Mbale lies approximately 245 kilometres (152 mi), by road, northeast of Kampala, on an all weather tarmac highway. The coordinates of the city are: 01 04 50N, 34 10 30E. The city also lies on the railway from Tororo to Pakwach. Mount Elgon, one of the highest peaks in East Africa lies nearby.
The 2002 national census put the population of Mbale at 71,130. In 2008, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), estimated the population of the city at 84,100. In 2011, UBOS estimates the population of Mbale at about 91,800.