There is an Uber and Friendship taxi experience, and then there is what I will call the real Ugandan Taxi experience. The conductor, the driver, passengers, and the taxi will give you a 30 to 40 minute adventure that water rafting, gorilla trekking will take hours or days to give depending on how far or near your destination is.
Uber and Friendship taxi are sophisticated, charging according to time and distance and mostly urban based. The latter is an adventure of its own in the form of a white Hiace van with blue squares printed along its sides. It is a semi-literate taxi conductor trying to address you in English, a neighboring passenger carrying a baby who will want to take a bite of your snack, a shaky seat with some bare metal that could leave your shorts torn, or a coughing engine that fails after your lane has been released.
The driver may be a shrewd navigator of the rush hour jam, or too laid back to hurry you to your destination. The taxi conductor may be too eager to collect the fare but too reluctant to duly return your change. The passengers may hold a silent retreat each scrolling their phones, earphones firmly plugged in their ear, or may break into general conversation over how the traffic policeman is unfairly holding their taxi back. The radio may be too loud for you to hold a conversation over the phone or dysfunctional, to let you eavesdrop the passengers’ conversations. Do I need to hail a taxi? That will not be necessary since the conductor will be hailing the destination to which the taxi is heading.
“Wandegeya! Kamwokya! Ntinda!” he’ll call endlessly.
The destinations are called in the order of which they will be traversed. You may need to signal them with a nod or hand gesture to indicate that you too, are heading there.
Let us consider the fare. It has to be in Uganda shillings. No matter how valuable your currency is, the conductor will not be excited to take anything other than the required Uganda Shillings. The fare is dependent on various circumstances; the time at which you are travelling, the availability of passengers to get on board en route and the place at which you got onto the taxi. In the new taxi park and old taxi park, the fare is a little higher. The fare will be higher in morning hours on a weekday between 5:00 to 11:00am and drop from 12:00pm to 3:00pm and later rise from 4pm onwards.Over the weekends, the fare will be determined by how many people are on the road. The fewer the passengers, the better chance you have to bargain to pay less.
How to stop the taxi: If you can see your destination a few meters away, you can say any of these words to the conductor; “parking”, “stage” and “Masaawo” a Luganda phrase literally translated to meanthere, at the front. Be audible and say it in time to allow the driver to brake and allow you exit.
Doubtful about where to jump out? Please inform the conductor before you get into the taxi that you are unsure of the stage at which to jump out or strategically sit next to him lest he forget and take you beyond your destination.
Prep your Shillings and get aboard the nearest taxi for your Kampala adventure.