Menu Close
Jinja Uganda

Jinja Uganda Itinerary & Best Things to Do in Jinja

Located 80 kilometres east of Uganda’s capital Kampala is the town of Jinja. Originally a fishing village, it was founded in 1901 by British settlers as a hub for sugar cane and cotton farming.

Today, it’s often called “the adventure capital of East Africa”. Its location on the shore of Lake Victoria makes it the perfect place for water sports, such as white water rafting, kayaking, and stand-up paddling.

Jinja is also famous for being situated at the source of the White Nile — one of the major tributaries of the longest river in the world.

Just a few months before the virus outbreak, I visited Jinja for two days as part of my three-week-long solo trip to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

Jinja Uganda
Jinja town. Credit: Ilona1001 / Wikimedia Commons

Jinja is located close to the Equator, therefore has consistently warm temperatures, high humidity, and a lot of rainfall throughout the year. 

The warmest months are February and March with average daytime temperatures of 30°C (85°F) and nighttime temperatures rarely dropping below 18°C (64°F). If you’re averse to heat, it’s best to avoid visiting during this period. The lowest temperatures are in May (around 25°C during the day).

Although it can rain at any time of the year, the wettest months are April and November with up to 19 days of rain. January has the lowest chance of rain.

The peak tourist seasons in Jinja are in July, October, and February. Bear in mind that prices for hotels, flights, and tours will be most expensive during this time.

I visited Jinja in October but since I traveled by local buses and Couchsurfed, I wasn’t affected by the high prices.

How to Get to Jinja from Kampala or Kenya

If you’re going to book activities in Jinja, like white water rafting, etc, check with the company if they provide a shuttle service to and from Kampala. Some companies offer it for free if you book an activity with them.

Otherwise, here are three different transportation options to get to Jinja:

By Plane

Jinja has a small domestic airport: Jinja Airport (IATA: JIN), also known as Kimaka Airstrip, located about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) north of Jinja’s central business district. It only serves flights to and from Entebbe International Airport.

By Express Coach

Jinja is on the East African Highway, which links Uganda to Kenya, DR Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi.

Most coaches coming from Kenya or Tanzania will pass through Jinja on their way to Kampala (and vice versa). Keep in mind that it’s not an official stop, so you need to tell your driver to drop you off in Jinja. Just be sure to remind them, otherwise you might end up in another city… or country!

By Matatu

A matatu is a shared minivan taxi used by locals to travel within the city and beyond. Personally, it’s my favorite way to travel in East Africa as it’s the cheapest and the most interesting. By interesting, I mean crazy.

In Kampala, you can get a matatu from the massive taxi park on Burton Street. Look for the Jinja sign, or if you can’t find it, just ask around. The fare is about UGX 6,000 – 8,000 (approx. USD 2) per person.

Matatu stand Kampala | Ummi Goes Where?
Kampala Old Taxi Park

Depending on traffic, it should take around 2 – 3 hours. Don’t take matatus if you have a tight schedule — they often wait until they’re full before they depart and they will be picking up and dropping off passengers along the way.

How to Get Around in Jinja

Jinja is quite spread out. Public transports in town are mainly boda bodas (motorcycle taxis). Fares shouldn’t cost more than UGX 4000 – 5000 for up to 10-kilometre journeys, but agree on the fare before you ride.

Keep in mind that outside of the main town area, the roads are in pretty bad conditions. Most boda boda drivers don’t usually provide helmets, as they don’t wear any either. If this is a problem for you, try asking your hotel if they can recommend a boda boda driver that provides a helmet. Or book through SafeBoda, a Ugandan e-hailing app.

The place where I was staying was in quite a rural area and I didn’t see any SafeBoda drivers, so I went with regular boda bodas. Plus, I didn’t have a local SIM card or internet connection, so it would have been difficult to book one anyway.

Things to Do in Jinja

I visited Jinja with no exact plans apart from wanting to see more of Uganda beyond its capital city. Although I knew the place was famous for adventure sports, I wasn’t physically, mentally, or financially prepared to take part in any. So, I went with a free-and-easy itinerary, and let Jinja present itself to me.

Jinja Uganda | Ummi Goes Where?
With my host, Rogers.

My Couchsurfing host, Rogers, is a philanthropist and director at Diep Ark Orphanage Home. He took two days off his busy schedule to show me around town, take me to see the Source of the Nile, and share a traditional meal together.

Here, I’ve listed down some of the best things you can see and do in Jinja, Uganda:

1. Visit the Source of the Nile

Since Jinja’s biggest claim to fame is being situated at the source of the Nile, it makes sense to start your trip with a visit to this famous spot.

Source of the Nile Jinja
It’s a pretty touristy place though.

Known as the world’s longest river, the Nile leaves Lake Victoria in Jinja and continues its journey of more than 6,000 kilometres to Egypt, where it flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

The exact spot is marked my a modest signboard that reads “The Source of R. Nile – Jinja – World’s Longest River” on a tiny island as pictured below. This is supposedly where the lake ends and the river starts.

Source of the Nile, Jinja Uganda | Ummi Goes Where?
Source of the Nile

To get there, you will have to hire a motorized traditional boat. At $20 per boat and no other tourist to share it with, I found it too expensive, so I was happy to see it from the river banks.

If you choose to go, this is what you should expect to see:

Jinja source of Nile signage
Credit: Dror Feitelson / Wikimedia Commons

Depending on the water level, you may be able to stand on the signpost slab for photos.

Also in the vicinity are some souvenir shops, as well as several restaurants and bars. If you’re a beer drinker, don’t forget to try the Nile Special beer and donate the bottle to the “Drunk Tree”.

Drunk Tree Jinja | Ummi Goes Where?
The Drunk Tree.

On the opposite side of the river (the western bank), there is the Speke Monument to honor John Speke, a British Indian Army officer who was the first European to see the source of the Nile.

You will also see the Mahatma Ghandi Monument here. After his death in 1948, his ashes were scattered in all the major rivers of the world, including the Nile.

Take note that there’s a fee to enter the Source of the Nile area:

Jinja source of the nile entrance fee
Source of the Nile entrance fees.

2. Go on a Nile Cruise

If you want to spend a longer time on the river itself, consider going on a Nile cruise. Sunset cruises typically last for around 2 hours, but there are also full-day options that will take you to see rainforests along the river.

Along the way, you can spot animals, such as birds, otters, and primates. Most of the cruises come with an open bar and all-you-can-eat buffets.

Source of the Nile Jinja party cruise
The party boat.
Source of the Nile Jinja boat fees
Boat cruise rates.

3. Go White Water Rafting

White water rafting is the most popular activity in Jinja. With class 3, 4, and 5 rapids, white water rafting in Jinja is exciting for all skill levels. If you’re a total beginner, class 3 is ideal for you. It does require some maneuvering skills, but you can learn them pretty quickly.

Class 5, on the other hand, features some difficult descents with a relatively high chance of falling over. In any case, you will have crew members following you in a kayak. Tour packages include lunch, equipment, and guides.

4. Do Other Water Sports

Other than rafting, there are a few other water activities you can do in Jinja:

  • Kayaking
  • Stand-up paddling
  • River boarding
  • Fishing

5. Try the SUP Hammock

Nile SUP Hammock
SUP Hammock. Credit: Nile SUP
If you don’t feel like being active at all, there’s also something for you. Nile SUP has invented a unique water activity called SUP Hammock, where you will be suspended over the mighty river with a cold beer in your hand and your feet dangling in the water.
 
The rig is made up of 4 hammocks mounted on top of paddle boards and will be pulled by a kayaker who will also be your bartender. 

6. Go Bungee Jumping

Would an adventure capital be called an adventure capital be without bungee jumping? I doubt it.

Jinja is the only place in Uganda and one of the few places in Africa where you can bungee jump. Boasting an award-winning 5-star crew and following the New Zealand / Australia safety standards, bungee jumping by Adrift Uganda allows you to jump over the Nile, which ends with a little dip in the river itself.

The maximum weight is 260 kg, so you can jump with a friend!

7. Go Mountain Biking

Most of the activities in Jinja center around the River Nile, but if you don’t want to get wet, you can explore the shore on a bike instead. You can either rent a bike and go on a self-guided adventure, or join day tours / multi-day safaris like the ones offered by Bikeventures.

Bikeventures is a social enterprise that donates all their profits to the COOP (Cycling out of Poverty) foundation.

Other options for exploring the Nile shores include quad-biking and horseback riding.

8. Go Bird Watching

If you love birds, you’re in luck. The river provides a fertile environment for many bird species to call this place home. You have a chance of spotting hornbills, kingfishers, guineafowls, flufftails, and pelicans, among many others.

Prime Safaris & Tours offer birding safaris of varying lengths, from 2 hours to 24 days!

9. Explore Jinja Town

Jinja Uganda town | Ummi Goes Where?
Jinja town.

Jinja is an industrial town but there are still some parts that are charmingly quiet with lots of greenery and some colonial buildings.

Take your time exploring the local markets and shopping for souvenirs. You can also find a bookstore and art shops.

10. Have a Barbecue

Or specifically, have a Car-B-Que at Explorers River Camp, a lively resort / campsite with a river spa, a water slide, a rope swing, and an outdoor lounge overlooking the river. The barbecue pit is so cool it deserves a mention. And the camp itself is shrouded in greenery.

Explorers River Camp Car b Que
Car-B-Que at Explorers River Camp.

11. Party!

From what I see in both Jinja and Kampala, Ugandan people sure love to party! Jinja has its own bars and night clubs, including one with an outdoor terrace over the river.

My visit coincided with Halloween night, so Rogers and I, along with two other travelers he hosted, and a few family members went to celebrate at one of the clubs.

Backpacking in Jinja Uganda
With Arianne, a Canadian traveler.

12. Volunteer for a Cause

If you have more time to spare in Jinja, consider volunteering with the many organizations and charitable causes in the area. From volunteering in orphanages to teaching English in rural schools, the opportunity are endless. If you can’t contribute your time, donations are always welcome.

Arianne — the Canadian traveler I met — had just completed a volunteering program in a local school.

When she returned to Canada, she founded a charity called One Heart to Another to help the poor families in Africa. What I love about it is that once you donate, they will post a photo of the families that receive your donation, holding a placard with your name on it, and the items they bought with your contribution. That way, you can be certain that your money goes to the right people.

How Many Days Do You Need in Jinja?

Some people visit Jinja only as a day trip. If you’re going to do white-water rafting, some tour operators can arrange transportation to and from Kampala, so you don’t have to spend the night in Jinja.

However, if you plan to do more than that and enjoy Ugandan countryside at a more relaxed pace, I’d recommend spending at least 2 days.

I didn’t do any water activities in Jinja. But in general, if I take part in water sports or any strenuous outdoor activities, I’d prefer staying an extra day to recuperate and do my laundry.

Jinja Uganda

Where to Stay in Jinja

Budget

Bikeventures House Uganda – Located 300 m from the Coronation Park, this property provides free WiFi, luggage storage space, a washing machine, and bicycle rental for guests. From USD 10 per night for a bunk bed in a mixed dormitory room.

Jinja Base Camp – Features an outdoor pool, a restaurant, a sun terrace, and a bar. Barbecue facilities are available. Guests can also relax in the garden or shared lounge area. From USD 15 per night for a bed in a dormitory room, with breakfast.

Mid-Range

Royal Park Hotel – Located in Jinja town center, 400 m from the local market and 10 minutes to the supermarket. All units come with a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. From USD 45 per night for a Deluxe Single Room with balcony. Inclusive of breakfast.

Luxury

Nile Front Cottages – Located 1.8 mi from Source of the Nile, this property comes with a garden and a terrace with lake views. Nearby points of interest include Rugby Pitch and Jinja Golf and Tennis Club. From USD 105 for a Deluxe Room with breakfast.

Booking.com

Final Thoughts

Is Jinja worth visiting?

Yes, it was for me. I didn’t do any of the adventurous activities that Jinja is famous for (unless riding a boda boda counts), but still enjoyed my visit immensely.

Sometimes I visit a place not to see or do the typical tourist attractions they have, but just to observe and experience the local lifestyle. And that’s precisely what I did in Jinja. It is a good place for you to get a glimpse of the rural life in Uganda but is still developed enough to travel comfortably in.

In short, Jinja has a lot to offer — both in the water and on land — and definitely deserves 2 days out of your trip in Uganda. It also makes for a great stop if you’re on your way to Kenya.

Jinja Uganda | Ummi Goes Where?
At the Jinja Clock Tower
Girl with Donkey on grass. Lake in background
With a donkey I met at the lake.

Have you visited Jinja, Uganda? Share your experience in the comment section below.

You May Also Like:

Free Walking Tour in Kampala, Uganda

Things to do in Jinja Uganda

Two day itinerary in Jinja Uganda

Posted in Uganda

Related Posts

40 Comments

  1. Rawlins GLAm

    I would love to join the river cruise – there’s no croc right? Hehe.

    And that drunk tree made me laughed a bit – I remembered a similar tree in my kampung (now no longer there). It’s a tree where drunken husbands are to lepak until they are a bit sober before allowed into the house. While waiting, they will drink again as they are gathering with drunken friends – and end up staying there longer hahaha

    • ummi

      No croc sighting so far, Rawlins. 😉

      Funny how the husbands were not allowed in the house until sober. I wonder if it was the wives who actually went and cut down the tree! Haha.

  2. adianiez AIDA

    wah. Ummi. jauh perjalanan, bertambah la pengalaman. alhamdulillah.
    sungai Nil. memang terkenal seluruh dunia. tempat wajib utk singgah kan.
    dan aktiviti di situ, semua best best. aida tak brape minat yg lasak.
    setakat naik cruise tu, minat la 🙂

    • ummi

      Kita pun tak berapa minat sangat sukan lasak ni, Aida. Pernah la cuba, tapi cukup la sekali. Haha. Apa pun, kat Jinja ni ok je kalau setakat nak santai2. Sekitar tasik dan sungai tu best jalan2, buat picnic. 🙂

    • ummi

      Memang rare, Kak Bell. Haha. Saya travel ikut mood jugak. Ada masa memang semangat nak pergi semua tourist spots, ada masa nak rilek2 je lepak dgn kawan2 baru. 🙂

  3. Syamimi

    Wahhh.. bestnya dapat selami tempat orang. Jauh perjalanan, jauh ilmu dan pengalaman kan..
    Seronok tengok kengkawan yang dapat ke tempat orang dan cerita tempat menarik disana.

  4. Min

    You know what? U are so lucky sebab dpt pergi mengembara ke banyak negara..hurmm sejak pandemik ni tak tau la macam mana future kan..leh lg tak kita mengembara cam ni lagi huhu..rindu nak travel 😭

  5. Trea

    Such a great guide! Thank you. I was meant to go to Jinja last year but my trip was cancelled. I really hope to rebook, now more than ever!

    • ummi

      Aw, that’s such a bummer, Trea. Having had several of my trips canceled due to the pandemic, I certainly can relate. Hope you’ll get to go to Jinja soon. 🙂

  6. Annelies De Gelas

    Wauw, I’ve never been to Uganda and this post makes me really curious about all the things to discover over there! It was probably great to have a local like Roger guiding you through his town! 🙂

    • ummi

      Yes, Annelies. It was definitely great having Rogers to show me around, so that I was able to see Jinja from a local’s point of view. But Jinja is still quite safe and easy to travel in even if you’re on your own. 🙂

  7. Petsitter Barbara

    I can’t believe I didn’t know Jinja was the source of the Nile. It seems like a Jeopardy fun fact that everyone should know! I love the car engine BBQ and I want a SUP Hammock of my own. I never thought Uganda would make it onto my International Petsitting Bucket List, but now it has – thanks!

    • ummi

      Glad to know, Barbara! Jinja is the source of the White Nile, which is one of the main tributaries of the Nile River. The other one — the Blue Nile — originates in Ethiopia. 😉

  8. Cecilia

    A SUP Hammock?! I have never heard of such a thing but I am all for it. Honestly I am up for almost everything you listed on this Uganda travel itinerary. I was supposed to go to Uganda during grad school, but unfortunately the trip got cancelled. Would still love to go some day!

    • ummi

      Haha, tu la. Agaknya dulu ramai orang lepak minum2 bawah pokok tu, then tinggalkan je botol2. Lama2 diorang decide utk buat decoration je. Agaknya la. 😀

  9. Sis Lin

    Kalau Sis perhatikan tempatnya bandsri dia nampak sibuk yaa Ummi.. dan berdebu yaa? Ala-ala macam di India pulak sekali tengok.. senang ke cari makan kat sana Ummi?

    • ummi

      Sini berdebu tapi lagi bersih daripada India, sis. Makanan yg biasa kat sini ialah daging lembu. Tapi sayur-sayuran pun banyak juga, jadi untuk yg vegetarian dsb, takde masalah.

  10. Kitkat Nelfei

    Wow! Interesting place to explore ya! Never heard about it until I read this entry. Source of Nile ya.. so cool 🙂 hopefully will have a chance to visit this place in the future..

    • ummi

      Ya, Ayu. Bagi saya, memang negara2 di Afrika ni sangat menarik, sebab saya pun belum pernah sampai sebelum ni dan jarang tengok orang lain pergi, jadi ada macam2 perkara baru boleh belajar. 🙂

  11. Josy A

    I love how quirky some of these things are – like the car-b-que and the SUP hammock!

    Jinja looks like a great fun area to explore. I like the way you travelled, just let it flow and explore in a fun way.

    • ummi

      Thanks, Josy. It all depends on my current mood. There are times when I feel like going to all the tourist attractions and crossing things off my list, and there are times when I just want to sit back and let things take their own course. 🙂

  12. Lekha C

    Wow Jinja sounds so exciting! Who knew it was the source of the Nile river. I would love to visit the drink tree and try the SUP hammock.

    • ummi

      I hope you will, Lekha. If I go again, I’d love to do the SUP hammock as well. It would be so relaxing, I’m sure, especially with the accompanying bar 😉

Leave a Reply to Bella Jamal Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *