Tips for driving in Uganda

Important information for self-drive roadtrippers

Covered in this section:

  • How are the road conditions in Uganda?
  • Are there restricted areas for self-drive?
  • Can I cross the border?
  • How does it work with navigation?
  • What happens in case of a break-down or accident? How to deal with traffic police?

How are the road conditions in Uganda? 

By African standards, the road conditions in Uganda are very good. All the primary roads radiating out of Kampala to all four corners of the country are smooth asphalt. You can expect a lot of speed bumps and an occasional pothole. Usually, the last stretch of your daily trip requires some driving on gravel roads to get to your lodge or park entrance gate. Inside the parks it is off-road driving on dirt roads. The conditions of these gravel and dirt roads tend to be variable from one season to the next and are most difficult during the rainy season. 

Almost all accidents happen at the main road from Masindi to Murchison Falls National Park. It is a challenging road due to the rocky surface with washboard ribbons. We cannot stress enough to drive slowly (25km/h) and carefully on this road! Single vehicle roll-overs are NOT covered by the insurance. 

The following roads are unsurfaced and will greatly reduce the travel speed. Driving a Landcruiser is more comfortable: 

  • Fort Portal to Masindi via Hoima, 
  • from Masindi to Murchison Falls Park
  • everything north of Gulu, towards Kidepo National Park 

Safety precautions

  • Drive defensively. Minibus drivers are notorious for overtaking on blind corners and the big coaches feel on top of the food chain, so keep an eye on your rear-view mirror and if necessary, just pull off the road in advance to let the coach pass.
  • Drive at or below the speed limit. 100 km on the highway, though we would advise 80 km /hour and 50 km in urban areas.
  • Beware of unmarked speed bumps, which are plentiful in many parts of the country, especially at the entrance to towns.
  • Beware of put holes. They damage the car if you hit them and can cause a flat tyre.
  • Always put on your central lock when driving in the city and bigger towns. Do not leave valuables in your car when unattended.
  • In case your spending the night at some local hostel in a town, make sure they have a secured car park on own property.
  • Avoid driving at night. The potholes are difficult to see and approaching traffic uses blinding high-beams.
  • Always carry some cash, water and a charged mobile phone to handle any situation
  • As you will discover soon enough, traffic in Uganda drives on the left side of the road..  

Are there restricted areas for self-drive?

There are no off-limit areas in Uganda. But hiring a Landcruiser is required for travel to Kidepo and Karamoja.   

Can I cross the border with my roadtrip rental car?

Yes, it is possible to cross the border with a Roadtrip Uganda rental car to Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. You are NOT allowed to cross to South Sudan or DRC. If you want to do a multiple country roadtrip, you do need to let us know in advance as we have to arrange a COMESA card, an extension of the car insurance for your vehicle. The insurance costs $ 75 and is valid for three weeks. Without our consent you are not allowed to cross the border and you are not insured for any damage. Please contact us for more information.

How does it work with navigation? 

All rental vehicles of Roadtrip Uganda come with the latest Bradt Travel Guide and a detailed roadmap of Uganda. We strongly recommend that you install Maps.me on your smart phone before you travel to Uganda. Its a free app. Download the Uganda maps and enjoy driving on GPS, offline. Almost every lodge and campsite is plotted on Maps.me. 

The biggest mistake travellers make is rushing it and trying to cover too much in one trip. Have a look at our suggested routes page for a realistic assessment of what you can cover during your road trip. You might get stuck after heavy rains and a flat tire can be part of the adventure. Although asphalt roads are in good condition, you generally don’t make more than 60 km / hour, due to the many speed bumps, as you have to reduce speed when you’re passing through villages, and because you probably want to take a lot of pictures. Even the scenery from the highway is stunning! On gravel roads, you make an average of 25km/ hour only. If you are trying to estimate your travel itinerary with Google Maps, increase travel time by 1/3. 

What happens in case of a break-down or accident? 

In case of a breakdown, we will help you on your way as fast as we can. You can call us 24/7 for roadside assistance. We have a network of workshops to assist you in case of anything. We will direct you to the nearest workshop or we will send help to assist you on the spot. In case a car cannot be fixed on the spot, a replacement car from Kampala will be provided, so you can continue your journey. Please keep in mind that arranging one of the above takes some time to organise and might require some effort and patience from your side. Good to know that breakdowns are rare.

In case of an accident, contact us immediately and we coach you through the process; take pictures of the damaged vehicle(s) and process and clear a police report.

Please refer to our Terms & Conditions published on this website, for more information.

How to deal with traffic police in Uganda? 

There is quite some traffic police in Uganda. You can recognise them from a far distance because of their bright white uniform. We always wonder how they keep their uniforms so white on the dusty roads, but that is not answering your question. Advice which comes in handy when dealing with any kind of government official in Uganda is to be respectful, remain patient and be/stay friendly. Greet them polite (preferably in Luganda: Djebale Ko Afandi? = Are you doing fine office?) and you have a new friend. Traffic police can pull you over to check if your car is insured, if the tyres look okay, and to see your driving license. Any valid driving license (even from your own country of residence) is accepted in Uganda. In our experience traffic police are friendly, curious and often just want to make chit chat. If you committed an offence law (speeding, dangerous overtaking or other), you’ll have to pay the fine. Officially this should be done at the nearest police station. That office can be miles away and can be a very time consuming procedure. Usually they will also offer a faster payment option and hint your buy them a soda (this is not something you propose though).