Getting from Kenya to Tanzania: The Isebania Border Crossing
This post is specific to Western Kenya so the information is suited to those traveling around Lake Victoria or coming from Nairobi. There are a few options for getting from Kenya to Tanzania via the Isebania Border: there is a direct bus by Modern coast from Nairobi to Mwanza (2000 Ksh) or you can take a series of matatus (minivan buses), shared taxis and buses from Kisumu to Mwanza. I decided to do the Kisumu to Mwanza route and am sharing all of this information as part of my border guide series, simply because I wished it was available on google when I needed it! I hope it helps you out on your travels.
Pro tip: I recommend maps.me, a mobile app which you can use offline after downloading the country map. This is really useful for getting from Kenya to Tanzania as you likely will lose your 3G network when crossing the border.
Getting from Kenya to Tanzania
During the last leg of my overland travel around Lake Victoria, I needed to get from Kisumu to Mwanza, but learned there is no direct bus. You can either go via Nairobi with a bus line called Modern Coach (but that requires you to travel quite a bit out of the way if you are in Kisumu as you would need to take a night bus to Nairobi and then a 6:00am bus from Nairobi to Mwanza) or you can take a series of matatus, shared taxis and a coach down the side of the lake into Tanzania.
Getting from Kisumu to the Isebania Border
Take a matatu from Kisumu to Migori for 600 Ksh (I went at 6:00AM to the bus stand and was the first to arrive so I got to choose the best seat up front). The bus took about an hour to fill so we left at approximately 7:00AM and arrived around 11:00AM. This is more of a long haul shuttle service than an urban matatu, so there were less stops along the way. Since I went first thing in the morning, it was still relatively cool in temperature so the journey was honestly not as bad as I had expected.
Pro tip: The roads are paved the entire way from Kisumu to Mwanza.
What to expect at Migori
In Migori you will get dropped off at a bus station where you can use a toilet and get food. From there take a shared taxi to the Kenyan border town of Isebania for 150 Ksh. Be prepared to get well acquainted with your fellow passengers as they load in a lot of bodies, but thankfully it is a short ride. The taxi drops you off in a parking lot adjacent to the border.
What to expect at the Isebania Border
First get your exit stamp from the Kenyan side. There are no signs so just go to the building on your left before the pedestrian gate (you will see security guards out front of the building).
Then you can cross the border by foot to Tanzanian immigration. It is maybe less than a 5 minute walk but again there are no signs to direct you so continue past a building on your left and you will see another building in the distance in a large parking lot. When you enter the Tanzanian immigration building you first need to scan your bag and then apply for your tourist visa (you will need to pay 50 USD cash).
Pro Tip: Both sides require your yellow fever immunization card so come prepared!
Getting from the Isebania Border to Mwanza
From the border you can walk the 500m to the bus stand, or take a motor bike taxi for 1000 Tsh. I took a bike and was glad because it was really hot by this point and the boda driver helped me find the shared taxi. At the bus stand, take a shared taxi to Tarime for 1000 Tsh. Again you will be quite stuffed in the car, but it is another short ride.
In Tarime, you can get a direct coach bus into Mwanza for 10,000 tsh. I was lucky and caught one literally as it was pulling out of the bus terminal so it would seem they depart a few times per day. The direct journey from Tarime to Mwanza took about 3.5 hours. The bus stops at the Buzuruga bus station which is a quick boda boda or dala dala into the centre of town (3000 tsh for a boda, 400tsh for a dala dala). To catch the dala dala into town you will need to cross the street at the lights and then walk towards the CRBD bank where you will see them departing (you can say “ninaenda njini” – I am going into town).
Overall the entire journey took me 12 hours, from 6:00AM to 6:00pm. It sounds really complicated, but I was pleasantly surprised that it went smoothly for me (though I can speak Swahili which certainly helped).
Pro tip: If you are concerned about the language barrier, I would recommend this pocket Swahili-English dictionary which has useful travel phrases, or the Rosetta Stone language program (I have a full post on how I used Rosetta stone to learn Swahili).
Tips for Bus Travel in East Africa
Bus travel in East Africa can be super long and uncomfortable depending on road conditions so I always pack my backpack accordingly with supplies (I use the Osprey Questa 27 as my daypack/ carry on).
You will want to pack food and water (though during this journey there are many opportunities to buy drinks and snacks), hand sanitizer, sunscreen depending on your sensitivity to the sun (I wear SPF 60 on my face daily).
I also recommend traveling with an external charger so you know you will have a charged phone while in transit (I use and love this one by Anker), a good book (Dark Star Safari is an interesting read for overland travel in Africa) and a BUFF (I use mine religiously to shield my hair from dirty bus seats and boda helmets).
If this article was helpful, let me know in the comments below!
Be sure to check out my border guide series for more useful info to plan your trip around East Africa, or if you are continuing to travel through Tanzania, refer to my Tanzania content for helpful tips.
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