Namanga is a border town between Kenya and Tanzania, 180 km from Nairobi and 120km from Arusha. The town lies mostly in Kenya. Crossing the Namanga border can be hectic (it’s often busy) but the process is fairly easy.
This crossing is busiest when the intertown and shuttle buses are passing, typically 9:30-11:00 and 15:30 to 16:30. It is possible to pass through in as little as 15 minutes but 30 minutes is typical, up to an hour when busier.
The process, going either direction:
- Possible police check / sign your car into a book at the gate (90% likely in Kenya, 10% in Tanzania – you may just be waved through).
- Outgoing Immigration for all passengers.
- Outgoing Customs for passengers / vehicle – baggage + departure form for vehicle if you’re driving.
- Incoming Immigration (visa / entry stamps).
- Incoming Customs, including issue of driving permit for your car.
- Police check (as above).
Immigration procedures at Namanga are straightforward.
- Fill in an entry / exit card; you can get them in the shuttles or ask your driver and he will give them to you
- Fill in visa form if required;
- Get in line and see an officer – though the queues are labelled “East African” or “Local” no-one seems to care, just find the shortest one.
See our section on Kenyan visas?.
Procedures vary depending on what kind of transport you’re on, time of day and how much baggage you or your vehicle are carrying. A full search of your bags or vehicle is unusual these days. After many years of ignoring vehicle contents coming from Tanzania, the Kenyan authorities are now paying more attention to buses and private cars.
- Private vehicle: if you have obviously purchased new goods or are carrying a lot there is a good chance you’ll be inspected and may have to pay duty.
- Bus / shuttle: your bags will probably be checked, though typically only boxes containing new goods are stopped or need duty paid.
Tz / Ke vehicle:
- Surrender your logbook on the way out of the car’s home country and receive a ‘temporary export permit’ which is valid (nominally) for 3 months and is legally the same as your logbook.
- Some people leave their actual logbooks in Tanzanian customs for many months or years, carrying only the permit back and forth across the border and having it stamped each time; this saves a lot of time if you make frequent crossings).
- It is also possible to leave your logbook in Arusha (?Nairobi – UPDATE) and receive a permit from the TRA there.
- On arrival in the other country you receive a temporary importation permit valid for up to 3 months;
- One week is free for a non-commercial Tanzanian vehicle entering Kenya, otherwise $40 per month or $100 for 3 months (this varies according to engine cc size, possibly $20 per month for 2000cc or less).
- No free permit exists for Kenyan vehicles entering Tanzania. Fees are probably similar to the Kenyan side.
- Please leave comments about your experiences in the comments below – we have no experience of non-east-African vehicle crossings.
3rd party vehicle insurance is required for both countries, and your current insurance may not be valid as you cross the border.
- It is possible to get ‘yellow card’ COMESA insurance (typically 2 weeks or more) issued at home (Arusha, Nairobi) but it is sometimes only a little more expensive (and far quicker) to purchase at the border.
- The cheapest way to insure your vehicle is to get a year’s insurance from an agency in Arusha (Tz insurance) or Nairobi (Ke insurance), but this necessitates getting someone to sort it out and send it to you before you travel. If you are a member, the CRC can assist in this.
- Shuttles depart from the Silver Spring hotel (Impala Shuttle) or from the centre of town near the Parkside Hotel, on Muindu Mbingu street opposite Jeevanjee gardens (Riverside and other shuttles). Report to the bus at least 15 minutes before departure especially if you have bulky luggage. Some shuttle companies will pick you up at a central hotel if you are staying there.
- Buses depart from the main bus station in town.
- Peugot taxis depart from near the main bus station (Ronald Ngala street).
- Your vehicle:
- If starting from near Nairobi centre take the road to the airport but continue south past it to the first major turn-off near the Bamburi cement plant. There are major roadworks happening south of the airport which can lead to major jams and slowdowns.
- If starting in western parts of Nairobi (Karen, Langata) it is probably not better to go via Ngong / Kiserian and take the back road to Issinya. This road is getting badly potholed.
- Road conditions are currently excellent (mid-2013).
- Shuttles depart from the Impala Hotel and the Bella Luna car park (up from the Impala). Some companies will pick you up at a hotel.
- Buses depart from the main bus station in town.
- Peugot taxis depart from the main bus station.
- Your vehicle: take the main ‘Nairobi Road’ going west / north west from town through a number of small communities and then down into the Rift. Travel time: 1.5 hours to Namanga.
- Road conditions are excellent.
Dangers and Annoyances
- Theft from vehicles is rare (unheard of?) inside the border area. The primary annoyance are the touts who pressure you to change money (don’t do it on the street!) or buy insurance (you CAN get a decent price for it if you pre-arm yourself with the actual cost in Ke/Tz and are willing to pay +10% or so). The curio sellers on the Kenyan side are particularly annoying, but fairly harmless.
- Immigration officials may ‘forget’ to give you a receipt for your visa – make sure you get one. This is particularly common on the Kenyan side, but becoming less of an issue.
- There are a lot of complaints about police in Tanzania harassing Kenyan drivers (early 2013) – this seems to be a general problem not limited to the origin of your car, though (see the honest and excellent Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs report on police harrassment).