Crossing the border from Ethiopia to Kenya in Moyale [2023]

Cover Image for Crossing the border from Ethiopia to Kenya in Moyale [2023]
Lisa & Pol
by Lisa & Pol
This post is linked to the following video :
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Visiting the tribes of the Omo Valley | Ethiopia travel vlog

Filmed on : november 2023

Filmed in : Ethiopia

ethiopiaomo valleyjinkaturmimursi villagekaro villagemoyale

We crossed on Saturday, November 11th 2023.

Applying for an e-visa

As this is part of our crossing of Africa from Cairo to Cape Town, we chose to apply for the East African e-Visa, which allows you to stay up to 90 days in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, being multi-entry in between these countries as long as you don't exit them. You can choose how to spend these 90 days, and if you want, you can very well decide to stay in Kenya for the 3 month. The e-visa at the time costs 100$, although when you pay online by card, you end up paying 109$. It took Lisa's 24h for it to be approved and 72h for Pol.

Warning ! The visa on arrival is not possible anymore.

So at the time, we thought it was possible to get a visa on arrival, all the blogs mentioned it, for the same price as the e-Visa (actually cheaper, because no credit card fees). We did the e-Visa nonetheless to have the peace of mind, and also because we didn't carry anymore dollars at that point.

We met a fellow backpacker at the border crossing, hoping to get a visa on arrival (East African Visa as well), because his credit cards kept being refused online. But at the desk, the officer told him that since some time, they don't give the visas on arrival anymore because apparently the government doesn't trust the agents on the ground to handle so much dollars in cash... At the time, this information is available nowhere ! So the only solution for our friend was to apply for the e-Visa and to wait for it to be accepted ...

Getting to Moyale from the Omo Valley

Visiting the Omo Valley was last on our Ethiopian itinerary and from there we just wanted to cross to Kenya. We were in Turmi. We were told that it's sometimes possible to join a 4x4 rented by a tour agency or other tourists, to go directly to Konso, but we didn't find anyone.

So we took the public bus going to Jinka and stopped in Key Afar, for 200 birr per person. There, you can wait at a cafe in town where everyone waits for their buses. A trucked stopped and offered to take us to Konso for 200 birr per person. We were 4 seating on the 3 seats, in a very very slow truck.

We had planned to stay in Konso for the night, maybe visit the terraces, but we were very disappointed with the accommodations we visited, one lied to us saying they were fully booked, then made up fake prices in front of us, the other one was moldy and with no running water, the last one, totally full apparently.

So we continued our journey directly to Yabelo, 2h further east, closer to Moyale. The minibus costed 150 birr per person, and they tried to make us pay more for our backpacks, but nope, not with us.

We arrived at night, so decided to settle for our first option we visited, next to the bus station, right of Barii restaurant. 300 birr per night, no mosquito net, african shower. The owners were very nice, and the property was quite clean. The room was very basic, and to be completely honest there is a chance we got bed bugs from them, but it happens.

Our room in Yabelo for 5$ a night
Our room in Yabelo for 5$ a night

The minibuses to Moyale seem to go the entire day, but people advised us to get to the bus station at 5:30. We first went to the minibus who instructed us to first go buy a ticket from the ticket booth. Many many people are going to Moyale and we ended up waiting a solid 20 minutes to get ours for 240 birr per person. Also, it's quite frustrating as people love to skip the line right in front of your nose. Our minibus left at 6:30 and we arrived in Moyale around 9:30.

Exiting Ethiopia and entering Kenya, the actual crossing

In our mind, we wanted to take the 2pm bus from Moyale to Nairobi, so we were not in a rush. We had breakfast, posted some stories on insta (@lisaandpol), and really took our time. We had read somewhere that the kenyan side didn't have much so we thought it would be better to wait on the ethiopian side.

We still had some birrs so we did some groceries, and in the end wanted to exchange the last 600 birr we had, to kenyan shillings. This is actually very common and many guys are in the street, standing in the open with lots of money in their hands. To find them, go at the very end of Moyale, pass the first gate of the border crossing and you will find many. At the time, the best rate we got was 1birr=1.35shillings. This is far from what the internet tells you, but remember that with the black market rate in Ethiopia, it actually makes sense that you get something like this.

Ready to exit the country, we enter the first building on the right at exactly 12:01pm. We're met by an officer who very casually explains that the custom boss is out for lunch from 12pm to 2pm, and so we have to wait. It was very frustrating since we really didn't expect it, and we felt like it's a completely useless step to have to wait for a boss approval just to leave the country ...

So we waited, 2h, in this empty building, until the boss finished his lunch.

At the border crossing building in Moyale
At the border crossing building in Moyale

At 2pm exactly he came back, asked us our Ethiopian e-Visas, checked something on his tablet (apparently making sure that we got our entry visa legally) and then told us to move to the next building, 300m further, again on the right, 1st floor.

There, no one checked our bags, we waited, he stamped us out, we waited, we then did a temperature screening for Kenya, got our visas (it was quite smooth since we had the e-Visas), and entered Moyale by 3:20pm.

Arriving to kenyan Moyale
Arriving to kenyan Moyale

Getting to Nairobi

Many people will try to sell you a bus ticket to Nairobi. Apparently the last bus goes at 6pm. We had heard of Moyale Star, so we want with them for 2500shillings per person, departing at 6pm, arriving 7:30 in the capital.

We used the KCB ATM, the fee is 4$ for 30.000 shillings. We got an Airtel sim card from a nearby shop, but go there with time because the central office needs to approve your application to get a sim card (took 20 minutes).

The town is actually quite lively and colorful, and we enjoyed cheap food.

The bus departed at 6:15pm, after a messy loading. The seats were quite spacious and overall the bus was in good shape, much better shape than many other buses we saw there. There will be police checkpoints every couple of hours, where you usually have to step off the bus, show your passport, and sometimes open your bags for them.

We arrived at 7:30 in Nairobi and grabbed a Bolt to our accommodation.

All in all, it went pretty okay, we had some frustration going on at lunch time, but were happy to have finally crossed in the afternoon. I also think that taking the bus at 6pm makes more sense than at 2pm, because what's the point of arriving in the middle of the night in Nairobi ...

So this is it, if you have any questions, the best way to reach us is on instagram (@lisaandpol), there you will also find our ethiopian highlights and posts. We are working on the main Ethiopia article with itinerary, budget and more.

If you haven't checked out our ethiopian videos, here is the first one :

Lisa & Pol
Lisa & Pol
We're a Slovak-French couple in our twenties currently backpacking across Africa for a year. One of our goals is to inspire travellers to go explore this often forgotten continent. On this blog we're focusing on providing up to date info about prices and itineraries, especially geared towards backpackers on a budget. We also create content on Youtube and Insta if you prefer a more visual approach 😉
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