Kampala, the capital of Uganda, is a bustling city with a population of 1.7 millions (and probably as many motorcycles on the road). It can be somewhat intimidating, especially for a first-timer. But this is not to say that it does not have its charms.
If you don’t feel confident enough to venture out on your own, don’t fret — you’re still in luck. Kampala has a free guided walking tour available every day. Founded by young locals, this tour provides opportunities for visitors to not only observe Ugandan life and culture, but to actively participate alongside the locals.
How to Book
Unfortunately, this tour is not like the free walking tours you might find in European cities where you can simply turn up without a reservation and expect to see your tour guides waiting for you there. Kampala doesn’t have enough visitors for them to be able to do that all year round. Especially during low seasons, the tours are only available upon request. You can make a reservation via any of these channels:
Address: P.O. Box 11536 Mengo, Lusaze.
Facebook: Free Guided Walking Tours Kampala
What to Expect
The tour consists of two parts. During the first part, you will visit places that don’t require entrance fees. It takes approximately 4 hours, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., depending on your speed and how long you spend at each place.
- Makerere University – This is where the meeting point is. Learn about Uganda’s largest and oldest institution of higher learning, and how it got its name.
- Katanga Slums – Uganda is among the top African countries with the highest number of slums, one of which is Katanga. It is situated in the valley between Mulago Hospital and Makerere University. You will walk through the settlement and witness how people go about their lives in the slum.
- East African Craft Market – This market hosts many stalls selling all kinds of African crafts and souvenirs. Bring some money and be prepared to practice your haggling skill.
- Independence Monument – A 6-meter tall monument dedicated to Ugandan independence, featuring a man unwrapping and holding a child to the sky.
- Nakasero Food Market – Treat your senses to the different sights, smells, sounds, and tastes in this market. You’ll get to sample some of the delicacies.
- Hindu Temple – the oldest Hindu temple in Uganda. Features elaborate towers and swastika-emblazoned gates.
- City Center – See the sprawling taxi stand, shopping malls, cafes, and some government buildings.
- Owino Daily Market – This chaotic market sells everything under the sun (quite literally), from secondhand clothing to electronics.
- Namirembe Cathedral – Consecrated in 1919, this cathedral, which is also known as St. Paul’s Cathedral is the oldest one in Uganda.
The (optional) second part takes you to places that require entrance fees. The duration is three hours, from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
- Gaddafi National Mosque (15,000 UGX) – Built on the Old Kampala Hill, it is one of the biggest mosques in East, Central, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Kasubi Royal Tombs (15,000 UGX) – The burial site for four kabakas (kings) and other members of the Baganda royal family.
- King’s Palace (35,000 UGX) – This grand palace, which used to be the official residence of the King of Buganda, now becomes a tourist attraction containing historical artifacts, gardens, and torture chambers.
Apart from the walking tour in the city, they also organize other tours including the ones that take you outside of Kampala. You will be taken from one destination to another using matatu (public minibus) because it is cheap, convenient, and a great way to experience Uganda like a local. All of the trips are tip-based. Bookings are free of charge.
Day Trips Outside Kampala
- National Museum
- Bahai Temple
- Ndere Cultural Center
- Namugongo Martyr Shrine
- Gaba Beach
- Equator Line
- Karamoja (every Saturday)
Grab a volunteering job and free accommodation. Several volunteer placements are available for those interested in working together with the local community, such as in schools, farms, and community-based organizations.
My tour guide was Steven, who kindly accommodated me although I made a very last-minute reservation. He was very knowledgeable and told me everything I needed to know about the country and its people. He also gave me a printout of useful Lugandan phrases I should learn.
I only joined the first part of the walking tour. Most of the places we visited were within walking distance from each other, except the last one (Namirembe Cathedral) which needed a boda-boda to get to. This tour is suitable for all ages, but keep in mind that walking for 3 – 4 hours can be quite a workout if you’re not used to it. Bring water, an umbrella/raincoat, and comfortable walking shoes.
I like the fact that you can pay the guide(s) any amount you see fit, making this accesible for travelers of any budget.
Have you taken any of the free guided tours in Kampala? What did you think about it? Comment below.