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Kenya: What You Need To Know Before You Go

One of the most magical and achingly beautiful countries in the world, Kenya is an incredible travel destination known for its diverse landscapes, dazzling light, spectacular variety of animals and friendly people. The safari regions in Kenya are considered safe destinations but nevertheless this detailed guide will answer all your pre-trip questions especially if you are visiting Kenya for the first time.

elephant in amboseli national park in kenyaAn elephant quietly crossing a road less traveled in the Amboseli National Park. Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.

What You Need To Know: Visas

You will need a visa when visiting Kenya if you are a citizen of the USA, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada or any other EU country. If you hold citizenship for any other country please consult the below link to determine if you require a visa: Kenya Visa Requirements

As with most travel destinations, your passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond your departure date out of Kenya, with at least two consecutive (unstamped) blank visa pages in your passport.

The visa costs around £30 or $50 and can be bought on arrival in Nairobi (just ensure that you have the exact US dollars with you and that your US$ bills were issued after 2006) or in advance from the relevant Kenyan High Commission.

wildebeest migration in masai maraThe wildebeest migration – one of the world’s most incredible natural spectacles – is one of the many reasons why you should visit Kenya

What You Need To Know: Medical

There are a number of mandatory medications and vaccinations for Kenya, so here is our complete list:

Malaria
Whilst Nairobi and some other highland areas are relatively low-risk malaria zones, malaria in Kenya (as well as many areas of East Africa) is endemic so we strongly recommend that you obtain anti-malaria medication before you depart from your medical doctor or other health authority. The most commonly prescribed malaria tablet is currently Malarone.

Malaria tablets unfortunately often come with some side-effects (fortunately the most common ones aren’t too serious) and for the most part, manifest with a light-sensitivity and slight upset tummies. We thus recommend that you regularly apply a high SFP sunscreen (even for olive skin).

Vaccinations
If you are traveling around Africa you will need to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever and you may even be required to show your Yellow Fever certificate on entry in Kenya, so be sure to get one before you depart on your travels! The Yellow Fever jab lasts 10 years (so even though it’s relatively pricey around £80, it’s money well spent) and must be administered at least 10 days before departure. This vaccine is recommended for children 9 months and older.

yellow fever certificateYou will need to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever if you plan on travelling to Kenya

Water
We advise you to drink bottled water at all times in Kenya, especially if you have traveled from abroad. All our recommended safari camps and lodges supply their guests with fresh, clean (filtered or bottled) water. For things like brushing your teeth, we suggest checking with your camp manager to find out if the tap water is safe to use.

Medications
It’s always a good idea to pack your own small medical kit to have on hand for any minor travel-related ailments such as headaches or hay fever. If you need to take prescription medication please ensure that you pack enough supplies to last your entire holiday, as it may be difficult to get hold of specialized medication in remote areas.

What You Need To Know: In General in Kenya

Language
Kenya is a multilingual country with Swahili and English being spoken as the two official languages. Here are a couple of Swahili words to get you started:

  • ”Jambo” – common greeting meaning “Hello, how are you?”
  • “Asante” or “Asante Sana” – meaning “thank you” and “thank you very much”
  • “Pole Pole” – which means “slowly slowly” referring to the slower African pace!

Masai warriors with visitorKenyans are one of the friendliest people in Africa and meeting the Masai warriors in their colourful traditional dress is a experience that will stay with you forever

Time
Kenya is 3 hours ahead (all year round) of the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)

Weather
Kenya is situated close to the equator so does not experience a real winter or summer season. The country has a pleasant tropical climate but can vary greatly depending on several factors, particularly altitude. Daytime temperatures on average reach between 20°C/68°F and 28°C/82°F, with hotter and more humid temperatures on the coast often rising above 30°C/86°F. The coastal areas are humid and hot all year round but tempered by the monsoon winds. Temperatures inland are relatively temperate, with a hotter and drier climate in Kenya’s northern parts.

The hottest time of the year is from mid-December through to March, with the coolest period from late June until October. The long rains fall from late April throughout May to early June, with the short rains falling from November until mid-December.

Kenyan coastThe Kenyan coastline remains hot and humid all year round and is pure barefoot paradise bliss!

Currency And Credit Cards
Kenya’s currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KSh) which comprises of a 100 Cents. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, whilst American Express and Diners Club cards are usually not. Make sure to check with your bank that your Visa or MasterCard has no foreign transaction fees.

Power And Connectivity
Since most Kenyan camps and lodges are located in remote areas, electricity is generated by solar power or via a diesel generator. Most lodges or camps will have a central charging station (in your room or common area) which may be used to charge your electrical equipment. Most camps provide their guests with plug adapters, but if you would prefer to have your own you will need to buy a ‘G’ socket type which uses the universal plug adapter WA-7.

Connectivity (as in most remote destinations) is less accessible the further away they are from urban areas. Mobile services are usually available in the southern part of Kenya around Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, the entire coastal region, popular safari parks, as well as on the long road between Nairobi and Mombasa. The northern part of Kenya, however, has no network access. Some remote game lodges and hotels offer Wi-Fi but can be quite expensive.

Most game lodges will provide conversion socket adapters for their overseas guests

Tipping
Tipping guides, drivers or support staff as a way of showing your appreciation for great service is customary in Kenya, and is done in US$ or Kenyan Shillings (KSh).

  • General Tipping Guidelines
  • Ranger or Guide – $20 per couple per day
  • Tracker – $15 per couple per day
  • Butler – $15 per couple per day
  • Camp Staff – $15 per couple per day
  • Transfer Drivers – $5 per transfer
  • Porters – $1 per bag
  • Restaurants – 10% of the bill

Game drive in KenyaGame drives led by local guides are de rigeur on a Kenyan safari. Tipping your guide is customary. if you

What You Need To Know: What To Pack

We regularly get asked by our clients what to pack on safari and requests for an essentials packing list, so we thought we would take the stress out of packing and have compiled our list of essential items below. The key thing to remember whilst packing for Kenya is to pack comfortable clothes with neutral colours that will blend into the African bush. You don’t’ have to run out and buy expensive safari gear; jeans, a neutral t-shirt, and a baseball cap are completely acceptable!

Kenya, Governors camps, Masai Mara. (Photo Credit and Copyright: David Rogers)

The Essentials

  • A wide-brimmed, sturdy sun hat to keep your face out of the harsh African sun
  • A bandana to tie around your face for the dry, dusty regions
  • Comfortable sneakers, tennis or boat shoes (you don’t require specialized hiking boots to go on a bush walk)
  • Sandals or flip-flops for around the camp
  • T-shirts or golf shirts in khaki, beige, green and neutral colours
  • Long-sleeved cotton shirts to protect you from the sun and mosquito bites at dusk
  • Shorts (please note we don’t recommend short skirts as these are completely impractical when climbing in a 4×4 vehicle)
  • Jeans or safari trousers for cooler days and evenings
  • Light sweater or jumper
  • A sports bra for game drives as the roads may be bumpy
  • A lightweight waterproof zippered jacket for the rainy summer months
  • A swimming costume (nothing too revealing)
  • Warm, wind-proof jacket or fleece, anorak, scarf, gloves and beanie for the winter months, early morning and evening game drives or higher altitudes
  • Socks and underwear
  • Personal toiletries
  • High SPF sun block, moisturizer, after-sun gel, and lip balm
  • Strong insect repellent
  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars and camera equipment (we suggest packing a dustproof bag to keep your camera equipment safe)
  • A copy of your passport
  • A money belt to carry your valuables (money and passport) under your clothes when traveling

What You Need To Know: Luggage Restrictions

For light aircraft travel within Kenya, there are strict luggage restrictions in place that vary depending on your destination. Travelers to East Africa may only be allowed to take a total luggage weight of 15kg (33lbs) which includes the carry-on hand luggage. Your bags must also be soft-sided with no wheels or rigid frames so that these may easily fit into the hold of a small aircraft. Should you need additional luggage you will have the option of buying an extra seat which will allow for an additional 70kg (154lbs).Please check that your total luggage weight complies with the restrictions for all your Kenyan destinations prior to your departure.

Light aircraft in KenyaThere are strict luggage restrictions in place for lightaircraft travel within Kenya

What You Need To Know: Photography

Visitors to Kenya should be aware that they are not allowed to take photographs or film the President of Kenya nor his residence, airports, railway stations, the military or the police and their barracks, any government buildings or the Kenyan flag. If you want to take a picture of a Masai warrior you will need to ask his consent, as he may only be willing to do so for a fee.

masai-ladies-kenya-photo-credit-and-copyright-marius-coetzee-photography-newYou will need to get consent first before taking pictures of the Masai (Photo Credit and Copyright: Marius Coetzee Photography)

If there’s a burning question that we haven’t covered, please get in touch with one of our friendly experts. Now all that’s left to do is to choose your dates and book your trip to one of the most beautiful countries in Africa for a vacation of a lifetime!

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