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Kampala

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Africa : East Africa : Uganda : Central Uganda : Kampala
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Kampala is the capital city of Uganda. It is in the South Central part of the country close to the shores of Lake Victoria.
A view of Burton Street in Kampala City

Understand

The people of Kampala, and Ugandans in general, are very kind and friendly and are very approachable.

Kampala, with a population of approximately 2.5 million, is by far the largest city in Uganda. It is not yet completely overwhelmed with traffic and sprawl like Nairobi and Lagos. Additionally, Kampala is very safe to walk around, even at night, a welcome fact for many a high-strung visitor arriving from Nairobi.

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.'

Get in

When coming to Kampala by air, you will actually arrive in the city of Entebbe, 35km (22mi) southwest of Kampala.

Entebbe Airport

Typically you will be required to pay 50 USD for the entry visa, so have the money ready in cash (USD or USh) 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 international vaccination certificate for Yellow Fever, however the rule is not applied strictly.

You can get from Entebbe to Kampala:

  • via taxi (approx 60,000 USh one way)
  • minibus (approx 2,500Ush one way)
  • 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).

Get around

There are three methods of public transportation: boda bodas, matatu, and special hires. The fastest method is the boda bodas; 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 between 1,000 and 2,000 USh, 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 drivers 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 pedestrains when necessary. Boda boda accidents account for most of the hospital visits and traffic fatalities in Kampala; you have been warned!

Boda Bodas
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" ("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 3000 to 5000 UGX for trips within Kampala (foreigner price; correct at July 2011). It is almost impossible to get anywhere for under 2000 UGX, and longer trips may run you up to 7000 UGX.

Matatus are a series of minibuses that follow relatively preset routes all over the city and many other parts of the country. Confusingly, they are known as taxis in Uganda. Each matatu has a driver and a conductor, both of whom will shout the destinations of their vehicle out the windows. 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. When you reach your destination, tell your conductor "Stage" and they will stop the van. There are also a number of staging points where the driver will stop and wait until they can fill the vehicle. This can take a few seconds or several minutes; just be patient. 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 1000-1500 USh per person when driving into the city (correct at July 2011).

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 15,000 or 20,000 USh.

Yellow taxi company is reliable, offering 24 hour service, phone 07131 33331, with fixed prices: 10,000UGX for trips within Kampala; 60,000UGX for trips to/from the airport. Prices correct at Dec2010. They also have an allocated single taxi rank space outside Nakumat.

See

  • The Uganda Museum.
  • Kasubi tombs, where the remains of the Kings of Buganda are buried, was a major tourist site. However, these were extensively damaged by fire in March 2010.
  • Nommo art gallery
  • National Theatre
  • Cathedrals - Rubaga and Namirembe (not very interesting itself but good view of the city)
  • Gaddafi National Mosque (in Old Kampala)
  • Wamala 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!
  • Bahai Temple, atop Kikaya hill
  • Parliament of Uganda (and independence monument).

Do

  • Raft the headwaters of the Nile. Three companies offer this service: Nile River Explorers, Adrift and ""Nalubale Rafting."
  • 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.
  • Namugongo Martyrs shrines were turned a world heritage site under UNESCO after Kasubi tombs were destroyed by fire. the place is now open for tourists, it is a dark tourism site in Uganda.
  • Book your Gorilla safari at the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (in Kololo) before heading southwest to Bwindi National Park.
  • Excursion to Mburo National Park (4 hours), with guaranteed viewing of hippopotamus, as well as zebra, various gazelles, crocodiles, birds, warthog.
  • 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)
  • Walter's Boda Boda Tours Kampala, Kampala, [1]. Learn all about Kampala from the back of a boda! Walter and his safe drivers will whisk you around to all the major sites for a reasonable price. He also offers car tours, including day trips to Jinja as well.


Buy

Kampala Market

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, and is under reconstruction at the time of writing (16. March 09).

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 is also interesting, more accessible from Kampala road and better suited for a (relaxed) stroll.

Nakasero Market

Nakasero market is a lot smaller and more pleasant than Owino, good for fruit and veg.

If you're in the market for souvenirs, check out the craft market on Buganda Road or the slightly larger crafts market behind the national theater near the Garden City complex. Also on Buganda Rd. 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.

Also for crafts, there is a tourist market behind the National Theatre, Dewinton Road (nearish Nakumatt).

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Owino is Garden City. Garden City is Kampala's 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.

Aside from Garden City, other western-style supermarkets include Shoprite Checkers (in Lugogo, on the Jinja road) and Uchumi (at Garden City) and Nakumatt.

Next door to the Shoprite is is another huge modern shop called Game 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, [2]. 9AM - 6PM. Uganda Crafts is Uganda's oldest fair trade craft shop. Has been working with disadvantaged artisans since 1983. We are known for our baskets, but also stock lots of traditional Ugandan products, including musical instruments, jewelry, batiks, carvings, and bark cloth items. Also carry products from Kenya, Rwanda, and the Congo. We are certified fair trade by the International Fair Trade Association, which means that we pay our artisans promptly and fairly. 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.

Eat

There are a number of dining options in Kampala ranging from the cheap and local to the very fancy (and very expensive).

Budget

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 the most of city restaurants and in the country side are Fish and Chips and chicken and chips. These meals vary in servings and will cost between 1500UGX to 3000UGX . Be sure to ask the price ahead of time so that you don't get surprised later on. Prices are typically 500 UGX 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 between 700-1000 UGX. Other street food also includes roast chicken, goat and beef. This is usually served with a chips or salad or both. Pricing is per piece between 800UGX - 1500UGX. 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 500-600UGX 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.

  • 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.
  • Wonder Bar- Quartier Matonge Bar-resto in Kansanga on Ggaba road. Specializes in Congolese dishes with live Lingala music on Saturday and Sunday nights. Specialties include goat meat stew with cassava leaves and fufu at 8000 UGX. The grilled fish for two (30,000 UGX) is also excellent.

Mid-range

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. Decent Chinese food.One of the better Chinese food you shall find in Kampala.
  • Just Kicking, Kisementi shopping Centre, good choice of pub food and continental dishes, weekend nights BBQ.

Splurge

  • The Lawns Restaurant & Lounge Bar, Plot 34, Impala Avenue, Upper Kololo Terrace, Kololo, Kampala. Ph: +256 414 250337; Web: [3] Email: reservation@thelawns.co.ug. 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.

Drink

Do not drink the tap water. Spring water brands like Rwenzori and Blue Wave can be trusted.

If you feel like going out, go out, you should be safe, just exercise common sense, Ugandans are very sociable. There are several clubs such as Club Silk and Ange Noir.

For a relaxed drink with an international crowd head to 'Just Kicking' Bar in Kisementi, a few minutes from the city centre. It gets very lively during weekend nights and whenever a major football match is screened. Or if you want a quite and tranquil environment, head to The Lawns Restaurant & Lounge Bar. 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[4], 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. Bancafe, at Nakumat (Oasis) is some of the best coffee, good espresso and they sell beans and ground coffee (at December 2010). Cafe Javas, also at Nakumat, is also good. As of September 2011, Good African Coffee in Lugogo (next to Shoprite) offered 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 In Dewinton Road, just up the street from Govinda's is a very good juice cafe, offering a huge selection of juices, including various herbal remedies.

Call KN Okot on +256 782 880575 for city tour on foot. You will be able to see any place of your choice including shopping malls, bars, churches, restaurants, museums, craft fares etc.

Sleep

Budget

  • The Lodge Kampala [5] is a three star guest house in a quiet environment. It's located in Lweza off Entebbe Rd. Single costs US$40 and double US$50. [6] Tel: +256772331332.
  • Backpackers [7] in Kampala is a major backpacker hangout just outside the city centre. Set on 3 acres they have a wide range of accommodation and great bar with chill out rooms, pool room and large verandah where you can sit and read a book or cht to your friends. They have free wireless internet with good download speed so anyone with a laptop can log on plus a free internet cafe. The bar area is huge with loads of tables where you can order from their restaurant or just sit and do your thing. A great place!
  • Red Chili Hideaway, in Bugolobi, [8]. Cheap, clean and safe camping, dormitory or cottage accommodation. A major backpacker hangout. They've got a nice garden, hangout space, free internet, and generally it's a good place to get information from other travelers.
  • Hotel City Square, Plot 42 Kampala Road (On Constitution Square), 256414 251451, [9]. checkin: to 11PM; checkout: 10AM. Newly rennovated, pleasant and safe hotel with extremely helpful staff and the best location in kampala overlooking the green gardens of Constitution Square. The staff are helpful, the rooms are clean with running hot water. A great restaurant on the first floor over looking the square with comfort food (burgers etc) as well as great local dishes 'matoke' and fresh fish 25 - 35$ USD.

Mid-range

  • 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 Tel:+256 414 777500. 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 [10] Central location right next to Sheraton. Well-maintained Bed & Breakfast Hotel with nice gardens and a bar. On-site Wi-Fi available. Rates are low, making this good value for money.
  • 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,[11]. 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. Different from the upscale Speke Resort in Munyonyo. It is located on a busy street where prostitutes ply their trade at night. But that doesn't take the charm away from this place. The rooms are clean with wooden floors and clean toilets, AC, WI-FI. The Hotel has a pizzeria, Indian Restaurant(Khyber Pass), A pub/bar Rock Garden Cafe. There is an ATM inside the hotel and VISA cards are accepted. Prices start from USD 115 per day (2012 rates).

Splurge

  • Golf Course Hotel, Plot 64-86, Yusuf Lule Road, (), [12]. 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, +256-414-309000, [13]. 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, +256-414-420000, [14]. Recently renovated, the Sheraton is the leading high-end hotel in town, occupying nicely manicured grounds.
  • Speke Resort, [15]. Located in Munyonyo, about 10 km off city centre and just by the shores of lake Victoria is an excellent getaway from city life. You'll find plenty of animals around (and often in) the resort.

Stay safe

Kampala is a relatively safe city. It is fairly safe to walk or take matatus around some areas at night, but don't take unecessary 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.

Contact

Internet cafes

  • Linking Worlds (Quality Shopping Village) 1000 meters from Entebbe Road with a fast internet connection
  • KayeNet internet cafe [16] 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.

Cope

Embassies

  • Eg-flag.png Egypt, 33 Kololo Hill Drive, +256 41425-4525 (fax: +256 41434-5152), [17].

Get out

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!




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