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 breakdown or accident?
  • How to deal with traffic police in Uganda

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 the 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's 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 on 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 your travel speed: 

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

The Toyota Hilux is the most comfortable vehicle in our fleet for driving on asphalt roads, which make up 80% of the driving you will do in Uganda, as well as being the most comfortable on rough surfaces.

Safety precautions

  • Drive defensively. Minibus drivers are notorious for overtaking on blind corners and the big coaches feel like they're 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 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 potholes. They damage the car if you hit them and can cause a flat tire.
  • Always put on your central lock when driving in the city and bigger towns. Do not leave valuables in your car unattended.
  • In case you're spending the night at some local hostel in a town, make sure they have a secure car park on their 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... 

Hire a car and explore Uganda on your self drive holiday

Are there restricted areas for self-drive?

There are no off-limit areas in Uganda. However, hiring a Hilux or Landcruiser is required for travel to Kidepo and Karamoja, as the RAV4 is unsuitable for the road conditions in these areas. 

Can I cross the border with my Roadtrip rental car?

Yes, it is possible to cross the border with a Roadtrip Uganda rental car into 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 €70 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 from Roadtrip Uganda come with the latest Bradt Travel Guide and a detailed roadmap of Uganda. We strongly recommend that you install on your smartphone before you travel to Uganda. It's a free app. Download the Uganda maps and enjoy driving on GPS, offline. Almost every lodge and campsite is plotted on 

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 Uganda's asphalt roads are in good condition, you generally don’t reach more than 60km/hour, due to speed bumps, the need to reduce your speed when passing through villages - and because you will probably want to take a lot of pictures! Even the scenery from the highway is stunning. On gravel roads, you will be driving at an average of 25km/hour. If you are trying to estimate your travel itinerary with Google Maps, increase the suggested travel time by 30%. 

What happens in case of a breakdown 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 any problems. We will either direct you to the nearest workshop or send someone 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 that you can continue your journey. Please bear in mind that arranging one of the above takes some time to organise and might require some effort and patience from your side. Luckily, breakdowns are rare.

In case of an accident, contact us immediately and we will 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 are a lot of traffic police in Uganda. You can recognize them from far away by their bright white uniform. We always wonder how they keep their uniforms so white on the dusty roads, but that's not answering your question... So, 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 politely (preferably in Luganda: Jebale Ko Afande? = Are you doing fine, officer?) and you have a new friend. Traffic police can pull you over to check if your car is insured, to check if the tires are in good condition, or 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 (speeding, dangerous overtaking, etc.), 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, Ugandan traffic police will also offer a faster payment option and hint that you can "buy them a soda" (this is not something you should propose though).