Thursday, 1 November 2007
Boda-Boda drivers are one of the most distinctive features of Kampala, despised by most motorists but critical to the transport network of the city. The best way to describe them is as 'motorcycle taxis', which sit waiting on nearly every street corner ready to whisk passengers to all corners of the city. Prices are cheap and negotiable, ranging from 500 shillings (~15p) for a ride anywhere on campus to 1500 into the centre of town. They are quick (being able to weave in and out of the traffic) and easy to find, but can be just a little bit scary at times. In their wisdom the Ugandan Government introduced a helmet rule for drivers (not passengers) but it is very poorly enforced and thus rarely followed.
Selecting which bike to take you is an art in itself. First you need to make sure you avoid the older models that struggle up hills and frequently break down at the most inconvenient moments. Then the driver has to be assessed - does he look responsible? does he have tale-tale waragi red eyes from the night before? does he actually have any idea where you are telling him to go to? Once you have picked the right Boda and the price has been confirmed you are off...
The drivers are the London cabbie equivalent of Kampala, which normally makes the journey more interesting, even if I would prefer them to focus all their concentration on the roads. In normally broken English they will fill you in on the gossip around town, their thoughts on the Queen's visit and quiz you on the best way to get a white girlfriend. Despite their downsides Kampala would be a much more boring (and slow) place without them.