Culture,  Kenya,  Nairobi

How to safely take a Matatu (Public transport) in Kenya

Public Transport in Kenya plays a huge part in the day to day life of many Kenyans. Though not always convenient on some occasions, it’s cheaper. If you’re looking for a thrill and a real Kenyan experience, a matatu ride is your best bet.

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These are some tips to keep in mind especially if it’s your first time to make your experience much easier.

1. Money (Have a bit of loose money)

This one comes from experience, especially when using the “posh” matatus. The ones where no tickets are issued after payment of your bus fare. It’s a hustle to get loose change most of the time, so you might have to keep reminding your bus conductor for your change and hope you don’t forget about it because most won’t remind you.

So to have an easy and fun ride, carry loose money that requires less or no change.

2.Route (Know which route you’re taking)

Each matatu has a designated route and even though some matatus may seem to use a similar route, they might end up in different locations.

One good app to check matatus plying different routes is Ma3 route

Each route has a different number and its always good to confirm with the conductor or driver on site before boarding if not sure.

3.Safety (basically on window seats)

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen people’s phones being snatched from their windows by a thief from outside the matatu. It usually happens at the bus station before a matatu could leave or in traffic. 

Closing the window doesn’t help either as they’re usually very fast and unpredictable, so keep that phone away until you’re on the road and moving. 

Other general safety tips include keeping your belongings safe before someone else does for you.

  4. How much to pay?

Most matatus will have conductors shouting their routes and bus fare while competing for passengers. There are some that don’t and if need to know, always ask a uniformed conductor. 

Photo of A man boarding a matatu
A man boarding a matatu

On rare occasion will the conductor try to charge more than what was initially announced, and once again, this normally happens with the”posh” matatus as most don’t issue receipts.

I hope your first time taking a matatu will be fun and unforgettable.

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