"The Pearl of the African Pearl" Top 5 Page for this destination Kampala by maharaja_joe

Kampala Travel Guide: 231 reviews and 651 photos

Kampala is the largest city in Uganda, right next to Entebbe. It is the capital of Uganda, once called by Winston Churchill as the "Pearl of Africa". The first thing that hits you as the plane starts its descent is the vastness of Lake Victoria and the greenery that surrounds it. Well, all that and the disturbingly large number of dirt roads !

The city of Kampala comprises of seven hills. Before the arrival of the British, the Bugandans (the tribe that lived here) used one of those lush green hills as a hunting ground to hunt impalas. When the British came, they called it the “Hill of the Impala”, which in Lugandan (the language of the Bugandans) literally translates to “Kasozi ka Empala”. In due time, the Kasozi (meaning hill) vanished and the name changed to Kampala. The city grew as the capital of the Buganda kingdom and several relics still survive. I personally did not visit them, the rest of the country somehow seemed more interesting :)

% Kamapala is not a very big city. Having said that, it is a vibrant modern place that houses the capital of one of the stablest countries in Africa. The roads in Kampala are pretty good, and downtown has its own share of high-rises. Makarere, in the outskirts of Kamapala, is among the top three universities in Africa. Uganda is considered by many to be one of the fastest growing economies of Africa. Even though Asians were kicked out by Idi Amin, some of them are coming back to take advantage of the Governents new economic policies. Kampala night life is highly recommended: Well dressed people, great music, safe city and all the alcohol in the world !

Ugandans are very friendly people, and it is tough to find someone who tries to screw you over. Most of them speak English, which is the medium of education and business. Like in Asia, there are a lot of street-side shops that sell everything from Bananas to t-shirts to spare parts. The short drive from Entebbe to Kampala will pass through small banana plantations, so its not tough to see why sustenance farming is the backbone of the Ugandan economy.

Although the roads in Kamapala are good, the ones outside (except for the main roads) are dirt roads. There is no government run public transportation, but the private sector has stepped up to the plate. You want to go someplace close, get a boda-boda, which can be a bicycle or motorcycle taxi that carries one person. A farther distance, feel free to take a matatu (shared van). It is supposed to take about 18 people, but takes around 25. If you can afford it, then a shared-taxi or a bus is in order.

Lonely Planet warns against using matatus, but I think they are paranoid. Sure most accidents involve matatu drivers, but there are a lot of matatus on the road too. Thats like saying don't drive a car because most accidents in the US involve cars.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Friendly people, safe city, pleasant nightlife
  • Cons:All businesses shut down by 6 or 7 pm
  • In a nutshell:The ideal "Welcome to East Africa" place.
  • Last visit to Kampala: Mar 2007
  • Intro Updated Mar 27, 2007
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  • mvtouring's Profile Photo
    Mar 27, 2007 at 11:29 PM

    I admire you guys that backpack thru Africa, you definately have more guts than me ;-)

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