How I traveled from Nairobi, Kenya to Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe) by road and rail.
Late 2016, I decided to embark on a project “Travel Africa” with an aim of traveling to all African countries. My main goal was to explore, learn and experience what makes every country unique. This journey first took me to Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda in December 2016. In July 2017, I took on a solo backpacking trip down south to Mombasa (Kenya), Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. Given that I was on a budget, flying was not an option, neither was five-star hotels. The only means left for me was traveling by bus, trains, hitchhiking and budget accommodations. And I did just that!
I hope this post can give you an insight of how you can visit the famous Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe) from Kenya without robbing a bank!
If you have time and are adventurous enough, you can use road and rail, and in about 4 days you would be viewing the World famous Victoria Falls (Mosi Oya Tunya) or bungee jumping at the mighty Zambezi Bridge.
Nairobi to Victoria Falls
I wanted to use the SGR Madaraka Express train from Nairobi to Mombasa so my first destination had to be a return to the beach city of Kenya (Mombasa).
The route was Nairobi – Mombasa – Tanga – Dar es Salaam – Tunduma/Nakonde – New Kapiri Mposhi – Lusaka – Livingstone – Victoria Falls.
Victoria Falls to Nairobi
Arusha and Moshi are my favorite towns in Tanzania; this is why I had to board a 17 hours bus from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi.
The return route was Victoria Falls – Livingstone- Lusaka – New Kapiri Mposhi – Nakonde/Tunduma – Dar es Salaam – Moshi- Nairobi.
Before setting out for the journey, I had to make sure I had all the travel essentials. Since I was only going to travel for a few weeks, I choose to pack light and leave heavier traveling items behind.
Travel documents and essentials
- Passport: With a Kenyan Passport, It’s quite easy to travel to most of the southern African countries visa-free. (See the Visa requirements for Kenyan passport holders).
- Yellow fever card: This is a requirement for almost all the countries.
- Accommodation reservations: Hostels and Couchsurfing hosts (Couchsurfing is an application that helps you get hosted by a local traveler in their homes for free).
- Train tickets: SGR train tickets and contacts for TAZARA (Train from Dar to New Kapiri Mposhi) reservations.
- Travel Backpack: Packed with clothes, survival items, water, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and other travel items.
- Navigation and reading and writing materials: Guide maps, Travel novel (The Beach), Journal, Pens etc.
Nairobi to Mombasa
It was about a month since the launch of SGR Madaraka Express Passenger train in Kenya. The train had started its operations between Nairobi and Mombasa. I had to get the experience. The train was amazing. You save a lot of time traveling and you get to see Kenya’s magical and scenic beauty. The seats are comfortable and the service is great. As a traveler, I was used to the old Jambo Deluxe train which used to take 15 hours, so, being in the 5 hours train was not as adventurous.
The train left Nairobi terminus at 09:00 am and arrived at Miritini Station in Mombasa at around 2:00 pm. (We had to stop for a few minutes at Mtito Andei to pave way for the Nairobi bound train.)
On arrival, I boarded a Matatu (Bus) to Mombasa city center and booked bus tickets (At Mwembe Tayari) for next day travel to Dar es Salaam. Thereafter I headed to a friend’s place.
- It is advisable to arrive at the station 2 hours before departure time. The train leaves at exactly 09:00 am.
- Book the tickets 3-4 days before travel day since they get fully booked quite fast.
- Buses from Mombasa to Dar es Salaam leave every morning from 06:00 am to 10:00 am. Book in advance or make a reservation with the respective bus company.
Transport: SGR Madaraka Express Train and Buses.
Train fare: Kshs 700 for a second class seat.
Accommodation: A friend’s place.
Currency: Kenya shillings (Kshs).
Mombasa to Dar es Salaam
The Modern Coast bus left Mombasa for Dar es Salaam at 06:00 am from Mwembe Tayari station. This was my favorite bus though there are other buses operating along the route. In this bus, there was a power socket, clean curtains, comfortable seats with ample leg space, working air conditioning system and the staff service was amazing.
We had one stop before arriving at Lunga Lunga border post (between Kenya and Tanzania). After clearing with immigration officers on both sides, I exchanged Kenyan currency to Tanzanian shillings from the vendors at the border before we left for Dar es Salaam. The bus had stopovers at Tanga, Muheza, Lugoba, Msoga, and Kibaha before arriving at Kariakor bus station about ten hours later. From the station, I took a bus to my hosts’ resident where I stayed for a few days exploring Dar es Salaam.
Mombasa to Dar es Salaam: About 10 hours.
Transport: Modern Coast Bus and Tuk-Tuk.
Accommodation in Dar es Salaam: Couchsurfing host.
Border point: Lunga Lunga.
Bus fare: Approximately Kshs 1600 for a Normal seat.
Currency: Kenya shillings and Tanzanian shillings (1Kshs = Tzshs 20).
Dar es Salaam to New Kapiri Mposhi
My next destination from Dar es Salaam was New Kapiri Mposhi (Zambia).
On the travel day, I headed for TAZARA Dar es Salaam station and paid for my reserved second class tickets. The train (Kilimanjaro Ordinary Train from Tanzania) left Dar es Salaam at 2:00 pm for New Kapiri Mposhi.
After an hour of chatting and getting to know the other five passengers in the compartment, I went to check out the rest of the train. We stopped at almost all stations along the railway line to either drop or pick up more passengers. Just before we reached Mbeya station, one of the cars derailed. We had to wait for more than 12 hours at Mbeya before the issue could be fixed. During the wait, we had a chance to see the luxurious Rovos Rail train that travels from Johannesburg to Dar es Salaam.
The train arrived safely at New Kapiri Mposhi station in Zambia. The passengers alighted and headed to their different destinations.
Transport: Kilimanjaro Ordinary Train (Tanzania).
Train fare: About Kshs 3,500.
Border point: Tunduma (Tanzania) and Nakonde (Zambia).
Currency: Zambian Kwacha and Tanzanian shillings (1 ZMK = Tzshs 200).
- Do not lose your ticket. You must show it at New Kapiri Mposhi station on arrival.
- Arrive early at the departure station.
- Take water and snacks with you.
- The compartments are unisex. If you are in a group or family where you can purchase tickets for the full compartment.
- I recommend second class (6 persons) or first class (4 persons) if you are doing the full trip.
- The train has a restaurant car and a bar.
- No need to carry bedding. They are provided in the train.
- If coming from Kenya ensure you change your Kenya shillings at Tunduma or Nakonde border. There is nowhere else in Zambia you can do this.
- There is enough security in the train but it is always good to take care of your belonging especially travel documents and money!
Kapiri Mposhi to Lusaka
On arrival at the New Kapiri Mposhi train station, I said goodbye to my new friends and then boarded a Coaster (Bus) to Lusaka. The bus took about 4 hours to arrive at the Inter-city bus station. I must point out that this is probably the busiest bus station I have seen so far in Africa. You can get direct buses to most of the cities and towns in South African countries including; Johannesburg (South Africa), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Lilongwe (Malawi), Harare (Zimbabwe), Livingstone (Zambia) among others.
From the station, I headed to Wanderers Backpackers and Campsite where I stayed until the next travel day.
Lusaka to Livingstone
The journey to Livingstone from Lusaka (Capital city of Zambia) is about 7 hours. There are a number of stops along the way, the main ones being Kafue, Mazambuka, Monze, Kalomo, and Zimba. I used Shalom bus from the Inter-City bus stop. The bus is just one of the many buses preying the route. It was classy, comfortable and the driver was very careful and attentive. I would recommend this bus.
On arrival at Shalom bus stand in Livingstone, I walked to Zinga backpackers lodge. This hostel is not so far away from the bus station and it’s very affordable.
There are other good hotels, hostels, motels, and lodges in Livingstone like Fawlty towers camping, Jolly boys, and Livingstone backpackers.
Transport: Shalom bus service.
Bus fare: About Kshs 2, 300.
Livingstone to Victoria Falls
The Victoria Falls (located at the border point between Zambia and Zimbabwe) is only a few minutes from Livingstone. Available means of transport that take people to the falls from Livingstone town include shared taxis and buses. You can access the falls from either Livingstone town in Zambia or Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe.
Transport: Share taxis (10 Kwacha per person 4-people sharing).
Accommodation: Zinga Backpackers.
Border point: Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Currency: Zambian Kwacha and US Dollar (Zimbabwe) – 1 USD = 10 Kwacha
Victoria Falls to Dar es Salaam then Nairobi
On the return trip, I used the same route from Livingstone (Zambia) to Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) but a different one from Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) to Nairobi (Kenya).
Livingstone – Lusaka – New Kapiri Mposhi – Dar es Salaam
I hitchhiked from Livingstone to Lusaka and then from Lusaka to New Kapiri Mposhi. This route is part of the Great North Road which runs from Cape Town (South Africa) to Cairo (Egypt). There are so many long-distance trucks from different countries using this road. And, if you are a budget backpacker, you can travel for almost free.
Transport: Hitchhiking (trucks) and Mukuba Express Train (Zambia).
Train fare: About Kshs 4500 from New Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam.
Border point: Nakonde and Tunduma.
- Buy the tickets (New Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam) a few weeks or a month before travel day.
- You can buy train tickets either at TAZARA Lusaka office or New Kapiri Mposhi station.
- There are trucks from Livingstone to New Kapiri Mposhi, you can hitch a hike.
- Keep your tickets safe until the end of the journey.
Dar es Salaam to Nairobi
I really wanted to pass by Moshi and Arusha, Tanzania during the return trip. So, on travel day, I boarded Modern Coast Bus to Nairobi which left at 05:00 am. We had a couple of stops before arriving at Namanga border post between Kenya and Tanzania. After clearing with immigration, the journey to Nairobi began where we arrived at 10:00 pm.
Transport: Modern Coast bus.
Bus fare: Kshs 3500 for a normal seat.
Border point: Namanga.
End of trip 🙂 and Action item.
This was one of the most amazing backpacking trips I had done in a long time. The landscape was great, people were awesome, and the journey was worth it! A few days later I was still undergoing post-travel depression and thinking about the next destination too.
If you have done this trip before, kindly share stories in the comment below. Feel free to ask any questions and share with others.