Wednesday, April 10, 2013

14 things I've learned about driving in Kampala

After about a year and a half of driving in Kampala, and on my way home with the kiddies today I was reflecting on things I've learned since driving here and I thought I would make a list for you to read in case you ever decide you'd like to come and drive here.

1. "The Arm" is magical and makes traffic stop. "The Arm" consists of waving your arm or getting your passenger to wave their arm out the window you are turning or merging with traffic. People respect and abide by the arm. The turning signals are useless.
2. Flashing the high beams is almost as magical. You can flash your high beams at someone coming in the opposite direction if you want to turn in front of oncoming traffic. They will usually slow to let you pass in front of them.
3. People probably aren't honking at you. They just honk a lot. They honk as they illegally pass you to let you know they're coming. they honk if they see you about to turn onto the street they're driving on to tell you they're coming and don't turn out just yet {this is most commonly done by boda drivers}. Taxi drivers {public transport vehicles that are like large vans} will honk upon coming to an area where they usually pick people up from.
4. Don't ever drive in a straight line. You will probably hit a pothole.
5. Don't give the police your drivers licence from your home country. Give them your international drivers licence and have a copy of your home drivers licence on hand to give. If they are going to issue you a ticket, they take your licence and you have to go pay the bill and show a receipt at the police station to get it back. Better to hang onto that puppy. Unless they specifically ask to see it.
6. LeftSide! STRONGSIDE! LeftSide! STRONGSIDE! {ie. stay on the left side of the road. If you are just starting to drive here, you may need to repeat this to yourself over and over again. Especially when pulling out to make a right hand turn.}
7. The bigger car usually has the right of way. You can get all aggressive and try and beat them to an opening, but it's usually better not to risk it.
8. That car isn't cutting you off. He's just driving. You gotta take a mile if you're given an inch. It's how they roll here.
9. Never trust the turn signal.
10. Just assume that nobody knows how to properly drive through a roundabout and just make your way in when it seems like there's a gap or a friendly person has let you in.
11. Just assume that nobody knows how to approach a traffic intersection with the lights out. Cautiously approach the intersection and if possible, tag along with another car in front of you.
12. There are no lines on the road for a reason. In cases of traffic jams or other occurrences  a two lane road can easily become a three or four lane road.
13. You don't really need to treat boda drivers like you would treat motorcyclists. I think of them as flies. You wave your hand at them and they fly away.

That being said, there is a general flow to the traffic here. You get used to it and it doesn't seem so crazy.

Oh and the final thing I've learned about driving here is to never ask why someone just did what they did. You just have to shake your head, laugh {if you can} and move on.

This is Africa!


  1. 1. This is hilarious!

    2. I wish I could go for a car ride with you there, and just laugh the whole time.

    3. When I hear about someone honking, waving their hand to signal and cutting people off to pass them in Guelph I will know you have been out on the town!! ;)

    1. Thanks, Bekki. :)
      I will try my hardest to adjust my driving habits to accepted Canadian practices. But it definitely will give me a greater understanding for those who immigrate to Canada and are used to driving in cities like Kampala.

    2. That's very true, thanks for that lesson. :)

  2. my favorite was "boda bodas are like flies, you wave your hand and they fly away" so funny!

    1. I thought you'd get a kick out of that. You and Sam would laugh so hard at the things we've seen on bodas here.

  3. Hahaha...I really laughed at #11 - 'tag along' in the roundabout!...and they're building lots of them around here too! xo Mom

  4. Hilarious.

    I enjoyed being a passenger with you and Jamie. And on a boda-boda.
    But I have little desire to be a driver there...

    1. It's true, Beth. I think that driving here for me has been a bit of a necessary evil. But I'm glad I've done it. And I kinda like the thrill of navigating the streets. I still got it, baby!

  5. what an awesome post. what great memories to bring home with you!! its so great when culture-shock develops into culture-appreciation!

  6. this post definitely made me laugh! We have lived in Uganda and were just talking the other day about the crazy driving over there!! Last year we were in India and the driving is only slightly better there! Lots of horn beeping!!


I love hearing from you!
If you're commenting as "Anonymous" please make sure to sign your name under your comment so I know who you are!
Happy day to you!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...