Entebbe offers a relaxed stop-over alternative to Kampala if you're flying into or out of Uganda, as the air is clean, the streets are safe to walk, and the old colonial gardens and parks with the lake in the background make for a serene atmosphere. Despite its quaint exterior, you may encounter the President of Uganda or some beautiful wildlife at any turn—if you're not in a rush to the capital, it's worth a stay.
Entebbe is perhaps most famous for an Israeli commando raid on 4 July 1976, when over one hundred mainly Jewish hostages held on a hijacked Air France plane were rescued. The rescue was complicated by the fact that Uganda's president at the time, Idi Amin, was supporting the hijackers. Over 40 Ugandan troops were killed by the Israelis during the rescue.
, is the official residence of the President of Uganda. It has a nice hilltop view of Lake Victoria, the second largest body of fresh water in the world after Lake Baikal. Like Addis Ababa, Entebbe grew up in a rather haphazard way (for example, there is a meteorological college right on the corner of the long ceremonial entrance drive of the President) and the centre of things is moving closer to the airport but lots of banks, a supermarket and the public hospital are all just a left turn away when leaving State House.
ClimateFor a town pretty well slap bang on the equator, Entebbe is a few degrees cooler than you might expect because of its elevation. Instead of the day-time temperatures hovering around 32°C as residents of Guayaquil, Cayenne, Singapore or Pontianak, Indonesia might expect, maximums are usually closer to 26°C or 27°C. However, humidity is consistently high.
As of April 2017 there are flights from Addis Ababa, Juba and Kigali with Ethiopian airlines, from Cairo with Egyptair, from Dubai with Emirates, from Doha with Qatar Airways, from Istanbul with Turkish airlines, from Johannesburg with South African Airways, from Kigali, Juba and Nairobi with Rwandair , from Dar es Salaam with Precision Air, from Dubai with Flydubai, from Brussels with Brussels Airlines, from Amsterdam with KLM. Kenya Airways flies in four times a day from Nairobi. Fly-Sax airlines has flights from Nairobi. South Supreme Airlines has flights from Juba. Jambojet fles twice a day from Nairobi.
The airport looks in need of renovation, with the aerobridges looking rather unused, and walking to your plane wherever it happens to be on the tarmac seems the usual way to embark and disembark. There is a collection of ATMs in the building, as well as a café or two, and a small collection of souvenirs. The Karibuni lounge is open to a selection of club members, Star Alliance Gold frequent flyer members, and can also be accessed for a fee. It has decent coffee and drinks, internet terminals, and a pool table.
Taxis are abundant in the parking lot outside the terminal. Security keeps all vehicles away from the terminal proper, so when departing you have to walk from the parking lot up the upper roadway to departures. Officially you can't enter the terminal from ground level (arrivals). However, if you ask the guard nicely he will let you use the single lift rather than hump your baggage up the concrete external stairs. Taxis can't drop you at departures. There are numerous porters to help you with this trek.
By roadTo get to Entebbe from the rest of Uganda will usually involve passing through Kampala. Small minibuses ("taxis" in Ugandan English or Matatus in Swahili) go to Entebbe from Kampala every 30 minutes or so. The fare is USh 3,500 but, for foreigners, sometimes the driver will ask for USh 7,000. The journey takes 45 minutes to 1 hour, much quicker when you avoid Kampala's chaotic rush hours. You can take the minibus in the minibus station near to the Kampala central market, with signs for every destination served. You can get off wherever you want en route, but if you ride to the bitter end, your journey will terminate at the in Entebbe.
To and from the airportA special-hire taxi from the Entebbe airport to Entebbe town cost USh 15,000, or you can walk to the airport gate 500 m
and get a Boda-boda motorbike taxi to Entebbe town for USh 5000.
There are three types of public transport: boda-bodas, matatu, and special hires.
Boda-bodas are extremely dangerous as their riders will do whatever it takes to get you to your destination quickly. Expect to dart in front of and against traffic and even through crowds of pedestrians when necessary. Boda-boda accidents account for most of the hospital visits and traffic fatalities in Entebbe; you have been warned!
Boda-bodas got their name from the bicycle taxis that operated at some of the busy border crossing points. Buses had to discharge their passengers at the exit border control, who then had to walk to the entry border control. The distance across no man's land at some borders can be considerable. Hence the bicycle taxis would cry "boda-boda" (a corruption of the English "border to border") to the weary travellers. These bicycle taxis can still be found in most smaller Ugandan towns; however, in Entebbe, they have been replaced by motorcycles.
As boda-boda collisions are one of the most common medical concerns in Uganda, hiring a taxi from a trusted source (decent hotel, friend, or colleague recommendation) may be wiser.
By matatuMatatus are a series of licensed minibus taxis that follow relatively pre-set routes all over town (and many other parts of the country). It might be a bit confusing in the beginning how to use the matatus to efficiently get where you want to go, but it's really not so difficult.
Their routes usually go between the matutu park at the back of the 7Seasons Hotel and Kampala (or, more rarely, some suburb of Entebbe).
Matatus will stand in the park until they are full, something that normally takes less than 15 minutes, but can take over half an hour (or even over one hour late at night or on Sundays). Matatus that leave the area around the park are hence full, which makes it difficult to hop on a matatu at other places in the town centre. Unless you're very lucky, you'll have to go to where the matatus start in order to leave the town centre.
Each matatu has a driver and a conductor who opens the sliding door, takes fares and yells the destination. Don't be frightened if you can't understand what they're saying. Ask one of them for your destination and you'll be told yes or no. When you get in, expect to be squeezed. Each vehicle is licensed to carry 14 people, but they will pack in as many as will fit (and their belongings). If you don't like this, it's a good idea to sit in the back of the vehicle, since usually the squeezing is limited to the first 2 rows or, alternatively, pay double for the whole of the front seat next to the driver. Once the matatu starts moving people can get off at any time. When you reach your destination, tell your conductor "Stage" and they will stop the van.
Whenever a matatu has empty space the driver will go slowly and honk repeatedly. If you want to get on, just make some gesture and it will slow further down and shout out the destination, just shout your destination as response and they will pick you up if it's along the way. There are often also a number of further staging points along the way where the driver will again stop and wait until they can fill the vehicle. This can take a few seconds or several minutes; just be patient. In some cases drivers won't take you if you only go relatively short distances, since that will mean they'll risk losing money if they can't fill your place quickly once you're dropped. You pay the conductor when you exit, although some people give the conductor money while the vehicle is moving so that he can make change ahead of time. The normal fare is UGX3,500 per person for a trip all the way into Kampala (October 2015).
Going with a matatu is generally cheap, safe, slow and nice. Ugandans are often happy to start up a conversation or help you out, and if the conductor tries to overcharge you or make you take an inefficient route, passengers are likely to point that out to you and scold him. People also complain if a driver takes too long to wait for passengers or drives recklessly and will even collectively quit the matatu in protest if a driver drives too bad.
By special hireIf you aren't up for the thrill of the bodas and don't have time for a matatu, then saloon car taxis - also called special hires - are readily available near the matatu park. A very few taxis have meters, but most have not. Be sure to agree on the fare before you get in the car or you may be in for a nasty shock. Don't be afraid to haggle either; most destinations can be reached for USh 10,000 or 15,000.
phone: +256 414 320 520If you don't have a safari planned, this might be your opportunity to catch a glimpse of Africa's wildlife. It's no Singapore Zoo but, unlike many third world offerings, this is not a depressing place. There are good play facilities for kids and the aviaries are especially interesting with weaver birds, shoebills and fish eagles. There's a medium-size collection of wildlife saved from captivity, including lions, rhinos, zebras, crocodiles, giraffes, hyenas, chimpanzee and others. All animals (apart from the snakes and crocodiles) are held in large, natural-like areas that gives a nice semi-authentic feeling. The trees and lianas are magnificent and you can understand why various 'Tarzan-type" movies were filmed here. Admission for foreign adults/children is US$15/10; Uganda resident foreigners USh 20,000/10,000; Ugandans USh 10,000/5,000 and you end up with 1.5-2 hours of good-old fun. Tip: opens daily at 08:30 and you may want to come early before the animals go hiding in the shade from the midday's sun.
There is also accommodation inside the centre so you could stay the night in a Banda (en suite circular hut with a thatched roof & fly-screened windows) next door to the (very quiet) giraffes, elands and impala for US$40/60 single/double or stay in some serviced flats next to noisier animals for US$50/70 single/double. There is also dormitory accommodation available for USh 30,000 and camping is even cheaper.
Entebbe Botanical Gardensaddress: Berkeley RdThe gardens are not spectacular but birdwatchers and botanist will find it interesting. The gardens host stands of large trees in a park like setting, a supposed filming site of a "Tarzan" movie, a troop of vervet and colobus monkeys, along with many kinds of birds.
The old airport terminalNowadays air passengers use a newer terminal, but the old terminal where the Israeli military rescued flight passengers that hijackers held hostage in 1976 is still there. You can reportedly see bullet holes in the wall and there is a commemorative plaque.
Lake VictoriaSurrounding the town on three sides, Africa's largest lake is hard to miss. Looking south, you can see the Southern Hemisphere as the Equator is just a few kilometres south of Entebbe.
- Boat trips on Lake Victoria. These include fishing trips and a visit to see the chimpanzees on Ngamba island. Companies offering such trips include Wild Frontiers.
Aero BeachEntebbe's beach (Aero Beach) also features some plane wrecks that depending on your preferences may be plain ugly or interesting to explore.
Entebbe Golf ClubPlay golf at the local 18-hole golf course.
Barclays Bank branchFairly reliable ATM for AmEx, Diners Club, Cirrus, JCB, Maestro, MasterCard, UnionPay, Visa has its own little room open 24/7 for the nervous, but this is usually the very busiest part of Entebbe at all hours and the street lighting stays on all night. Also has an ATM at Entebbe airport. Barclays Bank as a ATM fee for overseas cards.
CobblersThis tiny godown or sari-sari type kiosk not only repairs suitcases, zips, footwear and other leather goods but also will attempt to rescue the rollers on your case. Honest guy but his English may take some struggling - never mind, there are lots of bystanders glad to help. Next door but one is a photographic studio to stock up on those required passport size photos for visas, etc.
Pearl SupermarketSupermarket on the ground floor with a well stocked hardware and sundries emporium on the first floor.
Stanbic BankHas a no fee Visa/MasterCard ATM. Also has an ATM at Entebbe airport.
Victoria Shopping Mallphone: +256 791 252 875address: Berkeley RdAir conditioning is not really necessary for most folks in this part of Uganda and there are now some tenants in this mall which opened in January 2014 that include fashion shops, an opticians, 3 banks, Western Union agents, a Le P'tit Quebec offering 12 types of panini for USh 15,000 and YummyYoghurt selling 100 g of frozen yoghurt for USh 5,500. There is a KFC, clean toilets, and a large Shoprite South African owned Hypermarket.
Metropolitan Forex Bureauphone: +256 716 226 144address: In the Victoria Mall
Ecobankaddress: 16 Portal RoadHas a Mastercard/Visa card ATM.
Imperial Malladdress: lugara Aveune
4 Pointsaddress: Kampala RdGreat Indian food, good atmosphere, cheap beer. Has a bar with a pool table, and expats are welcome. Also does "Chinese" dishes - but not as the nationals of most countries would know them. There's a dance floor and the attached bakery has scrumptious strawberry sorbet imported from Kenya. Attentive and rapid service and candles on the tables after dark. Open to the mosquitoes throughout.
phone: +256 773 420 569address: 1 Station RdMost towns have somewhere to get a pizza. In Entebbe, the owner of the authentic pizzeria is from Bologna. Most of the comfy and romantic seating is outdoors - so watch the weather. There's also an inside coffee shop and they show interesting movies every Friday night and there are Salsa lessons Tuesdays. Full English Breakfast including Oyster mushrooms USh 17,000, Spanish Omelette USh 10,000, two pancakes (either lemon and sugar or maple syrup or Nutella) USh 8,000. Pizzas and authentic Italian pasta dishes from USh 12,000. Daily specials include a free drink of your choice (water, carbonated, or beer).
There is also a Ugandan arts and crafts shop with an extensive range adjacent.
Arthur's Caféaddress: Kampala Road (Portal Rd)Wood fired, clay oven pizza. Indoor and outdoor seating. Slot machines and a pool table.
Goretti's Pizzaaddress: Lake VictoriaLovely little coconut grove right on a golden sand, lakeside beach. Service is very slow, so plan on having a few drinks. Beautiful scenery, sand in your toes kind of place. Don't go around dusk unless you don't mind being eaten while you eat.
Phaze 3Great deck overlooking the lake. Large enclosed restaurant with an extensive assortment of western and Indian foods. Arguably Entebbe's best food. Try the daily pot pie. Great coffee!
Thammaphon Thai Restaurantphone: +256 784 455 999address: 2a Manyago RdLooks like a bit of a dump but the food is authentically good.
- Casual diners can also book at the Boma; see below
4 Turkeys Pubaddress: Kampala RdHeineken & Guinness served and has a half sized billiard table. Also serves typical British pub grub.
Red Rooster Sports BarFormerly known as the Oasis. Popular with UN staff and has both three pool tables and a watchtower in one corner with armed guard.
- See also listing for 4 Points above.
- Dormitory accommodation & camping is also available at "the Zoo" See the listing for the Uganda Wildlife Educational Centre above
phone: +256 414 320 432address: 33/35 Church RdFree Wi-Fi. Large clean garden, and has its own standby generator for use during the frequent power outages. Less than 6 km from the Entebbe airport.
Entebbe Gateway Innphone: +256 414 691 701address: Entebbe Airport RdThis must be one of the very few lodgings where the rooms are much nicer than the rather dilapidated entrance and reception. They're tiled, clean and all en suite but only have mosquito nets over the beds as opposed to across the windows. Satellite TV in the room and Wi-Fi in the reception area is included in the tariff. Rather noisy and insecure since it's behind the Pearl Supermarket.
phone: +256 414 321 212address: 15 Mugula RdLarge and well-kept walled gardens in a quiet residential part of town make this a peaceful and secure budget option. En suite: single US$40, double/twin US$50, family US$70; shared ablutions: single US$20, double US$25; dorm: 4 bedded US$12 pp, 6 bedded US$8 pp; camping: US$5-8 pp. Free Wi-Fi & satellite TV.
Shade Guest Housephone: +256 414 321 715address: 2 Kiwafu CloseGrungy, dilapidated, single storey courtyard reminiscent of a tiny stableyard just opposite the Matatu (minibus) station so noisy and dusty. Rooms are small, depressing and fly-blown with shared ablutions that are not quite as bad as the general ambience might lead you to expect. No security whatever, but Entebbe is a relatively honest place so this might not worry you as much as if it were in Kampala. Perhaps the most unusual feature is their pricing structure: a room for two people with 2 twin (beds costs USh 25,000 while one double bed costs USh 27,000. The more hygienically sensitive may prefer to camp in one of the more leafy suburban establishments for a few thousand shillings less.
phone: +256 700 951 315address: 7 Mugula RdYou'll probably think you're at the wrong place when you arrive and see the red tiled roof, immaculately shaved lawn and smartly clipped box hedge. Once you go inside, it's clear that this place doesn't see too many big-spenders. The reinforced concrete construction with internal courtyard keeps the public areas cool but make sure there is a fan in your rather dilapidated but not too unsanitary room. Like most tourist offerings in Entebbe, there's a 24/7 armed guard and a high wall. There is a 4.6kW standby generator. Two channels of centrally-selected satellite TV are available in most of the rooms and almost all have an en suite shower, wash hand basin and WC. Make sure you ask for a mosquito net since most of the room windows are not screened. Intermittent Wi-Fi via Orange cellular ISP and a meagre breakfast is included in their tariff. The 8 bunk dormitory on the first floor is a light and airy room with windows (without net screening) opening on to a mature shade tree. The large bathroom for this dorm actually has a hip bath and hot water and each bunk has individual mosquito nets. Popular with those few UN staff that have to pay for their own accommodation. Main business is budget safaris. Room tip: Room 7 on the second floor is larger and quieter than most, is fairly effectively mosquito screened (May 2014) and has views from 2 windows in two walls set at right angles. Camping US$4/5 Dorm $17.
phone: +256 702 358 534address: 17 Mile Entebbe RoadFree Wi-Fi, free airport transfer, free breakfast.
Zebra Backpackers Hostel.address: Bishop Dunstan Nsubuga RoadSix-bed dorm. Single/double rooms with shared bathroom. Has a garden.
City Park Motelphone: +256703200374address: Portal Road plot 1412-bed room guest wing, clean rooms with a satelite TV, all rooms have private shower and toilet.
7Seasons Hotelphone: +256 312 516 9074-storey ferro-concrete hotel has 37 Queen-bedded rooms, 5 twin-bedded rooms & 1 family room being renovated. All rooms have individual air-conditioning and well screened sliding windows. Soft top, orthopaedic mattresses are particularly good quality and comfortable. Queen-bedded rooms have hip baths, wash hand basins and WC; the twin-bedded rooms are slightly larger and the bath is swapped out for a modern shower cubicle. Free Wi-Fi & satellite TV with 4 channels available including CCTV4 and Al Jazeera.
Bethany Housephone: +256 772 438 182address: 30A Lugard AveFounded as a retreat centre and hygienic, tranquil base for visiting Roman Catholic clergy and missionaries in 2007, Theresa keeps everything spotless and homely. Rooms are in villas separate from the main house at the bottom of the well-kept garden and have a double bed and a single bed, both with mosquito nets, although all the windows are also properly screened. Shower room has a flush WC and is en suite. The ceilings are high and have a fan. There is also a tiny food preparation area with running water and a sink but no fridge or cooking facilities in one corner of the room. If you e-mail, a reliable meet and greet service can be arranged from the airport for US$10. The library in the main house has an interesting selection of tomes, not all of them ecclesiastical, but there is no internet; Theresa does usually answer emails promptly, though.
phone: +256 772 586 710address: Plot 16, Gowers Rd (now re-named to Julia Sebutinde Road)Ten Queen-bedded rooms in the family compound of retired local civil servants means that you are assured of all the local insider tips. Peace of mind comes from knowing that you are looked after by the family's personal household. Bedrooms and shower rooms are tiled and comfortably furnished; mosquito netting is unusually comprehensive. There is a relaxing garden with mango, orange, paw-paw, guava, avocado and tangerine trees and the pineapple served at your breakfast will probably have only had to travel 20 m. The view from both the main house and the front garden over the lush suburban gardens of Bugonga as the sun sets over Lake Victoria makes a fine coda to your day. Free Wi-Fi. Credit cards not accepted. Airport meet and greet service is US$10.
Rosemary Courtsphone: +256 414 321 400address: 101 Circular RoadOpened in Jan 2014 with 6 tastefully and comprehensively furnished double rooms and 2 family rooms each with modern fitted kitchen and air-con. 25m swimming pool with an attractive, rainbow opalescent tiled bottom will open in Jul 2014. Authentic and hygienic fruit juices and smoothies in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Kampala trained chef specializes in Italian cuisine and there is an intimate, 30 cover restaurant. Free Wi-Fi (provided by a cellular link, so rather intermittent like most of Uganda). Lush garden has mature shade trees and relatively quick beverage and cake service for Uganda. Fully tiled and luxuriously equipped en suite doubles with bathtub from US$89 (single occupancy US$79) including à la carte cooked breakfast, with kitchenette US$119.
phone: +256 414 323 502address: 25 Church Road, BugongaRelatively clean single-storey buildings in a tranquil setting with 5 rooms in the main building and another 4 in outbuildings, some with their own patio. All rooms have en suite showers, wash hand basins & WCs but maintenance is haphazard and most shower room windows are unscreened allowing mosquitoes to enter via the ill fitting adjoining door to the bedroom. A meagre breakfast and intermittent Wi-Fi is included in their tariffs. Centrally controlled satellite TV with two channels available at any one time from a larger selection. Airport transfer on arrival or leaving free of charge one way. Otherwise, it's arranged for US$10 per room. If you stay more than one night, airport transfer's free both ways. Negotiate rates for longer stays.
phone: +256 772 467 929address: Julia Ssebutinde RdColonial homestead set in extensive and lush gardens with abundant bird life, this boutique hotel has attentive, friendly and helpful staff looking after its 16 rooms. There is a large and comfortable guest lounge and an adjoining games room with guest computers and scanner. Printing a boarding pass is free - other printing & photocopying for USh 500 per page. All bedrooms & ablutions are effectively fly-screened and have digital safe, TV with 7 individually controlled satellite channels incl Al Jazeera, BBC World News, CNN, Fox & M-NET movie channels, desk & chair and an outside patio well equipped with electrical outlets. Rooms 1 & 2 have hip baths. There is both a standby generator & lavish provision of lead acid, battery-backed inverters. Each accommodation building has solar powered water heating with a good head of water. Extraction fans are wind powered and mineral water is available from water coolers and jugs in each bedroom. Bird tables and baths are well maintained. The children's sandpit has shade umbrella, swings, slides, toys, toy-car & a pirate castle for climbing. All interior areas, bedrooms, restaurants and the pool area are strictly smoke-free. Reliable and fast Wi-Fi provisioned by Infocom UG.
There is an intimate restaurant adjacent to the sparkling, small pool where breakfast is served 6AM-10AM, lunch from noon & dinner 6PM-10PM but there is room service 24/7. Pan-fried tilapia was USh 28,000 (May 2014) and served with some of the nicest boiled potatoes in Uganda (as might be expected from an Irish-owned establishment), three different vegetables and fragrant, rosemary bread. Lemon meringue pie with home-made ice cream was USh X15,000. There is a separate patio restaurant adjacent to the reception area for non-house guests to be entertained and served.
phone: +256 414 311 400A large hotel with 229 rooms on land allegedly originally grabbed from the Botanical Gardens by someone with political clout; perhaps appropriately, spectacularly ugly and menacing looking marabou storks up to 5 feet tall and with wingspans of more than 10 feet across now regularly prowl this hotel's car park. Mainly used for conferences and functions and there are many large meeting rooms dotted around the grounds. Can get rather depressing when no meetings are in progress as it is very quiet and the service somewhat lacking. The "beach" is very small and swimming is forbidden but, in compensation, there is an enormous swimming pool. Bill Clinton stayed here and you can stay in his suite for a nightly rate of US$600 according to the web site. Ordinary rooms are of a good three-star standard but you may have to call maintenance once or twice.
Imperial Resort Beach HotelYou'll either loathe or love this massive and architecturally distinctive building very different in scale and style to the other buildings in Entebbe. The wavey frontage and electric blue cladding leave few people neutral. Inside, there is a large atrium with glass fronted lifts at each end. Like most of Uganda, service is slow, and rather hit and miss. Its 181 rooms spread over four floors are large and furnished in an Arab potentate style with good views over Lake Victoria and the extensive grounds but have poorly functioning, central air-conditioning. If you open the windows that have no screens to cool off, the lakeside location means your room will then quickly become an entomologist's delight after dark.
Business people will appreciate the Ziba conference centre with its 1000 seat capacity equipped with six hi-tech screens descending from every corner of the ceiling, with a follow-on camera and a cordless digital sound system remotely controlled. There's a state-of-the-art simultaneous translation system. In addition to the Ziba are nine other conference halls. There's also an amphitheatre.
However, first impressions count and the loose guard rail in the lift and dribbling shower in the changing rooms rather set the tone. Try your haggling skills and you may end up with a bargain in this often empty hotel.
- Uganda's capital Kampala is 35 km to the north, and can be reached by bus, taxi or shared taxi. Entebbe is located on a peninsula with the largest road going up to Kampala, and as mentioned above overland travel to anywhere will usually involve going to Kampala first.
- The island of Buggala in Lake Victoria is a popular weekend beach destination for locals. There's a daily ferry from , about 4 km northwest of central Entebbe.