In the past 5 years, self drive safaris in East Africa are increasingly becoming one of the most prefered ways of experiencing safaris. Unlike in the past where car rentals were rare, there is an increasing number of auto agencies in major towns such as Kampala, Jinja, Entebbe, Mbarara, Mbale and Gulu etc. However, self-drives are very challenging in Uganda because of the poor roads, narrow roads, old cars in poor mechanical condition, insecurity and high rate of theft in the country.
Nevertheless, the following are the important tips for self-drives in Uganda;
First Check the Car before any Journey
It is important to first check the car before engaging in the self-drive safari. This involves checking for brakes, wiper blades to look for any leakages, tyres, water level, engine oil level, lights and a service tag will be provided to indicate when your car was last serviced. Before you forget, make sure to carry spare tyres (at least 2 spare tyres).
Hire the right car
Hiring the right vehicle is essential for a successful journey. Be in the know that in most remote areas and national parks, hiring a 4×4 is essential. If you are looking to go on a self drive in East Africa, it is important to narrow down your choices to strong 4x4s such as land cruisers, land rovers and Nissan Patrols. To save more, you can also hire a rooftop tent vehicle for your holiday.
Avoid Driving at Night
It should be noted that most of Ugandan roads do not have street lights, hence have many high-way robbers-commonly known as the “Kifeesi” hence not safe to drive at night especially at night. It is even worse that you will not be able to get assistance at night.
Always Use Road Maps and GPS
It is obvious that you will be driving in a foreign country where you do not know the destinations. It is therefore important to use a road map and a GPS navigation system to allow you go through the destination and achieve your dream of relishing a wildlife safari in Uganda.
Obey Traffic Laws
Obeying traffic laws is very important when for a self-drive in Uganda. These include reading and following road sighs, avoiding to drink and drinking, always putting a seat belt and driving from the right side of the road (keep left in Uganda), and will save you from some of the danger such as accidents which are very common or being charged for disobeying the traffic rules.
Do not drive off-tracks/off-roads
As a rule, tourists are advised to always drive in the designated tracks not tom harm to wildlife species. You will be charged for off-track driving within the National Parks. This also applies to the highways where driving off the road can cause accidents.
Take breaks between the Journey and relax and fuel the car
It is very important to always take breaks in order to refresh and purchase supplies such as fuel so that you don’t get disappointed in the middle of the journey. Also, there are no fuel stations within the National Parks hence it is important to buy enough fuel.
Avoid over speeding
Tourists on a self-drive are also advised to drive according to the recommended speed for National parks that is 40 kilometers per hour. Not only that, avoid over speeding on the highways because that’s the main cause of accidents.
Do not hoot within the National Parks
It is totally forbidden to hoot within the National parks because it scares away the wilds animals, and I guess you wouldn’t want the animals hiding away from the vehicle.
Do not drive when exhausted/fatigued
Driving when tired is one of the main causes of road accidents in Uganda. Drivers are advised to either switch or give to colleagues to drive of pack somewhere and rest for some time before progressing with the journey.
Stop at a distance to allow the wild animals to cross
When driving within the National Parks and you see animals crossing the road, it is very important to stop at a reasonable distance and allow them to cross. Do not hoot when you see them crossing, just because you have to cross.
Consider the prevailing weather changes
Note that the driving speed changes with the prevailing weather. It is not advisable to drive at a high speed when it is raining because most of Uganda roads are murram and tend to be slippery and muddy, hence can cause accidents if you over speed. This is one of the reasons why tourists are advised to use 4WD vehicles.
Stock enough supplies when going to the National Park, and avoid unwanted items to the park
As earlier mentioned, there are no fuel stations and rarely will you find supermarkets within the National Parks, hence it is important to stock them in advance to avoid disappointment within the Parks. Items such as guns and other dangerous weapons are totally prohibited.
Consider Other Road Users
Because most Ugandan roads are narrow, do not be self-centered and consider the pedestrians and motor bike riders-commonly known as the Boda bodas, and cyclists among others.
Use satellite phones in places of poor network coverage
Most National parks in Uganda have poor network coverage, hence drivers are always advised to utilize satellite phones to make communication easier and possible within such places.
In conclusion, with the increase in the demand for self-drives, it is important to obey traffic rules, avoid off-track driving, use satellite phones in places of low network coverage, consider the prevailing weather conditions, avoid over speeding and driving at night among others.