Torsten has asked me to post this on behalf of him.
Table of Contents
Things to do in Kampala – Understand
Kampala is a city that was set up by the British – at the time, the kingdom of Buganda (which is part of today’s Uganda) was just a few thousand people. The British set up a colonial city and main infrastructure in the 19th and 20th centuries. Kampala is now a bustling city with diversity and lots of joyful people. Public infrastructure hasn’t changed much since independence and it’s a mess, but one can say a sweet mess.
Things to do in Kampala – Safety
I was robbed twice in 5 days – and it sounds mad to say this, but Kampala is one of the safer cities as African cities go. There isn’t a lot of violent crime and both robberies happened when I was unaware or sleeping.
Money was stolen from my backpack while it was in the hotel and the other time, sophisticated robbers broke into my apartment at night, despite heavy security and reinforced doors.
Kampala streets are not dangerous during the day and even at night are mostly walkable. Downtown gets hairy at night, but Kololo is a safe place even late at night if you take normal precautions.
Things to do in Kampala – Transport
Transport is a big issue in the city if you are not ready to ride on a bodaboda motorcycle taxi (like me). This leaves you with precious few options, since taxis are very rare in the city and incredibly expensive even when you bargain hard.
I ended up finding Robert and using him as my trusted driver that I hired for my trips. Half-day trips are about $20. Distance is more expensive than time. Give Robert a call when you get to Kampala on +256 774 977 481.
The airport is about an hour outside the city and 60,000 Shillings are the bottom of what you can negotiate. Interestingly, prices from the airport are often less than to the airport.
Things to do in Kampala – Sightseeing
Every continent has just one Baha’i temple and Africa’s is in Kampala. The temples come with magnificent gardens and a hillside setting, as does this one – it’s a bit hard to reach, but well worth it and there is no admission fee. Like most other Kampala sites there are precious few tourists.
This beautiful mosque opened in 2007 and has stunning views over the city. You guessed right – the late colonel Gaddafi of Libya donated the money to build the mosque. Gaddafi apparently had a number of interests in Uganda and came up with the idea to build this landmark on a hill to foster his image.
The admission including a guide is 10,000 UGX, which includes the views from the minaret. The guides are super-friendly and knowledgeable.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site used to be the main residence of the King Of Buganda. Don’t expect a castle – the king lived in a modest hut (well it must have been impressive by old-time standards). This royal hut burned down in 2013, but restoration is underway.
Admission is the standard 10,000 UGX and the super-friendly guides will take you around. Frankly there isn’t much left to see here, but the guides make up for it and give you a whole history lesson!
This church is the oldest in Uganda and has been beautifully restored in recent years. There’s no admission fee and they offer free tours. Check out the beautiful views from the hill.
This beautiful resort is the perfect introduction to Lake Victoria. It’s about 30 minutes drive from downtown Kampala and charges a low entrance fee of $2. You are free to enjoy the grounds and there are several restaurants and bars and a swimming pool. I had my favorite grilled chicken at the main restaurant and it was excellent, though pricey.
The word lodge implies wildlife or at least nature for me. Well this lodge is a hotel right on the edge of Kampala’s suburbs and it has incredible views over Lake Victoria. Go there for beautiful sunsets while having dinner or drinks on the patio. A beer is just $2 so you won’t be overcharged for the view.
This modern mall and the adjacent strip malls have all the businesses you need when traveling. The area also features great coffee and food, many banks, travel agents and more.
Things to do in Kampala – Food and Drink
Kampala has a huge number of places to enjoy life – here are my favorites.
The name is a bit of a misnomer – it’s actually a brewery. This awesome place in Kololo has a beautiful outdoor garden, friendly staff, delicious beer and cheap and good food. It does not get much better than this.
Que Pasa was started by an Australian in Kampala. It still has distinct Mexican food and is in a great location with an outdoor terrace. The food is just OK, but plenty and cheap – the $2 tacos are enormous!
This downtown coffee shop cherishes Ugandan coffee and you can see their love for coffee. The staff are beyond friendly and the coffee is excellent. It’s also cheap. Don’t skip this place, but arrive during the day or by taxi, as the surrounding area gets dodgy at night.
This fantastic coffee shop makes perfect macchiatos and any espresso drink you like. It has a lovely outdoor terrace and fast WiFi.
Cafesserie is a chain but it’s extremely well done. The interior design, the staff and the quality of items leaves little to be desired. Come here for coffee, a drink, ice cream or bakery snacks.
Classy Italian dining is what this place specializes in. Lots of white cloth and (somewhat) high prices make it the place to close a business deal.
The Lebanese owners have created a wonderful oasis in busy Kampala. Set in a large house with a beautiful garden, this coffee shop feels more like visiting a friend’s house. The menu is excellent and cheap, though I liked the coffee and juices more than the food.
Across the street is an interesting-looking Indian restaurant with a stunning garden. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to try the food there.
Like its sister restaurant in Kigali, this Indian restaurant serves authentic and delicious Indian cuisine.
Fuego (Eritrean cuisine)
Fuego is an outdoor lounge with a number of buildings overlooking one garden. The Eritrean food is likely the best I ever had. I enjoyed a huge injera, a fantastic salad and a lovely, spicy chicken curry. I went there for lunch but I’m sure the place gets busy during the evening. Bring some extra time as the food is fresh but it takes 30 minutes to make!
Things to do in Kampala – Where to stay
The Protea Hotel Kampala is now part of Marriott, but it hasn’t come up with a category assignment yet. If it does it might be a good option. It’s also in a good location right where most of the food and coffee options are located.
There are a number of good options of Airbnb in the city. Safety and personal security is an issue, so make sure you bring few valuables or double check the security of each place.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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