Traveling from Kenya to South Africa by bus, motorcycle, overland truck or flight.
Have you ever wondered how you can travel from Nairobi to Johannesburg by road (Overland, Bus, Motorcycle, and Hitchhiking), railway (trains) or air (Flights)? Are you still thinking of taking on the adventure? Guess what? You are not the only one!
A while back I asked myself the same question and could not get useful information on the internet. Being a budget solo traveler, I was specific about the possibility of traveling from Kenya to South Africa using buses or trains. In 2017, I went on a backpacking trip south and ended up turning back at Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.
South Africa is a great travel destination with Johannesburg and Cape Town being the most preferred cities by travelers and tourists from around the world – Including Kenyans.
There are a couple of ways in which one can travel between Nairobi, Kenya and Johannesburg, South Africa. This will depend on why you are going there (Business, adventure, study, vacation etc.), time of the year, budget, urgency among others.
This guide is for people who are seeking an adventure along the journey on a budget and have time to spare on the road. I will also try to give an insight of other means you can use to ease your travel between these two countries.
How to travel from Nairobi to South Africa
- Using direct or connecting flights
- By road using an overland truck, personal vehicle or motorcycle
- Bus connections from Nairobi via Dar es Salaam and Lusaka
- By Buses and trains
- Hitch Hiking (For the rough adventure junkies)
#1 Using direct or connecting flights
If you have limited time, the fastest way to travel from Nairobi to South Africa is by using flights. There are daily direct flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) to O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB). The air distance between the two airports is about 4 hours with the major airlines on this route being Kenya Airways and South African Airways.
For those who want to explore other countries, you can use connecting flights through Maputo (Mozambique) or Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).
Fare prices for flights change throughout the year depending on the season and start from about $350. You can check the flight duration, air distance and prices between Nairobi and Johannesburg using websites like Google Flights, Kayak, Expedia, Booking.com, and Sky Scanner.
#2 By road using an overland truck, personal vehicle or motorcycle
And the adventure begins! For those that love adventure and experiences, traveling between Johannesburg and Nairobi overland or using a motorcycle is the best way. The route has a lot to see, places to visit and things to do. The rich landscapes of Africa, cultural ways of her people, beautiful white sand ocean beaches, lakes, mountains, hills, valleys, and nature will fill your soul with memorable experiences.
By using these means, you have a choice of which route to take and countries to pass by. One of the commonly used routes starts from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam to Lusaka (Zambia) via Tunduma/Nakonde border, Lusaka to Francistown (Botswana) through Victoria Falls and finally Francistown to Johannesburg via Groblersburg.
For the purpose of this post, I may not be able to give you a complete guide on the amount of money you expect to use along the way. There are forums that can help you more including Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, and Africa Motorcycle Diaries among others.
Always remember to carry the necessary essentials and documents like your Passport, Visa, and Yellow fever card, Logbook, Driving License and Money.
#3 Using Bus connections from Nairobi to Johannesburg
This is one of the best ways to travel between Nairobi and Johannesburg. You don’t have to incur high flight charges or endure the effects of driving or riding for long distances. If you are on a hired truck, then that’s even better!
There are no direct buses between Kenya and South Africa but you can easily connect buses from Nairobi to Tanzania, Tanzania to Zambia and then Zambia to South Africa.
Buses from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam
There are a number of direct buses from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam. The best bus companies on this route are Modern Coast, Tahmeed, and Dar Express. These buses leave Nairobi on a daily basis and take about 15 hours to travel between the two cities. The last time I traveled this route was with Modern coast bus. We passed through Namanga, Arusha, and Moshi to Dar es Salaam and the bus fare price was Kshs 3500.
Buses from Dar es Salaam to Lusaka
Ubungo Bus station is the main hub for buses traveling to major cities in East and Southern Africa. Passengers can get direct buses from this station to Inter-City Bus station in Lusaka, Zambia through Tunduma/Nakonde border. The major bus companies on this route are Taqwa Bus Service and Falcon Coach. You can expect to pay from Kshs 4,500 for a distance of about 32 hours.
You can also opt to take trains for this route. There are direct trains from Dar es Salaam to New Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia and from there you can take a 4-hour bus to Lusaka. This is the most convenient and amazing way to travel from Tanzania to Zambia.
Buses from Lusaka to South Africa
I would recommend this route for adventure junkies who can endure many hours on a bus especially after traveling from Dar es Salaam. You can travel from Lusaka (Zambia) to Johannesburg by bus which would take a total of about 27 hours.
The best bust companies on this route are Juldan Motors, Intercape Bus Company, Shalom Bus services, and Mazhandu Family Bus.
Juldan motors have daily buses from Lusaka to Jo’Burg which depart from Intercity Bus Station at 08:00 am and their bus fare charges start from 500 Kwacha.
#4 Hitch Hiking (For the rough adventure junkies)
While this may not be the wisest choice, I know a couple of people who have done it! Hitchhiking travel would be ideal for adventure junkies who have time and not willing to spend a lot of money.
There are many long-distance trucks that serve the Great North Road from Cairo to Cape Town. These trucks could be the best option when it comes to hitching hiking. Along the way, there are many cheap lodges and backpacker hostels which would save you on accommodation.
Travel requirements for Kenyan Citizens to South Africa
If you have already settled on this trip, whether it’s going to South Africa by bus, flight, overland or motorcycle from Kenya, you will need a number of essentials and travel documents at the minimum. Some of the items you would need are;
- Valid travel passport and Visa
- Yellow fever vaccination card
- Other essentials depending on the means of travel
Please note: Kenyan citizens require Valid Visa to visit South Africa. This can be applied for and obtained at South Africa Visa offices in Nairobi, Kenya. No Visa is required to visit Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Namibia. You also don’t need a Visa to visit Mozambique. See the Visa requirement map for Kenyan Passport Holders.
Useful travel tips and resources
- Nairobi to Victoria Falls by Road and Rail Complete Travel Guide Book
- Travel tips for first-time solo travelers
- Useful apps and tips for travelers and backpackers
- Traveler’s user guide
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