‘Can I travel to Kenya?’ is a question asked by many travelers, especially first-timers wanting travel advice for this wildlife-rich East African country that is home to the Great Wildebeest Migration over the plains of the Masai Mara.
Although Kenya has been a victim of tragic terrorist attacks, it is important to remember that these are very far from the main tourism hubs. Security has been stepped up at all airports – especially Jomo Kenyatta and Wilson – and at hotels across Nairobi. We will never send a client to any place that we would not visit ourselves. In addition to knowing where each and every one of our clients is every step of their way, all African Safari Experts clients also have exclusive access to a 24/7 hotline manned by the CEO in the event of any emergency, no matter how small.
MONEY AND SPENDING
Kenya’s national currency is the Kenyan Shilling and although foreign currencies such as US Dollars are widely accepted (and indeed the currency required for activities like hot-air balloon safaris) we’d recommend using local currency to pay for bar bills, souvenirs and meals not included in your itinerary.
Please note that due to the number of fake notes in circulation, no US Dollar bills printed before 2003 are accepted in Kenya and, in fact, your safest bet is to carry notes printed after 2006.
Banking facilities and ATMs are found throughout Kenya’s major travel destinations and all major credit cards are widely accepted, in particular MasterCard, Visa and American Express.
Tipping for good service is customary in Kenya although it is of course at your discretion – bear in mind that some of the larger hotels will add a service charge onto your bill. A 10% tip is customary in city restaurants and bars when a service charge is not included.
During your trip it is likely that you will come into contact with tour guides, game rangers and trackers who depend largely on their tips for their income. Tipping in this instance ranges between $10 and $15 per person per day. Tipping is only recommended if you are satisfied with the service you have received and is entirely at your own discretion. Tipping at lodges in the bush us usually a communal box which is divided amongst the “back of house” staff, ask the lodge manager where this is if you would like to leave a gratuity on departure.
Average summer temperatures: 20°C / 68°F to 34°C / 93°F
Average winter temperatures: 18°C / 64°F to 29°C / 84°F
Rainy season: mid-March to June (‘long rains’) and October to December (‘short rains’)
WHAT TO PACK
For your Kenya safari, pack light casual wear in neutral colors (try to avoid white, black and blue) and a warm jacket for evening game drives.
In Kenya’s major cities the dress code is conservative but not overly formal – jeans and modest tops for women are fine. Swimsuits are acceptable on the beach, but you’ll need to cover up in public places.
HEALTH AND MEDICAL
Visit your GP 6-8 weeks before travelling to Kenya to ensure you have all the necessary vaccinations and medication. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over one year of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.
Malaria is present in Kenya below altitudes of 2,500m – antimalarial medication should be taken. Wear long sleeves and trousers and use your mosquito nets. Dengue fever (also carried by mosquitoes) is also present, particularly in cities, and tsetse flies have a painful bite, as well as carrying sleeping sickness. They are attracted to the color blue and black.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which includes any activities you will be participating in (climbing, diving etc). Ensure this covers emergency medical repatriation, you may have to be evacuated if local hospitals are unable to provide adequate care.
Only drink bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Do not bathe in rivers or lakes in Kenya – there is a significant danger from wildlife as well as water-borne diseases such as bilharzia. In many places it is also illegal.
Kenya is on the equator and the sun is fierce – especially as it is magnified by the altitude in much of the country. Remember to bring sunscreen, a hat, good quality sunglasses and chap stick with SPF to protect your lips.
Mount Kenya stands at 5,199m – altitude sickness can kick in at less than half that height. Ascending slowly reduces the chances of feeling ill, but if you do, the best cure is to descend – even a couple of hundred meters can make a difference. Younger, fitter climbers are actually likely to be at more risk, due to their ability to ascend more rapidly – age and fitness have no effect on altitude sickness. Keep well hydrated and let your guide know if you are feeling unwell.
Kenya is a fairly conservative society, especially where Islam holds sway, and much emphasis is placed on courtesy and manners. Care needs to be taken when photographing local people – always ask permission and prepare to be asked for reward in Kenya’s most popular destinations – but by and large the people of Kenya are easy-going, amiable, humorous and helpful, making travelling and interacting with them a real pleasure.
FLIGHTS AND GETTING AROUND
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport: East Africa’s major flight hub is located 13km / 8mi outside Nairobi and is the gateway to the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Mombasa and Kenya’s beaches as well as Zanzibar and Tanzania. There are also good connections from here to Uganda, Rwanda and the Seychelles.
Wilson Airport: a regional airport about 90 minutes by road from Jomo Kenyatta, Wilson is the hub for almost all of Kenya’s internal flights and serves its fly-in safari locations. Ensure you have time between your international flight and domestic flight to make the transfer between the two airports.
Moi Mombasa International Airport: located about 10km / 6.2mi northwest of the town itself, Mombasa’s airport is the gateway to the Kenyan coast.
Chartered flights are a great way to get around Kenya and avoid the country’s often dirt roads, transfers from airstrips to lodges are conducted in 4X4 vehicles.
Road transfers from airports and between major destinations tend to use mini buses as do scheduled safaris to popular destinations such as the Masai Mara. Sliding windows and a pop-up roof provide passengers on mini buses with ample viewing opportunities on game drives whereas safaris to more remote destinations and private conservancies use open-sided 4X4s.
VISA AND PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS
Visas are required by most visitors to Kenya including British, American, Canadian, European, Australian and New Zealand passport holders. Citizens from some smaller Commonwealth countries are exempt.
Visas are valid for three months from the date of entry and can be purchased upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Visitors can pay for their visas in local currency and they must possess a passport that is valid until six months after the initial date of travel.
If you plan on travelling onwards from Kenya, visas for other East African countries such as Tanzania and Uganda can generally be obtained in Nairobi for around US$50 each.
Please Note: Whilst we have made every effort to ensure the information provided in this document is accurate, African Safari Experts is in no way responsible for the information provided. We will endeavor to communicate any amendments to the information in a timely manner.