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
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
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 Busimia 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
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
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
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
» 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
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
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 buying on the black market.