How to Travel Between Nairobi, Kenya and Kampala, Uganda by Bus

by wheretheroadforks

Traveling between Nairobi, Kenya and Kampala, Uganda by bus is pretty straightforward. One bus takes you all the way. No transfers are required. The trip takes 12-14 hours. Day and night buses are available. In this guide, I outline buying tickets, pricing, bus schedules, ticketing office locations, luggage, safety, and more. I will also explain how to get the Uganda visa as it is not available at the border.

Bus in Kenya

Not the exact bus but a similar one in Kenya

How to Buy Bus Tickets Between Nairobi and Kampala

I recommend you go down to the bus station at least a day in advance to buy your ticket. This route is pretty popular so the buses do fill up. The bus I was on was fully booked so I was glad that I already had my ticket. Remember to bring your passport with you when you go to buy your ticket. It is required for booking.

Tickets for this route can be purchased in cash at the ticket offices in Nairobi and Kampala. It may be possible to buy tickets online from some bus companies. If you’re buying your ticket in Kenya, you’ll probably have to pay with M-Pesa. This involves creating an account. If you’re purchasing your ticket in Uganda, you may be able to pay with MTN Mobile Money. 

Which Bus Company to Go With?

This is a popular route. Several companies offering bus service between Nairobi and Kampala. Really, they are all more or less the same. If one has a more convenient departure time or a better price, go with them. From what I saw, prices are all about the same. Bus companies include:

There are probably more companies as well but these are the main four. I made the trip with Mash Bus. I was happy with the service. Their buses are new and comfortable. The service is safe and reliable. I can recommend them. 

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi

Where To buy Bus Tickets In Nairobi

Nairobi doesn’t really have a central bus station. Each company has an office where you buy your ticket and catch the bus. Unfortunately, these offices are located all over the city. Most are found within the CBD. Some are in Eastleigh. It is possible to walk around a bit and check pricing and departure times because most offices are within the same general area.

For the exact location of the ticket offices either click the following Google Maps links or copy and paste the plus code into Google Maps.

You can get to the bus ticketing office in Nairobi by taxi, Uber, matatu shared bus, or on foot if you’re staying downtown.

Where to Buy Bus Tickets in Kampala

All of the bus ticket offices are conveniently located in the same general area on De Winton Street in central Kampala. When you go to buy your ticket, you can easily check the departure times and prices for each of the following companies and choose the most convenient and best value bus.

For the exact location of the ticket offices either click the following Google Maps links or copy and paste the plus code into Google Maps.

You can get to the bus ticketing office in Kampala by taxi, boda boda motorcycle taxi, rideshare, or on foot.

Kampala, Uganda

Kampala

Bus Ticket Prices Between Nairobi and Kampala

The average price for this trip is about $20-$25 depending on the company and class that you choose. The more expensive buses offer air conditioning. VIP seats are also available. These seats are larger and recline further which makes sleeping a bit easier.

The air-conditioned version of MASH bus is called MASH COOL. The non AC bus is called MASH POA.

Nairobi to Kampala Busses

Mash Bus offers this route two times every day. One leaves at 5:00 pm and one leaves at 6:30 pm. There are 3 ticket options for the 5 pm MASH POA bus:

  • VIP class costs 2,600 KES
  • Business class costs 2,400 KES
  • Regular economy class costs 2000 KES.

There are 2 ticket options for the 6:30 pm MASH COOL bus.

  • VIP class costs 3,500 KES
  • Business class costs 2,500 KES.

I went with business class on the 6:30 pm bus. All of the seats looked exactly the same to me. I don’t know if different classes actually exist or they are just trying to upsell tickets for more money. Who knows? Next time, I’d just buy an economy class ticket. 

A street in Nairobi CBD

A busy street in Nairobi CBD

Kampala to Nairobi Bus

Mash Bus offers two buses. One at 5:00 pm and one at 6:00 pm. There are 3 ticket options for the 5 pm MASH POA bus:

  • VIP class costs 90,000 UGX
  • Business class costs 80,000 UGX
  • Regular economy class costs 65,000 UGX

There are 2 ticket options for the 6:00 pm MASH COOL bus.

  • VIP class costs 120,000 UGX
  • Business class costs 85,000 UGX

Modern Coast also offers this route two times every day. Once at 7:00 pm and one at 8:00 pm. Tickets cost about 85,000 UGX. Dreamline also offers tickets for about 65,000 UGX.

Bus Departure Times Between Nairobi and Kampala

Most companies travel this route by night. Each company has a slightly different departure time between about 5:00 pm and 9:00 pm. There is probably a bus departing about every 30 minutes from somewhere in the cities during that time frame.

Morning buses are also available. They travel all day and arrive at night. Most companies offer one morning bus per day departing at around 7:00 or 8:00 am.

The ride from Nairobi to Kampala takes about 12-14 hours depending on traffic and how long the border crossing takes. My bus left Nairobi at 6:30 pm and arrived in Kampala the following morning at around 7:00 am.

I always choose a night bus if it is available as it saves me the cost of a night of accommodation and I am usually able to sleep through at least part of the ride. Traffic is usually less of a problem at night so the ride goes slightly faster.

Getting the Uganda Visa

Before you leave Nairobi, you’ll need to arrange your visa for Uganda. The visa is not available on arrival at the border. Uganda offers an online e-visa service. Surprisingly, this process is quick and efficient. Just go to the Uganda visa website here and fill out the application. When you submit the application, you will need to attach:

  • A scanned copy or photo of your passport
  • A scanned copy or photo of your yellow fever vaccine certificate
  • One passport-sized photo.

The visa costs $50 and there is a small processing fee. I think it was about $2.50. For $100, you can buy the East Africa visa which allows travel between Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda for 90 days. My visa was approved the day after I applied. You can pay by credit or debit card.

After your visa is approved, you will need to print out the confirmation paper that they email you. This is required at the border to prove that you have paid for your visa. It ended up taking me over an hour to find an internet cafe with a working printer on a Sunday in Nairobi but I eventually got the page printed.

The Kenya Visa

Visas are available on arrival at the border in Kenya. The cost is $50 for 90 days. The visa must be paid for in USD. Some borders offer the East Africa Visa. Be sure to verify that you can still get a visa on arrival before you travel. I have read that Kenya is considering doing away with it and just issuing e-Visas. If you’d prefer to have your visa when you arrive, you can apply for a Kenya e-Visa here.

For more information on visas, check out my African Visa Guide. 

The Border Crossing Between Kenya and Uganda

We crossed the border at the Busia crossing sometime in the middle of the night. It went pretty smooth and the wait wasn’t too long. We were probably at the border for a little over an hour. When I presented my visa acceptance printout to the Ugandan immigration official, he just stamped my passport and sent me on my way.

Make sure you have your yellow fever certificate when you cross this border in either direction. It is an entry requirement for both countries. Usually, they don’t ask to see it but you need to have one just in case.

If you have leftover currency, you can exchange it at the border. Make sure you check the exchange rate first so you don’t get ripped off. The currency change guys love to shortchange foreigners. 

Staying Safe

Overall, this route is pretty safe. The bus companies listed above operate a professional and reliable service. According to the Mash bus website, they vision test their drivers every 12 months. They also test their driver’s blood alcohol level before each shift to ensure that they aren’t driving under the influence. Their busses also use speed governors to prevent speeding. 

With this being said, bus accidents do happen in Africa. Really, the best thing you can do to avoid injury in the event of an accident is to choose your seat wisely. The safest place on the bus is near the center in an aisle seat. You also want to be on the opposite side of the bus to oncoming traffic.

I also recommend you watch out for pickpockets. Most people you meet on the bus are friendly but there are bad guys everywhere. My phone was pickpocketed on a minibus in Tanzania but luckily I was able to get it back.

For more general safety information, check out my guide: Is Travel in Africa Safe? Avoiding Crime, Injury, Disease, and Scams

Luggage on the Bus

Officially, the luggage limit is 15 kilos. You are allowed one large backpack or suitcase and one smaller personal item. Large luggage is stored under the bus. I prefer to have it with me on the bus but there just wasn’t space. Baggage handlers tag your luggage and place it under the bus for you. It seemed secure enough.

With this being said, I recommend you take any valuables or fragile items with you into the bus just to be safe. Try to keep an eye on the luggage compartment when people are exiting the bus if you can. 

If you have excess luggage, you may be charged a small fee. It really depends on the driver and baggage handlers. Most times, they don’t seem to care how much stuff people had with them.

Food and Drink

Because this bus travels by night, it doesn’t make any meal stops. Try to eat dinner before catching the bus. You can grab breakfast after you arrive in Kampala in the morning.

I recommend you make a stop at the supermarket before boarding the bus and pick up some snacks for the ride. I like to bring some cookies, bananas, bread, and a jar of peanut butter just in case I get hungry.

Rolex in Uganda

Rolex. A nice Ugandan breakfast or snack

Facilities and Bathrooms on the Bus

Most of the buses don’t have bathrooms. The drivers don’t make many bathroom stops either. Sometimes only once every 6 hours or so. I recommend you try to limit your liquid intake during the ride. You may not have many opportunities to use the bathroom after the journey gets started.

Most of the buses have electrical outlets for charging your devices. In my experience, these usually don’t work. If you want to use your phone during the trip, consider bringing a power bank. 

Arriving in Kampala

The bus arrived at around 7 am. We sat in traffic for a couple of hours before making it to the center of the city. The Mash Bus station is located on De Winton Street kind of near Said Barre Avenue.

It is just a block off Jinja Road which is a main road in Kampala. From there, minibusses and taxis are available which can take you anywhere in the city or if your destination is in the city center, you can just walk. You’ll also find ATMs, restaurants, and hotels within walking distance of the bus station. 

Arriving in Nairobi

The bus will drop you off in the CBD. If you’re arriving early in the morning or late at night, you’ll probably want to take a taxi or Uber to your hotel or hostel. The area isn’t particularly dangerous but it’s probably best not to walk around with all of your travel gear just in case. Within walking distance of the bus stations, you can find ATMs and restaurants. 

What to Expect Traveling from Nairobi to Kampala by Bus: My Experience

The bus leaves from the same place you bought the ticket. Most bus companies offer a small waiting room where you can sit if you arrive early. I recommend you just camp out in there until the bus arrives as the street is quite busy with people who will try to sell you stuff or potentially run scams.

If someone on the street approaches you and tries to tell you that the tickets are sold out, don’t believe them. Go into the ticketing office and see for yourself. These guys are just trying to sell you a ticket on a lower class bus and earn a commission. 

The buses I rode was air-conditioned and was overall in decent condition. It was surprisingly comfortable. You may want to bring a sweatshirt as the AC got cold at night. It was probably one of the best buses that I rode in Africa.

The bus left Nairobi on time and Arrived in Kampala at around 7 the following morning. It was around a 12-hour ride from Nairobi to Kampala.

Final Thoughts- Nairobi to Kampala by Bus

Overall this trip is pretty hassle-free and comfortable by African bus standards. The bus was in good condition, had AC, and arrived on time. Everyone I encountered along the way acted professionally including the immigration officials and bus company employees. 

If you’re trying to decide between flying and taking the bus, I recommend you save the money and take the bus. Flying between the two cities will cost $200-$300. The bus ticket costs as little as $20. For those traveling Africa on a budget, the savings is significant. 

Have you traveled between Nairobi and Kampala by bus recently? Share your experience in the comments below!

For a list of all of my step-by-step bus guides, check out The Ultimate African Bus Guide

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4 comments

Cristina October 14, 2019 - 9:29 am

Hi 🙂
Is there a way to buy the Mash Bus ticket online?
Thank you.

Reply
wheretheroadforks October 14, 2019 - 11:54 am

Yes, I believe you can now buy tickets on the Mash website here.

Reply
Lakshmi February 26, 2020 - 7:43 pm

Thank you for this detailed guide! I was skeptical about this route via bus, but seems like it’s a smooth ride.

Reply
wheretheroadforks February 27, 2020 - 9:20 pm

Glad you found the guide useful. Safe travels!

Reply

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