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Kenya to Uganda Border Crossing by Overland Bus

Kenya Uganda Border Crossing, A Worst Experience

I have a long-lasting wish to travel overland in Africa. So, during my last trip(October 2021) to East Africa, I planned an overland Bus travel from Kenya to Uganda. Finally, it come out o be a unique experience as well as a nightmare to the overland border crossing between Kenya and Uganda. So, on this trip, I experienced the border crossing between these two countries. This bus tour started from Nairobi(Kenya) and ends at Kampala(Uganda).

Why I decided to do this kenya to Uganda Border Crossing by Bus?

Although I have been warned by many friends to avoid this overland border crossing between Kenya and Uganda. While their observation was mostly correct. Whereas I wasn’t in a mood to miss the overland border crossing opportunity in the East African region from Kenya to Uganda. These potential concerns were not about safety issues. Rather those concerns were related to bribing and corruption of Ugandan immigration staff. Although, it was much worse than I expected yet I completed my immigration at the eleventh hour. I will describe in the relevant section that how I have been forced to bribe during my passport control at the border. Coming back to the topic, finally, I decided to give it a try to get and document the first-hand experience of border crossing difficulties from Kenya to Uganda.

How long will it take from Kenya to Uganda by Bus?

There is a distance of 660km from Nairobi(Kenya) to Kampala( Uganda). Nowadays, there are very few buses that are operational on this route like Mash Poa Bus company. Mash Poa leaves Nairobi at 16:00 and assumes to reach Kampala right next morning around 9. So, it takes around 17 hours to complete this travel. However, this long span of time mainly depends on two factors.

  • Largely due to the rush on the roads while leaving Nairobi and reaching Kampala.
  • Secondly, on the length of Queues at the passport control at the border.

How much is the ticket price for Overland Bus?

Mash Poa bus company fare is

  • 3700KES for a normal seat
  • 4000KES for VIP seat

VIP seats have more leg space and more reclining space. Previously fare was a bit competitive. However, due to the closures of other bus companies on this route the competition getting decreased and fares jumped to a bit higher place.

Which overland bus is better? Daytime or Nightbus?

Although it is a relative question and solely depends upon your timeframe. However, if you want to see the country line landscape then a day bus will be a good option. Furthermore, you can easily tackle the border crossing in bright daylight. On the other hand, if you have a short of time then a night bus will be more convenient for you. In the evening, you will start from Nairobi and you will be in Kampala right next morning. However, be ready for a midnight queue for immigration and other border formalities.

What are the entry requirements from Kenya to Uganda Border Crossing?

The first and foremost thing is your passport or entry document with the permission or visa on it. Secondly, you need a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Although in our case, they didn’t ask anyone to show it down. Thirdly, you need a PCR test and they will ask you to show your email that you directly received from a hospital/lab.

What are the visa requirements to Enter Uganda?

You need an Uganda or an East African Visa to enter Uganda. I have an East African Visa that I applied for and got from the Kenya E Visa website. It is a multiple entry East African Visa on which you can travel into Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. Visa will remain valid for multiple entries unless you remain within the premises of these three countries of East Africa.

Kenya E Visa
Kenya E Visa

Transit Bus stops on the way to Uganda from Kenya?

On the way, the bus takes a short break at Nakuru and then a long break at Busia. During 2nd break, passengers make their immigration or take some rest after immigration. Here is important distances and timeframe from Nairobi(Kenya) to Kampala(Uganda)

  • Nairobi to Naivasha: 100Km ( 2and a half Hour)
  • Naivasha to Nakuru: 65Km (1 and a half Hour)
  • Nakuro to Busia: 300Km( 6Hours)
  • Busia to Jinja(Uganda): 120Km (2 and a half Hour)
  • Jinja to Kampala: 85Km( 2 Hours)

How I Experienced Kenya to Uganda Border Crossing?

I have read somewhere that Easy Coach is a good choice on this route. So, I went to the Easy Coach terminal at Haile Selassie Avenue. The lady in the booking office informed me that you can get a bus up to Busia that was the last town on the Kenya/Uganda Border. In that case, I will have to take a second bus after border crossing from Kenya to Uganda. After that, the other available option was the Mash Poa bus company. So, then a few minutes walk I was at their Terminal at Accra Road.

Ticket Booking at Nairobi Accra Road

I was scheduled to go to Uganda a few days later. So, before I bought a ticket, I explained to the booking guy my plan. Hence after his confirmation, I paid 3700KES($37) and got my ticket for Kenya to Uganda Overland Bus.  In this context I also got the cell number of the booking guy to contact him on departure day.  Mr. Sam(the Booking Guy) told me to make a confirmation call on the departure day and he will convey the bus driver to pick me up from Naivasha Town.

Mash Poa Bus Terminal at Accra Road Nairobi
Mash Poa Bus Terminal at Accra Road Nairobi

Nairobi, check in for Kenya to Uganda Bus Travel

Nowadays the bus leaves the Nairobi terminal at 16:00 in the afternoon. It is advised to reach at bus terminal about half an hour before the bus leaves.

Nairobi to Naivasha Travel

Although I did this part of the travel by myself on a Matatu to reach Naivasha first. However, here I will explain the route details from Nairobi to Naivasha. On the way, there were scenic views of the Great Rift Valley. I took the left side seat both on the Matatu and in Bus too. I did this by inquiring about the booking person to get the best views on the way. However, for night travel, you can’t enjoy the scenes except for a half-sleep journey.

On travel day, I reached Delamere a Petrol Station in Naivasha. It is a breakpoint and major stop for travelers while going ahead to Nakuru and other Kenyan Towns. The bus came to Delamere at about 19:00 and just picked me up from the stop.

Nairobi to Naivasha Travel
Nairobi to Naivasha Travel
Great Rift Valley from Kenya to Uganda
Great Rift Valley from Kenya to Uganda

Nakuru, the only stop for Dinner

It was our first stop where the bus stayed for half an hour for dinner. Nakuru town is a famous tourist attraction due to Lake Nakuru. The Lake is further 5km from Nakuru town and known for its pink Flamingoes.

Busia, The Kenya to Uganda Border Crossing

Busia was our next stop for a detailed exercise of immigration.

Worst Immigration process for Kenya to Uganda border crossing

This immigration process happened to be the worst border crossing experience for me. Here I met the notorious Ugandan officials who did not dare to ask for open bribes. I will describe my experience while mentioning the order of our proceedings. Here are the step-by-step details of the immigration process at Busia Border Crossing from Kenya to Uganda.

Busia Bus Terminal point at Border

At midnight we reached Busia. After running into the town’s empty roads and security checks our bus stopped at a terminal-like place. Then all of the passengers got off the bus and are directed to make a queue on a pathway. The pathway was dark enough to locate the exact footpoints. Finally, we reached a people-gathering place.

Ugandan Health Counter for PCR Checking

This gathering and place turned out to be the Medical counter of Uganda for PCR certificate checking. Remember we haven’t any immigration from the Kenyan side and directly reached to Ugandan side first. There were a couple of people who were checking the PCR test of passengers. I had done my PCR test from Leshwa Clinic for 80$. Their doctor came to my Hostel at Lake Naivasha to get my sample.

After checking my PCR the main person directed me and some other foreigners(mostly Asian) to a specific person. The specific person, to whom we can call the COLLECTER told us that our certificates are fake. They asked us to show an e-mail link that we have provided from our phone. But they are finding points from the points to reject our certificates. Then suddenly, he asked to pay 30$ for a new PCR test. I was reluctant to do so, but one of my co-passenger asked me to do so and he himself paid the bribe in front of my eyes. So, the problem was solved? No, it was just a starting point of our bribing story. After getting the $30, he couldn’t take a new PCR Test rather he stamped our previous PCR test which was now ok after paying $30 to Ugandan officials.

There was a priority check for Mash Poa bus passengers. It might be a special protocol due to the relations of the bus company with Ugandan Officials though.

Kenyan immigration At Busia

After getting the PCR certificate stamping, we are escorted to the Kenyan immigration side. Remember Kenyan and Ugandan Immigration counters laying side by side. In no time we got our passport stamped by a Kenyan official and we took our place in the Ugandan immigration Queue.

Kenya to Uganda immigration counters at Busia
Kenya(In Queue) to Uganda(Backside) immigration counters at Busia

Ugandan Immigration and interrogation

On my turn, I reached the counter and was stopped by the immigration officer. Without defining his purpose, he called in his COLLECTOR. Interestingly, every sub-department of Ugandan Official has their specific collectors for money. The new collector did take me to a specific room. To my surprise, he started his interrogation with a demand of 100$. He told me tourism is not allowed in Uganda and I can’t enter Uganda. After some requests or even exchanging a few hard words, he then opened an immigration paper and noted down all my relevant details into that paper. I have covered all my stay in Uganda by booking in Jinja, Kampala, and Entebbe. Besides, I have my flight tickets to the next destinations but the COLLECTOR NEEDS MONEY.

I was on the way to withstand my stance but it was getting late and late. Furthermore, I was afraid that in the end, I would get immigration but my bus would be missed due to this delaying factor. I had heard somewhere that in such delaying immigration cases, the bus personal drop off the passengers’ luggage at the border. Finally, I again negotiated a $30 rate to get my clearance from him. Although he wasn’t happy and might he conveyed his happiness level to the next of his officers. So, there was the third turn when I Finally reached the Ugandan Immigration counter again.

Final Clearance from Kenya to Uganda Border Crossing

After bribing 30$+30$=60$ to two different places I then reached the final counter. At this turn, I intentionally went to the 2nd window where a lady was sitting. I went there to hope for a good and polite gesture from a lady. All in all the lady was the mother of all tactics. She found a mistake in my East African Visa. By a mistake, there was a handwritten mistake by the Kenyan official on my Visa. As per my Sticker Visa, the validity of my visa is from 06/10/21 to 05/01/21(instead of 05/01/22). So, the lady directly asked me to give 50$ to make this mistake correct. Might the Lady haven’t any collecter, so she directly got $50 from me.

Kenya Sticker Visa
Kenya Sticker Visa from JKIA Airport

After getting her portion, she went to the Kenyan counter to get corrected that handwritten date. Finally, I got My passport back with the stamp of Uganda Entry.

Boarding the bus again after Immigration

It took around three hours to complete the immigration process. Luckily, our bus was still there. Although, they have placed our luggage in front of the bus. Due to this delay, we couldn’t get time to exchange some money for our initial use. In a normal routine, you can get money exchanged from the border. Furthermore, you can also get a Ugandan Sim from the border area too.

Jinja, on the way to Kampala
Jinja, on the way to Kampala

Busia Border to Jinja/Kampala

After the border crossing, there was a distance of 200km that can be covered in 4~5 hours. However, as per my plan, I got off the Bus at Jinja to spend a night before going to Kampala. Consequently, I traveled from Jinja to Kampala the next day. Jinja to Kampala is roughly 80Km and it takes 2 hours to cover this distance. We can enjoy a beautiful scenic journey to this part of Uganda.

On the way to Kampala Kampala
On the way to Kampala Kampala

A few Practical Tips

It is already recommended, it will be better to do this tour in the daytime to enjoy the scenery. Although, only a night travel option is available at present. Furthermore, during my stay whenever I met any Ugandan, I found it very kind, friendly, and ready to help. So, other than Ugandan Immigration people you can rely on Ugandan Common people. Now, I have many Ugandan friends with whom I have great memories of my travel life. In addition and as per the topic we can keep some essential things with us on this travel. These accessories may include but are not limited to

  • Airplug and eye cover for a sound sleep
  • Neck Pillow
  • A couple of snacks
  • Extra water bottle

Hey, This is Rashid and I am here to share my Wide Angle Dreams with you, with the aim to provide you a Wide Angle to catch your bucket list dreams of travelling and trekking. If you love to travel but feel that you are bound in tough daily routines and find very little time to catch your travelling dreams, then you are at a right place.

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