Crossing Arusha to Nairobi | While in Africa

Updated as of May 2019

Ticket Fee: 30 USD
Travel Time: 7 to 9 hrs. depending on traffic and number of people in line in the passport control
Travel Schedule: 7am and 2pm every day except on holidays
Border to cross: Namanga (2 hrs. away from the take-off point in Arusha)
Road Profile: Mostly concrete so not very bumpy
Bus operator used: Rainbow
Major Requirements: Visa to Kenya should be applied and paid for online at least 2 days before your intended departure. Alternatively, East Africa tourist visa may be applied upon arrival. If you applied online and haven’t received the visa at the time of your travel, just print your application and payment receipt and present at the border, they will accept this and release your visa.

1) It is best to book your ticket at least a day before your intended departure to guarantee your seat. Allot two days if crossing during peak season. Buses from Arusha to Nairobi leaves twice a day, one at 7 am and another at 2 pm. The journey takes 7 to 9 hrs. including traffic and passport control processing times.

2) Go to the bus terminal, which is just about 4 km. away from town. You can hire a motorbike taxi to take you there for 1000 Tanzanian Shillings, just tell the driver to take you the terminal that leaves for Nairobi.

Bus from Arusha- Nairobi. It seems like only non-air conditioned buses are available for 30 USD, one way

Alternatively, you can book your tickets online and they also offer pick-up from your hotel or designated areas at an added cost but then the best seats would have been occupied so it’s still best to go to the terminal. Below are some companies to choose from:

Rainbow and Shuttle Car Hire
The Riverside Shuttle Bus
All Africa Shuttle and Tours
East Africa Shuttles

3) In 2 or 3 hrs, the bus will stop at Namanga border in Tanzania. Get off the bus along with everyone else and fall in line in the Immigration Control of Tanzania. They will simply stamp out your passport and your good to go.

Immigration of Tanzania in crossing to Nairobi via Namanga border

4) At the exit, walk to the right towards the Kenyan Immigration side, which is about 100 meters away. You will walk through on what seems to be a deserted pathway but you would realize later on, that elsewhere in Africa is the same. Everyone else in the bus will go through the same drill so just remember the faces of your co-passengers and silently follow their lead. If you’re traveling solo, start a small chat with the person next to you so at least someone from the bus knows you exist and your chances of being left behind by the bus would be minimized. In my case, I always make sure the driver knows me.

5) You will recognize the Kenyan Immigration side by its national flag raised outside its small concrete building; not that there’s a lot of other buildings around. If you’re feeling lost or if you want to be super sure, just ask any bystanders you will come across and they will point you in the right direction.

Kenya Border Post

Immigration of Kenya in Namanga border

6) Get in line in one of the immigration control windows and present your passport, along with the corresponding fees and requirements. If you intend to also visit Uganda and Rwanda, you should apply for East Africa Tourist Visa to save on visa costs.

7) Once done, you will see the bus outside waiting for all the passengers and you’ll be back on the road in no time. Shortly after going through the passport control, the bus should stop in a small souvenir and restaurant shop for toilet break and snacks. I suggest you wait for this stopover because use of toilet in the border requires payment.

8) About an hour before our arrival in the designated terminal, our bus stopped at a toll gate and we had to get off on the side of the road, go through security checks similar to those you have in the airport, and wait for the bus to pick us up on the other end of the toll gate. I find this useless as we could have left our bags in the bus to skip the security check. Nobody checked the bags in the so it seemed to me a total waste of time.

9) Upon arrival of your bus in Nairobi, there will be taxi drivers waiting. If you’re headed in town to your hotel, the cost for the ride would be 500 to 800 Kenyan shillings per taxi. Anything more than 1000 is a rip off unless you’re headed more than 10 kilometers away.

There’s also an option to take a Matatu (public bus) but of course you don’t know where to get them. If anything, just try to look innocent and pretend that you will take Matatu instead because you cannot afford to pay what they’re charging you. That should convince the driver to agree to your price. That works for female travelers. If you have mobile data, take an Uber, that will the best option and you can pay by cash or card (pre-encoded in your Uber app)

TIP:

Have your Tanzanian Shillings/ USD/ Euro exchanged in Kenyan Shillings in the border especially if you’re taking the 2pm bus because you will arrive late in Nairobi and money exchange shops would be close. Your obviously a tourist and it’s not quite safe to be withdrawing money in the middle of the night with all your bags with you.

Have at least 1000 Kenyan shillings, which should be enough to pay for your taxi to the hotel (if in town). Acquire more shillings if you want to eat in a restaurant or grab some beers because some shops don’t accept credit card.

Safe Travels!