Essential travel information every tourist must know when visiting Kenya for the first time
Kenya is one of the unavoidable African destinations for many leisure travellers, and its capital Nairobi is THE hub for East African leisure and business travel. Should you be planning your first Kenya safari holiday or business trip, you must gather essential information about the destination to avoid any inconveniences that come with foreign travel. Fortunately for you, we have here for you, the most important travel information every tourist must know when visiting Kenya for the first time, including Currency, health, the people, shopping, climate, security, visa, and health precautions.
Kenya lies along the equator in the East African region and shares common borders with Tanzania and Uganda. Its location allows access to the beautiful Indian Ocean beaches, wild plains and mountain ranges, and enchanting Eastern Rift Valley. Kenya is about 580,367 square kilometres (224,081 sq mi), roughly the size of Spain or Texas in the US.
Kanya has 52 communitys, each with its language. Most Kenyans speak two languages; Swahili and their tribal language. English is spoken is commonly used as a commercial language and is spoken in urban centres, lodges, and hotels.
Because of its location along the equator, Kenya’s climate varies with changing seasons. Kenya’s weather is delightful; altitude and terrain variations across the country can create weather contrasts. Generally, in the Highlands, the weather is cool; elsewhere, the temperatures can reach approximately 35 deg.C during the day. The coast is quite humid and balmy.
Most of the country has two rainy seasons: the “short rains” of October through November and the “long rains” of late March to early June.
Visiting Kenya during the rainy season is perfectly possible because few roads are affected by the downpours. The rains can make the parks fresh and green, and the season attracts fewer tourists on the safari tracks. Downpours usually happen in the late afternoons, preceded by bright, sunny and fresh last hours of the day.
July and August are the coolest and are often overcast, especially in the mornings. December to mid-March is the warmest season in most parts of Kenya.
The government of Kenya requires all inbound tourists to have a tourist visa, which they can obtain at the Kenya High Commission or through the e-visa portal at www.ecitizen.go.ke.
The e-visa process will soon become compulsory. For more information on different visa types, see the Kenya High Commission website.
Visa approval can take up to seven days, so we advise you to register your application way before travelling. Tourists should have a valid passport of at least six months and at least two blank pages.
Most travellers consider Kenya to be a healthy place to travel generally. However, Flight to Fancy Holidays includes an evacuation cover for all our safaris because our client’s safety is our priority. We advise our clients to carry their full holiday/medical insurance. You should note that Flying Doctors insurance is only emergency evacuation coverage to a Nairobi and does not cover medical bills.
Please consult your local health authority for up-to-date health recommendations before you travel. Knowing your blood type is a prerequisite for every traveller, and Kenya has good medical facilities, especially private ones.
The following private hospitals are great for emergency attention;
Nairobi Hospital – +254 703 082 000
Karen Hospital- +254 206 613 000
Aga Khan Hospital – +254 203 662 000
M.P. Shah Hospital – +254 204 291 000
We recommend that you consult your GP or a specialist travel health clinic for advice on travel medicine and vaccinations before your trip.
A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is a prerequisite for all travellers entering Kenya & EAC.
Other vaccines we recommend include – Hepatitis A, B, and Typhoid Fever (Typhim Vi i.m.)
A meningitis vaccine is not recommended unless there is evidence of a meningitis epidemic.
Malaria protection is imperative. Malaria is common in places where temperatures are colder than 15 degrees celsius at night. Warmer places like the coastal region are high-risk Malaria zones; take anti-malarial medication if staying on the Kenyan coast.
Kenya’s travel requirements are constantly changing. Please check with your consulate for the latest information before you travel.
The baggage allowance on Kenya’s domestic flight is 15kg per person, including hand luggage. The luggage must be a soft collapsible bag.
Internal flight times are relative and subject to change without notice. Your trip planner will ensure to advise you on any flight changes before departure. Flights can also be subject to multiple pickups, and drop-off stops, depending on the passengers on board and where they are staying.
Food and Water
Although tap water can be reasonably safe, drink bottled water available in all lodges and camps.
Meals at lodges or camps usually include breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast can be a full English breakfast or continental breakfast with fresh local fruits. Lunches can be buffets or picnic lunches. Dinners are generally table d’hôte. Please advise your travel planner on any dietary requirements before you travel.
Kenyans, like any locals, require that you respect their attitude towards photography. Through your guide, you can ask for permission before you take a local’s photo. It’s a general rule not to photograph border posts, persons in uniform, and military bases.
Comprehensive medical insurance is mandatory for safari companies. No national welfare scheme exists, and visitors to Kenya are responsible for their medical expenses. Please find out if your medical insurance will cover you overseas. We provide Evacuation cover to all our clients visiting Kenya.
Money & Currency Exchange
The monetary unit is the Kenyan Shilling. Most Kenyan hotels, lodges, camps, and shops will take credit cards. ATMs that can give you dollars or Kenyan Shillings are widely available in Nairobi and other big towns.
You can quickly change your monkey into Kenyan Shillings at the airport, city hotel, and any bank. Kenya has no “exchange control”; the exchange rate varies between banks, foreign exchange bureaus and hotels.
Kenyan Shilling (KES; symbol KSH). Notes are in denominations of KSh 1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Coins cover KSh 40, 20, 10, 5 and 1.
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Kenya, especially at ATMs, hotels, lodges, and camps. American Express and Diners Club are less so.
Mon-Fri 0900-1630, Sat 0900-1200.
There are no restrictions on importing or exporting local or foreign Currency. However, amounts exceeding US$1,000 or equivalent must be declared.
Voltage is 220-240 A.C. Most bush lodges have limited power supply, so bring enough batteries for your equipment to last an entire day. Also, carry an adapter plug (square pin, English Standard).
Safety & Security
Kenya safaris occur about 1000 kilometres from the Somali border, where a handful of incursions and kidnappings were previously reported. Fortunately, the Kenya Government has responded with an iron fist to such threats, and there is no immediate threat to travel.
However, some embassy travel advisories advise visitors to Kenya to take extra precautions when visiting public places like shopping malls as there are possible Al-Shabab terrorist retaliatory threats.
Additionally, tourist destinations like Masai Mara National Reserve are safe for visitors; any facilities you are staying in have security, including government security officers in and around the camp at all times.
All Camps and lodges have radio communication with Nairobi. Most lodges do have a mobile signal (Safaricom, Telecom or Airtel) in the lodge or nearby (under a tree or on a hill), which can be weak, so please only sometimes rely on it. Most lodges and hotels also have limited and very slow Internet access in case of emergencies.
Please ensure that baggage is packed in soft bags and should weigh no more than 15 Kg per person (in some cases, 10kg). It is possible to store luggage not required during a safari at your hotel if you return there after your trip or with us at our offices. Most lodges have laundry facilities.