Ultimate Guide to Kenya
Discover beautiful places, hotels, and interesting things in Kenya
Kenya officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in Africa and a founding member of the East African Community (EAC). Its capital and largest city is Nairobi. Kenya’s territory lies on the equator and overlies the East African Rift covering a diverse and expansive terrain that extends roughly from Lake Victoria to Lake Turkana (formerly called Lake Rudolf) and further south-east to the Indian Ocean.
It is bordered by Tanzania to the south and southwest, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the north-west, Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the north-east. Kenya covers 581,309 km2 (224,445 sq mi), and had a population of approximately 48 million people in January 2017.
It’s also home to wildlife like lions, elephants and rhinos. From Nairobi, the capital, safaris visit the Maasai Mara Reserve, known for its annual wildebeest migrations, and Amboseli National Park, offering views of Tanzania’s 5,895m Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The widely accepted currency in South Africa is Kenyan shilling. The currency code for Kenyan shilling is KES, and the currency symbol is KSh. Check the currency rate here… Click here
Current time: The Eastern Africa’s Time (EAT+3) is Kenya’s standard time and they do not operate daylight-saving time same UTC offset all year
The official currency is the Kenya Shilling. Visitors to Kenya can change foreign currency at banks or authorized hotels and Burex. Most international currencies are easy to exchange in Kenya.
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 major international credit cards.
There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency that can be brought into Kenya. Anyone wishing to take more than Kenya Shillings 500,000 out of the country will require written authorization from the Central Bank.
Passports: To enter Kenya, a passport valid for at least six months from the date of entry, and with at least two blank pages, is required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.
Visas: You can obtain your visa on entry; passport photos are not required. However, to save time at the airport, it’s a good idea to obtain one in advance, either online or from the embassy/high commission. If you require a multiple-entry visa, you’re advised to obtain this in advance.
Travellers who are also visiting Rwanda and Uganda may find it more useful to apply for an East Africa cross-border joint visa which allows entry into all three countries on a single visa.
Visa Note: Kenya has an agreement with Tanzania and Uganda to waiver visa re-entry fees if travelling between the three countries as long as single-entry visas remain valid for each country. This means multiple-entry visas are not required if going from Kenya to Tanzania or Uganda and back to Kenya. The same applies for travel from Uganda and Tanzania.
Types and Cost
Transit eVisa/visa on arrival: US$21; single-entry eVisa/visa on arrival: US$51.
East Africa tourist visa: US$100.
Transit visa: £10; single-entry visa: £30; multiple-entry visa: £60; East Africa visa: £65. These fees are for visas obtained in advance from the embassy/high commission.
Kenya is a great destination year-round. The main tourist season is December to March, since the hot, dry weather at this time of year is generally considered to be the most pleasant.
It’s also when Kenya’s bird life flocks to the Rift Valley lakes in the greatest numbers. June to September could be called the ‘shoulder season’ as the weather is still dry. The rains hit from March to May (and to a lesser extent from October to December).
During these months things are much quieter – places tend to have rooms available and prices may decrease. The rains generally don’t affect travelers’ ability to get around because it usually rains in the evening while the days are dry.
Health: Some vaccines are recommended or required for Kenya. The CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccines for Kenya: typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, and influenza.
There are very good private hospitals in Kenya with facilities comparable to those in other parts of the world. The flying Doctor Service operates immediate help and evacuation services from the remotest part of the country to the nearest hospital, perhaps even faster than you might get through the traffic to your local hospital at home. The facility is available for a small membership fee and can be organized by your tour operator.
Safety: It’s important to know that tourists don’t visit eastern Kenya at all. You will explore the famous game reserves far away on the opposite side of the country, along Kenya’s western border with Tanzania. This area is so stable and peaceful that the national border separating Kenya’s Masai Mara from Tanzania’s Serengeti is marked by simple stone cairns. You can see from the Mara into the Serengeti and, of course, millions of wildebeest walk this way every year on their annual migration.
Crime is high in all regions of Kenya, particularly Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and at coastal beach resorts. It is advised that you maintain the territory marked out by your tour guide. Don’t walk alone. Make sure not to wear expensive things that would draw attention, don’t carry valuables with you , you can leave them in your hotel rooms if possible
Kenya enjoys a mild tropical climate. The average annual temperature for the capital city, Nairobi (altitude 4,980 feet) is 77ºF maximum and 56ºF minimum. The coastal town of Mombasa (altitude 50 feet) is 86ºF maximum and 73ºF minimum.
There is plenty of sunshine all the year round and summer clothes are worn throughout the year. However, it is usually cool at night and early in the morning. The long rains occur from April to June and short rains from October to December.
The rainfall is sometimes heavy and when it does come it often falls in the afternoons and evenings. The hottest period is from February to March and coolest in July to August.
The electricity supply in Kenya is 220/240 volts AC, 50HZ. Plugs are 3 point square. If you are planning to bring a video camera charger or any other electrical device, please bring voltage and plug adaptors where appropriate. Major hotels usually provide hair dryers, irons and other electrical amenities upon request.
Manufacturers take these small deviations into account. If the standard voltage in your country is in the range of 100 V – 127 V (as is in the US, Canada and most South American countries), you need a voltage converter in South Africa. You can find voltage converters at Amazon. You can also consider a combined power plug adapter/voltage converter.
English is the language of communication in Kenya. It is widely spoken in hotels, restaurants and visitor establishments. Swahili is Kenya’s national language.
A little Swahili goes a long way in Kenya. It is worth learning a little, and most Kenyans are thrilled to hear visitors attempt to use any Swahili at all. For example, ‘Jambo’ means hello and is often the first word learned by visitors to Kenya. Additional translations can be found in the Kenya Tourist Board’s Web site www.magicalkenya.com or most travel guides.
It wouldn’t be necessary to purchase a new mobile phone in SA if you already have one. You can get an inexpensive South African prepaid sim cards from one of the networks which will be activated by registering with your passport and can be used in your own phone provided it is simlock-free.
However, poor or non-existent network coverage at some parts of the country such as beach or other remote places is inevitable. It’s possible to make relatively cheap calls in and outside with a local sim card.
Tipping: Most major hotels and restaurants include a service charge. Tipping is not obligatory and is entirely at your discretion. Porters at airports, hotels or lodges may be tipped a $1.00 per piece of baggage. A gratuity of 10% is customary at restaurants and bars where a service charge is not included. Note that on safaris, tips are considered almost part of the pay. A tip for your guide of $2.00 to $5.00 per person per day is appropriate.
Bargaining: Unlike shops, bars, restaurants and hotels, prices can be bargained for at the market, moreover in taxi’s and with roadside vendors. Though there are no clear guiding principle, it’s possible to negotiate 30% off the first stated price.
Drinking water & Food: Kenya is renowned for its wonderful gastronomy and array of exotic and international cuisine. Keep to established hotels and restaurants for meals.
Drinking water from the tap is considered risky. Hotels and lodges usually furnish safe water in a thermos flask in guest rooms. Bottled mineral water is available in every hotel and supermarket.
You have to pay departure tax at the airport?
Like most international destinations, Kenya charges an airport departure tax for all international flights. The tax is $20, but is included in the airline ticket price. If it is not included, visitors may be required to pay the tax at the airport upon departure. Departure taxes can be paid in Kenya Shillings or U.S. Dollars.