Crossing Kampala to Kigali

Crossing Kampala to Kigali

Crossing Kampala, Uganda to Kigali, Rwanda

Ticket Fee: 60,000 Ugandan Shillings for a VIP seat (highly recommended)
Travel Time: Around 13 hrs. depending on traffic and number of people in line in the passport control
Travel Schedule: I took the 7:30 pm bus because I prefer overnight bus trips.
Border to cross: Katuna border
Road Profile: I was sleeping uninterrupted most of the time so I can conclude that the road must be generally comfortable
Bus operator used: Modern Coast
Major Requirements: No visa required for Philippine passport holders but some documents need to be presented. Alternatively, East Africa tourist visa may also be applied online prior to arrival. See more details below.

1) It is best to book your ticket in advance to guarantee your seats at least a day or two before. To book, I went to Modern Coast terminal myself but I believe you can also book and pay online, though the payment system is not always reliable. The journey takes around 13 hrs. or more depending on traffic and passport control processing time. I recommend taking the night trip because buses are not air-conditioned and night tight time would have a more comfortable breeze. Nigh travels will also save you a night of accommodation, plus you get to wake up in a new place the next day. There’s no sleeping cabins but the VIP seat is spacious and comfortable enough to recline in.

Ticket cost as of February 2017: Around 45,000 Ugandan Shillings for a regular seat but price ticket varies by bus operators

2) The Modern Coast terminal where the bus leaves from Kampala is at Namirembe road heading to Rubaga Road at Kobil Petrol Station just before Sojovalo hotel, close to the main town. I took a boda-boda from Acacia Mall to the station and paid 5,000 Ugandan shillings.

At Modern Coast bus terminal in Namirembe road, Kampala Uganda

3) At around 2am, the bus stopped at the Ugandan border in Katuna. Get off the bus along with everyone else and fall in line at the Immigration Control of Uganda. They will just stamp out your passport and you’re off the hook.

One advantage of booking a VIP seat is that you get to get off first and fall in line ahead of the others because the VIP seats are situated close to the exit door of the bus.

How regular seats look like. I booked for a VIP seat right in front with no one next to me

 

4) At the exit, walk towards Rwanda Immigration side. As it is in the middle of the night with no lamp posts around, everything around is dark, if not pitch black as it had been raining. It was quite muddy so I was using my phone’s flashlight to make sure I don’t step on a messy puddle. I also tailed behind two guys that I recognized were from the same bus to make things appear less frightening.

Queue in the passport control of Rwanda Immigration

5) There was a small table with two guards in the entrance and they manually checked our bags before allowing us to proceed.

6) Philippine passport holders don’t need a visa to enter Rwanda but I am already holding an East African Tourist visa so I turned my passport to show that label anyway. The immigration officer asked for the address and contact details of the person I am visiting in Kigali so I showed him the requested details straight from my whatsapp chat window where I had been chatting with my host.

7) After I got my stamp, I went outside and climbed aboard the bus almost immediately to continue my interrupted slumber. A few minutes later, some local guy who didn’t speak any English motioned for me to get off the bus. It took a while before I understood what he was trying to tell me: I have to bring my other big backpack to the same guards in the entrance so they can manually check it as well. Afterwards, we were asked to wait for around 15 minutes on the side as our bus gets cleared and allowed to drive a few meters forward towards the exit point. We were then asked to fall in line side by side our bags along with passport in hand. One by one, we climbed aboard to our seats as we get cleared for re-entry in the bus. Apparently, the Rwandan side has stricter policies.

8) We arrived at the bus station around half past 8 am. I then took a taxi (car taxi) to where my CS host lives, which is 15-20 minutes away and paid 7 USD/ 5000 Rwandan Francs. I should have taken a motorbike taxi and this would have cost me only 500-1000 Rwandan Francs.

TIP:

Have your remaining Ugandan Shillings or some of your USD/ Euro exchanged to Rwandan Francs in the border. You should have at least 5,000 RWF to pay for taxi if you have several luggage. Otherwise, motorbike taxi would be a cheaper option.

View of Kigali from the terrace of my couchsurfing host

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