Crossing Borders from Nairobi, Kenya to Kampala, Uganda
Here is my guide for how to travel from Nairobi in Kenya to Kampala in Uganda by land and cross the border, all based on my experience.
Ticket Fee: 3400 Kenyan Shillings for a VIP seat (highly recommended)
Travel Time: Around 13 hrs. depending on traffic and number of people in line in the passport control.
Travel Schedule: I took the 7:30 pm bus because I prefer overnight bus trips.
Border to Cross: Busia or Malaba
Road Profile: I was sleeping uninterrupted most of the time so I can conclude that the road must be generally comfortable
Bus Operator Used: Modern Coast
Major Requirements: Visa to be applied upon arrival in the border of Kampala to Uganda for 100 USD. Alternatively, East Africa tourist visa may also be applied upon arrival for the same cost.
1) For the bus taking you from Kenya to Uganda, it’s best to book your ticket at least a day before your intended departure to guarantee your seat. In my case, I booked 6hrs before my departure and I still got 1 of the 6 VIP seats available. Buses from Nairobi to Kampala leaves 1-3 times a day depending on the season. The journey takes around 13 hrs. or more depending on traffic and passport control processing times. I recommend taking the night trips because buses are not air-conditioned and it can be hot during the day. Also, it’s just more cozy to travel at night where you can sleep in the bus hence save on accommodation, and wake up to a new place in the morning. There’s no sleeping cabins but the VIP seat is spacious and comfortable enough to recline in.
Below are some of the bus operators that you may contact to book your ticket. I have personally used Modern Coast and it’s quite nice:
Ticket cost as of February 2017: Around 2300 for the cheapest seat
2) The bus terminal is close, almost in the city center of Nairobi. You can hire a taxi to take you there. Alternatively, online booking should be possible but at times the payment system is unreliable. Check which options fit you best. I was told you can also call to make an initial reservation.
3) The bus will likely pass through Kisumu and cross from Kenya to Uganda at the Busia border. From the Immigration side of Kenya, get off the bus along with everyone else and fall in line in the passport control. They will simply stamp out your passport and your good to go. Make sure to bring your yellow fever certificate, photocopy of your passport, copy of return ticket, and all other similar documents just in case the immigration officers ask for it. Bring your own pen too.
One advantage of booking a VIP seat is that you get to get off first and fall in line ahead of the others because the VIP seats are close to the bus doors.
4) From the exit, walk towards the Uganda Immigration side, which is about 100 meters away. There’s a lighted signage so you should find your way easily. At the entrance is a guard who will hand you a white application form, which you can fill out while in line. There were quite a number of people in line from the other buses that I had to stand in line for the next 30 to 40 minutes.
5) When it was my turn, I told the immigration officer that I would like to get an East Africa Tourist Visa. Note that East Africa Visa allows you entry in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda for 100 USD, multiple entry for 90 days. I was already in Nairobi when I found out about it so I wasted 50 USD for a separate Kenyan tourist visa.
I simply handed my passport, the filled out application form, and 100 USD payment. There were no other questions asked and I got my East Africa tourist visa label in just a few minutes.
6) Once done, you will see the bus outside waiting for all the passengers and you’ll be back on the road in no time.
7) There were several people getting off along the way after we entered Kampala that there were just a few of us who made it right at the bus terminal stop. From there, you can get a taxi (a term used for public vans) to your destination for 1000 Ugandan Shillings but unless you were given very clear instructions on how to reach your hostel via taxi then your best bet would be to hire a boda- boda (private motorbike taxi) so you can be dropped off right at the doorstep of your destination. This costs 4000 to 7000 shillings to anywhere in town.
8) I haven’t seen any private sedan taxi in Kampala so it’s best to pack light enough that you can take them all with you while taking the back ride of a motorbike.
9) There is a Modern Coast office right where our bus stopped to park. If you have questions, you can ask the employees manning the ticketing office and they should be able to help you without a hidden agenda.
Want to learn more about Uganda? Read our Uganda Country Guide.
Or read our Country Comparison Rwanda and Uganda.
Have your remaining Kenyan Shillings or some of your USD/ Euro exchanged in Ugandan Shillings when you cross the border from Kenya to Uganda. You should have at least 10,000 Ugandan shillings to pay for your boda-boda. The area where your bus will drop you off is safe but you are likely to be charged higher if you offer to pay in USD/ Euro.