Backpacking Kampala, Uganda: All you need to Know
Are you planning a Backpacking Kampala trip but you are not sure where to get started?
How about a bus trip from Nairobi to Kigali through Kampala?
Are you overwhelmed by all the information on the web about Backpacking Kampala?
If yes, look no more.
In this article you’ll find first-hand tips on travel requirements, things to see and do, where to stay, budget tips, general city information, and other useful travel hacks.
DISCLAIMER: Some of the links in this guide – accommodation facilities – are affiliate links. This means that if you make a booking or purchase through my link, at NO extra cost to you, I will earn a small commission.
Travel Requirements and Tips
You should have a valid passport with a few blank pages for stamping or Visa. Kenyans can travel with a temporary travel permit to Uganda. The permit can be obtained on the Ecitizen portal or at the immigration offices.
East African Visa
East African Nationals do not need a Visa to travel to EA countries. All other travelers require an East African Visa which can be obtained at the immigration points at a cost of US$100.
Yellow Fever Vaccine Card
This is a requirement. If you are a Kenyan and you don’t have it yet, you can get the vaccine and card at City Hall Annex Nairobi or any accredited hospital like Agha Khan or Nairobi hospital.
You should have enough money to support yourself during the trip. Carry the money in cash or/and in a card (Visa/MasterCard).
Proof of Accommodation
Advance booking is not always a requirement but you should at least have an idea of where you will be staying during the trip. I always make open accommodation reservations just in case the immigration officer is having a bad day!
For all my trips in African countries, I have never bought one but this is really up to you. Check with your insurance company for rates or buy an international one from World Nomads.
If you are on any medication, please remember to take it with you. East Africa is a Malaria zone/region and therefore it’s good to take preventive measures. Always ask for a mosquito net at night from your accommodation facility. You can also carry malaria preventive tablets or buy them in Kampala.
Kampala General Information
The common public means of transport in Kampala include buses (Matatus/Taxis), taxis cabs, TukTuks, BodaBodas and Uber (Rideshare taxis).
Security and Personal Safety
Kampala is safe and easy to explore – But very busy. You should, however, take caution on where you go to and how you interact with strangers. I find bus drivers or shopkeepers the best to ask for directions.
Where to eat
The most popular foods in Uganda are Ugali (Posho), Matoke and vegetables. International cuisine is also available in a number of restaurants.
Events & Festivals
Nyege Nyege festival is the most famous event in Uganda among travelers from all over the world. This 4 days festival takes place in Jinja every September.
The safest foreign currency exchange bureaus are found in shopping malls and banks. You should get information about bureaus with the best rates from your host or accommodation facility. There are also many ATMs and Banks in Kampala.
UGX (1 KES = 38 UGX, US$1 = 3,800 UGX, 1GBP = 5,000 UGX, 1Euro = 4,500 UGX) – These rates are not standard.
Banks & ATMs
Most international banks are available in Kampala. KCB, Barclays, Stanbic, Standard chartered bank, are the most common.
People & Language
English is the official language in Uganda. Almost any resident in Kampala understands English. Luganda and Kiswahili are widely spoken too.
Nightlife in Uganda is more vibrant in Kampala and Entebbe. They have nice bars, lounges, and pubs. Some of the best nightclubs you can check out while Backpacking Kampala are; Club Play, Club Amnesia, and Guvnor.
Phone and Internet
Uganda uses 240V, 50Hz, and a 3 pin plug. The Internet is available in most accommodation facilities. For calls and personal internet, you can buy an Airtel or MTN mobile Sim Card.
Where to Stay While Backpacking Kampala
Just like in any other destination, there are many ways you can save money on accommodation without compromising on quality during your Backpacking Kampala trip. Airbnb and Booking Com are some of the platforms that let you get an insight of a facility before booking. Couchsurfing is a good way to stay for free and interact with locals.
Kampala is a vibrant city and there are many places to stay and relax. You can get a decent accommodation facility at very affordable rates.
- Budget Accommodation: $15 – $60 USD per night
- Mid-range hotel: $60 – $120 USD per night
- Luxury – High end: Anything over $120 USD per night
My Recommended Budget Accommodation in Kampala
In a backpacker’s/budget travelers point of view, I can recommend the following;
#1 Bushpig Backpackers
This is a great backpacker’s hostel. They have rooms for budget travelers with per night rates ranging from $15 (Dorm room) to $60 (Personal suite).
#2 Fat Cat Backpackers
Fatcat is strategically located and the rooms range from $15 (Dorm room) to $60 (Personal room). Check out the hostel and book if it meets your expectations.
#3 Namayiba Park Hotel
If you need some time alone, this hotel is a good choice for a budget traveler(s). It is located in Kampala city center next to the Namayiba Bus Park. From this hotel, you can easily pick a bus to Nairobi or Kigali. I have personally spent a night with them and I liked the facility. The only drawback is the noise from the Bus Park.
Their room rates start from $30 for a single Deluxe room to US$50 for a Twin Room (4 People). Check out the facility and book if it meets your expectations.
Midrange and Luxury Hotels
I am not particularly savvy when it comes to this category. If you would want something more high-end, you can check out Best luxury hotels in Kampala page on booking com.
Things to See and Do in Kampala
#1 Kasubi Tombs
The Kasubi Tombs also known as Tombs of Buganda Kings is an ancient burial structure where four Kabaka’s of Buganda Kingdom are currently buried (entombed). In 2001, the Tombs were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture of the dome-shaped hut consists of organic materials such as wood, thatch, reed, wattle, and daub.
#2 Uganda National Museum
This is a true display of Uganda’s cultural heritage where one can see ethnological, traditional and natural-historical exhibitions. One of the Museum’s most interesting features is the collection of hunting equipment, weaponry, and traditional musical instruments, which one is free to play.
#3 Uganda Martyrs Shrine
Also known as the Basilica of the Uganda Martyrs, this magnificent site is located in a small town of Namugongo about 13 Km from Kampala city center. The shrine attracts pilgrims from Africa and all over the World to commemorate the Martyrs and saints who were martyred through orders from Kabaka Mwanga 2 for refusing to denounce Christian faith.
#4 Bulange Building
Located on the Namirembe hill, Bulange building in Uganda houses the Parliament (Lukiiko) and also serves as the administrative headquarters of the Kingdom of Buganda. The offices of Kabaka (King) and those of Katikkiro (Prime Minister) of Buganda are also maintained in this building. Tickets are available at the Buganda tourism center which is right adjacent to the building. Overlooking the Bulange building is the Kabaka’s Palace.
#5 Uganda National Mosque
Located on the Old Kampala Hill, Uganda National Mosque (Gaddafi Mosque) is Uganda’s biggest Mosque and a popular city attraction. The Mosque’s prayer tower offers a breath-taking view of Kampala city making it a must visit attraction. Construction of the mosque started in 1976 and was inaugurated in 2008 by the late President Muammar Gaddafi of Libya who helped in its completion.
#6 Rubaga Cathedral
The St Mary’s Cathedral Rubaga (Rubaga Cathedral), a Roman Catholic Church, is located on Rubaga Hill about 5 Kilometers from the City center. The Cathedral is one of the best attractions of in Kampala and a very important symbol of the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda. Built in 1914, the cathedral houses the remains of the late Archbishop Joseph Kiwanka who was the first African Catholic Bishop and the first African Archbishop of Kampala Diocese.
#7 Namirembe Cathedral
Located on the Namirembe Hill, Saint Paul’s Cathedral Namirembe (Namirembe Cathedral) is the oldest cathedral in Uganda.
#8 Independence Monument
Located at the heart of Kampala city, this monument features a man unwrapping and holding a child symbolizing the birth of an African child (Uganda).
#9 Bahai Temple
Bahai Temple is located on the Kikaya Hill about 7 Kilometers from the City Centre along the Kampala- Gayaza Road. It is the only Bahai Faith Temple in Africa and was constructed in the 1950’s.
#10 Owino Market
If you want to experience the true spirit of Kampala and test your bargaining skills, visit the Owino Market. This market is located in downtown Kampala and it’s a haven for second-hand clothes, household wares, and farm produce among other items.
Backpacking Kampala Useful Travel Resources
- Living in Kampala: Everything about moving to and living in Kampala.
- Diary of a Muzungu: Uganda and East Africa Travel Blog.
- Uganda Tourism Information: Uganda Tours & Travel Information
- Visit Kampala: The Official Tourism Website for Kampala City.
- East African Community: Travelling in East Africa.
Are you intending to do a budget trip from Nairobi to Kigali via Kampala? Check out my Comprehensive Travel Guide Book.
What is in the Guide?
- Complete Road Trip Guidebook
- Sample Budget for the trip
- Things to do along the way (Jinja, Kampala, Entebbe, Kigali, and More)
- Budget Accommodation
- Transport and border points
- Images to inspire you more
- Custom Google Maps