Transport in Kisumu City, Kenya

walking in the City

Walking is the easiest way to get around in Kisumu.
Walking is the easiest way to get around in Kisumu.

Updated Sept 2013

Kisumu is Kenya's third largest city after Nairobi and the port City of Mombasa. It is the second largest in the Lake Victoria basin, after Kampala in Uganda. Kisumu’s origins as a town can be traced to the arrival of the Uganda Railway in 1901 from the port of Mombasa. The train went into service in 1903. The terminus was first called Port Florence, though the locals called it Kisuma. This was later changed to Kisumu. It is likely that the locals met at Kisuma for barter trade long before the arrival of the railway. Ancient pictures show a thriving market in Kisumu. The gulf on which Kisumu (1,131 m, 3,711 ft above sea level), is situated at Winam gulf, which is part of the larger Kavirondo Gulf on Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria is the second largest Fresh water lake in the world and the source of the River Nile. The City is the headquarters of Kisumu County which will soon elect a Governor. One can get to Kisumu by road, rail, air and boat, depending on which direction or country one is coming from.

In Kisumu City, there are five main modes of transport:

1. by foot - you can walk

2. by bicycle

3. My motorcycle

4. by Tuk tuk - motorised scooter with a canopy

5. by Matatu - 13 seater minivans

I have no evidence of a registered bus company complete with route numbers. I will however update this information as I learn more about this beautiful lakeside city.

Sailing on the lake

The the lake joins the three East African countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. There are passenger boats, previously known as steamers. Pictures of these liners will be posted as soon as they are available.

I was able to see reacreation and fishing boats. Each passenger was given an orange lifejacket. On close scrutiny of the recreation boats, I was reluctant to board any of them. Most had been patched up on the side with aluminium plates. At least one of the fishing boats had signs of leakage. I was however impressed to see fishing boats fitted with sails. I took a magnificent picture of two sailboats in the shimmering water as they raced in to bring their catch at Dunga point.

This is a work in progress so fee free to comment below and suggest suitable titles for some of the photos.

For more information and pictures on Kisumu City, see this page - Kisumu - City on the source of the Nile on Hubpages


1. by foot - you can walk

Kisumu is not a very big city. It is estmated to have a bout 500,000 inhabitants, (less if you go by the 1999 census).

One remarkable thing about walking is that you will not be bothered by hawkers trying to force you to buy something or beggars trying to get some money from you. In fact I have never been been accosted by a beggar, a luxury that is rare in Nairobi.

Below are pictures of some youths setting the example of walking. Note the fashion too.

2. Motorcycle transport

One passenger
One passenger

Showing off their fashion

A close up the fashionable lads - Youths will be youths anywhere in the world.
A close up the fashionable lads - Youths will be youths anywhere in the world.

Walking youths

Walk, walk, walk, especially for the youth with so many calories ti burn
Walk, walk, walk, especially for the youth with so many calories ti burn

Kenyan Asians near their home

Kisumu is a multi-ethnic and Multi-racial city
Kisumu is a multi-ethnic and Multi-racial city

Six on a Motorbike

SIX! why leave any of the family members on New Year's day after face painting. There's so much more to see in Kisumu.
SIX! why leave any of the family members on New Year's day after face painting. There's so much more to see in Kisumu.

Two on a motorbike

Two passengers
Two passengers

Three on a bicycle

No need to take two bicycles when one will do!
No need to take two bicycles when one will do!

The common term for bicycle transport is 'bodaboda.' Apparently they were popular at the border between Kenya and Uganda when motorised transport was scarce. Now they are in every town in Kenya as alternative transport.

Bicycles charge a fraction of what other motorised trasport charge. Where a motorcyclist will charge Sh. 50/= Cyclists charge only Sh. 20/= Cyclists in Kisumu are numerous as a result of these low charges. This is really a bicycle city. They line up besides cars at traffic lights creating quite a sight. The riders are very aggressive and will not hesitate to nudge motor car drivers off the limited road space. This will happen with you sitting at the back, holding onto your seat.

Bicycle transport

If you do not want to walk, there are numerous public transport bicycles called Bodaboda.
If you do not want to walk, there are numerous public transport bicycles called Bodaboda.

Several on a motorbike

Three, no four no.......
Three, no four no.......

4. Matatu transport

These minivans are ideal for distances of over five kilometers
These minivans are ideal for distances of over five kilometers

The lake is navigable

Fishemen on lake Victoria
Fishemen on lake Victoria

Washing cars on the lake

Recreation boat

The three wheeler scooter is called a 'Tuktuk.' This name comes from the sound of its motor. Tuktuks are licensed to carry only three passengers, but it is not unusual to see two extras passengers - one next to the driver. Expect to pay about three times what a motorcycle would charge. They are more popular in Kisumu than they are in Nairobi. Perhaps due to the cost, kisumu residents prefer motorcycles unless one has luggage or family members. But from the picture of a heavily laden motorcycle above, the Tuktuks face stiff competition from the two wheelers.

3. Tuk tuk transport

negotiating a good price
negotiating a good price

Paying to tour the lake

This hub is a work in progress

More information and Photograph captions will be continued as the hub is updated.

Fishing boats

Sail boats returning from a fishing expedition at Dunga point
Sail boats returning from a fishing expedition at Dunga point

Thanks for stopping by. Leave your comments below. I will endevour to update this hub with more commentary.

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Comments 2 comments

Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya Author

Bonnie Ramsey,

I am glad you liked the pictures.

You may use them on condition that they are used to promote road safety to non paying audiences. If you use them in publications that make a profit, consider paying a token. I hope your are also sensitive to other cultures who may not use public transport in the'western' sense for many reasons that are not apparent to the casual viewer. Such sensitivity ensures objective writing free of sarcasm. Lastly, do credit the source.


Bonnie Ramsey 4 years ago

Dear Mr.Kariuki,

May I have permission to use some of your excellent pictures in our road safety association's lectures or publications. We provide informaton on traveling by road in many different countries.

Thank you,

Bonnie Ramsey, ASIRT Researcher

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