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AU Nairobi | Transportation

Traffic in the city of Nairobi

Nairobi traffic always has to be factored in when trying to get somewhere in the city

Traffic and Nairobi are now synonymous. Transportation in Kenya is extremely varied, depending on what one would like to do. Our program goes through rigorous evaluation when determining what is the safest way for our students to reach their destinations. Some modes of transport within Nairobi are strictly prohibited for AU Nairobi students, such as driving a car or taking motorcycle taxis (called Boda Bodas). Other options can be at times restricted to certain routes or excluded all together, depending on the situation. Students are required to let AU Nairobi staff how they are getting from point A to point B at all times. Please see some of the most common options for transport within Kenya described below:

Colorfully painted Matatu


Matutus are the most common and cheapest form of transport for a Nairobi city dweller. While there is no official map, there are online resources if you want to have some fun in finding a rhyme or reason where and how routes come to be. Matatus come in all shapes and sizes and carry anywhere from 12 to 36 passengers at a time. They are generally either brightly colored or white with a yellow strip running through the middle. Touts are people who take the money from a passenger and make sure the matatu stops when customers indicate where to get off. Over the past decade, the government has taken great care to better regulate the matatu industry, but you will see some “rebel” matatus make their way on certain routes. Students are not allowed to take matatus past 5pm and are not allowed to get on a matatu in large groups.

Francis smiling in front of his red taxi.

Francis the taxi driver has spent over two decades keeping passengers safe.


AU Nairobi has had a long history with taxis, AU Nairobi staff have worked with certain taxi drivers for over a decade! Taxis are more expensive than matatus, but still less than what you would pay for an Uber or a taxi in D.C. The nice thing about taking taxis is that you can arrange your own schedule beforehand, and be picked up and dropped off at a specific point anywhere in the city (and sometimes even out of the city!). Taxi prices must be negotiated before the trip begins, and if you take taxis frequently enough you can build up a working relationship with a taxi driver who treats you well that you can depend on. Our program uses a network of taxi drivers that we know and trust for students in times when matatus cannot be taken or during some class visits. Taxis are the only mode of transport students are allowed to take after dark.

Students on a KBS bus in Nairobi


Buses are a great way to get around Nairobi. Two popular companies are the City Hopa and KBS. They are larger than matatus and have set routes and stops. Students are only allowed to use buses during the day.

Three students walking down a dirt road


AU Nairobi students find that they walk more in Nairobi than they do in D.C. Students often find it’s easy to walk to where they need to go in a reasonable amount of time, and certainly with the infamous Nairobi traffic, much more quickly than a taxi could get you there. Students often don’t leave the house without a small bag to hold their snacks, small shopping finds, and a water bottle. There aren’t many sidewalks in Nairobi as a whole, and it is easy to feel a layer of dust after a good walk to the grocery store, but with nearly perfect weather all year round, students find it’s one of the best ways they get exercise and enjoy their surroundings!

Nairobi has a number of neighborhoods that students will become familiar with. Planning out transportation to get from one side of the city to the other is imperative.

Tall buildings along the Nairobi skyline
There are lots of different modes of transportation to explore the bustling city of Nairobi

Nairobi minibus with a pop out roof
AU Nairobi staff have the contacts to provide students with the best options to rent private transportation for safaris