How to visit Murchinson Falls National Park on a budget [2024]

Cover Image for How to visit Murchinson Falls National Park on a budget [2024]
Lisa & Pol
by Lisa & Pol
This post is linked to the following video :
Youtube thumbnail
Visiting Murchinson Falls + Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary on a budget | What to expect ! [2024]

Filmed on : january 2024

Filmed in : Murchinson Falls, Uganda

africaugandamurchinson falls

How to visit Murchinson Falls on a budget?

Well, first of all we have to admit that we planned everything last minute and we at some point thought we wouldn't be able to visit Murchinson Falls at all since it seemed impossible to find a car to rent at the last minute, all were booked out (first week of January 2024)! We are traveling on budget so taking a organized trip ( with prices starting at 350$ per person) was just not an option for us. Also, we knew that Murchinson Falls National Park could be visited on our own (with a car), without a guide. What we didn't know though is that you can get away with hiring a motorbike ! Indeed, we've seen many locals on the roads inside the park riding, and the fee would be cheaper. The chances of meeting a hungry lion or leopard being pretty low, it might be the cheapest option.

We took a taxi (shared car) from Kampala to Masindi for 20 000ugx which is 5€ per person. We stayed at TOT Guesthouse for 40 000ugx per night for 2 people, which is 10€ and the accommodation was decent for the price, only there was no hot water. We can recommend their restaurant where we had a tasty breakfast the next day ( pancakes and coffee for 2 for 4€).

At the end, we got lucky and one of the car rentals called us back and we got a 4x4 car for 2 days in Masindi! The price was 50$ per day, plus we paid 65$ for gas. If you are stranded like us, you might want to try to contact the guy who lent it to us (Moses, +256 772 372 698).

Ziwa sanctuary

Lisa and Pol seeing rhinos for the first time !
Lisa and Pol seeing rhinos for the first time !

Apart from Murchinson Falls we also wanted to visit Ziwa sanctuary for the white rhinos that is 40 minutes away from Masindi (direction Kampala). There are no wild rhinos in Uganda and we didn't manage to see any in Masai Mara either, so we figured that this might be our only chance to see them!

The entrance fee was 50$ per person and you can pay only by card. In order to visit them you should have your own vehicle since from the entrance gate it's still another 10-15 minutes drive plus depending on rhinos location you still might have to drive a bit to track them. We were lucky, we tracked them totally on foot from the ranger's offices.

Best time to visit would be early morning (max 10am) or late afternoon because during the heat of the day, rhinos are just laying and and sleeping.

We were lucky to see 2 young bulls and after that a female with her little one.

Walking among white rhinos in Ziwa Sanctuary
Walking among white rhinos in Ziwa Sanctuary

We spent about 1h with the rhinos and in total 2h in the sanctuary, about 3h30 from Masindi and back.

We had lunch in Masindi at Karibuni Restaurant that serves good and cheap local food and we took rice, beans and chapati as a takeaway food for our dinner in Murchinson Falls National Park.

Murchinson Falls

After a 30 minutes drive from Masindi we reached the Murchison Falls National Park - Kichubanyobo entrance gate. For foreigners the entrance fee is 45$ for 24h entrance to the park and a one-time fee for a vehicle which was 11$. The roads on this side are extremely well maintained and we immediately spotted wildlife! You have to drive slow, there is a 40km/h speed limit and if you are lucky you can spot Columbus monkeys on the side of the road as well as many baboons from the very start.

Baboons right at the entrance of Murchinson Falls NP
Baboons right at the entrance of Murchinson Falls NP

We headed to Paraa and from there we opted for a self-drive safari from 4pm till 6:30pm as it's best to avoid driving during dark through the park.

A Hartebeest overlooking the plains in Murchinson Falls National Park
A Hartebeest overlooking the plains in Murchinson Falls National Park

We headed west and the roads change to dusty ones and that's where you start to spot more animals. Hartebeest are the first animal we spot on this side of the river but shortly after we are lucky to see elephants, giraffes and many many antilopes.

A giraffe in Murchinson Falls NP
A giraffe in Murchinson Falls NP

We reach the river side and stretch our legs a bit, hearing the hippos in the distance.

Lisa on the shore of the Nile river, in Murchinson Falls
Lisa on the shore of the Nile river, in Murchinson Falls

We head back to the bridge, cross to the south side and head towards the Top of the Falls where we are camping for the night. The place is empty, there is no one, so we think that this camping is free of charge, or at least we didn't pay anything for it (but there are no facilities what so ever either). We are near the river, we set camp, make fire and eat our takeaway food. It's time to snooze because we have an early morning wake-up alarm set for 6am. Many tse tse flies will be there, have fun :)

Pol is in charge of making the fire at the Top of the Falls camping site in Murchinson Falls
Pol is in charge of making the fire at the Top of the Falls camping site in Murchinson Falls

We were the first persons that day to visit the Top of the Falls, which is a best spot to see the waterfalls. Actually, we were so early that there was no one to pay to, even though this visit is normally charged 10$ per person.

Lisa at the Top of the Falls in Murchinson Falls NP, the most powerful in the world !
Lisa at the Top of the Falls in Murchinson Falls NP, the most powerful in the world !

After visiting the falls from the top we are heading back to the bridge where we are embarking on a first boat departure at 8h30 with Wild Frontiers (we booked the previous evening). It's a small boat and apart from the guide we are with only one extra person. The price of this boat safari is 35$ per person. Our guide/captain is taking his time, going slowly and he is quick to spot all kind of animal on the shore ! You are definitely gonna spot lots of hippos and crocodiles but we were also lucky to see elephants, antilopes, and many different kinds of beautiful birds.

Safari boat ride on the Nile river in Murchinson Falls NP
Safari boat ride on the Nile river in Murchinson Falls NP

The boat doesn't reach that close to the waterfalls, just up to this small island so you need a good camera to capture the waterfalls from the boat. Otherwise we really recommend visiting the Top of the Falls for a much better view. Overall, we really enjoyed our morning boat ride that took about 3h. Before leaving Murchinson Falls we still have some time for another self-drive safari (basically just driving around). Remember you have only 24 hours in the park so schedule it wisely and keep in mind that the speed limit in the whole park is 40km/h (which feels quite slow on the wide newly paved roads).

Lisa with beautiful Ankole cows
Lisa with beautiful Ankole cows

We exited the park via Bugungu gate which was one of the nearest to the bridge. We took small roads on the way back to Masindi, spotting beautiful ankole cows on the way and having a short break on the lake Albert.

Pol with local kids, eating a mango on the shore of Lake Albert
Pol with local kids, eating a mango on the shore of Lake Albert

Budget breakdown

Car rental : 50$*2days + 65$ of petrol = 165$

Ziwa Sanctuary : 50$*2person = 100$

Murchinson Falls NP : 45$*2person + 11$ for the car = 101$

Boat ride : 35$*2person = 70$

Total : 435$ for 2 days for 2 persons.

Is it worth it ?

Yes ! We both really enjoyed our 24h in the national park, the boat ride was definitely a highlight, and being able to drive ourselves and seeing giraffes and elephants was pretty magical. Camping at the Top of the Falls felt very special as well.

Ziwa is well worth it as well, you learn a lot about the rhinos and it's pretty unique to be able to see them from so close by foot. They seem to do a great job protecting them.

It ended up being a bit expensive, but apart from renting a motorbike instead, we really limited the spending.

Lisa & Pol
Lisa & Pol
We're a Slovak-French couple in our twenties currently backpacking across Africa for a year. One of our goals is to inspire travellers to go explore this often forgotten continent. On this blog we're focusing on providing up to date info about prices and itineraries, especially geared towards backpackers on a budget. We also create content on Youtube and Insta if you prefer a more visual approach 😉
Some links on this site are affiliate links. We may earn a commission from your clicks, at no extra cost to you.
Did you like this article ? Consider sharing it or getting us a coffee !