Road Trip From Nairobi to Cape Town by Matatus & Train

An aerial view of Nairobi City's skyline in 2023.
An aerial view of Nairobi City's skyline in 2023.
Eyeconic Media

Kenya to South Africa by road, what an adventure! Here is how to travel over 5,000 kilometres across five countries and four borders.

Even more thrilling, we will be using public transport, train and buses to get a more authentic feel of the southern and eastern african culture

Before you begin your journey, there are certain things you need to have: a passport, yellow fever certificate and a Visa (for South Africa). Carry your Identification Card (ID) just in case you lose your passport. 

To apply for a passport, visit then follow the instructions given. For the Yellow Fever certificate, the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) charges Ksh2500 for the shot and certificate.

Undated file image of someone holding the Kenyan Passport
Undated file image of someone holding the Kenyan Passport

When it comes to money, it is advisable to have your cash in USD. This makes it easier when you have to convert it to other currencies. 

All set, let the journey begin. There are a number of routes for this journey, however, the focus will be on the Kenya-Tanzania-Zambia-Botswana-South Africa route.

Begin your journey in Nairobi. Book a bus from Nairobi to Dar-Es-Salaam. At the Tanzania border in Namanga, you will be required to show your passport as well as a Yellow Fever certificate.

The distance is 822 kilometres and it will cost Ksh3,500. A bus that departs Nairobi at 0800hrs will arrive at the Tanzanian commercial capital at about 2100hrs on the same day.

From Dar-Es-Salaam, take the TAZARA Railway. The railway goes from Dar to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. The train is scheduled for a specific time and day therefore it has to be booked in advance.

It is a 65-hour journey since you will cover a distance of 1,739 kilometres over three days (leaves on Friday afternoon and you arrive Monday morning).

To book the first class (guarantees you a self-contained cabin with two beds), it will cost you Ksh3,500. The money is not inclusive of food so be prepared either with snacks or you could buy food from the train restaurant.

Tanzania Zambia Railway
A file Image of the TAZARA Railway, which connects Dar-Es-Salaam TZ to Kapiri Mposhi Zambia

On arriving at Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia you will take a bus headed to Lusaka which is 165 kilometres away. The 3-hour journey will cost Ksh600.

Upon reaching Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, travel another 644 kilometres to Francistown in Botswana. A bus will be Ksh2300 for the 14hr journey.

From Francistown head to Gaborone. The 441 kilometre distance will cost Ksh1,100. It will take 5 hours to reach Gaborone.

While at Gaborone, there are buses headed to Johannesburg in South Africa. Unlike the other countries, South Africa requires one to have a visa to enter, so be prepared with the correct documentation. 

Gaborone to Johannesburg will take approximately 4 hours and 25 minutes in order to cover a distance of 348 kilometres. The bus fare varies so have Ksh1700-Ksh-3500.

You made it to Johannesburg South Africa though we still have 1,261 kilometres to Capetown. There are two options, to go by train or by bus. The train is cheaper, the price varies between Ksh2700-Ksh3900 while the bus is Ksh2500-Ksh6500. Depending on the means of transport you choose, the train takes over a day while the Bus takes roughly 14 hours.

While in the "Mother City" Capetown, tour the city and experience its raw and rich history. You can then book a flight for a quick return or better yet, make a return trip on a more lengthy route via Mozambique and Malawi. 

CapeTown City
A file Image of an aerial view of Cape Town