Travel Tips

JOMO KENYATTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

A connection hub in the region – The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) is the main airport in Nairobi. It is the largest and busiest airport in East and Central Africa. It serves as a transit hub for major airlines as well as the gateway for visitors to Africa’s treasured game parks, cultural heritage, scenic landscapes and business opportunities. The airport also serves as a major cargo center for both inbound and outbound goods.

JKIA is situated in Nairobi, 20 minutes from the Central Business District. Most major hotels in Nairobi have their stations at the arrival terminal for facilitation of guests on arrival. Its connectivity to the rest of the world is also enhanced by the presence of the world’s popular airlines.

CLIMATE & CLOTHING

Kenya enjoys a moderate climate. The altitude makes for some chilly evening for jackets sweaters and scarves, especially in the June/July seasons where temperatures can drop to 10 degrees. Light clothes can be won during the warm months of the year from December to March when temperatures average mid-twenties.

For, boots and umbrellas, Kenya experiences two rainy seasons yearlong from March – May and short rains from October – November.

For weather updates please refer to https://www.accuweather.com/en/ke/kenya-weather

CUISINE

Kenyans are formidable meat eaters. One of the best-known Kenyan specialties is Nyama Choma- meaning literally ‘roasted meat’. There are many popular ‘Choma Joints’ in most Kenyan towns. Probably the best known is Nairobi’s Carnivore, Kenya’s most famous restaurant.

This is usually slow roasted over an open fire or charcoals, and served with a mixture of basic greens (known as Sukuma Wiki) and Ugali. Ugali is the much-loved staple food of Kenya. Essentially a stiff porridge of maize flour, Ugali is served in large, freshly cooked bricks. Pieces of Ugali are broken off and used to eat either meat, stews or vegetables.

Vegetarians need not feel threatened- Kenya’s large Asian population has led to a great many Indian, Pakistani and sub-continental restaurants throughout the country. Excellent vegetarian meals can always be found alongside the best of regional Indian cuisine.

All over Kenya, the climate is ideal for alfresco dining. In many camps, lodges and restaurants, meals are served outside, letting you enjoy a feast with a view. You can start the day with a bush breakfasts after an early morning game drive, and finish it with sundowner drinks and snacks taking in the view of one of Kenya’s spectacular sunsets.

There is an incredible range of restaurants in Kenya covering a world of cuisines. From Korean BBQ to French Novelle Cuisine, Ethiopian Injera to a Traditional Roast Sunday lunch, Hamburgers to Tandoori specialties, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for, or a new and unexpected treat.

You may not have associated Kenya with world class cuisine, but after a safari here, you most certainly will. We have provided recipes to let you try some great Kenyan cuisine at home.

CURRENCY & EXCHANGE

  • The unit currency is the Kenya Shilling. Bank notes are available in denominations of Kes. 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. Kes. 1, 5, 10, 20 and 40 are available in coins.
  • Currency can be exchanged in foreign exchange bureaus or banks.
  • Banks operate between 9am – 4pm weekdays and 9am – 12pm weekends.
  • Easiest currencies to exchange are the US Dollar, Sterling pounds and the Euro.

CREDIT CARDS

Major international credit cards are accepted in Kenya & most ATMs.

Most establishments & service providers accept them.

DIALING CODES

+254 is the international dialing code & 020 is the area code for Nairobi

ELECTRICAL POWER

All regions in Kenya are supplied with 240 volts. Some lodges have independent power generators which may vary. The plug-in use throughout Kenya is the three-square pin 13amp type

LANGUAGES

Kiswahili is the national language whilst English is the official language. The terms Swahili and Kiswahili are used interchangeably, though the term Swahili normally refers to the people while Kiswahili refers to the language. There are over 45 ethnic languages spoken

DOING BUSINESS

A formal handshake (using the right hand) is the standard greeting between men. It is customary to lower your gaze when greeting someone who is older or of a higher professional rank than you. Men should not shake hands with a woman unless she extends her hand first. Address Kenyans by their surname and title unless you are invited to use their first name.

Suits are the expected attire for business meetings, though a shirt and tie will suffice in less formal situations. Kenyans are quite conservative and advance appointments are required for meetings. Call ahead if you are likely to be late.

Most business people speak English and it is customary to exchange business cards. Small talk is normal, and it may take some time to get to the point of a meeting. The eldest person in the room is often designated as chairperson. When negotiating a price, some haggling is expected, but angry exchanges are to be avoided. If exchanging gifts, do not choose items with a high value as this may be seen as an attempted bribe.

Businesses and government offices in Kenya are open Monday to Friday from 0800-1300 and 1400 – 1700. Some offices also are open on Saturdays from 0815 to noon.

SAFETY & SECURITY IN KENYA

As in many other big cities, it is important to take responsibility for your personal safety and exercise caution while in Nairobi. To avoid being the victim of a crime, observe the following commonsense rules.

WHILE IN PUBLIC

  • Always be vigilant
  • Do not carry or display large sums of money, especially while shopping. Use credit cards where possible
  • Do not wear expensive jewelry, including valuable watches. Jewelry snatches can occur at any time, even though open car windows.
  • Women should secure their handbags, and men should never carry wallets in their rear trouser pockets.
  • Be wary of young children who are often used as diversions for pickpockets lurking nearby.
  • When in public places, do not display your wealth, do not leave mobile phones unattended, and do not leave your handbag or briefcase hung on restaurant chairs or under the table.
  • If approached on the street by an individual or a group, be polite, but wary and exercise caution. There has been an increase of con men on the streets. They are normally very polite and well dressed and might ask you to change money, split a bill, or offer services. Some claim they are plainclothes police officers or NGO workers and want information, etc.
  • Never accept beverages or food from strangers, especially in hotels and bars. There have cases reported where victims have been drugged and robbed.
  • Under no circumstances should you walk the streets of Nairobi anywhere at night even for the shortest distance. During the day, it is advisable to walk in groups.
  • Power blackouts may occur at any time and crime may increase during these periods.

LOCAL ORDINANCES

  • Please be advised that it is not allowed to smoke in public places in Kenya, this includes anywhere outside on the streets and inside or outside shopping malls or restaurants in any town.
  • The County of Nairobi has also prohibited the use of mobile phones while crossing the streets.

BANK TRANSACTIONS

Caution should be exercised at ATM machines when withdrawing money from banks. Be cautious about who sees you withdrawing cash and where you withdraw it.

EXCURSIONS/SAFARIS

Most Kenyan game parks and tourist areas are usually safe; however, muggings and armed attacks can occur.

  • Book your safaris through a reliable travel agent and you can then be fairly certain that any vehicle provided will be roadworthy and that the safari will be conducted safely.
  • If you travel outside Nairobi, go well prepared and avoid travel at night.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
  • If you hire or borrow a vehicle, make sure that it is in good condition
  • Take essential spares and some food and water.
  • Be very reluctant to stop for people apparently looking for help on the roadside. Frequently they wait for people to stop and either rob you, or steal your car.

VISAS

Traveling to Kenya involves finding out about visas, health, safety, weather, the best time to go, currency and getting to and around Kenya.

US passport holders need a visa to enter Kenya, but they can get it at the airport or border crossing when they arrive in Kenya. If you want to plan ahead then you can apply for a visa in the US. Details and forms can be found on the http://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html.

Nationals from Commonwealth countries (including Canada and the UK) do not need a visa. Tourist visas are valid for 30 days. For up to date information see the http://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html.

A single-entry visa costs USD50 and a multiple entry visa USD100. If you are planning on visiting just Kenya, then a single-entry is all you need. If your plans include crossing over to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or visit the Serengeti, then you’ll need a multiple-entry visa if you wish to re-enter Kenya again.

HEALTH & IMMUNIZATIONS

Immunizations

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.

Several vaccinations are highly recommended, they include:

  • Yellow Fever
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A
  • Diphtheria

It is also recommended that you are up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccinations.

Contact a travel clinic at least 3 months before you plan to travel. Here’s a list of travel clinics for US residents.

Malaria

There’s a risk of catching malaria pretty much everywhere you travel in Kenya. The highlands used to be a low-risk area, but even there you have to be careful and take precautions.

Kenya is home to the chloroquine-resistant strain of malaria as well as several others. Make sure your doctor or travel clinic knows you are traveling to Kenya (don’t just say Africa) so s/he can prescribe the right anti-malarial medication. Tips on how to avoid malaria will also help.

GETTING TO & FROM KENYA

On arrival @ JKIA

  • Taxis – Uber (you must have a working internet connection to book), Jatco, Kenatco, and Jim Cab provide reliable taxi service.
  • Unlicensed taxis are often unreliable or unsafe and should be avoided. Always confirm the fare in advance if there is no meter.
  • Do not take or accept a lift from a stranger.

By Air

Many international airlines fly into Kenya including KLM, Swissair, Ethiopian, BA, SAA, Emirates, Brussels etc. There are two international airports; Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi) and Moi International Airport (Mombasa).

Ethiopian Airlines from Nairobi is a good option if you plan to continue on to West Africa. Nairobi is also a good place to get cheap flights to India if you are lucky enough to be traveling around the world.

The average airfare to Kenya from the US is around USD1000 – USD1200. About half that for flights from Europe. Book at least a few months in advance because flights fill up quickly.

By Land

Tanzania
The main border crossing into Tanzania from Kenya is at Namanga. It is open for 24 hours and is the best way to get to Mount Kilimanjaro (other than flying of course). There are buses that run frequently between Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, the trip takes about 24 hours. Nairobi to Arusha is a comfortable 5-hour bus ride with several companies vying for your custom.

Uganda
The main border crossing from Kenya into Uganda is at Malaba. There are buses available from Nairobi to Kampala as well as a weekly train service which connects with the train to Mombasa.

Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia
Border crossings between Kenya and Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia are often too risky to attempt. Check the latest government travel warnings before you go and chat to people who have gone before you to get the most reliable information.

Getting Around Kenya
By Air

There are several small airline companies that offer domestic flights as well as the national airline, Kenya Airways. Destinations include Amboseli, Kisumu, Lamu, Malindi, Masai Mara, Mombasa, Nanyuki, Nyeri, and Samburu. The smaller domestic airlines (Eagle Aviation, Air Kenya, African Express Airways) operate out of Nairobi’s Wilson Airport. Some routes get booked up quickly, especially to the coast, so book at least a few weeks in advance.

By Train

The most popular train route is from Nairobi to Mombasa. Currently it takes only 5 hours to Mombasa from Nairobi

By Bus

Buses are numerous and often very full. Most of the buses are privately owned and there are some good express buses between the major cities and towns. Nairobi is the main hub.

By Taxi, Matatu, Tuk-Tuk and Boda Boda

Taxi’s are numerous in the main cities and towns. Agree on the price before you get in since the meters are unlikely to work (if they have a meter, to begin with). Matatus are mini-buses that operate on set routes and passengers embark and disembark at whatever point they choose. Often colorful to look at but overcrowded and a little dangerous due to the drivers’ love for speed. Tuk-Tuks are also popular in Nairobi and are cheaper than taxies. Tuk-Tuks are small three-wheeler vehicles, very popular in South and Southeast Asia. Try one, they’re fun. And finally, you can also hit the streets of many towns and villages on a [link urlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boda-boda]Boda-boda, a bicycle taxi.

By Car

Renting a car in Kenya gives you a little more independence and flexibility than joining a tour group. There are several car rental agencies in the major cities including Avis, Hertz, and many safari companies also rent 4WD vehicles. Rates vary from around USD50 to USD100 per day, there are also several car rental websites offering discounts.

Driving is on the left side of the road and you’ll most likely need an international driving license as well as a major credit card to rent a car. Driving at night is not advised. Here are some Kenya driving distances so you get an idea of how long it takes to get from A to B.

By Boat

Ferries
Ferries regularly ply Lake Victoria, Africa’s biggest lake. You can head to some picturesque bays south of Kisumu, Kenya’s biggest town on the lake. Travel between Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania which also border the lake, is no longer possible at the time of writing. Ferries are comfortable and cheap.

Dhows
Dhows are beautiful traditional sailing boats that the Arabs introduced to Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast more than 500 years ago. You can rent a dhow for an evening or several days from various companies in Lamu, Malindi, and Mombasa.