Kampala Budget Travel Guide

Kampala is one of Africa's tour departure hubs.

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Kampala - city of seven hills

Once the city of seven hills, now Kampala spans over 20 hills.

Kampala is the capital and largest city in Uganda, often visited on Gorilla Tracking Safaris in this East African nation. One of the most outstanding features of the city is the abundance of vegetation scattered in its parks, gardens and recreational areas. Kampala is said to be one of the greenest cities in Africa, along with the city of Johannesburg in South Africa.

Kampala is an attractive and pleasant travel destination with its warm-hearted locals and smattering of things to do.

Where is Kampala - location of Uganda's Capital

Kampala city is located in Uganda which is in East Africa. Uganda is bordered by Kenya in the east, Tanzania to the south, the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west and South Sudan in the north. The south western corner of Uganda, where gorilla trekking takes place, is bordered by the small country of Rwanda.

Kampala lies on a plateau close to the northern shores of Lake Victoria, the largest inland lake in Africa, in the southern part of the central region of Uganda.

The altitude above sea level is at 1180m contributing to Kampala's pleasant weather, with average temperatures sitting between 17°c and 21ºC.

About Kampala Today

Kampala is a safe city for travellers - you can even walk around at night without fearing for your safety. This African city has a good reputation, offering visitors cultural and historical highlights, good restaurants and even a bit of vibrant nightlife (clubs and bars). Most of the many non-profit organisations in Uganda have offices in Kampala, which therefore hosts a lively expat community.

The city is not as overwhelming as some of the more hectic capitals of East Africa, such as Nairobi in Kenya. Kampala is a clean and modern city by African standards, featuring several buildings from the 1980's, as well as some newer skyscrapers. Kampala is a successful business hub, serving other centres in neighbouring East African countries. This productive business community is a mix of Ugandan, Chinese, Asian and other foreigners.

This is a rapidly growing city, expanding to incorporate more of the surrounding area where shanty (township) sprawl is on the rise. The population is estimated at 1,5 million or more today. The city is divided into five boroughs (administrative divisions) - Kampala Central, Kawempe, Makindye, Nakawa and Lubaga.

Motorbikes called 'boda bodas' are a popular form of taxi (one passenger per bike) in Kampala, but are by no means the safest form of transport. These motorcycle taxis speed dangerously through the city streets much like the infamous tuk-tuks in Thailand. Local ladies are expected to sit side-saddle on boda bodas if they hope to continue being called ladies, which adds more risk to the already risky taxi service. To read more about boda bodas check out the Kampala Wikitravel page. Other transport options with local flavour, but less danger, are to take a minibus taxi, locally known as a 'matatu' or a public bus.

Top Rated Highlights of Kampala

These are the top attractions of Kampala as rated by travellers on Tripadvisor:

  • Ndere Centre
  • Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
  • Gaddafi National Mosque
  • Namirembe Kathedrale
  • Namugongo Shrine
  • Forest Park Resort
  • Rubaga-Kathedrale
  • Lubiri Palace
  • Kasubi Tombs
  • Uganda Museum
  • Independence Monument
  • Batwa Cultural Heritage Centre

To read more about these well-ranked attractions in Kampala go to the Tripadvisor - Things to do in Kampala page.

Kampala & Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Kampala is a popular starting and ending point or stopover on African mountain gorilla safaris to Bwindi Forest National Park.

The Entebbe International Airport provides international flights to and from Uganda and is based some 32 km (20 mi) from Kampala's central business district. It takes about half an hour to get from the airport to Kampala by minibus or airport taxi.

Longer gorilla trekking trips that also travel from and to Kenya pass by the capital en route to Bwindi Forest National Park, also called Bwindi Impenetrable National Park..

Kampala as Gateway to other Highlights of Uganda

  • Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary - home to about 50 orphaned chimps rescued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (45-minute boat ride from Entebbe, on Lake Victoria)
  • Lake Bunyonyi - crater lake with islands in a scenic setting in the highlands of southwestern Uganda known as 'place of many little birds' (64 km from Bwindi / about 1 hour 46 min)
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park - diverse ecosystems, 95 mammal species (leopard, elephants, hippo), primates (including chimpanzees), tree-climbing lions and over 600 species of birds ( 376 km (234 mi) from Kampala)
  • Jinja - adventure capital at the source of the Nile River, offering some of the world's best white-water rafting, plus an array of other activities, from fishing to mountain biking (80 km from Kampala / 1 hour 30 minutes)

Here's a collection of Ugandan Safaris that explore Kampala.

The History of Kampala in a Nutshell

Kampala started out as the site of king Kabakas palace, hundreds of years ago when the Buganda Kingdom was still around. The king's palace and court were built on one of the so-called seven hills, becoming the capital of the kingdom.

In 1890 British envoy Captain Frederick Lugard built a fort on one of the hills where impala antelopes roamed. The name Kampala is said to originate from the translation of 'hill of the impala' to the Luganda phrase 'kasozi ka Impala', pronounced 'ka Impala', which later became 'ka mpala'.

Kampala was just a town in 1906 and then it went on to become a municipal entity in 1950, before it was declared the capital in 1962. The place underwent rapid growth in the 1960s, taking on a new, more international face.

Uganda established Independence in 1962, with the many changes the country has seen since then being reflected in its capital. The era after independence saw Kampala growing and prospering, until Uganda-Tanzania war errupted, damaging the infrastructure and development of the city. In the early 1980s the city began recovering, seeing reconstruction and urban revival.

Kampala hosts Hindu temples and mosques due to its Indian influences, along with ruins from the Buganda Kingdom and traces of its colonial European era.

Read more about Kampala and its history.

Uganda's Travel Appeal - beyond Kampala

  • one of the best places to track mountain gorillas in the wild
  • friendly and approachable local people
  • an incredibly scenic and lush country
  • not an overly touristy travel destination
  • track chimpanzees
  • game viewing safaris

View all Kampala tours   |  See our calendar of tour departures from Kampala

Google Map of Kampala

Use the Google map to explore Kampala.

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