I make this journey all the time! To tell you how much, let me just share that in March 2005, while working in Nairobi and not on leave, I spent three of the four weekends in March in Kampala. Although occasionally I fly between these two destinations, I do so rarely because of the exorbitant price of air travel on this route. Traveling by bus is 8 times cheaper and is convenient enough, especially when I’m not particularly time-constrained.
Many bus companies serve this route. The only three that are worth knowing about, in my opinion, are Akamba Public Road Services, Scandanavia Express Services, and Regional Coach Services (which I will refer to from now on as simply Akamba, Scandinavia, and Regional). Of these three, Akamba and Scandinavia are by far the superior services, though when the need arises, Regional is an OK alternative. I will tell you about these services in a three part series. In this first post of the series, I will tell you all you need to know about making this journey with Akamba. In the next two posts, I will tell you what you need to know about traveling with Scandinavia and Regional.
Akamba is the oldest of the three services I will discuss. I am not sure when Akamba came into existence, but my parents tell me that it existed even in their day. This is both a good and bad thing. Starting with it being a good thing, Akamba has a lot of experience ferrying passengers on this route and has mastered the art of doing so safely. Of the three bus services, Akamba has the best and longest safety track record. During the 9 years that I have regularly traveled this route, I have never heard of a major road accident involving Akamba. If safety, above all, is what you are looking for, look no further – Akamba Bus is the bus for you.
As a bad thing, because of its age as a service, Akamba buses are often no longer in the best of conditions and can be quite rickety. There are two ways that I know of to circumvent this problem. The first is to pay a little more and use the more up-market Akamba service known as Akamba Royal; the other is to use a trick that I learned from a cousin who also makes this journey often: travel with a pillow to cushion “the blows”. This you can always do when traveling by bus anywhere in East Africa and goes a long way to making a bus ride a lot more comfortable.
Akamba travels between Nairobi and Kampala using two different routes. One route passes through Kisumu and crosses the Kenya-Uganda border at Busia, while the other passes through Eldoret and crosses the border at Malaba. I am not sure why, but most people I know prefer to travel using the Busia route. Out of habit, I too used to travel using that route. The last time I traveled to Kampala, in order to avoid the very bad road between Nairobi and Kisumu, I chose to travel using the Malaba route. The journey was more comfortable, and once again I wondered why people prefer to use the Busia route. (Is this your preference? If so, why?)
Akamba buses serving the Nairobi-Kampala route depart from Nairobi several times a day, both during the day and at night. During the day, buses leave early in the morning, at 7 a.m.; at night, they leave at 7 p.m. and 10.30 p.m. Akamba Royal, the up-market service of Akamba, departs from Nairobi only once a day – in the morning at 7 a.m.. I recommend day travel the first time you make this journey so that you get to see what lies between the two capital cities. Once you have seen what there is to see, I recommend night travel on all subsequent journeys. The journey now takes 13 hours due to bad roads and government-imposed speed limits. Traveling at night makes this long journey seem much shorter since you can sleep most of the way.
Traveling between Nairobi and Kampala by bus is inexpensive. The last ticket I bought for Akamba’s executive service (the regular service) cost me only 1,400 KSh, while the Akamba Royal service cost 2,100 KSh. If day travel and money are not considerations, then I do recommend spending the extra money to travel by Akamba Royal. Akamba Royal, being a newer service, has more modern and comfortable buses and, in my experience, tends to be more prompt.
I think I have told you all you need to know about traveling between Nairobi and Kampala using Akamba. If you have any comments, or questions you would like to ask, please leave me a comment below. If you would like to contact the Akamba offices directly, you can call them on +254 (20) 556062, in Nairobi, and on +256 (41) 250412, in Kampala.
If you will be making this journey soon, I wish you a safe and comfortable trip.
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Update courtesy of Poussir, a reader, on February 15, 2009:
- Akamba’s new booking number: +254-20-340430
- Price of Akamba Royal Service Nairobi-Kampala (one way): KES 2500.00 / US$32.00