More accessible from Kampala road and better suited for a (relaxed) stroll.
- Exposure Africa Crafts Village, Buganda Road. African arts and crafts village with dozens of stalls.
- Uganda Arts & Crafts Village, National Theatre (behind National theatre). African arts and crafts village with dozens of stalls.
- Garden City. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Owino is Garden City. Garden City is Kampala's main upscale mall, and if you are in the market for an Internet cafe, a Forex bureau, coffee shop, an expensive pair of shoes, a western-style grocery store, a travel agent, a cinema, and more under the same roof, then Garden City is for you. Garden City can be a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the centre of Kampala. Similarly Nakumatt Oasis is next to Garden City, and bit more upmarket.
- Shoprite, Lugugo Mall. Large supermarket.
- Game, Lugugo Mall (next to Shoprite). Another huge modern shop which sells DIY stuff, camping chairs, torches, batteries etc. There is also a chicken and chips cafe, a souvenir shop, a couple of banks, a phone shop etc.
- Uganda Crafts 2000 Ltd., Plot 32-36 Bombo Road (Heading towards Wandegeya from City Square, Uganda Crafts is in the basement shop of the DLCO-EA building, between Teacher's House and Bible House.), ☎ 256 414 250 077. 9AM - 6PM. Uganda Crafts, Uganda's oldest fair trade craft shop, has been working with disadvantaged artisans since 1983. They are known for their baskets, but also stock lots of traditional Ugandan products, including musical instruments, jewelry, batiks, carvings, and bark cloth items. They also carry products from Kenya, Rwanda, and the Congo. They are certified fair trade by the International Fair Trade Association, which means that they pay their artisans promptly and fairly.
- Kasumba Square Mall. Kasumba Square Mall is at the edge of Kampala west at the intersection of Busega Round about and Northern bypass highway, This Mall was developed as to alleviate congestion and to deliver goods and services to the community as Kampala is becoming congested city due to rapid population growth.
There are a number of dining options in Kampala ranging from the cheap and local to the very fancy (and very expensive).
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 UGX1500-3000. 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 UGX800-1500. 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.
- Great Wall (Chinese Restaurant), Plot 21 Kampala Rd, ☎ . Daily 12:00-22:30. Owned by Chinese from Beijing, this clean and comfortable restaurant serves big portions of tasty, classic dishes. Menu is in English and simplified Chinese (with strange character mistakes - I suppose 15 years away is a long time). There is a ceiling fan and service is attentive, polite and extremely rapid by Ugandan standards. If you've got a boney bum, bring a cushion. Fried rice with chicken UGX8000, sweet & sour pork UGX13,000.
- Bhagwatt Restaurant, ovolacto vegetarian, small eatery, overlooking Nakasero Market Square. Open 8AM to 8PM. Good quality abundant thali 7000 UGX. Will cater for vegans if you specify.
- Govindas, ovolacto vegetarian, in Dewinton Road near Nakumat, offers thali at 15000 UGX at lunchtime, and a full menu of Indian dishes. Popular with local Indian community. They also serve Vegetarian Pizzas and Sandwiches. A reasonable variety of Indian Sweets is available too.
- Makere University Food Technology department, offers a tasty "local food" lunch, at 7000 UGX.
Jinja Road is a good place for a variety of meals.
- Garden City. The food court at this shopping center offers a wide variety of options including Lebanese, Italian, Indian, and more. There are particularly good masala dosas served in the food court. Unlike a traditional food court, you order from a menu and a waiter brings food to your table. There is a good Indian restaurant named Nawab on the roof of Garden City, and a steak restaurant that's quite good.
- Cafe Javas, Oasis Shopping Plaza (next to Garden City) Expat and local hangout. Flawless service. Great breakfasts and wonderfully rich coffee. Free wireless internet. Opens at 6AM and stays open late.
- New York Kitchen, Garden City Basement (next to Stanbic bank parking garage). Has an assortment of authentic NY style food items.
- Fang Fang (Chinese Restaurant), Roof Terrace, Communication House, Plot 1, Colville St (Enter the Communications Tower government office block and, after passing throudh the security check, take the steps to the first floor.), ☎ , fax: +256 414 250 422, e-mail: email@example.com. Large, plush, well furnished place with many private side and meeting rooms. Well stocked bar. Authentic menu and cuisine. 6 piece per plate starter, vegetable UGX16,800, meat UGX19,800, prawns UGX29,800; crab in ginger & garlic sauce UGX65,800.
- Just Kicking, Kisementi shopping Centre, good choice of pub food and continental dishes, weekend nights BBQ.
- Pizza or BBQ night at the Red Chilli Hideaway, Butabika (10km east of city centre along Port Bell road and then left, at lake 500m from Butabika Hospital), ☎ . 18:00-21:00. Even if you're not staying there it might be interesting to spend an evening at this backpacker hangout and get some good travel tips from fellow travellers or listen to stories of some avid backpackers and cross-Africa (motor)bike/car drivers.
- The Lawns Restaurant & Lounge Bar, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Plot 34, Impala Avenue, Upper Kololo Terrace, Kololo, Kampala. Features a wide variety of fusion delights from all across continent. Only restaurant in Uganda offering full range of Game Meat. Starters range from 14,000 to 25,000 and Main course range from 18,000 to 40,000UGX. The wines includes South African and a number of European selections, ranging from 30,000 to 150,000UGX. This has a fantastic ambiance, and the food is amazing.
- Paradise, Sheraton Kampala. Features a variety of Indian and continental dishes. Main course range from 20,000 to 40,000UGX. The wines includes South African and a number of European selections, ranging from 40,000 to 150,000UGX.
- Serena Hotel, just down the hill from the Sheraton. A variety of South Asian and African dishes prepared with flair. A complete meal for two will run to about 200,000UGX, excluding alcohol.
- Khana Khazana, This is one of the best (more expensive) Indian restaurants: It is on Acacia Avenue, up from the Protea Hotel, in Kololo.
- Mamba Point, This is one of the best (more expensive) Italian places. The address is 22 Akil Bua Road-Nakasero: 031-256-3000. Be sure to go to the Italian Restaurant on Akil Bua Road, not the Pizzeria on Lumumba Ave—-although the Pizzeria is one of the best in town.
- The Pyramids Casino, This is the place to go when someone else is paying. It is more expensive than just about anywhere, except for the Serena. It has good pastas and meat, and is a bit more interesting for continental/fusion food than major hotels like the Sheraton or Serena. It is on Yusef Lule Road, across from the Golf Course.
- Fang Fang Chinese Restaurant, One of the best Chinese places. There are two in Kampala-- one with an attached hotel (nearer to the Sheraton) and open to outdoors (so don't forget to wear bug spray). They keep two white rabbits that hop on the grass in the main patio area and will put up with children petting them if you feed them a carrot or cucumber. The second Fang Fang is in downtown Kampala at Communications House; they have indoor seating and a roof terrace.
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.
- The Bistro.
Drink only bottled water - spring water brands like Rwenzori and Blue Wave can be trusted - or tap water that has been boiled/treated appropriately.
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.
- Evening out in Kabalagala (3 km south-west from city center along Ggaba road, many matatus go there). Kabalagala is an area with many bars and restaurants that is very lively at night and popular both amongst locals and expats. Go there, have fun and get to know some locals, but keep in mind that some girls (not the majority) are actually there to work. Kabalagala has everything from shabby waragi shacks to fancy establishments like Club Venom at the top of Tirupati Mazima Mall.
- Evening out in Bukoto (around Bukoto-Kira Road, north of Kololo hill). Originally a purely residential suburb, now spawning many popular nightlife spots. Good alternative to Kabalagala and less muzungus than further down along Acacia Avenue.
- Expat night at Bubbles O’Leary’s (across the golf course away from city center, left on Acacia Avenue), ☎ . Bubbles is an Irish pub in Kampala that serves as the main expat hangout (along with several other places along Acacia Avenue). Go there to get some (shocking) insights into the giant industry that is NGOs, aid and volunteering in Uganda.
- Clubbing in the Industrial Area. Some very fancy clubs with steep prices, others more normal, lots of showing off, students enjoying themselves, dance floors fill easily, good dancing, some old mzungu men, hookers, ... partly bizarre but in the end the same as everywhere else around the world. The popular Club Silk, Ange Noir and T1 are on First Street. Several other clubs are on 6th Street.
- Just Kicking sports bar, Kisementi (at end of Acacia Avenue). Good for a relaxed drink with an international crowd. It gets very lively during weekend nights and whenever a major football match is screened.
- The Lawns Restaurant & Lounge Bar, Impala Avenue, Kololo (on south-eastern slope of Kololo hill, close to where airstrip ends). Good if you want a quite and tranquil environment. The Lawns offers beautiful garden lounge bar. Try their wide range of cocktails or wine with amazing starters.
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
- Bancafe, Nakumat (Oasis). Some of the best coffee, good espresso and they sell beans and ground coffee (at December 2010).
- Cafe Javas. Good chain that is at several locations around the city. Has working wifi. Midrange pricing.
- Good African Coffee, Lugogo (next to Shoprite). Offers an excellent array of coffee concoctions and a good selection of food. Looks like a coffee shop/cafe with outdoor seating, but also offers a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu with burgers, steaks, fish, roasted chicken, pitas, salads, etc.
- Juice, Dewinton Road. A very good juice cafe, offering a huge selection of juices, including various herbal remedies.
- 1000 Cups Coffee House, Buganda Road (across the road from the craft market), ☎ . , Upscale coffee shop popular amongst muzungus. Serving a several regional varieties of coffee, American style.
There are many budget hotels in Kampala, the cheapest (as of 2013) was about UGX20,000 for a clean place with shared bathroom, and UGX30,000 for a good and clean place with bathroom and hot shower.
- The Lodge Kampala, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Is a three star guest house in a quite environment. It's located in Lweza off Entebbe Rd. Single costs US$40 and double US$50.
- Backpackers Hostel and Campsite, ☎ . This is a major backpacker hangout just outside the city centre. Set on 3 acres they have a wide range of accommodation and great bar with chill out rooms, pool room and large verandah. They have free wireless internet with good download speed. The bar area is huge, with loads of tables where you can order from their restaurant or just sit and do your thing. dorm 18000 UGX, single 30000 UGX.
- Red Chili Hideaway, 13-23 Bukasa Hill View Road, Butabika, ☎ . Red Chilli has moved to Butabika -- don't end up at the old location! Clean and safe accommodation ranging from camping, dorms, to private rooms. A major backpacker hangout. They've got a beautiful swimming pool, hangout space, restaurant, bar, pool table, free Wi-Fi, and generally it's a good place to get information from other travelers. You can sign up for budget trips to Muchison, and, if you're lucky, get a discounted gorilla permit if there is a last-minute cancellation. camping 7 USD, dorm 10 USD, single 25 USD as of Sept 2014.
- Hotel City Square, 42 Kampala Rd (On the south side of City Square), ☎ . Check-in: 24/7, check-out: 10:00. Newly renovated reception & breakfast area, pleasant and safe hotel with extremely helpful staff and one of the most central locations in Kampala overlooking the green gardens of Constitution Square. The staff are helpful, the rooms are clean with running hot water. A great restaurant on the first floor overlooking the square with comfort food (burgers, etc) as well as great local dishes 'matoke' and fresh fish. None of the bedroom windows are screened and the street side rooms (the majority) are noisy with no Wi-Fi reception. Inside rooms are noisier too, since their windows open on to the 2nd storey breakfast area which is itself a sort of long, open balcony. You won't need an alarm call for an early flight - the pre-dawn Adhan or Muslim call to prayer about 05:29 and again about 05:42 is at boom-box levels. You won't hear the midnight Adhan, because that will mostly be drowned out by the pounding music from an open-air pub/barbecue that continues until about four o'clock in the morning. There are 3 rooms here that can receive Wi-Fi reception: 206, 208, & 210 and here you'll be able to hold a VoIP video conference since the Wi-Fi connection is strong, fast and reliable. Sgl UGX60,000, dbl UGX85,000.
- Dolphin Guest House, Plot No. 26 William St (Walk down William St to find many cheap hotels and bars.), ☎ 0414 255 786. There are quite a few clean and cheap hotels along William St, in walking distance from the "Old Taxi Park" matatu station. There are also quite a few bars on the same road. basic single 15,000 UGX, double 20,000 UGX.
- New City Annex Hotel, 7 De Winton Rd (Opposite of National Theatre), ☎ 0414 254132. single 20,000 UGX shared bathroom.
- Already Hotel, Rashid Khamis Rd (From Kyagwe Road walk left, almost to the intersection with Martin Road.). Clean place with large bed, mosquito nets, warm shower. Ask a couple of times for a cheaper room, as they will start at 45,000 and then the price goes down to 30,000 UGX. There is a massage place in the hotel with good 10,000 UGX massages. There are a few hotels on this road between 20,000 and 60,000 UGX. single 30,000 UGX with bathroom and breakfast.
- Protea Hotel Kampala, Kololo. 35km from Entebbe Airport, the brand new Protea Hotel Kampala offers 4-star luxury and 5-star service. 59 rooms and 11 suites, all en-suite and air-conditioned; restaurant, bar, satellite television, air-con. Close to gym, tennis and squash courts etc. Also includes a Business Centre, wireless internet throughout, currency exchange, 24 hour room service and Reception.
- Hotel Africana, ☎ . Plot 2-4 Wampewo Ave, Kampala. Well established mid range price hotel with lots of parking, swimming pool, gym, wifi,apartments; near large (Nakumatt, Uchumi) Shopping malls but can be noisy on a concert/wedding weekend. Only hotel with its own fully fledged mosque.
- Hotel Ruch. Central location right next to Sheraton. Well-maintained Bed & Breakfast Hotel with nice gardens and a bar. On-site Wi-Fi available. from 50 USD.
- Fang Fang Hotel on Ssezibwa Road in Kampala has clean rooms, air-con available, hot running water, a great Chinese restaurant on the premises (with nice garden seating), and is not overpriced. Recommended. Centrally located near UWA offices.
- Aminaz Garden Place. In Kololo Kampala. Very good, clean and safe accommodation
- Golf Course Apartments, in Kololo. Not to be confused with pricier Golf Course Hotel which is fairly nearby. Very comfortable apartments around £100 per night. Offers swimming pool, gym, sauna, tennis court, garden. Kitchens fully equipped for self-catering. Daily maid service, cleaning, laundry. Pleasant green environment away from traffic noise. Discounts for certain NGOs and other organisations reduce rooms to $80 per night. Stays of one month or more prices reduce to $1800 (non discount) or £1525 (discounted). Prices correct December 2010.
- Speke Hotel, City Center,in City Center, Kampala. One of the earliest hotels in Kampala, and very different from the upscale Speke Resort in Munyonyo. It is located on a busy street where prostitutes ply their trade at night. The rooms are clean with wooden floors and clean toilets, AC, free Wi-Fi, but it tends to be spartan, and isn't posh by any stretch. The Hotel has a pizzeria, Indian Restaurant(Khyber Pass), A pub/bar Rock Garden Cafe. There is an Crane Bank ATM inside the hotel (may work, but most international cards will need to use the Barlays a few minutes walk away). Prices start from around USD 120 per day.
- Golf Course Hotel, Plot 64-86, Yusuf Lule Road, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This newly opened hotel next to the Garden City Complex offers huge rooms and apartments, modern facilities, a large and fancy pool and very relaxing views of the tropic golf course.
- Kampala Serena Hotel, ☎ . Another five-star hotel located just further down the road from the Sheraton. Offers modern and spacious rooms. Swimming pool, large garden, a health club and also several restaurants and bars are all on the hotel premises. The hotel is also close to the popular shopping malls at Yuseuf Lule road. Prices starts at $150 per night.
- Sheraton Kampala Hotel, Ternan Avenue, ☎ . Recently renovated, the Sheraton is the leading high-end hotel in town, occupying extensive nicely manicured grounds.
- Speke Resort. Located in Munyonyo, about 10 km from the city centre by the shores of Lake Victoria, and not to be confused with the Speke Hotel (above). An excellent getaway from city life. You'll find plenty of animals around (and often in) the resort. Has a large swimming pool, as well as an infinity pool by the lake. Gym, spa, and choice of restaurants with lake views. Free cable internet to rooms, but Wi-Fi only in the foyer and restaurant areas.
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 VISA-card. Many ATMs take VISA. Stanbic is the only bank that takes MasterCard branded 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.
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.
- Linking Worlds (Quality Shopping Village) 1000 meters from Entebbe Road with a fast internet connection
- KayeNet internet cafe  is a chain of Internet cafes located in Kampala at the following locations:
- (Nakulabye) Beauty House, Plot 494 Makerere Hill Rd, P.O.Box 14289, Mengo, Kampala, Uganda, Opposite Chez Johnson Hotel.
- (Nalubwama arcade) Nalubwama arcade,1st floor- shop f1-2, Ben Kiwanuka street, Kampala, Uganda, Opposite old taxi park.
- (Wandegeya) Plot 151, Bombo Rd, Wandegeya, Kampala, Uganda, Opposite Stanbic bank, Above Kookee supermarket.
- (Market Street) Energy Centre Building, Level 3, Shop 36, Market Street, Nakasero, Kampala.
- BBC World Service can be heard on FM radio 101.3MHz in central Kampala.
Satellite TV is widely available in bars, hotels, restaurants, etc. Stations available include Al Jazeera, BBC World News, CCTV4 & 9, CNN, Deutschewelle and France Inter & 24.
- Egypt, 33 Kololo Hill Drive, ☎ , fax: +256 414345152. 09:00 AM - 16:00 PM.
- Sweden, 24 Lumumba Avenue, ☎ , fax: +256 (0417) 700 801, e-mail: email@example.com.
- United States of America, Plot 1577 Ggaba Rd, e-mail: KampalaUSCitizen@state.gov firstname.lastname@example.org; KampalaUSCitizen@state.gov.
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.
- Jinja, one source of the Nile and amazing whitewater rafting can be reached in around one hour.
- Fort Portal, in the vicinity of the popular Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Kibale Forest National Park and the Rwenzori National Park, can be reached in around 4 hours.
- Kabale, Lake Bunyonyi and the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be reached in around 5-6 hours.
- Driving to Gulu takes 4-5 hours by bus.
- Murchison Falls National Park also takes about that time to reach.
- Tororo, Mbale and Mount Elgon National Park can be reached in a couple of hours to less than half a day.
- Furthermore, it used to be possible to reach Ssese Islands from Port Bell in Kampala with the MV Amani, but that service seems suspended and the main ferry from Entebbe, MV Kalangala, is in prolonged repairs.
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 2014, 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
- New taxi park. Matatus and larger buses going everywhere!
- Post bus terminal, Main post office (on Kampala Road, 200 m west from Entebbe Road), ☎ . Government-run post bus, reputed for its safety and popular among western budget tourists. Departures M-Sa 07:00-08:00 in the morning Mon-Sat towards Gulu, Kabale, Kisoro, Kasese and Lira.
- De Winton Street (Dewinton road) (Located opposite Parliament and National Theatre, parallel with Jinja Road.). Mostly for tour buses going east into Kenya. Companies include Modern Coast Express, ☎ . , , Modern luxury coaches (but without AC) driving from Kampala into Kenya. Daily bus to Nairobi departing at 06.00 for $28. Daily bus to Mombasa departing at 23.00 for $44. (Updated March 2014) Mash East Africa, ☎ . , Luxury coach. $35 to Nairobi with AC. $26 to Nairobi without AC. (Updated March 2014) Easy Coach, ☎ . , Departs daily 05.00 and 23.00 for Nairobi (14h, $29). (Updated March 2014)
- Arua park. Mainly for going north, like Gulu and Juba.