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Driving in Uganda - The Ugandan Way!

Driving in Uganda can be challenging and certainly made for the tuff hearted. You can encounter different experiences and this will very much depend on where you will travel across the country.

It is a blend of everything - you could quite easily see some of the worse driving on earth; from lorry, buses and commuter taxi drivers to the motor bike taxi (commonly known as 'boda boda') riders. All these share the same narrow roads and therefore many times the jungle law rules - 'survival for the fittest'!

... And not just to put you off driving in Uganda but ... hello! As a caution, toughen up! You will need some defensive driving skills on board. And if you are the kind whose anxiety rises in a challenging situation, find a local driver to do it for you (at least for the first 3 months) while you observe and later get out there like a white dove on it's Ugandan driving dry run.

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That said, driving in Uganda is not all doom - In fact it can be fun and enhances a lot of your undiscovered driving skills, sharpens your judgement on the road and if you are a frequent traveller, it prepares you to drive any where in the world.

I have probably seen worse driving in some of the cities I have visited like; ... no no, probably not good idea to mention here but you will certainly drive in those cities once you have passed the Ugandan test.

I have not even talked about the poor road worthiness; the mechanical condition of some of the cars and the mad traffic in Uganda particularly in the Capital Kampala ... but there you are!

Here are a few things you need to know before you start driving in Uganda;

Driver's licence/permit requirements;

If you possess a valid driver's licence from another country and that licence is in English, it is very likely that you are permitted to drive in Uganda for a period of up to 3 months, after which you will be required to obtain a Ugandan driving licence.

But if your licence is not in English, then you should carry an approved translation of your licence and please find out before you start driving in Uganda and getting into all sorts of problems if your licence is part of the permitted lot that can be used for the first 3 months.

The alternative would be to obtain an international driving licence before travelling to Uganda - this is accepted in place of a Ugandan driving licence.

Driving in Uganda - Road Rules

Most importantly is that in Uganda we drive on the left hand side of the road. For many this will be a total switch over especially if you come from North America, Europe (other than the UK), or anywhere else in the world where you drive on the right hand side of the road. Therefore take extra caution!

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Be alert, while you take it easy - don't be in a rush especially if you are still in the genesis of your driving in Uganda; If you are pulling out of a driveway, intersections, parking lots and such, don't go yet if you are not sure. You might find the Ugandan life style a little laid back but that doesn't translate to the driving - you will be surprised!

Here are a few traffic rules to take care of while driving in Uganda;

  • You should always wear a seat belt and make sure the other passengers do as well.
  • Your defensive driving mode should be on all the time - expect the unexpected!
  • The catch phrase is 'don't drink and drive'. In many cases there are no gadgets to even taste the alcohol limit and therefore no limits but left to the judgement of the traffic officer - You don't want to take such a risk, do you? You could run out of luck ...
  • The speed limit on highways in Uganda is 80km/hr and 50km/hr in built up areas. You might not see the speed limit signs frequently in some places but take extra care because police strictly enforces this law and breaking speed limits can result in a fine, imprisonment or even both.
  • Don't use your mobile phone whilst driving - this should be common sense!
  • Give way to the right especially if there are no traffic lights, stop signs ... and at T-junctions. Take extra care at the zebras for any pedestrians crossing and go around the roundabouts in the clockwise direction.
  • If you are involved in an accident, contact your insurer immediately and make sure you take pictures of the scene and the damage to your car.
  • Don't overload your vehicle and ensure you can see out of the back window.
  • ... And don't drive when you are tired - you can imagine it's even more risky to try driving in Uganda in that state. Take regular breaks on long journeys or share the driving if one of your passengers can and is permitted to drive.
  • There could be more to this list but that should set you going about driving in Uganda without trouble.

    You will realise that most of the cars in Uganda are right hand drive (RHD) and if you are used to the left hand drive (LHD) back in the United States, you might reach for your wipers rather than the indicators - funny, isn't it! You will do quite a few of these as you get used.

    ... And then who knows, 2/3 years down the road you could have grown into one of the best drivers in the world if not the worst!

    Enjoy your driving in Uganda.

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