How to travel overland from Kenya to Tanzania

JUAN MARTINEZ

January 25, 2022

How to travel overland from Kenya to Tanzania

With several crossing points along the border and direct bus connections in between, traveling overland from Kenya to Tanzania is easy, fast and cheap.

After finishing my trip to Masai Mara in Kenya, I was excited to get to the other side of the border and visit Serengeti National Park. However, with private charters connecting Masai Mara to Serengeti, several daily flight connections from Nairobi to a few Tanzanian cities and shuttle busses without many reviews, I was simply not sure what would be the best choice for me and if crossing overland from Kenya to Tanzania was a good choice.

After doing some research, asking around and analyzing all options, crossing overland from Kenya to Tanzania end up not only being the most convenient way to cross, but it was also easy and fast.

Here is a complete guide on how to cross overland from Kenya to Tanzania.

Be connected at all times in Kenya.
I recommend an e-SIM with Airalo. With them, I bought a plan of 10 GB for my whole stay in the country.

Namanga border post sign kenya tanzania
Welcome sign at the border post of Namanga

Entry requirements

Fortunately, Tanzania and Kenya have a very clear and simple visa policy for most nationalities entering their countries.

In Tanzania, travelers from almost every nationality outside Africa can apply for a visa on arrival at any of the border crossings (either air or land). The process is very straightforward and since most travelers crossing overland are coming from neighboring countries (which usually are visa exempt), there is not queues that will slow you down and frustrate you.

The visa on arrival in Tanzania has a cost of 50 USD and payment is only cash. Even though it is mentioned that payment can only be in US dollars, Tanzanian shillings are also accepted at a very bad rate. In case you hold Kenyan currency, you can also get either Tanzanian shillings or USD at a very bad rate from the vendors around.

Additionally, Tanzania has an e-visa application process for those who want to skip the line. However, many travelers have complained about the payment process of the platform and in my opinion, it is way easier to simply get your visa on arrival.

On the other hand, travelers going from Tanzania to Kenya should take into consideration that Kenya does NOT have a visa on arrival policy. Travelers from all nationalities are required to apply for a e-visa at the Electronic Visa Kenya website. The process is also quite straightforward, price is 51 USD for a single entry visa and you will get a reply in 2-3 days (in most cases).

Planning to extend your trip around Africa? Another option for travelers interested in exploring Uganda or Rwanda after their visit in Kenya is applying for an East African Tourist Visa. It allows multiple entry in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda for 90 days and it costs 101 USD. Applications can be done online in just a few clicks and a reply should arrive in 3-4 days after submitting payment.

NOTE: If you need to check your visa requirements not only for Tanzania and Kenya, but for any other country around the world, check either the IATA website or the Qatar Airways platform for visa requirements. They both work great and provide excellent information no matter if policies changed last minute.

Roads in Kenya
Some roads in Kenya are in a very bad condition

Border crossings

There are 5 border crossings connecting Kenya to Tanzania. However, from these 5 crossings, 2 of them are mostly used by travelers visiting Kilimanjaro, Serengeti or going straight to Dar es Salaam.

Read more: How to cross overland from Mozambique to Eswatini

Map borders between kenya and tanzania
Map of the border posts between Kenya and Tanzania – Click to open

Lunga Lunga

Located in the easternmost part of Kenya, Lunga Lunga is the border cross that connects Mombasa with Tanga and Dar es Salaam.

Bus companies like Mash, Modern Coast, Tahmeed and TSS Express have daily departures from Mombasa to Dar es Salaam and the bus connection takes anything between 10 to 12 hours. You can book with most of these companies tickets in advanced.

Taveta

This border crossing usually connects Mombasa with Moshi/Arusha. There are several mini buses connecting the cities in between. However, with no direct connections, keep in mind that planning to cross this border might require extra planning and lots of time.

Even though Taveta seems the best connection between Mombasa and Arusha, it might not. If you are in Mombasa and need to get to Arusha, traveling from Mombasa to Nairobi and then from Nairobi to Arusha via Namanga will be the best choice.

Loitokitok

This is the quietest border between these 2 countries. Located right at the feet of Mount Kilimanjaro, this is the best border crossing for travelers crossing with their own vehicles. The panoramic views along the road are magnificent and the process at the border itself is quite stress-free. There are queues, barely another vehicle and officers are very friendly and ready to help you.

Keep in mind that there are no public connections between Kenya and Tanzania passing through Loitokitok. The only way you can get here without your own vehicle would be by booking a private transfer for both, Tanzanian and Kenyan, sides

Namanga

Open 24 hours, 7 days a week, Namanga is the busiest border crossing between Kenya and Tanzania, but also the best way to get from Masai Mara, Amboseli or Nairobi to Arusha. It is by far the most convenient way to travel from Kenya to Tanzania and with tickets starting at 25 USD by the company Nairobi Arusha Shuttle , it offers one of the cheapest way to get to the other side.

Facilities in Namanga are also way more modern than in the other border points. Namanga is also a quiet (but charming) little village, where you can spend one night before heading to Tanzania.

A trip from Nairobi to Arusha usually takes 5 hours after leaving Nairobi. Unfortunately, traffic in Nairobi will consume at least 60-90 minutes and the shuttle will probably depart another hour late.

INSIDE TIP: If you are planning to visit Amboseli National Park and then cross to Tanzania, the most time efficient option would be to ask your driver to leave you in Namanga after your tour. Amboseli is located right at the border with Tanzania and you can save hours of driving by skipping entering Nairobi to catch a shuttle.

Once in Namanga, you can either arrange a transfer to Tanzania and then book one of the several daily shuttles between these two cities. You can also get in contact with Nairobi Arusha Shuttle. Their busses stop for a break in Namanga and you can easily hop on and continue your journey.

Read more: What are the top safari experiences in Africa

City center of Arusha in Tanzania
City center of Arusha in Tanzania – Base for most travelers going to Kilimanjaro or Serengeti

Isebania

Located just a few kilometers from Lake Victoria, The Isebania border connects Masai Mara to the western side of Serengeti. Even though it seems the easiest and most straightforward way to get to Serengeti, it is NOT. There are only a few local buses taking this route and no tour operator in Tanzania will pick you up on that side of the national park.

This route is only recommended if you are planning to stay along the coastline of Lake Victoria and visit Mwanza in Tanzania.

NOTE: Even though there is one road from the heart of Serengeti to Masai Mara, there is no border crossing between these 2 national parks. Some tours in Serengeti will take you just across the border in search of a river crossing during the wildebeest migration. However, this does not mean that you can enter to Kenya right away.

Keep in mind when crossing overland

Planning an overland trip in Kenya and Tanzania was way easier than I first thought. Buses and shuttles can be booked online or just some hours in advanced, border formalities are very straightforward and easy to follow and most people are very happy to help you if you are struggling.

On the other hand, the quality of service is very low. Expect buses to depart 1 hour after the departure time,  crowded little vans with no AC and people trying to scam you around the border in one way or another.

Planning a safari in any of these countries? The easiest way to compare safari tours is with Safari Bookings. Here you can contact almost every operator in Africa and quote a price.
Open Safari Bookings and find the right safari for you.

Read more: How to cross overland from Djibouti to Somaliland

Buses in Kenya
Long distance buses in Kenya

If you are planning to cross from Kenya to Tanzania overland, prepare yourself by carrying everything you need: enough food and water for 6-7 hours, all necessary paperwork printed, online versions of all this paperwork and some US dollars in case you are in an emergency.

Thinking to get a SIM card or simply withdraw Tanzanian currency? Wait until you get to your destination. Once there, arrange a taxi driver and he/she will happily help you getting those things in no time. I traveled from Nairobi to Arusha by crossing the Namanga border and once I arrived in Arusha, my driver took me to buy a local sim card, withdraw money from the bank and get to my hotel – all of this for 5 USD.

Read more: How to prepare for your first safari in Africa

Internet connection in Kenya or Tanzania

What is the best e-SIM for traveling in Kenya and Tanzania

When it comes to traveling in Africa, having a good internet connection all the time is essential. You never know when you might get stopped for no reason or what kind of weird document they might ask for at any time. I once had to provide a list of all the vaccines I’ve received since my childhood just to pass through, all because my vaccines didn’t match those of my travel partner.

When traveling, I started using e-SIMs from Flexiroam or Airalo. I love these two companies, and when crossing the border between Tanzania and Kenya, I recommend getting a Global Plan from Flexiroam and activating it when crossing. Once settled in, I prefer to get a local physical SIM to save some costs. However, Flexiroam has been a lifesaver.

Be connected at all times in Kenya.
I recommend an e-SIM with Airalo. With them, I bought a plan of 10 GB for my whole stay in the country.

Global Plans for Flexiroam start at 10 EUR, and I recommend the 180-day, 10 GB plan worldwide. This one costs 59 USD and is perfect for travelers in Africa.

How to get an e-SIM from Flexiroam:

  1. Verify if your phone is e-SIM compatible (just Google your phone model and the word “e-SIM”).
  2. Buy a Global Plan here (or a country plan, but it tends to be more expensive if you’re traveling to different countries).
  3. Download the Flexiroam app and create an account.
  4. Activate your e-SIM.
  5. Provide the code of your Global Plan (You will receive the code via email after your purchase).

Read more: A complete guide for e-SIM cards when traveling around the world

Booking a tour with SafariBookings in Kenya or Tanzania

Planning a trip to Kenya independently is fun. However, if you want to arrange everything with tour operators beforehand from the comfort of your home. SafariBookings is the best platform for it.

They have the largest database of tour operators in Africa and you can simply send a request and negotiate a tour and a price directly with the operator. You don’t have to pay any additional fees.

These are some of the most popular tours in Kenya at SafariBookings

How do I find cheap flights to East Africa?

Finding a cheap flight anywhere around the world is not always easy. It’s about comparing platforms, selecting the right routes and booking at the right time. Fortunately, platforms like Skyscanner became known as an all-in-one tool for booking flights at the lowest cost possible.

They analyse every potential company and sub-contractor in order to find the lowest price available for you. Not only that, but you can also select the option “Travel Anywhere” and let Skyscanner find the cheapest place to travel at any selected date.

I check all my flights first at Skyscanner, and in 90% of the cases, I find the best option for me to book.

Also, by booking here using Skyscanner, you will support my blog and help me create more amazing and useful content.

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