GENERAL TRAVEL INFORMATION
Visa and Health Regulation:
Visa requirements vary from time to time and should be checked with nearest tourist office of diplomatic mission. Health certificates are required but these vary with country of origin and should be checked with relevant authorities. Yellow fever and cholera vaccinations are recommended. Anti malaria medication should be started prior to arrival.
Films and batteries are available at most lodges but in restricted stocks and sizes so it is suggested you bring your own supply. A 200 mm to 300 mm telephoto lens is recommended for game and bird photography.
Much of East Africa is generally warm, minimal humidity and cool evenings. Temperatures vary with altitude.
Cotton, linen dresses, light slacks and short sleeved shirts are recommended. Bring a warm sweater, as nights can be chilly at high altitudes. Comfortable walking shoes, swim suit, sun glasses, suntan lotion, flashlight and an alarm clock will complement your safari gear.
Hotel Check in/check out:
Check out time is usually 1000 hours. Hence check in cannot be guaranteed before 1100 hours unless room is reserved from night before. Day rooms up to 1800 hours are usually available.
Accommodation and Meals on Safari
Rooms are singles, doubles, triples and suites. Lodge facilities include lounges/bars with log fires, dinning rooms and viewing platforms. Most lodges have outdoor swimming pools.
These range from simple luxurious and provide spacious twin beds with mosquito netting, private bathrooms and verandas.
On safari, meals are provided on full board basis. There is full English breakfast. Lunch is often buffet style set out with salads, cold and hot starters and hot main dishes. Dinner is 3-5 courses with a combination of dishes.
The major crossing point between Kenya and Tanzania is at Namanga, which is open 24 hours a day. Other crossings include Lunga Lunga and Taveta. The Ethiopian border post of Moyale is becoming increasingly dangerous because of civil fighting.The border was closed for a while but has now reopened. For those with four-wheel drive vehicles, a more adventurous route to the west near Lake Turkana is quite popular. Ask the locals for advice before trying this route. There is no border post on either side of the border crossing so you’ll have to get your visa stamped in Nairobi. Malaba and Busia are the main Ugandan border posts. At present there are no overland crossings with Somalia and Sudan as it is not safe to cross unless part of a refugee convoy.
Rail & Bus:
Wildlife Safaris Rail is a safe, reliable form of public transport. Passenger services run from Mombasa to Malaba via Voi, Nairobi, Nakuru and Eldoret. It is essential to book tickets two to three days in advance. Kenya has a good network of buses, as well as matatus (minibuses) and share-taxis, but none are very safe as drivers tend to overload and speed, and horrific accidents are reported regularly. Where possible, rail travel should be the chosen means of transport. Private 18-seater buses offer shuttle services connecting Nairobi and Mombasa with Arusha and Moshi in Tanzania, which are more expensive, but more comfortable and safer.
Domestic air services operate between the major airports:
Jomo Kenyatta International, Nairobi (NBO)
Moi International, Mombasa (MBA)
Note: that departure tax (US$20) is paid when you leave. For local flights this is KSh100 and US$20 for international flights (not payable in KSh). A number of airlines operate between Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nanyuki, Malindi, Lamu and the national parks/reserves of Amboseli, Masai Mara and Samburu.
There are 63,800 km of highways in Kenya, 8,863 km of which are paved. Roads are generally in good condition, but have deteriorated and some stretches are very unsafe. The A104 running from Mombasa to Malaba via Nairobi is a heavy truck route. High speed and unpredictable local driving habits are daily hazards on Kenyan roads. Roads in the north and north-east are predominantly dirt roads and in the rainy season are only navigable by four-wheel drive vehicles. Your national driving license is accepted, with an English translation if necessary. Driving is on the left side of the road. As fuel shortages can occur, it is best to fill your tanks before leaving a major town.
Passports and Visas:
(as at June 2000)
This is a guide only – please check with your nearest Kenyan Consulate for up to date information. All visitors are required to carry a passport that is valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay. There should be sufficient blank pages for entry stamps upon arrival.
Nationals of some countries may obtain visas upon arrival. Check with the Kenyan Consulate beforehand. Those wishing to enter Kenya on business or for longer than 30 days, should obtain a visa from their nearest Kenyan Consulate.
Requirements for this are:
» visa application form,
» business letter (for business visa),
» one passport photograph,
» proof of sufficient funds and onward travel / return ticket.
Visas cost about US$50 and are valid for three months. All visitors may be requested to show proof of sufficient funds and onward travel / return ticket.
General Accommodation Info:
Most safari lodges vary in size and style, and are built to blend in with the local environment. Accommodation tends to be of rondavel or banda type, with a lounge, central dining and bar in single unit hotels. Do not be misled by the term “tented accommodation” – this tends to be luxurious insect-proof tents and are usually permanently pitched on concrete bases, often including en suite bathrooms with flush toilets. These are very popular and give the visitor the true experience of being close to nature without the inconvenience and discomfort that can be associated with camping in the open. In the towns, cheaper hotels are definitely avoidable. Prices for higher range hotels vary according to season. Note that although prices may be quoted in US$, payment in local currency is the accepted norm. Campsites in national parks and game reserves tend to be very basic, with running water, but only pit toilets. It is strongly recommended that you reserve all your accommodation as far in advance as possible as availability is often at a premium, especially in peak season.
Kenya – Health:
Everyone entering Kenya must be in possession of a valid International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever. It is imperative that you obtain malaria prophylactics before entering Kenya. When purchasing these, please tell your doctor or pharmacist that you intend visiting Kenya. It is important to note that the Kenyan authorities have banned the use of chloroquine combinations as prophylaxis, and instead recommend the use of either mefloquine (Lariam/Mefliam) or doxycycline. Start your course at least one week before entering Kenya and continue taking the pills for six weeks after leaving the country. If you suffer from side effects, try taking your malaria prophylactics at night, after dinner. Precautionary measures that you can take to prevent contact with mosquitoes are: sleeping under a bed net or in room/tent with mosquito proofing (remember to keep the flaps zipped at all times), spraying your accommodation with insecticide, making use of a mosquito repelling lotion or stick and wearing long sleeve clothes, trousers and socks when outside at night. Immunisation against typhoid, tetanus, tuberculosis, polio, & meningococcal meningitis are recommended.
Medical services in Kenya are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks and beaches, but are limited elsewhere. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate cash payment, but usually accept major credit cards. It is advisable to secure medical cover on your medical insurance before arriving in the country. Note that major hotels have contracts with physicians and dentists. Visitors are however advised to bring along supplies of specialised medication they may require. Otherwise, medicine may be purchased at pharmacies and emergency pharmacies are open all night.
Adventure Safaris Travel in Kenya is generally entirely safe, however, there are the occasional regional ethnic skirmishes. You are advised to remain informed as to the situation in areas to which you plan to travel, particularly remote parts and borders. Ugandan, Somalia and Sudanese shifta (bandits) rove their borders with Kenya. Violent cross-border attacks and cattle raids occur, so it is best to avoid the border regions. Border crossings into Somalia and Sudan are strongly discouraged. Petty crime and theft occurs in some of the urban areas, so be vigilant and keep valuables concealed. Security within the parks is quite good, but never leave possessions unattended. It is always better to travel in a large group.
While water in major towns is chlorinated and relatively safe to drink, there are frequent breakdowns and this can lead to mild to serious abdominal upsets for first time African travellers. Rather stick to sealed bottled water, which is available from most hotels and lodges, and which is highly advised for the first few weeks of your stay. Do not use ice cubes or eat rare meat, raw seafood or dairy products. Avoid roadside stands and street vendors and only eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot and fruits that can be peeled without contamination.
Seasons and Climate:
SUMMER: December – March
WINTER: July – August
Kenya is divided by the equator and enjoys a tropical climate. It is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and north-eastern parts of the country. The hottest time is in February and March and the coldest in July and August.
The average annual temperatures in the main areas are:
Max 30ºC, Min 22ºC
Nairobi: Max 25ºC, Min 13ºC
North Plainlands: Max 34ºC, Min 23ºC
The long rains occur from April to June and short rains from October to December. Rainfall is sometimes heavy and tends to fall in the afternoon and evenings.
What To Pack:
Generally, casual comfortable clothing is suitable throughout the year. The most practical items to pack for safari are:
» Khaki, green, beige and neutral colours
» Blouses and shirts with long sleeves (even in summer, they will protect you from the sun and from mosquitoes)
» T shirts
» Shorts or a light skirt
» Jeans or safari trousers for evenings and cooler days
» Some hotels and country clubs require gentlemen to wear a jacket and tie and women to be suitably attired for dinner
» A jacket and sweater are recommended for early morning and evening game drives
» Swimwear and beach apparel
» Comfortable walking shoes
» Sun block, sunglasses, hat, insect repellent, moisturiser and lip salve are all essentials
Good quality, locally made clothing and shoes for safaris are available in Nairobi and Mombasa shops at reasonable prices.
If you are travelling with an organised safari, it is important to check what your weight limit is. Generally you will need to restrict your luggage to 10-12 kg (packed in a soft bag) plus a reasonable amount of camera equipment.
When to go:
Kenya is a year round destination with excellent game viewing. One of Kenya’s greatest attractions is the annual wildebeest migration between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. This takes place between June and September. Traditional peak season is January to March as this is when the weather is hot and dry and most comfortable for travelling. This is a good time for bird viewing on the Rift Valley lakes. Game viewing at perennial water holes is also good at this time. April – June and October – December are less popular times for visiting Kenya as these are the rainy seasons and flooding often occurs. However, it is usually possible to get around easily during these times and the rains do not hinder visibility.
The unit of currency is the Kenya Shilling (KSh), which is divided into 100 cents. Notes are in KSh1000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are KSH1, and 50, 10 and 5 cents.
The exchange rate is in your favour. Generally, you will find that fine cuisine, wine and entertainment cost a fraction of the tariff charged by equivalent establishments elsewhere in the world. The price of a beer starts at KSh35. A traditional meal will cost about KSh150, while you can expect to pay about KSh500-1000 for a more classy meal. Petrol costs about KSh35 per litre. A roll of 36-exposure print film will cost about KSh200.
Banking hours: Mon – Fri 09:00 – 13:00
First Sat of each month 09:00 – 11:00
National and international banks have branches in Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu, Thika, Eldoret, Kericho and Nyeri and in most other major towns. Banks in Mombasa and the coastal areas open and close half an hour earlier. Banks and bureaux de change at international airports are open 24 hours a day
All major credit cards (Mastercard, Visa, Diners Club and American Express) are widely accepted.
This is not required but, unlike in some other African countries, is not forbidden either. Most hotels include a 10% service charge on the bill. If the service charge has not been included a KSh100 tip is usual, although the amount is entirely at the visitor’s discretion. Bear in mind that salaries in East Africa tend to be very low, and that people working in service industries rely on tips to supplement their wages. On safari you should tip your driver, cook and guide. These people do not earn very much so you should tip as much as you feel you can, about KSh150 per employee per day is about right, but of course this depends on you and how happy you were with your service.
As in most African countries, there is a huge range of cheap souvenirs to be purchased along the roadside. These are handmade, but mass produced so always check the quality before buying. Materials include ebony, soapstone and ivory. Note that it is illegal to export products that contain any elements of elephant, rhino or sea turtle. Tribal souvenirs are available, including Maasai beaded jewellery, kiondos (woven sisal baskets) and natural or decorated calabashes (dried gourds). Bright sarongs (kangas or kikois) make good wearable souvenirs. If you are after quality artwork, it is probably wisest to look in galleries and shops that deal in it, rather than