In this guide, I explain how to travel overland from Addis Ababa to Nairobi by bus. This trip can be made in 2 days. I highly recommend you schedule an extra rest day somewhere along the way as the buses hot, uncomfortable, and sometimes unreliable. I broke the journey up by visiting the Omo Valley for about 10 days. This journey takes 4 buses and costs around $40 in bus fare. You’ll also want to factor in the cost of one or two budget hotels and food during the journey.
State 1: Bus from Addis Ababa to Arba Minch, Ethiopia
At least one day before you want to leave, make your way to the Selam bus ticketing office in Meskel Square in Addis Ababa and buy your ticket. Tell the ticketing agent that you want to go to Arba Minch. The bus leaves at 5:00 am every day and the ticket costs about 300 Birr. You should arrive at Meskel Square by 4:30 am on the day of departure. The bus leaves on time.
You will arrive in Arba Minch at around 1:00 pm. If you have the time, this would be a great place to stay the night. You could spend the afternoon visiting Nechisar National Park or looking for Nile crocodiles in nearby lake Chamo.
Stage 2: Bus from Arba Minch to Konso Town, Ethiopia
From Arba Minch, you will catch a minibus to Konso Town. You will have to wait for the bus to fill up with passengers. This can take a couple of hours if you are unlucky like me. Several buses travel between Arba Minch and Konso each day. This trip should cost less than 100 birr. There is no rush to get to Konso as you will have to stay the night there regardless.
Konso has 2 hotels and a lodge. I stayed in the single-story budget hotel in the center of town. I think it was called Konso guesthouse. It cost around 150 birr per night. The room was very basic but it was secure and clean enough. The other hotel is a multi-story structure. The rooms there cost more but looked a bit cleaner and more comfortable.
Tip: If you want to use the internet, you can walk up to Kanta Lodge. It is 2 kilometers up the hill on the main road. There is wifi in the restaurant that you can use if you buy something. I enjoyed a couple of beers after a long day on the bus while I used the incredibly slow internet.
Stage 3: Bus from Konso to Moyale, Ethiopia
The next morning you will catch the bus from Konso to Moyale, Ethiopia. It leaves at about 5:00 am. Make sure you get there early so you can get a decent seat as the bus will be packed. The ticket costs 135 birr. You will arrive in Moyale at around noon.
You could stay the night in Moyale on either the Ethiopia or Kenya side. The Ethiopian side has a higher population and hotels will be cheaper. There is not much to do in Moyale. It is just a dusty border town, but you may want to rest here before the long ride to Nairobi.
Crossing the Ethiopia-Kenya Border at Moyale
Once you arrive in Moyale, Ethiopia, you can walk or take a tuk-tuk to the border. I had a bit of trouble finding the Ethiopian immigration office. It is a small gray building off to the left if you are standing on the main road facing the border. The exit process is smooth. An official flipped through my passport and stamped me out without any issues.
After you get stamped out, walk across the border to the Kenya immigration building. Visa on arrival is available for Kenya for most nationalities. I paid $50 for 3 months with a US passport. The East Africa visa is also available for $100. I waited about 10 minutes for the immigration official to process my visa. Everything went smooth. The whole crossing took around 20 minutes.
For more info on visas, you can read my African visa guide.
Stage 4: Bus from Moyale, Kenya to Nairobi
Once you cross, you can walk straight along the main road to the bus ticketing office. It will be on your left just a couple of blocks from the border. Several companies offer bus service that leave at 2 pm for Nairobi. I took the Moyale Star.
The bus ticket from Moyale to Nairobi costs about 2000 shillings ($20). The bus arrives in Nairobi between 2 am and 3 am assuming there are no mechanical problems or other holdups along the way.
Be sure to keep your passport ready for the duration of the ride. You will pass through 5 or 6 police checkpoints along the way. Sometimes you have to get out of the bus and line up to have your passport checked. Sometimes the police board the bus and check your passport while you’re seated.
Tip: You Can Stay on the Bus Until 6 AM in Nairobi
Once you arrive in Nairobi, you are allowed to stay on the bus and sleep until around 6:00 am. If you prefer, there are several cheap hotels nearby where you can get a cheap room for the night. They cost about 1200 shillings (around $12) per night.
I decided to stay on the bus after arriving in Nairobi to avoid having to pay for a night of accommodation. Around 2/3 of the passengers got off when the bus arrived. I moved to an empty row of seats where I could stretch out. I slept for around 3 hours. At around 6 am, a bus company employee woke everyone up and told us to get off the bus.
If you are spending a few days in the city, check out my list of the 13 best things to do in Nairobi.
Overall, this bus journey is pretty safe. The ride is long and hot but people are generally friendly. Ethiopia is a pretty safe place to travel. The country is peaceful. Kenya is a bit more dangerous. Crime rates are generally higher and terrorism is more common.
One place you need to be a bit careful is when you arrive in Nairobi. The Moyale to Nairobi buses drop you off in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi. This is supposedly a fairly dangerous place. I recommend you stay on the bus and wait until morning to get off just to be safe. During the day, you’re much less likely to encounter any robbers or muggers.
Terrorism in Moyale
When making this journey, you will pass through one potentially dangerous region. The Ethiopia-Kenya border has a history of terror attacks. Moyale, in particular, has experienced some problems in recent years. For more info, check out this article from Africa News.
To be safe, you may want to reduce the amount of time you spend in Moyale and head straight to Nairobi. It’s unlikely that you will run into any problems, but the less time you spend in high-risk areas, the lower the chance that anything bad happens.
Scams to look out for along the way
Another problem you may encounter during this trip is encountering scammers. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I fell for a scam when traveling from Konso to Moyale.
While trying to buy my bus ticket for the following day, I was sold a fake bus ticket. The guy who sold it looked legit. He had a bus ticket book and even some kind of uniform. Unfortunately, the following morning when I tried to board the bus, the attendant informed me that my ticket was not valid because it didn’t include a bus number. I ended up just buying another ticket for about half the cost of the counterfeit ticket. The guy scammed me for about $10.
For more general information on safety, check out my guide: Is Africa Safe? Avoiding Crime, Disease, Injury, and Scams.
Where to Stay in Addis Ababa and Nairobi
- In Addis Ababa- I recommend Cot Addis Backpackers Hostel. The place is very clean and well run. They have a kitchen, laundry facility, and a nice common room with a tv. A great, cheap restaurant is located just downstairs. This isn’t the cheapest place to stay in Addis Ababa but it’s definitely the best hostel in the city. The staff are also friendly and honest. When I arrived, I was slightly overcharged because they didn’t take into account the deposit that I had paid when I made my reservation online. I didn’t notice because I was so exhausted from an 18-hour flight from Los Angeles. When the manager came in, he found me and refunded me the difference. I didn’t even have to ask.
- In Nairobi- I recommend Manyatta Backpackers. I stayed here for about 2 weeks and found it to be a really well run hostel. They offer a cheap, tasty dinner each night and include a nice pancake breakfast in the price. The wifi is pretty fast for Africa. The location is also excellent. It is within walking distance of the CBD so you don’t have to mess with a taxi or an uber every time you want to go anywhere.
In Summary: Addis Abab to Nairobi by Bus
- Travel from Addis Ababa leaving at 5:00 am to Arba Minch arriving at 1:00 pm.
- From Arba Minch, you will take a minibus to Konso Town.
- Spend the night in Konso Town.
- From Konso take the 5:00 am bus to Moyale, Ethiopia.
- Cross the border to Moyale, Kenya.
- The bus to Nairobi leaves at 2:00 pm. You will arrive in Nairobi at 3 am.
Final Thoughts on Traveling from Addis Ababa to Nairobi by Bus
This was a really long and uncomfortable ride. It’s about 965 miles or 1550 kilometers from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, after all. If you can afford it, I recommend you fly. A flight on Ethiopian or Kenyan Airlines costs around $200. After expenses, that’s around $140 more than the bus.
One thing that I found interesting in Ethiopia and northern Kenya was that people do not like the windows open on the bus. The stagnant air and body odor make the ride much more unpleasant than it has to be. At one point on the bus to Nairobi, it was 40 degrees Celsius outside and everyone on the bus and myself were just dripping with sweat. Nobody had their window open and there was no AC on the bus. I tried to open my window but was told several times to close it. People around me even got up to close it for me during the trip. If anyone knows the reasoning behind this, I’d be really interested to know. Comment below.
For more bus info, check out my Ultimate African Bus Guide for a list of all of my step-by-step bus guides.
Have you traveled from Addis Ababa to Nairobi by bus? Share your experience in the comments below to help fellow travelers make this journey!
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