How to Travel from Addis Ababa to Nairobi by Bus

by wheretheroadforks

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. 

Meskel Square, Addis Ababa

Meskel Square, Addis Ababa

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.

Lake Chamo Crocodile

Lake Chamo Crocodile

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.

View from Kanta Lodge

The view from Kanta Lodge

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. 

Moyale Star bus to Nairobi

Moyale Star bus on the way to Nairobi

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.

Staying Safe

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

To recap:

  • 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!

More Africa Travel Guides from Where The Road Forks

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29 comments

Mikael April 7, 2019 - 1:13 pm

I lived in Ethiopia for 3 years from 1970-1973 serving as a Peace Corps volunteer. I lived out in the bush for the first 2 years with the Guraghe people and then one year in Gemu Gofa Province where the Omo Valley is located. After 18 months in country, I traveled overland from Addis to Nairobi in December 1971. It took me 10 long hard days just to get to Moyale and when I got there I needed a visa. Then the fun really began. Story being written now.

Anyway, in regards to your curiosity as to why Ethiopians always want the windows completely shut while travelling on the bus (or any vehicle for that matter) is because they believe the wind will make them sick. In Amharic, they say, “nefas yeyizal”. Which means the wind will grab you and you will become very ill.

I liked your story. But isn’t Konso a bit out of the way to get to Moyale. I would think the road through Dila would be far better, although maybe a bit longer?

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wheretheroadforks April 8, 2019 - 9:53 am

Great story. Thanks for taking the time to write this out. Ethiopia must have been a whole different world in the early 70s. I can’t imagine a 10 day journey to Moyale. I thought 3 days was bad. Also, thank you for the info on why the Ethiopians close the windows. I suspected that it was some sort of superstition. Very interesting.

As for why I traveled through Konso, I think the road through Dila would be more direct but from what I could find, the only coach going in that direction went to Arba Minch. I wanted to take the Selam bus south because it is so much faster and more comfortable than minibusses. I was also going to the Omo Valley which is in that direction anyway. I was told there is a direct bus from Addis Ababa to Moyale now but I haven’t been able to find any info on it.

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Daniel July 13, 2020 - 12:57 am

Yes, this superstition doesn’t only apply in Africa. I work in Ukraine and it has been my constant torment when riding a bus during summer, that Slavic people also believe that the wind will make them sick. I can’t remember the word – but there is a specific word for it in Russian.

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Alem Mebrahtu April 24, 2019 - 7:18 am

Hi,
I (Born in Eritrea) am Planing also to Travel the same Route from Stuttgart-Germany – flight to Asmara, then Bus and Public Transport over Addis-Abeba to Nairobi and to Arusha (Tanzania).
It was really Interesting to read and feel as I am preparing just now and taking Notices.
I do have two questions: 1. As a foreign Language you used English? Was it all the Time in The journey easy to communicate?
2. How did you do with your Finance and the Convertibility. Have you used Credit Cards? Or you had it all the time Cash?
I woul appriciate if you could answer me this questions.

Thank you for the story
Cheers Alem

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wheretheroadforks April 24, 2019 - 9:34 am

Hi Alem, good questions. For the language, I only speak English and got along just fine. In Ethiopia, most people speak a bit and understand English. In Kenya and Tanzania, most people are fluent. Particularly in Kenya. As for finances, I carried a debit card and credit card and just used ATMs to get cash. Every decent sized city has an ATM. I also recommend you carry at least a couple hundred US dollars just in case. You can exchange them in any town if you can’t find a working ATM. I’m not sure if you need any visas being from Eritrea, but if you do, you’ll need to pay in dollars. Next time I travel to Africa, I will bring more cash. I found that you can get a better exchange rate when changing dollars than the bank gives. Hope this helps. Safe travels
-Zac

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Alem Mebrahtu April 29, 2019 - 6:29 am

Thank you for you answers. I am only an Eritrean Origin but a German Citzen (Passport). I think I get it in Kenya and Tanzania on the Border for 50$ to 100$.
the big Problem is scamming. But it is there. If you can you have only to watch out.
Alem

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wheretheroadforks April 29, 2019 - 9:08 am

Yes, I believe you’ll pay $50 each for Kenya and Tanzania. Scamming is a big problem in Africa but I didn’t encounter any scams while going through passport control. Around the borders you do have to look out though.

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nik May 24, 2019 - 10:00 am

The people in buses usually don’t like windows be open because of dust from the road flying inside.

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wheretheroadforks May 24, 2019 - 11:40 am

Maybe, but I believe there is more to it than that. Another commenter explained a superstition where Ethiopian people believe that the wind coming through the window of a vehicle will make them sick. Even when cruising down the tarmac where there is no dust, they insist that all windows be closed. Even if everyone aboard is clearly sweaty and uncomfortable.

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Michael Santarelli May 24, 2019 - 11:42 am

Dust is not the whole reason otherwise the windows would be open when driving on tarmac, but they are not. After having lived in Ethiopia as a Peace Corps Volunteer (1970-73) and having suffered through many a long hot bus ride with the windows closed, and after becoming quite conversant in Amharic, I can say that the main reason Ethiopians keep the window down or closed is because they don’t want the wind to hit them. In Amharic, the saying is “Nefaz yeyizal”, literally, the “wind will grab you”. Ethiopians believe that the wind will make them sick, a cold, pneumonia or some sickness. Didn’t our grandma’s warn us to stay indoors on a windy rainy day, “You’ll catch your death”, she’d say.. Same thing in Ethiopia.

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wheretheroadforks May 24, 2019 - 12:50 pm

This explanation makes more sense to me. They really wanted the windows closed. Not just to keep a bit of dust out. While I was there, I found it incredibly irritating having someone on the other side of the bus insist that I close my window while it was so hot inside. Great comparison to our grandmas. That helped me understand it.

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Andrew Young June 4, 2019 - 10:16 am

Hi.
Given that the buses ingeniously arrive early in the morning in the famously unsafe Eastleigh I was wondering wheter there are taxis around when the bus arrives to speed one away poste haste. Where they funny about letting peoe stay on the bus until six or is that part of the deal.
Thanks
Andrew

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wheretheroadforks June 4, 2019 - 12:14 pm

I don’t remember if there were taxis waiting around when the bus arrived or not. You could order an uber and sit on the bus until it arrived. If you don’t have a local sim card, you could probably ask another passenger or one of the bus company employees to call a cab or help you find one. Someone may be willing to help you out. I would say about a third of the passengers chose to stay on the bus until 6. Nobody bothered us. Someone just came in and woke us all up when they needed us to get off in the morning. By 6 you can easily find a taxi.

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Francis October 9, 2019 - 2:22 pm

There is uber and other forms of transportation.
Also there are good hotels within Eastleigh
The area is not really dangerous if you designate yourself to safe areas such as bus station.

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Francis October 9, 2019 - 2:18 pm

-Hey there, am from Kenya. Been reading your stuff and it’s quite captivating. It’s amazing how someone can come all the way from USA and traverse this entire region and yet we the locals haven’t even travel within kenya to begin with!

-Am ashamed about the unfortunate scamming incident, i also hate to hear the fact that my country kenya is riddled with pockets of insecurity and conflict. It is the sad truth and i pray things change soon.
Areas such as Eastleigh have made an improvement in terms of security these days

– i can tell that you’re one courageous person and daring.

– transport to the northern areas of kenya are of the poor quality because there are fewer people who travel to those region and most of them are not that well off

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wheretheroadforks October 9, 2019 - 4:51 pm

Good to hear that Eastleigh and similar areas are improving. I stayed there for a couple of days and felt safe enough. After I left, a few people told me that it is a dangerous neighborhood and that I shouldn’t stay there. Thanks for reading my article.

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Kat October 16, 2019 - 8:59 pm

Great information! I live in Nairobi and my fiance and I are planning a trip in the opposite way next month. I haven’t explored your page yet, beyond this piece, but I hope you detailed your time in the Omo Valley. I will look for it.
Also, as others have said Eastleigh is certainly improved!
Thanks for the information. Safe travels.

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wheretheroadforks October 17, 2019 - 12:31 pm

Glad you found the info useful. I have written about my time in the Omo Valey here. Nice to hear that Eastleigh has improved. It seemed like a decent area when I was there. Affordable too. Have a safe trip!

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Matt October 22, 2019 - 7:08 am

You mentioned that the journey can be done in 2 days… Is this a case of “City to border in 1 day” on both sides?

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wheretheroadforks October 22, 2019 - 5:52 pm

You can travel from Nairobi to the border in one day. The bus travels directly. I think you could travel from Addis Ababa to the border in one day but I’m not completely sure. You’ll arrive in Arba Minch at around 1 pm. From there, you’ll need to catch a minibus. You may need to stop in Konso or Yebelo for the night and catch another bus the following morning. There may be a minibus traveling all the way to Moyale. I would schedule an extra day just in case.

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Robert January 27, 2020 - 12:36 pm

Hi there am also hoping to travel from Nairobi to Addis some time late 2020 …looking forward to hear how your experience was.

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Purushotham November 20, 2019 - 3:33 am

Thank you for the info and I travelled according to to your plan. Salem bus to arbaminch got cancelled due to less number of people and so they put us in zameen bus in Addis ababa. So there’s another company zameen and ticket price is 355 birr with Wifi till arbaminch from Addis ababa.

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wheretheroadforks November 20, 2019 - 11:39 am

Thank you for the update. I’ll update the article with the new information.

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Robert February 7, 2020 - 11:57 am

I just completed this trip using your itinerary for the most part, 2020/02/05-2020/02/06. Rolled from Addis Ababa to Arba Minch. The ticket with on Habesha bus was 355 birr. In Arba Minch I was followed from the Habesha office to the bus station by a tout/broker/guide. I told him to leave me alone, but he was not deterred. When we got to the station he swindled the mini-bus driver out of a kick-back by saying he was my guide. When I asked the price of the transport the driver said 500 birr – 100 for me, 100 for baggage, and 300 for guide. A local said 100 birr was the fare. I refused to pay the guide fee. So, whatever he paid in a kickback to the guide was his loss. These touts aren’t just swindling travelers; they get the drivers once in a while, too. At Konso I stayed at the Kal Pension (see Google Maps) for 400 birr. Decent room. Walked up to the Kanta Lodge and had a meal as you recommended. No WiFi though. The next morning I caught the bus from Konso to Moyale, 170 birr. Cleared immigration on the Ethiopian side. Cleared immigration of the Kenyan side (they don’t take $1 notes to pay for your visa, so have $5, $10, $20, etc…). I caught the Moyale Liner Moyale/Nairobli bus as far as Nanyuki (I wanted to stand on the Equator). They only had a VIP seat left so I paid 2500 KES. Your info was very helpful and much appreciated.

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wheretheroadforks February 7, 2020 - 4:34 pm

Thanks for the report. I’ll have to update the article one day with some new prices and minor changes. It sounds like the trip is pretty much the same as when I went though. Good info about the scammer. Too bad he got some money out of the driver but at least you didn’t lose anything. I got lucky and met a nice, honest guy on the bus from Addis who helped me buy my minibus ticket. Good luck with the rest of your trip.

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Valentin July 8, 2020 - 1:18 pm

Great info…I am planning a trip from Nairobi to Addis and further, on a motorbike. I know the section between Nairobi and Marsabit is good tarr, can you tell me is the rest of the road also tarred, thank you, Valentin

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wheretheroadforks July 9, 2020 - 1:37 pm

I believe the road is tar all the way from Nairobi to Addis. When I made the trip, they were doing some road construction in southern Ethiopia and we had to make a slight detour around it on dirt tracks. I would assume that it’s finished by now. I think you’ll be riding on a decent tar road most, if not all the time.

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Stalin Kauli November 23, 2020 - 8:55 am

Helpful information here.I am planning to do the same trip in 2 weeks time.All the way from Hargaysa in Somaloland to Nairobi.

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wheretheroadforks November 24, 2020 - 11:52 pm

That’s a long haul. Have a safe trip!

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