Boda-bodas (bicycle or motorcycle taxis) are common in areas where standard taxis are harder to find, and also operate in smaller towns and cities such as Nakuru or Kisumu. There’s a particular proliferation on the coast, where the bicycle boys also double as touts, guides and drug dealers in tourist areas. A short ride should cost around KSh80 or so.
Shared Peugeot taxis are a good alternative to matatus. The vehicles are usually Peugeot 505 station wagons that take seven to nine passengers and leave when full.
Peugeots take less time to reach their destinations than matatus as they fill quicker and go from point to point without stopping, and so are slightly more expensive. Many companies have offices around the Accra, Cross and River Rds area in Nairobi, and serve destinations mostly in the north and west of the country.
Even the smallest Kenyan towns generally have at least one banged-up old taxi for easy access to outlying areas or even more remote villages, and you’ll find cabs on virtually every corner in the larger cities, especially in Nairobi and Mombasa, where taking a taxi at night is virtually mandatory.
Fares These are invariably negotiable and start around KSh300 to KSh500 for short journeys. Since few taxis in Kenya actually have functioning meters (or drivers who adhere to them), it’s advisable that you agree on the fare prior to setting out. This will inevitably save you the time and trouble of arguing with your cabbie over the fare.
Bookings Most people pick up cabs from taxi ranks on the street, but some companies will take phone bookings and most hotels can order you a ride.
Nairobi is the only city with an effective municipal bus service, run by KBS. Routes cover the suburbs and outlying areas during daylight hours, but most locals take private matatus. Metro Shuttle and private City Hopper services also run to areas such as Kenyatta Airport and Karen. Due to Nairobi's endless traffic jams, safety is rarely a serious concern.
|From||To||Price (US$)||Duration (hr)||Company|
|Mombasa||Tanga||8||4||Modern Coast Express|
|Mombasa||Dar es Salaam||11-15||5-8||Modern Coast Express|
|Nairobi||Kampala||28||10-12||Modern Coast Express|
Local matatus are the main means of getting around for local people, and any reasonably sized city or town will have plenty of services covering every major road and suburb.
Fares These start at around KSh40 and may reach KSh100 for longer routes in Nairobi.
Vehicles The vehicles themselves can be anything from dilapidated Peugeot 504 pick-ups with a cab on the back to big 20-seater minibuses. The most common are white Nissan minibuses (many local people prefer the name ‘Nissans’ to matatus).
Safety Despite a periodic government drives to regulate the matatu industry, matatus remain notorious for dangerous driving, overcrowding and general shady business. A passenger backlash has seen a small but growing trend in more responsible matatu companies offering less crowding, safer driving and generally better security on inter-city services. Mololine Prestige Shuttle is one of these plying the route from Nairobi to Kisumu.
Services Apart from in the remote northern areas, where you’ll rely on occasional buses or paid lifts on trucks, you can almost always find a matatu going to the next town or further afield, so long as it’s not too late in the day. Simply ask around among the drivers at the local matatu stand or ‘stage’. Matatus leave when full and the fares are fixed. It’s unlikely you will be charged more than other passengers.
Accidents As with buses, roads are usually busy enough for a slight shunt to be the most likely accident, though of course congestion never stops drivers jockeying for position like it’s the Kenya Derby. Wherever you go, remember that most matatu crashes are head-on collisions – under no circumstances should you sit in the ‘death seat’ next to the matatu driver. Play it safe and sit in the middle seats away from the window.
The Uganda Railway was once the main trade artery in East Africa, but these days the network has dwindled to one functioning route between Nairobi and Mombasa; the Nairobi–Kisumu service was not operating at the time of research. And until the new Chinese-built Nairobi–Mombasa railway is completed (don't hold your breath), it’s worth remembering that train travel is more something to be experienced than a fast and efficient means of getting around the country: with a night service of around 15 hours, the Nairobi–Mombasa train is much slower than going by air or road.
Security No compartment can be locked from the outside, so remember not to leave any valuables lying around if you leave it for any reason. You might want to padlock your rucksack to something during dinner and breakfast. Always lock your compartment from the inside before you go to sleep. In 3rd class security can be a real problem. Note that passengers are divided up by gender.
Catering Passengers in 1st class are treated to a meal typically consisting of stews, curries or roast chicken served with rice and vegetables. Tea and coffee is included; sodas (soft drinks), bottled water and alcoholic drinks are not. Cold beer is available at all times in the dining car and can be delivered to your compartment.
There are three classes on Kenyan trains, but only 1st and 2nd class can be recommended.
There are booking offices at the train stations in Nairobi and Mombasa, and it’s recommended that you show up in person rather than trying to call. You must book in advance for 1st and 2nd class, otherwise there’ll probably be no berths available. Two to three days is usually sufficient, but remember that these services run just three times weekly in either direction. Note that compartment and berth numbers are posted up about 30 minutes prior to departure.
The only local boat service in regular use is the Likoni ferry between the mainland and Mombasa island, which runs throughout the day and night and is free for foot passengers (vehicles pay a small toll).
They’re an incongruous sight outside southeast Asia, but several Kenyan towns and cities have these distinctive motorised minitaxis. The highest concentration is in Malindi, but they’re also in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Machakos and Diani Beach; Watamu has a handful of less sophisticated motorised rickshaws. Fares are negotiable, but should be at least KSh100 less than the equivalent taxi rate for a short journey (and you wouldn’t want to take them on a long one!).