The Swahili word for journey, safari, was invented in Kenya. The land of Out of Africa has become synonymous with teaming herds of wildlife wandering over the savannah plains of equatorial paradise. Kenya is almost a year-round destination and is home to some of the finest wildlife spots in Africa, including Amboseli, famous for its elephant herds and Mount Kilimanjaro backdrop, Samburu, in semi-arid northern Kenya, Lake Nakuru, the world famous flamingo sanctuary and the Masai Mara, the northern extension to the Serengeti in adjacent Tanzania, site of the annual wildebeest and zebra migration, as well as large numbers of lion, cheetah and leopard.
VISA & PASSPORT
All travelers to Kenya must have their visas prior to their arrival. Visas are issued through the Embassy of Kenya located in Washington, DC, and Passport Health Passports and Visas can obtain this visa on your behalf.
Travelers to Kenya must ensure their passports are valid for at least six months after their planned date of departure from Kenya.
PLANNING & PACKING
It is often said that Kenya is a cold country with a hot sun, as the blend of high altitudes and tropical sun make for a unique and variable climate. This should be kept in mind when packing for a visit.
Both temperatures and climate vary drastically from region to region and even throughout a single day. Basically, the traveler should come prepared for hot, cold, wet and dusty conditions. Packing for a trip to Kenya requires some careful thought and consideration.
Ultimately your packing should be dictated by the activities you are planning to undertake. If you are traveling extensively throughout the country make sure that you bring suitable luggage. Suitcases and bags should be able to withstand plenty of handling and dusty conditions. Hard suitcases are ideal but can take up a lot of space.
If you are traveling by domestic/chartered flights within Kenya, remember that there are luggage restrictions, particularly on smaller aircraft. Check in advance with your Charter airline or Safari/Tour operator. For those planning a lot of travel by public transport or trekkers, a backpack is advisable. Bring a sturdy, well-constructed pack with orthopedic support and lockable zips and catches. A small daypack is ideal for carrying cameras, travel documents and basic everyday items.
Equal consideration should be paid to what you bring with you. Casual, lightweight, and comfortable clothing is usually the best. For walking safaris or game viewing on foot, clothing should be of neutral color, and white, bright or vividly patterned clothing avoided. Studies have proven that most African game animals are able to see bright blue over any other color.
Strong footwear is advisable if you are planning to do any walking. For serious climbers and trekkers, a good pair of hiking boots should be brought with you. Remember that the tropical/Equatorial sun is strong and burns quickly. Wide-brimmed hats are preferable to baseball caps for sun protection. Both sunglasses and a good quality sunscreen (rated SPF 15 or higher) should be used. A good quality insect repellent is worth bringing.
In some areas, mostly coastal, it is considered inappropriate for women (and in some cases men) to wear shorts or short sleeved shirts. It is always best to seek local advice. For some up-market lodges and nights out in Nairobi, you may wish to bring some more formal evening wear. You should bring your own Toiletries with you. Basic toiletry items are widely available.
Any personal prescription drugs should be brought if necessary. Also, bring the generic names for these drugs in case they need to be replaced locally. If you have prescription glasses it is wise to bring a spare pair. For those planning lengthy treks or camping expeditions, a basic medical kit is also a good idea. A small Flashlight/Torch and a Swiss Army knife are good accessories to carry.
If you have a video camera battery charger or another electrical item, bring your own converter plug set if needed (the electricity supply is 220 Volt, 50 Hz with a square pin 13 amp plug).
A good quality pair of binoculars is essential for effective game viewing. Climbers can hire equipment, ropes, and gear in Kenya, but may wish to bring their own personal kit and equipment.
Divers will find excellent dive gear for hire in Kenya, but may also wish to bring their own regulators or dive computers. Those with prescription masks should definitely bring them along. Dive Certification Cards and log documents should be brought along. All travel documentation should be kept together securely. This should include tickets, Passports (with appropriate visa entries), Vaccination Certificates, and Travel Insurance documents.
Additional photocopies of passport, air ticket, and Traveler’s Checks numbers should be bought and packed separately. Take several copies with you and leave some at home. Take your credit cards together Traveler’s Checks and some U.S. Dollars cash.
It is advisable to travel with a small medical kit that includes any basic remedies you may need, such as antacids, painkillers, anti-histamines and cold remedies.
You will also need anti-diarrheal medication such as Imodium (adults only).
WHAT TO PACK
It is advisable to travel with a small medical kit that includes any basic remedies you may need, such as antacids, painkillers, anti-histamines and cold remedies. You will also need anti-diarrheal medication such as Imodium (adults only); and oral rehydration sachets such as Electro lade, especially if traveling with children.
Also, include first aid items such as Band-Aids, antiseptic and dressings.
It may be worth asking your doctor to prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic, suitable for treating dysentery or severe infections.
Take along scissors, tweezers, and thermometer, lip salve, sun block, water purification tablets or drops, as well as your preferred brands of toiletries and cosmetics.
If you wear spectacles or contact lenses, take spares. Also, take a torch and a pocket knife.
The official currency is the Kenya Shilling. The written abbreviation is either KSh or using /= after the amount (ie 500/=)
Available Notes are 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 shillings. Available coins are 1, 5, 10, 20 and 40 shillings. Visitors to Kenya should change foreign currency at banks, bureaux de change or authorized hotels. The easiest currencies to exchange are US Dollars, Pounds sterling and EURO.
Travelers Checks are widely accepted, and many hotels, travel agencies, safari companies and restaurants accept Credit Cards. Most Banks in Kenya are equipped to advance cash on credit cards. There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency that can be brought into Kenya.
Before departure, travelers are advised to convert any excess Kenya shillings into foreign currency at a bank or bureau de change before departure. Departure taxes can be paid in local or foreign currency. Anyone wishing to take more than 500,000 Kenya Shillings out of the country will require written authorization from the Central Bank.
Hotels: Tipping the bell boy and maid in Kenya is pretty common. You should tip around 100-200KES to the bell boy and 500 KES for the week to the maid.
Restaurants: Tipping waiters in Kenya is common, you should aim to tip around 10% of the bill.
Our suggestions for daily tipping are the following:
Drivers: $ 2.00 to $ 5.00
Tour Guide: $ 10.00 to $ 20.00
House Keepers: $ 2.00
Porters: $ 2.00
Kenya has a good network of telephone, cellular and satellite connections. Work is under way to expand this network and introduce fiber optic cables.
Most hotels and lodges offer International telephone and fax services. In larger towns, private telecommunication centers also offer international services. If you have a mobile phone with a roaming connection, then you can make use of Kenya’s excellent cellular networks, which covers larger towns and tourist areas.
When calling Kenya, the International code is +254.
Kenya has good Internet Service Providers. Email and Internet services are offered by many hotels and lodges. In most towns, there are plenty of private business centers and cyber cafes offering email and internet access.
The electricity supply in Kenya is 220/240 v 50hz. Plugs are 3 point square. If you are planning to bring a video camera charger or any other electrical advice, please bring voltage and plug adaptors where appropriate.
No immunizations are required by law to enter Kenya if you are traveling directly from Europe or the US. If you are traveling from a country where Yellow Fever is present you will need to prove you have had the inoculation.