East African transport

East African transport. Part II. Tuki-tuki, boda-boda, piki-piki, traffic jams and more

This is a continuation of our story about East African transport: this time about its more unusual types. The most popular type after basi and dala-dala is, perhaps, piki-piki or boda-boda – a moto taxi.

Apart from the driver, boda-boda can accommodate two adult passengers. If you call boda-boda in advance, ask the drive to bring helmets – this is not a compulsory option. The rules, of course, permit to carry not more than one passenger, but the policemen pretend they do not notice it. There are some “mean” police outpost, but the locals usually know about them, and offer to come by two motorcycles (if you are two), to let one of the drivers go back after the outpost is passed. The motorcycles are not rented out, maybe only scooters in Zanzibar (about 20 dollars a day).

A variation of boda-boda is a bicycle taxi. By the way, every bicycle (at least in Uganda) has its number plates. Many bicycles are equipped with an additional seat for the passengers. We did not use this taxi, so it is difficult to give any feedback.

One more alternative to an automobile taxi is a tuki-tuki, well known also in the Asian countries.



We never tried the usual taxi, only the shared one – analogous to dala-dala, usual passenger car, waiting for the clients at any bus station. The taxis are usually cram-full not to use the gasoline in vain.

You become so close to the passengers that they sleep on your shoulder:

Using the ground transportation in the big cities, you will inevitably face traffic jams, especially frequent in Kampala, Nairobi, and Dar es Salaam. The problem of traffic jams emerges because of ignoring any rules (he is the first who slips in the first), the huge amount of all types of taxi drivers (transport is the major way to earn money on tourists) and the stupid ideas of the bureaucrats. For instance, they came with the innovation in Dar es Salaam – an additional traffic lane for the buses connecting the bus stops and terminals.
Photo: https://www.logiteng.com

The innovation does not work, no buses are allowed to take it and they get into the traffic jams, while their supposed route occupies two additional lanes. The police officers also ignore any violations. In Nairobi we could not cross the road on a green light since the traffic just did not stop, and the traffic police officer at that crossroad seemed not to notice any problem. When we came to her to ask about it, she replied: “Really? I did not notice the green light”.
A little digression on the topic of the transport though: we saw a lot of wedding motorcades in Africa. Sometimes they are accompanied by boda-bodas.

Singida, Tanzania:


Katesh, Tanzania:

Gisenyi, Rwanda:

When we took this picture in Rwanda the best man got really angry.

A bit about the water transport now, the ferries first. The most advanced ferry we encountered was the one from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam. We even found wi-fi both in the port and the ferry itself unexpectedly – it was the first and the last free wi-fi we saw in Africa.


The ticket costs 35 dollars for the foreigners, while it is several times cheaper for the locals. Obviously, there is no way to pretend that you are the local. Somehow, the cashier sold us the ticket stating that we were the citizens of Tanzania, although we paid the “white price” (this was also stated in the ticket). The security guard did not want to let us in, but we passed through in spite of his indignation, trying to avoid any additional arguments and elucidations.

The ferries, in fact, emerge in the African travels unexpectedly. Take, for instance, the bus from Mwanza to Burundian border or from Mombasa to Dar: you buy the ticket, get on the bus, and fall asleep. In an hour, you wake up because the fellow passengers are all getting out – to the short ferry ride across the piece of Victoria Lake or harbor, for instance. Nobody explains anything; you are supposed to understand on your own how to get to the ferry and how to find your bus on its arrival. Sometimes you unexpectedly have to pay for this kind of ferry (in case of Mwanza ferry we had some Tanzanian cash left by pure accident).


You maybe also lucky to try a motorboat (we took it on Bunyonyi lake) or a canoe (some tribes take it to get from their islands to the major marketplaces, for example).



We did not try the elite transport in Africa – planes and trains, as the flights are unreasonably high, and the train rides take even more time than the buses. Nevertheless, we visited the Train Museum in Nairobi, to be told about in details for sure.



1 Comment

  • Anuj kumar December 14, 2023 at 11:44

    In East Africa’s diverse transport landscape, beyond the ubiquitous basi and dala-dala, lies the boda-boda – a popular moto taxi. Often accommodating two passengers sans helmets, safety can be flexible. While regulations limit riders to one, locals navigate ‘mean’ police outposts cleverly, sometimes traveling separately. Yet, Zanzibar allows scooter rentals at around $20 daily, differing from the boda-boda scene. Anikaa e-rickshaws, however, offer a unique, eco-friendly twist on local transport, reshaping india commuting culture with sustainable innovation.


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