Buses are a great means of transport throughout Kenya and Tanzania. With many benefits and only a few shortcomings, they’re an affordable and reliable option to get you from point A to B on this massive continent. Navigating the bus system isn’t without its share of challenges for foreigners though. This guide sums up everything about bus travel in East Africa Mainly Kenya and Tanzania.
Bus Travel in Kenya and Tanzania: How Does It Stack Up?
Long-distance distance bus services in Kenya to Tanzania and vice versa are generally very reliable. If the bus says it will run at a certain time, it almost always does. Most bus companies for example Impala Shuttles departs Kenya at 8:00am in the morning destined for Tanzania and also have an afternoon bus to the same destination. When a bus departs Kenya, another bust departs Tanzania in Arusha and Moshi almost at the same time headed to Kenya.
Bus travel is undoubtedly one of the cheapest methods of transport on the continent.
Alternatives are available but few offer the benefits of bus travel. Hitching a ride is always an option but with potential safety issues. Air travel can be expensive unless it’s booked well in advance which most people would not want to do, in favor of having a more flexible schedule.
With all of this taken into account, buses are easily the most cost-effective mode of transport that offer both safety and reliability. Cost from Nairobi in Kenya to Arusha in Tanzania normally goes for $25 while from Nairobi to Moshi in Tanzania goes for $30 and vice versa. The prices may vary but may not go higher higher than $35. Most companies have online booking platforms where you can do you booking using a card and we find that very much reliable. Other modes of payments like Cash and bank transfers are also accepted.
With a range of seats available on most long-distance buses, you’ll likely find a comfortable spot to sit. Generally, bus seats are more comfortable than those found on airlines and as you’ll periodically have breaks to get up and stretch your legs, you won’t spend the entire time sitting down.
Seat Selection: Where Should I Sit and How Much Will it Cost?
In general, the seats within each bus will offer the same pitch and amount of legroom regardless of their location. The buses offer free sitting but if you arrive at the departure point early enough, you’ll be able to get the seat of your choice. Keep in mind that the seats at the back of the bus are likely to be the most secure (as nobody will be able to reach under your seat to your day bag.
Bus Facilities: What Can I Expect?
Most buses throughout Kenya and Tanzania are equipped with an attendant that will help organize your baggage but will not depart with you, you’ll only have the driver on the way. A few of the buses have TVs and are equipped with radios that play soft cool music on the way. There is normally a stop over point some few kilometers before you reach the Kenya-Tanzania border where you can visit a bathroom and have some food or snacks if you like.
How Safe are Buses in South America?
Though we’d heard horror stories about people having their carry-on bags stolen and buses being held up during the night, these cases are few when it comes to these shuttle buses that do Kenya Tanzania route. Mostly when a client leaves something behind in these buses, the office collects and holds them in the office until it is collected, they also do a follow up to find the owner, isn’t that awesome and caring?
With that said, it doesn’t hurt to take a few precautions when travelling through East Africa by coach.
- Carry valuable items in your day bag and keep it with you in the cabin of the bus. Don’t place this bag on the floor (unless the person behind you cannot access this space) or in the storage areas. As the seats are fairly wide, it’s easy to place your bag beside you until you scope everything out.
- If you’re travelling through an area with known safety issues, try to avoid night buses.
- Be mindful of your clothes and appearance. We intentionally left our nicer clothes and jewelry at home to avoid putting targets on our backs when travelling around, especially whilst in cities and at bus stations – it’s good practice in general.
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially whilst at bus stations when it’s dark out.
Supplies: What Should I Take Aboard?
Though buses will often stop briefly to let people on and off (which generally give passengers a few minutes to pick up snacks) and may provide set meal break stops, it’s best to take everything you’ll need onboard with you.
We recommend you take the following supplies onboard:
- Neck Pillow
- Hand Sanitizer
- Correct Passport, a yellow fever card and a Negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate for border crossings
Baggage: What Can I Take With Me?
Baggage allowances vary from company to company. Each person should have two bags not exceeding 20kgs each, any extra bags attracts some $5. Although this should not worry you, the companies sometimes decide to carry the bags for free if you are travelling with them.
Booking Tickets for Bus Travel
The best way to book buses online in Kenya and Tanzania is to purchase tickets directly with the bus company. You can use the following companies though the ease in which you can book online varies:
- Impala Shuttle: https://www.impalashuttles.com/
- Nairobi Arusha Shuttle Bus: https://www.nairobiarushashuttlebus.com/
- Marangu Shuttle: https://www.marangushuttle.com/
Booking in Person
If your English or Swahili is up to the task or you’re lucky enough to come across an agent that can speak your Language, booking in person is a great option. If you do decide to book in person, we recommend getting to the station a day or two earlier to ensure you get the time and seat of your preference.