Bus Travel in Uganda

Bus Travel in Uganda

Within Kampala a myriad of transportation options exist. You can take a boda boda (wear your helmet!), a matatu, buy your own car, or use a private hire. But when headed outside of the city to explore the rest of the country, buses are king. There are a number of busing options to consider and we’re here to give you an idea of your options.

First, it should be known that you can take a matatu almost anywhere. I’ve taken them to Kenya, Fort Portal, and Mbarara with very few issues. That said, they can get cramped and uncomfortable. Plus, unless they offer an express option, you could be stopping more often than you’d like.

Luckily for us, bus services reach almost everywhere across the country. That said, some are notorious for speeding, dangerous driving, and the occasional crash. So let us guide you through your major bus options.

Travelling North

For those headed to Gulu, Kitgum, or the many stops along the way, my first recommendation would be the PostBus. Leaving twice a day from the main post office in town, it is often the nicest option you can take. Not only are buses clean, spacious, and offer entertainment (Nigerian comedians anyone? For four hours?) But they are also remarkably safe. Dogs sniffing for drugs and explosives inspect all luggage and the bus’s structure before departure. One or two stops for food and bathroom along the way make it an efficient and relaxing ride.

Heading to Arua or Lira, companies like GaaGaa offer decent buses and reasonable prices. Taken by plenty of expats, they are most often described as “not horrible” which here can be a good enough reason to try them out. They leave from Arua Park in Kampala numerous times a day.

Travelling East

Going to Nairobi for the weekend? Why not go to Mombasa as well! Well you can on Modern Coast buses. Although the buses advertise an ‘oxygenated’ ride for extra comfort, I have no idea what this means (nor could I tell a difference). However, if you have some extra dough and don’t feel like meeting your seatmate, VIP sections offer single seating (kind of great for women travelling alone) or double seating with extra space. That said, the trip is often overnight and every time I’ve taken it (and I should have some frequent rider miles by now) the driver plays rather loud music, so if you are too timid to ask him to turn it down, it’s better to avoid them. Modern Coast leaves from Dewinton Road, in town.

Easy Coach is also an option for those headed to Kenya. They have a reputation for exceptional customer service. However, it should be noted they make frequent stops which can add to travel time considerably. They leave from Oasis Mall or the Pioneer Building (ask to confirm). Queens Coach is a good bet, and this was the first bus I ever rode into Kampala on. The coaches are standard size, with no frills or gimmicks, but they have reliable service and decent drivers. Queen Coach leaves from Oasis Mall.

Travelling South

For those headed to Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi (or even just to Masaka) there are a number of great options. For Rwanda and Burundi, Jaguar comes is highly recommended, especially the VIP bus which travels during the day. There’s even unconfirmed rumblings about wifi on board. The Jaguar buses are clean and spacious with good travel times and leave from Namirembe Road. Horizon Buses also go south but there seems to be a bit of a rift in their customer satisfaction. I’ve taken them and honestly the ride was fine. But I’ve also heard numerous complaints against them for unsafe driving, so this one might be a mixed bag. That said, they do go almost everywhere and at all times. They leave from Arua Bus Park.

If you’re heading to Tanzania Kampala Coaches carts passengers to both Dar es Salaam and Kigali. Yet it has been said that Kampala Coaches tend to take a long time, with infrequent stops. So for those with smaller bladders, this might not be the best option. They leave from Arua Park, generally, but it’s best to confirm.

Travelling West

If you’re off to Kasese, Mbarara, or Kisoro, there are a few options. The PostBus is available for routes to Mbarara, Kisoro, and Kabale. Horizon also offers routes to Kabale, Fort Portal and Mbarara.

However, if you’re ever in doubt, just head to the Arua Bus Park in the morning. Walking in, you’ll be greeted by throngs of vendors, most of whom will ask you where you’re headed. I went there on my way to Fort Portal, hopped onto a bus, and was there within a few hours. Operating like the taxi park, it’s quite easy to find the bus where you need to go. And if all fails, there’s always a matatu.

Happy Travels!

About Lizabeth Paulat

Hi, I’m Lizabeth, a freelance writer whose been stomping around Kampala for the better part of two years. I came here while pursuing a story and decided never to leave. I’m originally from Seattle and have found refuge in both the sun and the culture of Kampalans (plus I still get the rain when I’m feeling homesick).I’m always trying to unearth new and interesting stories about Kampala’s culture and development and am so exited to have an amazing platform to explore the city with. I hope to bring a bit of know-how and a bit of fun to Living in Kampala. Feel free to contact me any time at lizabeth@livinginkampala.com.