Travel Advice to Kenya Tourists
Traveling to Kenya conjures up imaginations of safaris with big five animals, pristine sand beaches, historical sites, invigorating adventures, countless bird species, the annual wildebeest migration as well as vast National Parks and Reserves. While this African country offers all these wonders and immense variety of opportunities for tourists looking for unbeaten safari experiences, most visitors don’t understand the etiquette for travel to the country. Therefore for a safe and delightful safari to Kenya, travelers need to have some knowledge on the cultural norms, whether it’s safe to drink tap water, travel restrictions, currencies and whether Debit or credit cards are allowed, type of plug required, how to keep safe, tipping, languages, whether vaccinations are needed, how to get around, what to wear, food and visa requirements among others.
Purchase Travel insurance
This East African country is generally safe when it comes to homicide rates as far as United States cities like Texas are concerned although it is also undeniable that there are high crime rates against tourists. Therefore, you will need to purchase travel insurance to cover loss of luggage, medical emergencies in addition to flight delays and cancellations.
Visa and Passports
Prior to even purchasing your airline ticket, you need to be sure you have a valid visa and passport but it doesn’t mean that everyone should have a Kenyan Visa because it depends on the country of origin. Most countries (especially African countries) don’t need a Visa for Kenya as long as you are staying for less than 90 days. Unless you are a citizen of Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Barbados, Antigua, Bahamas, Philippines, Botswana, Dominica, Comoros, Ghana, DRC, Jamaica, Benin, Lesotho, Burundi, Barbuda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia, you will be required to present a Visa on arrival in Kenya. Tourists are however cautioned to avoid getting visas on arrival because the queues can be overwhelming thus the best thing you can do is to get it before you even arrive in the country. Also, make sure your passport is up to date and should have a blank page for an entry stamp that will be added at customs.
Personal safety in Kenya
It is always better to be safe than sorry thus important for tourists to be aware of the environment they are traveling to, which is definitely not different for Kenya. It’s quite unfortunate that crimes in Kenya especially Nairobi are real, much as most safaris will end without any troubles hence you definitely don’t have to walk around in a state of paranoia but just being vigilant. The Capital City (Nairobi) is nicknamed Nairobbery for a reason and so, avoid walking around at night, stay out of suspicious neighborhoods and follow the golden rule of not appearing like a tourist because that draws a lot of attention to yourself especially if you are moving around with expensive cameras or when wearing costly jewelry.
Avoid drinking tap water while in Kenya
Don’t b e duped to drink tap water while in Nairobi and Mombasa because it is totally not safe thus you should insist on bottled water to avoid any foreign objects that could cause Typhoid and Cholera. Not only that, also avoid ice in drinks because sometimes un-boiled water is used for making ice.
Be aware of Malaria
Malaria is real and present in most places of Kenya except areas of altitudes above 2500 meters above sea level, thus you should not forget carrying anti-malaria pills in addition to always wearing long trousers/shirts, long sleeved shirts, carry insect repellants and don’t forget to use mosquito nets.
Be cautious of street food especially meat
Always avoid eating food outside the up-market Safari lodges and Hotels if you have sensitive stomach and street food should be avoided but if you must, make sure that it is well prepared at high temperatures and still hot when eating it. Also, if you are not used to the local cuisines in Kenya, it’s advisable to stay away from them.
Avoid swimming in Lakes or rivers while in Kenya because on top of the danger of aquatic wildlife species especially crocodiles and Hippos, there are high risks of water-borne diseases like Bilharzia thus the best places to swim are the swimming pools within Hotels or Safari Lodges.
Tourists planning to undertake safaris in Kenya need to have an inoculation certificate against Yellow fever as well as Hepatitis A and B, especially if planning to proceed to other countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other places that are considered infected.
There are no rules (not mandatory) for tipping in Kenya but why not reward the service provider (from 10 to 15% of the product) if you are contented with the service at the Hotel/Safari lodge, restaurant or bar. In most cases, the waiters and waitresses are underpaid and tipping can improve their standard of living. The amount you give may be pittance by foreign standards but means a lot for someone in Kenya.
What to Pack for a safari in Kenya
Always pay a keen attention to the season of the year when visiting Kenya much as the country generally experiences a Tropical climate. However, the time of the year should not be the only consideration when packing but also the reason for traveling (i.e. the activities you intend to engage in). Therefore, the basic essentials for your trip in Kenya include formal or occasional wear depending on the activity you intend to participate in, sandals/flip-flops, insect repellants, camera, credit/debit cards and traveler’s cheques, hat with wide brim, toiletries, lightweight and comfortable casual clothes, sunscreen, first aid kit, flashlight and sunglasses among others.
Currency in Kenya
Kenyan Shilling is the local currency of this African country and is used in most places-markets, supermarkets, soaps, restaurants and bars. However, foreign currencies such as US Dollars, Euros, British Pounds and others can be locally exchanged from Banks or bureau de change on arrival or departure. To be on a safer side, request for bank notes in smaller denominations (especially 50, 100 and 200) because it may become difficult to get change of larger notes when buying goods or paying for some services.
Bargaining in Kenya
Don’t feel ashamed to bargain in markets and the better you are at negotiating, the better you will get goods at wonderful prices. In most cases, venders set exorbitant prices at the outset because buyers are expected to bargain and don’t be turned-off by the inflated prices because that is part of the bargaining process but always remain respectful during negotiations.
The Value Added Tax in Kenya it set at 16% included on the overall price of products.
Power converter/Electric plugs to use
The Standard voltage for Kenya is 230-240 volts with the primary sockets requiring 3 square pin plug variety (like UK Sockets). Consequently, you are advised to pack a power/voltage converter (universal travel adaptor) for electric appliances.
Languages to use
Kenya is generally a culturally diverse and multi-lingual country with over 68 languages but Swahili and English are the official languages spoken throughout the country especially for business.
Time Zone in Kenya
This is very important to know the time zone of the country you are traveling to, hence Kenya is in the East African Time zone with the standard time for the country being three hours ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+3). Not only that, Kenya doesn’t observe/operate the Daylight Saving Time.
Getting into Kenya may not be a hurdle but getting around the different destinations of the country may be cumbersome. However if you are traveling as a group, you will need a comfortable air-conditioned coaster bus with a tour guide. Smaller groups or solo travelers can instead rent 4WD Vehicles because some parts of the country have good road networks while others don’t. On top of that, few of the Kenyan roads are well-signposted.
Also, Kenya’s meter-gauge rain network serves some Cities/Towns including Samburu, Mombasa, Voi, Nairobi, Nyeri, Limuru, Athi River, Naro Moru, Darajani, Tsavo and Nanyuki among others.
Kenya has a well developed air transport system with several airports/airstrips within and near National Parks and they are in Wilson Airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Homa Bay, Amboseli, Keekorok, Meru, Isiolo, Kericho, Kakamega, Eldoret, Voi, Kisumu, Lake Baringo, Marsabit and Narok airports among others that allow tourists to easily connect to the National parks and Reserves in the country.
Nonetheless, public transport by matatu (commuter taxi) and buses are common within Kenyan towns but are not ideal for tourists because these are hot spots for crimes especially theft/robberies.
In conclusion, it is always indispensable to understand the destination you are heading to for a trip to have a safe and memorable travel. Therefore, the significant travel tips for Kenya include purchasing Travel insurance, possessing valid Visa and Passports, paying attention to your personal safety in Kenya, being cautious of street food especially meat, knowing what to Pack for a safari in Kenya, knowing what currency in Kenya, using the correct power converter/Electric plugs, being acquainted with the languages used in the country and knowing how to get around in Kenya among others.