Crossing Arusha to Nairobi
Crossing Arusha, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya
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 approval to enter Kenya, which should be applied and paid for online at least a day before intended departure. Alternatively, East Africa tourist visa may be applied upon arrival.
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.
Ticket cost as of February 2017: 30 USD
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 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. Below are some companies to choose from:
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.
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. Afterall, he’s the man behind the steering wheel 🙂
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 to the right direction.
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 where you can take a leak for free and grab some snacks. I suggest you wait for this stop over 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 bus so our weapons and drugs would be safely undiscovered there; the whole thing was a charade for formality.
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. Good luck with the guys.
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 shops rarely accepts credit card. You can find better exchange rates the following day in daylight.