Now that I take public transportation regularly, I am noticing the similarities and differences between Kenyan public transportation and U.S. public transportation.
Public Transportation Similarities
- If you are on public transportation, there will be at least one smelly person near you. Or maybe I just have a sensitive nose…
- Personal space is at a premium. If you are on public transportation during rush hour then at some point during your ride someone’s butt will be in your face, or your butt will be in someone else’s face. You will both act like this is normal, because I guess at rush hour, it is normal. You just have to hope that it’s not that smelly person’s butt in your face.
- There are unspoken norms for every public transportation system and you will inevitably look like a fool as you try to learn these norms. For example, I have been stuck at the turnstile in the DC metro because I didn’t realize that I needed to submit my ticket on the way into and out of the train. The money collector on the bus here in Kenya rejected my money because I didn’t offer it at the appropriate money collecting time.
Public Transportation Differences
- Kenyan public transportation does not have a fixed price. If it’s raining, the bus/matatu will cost more. If you are travelling during rush hour, the bus/matatu will cost more. I take the exact same route every day and have paid between 20 and 50 shillings for the ride.
- The price also changes if you are white. My friend’s Kenyan boyfriend laughed at me one day because I paid 10 shillings more than I was supposed to– he said I was overcharged because I’m white. I’d like to think I was only charged more because it was going to rain, but I suspect he was correct.
- Everyone has a seat on the bus/matatu. In the U.S., buses and trains can get so overcrowded that you have to stand for your entire ride. Here, the buses and matatus I’ve been on don’t ever take on too many people. Everyone always has a seat, which is good because the roads are so bad and the drivers are so crazy that if you were standing you would probably fly out of the front window.