Uganda is one of my favourite countries on Earth, and it was a real pleasure to travel there recently to gorilla trek. During this time, I also got the chance to take in the sights and sounds of urban Uganda, in Kampala.
Having flown to Entebbe International Airport from Dubai on Emirates, which is about 40 miles south of Kampala on the shores of Lake Victoria, I travelled to the capital city in mini bus – which was an adventure in itself! Luckily, I was with two other seasoned travellers and we shared the fee – and exchanged stories throughout. It costs around 30,000 Ugandan Shillings for the one way trip from the airport to downtown Kampala, with the drop off point being at the Garden City Shopping Mall.
I had great first impressions of Kampala. Despite the masses of bodas (motorbikes) all over the roads, I could see elements of everyday life that I enjoy looking at when I travel. Having already visited Ghana and Ethiopia to the north, and South Africa and Madagascar to the south, this was actually my first time in ‘tropical Africa’, so how the locals dealt with the heat and humidity in their lifestyles was interesting – and being so close to the mythical Congo Rainforest made it all the more exciting. What many people don’t know is that Uganda itself shares a lot of this tropical foliage with Congo (and Rwanda), and within parts of this you can find the rare Mountain Gorillas. This was my purpose for visiting Uganda, yet while I was in Kampala at the beginning and end of my trip, I was determined to make the most of my time in a completely new country.
Two things you will notice about Kampala: markets and road crashes. The state of the roads in Uganda are actually appalling, even by African standards, and on two occasions I noticed vehicles on the side of the road that had been in heavy collisions. Fortunately, my transport within the country was well-driven, but really that is not always the case in Uganda. On a lighter note, marketplaces are very popular in Kampala. There were two in particular that stood out to me: Nakasero Market, and Owino Market. These markets were a great place to indulge in Ugandan culture (even if I still don’t know what that is!) and of course experiment with my first ever street food snacks from this part of the world. And was there anything that took my fancy in Kampala despite being there so little? Yep, a mashed green banana snack called Matoke was absolutely heavenly, especially with the peanut sauce I was offered!
It’s always good to visit another African city, and Kampala ranks very well with the likes of Addis Ababa and Antananarivo (still not as exciting as Accra, though, but I guess it’s all relative…).