1. Book in advance
This is very important especially if you are traveling in high seasons such as Christmas or Easter periods and between July to October. You will get a very good car at a good price. In other words, you have high bargaining power if you book some time before your self-drive holiday. Advance booking also allows you to choose perfect accommodation options based on your interests and budget. You have many options to choose from as most of the lodges/hotels/campsites will be empty at that time.
2. Choose the right car
Choosing a vehicle for your self-drive safari depends on the number of days you plan to be on the safari, the number of people you are traveling with, and the destinations you plan to visit. If you are traveling within cities, you will not need a 4WD. If you are traveling upcountry, like visiting places like national parks in Uganda such as Kidepo Valley and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, 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, a Toyota Rav4 is ok. However, if you are 3-4 persons, and traveling for quite many days, a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado is suitable for you and your luggage.
3. Don’t drive at night
Because you are driving in a foreign country, don’t risk your life, don’t dare driving at night if it’s not an airport transfer. Most highways in Uganda do not have street lights, and it is very easy to miss a lodge signpost. In case you get any problem in the middle of nowhere at night, getting assistance is very difficult. Finally, some areas are known for high-way robbers. You never know, anything can happen.
4. Choose appropriate accommodations and keep their contacts
Seek advice about different accommodation options available in every destination from the car rental agency. Get information about the accommodation facilities you feel interested in on Trip Advisor or a local agency. Choose safe places to stay while on a self-drive tour in Uganda and beyond. You may find a cheap hotel located in insecure places downtown where you may end up losing your life or your property. Keep contacts with the lodge/hotel/campsite, they can be of great help while on the tour. If you are arriving late, call them and let them know about your late arrival for proper arrangement.
5. Check the car every morning
Before setting off every morning, check the rental car, and ensure that everything is in order. The checklist includes Headlights, indicators, brake lights, tire pressure for all wheels including spare wheel, water level, Oil level and check for any leakage beneath the car.
The first time you receive the car from the rental agency, check for wheel spanner, Jack, First Aid kid, Validity of Insurance, the status of the tires, fire-extinguisher, and Triangle.
6. Road Signs
We have road signs on all roads in Uganda. Do not miss any. For instance, if a traffic officer stops you for over speeding, 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.
7. Defensive driving
Very important to enjoy a self-drive safari in Uganda and beyond. The speed limit on highways is 80-100km per hour, 30-50km in towns/trading centers, 40-50kms per hour in National Parks, 40-60km per hour on murram roads. Switch on lights when driving on dusty roads and when it’s raining. Off-track driving is not allowed in Uganda national parks, you will be charged US$150.
8. Seek to advise for manageable Itinerary
Car rental agencies give free advice regarding your itinerary. Avoid driving for long hours, plan your self-drive tour well with breaks at some points. Give yourself enough time to explore each destination. 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 agencies in Uganda offer you GPS navigation and Road Map. These are a must while on a self-drive holiday in Uganda. Note that, some destinations may not be indicated on the GPS but the travel road map can be of help. A cell with a local SIM is of great help to seek road assistance from the agency.
10. Comprehensive Insurance cover
Because you are driving in a foreign country, comprehensive insurance is strongly recommended for the rented car.