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

There are 10 national parks in Uganda. The most frequented by tourists are Bwindi, Murchison Falls, and Queen Elizabeth and Kibale National Park. Most of the popular tourist spots are aligned in the Eastern part of Uganda, from north to south.

Entrance to Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Flying vs. driving. And most people travel by car throughout the country. The country has a road system leading to each tourist location but they lovingly refer to driving in Uganda as “African massage” which is code for bumpy or very bumpy roads. Taken over long rides between locations it can get pretty 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. Due to time restrictions, we decided to save time by flying to each destination. There are small airstrips throughout Uganda and one airline called AeroLink. We found flying safe and convenient throughout our trip. 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 carryon luggage. And bags must be soft, no hard shell suitcases. I was able to take everything I needed in 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 is very expensive ranging 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 (closest to Fort Portal). We wouldn’t have been able to do that if we’d driven to Fort Portal.

Similarly if you fly into the Kihihi airstrip near Bwindi, you might be able to do a safari in Ishasha 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. I think enjoyment of this is a matter of perspective. For people who have never been to an underdeveloped country I think driving would be an eye opening, unique experience. For people like my husband and I who have been to India multiple times, the countryside of Uganda felt very much like the countryside in India.

On the other hand 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 +/-. In Uganda you have to reconfirm flight times for domestic flights. Aerolink has a monopoly on this and weather conditions change as well as other delays can occur. At Murchison Falls our plane arrived over an hour late to the airstrip. And they won’t inform you. It’s up to you to find out the flight status.

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

Entebbe to Murchison Falls (direct): 1 hour
Murchison Falls to Kasese (two hours south of Fort Portal): 1 hour
Kasese to Kihihi airstrip (about 1.5 hours from Buhoma area Bwindi): 2 hours 15 minutes
Kihihi to Entebbe with a stopover at Kasese airstrip: 1 hour 10 minutes

{Vehicle Features If You Decide to Drive in Uganda}

Ask your tour operator about a vehicle that has outlets in the vehicle. 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.

{Self Driving In Uganda}

It is possible to self drive in Uganda if you prefer that. 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 and 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! I hope it finds you with a satisfied and belly full of great vegetarian and vegan food! Keep adding those stamps to your PassportPages!


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