Kenya has three international airports; Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, Moi International Airport, Mombasa and Moi International Airport, Eldoret.
These airports service numerous international carriers including the national airline Kenya Airways. Kenya has good connections to destinations throughout Europe, the Asia- Pacific region, USA and Africa.
Both temperatures and climate vary drastically from region to region and even throughout a single day. Basically the traveller should come prepared for hot, cold, wet and dusty conditions. Packing for a trip to Kenya requires some careful thought and consideration.
Equal consideration should be paid to what you bring with you. Casual, lightweight, and comfortable clothing is usually the best. For walking safaris or game viewing on foot clothing should be of neutral color, and white, bright or vividly patterned clothing avoided. Studies have proven that most African game animals are able to see bright blue over any other color.
Strong footwear is advisable if you are planning to do any walking. For serious climbers and trekkers a good pair of hiking boots should be brought with you. Remember that the tropical/Equatorial sun is strong and burns quickly. Wide brimmed hats are preferable to baseball caps for sun protection. Both sunglasses and a good quality sunscreen (rated SPF15 or higher) should be used. A good quality insect repellent is worth bringing.
In some areas, mostly coastal, it is considered inappropriate for women (and in some cases men) to wear shorts or short sleeved shirts. It is always best to seek local advice. For some up-market lodges and nights out in Nairobi you may wish to bring some more formal evening wear. You should bring your own Toiletries with you. Basic toiletry items are widely available.
The official currency is the Kenya Shilling. The written abbreviation is either KSh or using /= after the amount (ie 500/=)
Available Notes are 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 shillings. Available coins are 1, 5, 10, 20 and 40 shillings. Visitors to Kenya should change foreign currency at banks, bureaux de change or authorized hotels. The easiest currencies to exchange are US Dollars, Pounds sterling and EURO.
Travellers Cheques 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 credit cards. There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency that can be brought into Kenya.
Before departure, travellers are advised to convert any excess Kenya shillings into foreign currency at a bank or bureau de change before departure. Departure taxes can be paid in local or foreign currency. Anyone wishing to take more than 500,000 Kenya Shillings out of the country will require written authorization from the Central Bank.
Jambo is one of the most common words you will hear spoken throughout Kenya. This is the simplest Swahili greeting, and is often the first word learned by visitors to Kenya.
Swahili (locally referred to as KiSwahili) is Kenya's national language. Swahili originated on the East African coast, as a trade language used by both Arabs and coastal tribes.
The language incorporated elements of both classical Arabic and Bantu dialects, and became the mother tongue of the Swahili people who themselves rose from the intermarriage of Arab and African cultures.
The word Swahili itself came from the Arabic for 'coast' Sahel. But the language became a pervasive influence, and a regional lingua franca, becoming widely used throughout Kenya and Tanzania.
Today, the language is also used in regions of Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Congo and Zambia, and is the most widely spoken African language. In Kenya, most people generally speak a tribal language at home, use Swahili as an everyday language, and English for business.
Swahili is a relatively simple language, being highly phonetic with a rigid grammar. The only difficulty in learning Swahili comes from the extensive use of prefixes, suffixes and infixes, and a class system for nouns.
Coastal Swahili remains the most pure, and the Island of Zanzibar is considered the home of the language. The further away from the coast you travel, the less sophisticated the language generally becomes, and grammar is slightly more flexible. Nairobi has now become the home of Sheng, a fashionable Creole of Swahili, Kikuyu, English and slang.
Still, even 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.
It is advisable to travel with a small medical kit that includes any basic remedies you may need, such as antacids, painkillers, anti-histamines and cold remedies. You will also need anti-diarrheal medication such as Imodium (adults only); and oral rehydration sachets such as Electrolade, especially if traveling with children.
Vaccines commonly recommended for travellers to Africa include those against;
Certificate required for entry into, or travel between, some African countries. Several of these vaccines require more than one dose, or take time to become effective. It is always best to seek advice on immunization well in advance, if possible around 6 weeks before departure.
What to Pack
It is advisable to travel with a small medical kit that includes any basic remedies you may need, such as antacids, painkillers, anti-histamines and cold remedies. You will also need anti-diarrheal medication such as Imodium (adults only); and oral rehydration sachets such as Electrolade, especially if travelling with children.
Also include first aid items such as Band-Aids, antiseptic and dressings. It may be worth asking your doctor to prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic, suitable for treating dysentery or severe infections. Take along scissors, tweezers, and thermometer, lip salve, sun block, water purification tablets or drops, as well as your preferred brands of toiletries and cosmetics. If you wear spectacles or contact lenses, take spares. Also take a torch and a pocket knife.
Malaria is a disease spread by mosquitoes that bite mainly at dusk and at night. Every traveller to Africa needs reliable, up to date advice on the risks at his or her own destination. Prevention consists of using effective protection against bites, plus taking anti-malarial medication. The most suitable choice of medication depends on many individual factors, and travellers need careful, professional advice about the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
Whatever your choice, you must take an anti-malarial drug if you are visiting a malarial region, and you must continue taking the drug for the necessary period after your return; you must also take precautions to reduce the number of insect bites. Visitors to malarial areas are at much greater risk than local people and long term expatriates - from malaria as from several other diseases: do not change or discontinue your malaria medication other than on skilled professional advice. Travellers to very remote places should also consider taking stand-by malaria treatment, for use in an emergency.
The Flying Doctor Service
In many parts of Africa access to adequate health care can mean long, tortuous journeys by road. The Flying Doctor Service operated by AMREF not only provides outreach and emergency care to local communities in remote regions, it also provides a medical air evacuation service to tourists.
By joining the Flying Doctors' Society you can help the service reach the people who need it most and also ensure a free emergency evacuation flight for yourself should the worst happen on your travels.
Kenya has an extensive domestic travel network, with plenty of options to suit any traveller's needs. Whether you're looking for speed, comfort, sightseeing or service you'll find something to suit as you travel around Kenya.
Kenya has a good network of domestic flights, with carriers including Kenya Airways, Air Kenya, Mombasa Air Safari, Fly 540, Safarilink, and East African Safari Air. These airlines service the coast, major game parks and Western Kenya. Domestic air taxes are included in ticket or charter costs.
There are many domestic air charter operations in Kenya. These companies offer individual or group charter in a range of aircraft. Air charter is an ideal way of visiting remote areas, or avoiding long drives.
Most charter companies will charge a set rate for a journey, regardless of the number of passengers. There are many private and public airstrips throughout the country which are accessible to charter companies.
Visitors to Kenya can drive using an international driver’s license. Driving is on the left hand side and drivers should give way to traffic on their right. Distances are measured and signposted in kilometers and petrol / diesel sold by the liter. Road conditions are variable and can be very poor in remote areas. Ensure that your vehicle is suitable for handling rough roads before embarking on a journey.
Driving at night in most areas is not advisable. Hire Cars are widely available in Nairobi, Mombasa, and other large towns. Before hiring a car, all legalities should be thoroughly checked and appropriate contracts and waivers signed. Most car hire companies charge a set per kilometer or unlimited rate.
Long distance cycling is possible in Kenya, but cyclists should be prepared to be very alert and wary of traffic on the major roads. There is plenty of scope for off road and mountain biking in Kenya. Anyone seriously considering cycle travel in Kenya should come fully prepared and equipped with a repair kit and some spare parts. This will make repairs on the road much easier. Competent bicycle “fundis” (mechanics) are usually found in most towns.
In many tourist areas, bicycles are available for hire for a day or half day. This is a good way to explore some areas. Hell’s Gate National Park is a very popular destination with cyclists. Bikes can be hired locally and there are roads and tracks through the park, giving the visitor the opportunity to cycle through herds of wild game.
In Nairobi, Mombasa and other large Kenyan towns, taxis are widely available, and convenient. Taxis are often parked in the street around hotels and tourist areas. Hotels and restaurants can order taxis if necessary. Nairobi Taxis are usually marked with a yellow line along each side.
Taxis are not metered, and a price should be agreed with the driver before departure. Ask for local advice or at your hotel for correct rates.
In Nairobi and Mombasa there are several companies operating Dial Taxi services with phone bookings, modern vehicles, competent drivers and reasonable rates. Several Taxi companies have airport booking offices. In Kisumu, Cycle Rickshaws and Bicycle Taxis are popular. They are locally known as 'Border-Borders' as they were a popular means of accessing the nearby Ugandan border.
Buses can be boarded at any stop and tickets purchased on board. Buses also regularly run between most cities and towns. There are several bus companies with extensive inter-country networks. Buses also run across borders into Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Buses are an inexpensive way to travel the country. Some private bus companies now offer private bus shuttle services between Nairobi and Mombasa and Nairobi and Arusha (Tanzania) as well as city airports.
The most popular form of public transport in Kenya is the Matatu, which has become a national icon and a large part of Kenyan modern culture. A matatu is a minibus, usually a Nissan (the name originates from the original 30 cent fare, "Matongolo Matatu").
Matatus operate on set routes, and collect as many passengers as possible both from the outset and along the way. Matatus normally have a crew of two, a driver and a 'tout' who tries to encourage as many passengers as possible to board, and collects their fares, using an impressive cash handling and management system in which notes of different denominations are wedged between separate fingers.
The vehicles are also often spectacularly painted with designs based on Western album covers and Sports logos.
Kenya has a railway connection between Nairobi- Mombasa and Nairobi-Kisumu. It is also possible to take the train through to Kampala. The overnight Nairobi- Mombasa rail trip is the most popular rail route for visitors. Tickets can be bought from Nairobi's Railway stations, or in advance through local travel agencies. Kenya's railways are currently awaiting a planned upgrade of facilities and rolling stock.
The railway line between the coast and Nairobi has a long and colorful history. Anyone interested in the history of Kenya’s railways should visit the Nairobi Railway Museum.
The Kenyan coast is open to both commercial and private shipping. There are several popular anchorage points for Yachts including, Mtwapa, Kilifi, Mnarani, and Lamu. Those landing should process immigration locally. It is possible to join dhows for short cruises or longer trips along the coast. Some tour companies or hotels can arrange this, or you can make private arrangements with a dhow captain.
A visa is required prior to entry into Kenya. A single Entry Visa (valid for three months from date of issue) will cost US$ 50. A transit visa will cost US$ 20. No Visa is required for Persons aged 16 years and below.
Citizens of the following countries need to have a visa prior to arrival in Kenya;
Nigeria (residing outside Nigeria)
For those whose country doesn't appear in the list above, visas can be obtained at the Airport upon arrival. It's advisable to obtain the visa from the Kenyan Embassy/High Commission in your country prior to departure.
Inland, rainfall and temperatures are closely related to altitude changes, with variations induced by local topography.
Generally the climate is warm and humid at the coast, cool and humid in the central highlands, and hot and dry in the north and east.
The relatively wet coastal belt along the Indian Ocean receives 1,000 mm or more rain per year. Most rain falls from April to July as a result of the southeasterly monsoon.
Another moist belt occurs in the Lake Victoria basin and its surrounding scarps and uplands, mainly due to moist westerly winds originating over the Atlantic Ocean and Congo Basin. Except immediately adjacent to the Lake, rainfall occurs reliably from March to November.
The upland plateau adjacent to this area is less influenced by the lake, and rain falls mainly in March-May and July-September. In much of the central highlands, there is also a bimodal rainfall pattern, with rainy seasons in March-May and October-December.
Rainfall peaks in most areas are in November and April.