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MASH-tastic! The muzungu’s bus tips from Kampala to Nairobi

Oct 17 • 20680 views • 34 Comments on MASH-tastic! The muzungu’s bus tips from Kampala to Nairobi Uganda

Taking the bus between Kampala and Nairobi? Try MASH!

The brilliant East Africa Tourist Visa and Interstate Pass mean that travel between Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda is easier than ever for nationals and has become easier and cheaper for tourists and expats too. Cue: a lot more travel around the three countries for this Muzungu! I’ve taken the MASH bus between Kampala and Nairobi a few times now, and can recommend it.

East Africa Interstate Pass Uganda Kenya Rwanda

The Interstate Pass allows visa-free travel between Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda for nationals and expats with work permits

Traveling from Kampala to Kigali? Then read what happened when I traveled by bus with Jaguar Executive Coaches.

Overall, the Kampala / Nairobi MASH bus service has been excellent. I hardly felt the dreaded bump, bump, bump of the ‘rumble strips’ and managed to sleep most of the journey.  Or shall I say, I fell asleep / woke up / fell asleep / woke up…  over and over again.

We liked the idea of having a toilet on the bus. If it had been working, that would have been even better! According to the driver, “it is women’s fault that the toilets do not work.” Hmmm… surely they could have fixed it though?


The MASH system is well organized and departs – on time – from the relative calm of the National Theatre, making it a far less hectic experience than going to downtown Kampala bus parks with all their congestion and pickpockets. In Nairobi, however, the bus departs from the rather hectic River Road. Have your wits about you here, as lots of guys will come running at you trying to sell you a cab fair / give you unwanted directions, etc. It can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve just woken up!


The MASH bus stop in Nairobi is downtown in River Road

Back at the National Theatre in Kampala, an hour before the agreed departure time, a lady called us over to a table in front of our bus where she checked our tickets and passports. Next to her, a very friendly guy checked the contents of all our bags. Another two or three men dressed in bright orange overalls loaded bags and boxes into the bus. I was asked to remove the padlock from my bag, which obviously I did not want to do. I was told that it was necessary for the security check at the border. I removed a couple of valuables that I’d put in my big bag, and just hoped that everything else would be safe.  It was.

The MASH bus was clean. The seatbelt worked, as did the single power socket on the wall next to me. I chose to sit in the second class ‘executive’ section, just a few seats from the front. It had a decent amount of legroom and a reclining seat.  My friends in the VIP seats, directly behind the driver, had even more legroom, plus they were allowed to have their big bags with them.

Every bus passenger was handed a small packet of biscuits and a packet of sugary ‘juice’.  My experience of cross-border bus journeys in East Africa is to avoid drinking at all costs, as you can never be sure the driver will stop when you need him to! However, on the MASH bus, we had three ‘comfort breaks’ before we arrived in Nairobi. “A short break for a short call” and these guys do not hang around, believe me.

The driver put on some loud music for our uneventful drive to the border.

Entering Kenya later that night, one of the immigration officials growled a demand to see my Yellow Fever certificate. Luckily I had a photograph of it on my phone.


If you travel between the two East African capitals during the day, you get to see the beautiful countryside of Lake Elementaita and the area’s volcanic calderas


Early morning view of Lake Elementaita

According to Wikipedia, “Elmenteita is derived from the Masaai word muteita, meaning “dust place”, a reference to the dryness and dustyness of the area, especially between January and March. In the south-to-north sequence of Rift Valley lakes, Elementeita is between Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru. The major Nairobi-Nakuru highway (A104 road) runs along the nearby escarpment affording motorists a spectacular vista towards the lake. Today the lake is a protected area due to its birdlife. Elementeita – together with Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria – has been named a heritage site by UNESCO.”

Julia complained that she hardly slept for the whole journey. She only fell asleep for the most interesting part: passing through a private wildlife reserve, where I spotted zebra and antelope from my window seat. “You snooze, you lose!” As she likes to tell me… Lol.

Travel tips for taking the bus between Kampala and Nairobi

  • MASH buses leave on time.
  • The MASH booking office in Kampala is in Dewinton Road opposite the National Theatre. Tel +256 (0)790 915726 / 0703 867307. In Uganda, you can use MTN mobile money to purchase your ticket. Tel +256 (0) 774082853 is the MTN Mobile Money number registered to Mash Bus Services. I used this myself and it worked perfectly. I first called the booking office to reserve my seat numbers and then confirmed via mobile money and a second phone call.
  • The MASH booking office in Nairobi is in River Road. Tel +254 718121251 / 708939319. In Kenya, you can also book your bus tickets and reserve your seat online and pay by Safaricom’s M-Pesa. (Paybill number 857988). This worked very well too.
  • To double check ticket prices and times, check out the MASH East Africa website or visit one of their offices. You can also connect with MASH on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
  • 2018 bus prices from Kampala to Nairobi in Uganda shillings (UGX)

  • At 5 pm MASH POA departs from the National Theatre. Ticket prices are: VIP 90k UGX, business class 80k UGX, ordinary 65k UGX.
  • At 6 pm MASH COOL (the air-conditioned bus) departs. Ticket prices are: VIP 120k UGX, business class 85k UGX (there are two classes of ticket only).
  • 2018 bus prices from Nairobi to Kampala in Kenya shillings (KES)

    At 5 pm MASH POA departs from outside the MASH office in River Road. Ticket prices are: VIP 2,600 KES, business class 2,400 KES, ordinary 2,000 KES.

  • At 6.30 pm MASH COOL (the air-conditioned bus) departs. Ticket prices are: VIP 3,500 KES, business class 2,500 KES (there are two classes of ticket only).
MASH bus ticket Kampala to Nairobi

MASH bus ticket Kampala to Nairobi

MASH COOL is the air-conditioned bus. MASH POA can get a bit sweaty! I liked MASH Cool, though you will need a blanket (or shuka) if you take the overnight bus. The MASH Cool bus has curtains too.

  • Make sure you have your Yellow Fever Certificate on you.
  • Keep photographs of your passport and other important travel documents (bus ticket and Yellow Fever Certificate) on your phone.
  • Although the bus does have power sockets, in my experience, they don’t always work. Take a spare battery pack for long journeys so you can access documents any time.
  • Nationals of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya just have to show a passport or national ID and are given a temporary Interstate Pass. Ugandans who do not have passports are advised to get a temporary travel document. Cost 10k UGX. If you’re in Kampala, you can get one issued at Port Bell (or you can buy it at the border).
  • Expats with work permits can get an Interstate Pass at the border as well. There is no form to fill in (just the standard arrivals form) and there is no cost. Yay!
East Africa Tourist Visa

East Africa Tourist Visa. Enjoy all three countries – Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda – with a single tourist visa

  • If you need a visa, you are supposed to apply online in advance, whether it’s for a single country visa or an East Africa Tourist Visa. However, all visas appear to be available in person at a border (except EATV, you’ll need to read my blog about that one).
  • Check out the blogs I’ve written on the subject of tourist visas:

  • Uganda – NOW LIVE: apply for Ugandan tourist visas online
  • East Africa – What is the East Africa Tourist Visa? A definitive guide
  • Rwanda – Rwanda announces all travelers to get #VisaOnArrival from January 2018
  • The set-up at the border has changed a bit and you now leave one country / enter another within the same building. Previously, you had to get your exit visa from one country and then walk across the border before getting your entry visa into the next country. I found the new system confusing and had apparently entered Kenya illegally! I.E. did not have one of the required passport stamps, even though I had seen three people at immigration.

Early morning selfie of the muzungu. Fab neckrest cushion from Definition Africa, Acacia Mall, Kampala

  • The MASH ticket says “Smoking, alcohol, chewing miraa is prohibited. Maximum luggage limit is 15 KG, any extra weight will be charged. Passengers are warned not to take any foodstuff offered by stranger.” In the past there were incidences of bus passengers being drugged and robbed (not on any particular route or with any particular bus company).
  • In addition to the Uganda / Kenya route, MASH also operate to major towns across Kenya.
  • Dreamline have also been recommended to me.

Have you taken the bus between Kampala and Nairobi? Which operator do you recommend?

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34 Responses to MASH-tastic! The muzungu’s bus tips from Kampala to Nairobi

  1. matata m. says:

    Nice pictures of your travel, thanks for giving us great tips for travelling i appreciate it. Iam also a Ugandan blogger who gives tips on living a successful life in Uganda, Relationships and other how to hacks in Uganda
    You can as well check out my blog if you like.

  2. Dominic Andrew Boima says:

    I will be in Kenya from Sierra Leone and would like to visit Kampala.
    What is the cost from Nairobi to Kampala in USD?

    • the muzungu says:

      I paid 80,000 UGX (Uganda shillings) for single ticket Kampala to Nairobi. That was in March 2016. Approx cost $23. There are a number of coaches doing this route, all around the same price. Airfare is ridiculously expensive. Once known as the most expensive flight per kilometre!
      Karibu East Africa! You will need the East Africa Tourist Visa.

  3. JJ says:

    Hey, this is great information. I have tried just now calling on the two numbers above but no one is intend to use this bus from Nairobi to Kampala tommorrow night. Their website is faulty, they say its under maintainance. Could you be having any other contact?

    • the muzungu says:

      Karibu sana! Unfortunately I don’t have any more tel no.s but I’d try calling the Nairobi office. Their tel no.s are on the ticket, pictured above.

      • Muwanguzi joel says:

        Am already craving for this but still have six months to my holiday. Would love to do Kampala to dar via Nairobi.thanx

  4. cherie says:

    Is it possible to obtain the East African tourist visa in person?

    • the muzungu says:

      I asked your question to the East Africa Tourism Platform. The reply is:
      Apply for just a visa for Kenya and next time apply for the Single Tourist Visa on arrival in any of the three countries.
      The Single Tourist Visa should be available at any entry point (airport and borders).
      But in this particular case, I am assuming the person has already paid a visa to enter Uganda for $50.
      Why would he/she needs to pay $100 as an extra cost for just entering Kenya when it will be cost effective to just apply for $50 Kenya Visa. Even if they wanted to continue to Rwanda, their visa is still cheap $30.

    • the muzungu says:

      NOTE: once you are in the EATV zone (UG, Kenya, Rwanda) you cannot get another one. You have to leave and reenter.
      For Kenya, the STV can be applied online and on arrival, the same for Uganda.
      Rwanda propose you apply for it online, but it can also be issued on arrival with the exception of a few nationalities like France, Belgium etc…. (check on the Rwanda immigration website).

  5. Kel says:

    I will be to Flying into Uganda around the 5th of August and also travelling to Nairobi and Zanzibar. I have nothing organised yet apart from my flight in and flight out. I was going to fly between these places because of safety factor ( 40+yo woman travelling alone) and also as I have not done too much travelling alone. Do you think the MASH is ok to do alone? Also any crucial tips on what I can do and see would be greatly appreciated

  6. cate says:

    i want to travel by bus from nairobi to kampala in july,what is required of me?

  7. Kayley says:

    Is it safe bussing from Kampala to Nairobi at night? Has anyone done the night bus trip and has some advice?

    • the muzungu says:

      Yes done the bus many times by night, without incident. Booze is not allowed so people are quiet after a while, phones lose their charge and everyone dozes. Some people get on Sunday night bus in work clothes and jump straight off morning bus to head for work!

  8. the muzungu says:

    A few tips from my last journey from Nairobi to Kampala:
    Seat 11 was perfect. I sat next to the window, a couple of rows from the front in Executive Class (slightly more legroom).
    Next time I must remember to bring! My Smile Mi-Fi and a battery pack. (The power point by my seat did not work); a small bag for the overhead storage (I kept mine at my feet which was not ideal). Bigger bags get put in the hold.

  9. Angel says:

    Modern coast is ideally the most comfortable bus i know, try it out next time for cross boarders especially, nairobi to kampala would range between $23 and $34 depending on the seat class. I have used it from nairobi to Mwanza in Tz and i almost forgot its a bus trip.

  10. Tom says:

    Thanks for the tips. For the Kampala to Nairobi trip did you have to make the booking at the National Theatre office? How far in advance would you recommend booking to secure a VIP or executive seat?

    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Tom. I booked one day in advance from the booking office in Dewinton Road, opposite the National Theatre. I suggest you call first so they can advise re booking times. Safari njema

  11. Leo says:

    Great story and review of the journey. I have used Mash along this route and Kigali too and I can say it’s great! The crew is awesome (At least the ones I have had interaction with). We once arrived at Katuna (Uganda/Rwanda border) and a friend of mine had left their passport in Kampala. The Bus officials made sure the passport was collected from the hotel and sent with the next bus to Katuna. That was very helpful of them given the hotels was a few kilometers from the Namayiba bus station.
    I would also recommend MASH anytime!

    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Leo, thanks for dropping by 🙂
      Yes, Mash are great. Travelled with them a number of times now.
      Ref the missing passport atKatuna, WOW, that was some kind of service!

  12. Maimun Lucas says:

    I was planning to travel to Nairobi from Kampala next week but I have no yellow fever card.will I be allowed to go??

    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Lucas, you need a Yellow Fever certificate to enter Uganda. If arriving at Entebbe, you can get vaccinations at airport for 100k UGX / 40 USD. However, as far as I know, you cannot get your Yellow Fever jab at any of the road borders. I recommend you organise it from Nairobi

  13. Mc Swak says:

    Mash is definitely the best choice on the route.

  14. Faridah says:

    Mash cool is really nice and comfortable I enjoyed the journey from Nairobi to Kampala.I recommend to others too.

    • the muzungu says:

      I recently took MASH Cool from Kampala to Nairobi and then on to Mombasa. The driver from Mombasa was very helpful. He even arranged a tuk tuk for us when we got to Mombasa!
      On our way back to Nairobi, we took the SGR train. Brief Encounter. Of romance & railways – Kenya’s SGR train ride is my guide to taking the SGR between Nairobi and Mombasa, based on my personal experience of the original Lunatic Express, the bus and the SGR train, branded ‘the Madaraka Express.’ I compare the new SGR train ride and the bus, describe Mombasa and Nairobi SGR stations and tell you what it is like on the train. I share tips for using the SGR train, the booking process and how to pay by M-Pesa. I also suggest a few ways the service could be developed for an even better traveling experience.

  15. the muzungu says:

    I’m just back from another trip to Kenya. My friends and I took the 6 pm MASH COOL bus to Nairobi. We arrived in River Road at 9:30 AM, a little later than scheduled due to the length of time it took us to be processed at the border.
    A couple of points to note:
    If you have a passport, travel on that. My Ugandan friend travelled using her ID and Uganda immigration made her purchase a temporary travel document at the border. Additional cost of 10,000 Uganda shillings. Furthermore, she was interviewed by Interpol who thought she was being trafficked! (Again because she was travelling on her ID rather than her passport). It’s good to know that Interpol are actively looking to protect young people who are being trafficked but an unpleasant experience for our young friend who was travelling out of the country for the first time.
    From Nairobi, we jumped on another bus, destination Mombasa! This left at 10 AM from outside the MASH office in River Road.
    Bus prices from Nairobi to Mombasa range from 1,000 KES to 2,500 KES. Visit the MASH website for ticket details and departure times.
    Our driver to Mombasa was a lovely Muhindi mzee called Bahore. It was like having one of my favourite uncles driving us to the coast! He even made sure that we had a tuk tuk when we arrived in Mombasa.
    On the return leg of the journey, we decided to take the SGR (Standard Gauge Railway) train. You can read my blog all about the train journey here. It compares the bus versus the train: the costs, the length of the journey and the pros and cons of each one. The train was quite an adventure too!

  16. Salome says:

    Hello Muzungu. I intend to travel to Nairobi from Kampala on Thursday this week, but just learnt from you that i need a yellow fever certificate. How is it possible to get it in one-day.

    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Salome, you can get a yellow fever vaccination and certificate easily same day at many clinics across Kampala. Call any of the big clinics or hospitals. You will be able to get it before Thursday.

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