Whether you’re buying groceries over the weekend or picking your children from school, the boda boda is one of the most trusted modes of transport in Kampala. A boda boda refers to a motorcycle ‘taxi’ used by the driver to make money in exchange for rides. In addition to the rider, it is meant to seat one other passenger. However, it is not uncommon to see more than one passenger ‘fixed’ on the passenger seat.
Boda bodas can be found almost anywhere in the city as they drive from one point to another, or are situated at a particular stage. Most boda bodas rent space at particular stage. Fees range from 10,000 to 30,000 UGX per month payable to the stage chairman who manages all the affairs of the stage. A stage fee varies depending on the stage, based on the proximity to town or the flow of passengers. For instance, boda boda space at the stage outside a university will cost more than space further out of the centre. Riders at particular stages know each other and are protective of each other. Boda boda riders respect each other and their respective stages and will ask for permission to pick a passenger from a stage that is not their own.
Most boda bodas are owned by someone other than the driver and the driver is hired. Some do own their own bikes. While some drivers are paid daily, weekly or monthly others agree on being paid a percentage of whatever they bring in.
Mukasa works at a stage in Namuwongo and has such an agreement with his boss. “My boss says as long as I bring in 100,000 shillings at the end of the week and keep her boda in good working condition, I can keep whatever else I make.” Mukasa says he can make up to 170,000 shillings on a good week and some weeks he will make only 80,000. After he takes his cut, he is able to pay rent and take care of his small family.
To make their bodas attractive to passengers, the drivers often pimp it up. Some will paint their bodas in bright colours while others will put a small pocket radio or a wind screen and decorations on their motorcycles.
In order to have the safest ride possible it is important to bear some things in mind. First, as you approach the boda boda check out the seat – some are wider than others – does it look comfortable? Is there a place to hold on? You should feel free to pass a boda by if you don’t feel that it looks safe. Always insist on using a helmet no matter how short the distance.
Next, perhaps they secretly want to ride in Formula 1, or perhaps they have watched the movie, ‘Fast and Furious’ too many times but sometimes it feels like the boda driver is in a race against time. Thus it is important to hold on to something. If you are comfortable holding onto the boda rider, do so. Otherwise there should be a metal handle or a cushion to hold on to behind you. Also, you are paying for the ride so if you feel uncomfortable ask the driver to slow down. The number of accidents caused by boda bodas is high so regulate the speed of your driver.
During the ride make sure to pay attention. Boda drivers often swerve and turn to avoid traffic and other cars and bodas. If you aren’t paying attention it is possible to lose your balance or get dumped. Definitely, the most unpleasant outcome! Also keep your feet up off the ground by placing them on the foot rest – even when stopped.
Security is paramount when using boda bodas. There have been cases of purses being snatched by a passing boda boda. Thieves target boda bodas so if you can avoid it do not travel lonely roads and hold your bag tight. Most boda drivers are honest and interested in developing their business so if you like the services of one particular rider and his boda boda take down his phone number so you can continue using him.
Rates within the city start from 500 UGX to as high as 15,000 UGX. The average ride within the city is between 1,000-2,000 UGX. However, regardless the distance, the price is always negotiable. Safe riding!