Tea Plantations, Kenya

Akamba Bus: Nairobi to Kampala Bus

Update: After more than 50 years in operation, Akamba Bus closed its doors in May 2012. Jump to this comment to find out what my current recommendation of bus operator for this route is.

This is the first post in a 3-part series. Click here to read parts II and III.

Have you ever traveled by bus from Nairobi to Kampala? If so, what bus service did you use?

Did you travel during the day or at night? What route did you choose?

I make this journey all the time!

To tell you how much, let me just share that one month of March, while working in Nairobi and not on leave, I spent three of the four weekends of the month 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.

Credible Bus Services Plying the Nairobi-Kampala Route

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 simply as Akamba Bus, Scandinavia, and Regional).

Of these three, Akamba Bus and Scandinavia are by far the superior services, though when the need arises, Regional is an O.K. 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 Bus.

In the next two posts, I will tell you what you need to know about traveling with Scandinavia and Regional.

READ ALSO: Baby Gorilla Naming Ceremony: Rwanda Development Board’s Kwita Izina.

Akamba Bus

Akamba Bus is the oldest of the three services I will discuss.

I am not sure when Akamba Bus 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 Bus 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 Bus 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 Bus.

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 Bus 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 Bus 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.

READ ALSO: Sleeping Mattress Tip: Use a Mattress Pad

Akamba Royal

Akamba Bus travels between Nairobi and Kampala using two different routes.

One route passes through Kisumu and crosses the KenyaUganda border at Busia. 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 busAkamba Bus 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 Bus, 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.

READ ALSO: Mombasa Marine Park & Reserve—KWS Marine Park Tour Day 3

Traveling between Nairobi and Kampala by bus is inexpensive.

The last ticket I bought for Akamba Bus’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 Bus.

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 Bus offices directly, you can call them on +254-(20)-556062 in Nairobi and on +256-(41)-250412 in Kampala.

Join me tomorrow to hear more about traveling with Scandinavia on this same route.

The day after that, I will tell you about traveling with Regional.

If you will be making this journey soon, I wish you a safe and comfortable trip.

Biche

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READ ALSO: Botswana: A Guide to Gaborone, the Capital of Botswana

Photo Credit: WorldWideEndeavors.org

66 thoughts on “Akamba Bus: Nairobi to Kampala Bus”

  1. hey biche, i have enjoyed reading your blog. i will be travelling to east africa this august and am researching transport from nairobi to kampala, and your posts have been very helpful. i would like to go from nairobi to mbale. is there any way to do this trip without going all the way to kampala? i appreciate any help you could offer.

  2. Hi Rob,

    Welcome to ChickAboutTown. I am pleased to know that you are enjoying my blog. 🙂

    Please excuse the time I have taken to get back to you. Yes, you can get to Mbale without going all the way to Kampala first. Akamba has a service from Nairobi to Mbale, as does Regional.

    I hope you enjoy your stay in East Africa!

    Biche

  3. Hi Peter,

    Welcome to ChickAboutTown!

    Nairobi-Kigali: Well, honestly, I would recommend that you fly (if that’s an option) because the road between Nairobi and Kampala is currently horrendous! It’s in the worst state that I have seen it in the past 10 years. I love to travel by road, but the last time I had to shuttle between Kampala and Nairobi – I opted to fly.

    To stick to your specification about road travel, though. 🙂 I would recommend doing it in one of two ways.

    1. Travel directly from Nairobi to Kigali on Regional Bus. I am not sure how much it would cost but I know it should take about 20-23hrs non-stop. I am not sure if anyone else serves this route directly – you’ll have to ask around. But this is is one way to go. (Note too: Regional has had 2 highly fatal accidents, to the best of my knowledge, in the past 5 years. The safety of travelling on Regional is quite questionable.)

    2. The second option is to break the journey into two legs: Nairobi-Kampala and Kampala-Kigali. This is a good option if you are up to the adventure and are not pressed for time. The first leg would take about 12-15 hrs and could be done using Akamba or Scandinavian (my recommendations). The second would take 8 hrs using a service such as Jaguar or Regional (I quote only that which I know). Travelling using this option would enable you to schedule some RnR time in Kampala that could be used discovering a new city or visiting friends (in case you have any there :-)).

    Whatever the case, Kigali is the bomb! so it’s a journey that’s well worth making.

    I hope that helps a little.

    Biche

  4. I have used Akamba once and vowed not to do so again. The bus broke down part way to Nairobi and the conductor took the cover off the engine, tied a string to the throttle and they drove the remainder of the trip with the conductor managing the throttle by a string and the driver given hand signals to the conductor indicating more fuel or less fuel. As I was sitting in the front seat, I got fulll fuew of the procedure as well as the fumes coming off the engine. Since they knew exactly what to do, I assume that this was not an unusual experience. I have been on the Regional bus a couple of times since then and found the experience much more satisfying, although Regional did cancel my reservation in spite of having paid for the ticket in advance.

  5. Hi Richard,

    Welcome to ChickAboutTown!

    Thanks for sharing that experience. That must have been quite harrowing to say the least! Nope, I have never had an experience like that on Akamba though Akamba breaking down happens often enough.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Biche

  6. Hello Biche and many thanx for your good rewiew on the bus services from Nairobi to Kampala.

    Im about to be travelling through east Africa in February and right now sort of planning my trip.

    As you said abowe, the road from Nairobi to Kigali is terrible. Are you then considering the road south of Lake Victoria through Tanzania or the road north of Lake Victoria through Kampala. If the first case, do you have any good information on the safety of the road between Kampala and Kigali. I´ve read some terrible things about that one…

    http://www.travelblog.org/Africa/Rwanda/blog-11478.html.

    CYA

  7. Hi Biche, I am a Muhindi who lived in Uganda from 1994 to 1997 and again in 1999. I started the Simba Steel operations in Kampala. I used the Akamba service to transport a number of my colleagues and often urgent material from Nairobi. Just calling in to say your article jogged old memories – actually for my wife Pushya and I – Kampala was a honeymoon transfer from India. From the bottom of my heart – we loved and still love Africa.

  8. Hi Fredden,

    Welcome to ChickAboutTown! I am glad you found this review useful. I have just read the blog post you linked to in your comment, and I hate to tell you but that’s exactly the experience I had too when I last travelled to Kigali by bus via Kampala. The road is tortuous and the bus companies speed along the entire journey (without speed governors), even on the sharp bends in the hilly parts of southern Ugandan and as you enter Rwanda. Truth be told, I held my breath for the better part of the journey just hoping for the best. If you don’t want to take chances and can afford it, flying might be a better option.

    I haven’t taken the road through Tanzania since the early eighties so I really can’t tell you much about it. From what I know about Tanzania’s geography, though, I expect that be a much longer route. Does anyone out there know how long that journey would take? Of the two routes, I would generally take the route through Kampala, or else fly.

    I hope that helps a bit.

    Karibu East Africa! (Welcome to East Africa!)

    Biche

  9. Hi Srinath,

    Welcome to ChickAboutTown!

    I am glad that my site can bring a little bit of Uganda to you, wherever in the world you are (as I write today, I am actually writing from the beautiful city of Kampala). So you were in Kampala in the mid to late nineties? I remember those days well. Every time I would visit Kampala, during that time, I would be astonished at how fast the city was changing and developing! What did you like most about your stay in Uganda?

    Biche

  10. Hello again Biche!

    Thanx for your reply on my question about
    ground transport between Kigali and Kampala!
    I guess I will catch a flight instead, eaven
    if I find it a bit sad (was really lookin
    forward doing this journey).

    Cya!
    Fredden

  11. Hmmm Fredden,

    How about you break up your trip into two legs, Nairobi-Kampala and Kampala-Kigali? I am sure you can easily find safe bus transportation between Nairobi and Kampala, and then try to find a way to make it by car from Kampala to Kigali. For instance, might you consider renting a car? Or can you think of a group of people who might be interested in doing the trip by car with you? The route is fairly straight forward and if you go slowly enough, I think it might be safe enough for you to drive yourself, especially with company. The scenery on this journey is amazing! I can see why you wouldn’t want to miss out on it.

    Just throwing around a some ideas.

    Biche

  12. Hi Biche, informative blog – thanks. I’m
    travelling from Nairobi to Kampala in April
    with my family – are the buses suitable for
    young children? Any help really appreciated!

    1. Hi Gareth,

      Welcome to ChickAboutTown and thanks for the kudos!

      Yes, the busses are suitable for children, but in that case I really, really recommend using Akamba’s Royal Service. Although it is a little more expensive, the seats are usually wider, travel times are during the day, and the bus is less crowded. All in all, it makes for a more pleasant journey – one less likely to make children irritable and unruly.

      I wish you and your family an enjoyable journey!

      Biche

  13. Hi Biche,

    Thanks for the info on travel between Nairobi and Kampala . I am leaving tomorrow for Kampala using the Akamba Royal bus service.

    Some developments I would like to point out :
    -Akamba has a new number for bookings 254-020-340430
    -The price for the royal service has gone up to kes2500.00/usd$32.00 for a one way ticket.

    I will update you on any changes. All I know is that the road from Nairobi to Nakuru is sweet….after that I have no idea.

    Finally any pointers on getting to Kigali for the weekend. Is it possible to go Friday and come back on a sunday?

    1. Hi Poussir,

      Welcome to ChickAboutTown!

      Thanks for the updates on travel with Akamba. That’s great information to have, particularly the part about some of the road being better. I haven’t traveled that road in a while, having been discouraged with it’s condition the last few times I traveled it. Maybe I’ll try it out again some time soon.

      Kigali for the weekend from Kampala is possible though might be hectic because it’s an 8 hour bus ride either way (I don’t know that night travel is available on this route). Check out Scandinavian, Jaguar, and Regional bus services which I believe all serve this route.

      I like Kigali quite a bit (with nothing I heard having prepared me for how clean and organized the city actually was), so it might be well worth the trouble to check it out over the weekend.

      Whatever you decide, I wish you a wonderful stay in Kampala and Kigali (if you decide to go).

      Once you are done with traveling, please come back here to share your experiences!

      I look forward to hearing more from you soon.

      Biche

  14. Thank you for your posts, they are all very informative. My wife and I will be travelling from Nairobi to Kampala around the 28/29 June 2009. When and where can the tickets be purchased?

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Welcome to ChickAboutTown! I am glad you find my posts informative.

      You can buy Akamba tickets at any of their five offices in Nairobi (I think). I’ve bought tickets, in the past, from three of these offices – the Wabera Office, the Prestige Office, and the Town Office – though I am not too sure whether tickets can be purchased from the Head Office in Industrial Area or the Monrovia Office. For more information, consult the Akamba bus website for the locations and contact information of each of these offices.

      In my experience, you can buy tickets up to the day before travel (except during the Christmas and Easter seasons, where a lot more advance booking is recommended). To ensure availability for the desired travel date, I recommend purchasing your tickets at least three days before the expected date of departure.

      I hope this information is useful to you. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have further queries.

      Wishing you all the best,
      Biche

  15. I my name is james kioko,Machakos man and staying now in Germany, What I´ll like to ask is does Akamba sele´s shares to local kenyans?if yes how much ?,I´ll like to get form through my email please

  16. Hello Biche,Thanks for the information about Akamba.I had Used Abamba long time ago since i was still studying in kenya…Church army sec.school.i loved Akamba.I traveled using the bus to Greenfields College in Kitale.Now i am in Ny and i plan to come for vacation,so i chose totravel Akamba from kampala.Daniel.

  17. I come from Japan. 7-10 years ago, many times I traveled between Kampala and Nairobi by bus, by using different companiese, by traveling night or day time. After all, I decided to take Akamba royal bus because it was so comfortable and I had thought it was the best. Then ever since I did not visit Kenya and Uganda again till last Fall. When I was going to buy a ticket at Akamba, my friend said on a way to Mombasa from kampala by Akamba royal, it was broken down and I was told it is better to travel by schandinavia, but I hardly believed that. So I did not listen my friend’s advice and traveled by Akamba royal from Kampala to Nairobi and my goodness, what my friend said was so true, between Kisumu and Nakuru, it was stopped completely and broken down, had to switch to another bus to ride and we had to wait for 2 hours, plus it was just ecnomy class (nor royal class) and I decided I would never use Akamba royal again…….Well, your article is so corret !!!

    1. Hi Chie,

      Welcome to ChickAboutTown!

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with Akamba. I am sure other readers will appreciate having the extra input. 🙂

      Biche

  18. Thank you all for your valuable input…i’m driving down to kigali on the 15th of august 2009…would anyone know how long the stop at malaba would be…i heard that they are pretty slow at processing the border crossing…is the busia route perhaps quicker ? and is the busia route a better road ?
    might have space for 1…anyone wanting to car pool ?

    dee

    1. Hi Dee,

      Sorry, I know I am a bit late responding to your comment. Still, welcome to ChickAboutTown!

      Did you end up taking the Malaba route? How long were you stopped at the border (I’ve never used that route in a private vehicle)?

      How’s Kigali?

      Cheers,
      Biche

  19. Hi,
    may I ask if the bus from Nairobi to Kampala stops at the city of Tororo?
    and where is the station in Nairobi?
    Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Anderson,

      Welcome to ChickAboutTown!

      No, to the best of my knowledge the bus does not stop in Tororo. The Akamba station in Nairobi is near the Fire station on Tom Mboya Street. Here’s a map for clearer directions.

      Biche

  20. HI
    i would like to know if the Akamba royal operates a bus directly from Nairobi to Kigali and what would be the cost.

    THANKS

  21. Hi Jeremiah and Wang,

    I wish the both of you a warm welcome to ChickAboutTown.

    Jeremiah, Wang is right – Akamba does serve this route (here’s an article to prove it). The cost of a ticket is 20,000 FRw one way, which is approximately $35.

    Wang, thank you for answering this question!

    Biche

  22. Hi! Your artical has been pretti intresting & it has been of great help! … but I still have some queries. I went to Kampala using Modern Coast Express a few weeks ago.The ride was v.comfy,but what I didnt like was the windows had strips of yellow,making it difficult to see outside, & as the journey progressed,the bus would stop & pick passangers on the way. The seats, however were v.comfy, & the inside of the bus looked almost like an airplane! The trip was organised by my church.We drove to Kampala in the day,& drove back to Nbi in the night.The day ride to Kampala was fun,but I was upset I couldnt see outside my window well,& it was my 1st time to Uganda 🙁
    The night drive to Nbi was terrible as the bus was very very cold forcing me to stay awake & shivering a full 12hrs!

    Does Akamba Royal have air conditioning & does it go direct to Kampala without stopping for passangers?Only stopping for toilet breaks.If not,pls recomend other good bus companies I can recommend to a friend.

    Susan

  23. Hi Susan,

    Welcome to ChickAboutTown! Sorry, it’s taken me so long to respond to your comment.

    I haven’t done the Nairobi-Kampala journey in a while, but to the best of my knowledge, yes, Akamba Royal has air conditioning and ONLY stops for bathroom/lunch breaks. In fact, in my experience, all Akamba buses are pretty disciplined about stopping only at official stops (unless there’s a breakdown or something of that nature).

    Sorry about the cold. I’ve also spent many nights shivering as I traveled between Nairobi and Kampala. The solution for me was to LAYER my clothes. I learned to do this during cold Canadian winters, and it worked like a charm fighting Rift Valley cold nights. Other than that, I’ve also found that Scandinavia Express offers the best insulation from the night cold. I am not sure that Scandinavia still operates between Nairobi and Kampala, but you could try and find out.

    I hope that’s helpful.

    Biche