Resting in the magnificent Great Rift Valley and presided over by the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, Kenya is characterised by hauntingly beautiful natural landscapes of forested hills, patchwork farms, wooded savanna and vast forests brimming with an extraordinary abundance of wildlife. The nation’s diverse range of traditional African cultures is influenced by over 70 unique ethnic groups from the Maasai, Samburu, Kikuyu, and Turkana tribes to the Arabs and Indians that settled on the coast. Add to this: an exquisite tropical coastline fringed with breathtaking golden sand beaches; gorgeous coral gardens providing excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities; and a slew of lively beach resorts, and it is easy to see why so many visitors flock here from around the world to experience a truly unique African adventure in one of the world’s most pristine safari destinations.
Banking and Currency
The currency of Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling (KES; symbol KSh) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of KSh1,000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Coins are in denominations of KSh20, 10 and 5. Residents may import up to KES 500,000 and must declare if currencies exceeding US $10,000. Non-residents may import local and foreign currencies without restrictions but amounts exceeding US $10,000 must be declared.
Banking hours: Monday -Friday 09h00-15h00, and Saturdays 09h00-12h00. Banks in Mombasa and the coastal areas open and close half an hour earlier. Banks in airports tend to open earlier and close later; typical hours are 07h00-19h00.
ATMs are common especially in major tourist destinations.
Mastercard and Visa Credit Cards are widely accepted; American Express and Diners Club less so. Major hotels accept payment by credit card, as do major safari companies, travel agencies and restaurants.
Very few banks or foreign exchange bureaus accept travellers cheques; when they do, they charge high commissions.
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.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Meat in Kenya is generally outstandingly good, and ‘nyam achoma’ (barbecued meat) is ubiquitous at any major feasts or popular dining spots. Beef and chicken are readily available, but goat is the most-widely eaten among locals and certainly a must try for carnivorous visitors. Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine is also popular, as are fresh-water fish inland, and sea fish along the coast.
Drinking the tap water is not recommended as the supply is not reliable, but bottled water is available in most places. When buying bottled water, check the seal of the bottle is intact. Alternatively, bring your own reusable water bottle with a filter or use water purification tablets. Avoid ice and washed salads and fruit except in top hotels and restaurants. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Food prepared by unlicensed vendors should be avoided at all times.
Tipping is optional. Most hotels and restaurants include a 10% service charge in the bill. If they don't, a small tip is customary for good service.
Climate and Weather
Kenya has three types of climate: temperate subtropical climate in the west and southwest highlands (where Nairobi is located), hot and humid along the coast, and hot and dry in the north and east.
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.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Electrical sockets in Kenya are of the ‘Type G (BS-1363)’. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all types.
Electrical sockets in Kenya usually supply electricity at 220-240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance isn’t compatible with 220-240 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.