Kenya is the most famous destination for safaris in the world for endless reasons, the scenery, the incredible opportunity for viewing all African wildlife in particular the ease in which to see the ‘Big 5’. It is still the best country for adventure travel in Africa; it offers high levels of service; it still offers 'Out of Africa' scenic beauty, diverse cultures and abundant wildlife.
Safari is however, by no means the only reason to visit Kenya, the coastline and tropical beaches are amongst the world’s most beautiful.
Name: The Republic of Kenya
Time Zone: GMT + 3
Capital City: Nairobi, meaning “place of cool waters” in the Maa language
Independence gained on: 12 December 1963 (from Great Britain)
National Language: Kiswahili
Official Language: English
Currency: Kenyan shilling (KES) and cents
Land Area: aprox.586,600km sq
Drives on the: Left
Country Code: + 254
On the Equator on the eastern coast of Africa. Kenya is bordered by Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, Somalia and the Indian ocean to the east, Ethiopia to the north and Sudan to the northwest.
Population & People
The population is estimated at 43,500,000 as of 2013.
There are about 52 tribes in Kenya.
Vegetation & Special Natural Features
Kenya is home to the famous Masai Mara game reserve, Mount Kenya and Lake Victoria (the world's second-largest freshwater lake).
The Great Rift Valley, which runs from northern Syria in Southwest Asia to central Mozambique in East Africa, bisects the country from North to South and is dotted with lakes and extinct volcanoes, is one of Kenya's most fascinating physical features.
Kenya’s natural vegetation is diverse. Truly a ‘world within one country’. Tropical rainforests, sandy beaches, snow-capped mountains, desert, wide savannah plains teeming with wildlife, freshwater lakes and salt lakes.
A valid passport is required.
Visitors require a visa to enter Kenya, which they can obtain either online, at the Kenyan embassy in their own country, or at the airport on arrival.
It costs US$50 per visa, and we recommend you have the exact change. At present children under 16 are free.
Those requiring a visa (including all British citizens) are now advised to have at least two blank pages available in their passport on arrival; failure to meet this requirement could mean that entry may be refused.
Banking and Currency
The currency in Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling (KES; symbol KSh). 1 Kenyan Shilling = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of KSh1,000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Coins are in denominations of KSh20, 10 and 5.
Foreign currency can be exchanged at the major banks, bureaux de change or authorised hotels. The banks at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Moi International Airport have 24-hour exchange services. The easiest currencies to exchange are US Dollars, Pounds Sterling and Euros.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding US$5,000 or equivalent must be declared.
Banking hours: Monday-Friday 09h00-16h00, Saturday 09h00-12h00. Banks in Mombasa and the coastal areas typically open and close half an hour earlier.
Credits Cards are widely accepted in all major hotels and more upmarket establishments, with the most recognized being Master Card and Visa. American Express and Diners Club cards are occasionally accepted. However, you will need some cash handy because smaller shops will only accept cash.
Almost every bank now has an ATM, and they are increasingly being installed at petrol stations in cities and large towns.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Nairobi has two airports for domestic and regional flights: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport. Kenya has over 150 domestic airports and airstrips and there are daily flights to the most popular destinations. In addition to the scheduled airlines, several private charter companies operate out of Wilson Airport.
Kenya Airways, Air Kenya, Fly 540, Mombasa Air Safari, and Safarilink serve the most popular safari destinations, plus many others such as Lake Victoria.
All other types of transport are good and efficient. Quality on trains can differ depending on which ‘class’ you buy.
Drive on the left side of the road.
Road conditions vary, and are improving.
Health and Medical Information
There is no national welfare scheme and visitors to Kenya are responsible for their own medical expenses. We insist on our clients being covered by the Flying Doctors’ Service.
Please leave a copy of your travel insurance with us at the beginning of your holiday, along with copies of your airline tickets and passports.
Kenya is considered a generally healthy place to travel. The SAFARI Company’s clients automatically become members of the Flying Doctors Rescue Service for emergency evacuation. However, you should carry your own complete holiday/medical insurance.
In Kenya, we do have good medical facilities and a good hospital.
Malaria protection is imperative. We recommend Malarone as a prophylactic…. But please consult with your preferred medical practitioner.
There are no mandatory inoculations required for Kenya but please contact your doctor or a specialised travel clinic for further advice.
The first thing most visitors notice is that Kenyans as a whole are extremely friendly, helpful people. Much of Kenya’s population is extremely poor though so take good care of your valuables, especially money and Travellers Cheques. Please do not leave money in your room or unattended in a safari vehicle.
If you are walking around, please do not wear flashy jewellery or have expensive electronic equipment on display, and hold on tight to your bags.
We cannot accept responsibility for theft and all hotels and lodges have a security box for valuables and lock-up rooms for excess luggage storage.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Food & Water
Please do not drink tap water; we recommend you drink bottled water which is readily available in all lodges and camps.
Please advise us of any allergies, likes or dislikes before you embark on your holiday.
Climate and Weather
Kenya enjoys an equatorial to a tropical climate experiencing moderate temperatures averaging about 22C throughout the year. It is hotter and more humid at the coast, temperate inland and dry in the north and northeast parts of the country.
There are two wet seasons: short rains (October to December) and long rains (March to June). Our hottest season is from January to March.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
For Nairobi and the coast: lightweight cotton and linens are advised. Warmer clothing is needed in June and July, while rainwear is advisable between March and June, and October and December.
For safari: loose-fitting and light neutral tones are recommended. If you are visiting a luxury lodge, pack a nice set of clothes for dinner is recommended.
Wi-Fi is readily available in major cities and hotels, as well as in luxury game lodges.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Voltage is 220-240 AC. Most of the safari vehicles have a cigarette lighter socket operation on a 12-volt system.
Please bring sufficient batteries for photographic equipment; most lodges have limited power supply but all are capable of re-charging your electrical items for you.
Please also bring adapter plugs (square pin, English standard).
All camps and lodges have radio communication with Nairobi.
Most lodges do have a mobile phone signal (Airtel, Orange, Safaricom or Yu) in the lodge or nearby (under a tree or on a hill) which sometimes can be weak, so please do not always rely on it.
Safaricom generally has the widest coverage.
Most lodges and hotels also have internet access in case of emergencies.
Please respect the local people with regards to photography and only use cameras if you have the permission of the subject/s to do so.
ever try to “steal” a photo against the will of the person concerned. Let your guide help negotiate terms before you start shooting!
If you are taking a local flight within Kenya, please ensure that baggage is packed in soft bags and should weigh no more than 15kg per person.
The airlines will make you re-pack you luggage if your luggage is in hard suitcases or if it is over 15kgs.
It is possible to store luggage not required during the safari with us at The SAFARI Company, at the airport or at your hotel if you are returning there after your trip.
Please refer to our recommended packing list.
Kenya offers a treasure-trove of experiences, ecosystems, wildlife and cultures. The SAFARI Company encourages our guests to support our guides by learning and honouring their policies which helps preserve our precious environment. In order to promote responsible tourism, we ask that you join us in observing the following tips.
Whilst on a game drive
Please do not interfere with animal behaviour.
No more than 5 vehicles around an animal at one time (please accept the decision of your guide to leave an animal if he feels it is becoming overcrowded).
Please do not get too close to the animals as this may distress them.
Please do not get out of the vehicle without consulting your guide.
Please try to be as quiet as possible when viewing wildlife close up. Your guide will turn off the vehicle’s engine whenever possible.
Please minimize off-road driving.
No speeding! The speed limit in the parks is 40kph.
Protect the Environment
Please do not litter, especially cigarette butts.
Please do not collect bones, feathers, stones or plants etc; they are all mini ecosystems.
Please do not buy bones, stones, feather displays or plants etc.
Please do not take photographs of the local people without asking their permission first.
Please do not encourage trade or give personal items away to the local people (if we support begging we promote begging).
If you have brought gifts to give to the local people, please give them to your guide for proper distribution.
Beware of anyone asking you for gifts or money and do not feel obliged to donate anything.
Please report back to us if you are harassed.
Television & Music
Most places do not have either and some safari vehicles do not have radios.
The sounds of the bush are so special, unique and memorable that we advise against either, but if you are a ‘music addict’, we suggest you bring an iPod and sufficient power supply.
Guide to Tipping
Although tipping is a safari tradition, it is never compulsory and should only be done if you feel you have received good service. People working in the tourism industry earn decent salaries compared to local standards. While there are no standard tips within the industry, we can offer the following suggestions:
Most lodges have a staff tip box located at reception, or in a central location. We recommend $10 per group per day in the tip box. These tips will be divided among all lodge staff.
For local guides for a day, the equivalent of US$5 is fine.
For drivers who are with you for an extended time, US$5-8/day is a good tip.
If you are particularly satisfied with assistance received from someone in particular, a personal tip is also acceptable.
In many restaurants, a 10% tip is suggested.
If service charge is added, while this is meant to go to the staff, giving a few extra shillings for good measure is acceptable.
Staff very much appreciate receiving gratuities from you, our guests, because it is one way of assuring them they are doing a good job.