6 Tips for a Perfect Road Trip in East Africa
There’s no question about it; road trips are awesome. Regardless of what country you’re driving in, so if you’re preparing for a road trip in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya or Tanzania for the first time, there are certain things that you should be aware of. Much as road trips are fun, the first one can, however, be challenging and stressful. Therefore a 4×4 car is highly recommended if you are to drive safely on East Africa’s roads through Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi.
When you’re preparing a road trip, make sure you account for these tips so you can get to your destination safely and comfortably. A successful road trip in East Africa will stay with you for life. It’s up to you to choose where to go, when to go, what to do and what kind of budget you’ll have. Here are our top tips for driving in East Africa; we hope that these ideas will help you to stay positive while getting ready for a road trip for that rather long adventurous journey!
- Fill Up As Much As Possible
I’ve heard so many stories from Ugandans and tourists alike they waited until their tank was almost empty before looking for a petrol station. A lot of these stories end with people making it just in time, but there are the few that got stuck on the side of the road. While some roads will frequently have petrol stations, you’re also going to be on roads where you won’t see one for hours most especially in the rural areas, so it’s better to fill your tank before living major east African towns because you will never know where to find your next gas station. Additionally, deep in villages, fuel is very expensive and of very poor quality which can spoil your car engine! Therefore, try as much as you can to fill your tank from credible gas stations for a perfect road trip in East Africa. You’re advised not to allow your gauge to go below a half tank.
- Choose the Right Car
If you can afford it, a high clearance vehicle is your best option for East Africa countries. A 4WD is highly recommended for the roads in East Africa especially in National parks such as Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda, Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, Masai mara Kenya and many others. The roads in the parks are impassable in the rainy season without a 4×4 vehicle. Therefore the vehicle must also be well serviced and ready to take you off the beaten track.
However, in some parts, the road conditions have improved a lot over the last couple of years. Though in some areas and most of the interesting places to visit around East Africa require a strong 4 wheel drive car due to the nature of the roads in the area. 1 – 2 spare wheels are recommended and knowledge to fix a puncture will be helpful.
- Don’t Always Rely on Google Maps for directions
For the most part, Google Maps will get you where you need to go. However, East Africa doesn’t have cell phone signal across the whole of its countries. GPS is very important. You can come with one from your home country, loaded with East Africa maps, or you can rent one from the car rental company. It will help you with road directions and speed limits. Road Maps are also very important. Make sure you get updated travel road maps. These are sometimes offered with the car, or you can buy from shopping malls and Bookshops.
- Avoid Driving at Night
Night drives are not recommended in East Africa for a number of reasons, for instance, there are many long-distance buses and heavy trucks on highways driving a terrible speed! Additionally, you also won’t be able to see potholes and getting a puncture at mid-night is not fun at all. Some countries in East Africa like Uganda and Burundi have no street lights on the highways as well as fluorescent line-markings, thus you can hardly drive with only headlamps. Some highways are also not safe at night, there are robbers.
- Pack the Essentials
When preparing for a perfect road trip, don’t forget to pack some food staffs and drinks, this will help you save some money and stay within the budget. There are also many other items that will be essential. Pack a torch or flashlight, batteries, chargers and toilet paper. Don’t forget about a tent or sleeping bags, water bottles, a small stove and other items that you need in your everyday life. Plus, don’t forget your travel documents like passport or nation ID, a driver’s license, and any other important paper in a waterproof bag especially if your road will involve crossing borders. Imagine a trip around East Africa, from Uganda to Rwanda, then Burundi into Tanzania and ending up in Kenya; fun right.
- Keep Some Solid Money
You may need to refuel your car or grab a snack for yourself. Avoid credit cards. They are hardly used outside the cities. Carry solid cash. An alternative would be to carry your exchange on mobile-money systems. The mobile money centres in the East African countries are numerous and you can always withdraw from an agent or pay directly using your mobile phone. Foodstuffs in rural areas are very affordable too. Your money can save you lots of grocery shopping. This one of the most vital tips for a perfect trip. Never forget about it when you are preparing for a road trip to East-Africa.
Last but not least, if your self-drive safari in Rwanda or Uganda involves gorilla tracking experience, it is very important that you reserve your gorilla permit in advance because, gorilla permits are on very high demand throughout the year, and the number available per day is very limited. Don’t miss this lifetime adventure experience while of a road trip through East-Africa! Book your gorilla permit in advance for your convenient dates before they are sold out. To most travellers, a safari in Africa is incomplete without gorilla tracking in Uganda or Rwanda or Congo!