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 your visit. Both temperatures and climate can vary drastically from region to region and even throughout a single day. Basically you should come prepared for hot, cold, wet and dusty conditions.
Malaria – It is endemic in some parts of this country (Coast, Western Kenya, Samburu, etc) and therefore a course of Malaria medication should be taken as per the instructions from your home doctor. You should continue the medication after leaving the country.
Water – You are advised against drinking tap water. A safer alternative would be bottled mineral water, which can easily be obtained at hotels/lodges or from supermarkets in town centers en route.
Food – As do all countries Kenya has its own authentic cuisine. However, it also offers a wide choice of restaurants and foods from other countries of the world. Kenya has a large variety of tropical fruits all year round.
Hospitals – Nairobi and Mombasa, which are the major tour starting and finishing points, have several good specialized hospital facilities which can cater for international clients. Where emergency evacuation is required to Nairobi/Mombasa the Flying Doctors Service is at hand 24hours a day (Note: prior membership required, details available on request).
Sun – The amount of time spent in the sun should be limited as the tropical sun is strong. At coast the cool ocean breeze can often be deceptive. To avoid dehydration and sunburn you are encouraged to take in lots of fluids such as mineral water, juices, etc. and to apply high SPF sunscreen.
Currency and Banking
You can exchange foreign money into Kenya Shillings at banks and forex bureau, which are located at the airports and in towns and cities. Credit cards are generally accepted in hotels/lodges/camps and in city shops. Banks are usually open from 0900hrs to 1600hrs (Monday-Friday) and 0900hrs to 12 noon (Saturdays) but the ones at the airports are open 24hrs. The exchange rates fluctuate and may differ slightly from bank to bank and banks to forex bureau. You can also change money at hotels but expect a less favourable exchange rate. We recommend that you change some money initially on arrival at Nairobi airport. An approximate amount of USD 50-75 is required per day.
There are ATMs all over the country. Many support brands such as Visa and MasterCard. Before you travel, don't forget to let your bank/card issuer know that you will be using your card in ATMs in Kenya. This may save you from having to make international calls from Kenya to sort out your predicament.
Please note that it is forbidden to photograph the presidential motorcade, state house, military installations, beggars in streets and the local people, especially the Maasai, without their consent. Your driver/guide can assist in this regard. If you have a video camera battery charger or any other electrical items, bring your own converter/adapter if needed (the electricity supply is 220 Volt, 50 Hz with a square pin 13 amp plug).
Safety and Security
For security purposes, valuable possessions should be kept out of sight or better yet stored in the hotels/lodges safes. While walking in town avoid carrying around large amounts of cash or wearing jewellery. In case of going out of the hotel at night it is recommended that you use a taxi even for short distances. While on a beach holiday, beware of vendors selling souvenirs or offering low safari prices, as many tend to operate illegally or inefficiently. Many hotels have an area set aside for the beach vendors to operate from, to avoid them hassling tourists enjoying the beach.
All travel documentation should be kept together securely. This should include Tickets, Passports (with appropriate visa entries), Vaccination Certificates, and Travel Insurance documents.
Both local and international calls can be made directly from most of the hotels in Kenya. Telephone rates can be found in the rooms or at the hotel reception and should always be referred to before making the call. Cellphone coverage is widespread and SIM cards and pay-as-you-go (pre-paid) top-up cards from the two main operators, Safaricom and Airtel, are inexpensive and widely available.
There is little variance in sunset and sunrise times, which are approximately 1840hrs and 0620hrs respectively. The time in Kenya is 3 hours ahead of GMT.
Our driver/guides are well experienced and knowledgeable. They have the special responsibility to look after the client. They take pride in their work and will do all they can to make your safari enjoyable and memorable. It is customary at the end of the safari to show appreciation by tipping your driver/guide. The guidelines for tipping are between USD 3.00 to USD 5.00 per person per day. For hotel staff a token of appreciation may also be extended depending on the service received. However all these are otherwise left to your discretion.
Although there are over 40 different dialects spoken in Kenya, with Swahili being the national language, most people are able to communicate in English.
Most hotel shops do sell the most popular foreign newspapers and magazines. However, Kenya has good daily papers of its own - Daily Nation and The Standard are probably the best.
If you are traveling extensively throughout the country ensure that you bring suitable luggage that is able to withstand plenty of handling and dusty conditions. Note that on charter/scheduled flights to the game parks, baggage allowance is limited to 15kgs per person, inclusive of hand luggage, in soft bags. Some specific info from the 2 main safari airlines:
The airline will supply soft bags for passengers whose large suitcases cannot fit into the luggage holds of the aircraft. The soft bags will be sold at USD 20 per piece. All suitcases that will be left behind in this case will be stored at the Airkenya Terminal at a cost of USD 10 per piece and should be collected upon arrival.
The airline will supply soft bags for passengers whose large suitcases cannot fit into the luggage holds of the aircraft. The soft bags will be sold at a price of USD 10 per piece and the suitcases that will be left behind will be stored at a secure storage area at no cost.Excess baggage will be charged at USD 2 per kilo but will only be carried if space is available. For passengers with luggage exceeding 15kgs, a “freight seat” can be booked (charged at a child rate), which allows an additional 75kgs baggage.
Cotton, linen dresses, light slacks, short-sleeved shirts are recommended. You will need a pullover/cardigan and a fleece /jacket as night and early morning game drives can be cold. Special safari clothes can be bought in local shops at reasonable prices, although this is not a necessity. Animals see mostly in black and white so avoid those colours for day time clothing. Neutral tones from green, blue, khaki, brown, etc. are recommended. Avoid bringing delicate clothing as most laundry on safari is done by hand
Comfortable footwear is important. We recommend trainers rather than actual hiking boots which are heavy. A pair of flip flops for cooling off in the heat of the day is an added advantage. Smart casual wear is generally accepted in most hotels and lodges for meals. Do not forget swimwear, sunglasses, hat or scarf for protection against sun and dust. Remember that the tropical sun is strong and burns skin quickly. Wide-brimmed hats are preferable to caps for sun protection, and sunglasses and good quality sunscreen (rated SPF 15 or higher) are essential.
Recommended Packing List
Soft luggage not hard suit case and padlock/lock, shorts, lightweight trousers, 3/4 length trousers, t-shirts, long sleeved shirt for evening, skirt/trousers for evening, warm jersey / fleece lightweight jacket, waterproof anorak, comfortable walking shoes, rafting shoes/ flip-flops, sun hat / cap and swim wear.
Malaria pills if travelling to a malaria area, personal medication and mini first aid kit, sun screen, reading book/journal, binoculars, insect repellent, camera, batteries and memory card, sun glasses, torch, head torch, toiletries and day pack for camera, water, sunblock, etc.
Bargaining while shopping is a way of life in Kenya. Visitors may be hesitant to try it, but in the market place it is not only acceptable but also expected. However, malls and hotel shops generally have fixed prices so bargaining is not appreciated.
Normal hotel/lodge/camp check-in time is 12 noon and check-out time is 10am. If you have a night flight departure from Nairobi at the end of your safari, we can book you a day room to rest and freshen up before your flight.
Your return flight should be reconfirmed at least 72 hours before departure. We will be happy to do it for you. Kindly give us all the necessary information.
Internet cafés are common throughout Kenya and usually offer decent link quality. Expect prices around Ksh 1 per minute.
Some hotels and lodges have Wi-Fi connectivity that can be accessed in the rooms or public areas. Others have business centers where you can access the internet at a fee. If you wish to use your own laptop, Ipad or smartphone, internet data bundles are available through local mobile service providers at affordable rates. We recommend Safaricom due to better coverage and faster speeds. For laptops, a Safaricom modem (cost approx. USD 25) can be purchased.
Blackberry browser bundles are also available at affordable rates. All internet bundles are available on pay-as-you-go (prepayment) basis. All these can be purchased from the providers’ respective customer care outlets.
Please remember that you are on safari in Africa, where matters can be unpredictable and sometimes things do go wrong. A spirit of adventure and a sense of humor are pre-requisites to an enjoyable trip here. But should anything go wrong, please rest assured that we will do our very best to rectify the situation.