Transport in Kenya

Buses

Local buses can be boarded at any stop and tickets purchased on board.

Buses also regularly run between most cities and towns. There are several bus companies with extensive inter-country networks. Buses also run across borders into Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Buses are an inexpensive way to travel the country. Some private bus companies now offer private bus shuttle services between Nairobi and Mombasa and Nairobi and Arusha (Tanzania) as well as city airports.

The most popular form of public transport in Kenya is the Matatu, which has become a national icon and a large part of Kenyan modern culture. A matatu is a minibus, usually a Nissan (the name originates from the original 30 cent fare, “Matongolo Matatu”).

Matatus operate on set routes, and collect as many passengers as possible both from the outset and along the way. Passengers board and alight whenever and wherever they choose. Matatus normally have a crew of two, a driver and a ‘tout’ who tries to encourage as many passengers as possible to board, and collects their fares, using an impressive cash handling and management system in which notes of different denominations are wedged between seperate fingers.

The vehicles are also often spectacularly painted with designs based on Western album covers and Sports logos.

Taxis

In Nairobi, Mombasa and other large Kenyan towns, taxis are widely available, and convenient. Taxis are often parked in the street around hotels and tourist areas. Hotels and restaurants can order taxis if necessary.

Nairobi Taxis are usually marked with a yellow line along each side. There is also a large fleet of large London Taxis operating within the city.

Taxis are not metered, and a price should be agreed with the driver before departure. Ask for local advice or at your hotel for correct rates.

In Nairobi and Mombasa there are several companies operating Dial Taxi services with phone bookings, modern vehicles, competent drivers and reasonable rates. Several Taxi companies have airport booking offices.

The 3 wheel Bajaj Auto-Rickshaw or Tuk Tuk of South East Asia are becoming increasingly popular as taxis in Nairobi. Once again, fares need to be negotiated in advance.

In Kisumu, Cycle Rickshaws and Bicycle Taxis are popular. They are locally known as ‘Border-Borders’ as they were a popular means of accessing the nearby Ugandan border.

Car Hire

Hire cars are widely available in Nairobi, Mombasa, and other large towns. Before hiring a car, all legalities should be thoroughly checked and appropriate contracts and waivers signed. Most car hire companies charge a set per kilometre or unlimited rate.

Driving

Visitors to Kenya can drive using an international drivers license. Driving is on the left hand side and drivers should give way to traffic on their right. Distances are measured and signposted in kilometres and petrol / diesel sold by the litre.

Road conditions are variable and can be very poor in remote areas. Ensure that your vehicle is suitable for handling rough roads before embarking on a journey.

Driving at night in most areas is not advisable.

Trains

Kenya has a railway connection between Nairobi and Mombasa and Nairobi and Kisumu. It is also possible to take the train through to Kampala.

The overnight Nairobi to Mombasa rail trip is the most popular rail route for visitors. Tickets can be bought from Nairobi’s Railway stations, or in advance through local travel agencies. Kenya’s railways are currently awaiting a planned upgrade of facilities and rolling stock.

The railway line between the coast and Nairobi has a long and colourful history. Anyone interested in the history of Kenya’s railways should visit the Nairobi Railway Museum.

Boats

The Kenyan coast is open to both commercial and private shipping. There are several popular anchorage points for yachts including Mtwapa, Kilifi, Mnarani, and Lamu. Those landing should process immigration locally.

It is possible to join dhows for short cruises or longer trips along the coast.

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