Transport in Kampala – how to get around in the city

Traveling within Uganda’s capital, Kampala City, can be cumbersome for a first time visitor in Uganda. The city does not have a well organized public transport system, leave alone a neat road network with proper signage. Good thing however is there is an abundance of ways by which you can get around the city. You can travel at any time of the day and night and reach any part of the city.

Below are the many ways by which you can get around Kampala.

Boda Boda (motorcycle taxis)

The motorcycle taxis, locally called “Boda Boda” or “Boda” is the most popular means of transport in Kampala and other towns of Uganda.

Boda boda are the quickest way to get around the congested Kampala. They are many and literally everywhere there is a road or path. They are available all through the night as well. They provide such convenience of travel, in that, as soon as you step out of your house, your wait will be a couple of minutes or even seconds before one is passing by and you can summon it to come over pick you.

There is no standard pricing system, the boda boda will charge you as he pleases, so it is good to have an idea of what a fair charge may be depending on the distance you will travel otherwise you will be taken advantage of. The first price for the shortest distance covered is 1000 Uganda Shillings. This can cover up to one kilometer. Hence, your estimate can be around 1000 x the distance you will cover. After your two or three boda boda rides (who will most likely overcharge you) you will start to understand the pricing better and how to negotiate for a better price. If you know a local person you can ask what they think a charge will be for going from one point to another so that you are better equipped to negotiate with the boda boda. Or, you can also ask any random local wherever you and they may give you an idea of the fair charge should be, or still help negotiate for you when a boda boda comes over.

Why you should think twice before taking boda boda

The boda boda are the most convenient mode of transport in Kampala and you can’t almost avoid them. However, the statistics are that there are 5 boda boda caused deaths in Kampala every single day. They are completely reckless, flaunting all traffic rules in the book, including riding in the opposite direction of traffic. They are the number one threat to safety in Kampala. Only take a boda boda when it is completely necessary and be very vigilant, do not allow the boda boda ride recklessly.

Safety is not a priority for the boda boda so a helmet not is provided. If you will be using the boda boda more frequently it is advised to purchase own helmet.

Boda Boda Apps (Motorcycle taxi apps)

Boda Boda ride Apps are the answer to the recklessness of the ordinary Boda boda above. Boda boda riders on riding Apps have gone through some orientation and training on safe riding. And unlike the above “free-range” riders, the App riders are regulated by the App companies, so in case of you issue on the ride such a theft you can follow up with the company.

The Apps determines the price depending on distance covered and time of the day. The App is normally cheaper for short rides/distances.

The downside to the App is that you have to wait a little longer as the app has to scan for the nearest available free rider. You could wait for as long as 20 minutes to get a rider available. Perhaps this is where the free-range boda boda beats the App, you can find a boda boda as soon as you stepped out.

The Bodaboda App companies in Uganda are:

  1. SafeBoda – this is the premier Boda boda App company and the best at that! Their riders are constantly trained, are easily identifiable with uniform and numbers and provide a second helmet for the passenger.
  2. UberBoda – the international taxi company has ventured into boda bodas well. A new entrant not as efficient as Safe Boda. Riders are not uniformed and no helmet for the passenger. However it is cheaper than Safe Boda

Minivan Taxis (matatu)

What we call “taxis” in Uganda are not the cabs, but 14-seater minivans or buses. They are widely called “Matatus” in the region, especially Kenya. These make up Uganda’s public transport system (or semblance of a public transport). They are easily identifiable on the road as they have a blue stripe on the side. The taxis originate from the taxi parking stations in the city center and ply all the roads out of the city to the City suburbs and out of Kampala. So if you want to travel anywhere, just stand by the roadside and wait for a taxi to come by and ask them for the destination the taxi is traveling to and if it is to the direction or destination that you are traveling to then you can board.

There is no standard charge unless if you are taking the taxi from the parking station. Otherwise, if you stop one already in transit you be charged any random fair, hence it is good to have an idea of how much it should be. Asking a local would help you establish the fair price so that you are not taken advantage of.

They are a cheaper and safer option than the Boda bodas. But you should not be in hurry when you board one because you will get in stuck in jam. You will also sacrifice on comfort as it can be congested and hot inside the matatus.

Car Apps

For better comfort and safety, you can download an app and order a cab. The most popular App is Uber. Others include Bolt (formely Taxify), SafeCar (a subsidiary of SafeBoda).

Taxi Cabs

Ordinary cabs can also be found at big shopping malls and streets. These may not be easily noticeable as they may not be marked, but you can ask around.


Kampala is a small city and is actually fun to walk. Most of the city suburbs are within 5 – 10km from the city center, so if you are fit enough you can walk to town. However note, much of the road network does not have walkways and the motorists (especially boda boda) do not respect pedestrians and walkway hence you have to be very vigilant when walking along the high traffic roads.

Bwindi Forest Gorilla trekking

Bwindi forest park is famous for gorilla trekking in Uganda. Bwindi’s “impenetrable” jungles are home to nearly half of the world’s mountain gorilla population that numbers around 1000 gorillas. Apart from Bwindi Park, mountain gorillas in Uganda are also found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. And, apart from Uganda, there are two other countries with mountain gorillas and these are Rwanda in Volcanoes National Park and the Democratic Republic of Rwanda in Virunga National Park.

All those other parks with mountain gorillas are part of the Virunga mountains range that straddles along the borders of the three neighboring countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo). Bwindi forest park on the other hand, is fully in Uganda and overlooks the Virunga mountains in the mountainous southwestern park of the country.

What is the price of Bwindi gorilla trekking permit

International tourists: $700

Foreign East African residents: $600

East African citizens: Uganda Shillings 250,000 ($68)

The price of the permit is much more affordable compared to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda where the permit costs $1500 for international tourists.

Number of habituated gorilla groups for gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park

Bwindi National Park has 22 habituated gorilla groups for tracking. This is the highest number of habituated gorilla groups of all the parks. The big number of permits makes Bwindi the first choice for gorilla trekking.

However, note a maximum of people are allowed to track a gorilla group in a day. And given the cheaper price of the permit they do sell out quickly especially during the peak tourism season from June to September. If you plan on trekking during this time you should book your permit or gorilla tour way in advance.

Bwindi forest gorilla trekking locations and respective habituated gorilla families

When booking your Bwindi gorilla trekking ticket you are required to know the sector of Bwindi park you would like to track the gorillas from. Bwindi National Park has four gorilla trekking sectors or call them trail heads. These are the starting points for gorilla trekking in the different parts of Bwindi forest. Bwindi forest national park spans massive highlands or hills hence it was not possible to track gorillas of far off areas of the park starting from the same location. Each sector is therefore the location to the nearest habituated gorillas in that area of the park.

The sector of Bwindi you will be tracking from will also determine the hotel or lodge you have to book. You want to sleep in a hotel that is closest to your tracking sector. Therefore, mistake you can make is booking your preferred hotel first and then book a gorilla ticket of a sector that is not close to your hotel. Once you have booked in different location from your booked hotel and want to change the tracking location, you will incur a penalty of 30% on the cost of the permit for change location. But this is also if there is availability of permits at the location you are changing to.

Below are the sectors of Bwindi National Park and the respective groups

Buhoma sector.

Buhoma is the premier gorilla trekking sector of Bwindi National Park. It is basically the headquarter of Bwindi. And because of this, it has the most developed infrastructure and the best of selection of upmarket lodges. Normally Buhoma is the first location to run out of gorilla permits.

Buhoma sector has six habituated gorilla groups which are follows.

  1. Rushegura
  2. Habyinyanja
  3. Mubaare
  4. Katwe
  5. Binyindo
  6. Muyambi

Buhoma sector the closest sector to Ruhija sector (see below) and therefore one sleep there and track a group in Ruhija, in case one finds that the permits are finished in Buhoma but would like to sleep at a nice hotel there. Note that it is about one and half hours drive from Buhoma to Ruhija hence you would need to wake up quite early for the transfer.

Buhoma sector is also believed to have the easiest groups for tracking hence a good option if you are worried about a long trek.


Ruhija sector is perhaps the closest sector if you will be arriving via Kabale. This is perhaps the best sector you are doing a quick tour starting from Kampala or Kigali in Rwanda and want reduce the travel time even by an hour or minutes. Ruhija is the closest sector to Uganda – Rwanda Katuna/Gatuna border.

It is also possible to sleep in Ruhija and track in Buhoma sector.

Ruhija has four gorilla tracking groups and these are:

  1. Bitukura
  2. Mukiiza
  3. Kyaguriro
  4. Oruzogo

Rushaga sector is located in southern area of the park close to Kisoro town, the last town in the southwestern tip of Uganda.

Rushaga is more difficult to access compared to the first two sectors above, and is therefore not always the first option for gorilla trekking in Bwindi. On the other hand, however, Rushaga overlooks the magnificent Virunga mountains. It is also close to the beautiful lakes Mutanda and Mulehe. Tracking in Rushaga comes with amazing scenery.

If you will be coming from Rwanda through Musanze District or after activities in Volcanoes National Park, Rushaga is the right sector to be tracking as it closer to the Uganda – Rwanda Cyanika border.

Rushaga has 8 gorilla groups, the highest of any of the sectors. The groups as follows:

  1. Bweza
  2. Mishaya
  3. Nshongi
  4. Kutu
  5. Mucunguzi
  6. Busingye
  7. Kahungye
  8. Bikingi

Nkuringo sector is the remotest of sectors located in the southwest in Kisoro District. Nkuringo is near Ruhija and therefore is therefore not always the first choice for gorilla tracking to the long distance.

On the other hand Nkuringo directly overlooks the Virunga mountains offering stunning views of the volcanoes. If you would like to experience surreal scenery, then you should consider tracking in Nkuringo.

Nkuringo has only four gorilla groups and these are:

  1. Christmas
  2. Nkuringo
  3. Bushasho
  4. Posho

How difficult is gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park and how long does it take find the gorillas?

Bwindi is thought of a difficult place for gorilla trekking, more difficult than in the volcanoes. This is because of the dense forest cover and massive highlands over which you may have to hike to find the gorillas. To some extent it may be true that the gorilla trek in Bwindi is difficult but it is not always the case.

The level of difficult of the gorilla trek in Bwindi depends on how far your assigned group is from the starting point. Advance trackers by the park always set out early in the morning to find where each group is before the tourists start the trek. So, your park guide and advance trackers will try to establish the shortest route to get the gorillas.

Therefore, it may take from as few as 30 minutes to find the gorillas or as many as 4 hours to find them.

If you want an easier trek, ask to be assigned to a group that is nearer.

On the other hand many tourists who have been looking forward to the challenge of trekking through the African jungle and have prepared for several months to attain high fitness levels become very disappointed to find the gorillas within a few minutes trek. If you to test your fitness and have an adventure in impenetrable jungle, you should then ask for a difficult group.

The level of difficulty may also be determined by the weather and season. The wet season from March to May and Oct to Nov makes the most difficult trekking in Bwindi because of the muddy ground and heavy rains.

What is the best time for gorilla trekking in Bwindi

You will see the gorillas any day you trek. The best time for the trek perhaps may mean the time you will have an easier trek? Well in this case, the best time is the dry season from June to mid September and from mid December to February. The trails are dry and the level of difficulty is reduced.

Note that the dry season is also the high tourism season hence there will be lots of people tracking and nearly each gorilla group has the maximum number of 8. This may cause a bit of competition at the sighting. So, the best time for you may when there are no crowds? Well in this case, the best time is during the low tourism season which coincides with the wet season (March to May) when you can be a few individuals at one gorilla group giving you great uninterrupted views. However you would have to content with the muddy trails.

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi from Kigali

You can track the gorillas in Bwindi coming from Kigali in Rwanda. This is in fact shorter journey than if you start the trip from Kampala or Entebbe airport in Uganda.

If you will be starting the trip from Kigali in Rwanda there are two borders you can come through, that is Gatuna and Cyanika. The choice of border to go through depends on the sector of Bwindi you would be tracking the gorillas in. For tracking in Buhoma and Ruhija, the nearest border is Gatuna/Katuna. While for tracking the gorillas in Rushaga and Nkuringo, the nearest border is Cyanika.

Note that you can still go through any of the borders to get to any of the sectors.

Where to stay for gorilla trekking in Bwindi

As explained above, the choice of accommodation very depends on your confirmed sector for gorilla trekking. The gorilla trekking starts at 7am so you need to stay closer to the sector’s office where every trekker has to convene by 7am for assigning the group and briefing.

There are many accommodation options and new one are being built. Below I have listed a few per sector that I highly recommend.


Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp (Luxury)

Buhoma Lodge (Luxury)

Bwindi Lodge (Luxury)

Buhoma Community Haven Lodge (Midrange)

Silverback Lodge (Midrange)

Buhoma Community Rest Camp (Budget)


Kiho Gorilla Safai Lodge (Luxury)

Bakiga Lodge (Budget)


4 Gorilla Lodge (Upmarket)

Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge (Midrange)

Rushaga Gorilla Camp (Budget)


Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge (Luxury)

Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge (Midrange)

Volcanoes National Park gorilla trekking – a guide with frequently asked questions

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is done in the Volcanoes National Park. The park is home to about a third of the remaining 1000 mountain gorillas left in the world. Other mountain gorillas are found in Virunga National Park of Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bwindi and Mgahinga parks in Uganda. Out of these four parks Volcanoes National Park is arguably the best for gorilla trekking because of the short distance from Kigali airport to the park, taking you just about two hours of drive.

There are currently 12 habituated mountain gorilla groups available for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park which are spread out along the five volcanic mountains that make up the park, and these are Muhavura volcano, Gahinga volcano, Sabyinyo volcano, Bisoke volcano and Karisimbi volcano. The trek on each of the mountain is unique as it exposes to a different view along the Virunga mountains. The level of difficulty is not very different from each mountain. However, Mt. Karisimbi which is the highest of the volcanoes (also one of Africa’s top four highest mountains) and the farthest away is a little harder to access requiring a longer drive (on a bumpy dirt road) to get to the starting point. Also being that Mt. Karisimbi is higher and bigger than other volcanoes there is a big chance of having a longer and harder gorilla trek. One of the oldest habituated groups, Pablo, roams Mt. Karisimbi and is notorious for being a difficult group for trekking. If you seek a long trekking adventure in Volcanoes National Park and don’t mind coming back from the mountains at sunset then ask for a group in Mt. Karisimbi. On the other hand, Mt. Bisoke is one of the easiest to access and often has easier groups. The largest gorilla family at the moment, Susa, regularly inhabits Mt. Bisoke. If you don’t fancy a long trek then be keen on a group in Mt. Bisoke. However, note there is no guarantee of an easy trek in any of the mountains because the gorillas’ movements cannot be predetermined. Read this information I wrote about the level of difficulty of the gorilla trekking so that you have an idea

What is the cost of the gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park

The cost of the gorilla trekking tickets or permits as of the year 2023 is as follows:

International tourists: $1500

African and East African residents: $500

East African citizens: $200

Note that a maximum of 8 people are allowed to track a gorilla group, and with only 12 habituated groups available for tracking that means a total of only 96 gorilla trekking tickets are available each day. You have to book your gorilla tour or gorilla ticket as early as possible because they do sell out quite fast. This is especially during the high season from June to September.

What are the requirements of gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park?

The first requirement is that only persons aged 15 years and above can do the gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park. There is no upper age limit though. Even 100-year-old person can track the gorillas.

As of 2023 you must present a negative PCR covid test certificate of a test done at least 72 hours from the time/date of tracking. PCR testing services are available at RBC in Kigali and the government hospital in Musanze District is location of the Volcanoes National Park

You should be healthy. Gorillas share about 98.4% of DNA with humans and therefore are highly susceptible to wide range of human diseases including common flue and other respiratory diseases like Covid-19. If you have flue and cough, airborne diseases, you will not be allowed to track the gorillas.

You should dress appropriately for the gorilla trek (see below on what to carry)

What should I carry for the gorilla trekking in volcanoes National park

  • Hiking shoes or good sneakers with good traction
  • Long pants and long sleeved shirt to protect from stinging nettles, bugs and rough plants
  • Rain jacket/poncho
  • Cap
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent

Is it safe in Volcanoes National Park

Safety has been a big concern for many travelers and it is understandable because Volcanoes National Park is on the same mountain Virunga range that is shared with the Democratic Republic Congo where a lot of insurgencies keeping springing up. Nobody understands the security situation of Eastern Congo better than Rwanda. The park is so well protected that it is impossible to think about a spillover of insurgency into Rwandan side of the Virunga mountains.

Where to stay for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park

If you would like to spend the night near the park there is a wide range of accommodations to choose from. Volcanoes National Park is perhaps the best gorilla trekking destination for luxury/high-end travelers as renown luxury camp and lodge brands have established accommodations. Here some of the accommodations we can recommend for you.

High end accommodations (5 Star)

  • Bisate by Wilderness Safaris
  • Gorilla Nest by One&Only

Luxury accommodations (4 star)

  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
  • Virunga Lodge

Midrange (3 star)

  • Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel
  • Bishop’s House

Budget (2 star)

  • Isange Paradise Resort

Other activities in Volcanoes National Park apart from gorilla trekking

Apart from the gorilla trekking which is the main activity known for Volcanoes National Park, there are other nice adventures you can do in the park either as an extra to the gorillas, or as an option to the gorilla trek in case you cannot afford the gorilla trekking ticket. Below are the activities:

Golden monkey tracking

You can track these stunning monkeys which are only found in the Virunga mountains. The monkeys live in large troupes of up to 100 hundred individuals, inhabiting mostly the bamboo forests at the base of the mountains. A troupe of golden monkeys has been habituated that lives at the base of Mt. Sabyinyo. The golden monkey monkey trek is easy and light as the monkeys do not move very far from the bamboo forests at the base, hence you don’t trek or hike up the mountains as it is with the gorilla trek.

The golden monkey trek costs $100 for international visitors.

Volcano hiking

After the gorilla trek, hiking is probably the second most popular adventure in Volcanoes National Park. The most popular of the hikes in the park is the Mt. Bisoke day hike. The Mt. Bisoke (3711m) has a large crater lake at the summit which is the prize for the roughly 6 hour hike to the top of the volcano. Other day hikes are also done on Mt. Muhavura and Mt. Gahinga. For those that would like a longer hike and spend a night in the mountains  you can do the Mt. Karisimbi 2 day hike. Mt. Karisimbi is the highest of the volcanoes and the fourth highest mountain in Africa.

Dian Fossey tomb trail trek

The Dian Fossey tomb tomb is located in the valley between Mt. Bisoke and Mt. Karisimbi. The trail to the tomb offers an amazing trek in the jungle where you get to see the wildlife in the Virunga mountains. You also stand a chance of finding the gorillas on the trail. The Dian Fossey tomb trail is often done as preamble to the gorilla trek.

Nature walk

You can take on a beautiful trail in the forest at the base of the mountains for birdwatching in the Volcanoes national Park and a chance to see wildlife, and enjoy the stunning views of the Virunga mountains. However note that the nature walks are short (about an hour) and do not go deeper into the volcanoes.