If you are traveling to Kenya an looking for ways to get around then I have the best article for you. I will explain you all the modes of public transport in Kenya from trains to bikes and give you multiple Kenya travel tips along the way.
Kenya isn’t really a budget travel destination, but that does not mean you can’t travel to Kenya on a budget. Where there is a will there is a way… but must say you will have to invest some time and energy. The adventure though you will experience in return is unbeatable!
Of course there are plenty of tour companies and group trips to Kenya, but in this article I will highlight how to get around Kenya independently.
Domestic flights in Kenya are quite reliable. There is a wide range of destinations; they serve major towns and cities as well as game parks and resorts with private airstrips. Catching a domestic flight in Kenya is not only the fastest way but also saves you the headache of having to take long bumpy rides. On the other hand it is of course the most expensive way to travel Kenya.
The main operators are Kenya Airways, Fly 540, SafariLink and Jambojet. Most of these carriers offer several domestic flights a day although the frequency may be reduced during low seasons. The fares for domestic flights in Kenya vary from as low as $55 one way to $375 return depending on where you’re going and the airline you use.
If luxury is your top priority and money isn’t a factor, you could charter a small plane for trips to remote airstrips as well. As I said before there are endless opportunities for traveling in Kenya for every budget; from high end luxury to backpacking.
Driving around Kenya
Seeing that all parks, reserves, and resorts are open to private vehicles, you can rent a car and drive around Kenya yourself – as long as you’re 23 or older. The rental rates start from $30 per day but you still have to pay for the fuel which costs about $1.2 per Liter.
Can you see yourself doing a game drive on your own? It is pretty damn epic I can tell you!
Get a high-clearance 4WD though especially if you’re planning any off-road driving during the rainy season. Four-wheel drive Suzuki jeeps are the most likely available vehicles although the Nissan- X-Trail and Mitsubishi Pajero are also great options depending on your budget.
Have you seen my Ultimate Kenya Itinerary for 10 days already? You will definitely need a 4WD for that one! ;)
To drive on Kenyan roads, you need a valid driving license from your home country or an international one. Check before your trip what your travel insurance requires you to have. My European drivers license was fine in my case.
Be aware that when you decide to travel in Kenya in a rental car that they drive on the left!
Get a local prepaid sim card and use your smartphone to navigate, you shouldn’t worry about getting lost this way. For more info about buying a sim card for Kenya check my article in the link. As you drive beware of wild animals, ditches, potholes, etc and try to avoid driving at night as things get much more difficult. Safety first! Click on the link to find more Kenya travel tips like these in my latest article.
The new Chinese-built standard-gauge railway (SGR) has made it possible for passenger trains to travel at high speeds of up to 120km/hr. These have greatly reduced the Nairobi to Mombasa journey time from 12 hours to about 4,5 hours and for this journey it is my favorite mode of transportation in Kenya.
The SGR has three seat classes: first class, second class, third class. A first class ticket from Nairobi to Mombasa costs $45, second class is $34 and third class is $7. First class is pretty damn comfortable but if you want some real adventure while backpacking Kenya then opt for a third class ticket.
Meals, snacks, and drinks are available in first and second class only at fairly standard prices. In Third class you gotta bring your own food and drinks.
Boats and Ferries
There are very few public ferry services in Kenya. The main one in regular use is the Likoni ferry that connects the mainland and the islands of Lamu and Mombasa running throughout the day and night. Great thing is that the ferry is free for passengers on foot.
If you have read my Best Things To Do in Kenya article you know that Lamu was one of my secret Kenya travel tips.
There is another ferry operating on Lake Victoria from Mbita Luanda Kotieno. Boats travel between Mbita and Mfangano Island here. Must say that these ferries are quite unreliable and you have to ask around when in the area about timings.
The same counts for the ferry on Lake Turkana to reach Central Island National Park. Curious what is there? The largest crocodile colony in the world! Click here for a list of all my recommended things to do in Kenya.
If you’re staying at a Kenya resort you surely can arrange a boat to go on short dhow cruise (Arabic sailboat) for dinner, sunset, fishing, snorkeling or sightseeing. These touristic trips aren’t used for getting around Kenya.
Long distance buses
Buses in Kenya cover almost all routes across the country. If you don’t mind the long hours for longer distances, then you should travel Kenya by bus. They’re reliable, comfortable, affordable, safe and relatively fast.
May be because of Covid this is not the best mode of transport in Kenya today, but that is up to yourself. I am still traveling the world continuously even in these restricted times and I take public busses.
These busses are boarded on their specific bus parks or “stages” as they’re commonly known. Usually, you’ll be spoilt for choice as there are different bus companies offering different prices for the same routes.
Matatus are 14-seater vans/minibuses that ply almost all routes, especially around Nairobi. They are an enjoyable way of getting around Nairobi, but because of the Covid pandemic I would not recommend you this at the moment. It is a great way to interact with locals.
Safety should always be your first priority when traveling by public transport in Kenya. If you ever feel unsafe when using a matatu, don’t hesitate to get out. Matatus are the way locals travel in Kenya, but for tourists it is more like a fun experience. I wouldn’t recommend you to use Matatus too much, it might be cheap but they take a lot of time as well.
Fares for Matatus in Kenya range between 50 cents for very short distances around Nairobi to up to $15 for longer distances. The prices vary depending on the peak hours, price of fuel, and comfort level. Check with other passengers if you feel like you’re being overcharged.
Taxis and cabs
You can either request a cab using one of the taxi apps like Uber or hail one on the street – the first option is much safer and you’re less likely to get overcharged. If circumstances force you to get one on the streets, make sure that you agree on the price before heading out. The cost should be about $5/hour.
Another safe and reliable way is to ask your hotel to arrange a taxi for you when getting around. I recommend you to always to taxis from and to the airport and bus and train stations.
Tuk-tuks are three-wheeled motorized mini taxis originating from Southeast Asia. This mode of transport is mainly known to Nairobi, Mombasa, and Malindi. Fares are negotiable and usually around half the price of an ordinary taxi.
It is not recommended to use tuk-tuks in Kenya for long journeys. Also when stuck in traffic the fumes of surrounding cars can be horrible. I recommend you therefore taking a taxi.
Boda-bodas are also known as piki piki. These are motorcycle taxis with a padded passenger seat for one or two people. They’re common in both big towns and smaller towns where standard taxis are difficult to find. A boda-boda ride shouldn’t cost you more than $1.
Cycling around Kenya
For the brave and adventurous travelers you could cycle around Kenya. The good thing about the Kenyan climate and terrain is that they’re very favorable for cycling. If you have the energy for it, then you can bring your own bicycle, rent one or even buy. A good mountain bike will cost you about $70 only. Be aware that road conditions can be though when cycling in Kenya.
Most national parks don’t allow cyclists although some that do not have predators like Hells Gate at Naivasha and a handfull private reserves do not have a problem with safari on a bicycle.
This Kenya travel blog is created with the help and the amazing Kenya images ofKim Paffen, one of the Traveltomtom writers.
Enjoy your trip to Kenya.