Hangin’ on a Matatu

By Jim DanDee


This short video is an example of a ride in a Matatu, which is Kenya’s form of public transportation. Much like in the U.S., they attempt to keep costs low for passengers at the expense of piling in as many people into the vehicle as possible. In Kenya, the fare to ride one of these 10-passenger vans, called matatus, is based on the distance (and the routé) you’ll be traveling. To go 100 km (about 60 miles) will cost you around 200 Kenyan shillings (~$2.50). Matatu rides can turn into adventures or worse in a hurry though. The number of people riding in a matatu is often pushed beyond the vehicle’s maximum capacity, to the point of matatu workers or even passengers hanging to the outside of the van while it’s moving. The government does not allow drivers to go beyond the 10-passenger limit, but over-crowding is consistently overlooked for a small bribe at checkpoints. Accidents and other dangers that come with the territory as well. From either personal or accounts that I heard first-hand, doors have flown off mid-route, fights between drivers (there’s not one established company or system) can result in one van smashing the other, and crashes can result in death. But that’s the worst of the worst and the rides are usually dull and long, with everyone ignoring each other just like everywhere else.