Self Drive Safari or Self Guided safari is when a tourist organizes and does everything for him/herself without involving in a tour operator. Most travelers more especially those traveling on a budget and also those who love privacy love this idea so much because it’s cheap and it gives you a chance to seat behind the wheel and drive yourself throughout your safari.
Organizing a self-drive safari always starts with thinking of a destination where you planning to travel for Example Uganda and then you have to look for the means of transport you going to use. The most common transport method is hiring a 4×4 safari vehicle from any car rental company in the country then after having all these you will just have to wait until the traveling date and you pick your safari vehicle and start your safari. In case you planning to do a self-guided safari, below are some of the things you have to know before deciding to fly to a certain country for a self-drive safari.
1. Book your safari vehicle and Accommodation in advance
Organizing your safari and booking your safari vehicle and accommodation in advance is important especially if you are traveling in high seasons of the year like those months between July to October which is the dry season. In these months most of the accommodation facilities will be fully booked, car rental agencies will be busy and even the rates will be high on everything. So booking everything in advance will help you in the way that you will get a very good car at a good price if you book like 3months in advance before your traveling date. In other words, you have high bargaining power when renting the car and even on accommodation, there are chances that you will get a discount. There are high chances that you will get good accommodation in all the destinations you will want to visit because you will have many options to choose from due to the cat that most of the lodges will have fewer clients.
2. Choose the right car
Choosing a safari vehicle for your self-drive safari depends on many things which include, the number of people you are traveling with, the number of days you going to travel like there is some small vehicle which can not be recommended for many days of safari, and lastly the tourist destinations you planning to visit. In case you going just for a city tour just to explore how Ugandans spend their life in Kampala and other cities a strong 4×4 vehicle will not be needed, you just need to hire a simple vehicle to move you around. If you are traveling upcountry, like visiting places like national parks in Uganda such as Kidepo Valley National Park in the far northeastern part of the country, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the southwestern part of the country, or any other national park in the country a strong 4×4 car is highly recommended, more especially if you are traveling in the rainy season. If you are only 2 people (A couple) traveling for a few days like a 7-day safari to different national parks in Uganda a Toyota Rav4 is ok. However, if you are 3-4 persons, and traveling for quite many days, a Toyota Land Cruiser safari vehicle is suitable for you and your luggage.
3. Don’t drive at night
Since on your self-drive safari, you going to be driving in a foreign country, it means you know less about how the drivers in that country behave while on the road and I don’t think you will like to risk your life, because its a night when most drivers drive carelessly, some of them drive under the influence of alcohol and other bad things so it’s recommended that you don’t dare drive at night if it’s not an airport transfer or going for dinner. Most highways in the country lack enough street lights and signpost, meaning it’s very easy to miss a turn and you end up getting lost yet it’s night. In case you get any problem in the middle of nowhere at night, getting assistance is very difficult and it’s clearly stated in the car rental contract that their vehicles stop operation at 7 pm and start at 6 am so if you insist and drive at night when you not going to the airport or going for dinner, you will be breaking the car rental rules.
The main reason why we don’t recommend you driving at night, some of the roads in the country are in bad conditions and I don’t think it will be cool for you to get stuck in the middle of nowhere at night when even the car rental company can bring the rescue to you at night meaning the only solution you will have is to sleep in car till morning and the rental company organize the rescue in the morning and Finally, some areas are known for high-way robbers. You never know, anything can happen.
4. Be careful when choosing accommodations and keep their contacts
Since you will not need to involve a tour company in organizing your safari, and still you will have less knowledge about the accommodation facilities you will use when you’re on the self-drive safari, it’s better that you request the car rental agency and at least recommend for you the best, and safe lodges where you can sleep in the different destination you going to visit. you can also get more information about the accommodation facilities you feel interested in on Trip Advisor. Choose safe places to stay while on a self-guided trip in Uganda and beyond. You may find a cheap hotel located in insecure places like downtown where you may end up losing your life or your property. Save the contact of the lodge where you going to sleep so that you can update them in case you going to reach late or when there is any change in plan and they can also be of great importance in case you need direction to the lodge.
5. Check the car every morning
Even if you not on the safari, every professional driver has to check well his/her vehicle before setting off and it’s the same thing you should not undermind you have to check the vehicle every morning and make sure everything is in order. among the things you should regularly check includes, tyre pressure, in all 4 wheels plus the spare tyre, brake lights, indicators, headlights, engine oil level, cooling fluid in the radiator, level of brake fluid, and also don’t forget to check for any leakage beneath the vehicle. This will help you spot any problem early before the car breaks down.
Its also well stated in the car rental agreement that once you receive the vehicle from the car rental agency, you have to check it thoroughly for any damage so that you can report it before you sign the agreement. among the other thing, you have to check on the first day you receive the vehicle include, jack, wheel spanner, fire-extinguisher, First Aid Kit, the status of the tires, Triangle and the Validity of Insurance if you that one of these is missing make sure you get it.
6. Road Signs
In Uganda, there are different signs on the road which you have to follow for a safe drive in the country. Do not miss or undermine any sign because its costs you time and money. For instance, if a traffic officer stops you for overspeeding, you will be charged UGX200.000 (US$60), paid to the bank. In Rwanda, the traffic officer keeps your driver’s license or car card until to make payment and pick your driving license/car-card from the police station. In such a situation, you can lose over 2 hours, thus disorganizing your self-drive holiday so plan your safari well and don’t rush if the signpost is showing 50km/h it’s better to follow it and reach safely.
7. Defensive driving
This is another point you have to observe when on a self-drive safari in Uganda or to any country in most cases speed limit on the highway is 80-100km/h, in town center/trading centers it’s recommended that you drive 50km/h, on murram roads 40-60km/h while in the national parks it’s strictly 40km/h because animals in the national parks have 100% right to the way and knocking an animal in the park can costs you much money by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Also, it’s advisable to switch on the lights when driving on a dusty road, during a rainy day, and also even when there is a lot of fog.
8. Seek to advise for manageable Itinerary
Car rental agencies give free advice regarding your itinerary. When booking your safari vehicle online, try to ask for information like road distances between some tourist destinations you going to visit so that you can plan your safari well with enough breaks at some point for relaxation and taking some photos and try to make a bit relaxed and manageable itinerary to avoid spending long hours driving from one destination to another because of a very tight and fixed itinerary. Give yourself enough time to explore each destination because it’s the main aim for going self-drive. Some places are not safe for self-driving, therefore, your car-rental agency will advise you accordingly.
9. Use of GPS, Cell with Local SIM and Road map
Most car rental companies in the country offer travel road maps and sometimes GPS navigation. Since you will not have a guide on your safari these two will act as your route guide when you on the self-drive safari. But still, you have to note that some tourist destinations may be missing on the GPS but the map travel map will be of importance there. What you don’t have to forget when going for a self-drive safari is to buy a local sim-card and also load on some data and talk time this will help you to stay connected with your friends and relatives at home and even help you call the lodge for reservation and even it help you when calling the car rental agency in case of any problem with the car or when you need any assistance from them
10. Comprehensive Insurance cover
When looking for a safari vehicle to use on a self-drive safari in Uganda, at least make sure that you request a vehicle that is comprehensively insured so that in case of an accident or damage of the car the insurance company will have to come in and pay for the damages.
Most car rental companies like Rental Cars Uganda Ltd, 4×4 Uganda Ltd, and others offer comprehensively insured vehicles with no extra cost. Book yourself a comprehensively insured vehicle now and go for a self-drive safari across the country.