Hiked bus fares, high prices of goods and services to dampen the Christmas spirit

Passengers waiting to travel to various destinations at the Nakuru matatu termini on December 15, 2019. [Mercy Kahenda, Standard]

Some Nakuru and Eldoret residents have opted not to travel to their rural homes to celebrate Christmas with their families, citing tough economic times.

"I had planned to go spend Christmas with my extended family in Western, but I could not manage because the bus fares have suddenly shot up," said Grace Nalaki, a teacher in Nakuru.

Ms Nalaki said it was challenging to ferry her family of five to the village, and instead opted to send part of the cash to her parents.

It was almost a similar story with Caroline Chemutai, who had planned to join her family in Kericho County. A spot check by The Standard showed that public service vehicles have hiked fares to various destinations by between 50-100 per cent.

Matatus heading to Eldoret from Nakuru are charging Sh500 up from Sh300. Passengers heading to Kitale are being charged Sh1,000 up from Sh600.

The fare hikes come at a time Kenyans are facing tough economic times.

Collins Asava, who was travelling to Kakamega, paid Sh1,500 in addition to Sh600 for the goods he was transporting home.

"Fare to my home has increased and surprisingly, matatu operators are also charging for luggage," he said.

In Eldoret, unlike in the past years when the main bus terminus was overwhelmed with passengers, many have opted not travel to their rural homes.

“We have not experienced an increase in the number of people moving out of town with an exception of few arrivals from Nairobi. Matatu fares have not been hiked,” revealed a North Rift Sacco official, who only identified himself as John.

Those travelling to Eldoret from Nairobi are paying Sh1,200 with those going the other direction parting with Sh800.

“I decided to remain in town with my children than go to the village. Since it is a one day event we can as well celebrate in the estate,” said Patrick Otieno, who said it would be expensive to travel to Migori with the entire family.

He said fare to Migori from Eldoret has shot up to Sh700 from Sh500.

Mr Otieno, who is a chef in Eldoret, said he avoided unnecessary travel expenses to save money for school fees for his first born daughter, who is proceeding to Form Two in January.

Magdalene Yator, a vegetable vendor in Eldoret market, is also not travelling upcountry.

“I cannot make it to Nandi to see my family, but I will instead send some money for them to enjoy at home,” she said.

David Lelei, a security guard in one of the private security firms in Eldoret, revealed that the company has not released the dues of more than 300 employees.

“There are a lot of expectations and now that I cannot afford something special to take home, I have to stay away,” said the father of one. 

Mr Lelei added: “I am supposed to be paid my monthly salary of Sh8,500. It cannot be enough to cater for festivities and other expenses until next month.”