This guide is intended to provide travelers with helpful, up-to-date information on what it’s like to rent and drive a car in Uganda. There is a wealth of information out there and we’ve boiled down the most important and relevant points. We’ll go over the rental process and advise you about what to rent, and cover the upsides and downsides of driving in Uganda.
Why (or Why Not) to Rent
Some of the benefits of having your own wheels are obvious: you can dictate the course of your day, your week or your whole trip, and not be confined to shuttle times or bus schedules. Having a car will allow you to explore lesser-visited places that many tourists miss and will give you the freedom to change your plans if something comes up. And who doesn’t like controlling the radio on a road trip?
However, driving in Uganda is no piece of cake. The roads can be long, curvy and in poor shape and the worst comes to the worst when it rains and the roads become totally impassable. Traffic can be bad especially in towns and the capital city and signs are sometimes non-existent. It can be easy to get lost (especially if you don’t have GPS or high-quality maps) and is tough to get back on track if you aren’t comfortable handling directions from a local speaking native. There are other things to consider as well, including traffic laws, the price of gasoline, and driving time.
Renting a car is usually not recommended for first-time visitors to Uganda as the terrain is not all that good but rather take a home grown driver along.—the hassle and potential for confusion is usually not worth the effort. However, travelers that are adventurous enough or have been to the country before may want to consider renting a car. If you’re still on board, keep reading.
How to Rent a Car in Uganda
Booking your rental car in Uganda is simple and painless. Just be well conversant with the dates and day you want the vehicle of your choice to be at your foot steps and then drop an email at Uganda self drive via firstname.lastname@example.org and within a blink of an eye the vehicle will be there waiting for you. You can compare brands and models, as well as costs. It’s quick, easy and efficient.
What to Rent
The type of car you choose depends on what you plan to do during your trip. If you’re going to be driving in the mountains, along rural roads, or in remote areas, you will want a four-wheel drive vehicle since roads in these areas become muddy and impassable when it rains. Many of these roads have potholes and stream crossings, and require vehicles with large clearance—so it’s nearly impossible to travel these routes without an SUV. When you are going for a city tour or in the central region where most of the roads are tarmacked and in relatively good state, you can opt for any vehicle.
There are both compact and full-size SUV options available. Compact SUVs are smaller, have lower clearance, and get better gas mileage. They fit four to five people and come in both two door and four door options. Full-size SUVs are larger and more powerful. They have better ground clearance, a stronger engine, and more interior room. For this reason, they are preferable on very poor roads or when traveling in large groups. Most full-size SUVs have four doors and can seat between four and seven people; they also include trucks. However, due to their high center of gravity, full-size SUVs have a higher chance of tipping—take special caution while driving around corners.
If you’re planning on staying along fairly well traveled routes, a compact or full-size car will be fine. Compact cars are the smallest, most economical option. Oftentimes they are hatchbacks, although many are Toyotas as well. Full-size cars are larger than compacts. They are typically Toyotas and have more powerful engines. Appropriately, they get slightly worse gas mileage. Full-size cars are roomier and better for groups with lots of luggage.
A final option is vans. Vans are the largest, most spacious vehicle and are great for big groups. Vans should be used in the same areas as a compact or full-size car. Most are two-wheel drive and have very poor off-road capabilities. They typically seat up to twelve people and come in three or four door options. Vans tend to get low gas mileage and like full-size SUVs, have a greater chance of tipping due to their size.
All rented cars come with basic features, including air conditioning, power steering, power windows/locks, dual airbags, and a CD player/radio. Manual and automatic options are offered in every category. Rental cars also typically include a safety kit for accidents and flat tires. This includes jumper cables, rope, a flat tire kit, road triangles, and a fire extinguisher.
One popular – and much recommended – device to add to your car rental is GPS. Uganda’s roads are curvy, complex, and often without real road signs. For this reason, it is very easy to get lost if you don’t have an up-to-date map or GPS device. A GPS unit can save you time and a world of trouble. They can be added to your car for around $10 USD a day.
We recommended using the GPS device that the car rental company provides rather than downloading something from the Internet—by doing so, you’ll be privy to new routes or recent changes in roads. Another thing to keep in mind: several places in Uganda share the same name, which can get confusing. For this reason, if you already know where you’ll be going (destinations or hotels) when you pick up your car, have the rental agency save the locations into the GPS. This will save you the headache of arriving at the wrong place.
A good way to supplement GPS is with the Waze application. Travelers with a smart phone and international data plan can download this community-based traffic and navigation app to get real-time information on road, routes, accidents, traffic jams, construction, and more. Waze does, however, require an Internet connection to initially map out routes and obstacles. For this reason, we recommend using Waze to map your route while still at your hotel or before you start driving—once you no longer have Internet, your routes will still be saved. Some areas of Uganda do, however, lack Internet access, so it’s advisable to use Waze as a supplemental navigational system to your car’s GPS.
Before renting a car, it’s a good idea to read up on the rental policies. That way you won’t get whacked with an unexpected fine or have unrealistic ideas about what the deposit process is like. The following section includes information on insurance, deposits, fines, and rental times.
Travelers to Uganda need a driver’s license from their home country to rent a car.