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Kampala

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Central Uganda : Kampala
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Kampala is the capital city of Uganda. It is located 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 1 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.

You can get from Entebbe to Kampala via taxi (approx 30,000 USh one way) or minibus (approx 2,000Ush one way).

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 got their name from the bicycle taxis the 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" to the weary travellers. These bicycle taxis can still be found in most smaller Ugandan towns, however, in Kamapala they have been replaced by scooters.

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 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 dont 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 300-500 USh per person when driving into the city, 500-1000 Ush when driving outward.

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 are 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 5,000 USh.

There are plans to ban all boda-bodas and matatus from the city centre by January 2007, in an effort to clean up the city before the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

See

The Uganda Museum, Kasubi tombs - where the remains of the Kings of Buganda were buried, Nommo art gallery, National Theatre, Cathedrals - Rubaga and Namirembe, Parliament of Uganda (and Independence monument).

Do

  • Raft the headwaters of the Nile.
  • Bungee jump dipping your head in the headwaters of the Nile.
  • Do an ATV safari along the headwaters of the Nile, driving through various small towns.

Learn

How to get a job in Kampala

Buy

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 is located near the center of Kampala, and any Boda or taxi driver will know how to get you there.

If you're in the market for souvenirs, check out the craft market on Buganda Road.

Nakasero market is more accessible from Kampala road area and is very interesting

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.

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

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. At the moment electricity is off on alternate days. If you need an Internet cafe on the 'off' days you will need one with a generator. There is one just down from the Grand Imperial hotel. There is a wireless internet cafe called Café Pap serving moderately expensive western dishes, just off Kampala road near Nandos.

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 (a starchy plant that looks like a green banana, served mashed), and so on. Be sure to ask the price ahead of time so that you don't get surprised later on. Prices are typically 500 USh per item, but can vary. Sodas and bottled water will cost more too.

Matoke with groundnut sauce can be delicious.

Mid-range

The food court at the Garden City shopping center offers a wide variety of options including Lebanese, Italian, Indian, and more. Unlike a traditional food court, you order from a menu and a waiter brings food to your table. There is a good Indian restaurant on the roof of Garden City, and a steak restaurant that's quite good.

Garden City Basement next to Stanbic bank parking garage has a new joint called New York Kitchen! Authentic New York Bagels, Pizza, Big salads, Cinnabons, Cheesecake, Chocolate layer cakes, Mac and Cheese and much more! Cheap and yummy!


Splurge

An expensive meal still only cost 10,000 to 20,000 shillings. £3 to £6.

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.

Uganda does, however, have a serious drink problem with the U.N. saying it has the highest alcohol comsumption rate in the world[1], much of this is sold on backstreets, hence official figures don't rate it so highly. Dont let this put you off, the city is still safe even with this undesired tag.

Sleep

Budget

  • Hotel Ruch [2] Central location right next to Sheraton. Well-maintained Bed & Breakfast Hotel with nice gardens and a bar. On-site wireless internet access 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.
  • Backpackers [3] in Kampala is a major backpacker hangout, similar to Red Chili Guesthouse.
  • Red Chili Hideaway, in Bugolobi, [4]. Excellent for 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.
  • Aminaz Garden Place,in Kololo kampala,[5]. Very good, clean and safe accommodation/].

Mid-range

  • The Blue Mango, +256 41 54 3481 (), [6]. A good mid-priced option. Update: currently closed. Not sure if it's opening again.

Update: re-opened under new ownership, now known as "The Hideout"


  • Kampala Regency Hotel, Very friendly service and very clean and spacious air-conditioned rooms. Around $US52/night.

Splurge

  • Prestige Apartments, [7]. Kampala apartments that are still cheaper than going with a hotel on a long-term basis. All apartments are air-conditioned, have on-site wireless internet access, direct dial telephones. Location is very central, thereby making this a serious choice compared to Hotels.
  • Sheraton, [8]. The Sheraton is the highest end hotel in Kampala, and occupies very nice manicured grounds. The Sheraton is currently (as of July 2005) undergoing renovations; the ensuing chaos make the very high rates seem a bit cheeky at the moment.
  • Speke Hotel. [9]. Located right by the Sheraton, the Speke offers some classic colonial-era flavor and lower rates than the Sheraton (USD 110 + VAT S/R), along with free wireless Internet access. Be aware that there are a lot of prostitutes visiting the hotel bar.

Speke Resort at Munyonyo, about 10km from the centre is excellent. The grounds have vervet monkeys running wild along with plaintain eaters, hammerkop and the obligatory marabou storks. On the shore of Lake Victoria it really is worth the money.

Contact

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).

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, try Stanbic bank near Speke Hotel. 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.

Cope

Get out

Internet cafes

Kayesoft Internet - is a next generation Internet cafe - located on Makerere Hill Rd in Kampala (Opposite Chez Johnson Hotel)

With the latest Pentium 4 computers loaded with all the latest software in a spacious, cool and comfortable setting, and offering fast internet access, business services, e-commerce along with the traditional things like fax and printing

w: http://www.kayesoftinternet.com
E: info@kayesoftinternet.com

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