Traveling by bus to Lodwar in the Turkana district (Northern Kenya) is not for the fainthearted. In 2011 we took the road to the dry Turkana desert. At that time there was a negative travel advice for this region from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It had been terrorized by (sometimes violent) tribal conflicts about cattle, water or land for many years. The region is rarely visited by tourists.
Our bus driver was armed (as is common in some parts of Kenya), but this gave us a doubtful feeling of safety. We were suppose to travel during the day, but the bus departed 4 hours later than planned. Together with the bad road conditions we ended up riding in the dark. No street lamps in that part of Kenya. Sometimes we stopped to pick up passengers, often Turkana families with colorful robes.
The bus was extremely hot and humid. We had little leg space and small seats. Instead of 2 two-seaters, they had a 3-seater and a 2-seater. Furthermore, the bus itself was overloaded with boxes, bags, chickens, food etc. Since, the road was bad we had the most bumpy ride of our life!
After eight bumpy hours we finally arrived safely in Lodwar in the late (!) evening. Finding a hotel around this time proved extremely difficult because most were full. Eventually, we found a room with a drunken hotel manager. We had to sleep with 3 persons in a terrible and dirty bed so try to reserve a room beforehand (and maybe a pick-up service) ;)!
Where to buy a busticket?
We bought our busticket in Kitale, and since the bus passed our hotel ‘The Kazeto Executive Lodge’ in Kapenguria we arranged that the bus would pick us up at the hotel (saving us an unnecessary ride to Kitale). In Kitale there are three big buscompanies that travel to Lodwar: Fomoco coach, Dayah express and Eldoret express. The offices of the companies are situated right next to each other. Ask a local and he will know where to go. We traveled with both Fomoco and Dayah express and found them quite similar in terms of comfort. A one way ticket cost approximately Ksh 2100. The buses leave in the morning.
Accommodation in Lodwar
In Lodwar you may arrive at night (like we did). Although we did not arrange a hotel, this is probably advisable. Upon arrival we only stayed one night in Lodwar (in some lousy guesthouse) and then traveled to Eliye Springs. On our way back we stayed at the Nawoitorong Guest House, which is recommended. This guesthouse is ran by local Turkana women, and is build entirely out of local materials. It is situated a bit out of the city center, but has some very nice self catered cottages and a camping place. It also has a small restaurant that serves pizzas and burgers. As in most Kenyan places it is not safe to go out at night.
Other modes of transportation
– By plane from Nairobi. Fly-540 and ALS operate daily flights. You book a flight at their offices near the Naipa Supermarket in Nairoibi (ALS) or near the Africana Hotel (Fly54). Arrange a taxi from the airstrip into town beforehand.
– By train. Not possible.
– By car. Road conditions are very bad. You will need an experienced driver and a 4×4. If a car breaks down, there is a chance you will have to wait for days. Not recommended.
Important tips for your bus ride to Lodwar:
As all those who even consider to travel to the north probably know, the journey by bus to Lodwar can be dangerous and comes with a lot of risks. Chances on delays, major breakdowns and armed robbery are considerably high is this deserted region. Please keep this in mind!
– Check the current security situation
– Ask for a window seat or an aisle seat
– Use the toilet breaks
– Bring enough water and food
– Bring some cash (when we were there, there was no ATM in Lodwar for international cards)
– Keep you valuables close to you during the whole trip
– Travel together
– During stops stay close to the other passengers
– Keep in mind that they may charge extra luggage fees
– Be flexible (as always when travelling)
– Prepare for the worst ;)
Did you travel by bus to Lodwar? Let us know your experiences and post a comment!
Also check out our posts on Kenya