If you are a big deal in the world you might find your face, or name, on a side of a bus in Kenya. Matatus, Kenya’s local buses are an experience. If few months ago I would have known that I would be sat in a bus with multicoloured patterned ceiling, front view camera and a television screen which played music videos, I would have not believed it. But believe you me, Matatus are like that.
Matatu is a cheap and convenient, yet interesting way to travel
If you wish to sit in silence during you travel in Nairobi I suggest you choose the least pimped out matatu. Many tourists probably do not even choose matatus as they are loud, and there are many of them. Matatu is a cheap and convenient way to travel across Nairobi. With around 100 shillings a trip and route which drops you pretty much meters within where you wish to be are they an excellent thing to consider especially if you wish to avoid using a taxi, which can rise up to 20 euros/dollars a trip. Matatu is operated by two people, one who drives and the moneyman who sits in the back and collects the fee during the trip. So keep your money near but you have no driver you pay the ticket to when entering the bus. Just find a seat and wait, your money will be collected.
You can find Jesus, Kanye and Mariah Carey on the same matatu
If you wish to get the true matatu experience choose a matatu with the most flare. In Nairobi it is impossible to miss all the matatus. They are minibuses made from vans and actual buses. Each matatu is more colourful than the next. Imagine the now ended show Pimp my ride. Matatus of Kenya are Pimp my ride on steroids and 6 years of agressive lifting. You will see Kanye, Mariah Carey, Obama, Jesus and Adidas. Matatus are a part of Kenya’s fanculture. During elections many matatus had jumped to the judge Maraga craze which was taking over the world. You will see all the colours of the rainbow in just one window and you will be able to read bible verses of the bumpers. Matatus are a rollercoaster ride. Inside a matatu you will be able to listen to music, they might have multiple tvs or one big screen which can play music videos or anything else under the sun.
Keep your handbag near in rush hour
This applies to all vehicles, not just matatus. Rush hour in Nairobi can get long. Like incredibly long. In the rush hour you will see people walking between cars selling snacks, coat hangers, mirrors and other items. Important thing to remember is that if you have your window open you might lose your phone or valuables if you are not careful. Here in Finland we say opportunity makes a thief and this applies everywhere in the world. If you are careless and sit in a standing car with your iphone on your lap looking at the music video in the matatu be careful, as that iphone might be someone elses soon.
Brace your stomach, it can be a bumpy ride
One thing you must keep in mind if you step inside a matatu is that it can, and possibly will, be a bumpy ride. Matatu drivers are surely a creation of the Kenyan driving culture. You might experience the moment when you are sat in your matatu minding your business and the car starts overtaking in the nearby ditch next to the highway. Or how they and other drivers create 5 lanes to a 3 way highway. Many matatu drivers drive carefully, but there are some rally drivers amongst them. If you want to jump off just hit the ceiling or tap the moneyman to the shoulder.