KENYA TRAVEL GUIDE
Whilst on safari in Kenya, we recommend that you carry normal sized bags and suitcases. We also advise that you carry what you need for use. Space is an important aspect when it comes to baggage. The baggage allowance for domestic/ regional flights in Kenya is restricted to 15 kgs per person. This is inclusive of hand luggage. Baggage should also be in soft bags. Most of these flights are operated by aircraft with baggage compartments that have limited volume and are of irregular shapes. It is difficult to store large rigid suitcases that in an extreme situation may have to be carried onto the next available flight. Before leaving for Kenya, make sure you have a valid passport, an arrival ticket, a return ticket, adequate funds and a visa.
To apply for a Kenyan Visa, visit the website for the Embassy of the Republic of Kenya via the link http://www.kenyaembassy.com/dcservices/appforvisaonline.aspx . You can also visit eVisa via the link http://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html.
There are two international airports in Kenya:
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport
JKIA is 17 kms (roughly 10 miles) from Nairobi’s city center. It is the largest airport and the main arrival point for most visitors. As a major gateway to Kenya, JKIA offers domestic/ regional and international connections.
Moi International Airport (MBA)
MBA is located in Mombasa County. It is the international airport of Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya. It also is Kenya’s second largest international airport, mainly serving tourists and business people accessing Kenya’s coastal region.
Highly recommended vaccines before traveling to Kenya include those of typhoid, yellow fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningitis, rabies, polio, measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and influenza. Yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry to Kenya. If you are coming to Kenya from a country where yellow fever is present, you may be required to show proof of immunization. With regard to general food safety precautions, food should not be consumed from unlicensed vendors to avoid contacting diseases such as diarrhea, cholera etc. Hygiene practices such as washing hands should be adhered to, to avoid contracting diseases. With a concern to the accommodation that we provide for your stay whilst in Kenya, you can be assured that the hygiene practices and general safety precautions are highly adhered to.
Membership of organizations such as AMREF Flying Doctors and the Flying Doctors’ Society of Africa (FDSA) is highly recommended. In the event of an accident or sickness, patients are evacuated by air ambulance to Nairobi hospitals for admission. These services come at pocket friendly rates.
Drinking water from the tap should be considered risky. We highly recommended drinking water acquired from water dispensers provided in hotels and establishments and/ or bottled drinking water.
Normal security precautions as in any other destination worldwide should be adhered to. Kenya is a developing country, thus negative social aspects such as petty crimes are quite common. Visitors are advised not to leave cash and valuables in their hotel rooms but to make good use of the safes available and safety deposit boxes available in banks, among other institutions. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Women should keep a tight grip on their handbags in crowds and busy streets. Jewellery and phone snatching is quite common in city streets. As in all major cities, walking alone or in small groups at night and/ or in secluded areas should be considered a risk. Reliable taxis are available a stone’s throw away from hotels, shopping malls, supermarkets, banks among many other establishments. Taking photos at airports, near military installations, of policemen, the president, the national flag, the State House, state lodges, soldiers, prisons, prisoners, etc is prohibited. Before photographing local people, permission should be obtained from them and a fixed cost agreed. Seek assistance from your tour guide/ driver on this matter.
Most major hotels and restaurants include a service charge in their bill. Although tipping is not mandatory, you may tip porters and taxi drivers at your discretion. It is however, customary to tip in restaurants, clubs and bars where a service charge is not included.
The currency in Kenya is the Kenya Shilling (KSHS/KES). Most major currencies such as the US Dollar, Euro, and Sterling Pound etc. are accepted and are convertible to Kenya Shillings in banks and Forex bureaus. We recommended that you use a currency converter to acquire an up to date currency exchange rate in Kenya Shillings. Currency converters can be found online. Kenya is a fairly inexpensive destination, with a very flexible monetary system. Furthermore, with a favorable exchange rate for many international currencies, you can go a long way with Kenyan currency.
Credit Cards are widely accepted in all major hotels and establishments, with the most recognized being Master Card, Visa and American Express. However, you are required to carry small amounts of cash convenient for smaller shops that only accept cash.
From the moment you land at the International airport and arrive in the City, you will notice an adequate number of banks, foreign exchange bureaus (Forex) and automated teller machines (ATMs).You can utilize their services to buy Kenyan Currency. The banks are open for business from 8.00am in the morning to 5.00pm in the evening, Mondays to Fridays and Saturday mornings. All major Kenyan airports offer banking solutions during normal business hours (8.00am to 5.00pm) in addition to 24 hours a day Forex bureau services. ATM machines are also available 24 hours a day at all major banks in every city and county. A small fee may be incurred when you use your ATM debit/ credit card.
Before traveling to Kenya for a vacation, holiday, safari or leisure, consider light to moderate casual and comfortable wear such as jeans, pants, sweat shirts, cotton shirts, and casual tops for ladies, warm sweaters/ jackets, swimwear, strong closed hiking shoes, open sandals etc. Whilst on a safari, neutral colors are best suited for clothes. Avoid bold and bright colors. What you pack will also depend on your reason (s) for travel to Kenya and the activities to participate in. The dress code in Kenya is adequately conservative. Many Kenyans adhere to different cultural, religious and customary dress styles. However, as a result of time and modern fashion trends, many people especially the young people are quickly adapting to modern fashion trends while still maintaining Kenya’s conservative nature.
For business, official wear is highly recommended. Official wear such as official suits, clean and well maintained shirts, smart ties to not so much uptight official wear such as Chinese collar shirts, official shirts, smart khaki trousers, appropriate jeans wear, and official shoes.
Kenyans normally dress up for special occasions such as when going out for clubbing/ dancing, to church, to weddings, to dinner and to other events. If you are considering dining out at one of the more upscale restaurants or enjoying a social night out, you may want to show off your cuter clothing and join the life of the party.
Consider the following:
A camera, video camera & accessories, basic essentials, brimmed hat, sunscreen lotion, insect repellant cream, toiletries, prescribed medication, a good pair of sunglasses (and a pair to spare), medical kit, Swiss army knife (for exploration), flashlight, binoculars, Travel documents, vaccination certificates, insurance documents, Traveler’s cheques, credit/ debit cards, Kenya maps (city/ town maps & travel guides) and a notebook, tablet or smart phone.
Kenyans are very humble, friendly and social people. We are known for our hospitality. Hand-shaking is a normal form of greeting. We are normally curious of what is new and exotic to us. This is typical of us Kenyans wanting to know you, where you are from and what you are doing here.
Kenya has very accessible and reliable cellular networks. You can purchase a cheap handset and buy local prepaid calling cards to make your international calls. Alternatively, if you have a handset that accepts SIM cards, you can buy local SIM cards from Kenya’s leading telecommunication service providers such as Safaricom, Airtel and Orange, accessible from their major offices, shops located in shopping malls in all cities and most counties.
Internet cybercafés are popular in all cities and most counties throughout the Country. Internet is also available in all major hotels and lodges in Kenya. Remote areas and campsites may not have access to internet. Consider using a Wi-Fi enabled smart phone or tablet. The leading telecommunication service providers offering efficient internet services include Safaricom, Airtel and Orange. Kenya is ranked among the top countries in Africa for efficient internet speed and accessibility.
Kiswahili and English are the official languages in Kenya. Kiswahili is the national language of Kenya. It is a unifying African language spoken by nearly 100 percent of the Kenyan population. The purest form of Kiswahili is spoken at the coast region where native Swahili people live. Kiswahili is also one of the most common African languages, spoken in many African countries other than Kenya such as Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Rwanda among others. Whilst visiting Kenya, your ability to speak Kiswahili can win you many smiles not to mention the fact that it absolutely is a fun language to speak and learn! Basic examples of Kiswahili words include jambo (hello), habari ya asubuhi (good morning), habari ya mchana (good afternoon), habari ya jioni (good evening), usiku mwema (good night), asante (thank you), nakupenda (I love you), samahani (excuse me), tafadhali (please), karibu (you are welcome), pole (sorry) and hakuna matata (no problem) among others.
English was inherited from Kenya’s British colonial era. English is the language of choice for business, academics and social set ups in Kenya.
Apart from Kiswahili and English, Kenya’s two official languages, each of the Country’s diverse 44 ethnic tribes also has its own unique dialect. Kenya’s ethnic languages are mostly spoken in rural settings and homes where all members belong to the same ethnic tribe. It is also common to hear two or three work associates conversing in a certain ethnic language, but it is greatly discouraged, so as to reduce and prevent discrimination at work along ethnic lines. Kenya does not tolerate discrimination. We value each of its unique 44 tribes and also light heartedly make fun of the characteristics that each tribe possesses.
Kenya celebrates ten public holidays that include:
1st January – New Year’s Day (The beginning of a new year)
Good Friday (Easter holiday celebrations)
Easter Monday (Easter holiday celebrations)
1st May – Labor Day (International Workers Day)
1st June – Madaraka Day (an important day that Kenya commemorates, as a day that it attained internal self rule in 1963, preceding full independence from the United Kingdom (British colonial rule) on 12th December 1964).
Eid al-Fitr – an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting (sawm).
20th October – Mashujaa (Heroes) Day
12th December – Jamhuri (Republic/ Independence) Day
25th December – Christmas Day
26th December – Boxing Day
If a holiday falls on a Sunday, it is common practice to extend the holiday into Monday.
Most businesses, banks, schools and government offices are closed during Kenyan public holidays.
The top and most influential daily newspapers in Kenya are the Daily Nation and The Standard newspapers. Other important news dailies include the Star, People Daily and Kenya Times among others. The Nation Media Group also publishes Business Daily (business and investment news) and the East African, a weekly collection of East African news.