Getting around Kenya
Nairobi has two airports for domestic and regional flights: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport (www.kaa.go.ke). Kenya has over 150 domestic airports and airstrips and there are daily flights to the most popular destinations. In addition to the scheduled airlines, several private charter companies operate out of Wilson Airport.
Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com), Air Kenya (www.airkenya.com), Fly 540 (www.fly540.com), Mombasa Air Safari (www.mombasaairsafari.com) and Safarilink (www.flysafarilink.com) serve the most popular safari destinations, plus many others such as Lake Victoria.
On smaller, domestic planes the baggage allowance is restricted to 10-15 kg (22-33 lbs). Arrangements can be made to leave excess luggage with hotels or airlines.
Main roads between the major cities and towns are generally in good condition, and easily navigable in a normal saloon car. Most highways in the south are paved, but that’s not the case in the north.
While major roads are generally in a good condition, most minor gravel roads have deep potholes which deteriorate further in the rainy season. Dirt roads, including those in the parks and reserves, are extremely rough, and some are only passable with a 4-wheel drive.
About 10% of Kenya’s estimated 170,000 km (105,000 miles) of roads are tarred. The rest are gravel or dirt tracks. There are several major tarred routes classified as ‘A’ or ‘B’ roads, which include the A109 from Nairobi to Mombasa, the A104 from Nairobi to Namanga, and the B2 from Nakuru to the Uganda border.
You can hire self-drive and chauffeur-driven cars from travel agents and international hire companies. Drivers must be at least 23 years of age. Budget (www.budget.com) and Europcar (www.europcar.com) have outlets at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. Budget also has a desk at Moi International Airport in Mombasa, while Europcar has an office in town. Car hire can be expensive and rates vary significantly.
Matatus (shared minibus taxis) hop from town to town, starting and finishing at bus stations. Fares are paid to the conductor. Private taxis can also be hired for long-distance journeys.
Numerous private bus companies operate in Kenya. Most vehicles are old and tend to depart when full, which means there are no set timetables. Petty theft on the vehicles and at bus stations can be a problem. Nevertheless, buses are cheap and link all long-distance destinations. Plus, seatbelts are now mandatory, so buses are relatively safe.
Speed limits are 110kph (68mph) on dual carriageways 100kph (62mph) on single carriageways and 60kph (37mph) in built-up areas. It is compulsory to wear a seatbelt and obligatory that all vehicles carry two red triangles to be placed 20m (66ft) in front and behind the vehicle in the event of a breakdown.
Automobile Association of Kenya (tel: +254 20 697 900; www.aakenya.co.ke).
A driving licence from a home country (and a translation if this is not in English) or an International Driving Permit is required. Third-party insurance is mandatory when hiring a car and it’s recommended to take out the additional collision damage waiver. A valid credit card is also needed.
Nairobi and Mombasa have efficient bus systems and there are also frequent matatus, but reckless driving and petty theft makes them a dodgy option for tourists. Three-wheeled auto rickshaws are popular in town centres and carry up to three passengers.
The newer fleets of taxis (usually painted white with a yellow band) are reliable and have meters. The older yellow taxis do not have meters, so fares should be agreed in advance. In Nairobi, there is a fleet of London-style black cabs. A 10% tip is expected. Cabs cannot be hailed in the street, but can be found parked in taxi ranks.
Rift Valley Railways (tel: +254 20 204 4476; www.riftvalleyrail.com) runs trains between Nairobi and Mombasa. Click on 'Passenger Travel' then 'Inter-City' to check the frequency of services. Trains generally leave in the evening and arrive the following morning after a 13-hour journey. There are three classes: first class is reasonably comfortable, with two-berth compartments, washbasin, etc; second class is in basic, four-berth compartments; and third is simple wooden seating.
The dining-car service for first and second class passengers on the Nairobi-Mombasa route is adequate, but it’s always a good idea to take snacks and drinks. Sleeping compartments should be booked in advance. Children under three years of age travel free.
The railway connecting Nairobi to Kampala (Uganda) via Kisumu is no longer operational, but it's possible that services may resume at some point.
Mombasa is located on an island just offshore. The mainland is linked by bridges with one exception: the south coast which is reached by the Likoni Ferry. This takes foot passengers and vehicles to beach resorts in the south. There are also a few irregular ferry services operating on Lake Victoria.