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in Motor / Travel

How we rented two motorcycles in Kampala, Uganda

How to get two motorcycles in a country we didn’t know? We had no idea… For a long time we thought about going back to India for the winter, but then we came across some amazing photos of Uganda and a new idea was born. Africa we had not been before and felt like a new adventure. We bought tickets to Uganda and two weeks later we were in the plane with two helmets and some motorgear. 

During the first week we tried to get an idea of what Kampala had to offer. On the internet we searched for motorbike shops and we went there. By some asking around, we got some tips here and there. Someone from our guesthouse suddenly came up with a souped-up Honda XL 250 from 1986. A good option, but we needed two bikes. On the internet we found a rental company with all sorts of different motorcycles for rent, some of them looked promising, but we found it quite expensive. Despite Kampala being overrun by taxi motorbikes (called Boda’s) from 100 to 125cc there was little supply of what seemed suitable for us. After going around Kampala the first week it seemed that dirt bikes of round 250cc would be the best option for a two months road-trip.

On the other hand, Dan was particularly worried if he would ever see his bikes back again, especially because a woman would ride on one of them. ‘Can she drive?’ he wondered aloud with a very concerned look on his face.

Through a Dutch friend we received a telephone number of a travel agency in Kampala. The friendly guy named Eddy wanted to help us. He took us to the motorcycle district of Kampala, Ndeeba. In Kampala, most branches seem to have their own neighborhood, and so do the motorcycles. The place is a chaos of shops and garages, situated along a dusty main road. Our new friend knew one of the garage holders by the name of Dan. After a chat with Dan he would go and search for motorbikes that would suit a two-month tour. We had to come back Sunday, but it had to be before 15:00, because he wanted to watch the game of his favorite premier league club, Chelsea.

Buying or renting?

This time we found renting the better option. With two months in prospect, we thought that renting would be quicker and easier. No hassle with arranging the purchase and what possibly comes with the deal buying something in Africa. On the other hand, renting can be and would probably be a lot more expensive than buying. If we had had more time and no fixed return date, buying would certainly have been an option that we had considered. For now, we didn’t t feel like arranging a transfer and insurance ourselves, and then we would also have to sell the bikes on return.

We bought tickets to Uganda and two weeks later we were in the plane with two helmets and some motorgear. How would we get two motorcycles in a country we didn’t know? We had no idea.

On Sunday we were fashionably late back at Dan’s place. We quickly had to watch the dirt bike he had arranged so that he could go and see the soccer game. The bike was some sort of a Honda XR 250, without battery, mirrors and with loose panels. After some fumbling with a battery I could still make a test drive and surprisingly, the motor did not seem that bad. But then again, we were looking for two motorbikes. Dan would look for the same kind of dirt bike, but a little lower so that Mandy could also get her feet to the ground. Two days later, Dan showed up at our hotel with a Yamaha Serow (XT 225). Perfect! He would also refurbish the XR the next day and arrange the insurance. After that we could do the paperwork.

Well, we wrote the ‘rental contract’ ourselves. Westerners (or something) that we are, we wanted to have some guarantees if those motorcycles would fall apart. There were two engines from the nineties in front of our nose of which at least one looked like it would break down any moment. On the other hand, Dan was particularly worried if he would ever see his bikes back again, especially because a woman would ride on one of them. ‘Can she drive?’ he wondered aloud with a very concerned look on his face. Anyway, we wrote a few lines on paper that had to go through as a contract, put our signatures and made copies of our IDs. Dan left a few inner tubes, spanners and pliers and that was it. We could discover Africa.

Ndeeba, the motorbike area

Despite Kampala being overrun by taxi motorbikes (called Boda’s) from 100 to 125cc there was little supply of what seemed suitable for us. After going around Kampala the first week it seemed that dirt bikes of round 250cc would be the best option for a two months road-trip.

Do you want to book in advance, or want to go with a group? You might want to check out these websites: