The Best 2 Week Itinerary for Uganda Self Drive

“Where should we go? How about somewhere in Africa?” I asked Jim one Sunday in September. After road tripping in both Northern Africa, especially in Tunisia and Morocco, and going through much of Southern Africa hitting South Africa and Botswana. I was bitten. Not by the tse tse fly, but by traveling throughout this fascinating continent, and I couldn’t wait to do more.

Still, I was not ready for Jim’s response. His answer floored me, “Uganda.”

“Huh?” I’ll admit, it wasn’t one of my most intelligent replies, but I never even considered Uganda as a destination. Don’t ask me why, but it’s just not someplace that was on my radar…at all. Luckily, places that aren’t on my radar once mentioned will always peak my interest, so yeah…guess where we went? You got it, Uganda! And what a trip it was!

Incredible view of Lake Mutanda on our Uganda Self Drive.
This stunning view of Lake Mutanda is only one of the incredible vistas awaiting the Uganda self driver!

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Where is Uganda?

I had to get the map out right away and see where Uganda was. Uganda is bordered by five countries, all of which have something on my list I’d love to see. Republic of the Congo where you can visit Nyiragongo Crater, Rwanda which is one of the safest countries in Africa and has fantastic wildlife, Tanzania and Kenya where I’d love to see the wildebeest migration, Ethiopia which is home to the sunken churches, and South Sudan which has some of the most spectacular pyramids. Right smack dab in the middle is Uganda. I couldn’t wait to go.

As you know, we love to drive and Jim had recently read this article where the travelers had rented a four wheel drive vehicle and driven themselves around this lesser-known East African country. The seed sprouted and we started researching all the wonderful things we could do and see.

In the end we decided to go with Roadtrip Uganda and rent a small 4X4 and drive ourselves. Other friends from Sidewalk Safari just booked it through a tour company who then drive you all around the country and you don’t have to do the work. Either way we were sold and the next thing we knew, we had air tickets to Entebbe.Taking to the road in Uganda, for the most part, was not too bad. Of course it’s very different when you are dealing with animals and people on roads that completely vary in maintenance. However, we thoroughly enjoyed it, but it certainly helps to pay attention to some Uganda driving tips.

Self Drive or Car with Driver

Most of the other travelers we met along our route had chosen a car with a driver for their trip. In fact, the only other tourists we came across who were self driving were expats or long term visitors. So why did we choose to drive ourselves?

Did I mention Jim loves to drive? We’ve driven ourselves through more countries than we can count. Some of our favorite road trips have been through Georgia and Armenia, our ten days exploring Morocco, and of course our epic Iceland adventure.

So after doing some research and budgeting, we decided to just do it on our own. Driving our own rental would cost about half as much as renting the car with a driver; and, as long as we didn’t rush, the driving conditions seemed to be at an acceptable risk level. Of course, our contacts at Road Trip Uganda helped us out quite a bit.

For instance, they arranged our Gorilla Trekking and Chimpanzee habituation experiences so the permits were waiting for us on our arrival. They also recommended and made reservations for our lodging along our chosen route. Oh, and they even provided us with an emergency use mobile phone so we could contact them 24 hours a day if we ran into any problems.

Road Conditions

We saw it all in our drive around Uganda sometimes all in the same day. We had smooth sailing down asphalt highways on the route from Kampala to Lake Mburo and then on to Kisoro. However, once you leave the highway, all bets are off. 

The road to Lake Mburo national park was a fairly wide hard packed dirt. While the road to Lake Mutanda was criss crossed with veins of rock threatening to tear our tires apart. Then the stretch to Ishasha was loose sand so deep it nearly pulled us off the road twice.

Roads within the National Parks were all mostly very well maintained hard-packed dirt. We had some rain a couple of days that made the roads nearly undriveable without four wheel drive. Luckily, we never had any lengthy storms, and the roads would dry up within an hour or two.

Having a four wheel drive SUV meant we could take some smaller tracks in the parks. On one of these roads we came across a water-filled pothole that was wider than our Rav 4. Out of this innocent little mudhole sprung an adult hippo who really didn’t want us there!

Rules of the Road

The written rules and regulations for driving in Uganda are pretty much what you’d expect. You need to obey the traffic signs, drive at or below the speed limit, nothing out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, the unwritten rules are quite a bit different. 

If I had to sum up driving in Uganda I would say the number one rule is “might makes right.” Only a fool would stand up to a massive old truck barreling down the road with undoubtedly questionable brakes, no shocks, and bald tires. And, of course, the truck driver knows this and takes full advantage. Your best bet, just get out of his way as quickly and safely as possible.

This rule doesn’t just apply to trucks, however, basically anyone with enough power and guts to bulldoze their way down the road will be doing just that. Again, just stay out of the way and take your time.

The second unspoken rule covers when to pass. Basically, if you have the authority from rule number one, then rule number two says you can pass at any time whether the road ahead is clear or not. Again, don’t assume that oncoming Mercedes is going to get back in his lane. Instead, start looking for a place to pull off to the left.

The final rule we should talk about is what to do when faced with a police stop. I know what you’re thinking. “I’ve followed all the written rules and traffic laws. I’m not speeding, my car is in good shape. I won’t be pulled over.”

In fact, you will be stopped at least once. There are regular checkpoints and traffic stops all around the country. When stopped, be very friendly, smile, ask how you can help. Then let the policeman in his clean white shirt do the talking. We were never stopped for more than a minute or two with nothing more than a friendly hello. Maybe we were lucky.

The Uganda Self Drive Itinerary Map

Here is the route that we took on our Uganda self drive: Entebbe – Mburo National Park – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest- Queen Elizabeth National Park (2 different areas, first Ishasha then the main part of the park)- Kibale National Park- Semliki Wildlife Reserve – Kampala – Back to Entebbe.

Two Week Uganda Itinerary Self Drive Map.
Use our interactive Self Drive Map.

Entebbe

A dusty little city on the shores of Lake Victoria, we didn’t spend much time in Entebbe. We did go down to the lake and watch the fisherman’s wives cutting up and selling the catch of the day amidst some huge, otherworldly storks.

Rwakobo Rock

Mutanda Lake Resort

Enjojo Lodge

Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge

Kibale Forest Camp

Semliki Safari Lodge

Forest Cottages

Kampala

We loved every minute in the parks, but we wanted to see at least a little of the capital city, Kampala. I have to say, it surprised me. Along the way, we’d met a few people who lived there as expats. They couldn’t say enough about the city and how wonderful living there was, but when we drove in we were surprised. Most of it, except the real central part of downtown, looked exactly like all the other villages we’d driven through, just much, much larger.

Take a sunrise or sunset drive through the park on your Uganda self drive, the light is magically gorgeous!
It was hard to get a photo of any Ugandan Kob on its own, but in Semliki, there were thousands upon thousands of them.
The chimpanzees are waiting for you in Kibale National Park, Uganda self drive.
When in Kibale, you will never forget your visit to the chimpanzees.
We could have just kept on driving down tracks like this, but the outside world calls and back to work we go.
The roads and tracks are just waiting to be explored, a Uganda self drive makes it all possible.
Tree climbing lions can be found as you drive yourself along the fig tree track in the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park on your Uganda self drive.
When life gives you enormous fig trees, climb them!Unless your in Ishasha, then you really should leave them for the lions.
Your Uganda self drive can't be complete without tracking the Bwindi mountain gorillas.
Bwindi National Park in Uganda is the best place to track mountain gorillas!
In Mburo National Park, a zebra stairs down the car on our Uganda Self Drive.
Mburo National Park was absolutely teeming with life. Having your vehicle for game drives is a must!

Conclusion

And then we were through. Our Uganda self drive was over…way too soon. It was one of those trips that both Jim and I could have spent so much more time. We boarded the plane talking the whole time about what we are going to do next time.

It turns out that even though we hit a number of the major sights and parks, most tour companies do it in reverse order from us. I think they want their visitors to go home with the gorilla tracking as one of their last activities. Bwindi was closer to the beginning of our trip. However, it’s an unforgettable experience, so I don’t really think it matters where it falls in your itinerary.

Happy travelers posing in front of the Uganda Equator Marker.
Don’t forget to pack a tripod!

Conclusion

One of the lesser-known countries in Africa, Uganda is one of the best places to do some amazing safaris. We saw everything from lions to gorillas. We came home with stunning photo and a love for the Ugandan people.

Have you thought about going to Uganda? Would you do a Uganda self drive?

Is a Gorilla or Chimpanzee African safari on your bucket list? This is the perfect Uganda road trip.

25 thoughts on “The Best 2 Week Itinerary for Uganda Self Drive”

  1. Hi Corinne,
    Did you book the parks entrees and gorilla permit in advance? Who booked it for you? Do you have a good agency to recommend? Where were you staying? Camping or in lodges? Did you book those in advance too?
    Thanks gwen

    1. Gwen, Yes, we booked lodges, gorillas, and chimps beforehand. The other stuff we booked as soon as we arrived in the parks. We rented a car and they did all of our paperwork for us. Piece of cake. I think anyone that is working with you will book. Just ask.

  2. Hi! We are wanting to visit Lake Mburo when we go to uganda next week but when I email them on setting up a drive the details are not clear. What exactly did you do when you visited? Anything you would recommend? Thank you!

  3. Hi Corinne,
    We have our air tickets to Entebbe booked but we are unsure which self drive rental company to go through. Did you have a guide drive you or who did you rent through.

    1. Hi Steve, we went with RoadtripUganda.com for our self drive. Friends of ours booked a car with a guide through MatokeTours.com and they had a great experience as well. I hope you have an awesome adventure!

  4. This trip looked amazing! My wife and I are considering self- driving in Uganda and Rwanda too.

    Was Google maps reliable, and was it easy to navigate the country?

    And did you get a guide once you got to the parks? I’m concerned about not being able to find the animals without the benefit of a local guide.

    1. Adam, We didn’t use Google, we used Maps.Me and it worked great. Also the rental company will give you a paper map that will help. We did a few guided safaris, but mostly we did it on our own. When you enter and show your pass or buy one for the day, you can ask the rangers where certain animals have been seen, but mostly we just drove around. There are plenty of animals everywhere! You will love it! Of course we wrote up our chimps and gorilla experiences as well, so check those out.

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  6. Fantastic post, Corinne and Jim! It was great to see you in Uganda at Rwakobo Lodge and share our adventures. Scott and I would not have been brave enough to self-drive but good for you for adding that extra bit of adventure to the equation.

    I’d like to add one suggestion for your readers. We visited the Bigodi Wetlands near Kibale National Forest. It’s a community run nature reserve and you’ll see some awesome wildlife and be inspired by the local guides who are using the opportunity to improve their lives. Visitors to Uganda should definitely check it out if they are in the area!

  7. I have never been to Uganda but it looks amazing. I love self drive and things to take my family on without tour busses and a lot of people. Super story thank you for sharing. 🙂

  8. Amazing photos! I also wouldn’t have considered Uganda straight away as an African travel destination but I like the fact you were able to be independent and see so much wildlife without being on a busy guided tour. Pinning for reference 🙂

  9. Phoebe | Lou Messugo

    What fabulous photos Corinne! I can’t believe how close you got to gorillas, that’s just amazing. What an adventure, I’m properly jealous!!

  10. Oh, Corinne, you made me very jealous with this trip. Uganda looks so beautiful! I’d love to go visit it too, but it’s so difficult to get my husband out of his burrow. It seems you guys love driving a lot. I think it’s the best way to cover more territory.

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