Getting Around Nairobi: Guide to Public Transportation
Getting Around Nairobi: Guide to Public Transportation : To most of the travelers, Nairobi city is a walkable city. Nairobi city the capital of Kenya is a relatively compact city which is a reason to why it is not safe for international travelers who are very unfamiliar with the city on foot. Most of the tourist attraction sites and destinations in Nairobi city are located outside the Central Business District of Nairobi city in the suburbs of Karen and Langata which requires you to have a form of transport to use to get around the city as it more explained below.
Public Minibuses (Matatus)
Public Minibuses usually referred to as the Matatus in Kenya are the most used means of transport to get around Nairobi most especially to the local residents of the city, Matatu buses are licensed to carry a maximum of 14 people but this limit is usually exceeded most especially in the busy hours of the day. Though these buses are really cheaper, the congestion in them creates a crowded and uncomfortable environment creating room for pick pocketing on top of the fact that the Matatus are not always well maintained and their driver do not respect speed limits of rules and regulations of the road that is why there are not recommended for the usage of tourists to Kenya safaris.
If you choose to use a matatu while in Nairobi, here the following aspects you should keep in mind.
- Most the destination found in and around Nairobi City are connected by minibuses and they follow set route thus being competitive with each other as they vie for passengers.
- During peak hours of the day, Matatus typically operate as express services with a single pick-up and drop-off. During other times of the day they possibly make several en route stops.
- You can board a matatu only at a designated stop point and you will pay cash to the conductor as you board, prices for the matatu often fluctuate depending on the driver, weather and traffic as prices increase significantly when it is raining and in rush hours.
Riding the Bus
Buses are a safer alternative to Matatus while getting around Nairobi city and they are offered at affordable price, in Nairobi there are buses operated by the government that is Kenya Bus Service (KBS) and several private company operated buses such as City Hoppa and Double M. These busses also ply the same routes as the Matatus, Buses carry between 25 and 50 people travelling outwards from the central terminal along the designated routes to the suburbs.
While riding the bus, fares are paid directly to the conductor and you will be offered a seat inside the bus since standing is no longer allowed, however the further you are from the central bus terminal the availability of the seat becomes more limited and it can be impossible when its raining or during peak travel times.
Note: if you have a luggage, its often not worth attempting to use a bus as it you might not find where to put it or end up losing it.
Traveling by Private Taxi
Travelling by private taxi is one the ways of getting around Nairobi city and the most popular used by travelers in Nairobi city as they offer private and comfortable experience, in Nairobi city there are licensed taxis in Nairobi marked with a yellow stripe and can be found on most streets of the city center. These Taxis are also found outside popular tourist destinations, attractions and hotels. While moving at night in Nairobi the safest way to move is taking a private taxi and they can easily be found outside clubs, restaurants and bars.
Note: Though private taxis are safer option of getting around Nairobi than Matatus and more convenient than buses, they are usually overpriced and in most cases poorly maintained as very few have a working meter thus you have to agree have to agree about the fare before accepting the ride.
While travelling in Nairobi city the use of Ride-Share Apps is one of the best ways to use to navigate through the city, some of the apps include Uber and Bolt. These apps offer cheaper fares than the conventional taxis and for tourists who is new in Nairobi, they are safer and offer a more peace for mind while on Kenya Tours.
So as to offer great services of a certain standard, Ride-Share drivers undergo training and background checks. The passengers also review their service which is an added incentive for drivers to keep their vehicles in good working order, adhere to road roles and treat their clients in a welcoming and respectful manner.
Ride-Share Apps have an ability to share your locations and progress with friends and family adding an element of safety while using these cars, you can also order a ride via your smart phone saving you from hailing a taxi on the street.
Renting a vehicle/car
While on a safari experience in Nairobi city for a couple of days and you want to have comfortable driving while in the busy streets of the city renting a vehicle is most appropriate thing to do. In Nairobi city there are a number of car hire companies who can rent you a vehicle to use, these companies have rules and regulations they follow while renting out their cars and below are some of them.
- Drivers to drive the car must be 23 to 25 years old
- Must have a valid credit card in their own names
Note: in Kenya, they drive on the left and while driving in Kenya consider asking for GPS to help you in directions and signs through the city.
Roads in Nairobi city are in a very well maintained state mainly in the city centre but expect potholes in the city’s suburbs. The good thing about renting a vehicle is that they have an option of offering you a car with a chauffeur.
Tips for Getting Around Nairobi
- Most of the public transport options in Nairobi city are road-based and all of them are affected by the congestion during the peak hours, as a traveler you are advised to avoid traveling during the morning or afternoon hours to avoid getting stuck in the traffic.
- If you choose to travel using a matatu or a bush while in Nairobi be sure to carry small notes of money, change is often unavailable hence you will end up paying more than necessary if you do not have the correct fare.
- When traveling by a matatu or a bus, keep a keen eye on your belongings at all times so as to avoid any possible pickpockets or thieves who could be eyeing your belongings.
- In case are to make several trips a day and your mode of transport is a taxi, it is often cheaper to hire a driver for the day than paying each trip individually.
Note: your hotel can help you arrange the taxi and the driver on your behalf.
- If you are to rent a car, make sure you do not leave your valuables visible when you park the vehicle. And also keep the doors locked and widows rolled up while driving through the city most especially in the night hours.
- If you are to explore Nairobi on foot, make sure you stick on the main streets and avoid wearing flashy jewelry and carrying expensive phones and cameras as they attract thieves. Avoid walking alone at night.
- The most safe way to move through Nairobi city is booking a guided tour with us as our packages include transfers from the airport and to the hotel.