How to Get Around in Kenya

29 August 2012

An expression somewhere between wonder and disbelief never leaves the face of foreign tourists visiting Kenya whenever they behold the manifold and various motorised vehicles used by locals each time they have to get around using public streets and even on trails and paths.
It’s not as if they are waiting for the underground, nor the unconventional use of other means of transport.
And so it happens that, along with magnificent photos of lions, white sand beaches and elephants, some tourists bring home tens of daring photos of themselves driving down public streets with ease, defiant of the new law that regulates traffic, good common sense, and the material forces that rule the universe.

Getting around in small villages, like Watamu, or in big cities like Malindi and Mombasa is never complicated: there is a widespread network of transport that connects each and every hut, house, village or city. A local, or fearless tourist, just has to raise his hand wherever he may be, and a boda-boda (bike taxi, naturally two-person), a piki-piki (motorcycle taxi, theoretically two-person), or a tuk-tuk (three-wheeled car, theoretically for three persons) will immediately pick him up and take him exactly where he wishes to go.
If you are travelling on main roads linking various centres, no problem: there are matatu (small mini-vans with room for 14, in theory) on these roads that stop exactly where you want.

Have you purchased any roosters, tubes or mattresses? Not a problem: these vehicles “can” transport anything, or you can rent a kokoteni (pushcart that creates long lines in cities) with or without a driver, that will deliver anything directly to your home.

For funerals, weddings, or whenever an entire village must travel, you can rent a lorry to fill with friends and relatives.
Simple and efficient. No stations, no schedules, no waiting, no public services, just low prices.
When travelling greater distances, basi (bus with 60 seats, theoretically, jam-packed with goods, people and animals) connect main centres at full throttle.

Here is a series of photos that will help you understand the colourful names of these vehicles, rather different from the underground and slightly … more risky 🙂

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