Kenya and Zanzibar are worlds’ apart. From Nairobi to Dar es Salaam by bus must be one of the longest road trips on my travel diary, hopping in and out of a country, and crossing the ocean to one of the most beautiful places on earth.
A three hours’ drive from Nairobi takes you to Namanga, and after 13 more hours of winding roads, picturesque mountain views and roadside rural settlements, you reach Dar es Salaam. So, when you leave Nairobi at 6 a.m. you arrive in Dar es Salaam around 11 p.m. The following day, it’s a two hour ferry ride from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. to complete your Kenya to Zanzibar road trip (one way).
Nairobi to Dar es Salaam
Bus companies plying the Nairobi to Dar es Salaam route are Modern Coast and Tahmeed Coach. Modern Coast is of course the more popular of the two, its royal clients swearing by efficient customer service and time management. The seat options range from a VIP seat boasting more legroom, to a set of first class seats, and regular seats. Of course, the seat you choose will determine the cost of the bus ride from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam. Expect to spend about KSh 3, 500 from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam.
The bus leaves its Tea Room station at 6 a.m. to snake its way through the already busy streets of Nairobi. When you get on Mombasa Road, and see the exhilaratingly long traffic snarl-up of vehicles heading to the city, you will be thankful for waking up at 5 a.m. to catch the early bus.
Namanga Border Point is your first stop. It can be a short 15 minute exit from Kenya, and entry into Tanzania, or an hour long wait when there are more foreigners (not citizens of East Africa) among you applying for a Tanzania visa.
Past Namanga border, you drive through uninhabited stretches that seem to run to the horizon. Take a nap, chat if you have a listening ear next to you, enjoy the complimentary packet of orange juice or stare into nothing-ness outside your window. The few major towns and cities along the 13 hour road trip are Moshi, Arusha, Chalinze and Segera.
The Nairobi to Dar es Salaam bus makes several stops for food and bathroom breaks, in designated rest stops. In authentic Swahili hospitality, at each rest stop, a man with a blow horn welcomes you to sample the food and fruits.
Most of the distance is covered at 50km/hr, something that is quite out of the ordinary especially for a Kenyan who’s only known how to fly low over 80 km/hr on the busy Nairobi highways.
Modern Coast’s last stop is in Kariokor area of Dar es Salaam. You can pick a taxi from there to the hotel. There are hotels in Kariokor too, a walking distance from Modern Coast’s stage, such as the Rising Sun and Hong Kong Hotel. Alternatively, you can find a hotel elsewhere, near the ferry terminal.