Several bus companies ply this popular route between Kigali and Kampala. The choices are Jaguar, Ontracom, Horizon and Kampala Coach. The journey is nine hours including the border stop. Take note that time Uganda is one hour ahead of Rwanda. Buy your tickets the day before if you want to choose a good seat and try to arrive at least 20 minutes before departure. You can choose day or night buses but keep in mind that this part of the world is beautiful and watching the countryside go by is a nice distraction.
Kigali to Kampala
All of the buses heading for Kampala leave Kigali from the area of town known as Nyabugogo. This are is down the hill from the UTC Centre and a trip there on a moto should cost you about 500 Rwf if you bargain hard. Tell your moto driver which company you’re travelling with and he’ll take you to their office. Jaguar, Ontracom, and Horizon are all in the same spot but Kampala Coach is down the road a little. People will ask to help you but nobody is too pushy and if you look like you know what you’re doing they’ll just let you get on with it. Alternatively, there are lots of people around to help you if you need it. Transportation in Kampala is a lot less organised than in Kigali so keep your wits about you!
Kampala to Kigali
Buses leave Kampala from their respective stations that are scattered around the city centre. If you’re planning any night journeys leaving from Old Kampala Bus Station buy your ticket beforehand. The Old bus station is a scary and unsafe place at night. If you haven’t bought your ticket beforehand you’ll find yourself surrounded by bus touts who are aggressive and very very pushy! When I did it there were four us (two guys and two girls) and they separated us and it got really frightening. Guys that we thought were luggage porters, took our bags and threw them on a bus that we had no idea where it was going, we had to fight to get our gear back, not a pleasant experience at all. Taking a day bus is probably a good idea if your bus is due to leave from this station.
Price: Rwf 6,000 (Rwf 8,000 VIP) or 25,000 Sh VIP
Kigali Departures: 5:30am, 9am (VIP), 5:30pm
Kampala Departures: 9am (VIP)
Jaguar has two types of buses, VIP and regular. Their VIP buses are actually surprisingly comfortable and spacious… providing the person in front of you refrains from putting their seat back the whole way. The VIP bus has two rows of two seats each whereas the alternative has one row of two and another of three which not only makes things a lot more cramped, it also means more passengers and more time spent on pee breaks and at the border. The VIP version is only 2000 Rwf more which isn’t much to pay for a bit of added comfort. Buying tickets at the Jaguar office is easy on both ends. If you want to choose a good seat then buy your ticket the day before. If you’re planning to stay at Backpackers then Jaguar is a great choice as the office is only a short taxi ride or a longish walk down the road.
Price: Rwf 6,000
Kigali Departures: 5:30am, 6am, 8am
These buses look old and scary. Fine for a short trip, sure enough, but torture for a nine hour journey.
Price: Rwf 6,000
Kigali Departures: 5:30am, 11:30am, 5:30pm, 6pm
Price: Rwf 6,000
Everyone on the bus files off, gets a stamp from a window on the Rwandan side, wanders across the border, heads for the immigration office on the left just across the border, fills in the immigration form, pays $50 if they need a visa, gets a stamp and that’s all there is to it. The whole process takes about 45 minutes. Your bag will be taken out from under the bus and put on the ground for customs people to inspect so after you get your stamp, head back to the bus to guard over your things. Keep your passport and ticket handy as you’ll have to show them to get back on the bus.
The border crossing is pretty straightforward, as long as you don’t make the same mistake an Australian friend of mine made and not get your visa in advance. Citizens of many countries can enter Rwanda visa-free with no charge and no hassles but others will need a visa and you need to apply beforehand. My friend was not aware of this tidbit of information and failed to buy the $60 visa in advance online which led to some crying at the border and eventually a sympathetic border guard guy who let her in. She was only given 30 days instead of the standard 90 days and didn’t realise it and also overstayed and had hassles on the way out. After paying a $35 flat rate fee for overstaying, the dramas of Rwandan visas were behind her.
I’d heard bad things about the road on the Ugandan side but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. It’s paved most of the way and, sure, there are some potholes but they’re nothing when compared to the potholes you’ll see in the streets of Kampala. The roads on the Rwandan side are winding and I actually started to
When you’re leaving Rwanda for Uganda you’ll see a money changing bureau thing to the right just before the toilets, still on the Rwandan side of the border. Do not change money here! I foolishly changed a whole $100 for a rate that was almost 300 shillings less than what I could have gotten almost anywhere else. They were paying 2000 per US$ and after a short stroll across the border, the touts were offering up almost 2300.
Of course, changing money with random dudes hanging out in no man’s land between borders brings with it it’s own risks. The area is not unsafe by any stretch of the imagination, just be sure to take and count the money coming to you before you give your money to them. I haven’t heard of any ripoffs here but taking precautions never hurts.
There are toilets at the border which is also the first stop. The 300 Rwf toilets on the Ugandan side are a lot more scary looking than the ones on the Rwandan side. There’s a stop at the side of the road for people to cop a squat in the bushes and another stop closer to Kampala at a petrol station with some basic snacks, only mildly scary toilets and even a place to wash your hands.