2019 went out in style with Irene and I taking a trip across EA; Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar. This article contains a break down of everything I feel is important knowledge for anyone planning to take this trip. It was difficult finding this information online, especially with cost estimates. It does not cover in detail specific activities in the different countries, those will be in separate articles with a little less rigidity.
As you plan and use this as a guide, note that all this is from personal experience as a first timer. It is also not authoritative or professional advice; you can choose to use different modes of transport, accommodation, activities or even towns to visit within the different countries.
I carried Piriton for sleep in case of anxiety, Mara Moja for headaches and for those who experience menstrual cramps, remember to carry whatever works.
I am not sure whether it was the season we were travelling in or the towns we visited, it was fairly hot through out. Night travels were obviously cold so dress warm for those night hour bus rides. Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar are extremely hot.
Passport : Apply on eCitizen
Yellow Fever Card: Yellow Fever Shot taken 10 Days before travel.
- CTTM – 3,900 KES
- JKIA/ Wilson – 3,500 KES
- City Hall – 2,500 KES
If you are using a Temporary EA Passport. Print it out and travel with it in hard copy.
TELCO SERVICES & MONEY
Staying in touch with people in Kenya and making sure you do not run out of money in a foreign land is quite important.
2000 KES in my estimation should have you connected at least to the internet through out your trip
On money, I hope my break down helps in estimating how much you might need to spend during your trip.
Airtel Roam Like HOME Data *544#:
For 1,100 KES I had 10GB for the entire trip. I was only interested in the internet, so I informed friends and family to reach out via social sites. WhatsApp is your friend. Airtel does not charge for incoming calls.
Safaricom Roaming Package for East Africa *100#:
Do your research on what Safaricom offers, I am only subscribed to Airtel and not able to give much detail on their products.
Buy Sim Cards
@rheenruby on Intagram was also doing an EA trip and so she bought sim cards on arrival at different countries. I will consult her on details or you can reach out to her.
Subscribe to your preferred package while still in Kenya before you get to the boarder if you choose to roam.
Change your currency at the boarders. They have good rates. It’s also not funny getting to a new town especially at night without functional currency.
First hack: Try as much as possible to pay everything using your Debit/Credit Card. This should cover AirBnB and buying stuff at stores. It is cheap, convenient and will help track expenditure.
Carry Kenyan money in bulk. I felt like this would have saved us quite some hustle. There is however a huge risk involved like losing the money.
Equity Bank and KCB are common banks across all the 4 countries. You might want to put your money there for convenience sake.
You can also withdraw your money from an ATM different from your bank but you stand being charged transaction rates as high at 700 KES.
Mobile Money is available in all the countries but not compatible with M-pesa. If you are lucky, you can find an agent who will allow you to send them the money and they give you liquid cash. Their exchange rates might however be extremely low.
I know it’s a lot to process but if I was to do it again. I’d carry bulk cash and have the rest in my Equity Bank Account.
Bus tickets can only be booked with cash so factor that in if you plan to carry bulk liquid cash.
We had no prior knowledge of these different buses we used, we just took recommendations from random people.
We had a horrible experience with Mash Poa; that to begin with had double booked almost an entire bus and therefore delayed departure. At the boarder we were also swapped to a new bus and a few of our belongings mishandled.
Trinity however takes the crown for inconvenience. Departure was delayed by about 1.5 Hours. The Bus stalled at the Tanzanian boarder and we had to camp there for 10 Hours. The bus then got a puncture and ran with it until the next day at 2pm where we had to camp again for about 6 hours. We did eventually get to Dar safe.
For this trip across Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar, Transport will cost you roughly 15,000 KES
Nairobi, Kenya <> Kampala, Uganda
Easy Coach Bus: 2,300 KES
Departure: 7:30am – Arrival 11:30pm (Est. 15 Hrs)
Kampala, Uganda <> Kigali, Rwanda
Mash Poa Bus: 50,000 UGX ( 1,400 KES)
Departure: 11:00pm – Arrival 12:00noon (Est. 13 Hrs)
Kigali, Rwanda <> Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Trinity Bus: 35,000 RWF (3,800 KES)
Departure: 03:00am – Arrival 06:00am (Est. 27 Hrs)
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania <> Zanzibar, Tanzania
Azam Ferry: 60,000 TZS (2,600 KES) x 2 |You’ll have to return to Dar
Departure: 12:30pm – Arrival 2:30pm (Est. 2 Hrs)
If you pay in USD it costs $25 for East Africans and $35 for other countries.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania <> Nairobi, Kenya
Tahmeed Bus: 65,000 TZS (2,900 KES)
Departure: 05:00am – Arrival 10:30pm (Est. 15 Hrs)
At every boarder, your passport will be stamped twice. Exit from the country you are leaving and entrance into the country you are headed.
Luggage will also be checked at boarder points. Uganda into Rwanda and Tanzania into Kenya were strict on checking all luggage.
We were not well informed but; it seemed like at the Rwanda boarder they check for new things or what looks like branded merchandise. So you have to pay custom fees for whatever they put aside as suspected goods for sale. Polythene bags/paper is also not allowed in Rwanda.
AirBnB is your friend. Accommodation could be cheaper. We had a preference of not sharing a bathroom with other guests and so the places we stayed might have been a little over the budget.
We were also looking for places with WiFi so we could finish up some work and interact with people at home via social sites.
It was also a travel season and so towards Christmas more and more price friendly places were fully booked.
We did a walk in at Kigali, Rwanda…bad idea. The guest house was horrible and cost us just what we’d have paid at an AirBnB.
A walk in at Dar es Salaam was however comforting. Save for guest houses not allowing the same gender to share beds; the place was neat, clean and well equipped.
Assuming you spend 2 nights in ever town and 3 in Dar. Gauging from what we got, a decent place should cost about 20 USD. So across Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar, accommodation should cost you roughly 18,000 KES (180 USD)
12 USD per Night
At Komamboga area. Easily accessibility to he city center. A taxi (matatu) to the city center cost 1000-1500 UGX (40 KES). The host organised a Ugandan inspired breakfast in the mornings and she is also a specialist in tea and juices that we were lucky to sample. Internet is quite expensive in Uganda so WiFi was not exactly reliable.
Uber, Bolt and Safe Boda Available.
25 USD per Night
A green,quiet, safe Studio space in Kyaciru area. Here we just had the place to ourselves with no disturbance at all. We never met the host but the house was well equipped and there was a guide book with all info about the area and places to visit, so we were fine. A bike to the City center cost 500 RWF (50 KES). Rwanda transport is extremely organised so you can live anywhere really.
Yego Cab Available (Download it Off Play store)
30 USD per Night
Let me explain why that rate is worth it. The place is smack in the middle of the city on the 24th floor of Uhuru Heights Building. It is literally a walking distance to the mall, the market and the ferry port. It has a breath taking view of the city. They had free laundry services and access to a private roof top swimming pool and sauna. The provided basics for breakfast but you fix it yourself. What can I say, it was exactly on Christmas, so we thought why not.
Uber and Bolt Available.
24 USD per Night
We got this off Booking.com, AirBnB at Zanzibar by Christmas was fully booked. This was a little distance away from the city center but still quite serene. A heavy breakfast was inclusive and the host and helps were extremely helpful and kind. The place also offers different tours around the city for guests.
Cab services range from 10,000 – 15,000 TZS (700 KES), Buses (Matatus) 400 – 1000 TZS (45 KES)
ACTIVITIES & EXPERIENCES
It is extremely difficult to track how much we might have used on public transport within the cities and food and other stuff we picked off the street.
I’d set a safe figure of 2000 KES per day if you are visiting a lot of different places and even tipping guides.
That figure gives us a rough estimate of 20,000 KES for navigation, experiences and food within the towns.
If you want to use cab apps, link a debit/credit card to them. You are safer always having liquid cash and at any opportunity to use e-money, do so.
They mainly speak Luganda. Bargaining and getting directions in English was quite some work.
We were going for the day to day experience of an average Ugandan citizen. We explored the market, local street food and malls and stores within the city center.
I am not used to travelling and so a splitting headache and sickly symptoms had me wasting a full day writhing in pain.
Reference to other activities recommended; you could check while in Uganda:
- Visit the Martyrs Shrine
- Entebe Beach – Uganda is Land Locked so this is a big deal there.
- Rolex: Their go to street food. Fried Eggs rolled into what we here in Kenya call Chapati.
- Katogo: Fried bananas served with goat meat. Delicious!
- Matoke: Mashed cooked bananas. We ate this with beef stew.
- Sweet Potatoes: Their’s are white and slapped right with peas and beef stew.
- Ugandan Chilli is the hottest we have come across yet.
Fun discovery, Ugandan egss make quite some foam super fast when beaten. Lol!
Kinyarwanda and French are their main languages. We thought Uganda was tough, Rwanda said ‘hold my beer.’ I wish I concentrated in French class in primary school.
By all means the best experience was visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial. This experience brings a lot to life. It also reconnects you with a familiar yet horrific story and from that you get to appreciate Rwanda for what it is at the moment.
We visited the Food Market in search of the great ‘Akabanga’. Goodness Gracious! Rwanda is so organised down to the market. Nothing is out of place. We however passed, on realizing the Akabanga is chaper in Kenya than, in it’s source country.
What do Rwandan people eat? We bought stuff from the the local store and cooked at home.
The streets were so clean we only saw boiled eggs, no other street food.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
They speak Kiswahili. This was a relief. We could understand even if they found our broken Kiswahili amusing. LoL!
We visited the Market again; the place has genuine good quality wear. It felt like in Kenya we get ripped off just at the point of anything entering the country. We bumped into hawkers selling extremely cheap stuff that here we buy at 10x the price in local stores in malls.
Visit the beaches while here. Kenyans have Mombasa, so it’s not as fascinating. LoL!
To our surprise Dar does not have any out of the world signature foods.
However as is in Uganda and Rwanda, food is served with a little bit of everything. It is a crime to serve someone a plain meal. In Kenya we buy nyama choma and pay separately for the Kachumbari, what madness!!!
A very affordable meal was a lot bit of Pilau, Ugali, Omena, Beef and Spinach. In one plate guys! Kenyans, we need to do better.
First things first, we went for the spice tour. It was simply amazing, considering a lot of spices come from Zanzibar. Check out Spice Tour in Zanzibar.
Forodhani is a beach area quite close to the city center. Here people watch the sunset as loads of vendors set up street food. Now Zanzibar is the home of good food. Shawarmas, Samosas, Mshikaki, Viazi Sinia and an entire array of seafood; octopus, shrimp, prawn, squid. We unknowingly saved the best for last.
You can also dip into the water for a refreshing feel while here.
A few meters away is the FREDDIE MECURY Museum. If you are not familiar with that name, the movie Bohemian Rhapsody or the song We Are The Champions could ring a bell.
- Sea food in all types, shapes, colours and sizes.
- Street Food is BIG and extremely delicious.
Cost Break Down Estimation
Travelling with company will ease the cost. Say a double-bed room is 2000 KES you can each contribute 1000 KES. One person can buy data and hotspot for the other. It has to be a close friend in this case.
Documents : 3,850 KES
Airtime : 2,000 KES
Transport: 15,000 KES
Accommodation: 18,000 KES
Activities : 20,000 KES
TOTAL : 58, 850 KES
Watch out for more articles on our personal experiences through the EA tour.