Uganda Safaris – Plane, train or automobile?

Uganda Safaris – Plane, train or automobile?

Ok so just plane or car but that title is no where near as catchy. Uganda safaris are something that we always wanted to do. When we knew we were headed towards becoming a family, we decided to have one last blow out holiday to somewhere you can’t take kids. I am all for travelling anywhere with children but my line in the sand is a malarial zones. Therefore chose Uganda safaris and gorilla trekking as our last couple holiday.

How to travel around Uganda – plane or drive safari?

When we were initially looking at doing a safari one of the things we found is that if you want to be remote you need to take a small plane. I am not a fan of small planes. One of the big appeals of Uganda was the ability to drive across it. When we announced this most people thought we were mad. That our time would be wasted driving between locations. That the roads would be arduous and really hard going. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

What is it like to drive across Uganda?

The hardest part of our journey was leaving Entebbe, the busiest part of Uganda we experienced. The roads here were congested and I imagine rush hour would have been a nightmare. Fortunately we left after the main morning rush hour so our experience wasn’t too horrific.

What is life like in Uganda?

Actually seeing the city was itself quite interesting. Watching the markets was a fascinating insight into life in Uganda. Seeing the markets of Entebbe was such an interesting contrast to the markets we saw in the more rural areas. My favourite part of was looking at the local merchants who were making their products on the street. We saw a local merchant making coffins, pork shops and fabric dyeing stalls.

The most interesting however was a demonstration a local merchant treated us to showing us how he made clothes with paper bark. Paper bark clothing is Uganda’s only representation of the UNESCO world intangible heritage list and was truly a delight to see first hand. All this in our first hour in the car!

Bringing Bananas to Market, Uganda

Bringing Bananas to Market, Uganda

Why I loved driving across Uganda

By driving across Uganda I think we got to see more of Uganda in terms of both people and wildlife. Driving through the villages, it was fascinating to see how each village had grown up around one type of ‘industry’. Whether it was coffee bean drying, tea picking, banana or cinnamon production. We even saw how these products were brought to market where traders came from all directions congregating on one small town to exchange their goods on market day. In some ways it was quite medieval to be driving along the road and seeing merchant after merchant carrying the goods to the nearest market day to sell or trade but gave a real insight into what everyday Ugandan village life is like.

Ugandan scooter going to market

Ugandan scooter going to market

One of the most surprising things I found about the drive was how built up the Ugandan countryside was. I had expected wide expanses where we saw no people but in fact Uganda is heavily populated throughout the countryside and the roads not as bad as I had expected.

A church at Bwindi

A church at Bwindi

Friends of ours who had flown across Uganda said that they found a lot of begging when they left the local airports to drive to their lodges. Whether this was because perhaps areas around the airports saw more tourists and had the expectation or whether we had just been lucky but his not something we experienced in Uganda. The most begging we saw was one girl on the road shouting “Give me Sweeties!”

The other highlight for me of driving rather than flying across Uganda was the wildlife we saw this way. From the road we spotted a variety of birds, to many to name in this post, baboons, several varieties of monkeys, elephants and even lions.

Baboons at the roadside

Baboons at the roadside

Uganda toilers – the truth for travellers

For me the greatest concern about this option was the toilet facilities. However even this was not as bad as expected. Most toilets were squat toilets which as a European I was not use to. On reflection if I did again I might take a she-wee as an aid and additional loo roll but other than that it was for the majority fine.

Our Volcanoes Safari Jeep

Our Volcanoes Safari Jeep

Some may see the additional time taken to travel between lodges as a downside however the experience for us was well worth it. I think we got a better overview of the social history of the country and the people who live there and truly immersed ourselves in the landscapes and wildlife it has to offer. Overall I have no regrets about driving rather than flying as I feel I have seen more of the country and and would certainly choose to travel overland again.

Details of our travel

We booked our tour through Steppes Travel. Again flying was the primary option for travel between lodges but they were more than happy to tailor a driving safari to our needs. Why not read more in our Uganda safaris series here

and if you are going in safari then check out this essential safari packing list

28 Comments

  1. August 23, 2016 / 12:36 pm

    I love this post! I’m like you, I’d rather drive and enjoy the journey. I’ve always wanted to visit Uganda and Rwanda so if want to see the countryside too, not just the game park and the airport.

    • August 23, 2016 / 6:19 pm

      Thank you that is so kind of you!

      I really can’t recommend driving across Uganda enough. It was great to actually experience the country than just seeing lodges and airports. The wildlife you see is amazing and I think it’s the only way you actually get to experience the country and get to know the people

  2. August 27, 2016 / 8:27 am

    I have not yet made it to Africa so it is really interesting reading your post, I wouldn’t have expected it to be so built up either. Glad you got the chance to take this trip pre-baby, and look forward to hearing more about your travels now that you have one! Thanks so much for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    • August 27, 2016 / 12:37 pm

      Would def recommend Uganda. Though it was very surprising how built up

      Can’t wait to share our post baby travel stories with you!

  3. August 27, 2016 / 2:49 pm

    Excellent! We have done a self drive across Botswana that was out of this world. Now we’re planning a trip back to Africa for another self drive. Uganda is high on our list! #wkendtravelinspiration

    • August 27, 2016 / 5:51 pm

      Well I would definitely recommend Uganda, lovely people and amazing sights. Gorilla trekking is a once in a lifetime experience

  4. August 27, 2016 / 4:57 pm

    I love sub-Saharan Africa! Would very much like to go Gorilla trekking in Uganda!

    • August 27, 2016 / 5:50 pm

      I can’t recommend it enough! More posts coming up on gorilla trekking in Uganda!

  5. August 28, 2016 / 7:59 pm

    I know very little about Uganda and was surprised to hear that it is so built up. A driving tour sounds wonderful. I did a drive tour in Morocco that went from the coast to the Sahara and it was great. The local markets and artisans/businesses manufacturing their wares the old world way were fascinating to me as well

    • August 29, 2016 / 4:12 am

      Yes it really surprised me. I was expecting to see the most amazing stars each evening but actually there was a fair amount of light pollution. In some ways it was a nice surprise though as we really got to experience the culture and see how people live day to day.

      The Morocco trip sounds amazing, would love to visit!

  6. August 30, 2016 / 1:52 am

    Driving definitely has its advantages, like you mentioned. In certain countries (like the US) you simply need to drive if you want to explore beyond the big cities, I think. My biggest concern with driving is the ecological impact, but sometimes it’s just not practicable otherwise. Glad you enjoyed your road trip through Uganda! It sounds lovely.

  7. August 30, 2016 / 10:02 pm

    I like that you saw so much wildlife from your car without having to take a special safari trek. Like you, I also would not have expected the countryside to be well populated. I know absolutely nothing about life in Uganda, so this post is very educational.

    • August 31, 2016 / 4:21 am

      Yes, I must admit I didn’t know to much before I went and was surprised by many things. All in a good way though

  8. October 13, 2016 / 3:02 pm

    What a great experience and it certainly sounds like a much better way to see the country than by going by plane. I love that you got to see so much of the local life along the route. I’d be interested to know how long the drives were between lodges and whether it’s more cost-effective than flying. Thanks so much for linking up with #FarawayFiles

    • October 13, 2016 / 4:19 pm

      Thanks for your comments. Average was probably about 3 hours With a couple of scenic spots and lunch etc. Our longest was going cross the border into Rwanda which was 5 hours but customs took some of that time with Ebola checks

  9. October 13, 2016 / 10:52 pm

    A truly epic roadtrip and one I certainly would not undertake with a couple of wriggly 3 year olds. We haven’t been to Africa yet and I love reading your experiences as it seems we have a similar approach to travel. Thanks for sharing your travels with us on #FarawayFiles

    • October 14, 2016 / 6:49 am

      Yes it was in our pre baby Bucket list! We will do most things with baby e but malarial zones are out of the question

  10. October 14, 2016 / 3:40 am

    Paper bark clothing sounds fascinating. Your road trip across Uganda sounds like a wonderful adventure. #FarawayFiles

    • October 14, 2016 / 6:49 am

      It was amazing and the social history we saw by driving was unforgettable

  11. October 24, 2016 / 3:37 pm

    Now that’s a road trip with a difference. I’ve never been to Africa so loved reading this. Clothes out of paperbark sounds interesting.

    • October 24, 2016 / 4:18 pm

      Aw thank you – the paperbark clothing was really interesting and unexpected

  12. November 1, 2017 / 9:06 am

    Wow! I think Uganda needs to go on my bucket list!

  13. November 1, 2017 / 9:56 am

    Whenever we have driven somewhere, even when I wasn’t sure, it was always worth it. Everyone waves when you are out in the countryside and you see the real country!

  14. November 1, 2017 / 9:57 am

    Whenever we have driven somewhere, even when I wasn’t sure, it was always worth it. Everyone waves when you are out in the countryside and you see the real country too

  15. November 1, 2017 / 4:46 pm

    This is so helpful; Uganda is high on my list for the gorilla trekking and I definitely feel more knowageable about how to get around! Great twist on the topic x

  16. November 3, 2017 / 11:20 am

    Wow what a brilliant experience! Did you do this with your daughter? I love the idea of driving – how long did it take?

    • November 3, 2017 / 12:38 pm

      No this was pre baby! We don’t travel to malaria zones with her. We were there for ten days and took our time travel between places. Stayed most places two days and never drove longer than 3 hours between places

  17. November 6, 2017 / 11:44 am

    I loved our overland trip through Uganda! Such an incredible country and the people were so friendly and welcoming (although not so much the squat toilets haha!). I would love to take Evie on safari one day and show her all the wildlife but the malaria is a bit of a worry.

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