From the north, buses run on tarmac road all the way from Addis Ababa. From the south, only private vehicles - in particular, cattle trucks - go along a partially unmade track to Marsabit, and then Isiolo. In late 2011, there seemed to be bus connections available from Marsabit. This road, the last unfinished section of the TAH4 (Trans African Highway 4), is being constructed. Most of the distance is covered by a tarmac road. The construction of the section between the towns of Marsabit and Turbi is on hold. From Nairobi to Isiolo, public transport is available on the tarmac roads.
Driving from Moyale (Ethiopia) to Nairobi may be possible with an international carnet. It is mostly desert with tribesmen and camels. Wave in a friendly way but do not stop as they will beg and it could be worse. Consider getting an armed guard. The road is bad and may cause significant damage to the suspension. It is impassable in the wet season. Ensure adequate fuel and water as the gaps are vast.
As for all public bus transportation in Ethiopia you must get to the station by 5:30 AM for the typical 6-6:30 AM departures. Seats are on a first come first serve basis and any "baggage handlers" are usually freelancers, but 2-4 Birr will keep them happy. There is no direct bus to Addis Ababa, so take the Shashemene bus and change buses there. There are several Shashemene bus stations. You can drop in Shashamane or drop at Hagere Maryam, stay the night and take an early bus to Addis Ababa.
As for its sister city across the border in Kenya, for destinations south, it's typically best to get over the day before and start asking around about trucks heading south. It is certainly much nicer of a ride to arrange a spot in the cab of a truck heading south. In March 2010 there was no bus and the only way to reach Nairobi was by truck.
The trucks and buses like to leave very early in the morning so remember to set your alarm clock! For a truck, in March 2010, the going rate from Moyale to Nairobi was Ksh 2000. Some trucks go directly to through Isiolo and Marsabit, and some go via Wajir and Garissa, a trip which takes 2 or 3 days through beautiful yet desolate countryside (with a good chance of seeing Rothschild's giraffe around Wajir).
Moyale has little to offer. In the afternoon you could go for a walk or visit a cafeteria. Moyale (Ethiopia) has different kinds of offices and schools and a very nice atmosphere. The people are very friendly and there is also a boutique.
There are banks on both the Kenyan and the Ethiopian side. The KCB on the Kenyan side has an ATM. Equity Bank is also available on the Kenyan side. Only money exchangers (illegal but tolerated) will buy or sell birr for shillings – the rates are horrible. Try stores on the Kenyan side for exchange instead of street touts.
The Ethiopian food is very sweet.
Each side has cheap hotels.
- Hotel Abreham, (Ethiopian side), mainroad near the bus station, rooms from 10 Birr, bucket shower and drop toilet, but friendly and excellent value for the money.
Security in the area has improved. However, check to see if you need to worry before leaving south. Go to the office of the district commissioner for information, or go to the Red Cross branch, located above the KCB, and they can call the commissioner for you and give you their opinion. Each side of the border has a police station. Bandits or shiftas are an on and off problem in Northern Kenya, so best to keep advised of the current situation before heading off. However, for the most part they are uninterested in Westerners, as attacks on Westerners have a higher chance of initiating a response from the military police forces. Many people have used the Isiolo to Moyale route to enter Ethiopia. There is also some recent ethnic fighting between the Gabra and Borana, such as the Turbi massacre, and the situation remains tense between Moyale and Marsabit. Again this violence shouldn't be directed at foreigners, but it's good to inquire about the local situation, and to pay attention.