How To Travel Within Uganda: Driving vs. Flying

If you’re planning a trip to Uganda for tourism, it’s more than likely that you’re going to visit some or all of these sites:

  • Murchison Falls
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Ishasha area in Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Fort Portal area
  • Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
  • Kampala
  • Lake Mburo
  • Lake Bunyoni
  • Ziwa National Park

Most of the popular tourist spots are aligned in the Eastern part of Uganda, from north to south and there are roads connecting them, which is why driving is so popular in Uganda – not to mention it’s much less expensive compared to flying within the country.

Entrance to Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Flying vs. driving. Most people travel by car in Uganda. The reliable road system leads to each tourist location.

Drivers and guides in Uganda lovingly refer to the experience as “African massage”, which is code for bumpy or very bumpy roads. The drive times between destinations ranges from 5-9 hours, so you can imagine that can get uncomfortable.

The longest drive I experienced in Uganda was 2.5 hours and I can vouch for soreness.

Open top safari vehicle

Save time flying. We had about 13 days for our trip. So we decided to save time by flying to each destination within Uganda.

There are small airstrips throughout Uganda and one domestic airline called AeroLink. Our tour operator arranged the flights, though you can contact them directly. I didn’t find a big price difference and it was easier to have our tour operator take care of it.

We found flying safe and convenient throughout our trip. We also liked that travel days were also activity days. If we had driven to each destination travel days would have been just that. Plus, driving would have added at least 4-5 days to our trip.

Flying Restrictions. Note, if you fly within Uganda there’s a strict weight limit of 15kg. per person including all luggage. Luggage must be soft – no hard shell suitcases. I was able to take everything that I needed within this weight limit, including a small DSLR camera and two lenses. Most lodges offer laundry so that helps reduce the amount you have to pack.

When flying within Uganda, you are required o travel with soft bags, no hard shell luggage allowed. Also there’s a 15kg. weight limit per person including carryons.

Flying is expensive within Uganda. You don’t save money by flying, as each flight ranges from $300-$900 per person per leg. But at least you can still do stuff on travel days. We did a 3 hour safari at Murchison Falls National Park, before heading to the airstrip for our flight to Kasese. We wouldn’t have been able to do that if we’d driven to Fort Portal instead of flying.

Similarly if you fly into the Kihihi airstrip near Bwindi, you might be able to do a safari in the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Plan to do that on the inbound or outbound, depending on your flight time.

Experience and Perspective. On the other hand, by driving you get to see the country side of Uganda. I think enjoyment of this is a matter of perspective. For people who have never been to a third world or underdeveloped country I think driving would be an eye opening and unique experience. For people like my husband and I who have been to India and other underdeveloped countries several times, it wasn’t anything new.

The views from the planes were pretty epic too.

Buffalos drinking from a water hole in Uganda. Photo taken on domestic flight on Aerolink.
Photo taken on domestic flight in Uganda

Flight Times are +/-. Uganda domestic flight times run on island life mentality. Flight times are +\- and you won’t know about flight status unless you ask. Our driver would contact his office HQ to get status updates for us.

Aerolink has a monopoly on this and weather conditions change so delays can occur. At Murchison Falls our plane arrived over an hour late to the airstrip.

AeroLink planes seat about 20 passengers and our flights were all under 2 hours. These are the flights we did:

Entebbe-Murchison Falls: 1 hour
Murchison Falls-Kasese (closest to Fort Portal): 1 hour
Kasese-Kihihi airstrip (closest to Bwindi): 2 hours 15 minutes
Kihihi-Entebbe with a stopover at Kasese airstrip: 1 hour 10 minutes

{Vehicle Features If You Decide to Drive in Uganda}

If you decide to drive we suggest you get a vehicle with (working) electrical outlets. With the long drives, they will come in really handy. Don’t forget to keep your travel outlet adapter handy; and if there are a several people in your part, consider bringing a power strip with you.

Also ask about a vehicle that has a refrigerator inside.

We heard about cars getting stuck with flat tires, so ask your tour operator about spares in the car and how that’s handled.

Have cash to give to locals for stops along the way to buy snacks and goods.

{Self Driving In Uganda}

It is possible to self drive in Uganda as well. It’s a great way to save money. Note, self drivers should do some homework about rules, regulations, and general driving practices. There’s a lot of great info online in forums etc. if you Google “driving in Uganda”. In general, my understanding is that:

  • driving in Uganda is safe (in most regions)
  • in some places/crossings you might get stopped by police or military and have to pay a small bribe
  • need a 4 wheel drive (4WD)
  • roads are reliable
  • petrol widely available at each town, but often very long distances between towns.

The beauty of self driving is the adventure itself as well as the flexibility. Though we found the guides (especially with Wild Frontiers) to be really great, attentive, and easy going.

There were a few times that we were stopped by police doing random inspections – especially when we were close to the Congo border.

FYI, in Uganda the steering wheel is on the right hand side. And power outlets are 220v and the same shape as those used in the UK so most worldwide travel adapters will work. I recommend this one. This adapter has a few USB ports so you can charge your camera battery and your phone simultaneously. We found it really convenient to use and took up minimal space in our bags.

Enjoy your trip to Uganda! It truly is the Pearl of Africa. Keep adding those stamps to your PassportPages!


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