An Introduction to Kenya

Kenya derived it’s named from the local Kikuyu, Embu, and Kamba name for Mount Kenya, which referred to the contrasting dark rock and white cap of snow on the peak, as being similar coloring to that of the male ostrich which has a black body and white wing feathers!

The country is twice the size of Nevada and has a wide diversity if habitat zones. These include coastal regions, the arid far north-west, plateaus and highlands, with Nairobi the capital at 1661m/5480ft asl. There are 40 plus ethnic groups here, with the Kikuyu being the most numerous, whilst the Masai are possibly the best known due to their colorful “shuka’s” and photogenic proximity.

Kenya gained independence from the British on the 12 December 1963, and Jomo Kenyatta was the first president. The total population estimate is now plus 40 million people, and most of these folk are reliant on subsistence agriculture to feed themselves.  Tea, coffee, and horticultural exports are what the country has become famous for, apart from superb wildlife parks, and long-distance runners.

The main airport outside Nairobi is JOMO KENYATTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.  The second airport, used for smaller or short flights is WILSON AIRPORT, on the road to KAREN.

NAIROBI is the capital city and is where all international flights arrive in the country.

NAIROBI and MOMBASA are the two principal cities, with Mombasa being the principal port of the country as well.

Kenya has wonderful national parks such as the MASAI MARA, TSAVO and AMBOSELI, and has recently developed a series of RANGELAND TRUSTS with various Masai Communities who are in partnership with local safari operators.


English is widely spoken by citizens, and it was once an English colony.  Swahili is the main language spoken by citizens here and in Tanzania as well.


Kenya is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). EAT +3. (East Africa Time) Telephone code: +254

Entry Requirements


Kenya visa requirements are for all visitors to Kenya, except for Nationals of the following countries who DO NOT need a Kenya visa:

Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Burundi, Cyprus, Darussalam, Dominica, Fiji Island, Ghana, Grenada, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia (for less than 30 day stay), Maldives, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa (for less than 30 day stay), St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Tanzania, The Bahamas, Trinidad, Tobago, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu, Zambia & Zimbabwe

Citizens of the following countries require a visa that cannot be obtained online or on arrival at the airport but instead this must be done in advance through a Kenyan Embassy: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Palestine, Senegal, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan.

For all other Nationals, Visas are required for entry and from 1st January 2021 these will no longer be issued on arrival at the airports in Nairobi and Mombasa but must be obtained prior to departure from Kenyan embassies overseas or through the Kenya Government website online.

 Your passport must have at least 6 months left before expiry date and 2 blank pages left for visas. Children under the age of 16, travelling with an accompanying adult, do NOT require a visa.

Kenya E-Visa

The online E-Visas will normally be issued in less than 3 days, but we recommend that Online Applications should be made at least 7 working days prior to travel to give plenty of time for the application process to be completed. Please note that Single Entry Visas are valid only for 90 days after date of issue, so you should not apply until less than 90 days before date of arrival and departure from Kenya. If you are travelling back into Kenya from other East African Countries on the same trip within the 90-day validity, then you do not require an additional visa to re-enter and the Single-Entry Visa will be accepted.

How To Apply Online For A Kenya E-Visa?

See link below to register online for visa application


Register using the above link with the Kenya Immigration Department for an E-visa Account with your username and a password and to receive an email with a link to enable you to activate your E-visa Account.

Once you activate your account, by clicking on a link in the email sent to you, you will be asked to submit a recent passport-type head and shoulders photo which you will need to have already scanned and saved on your computer. Please ensure that the photo is less than 1MB otherwise it may not upload successfully on the online form, and it should have a white background.

You will also need to have a scanned copy of the Bio-data page of your passport and a scanned copy of your booking confirmation invoice showing arrival and departure dates.

To complete the Online Form, it is best to have Google Chrome installed on your computer. Using Internet Explorer is likely to cause problems in completing the online process. (Download Chrome for free using the link that follows - https://www.google.com/chrome/fast-and-secure/ 

****The Online E-Visa Application form is mobile-enabled for smartphones and tablets***.

Select “Department of Immigration Services” and then click on Submit Application followed by clicking on “Kenyan Visa”.

You will then select “Apply for a Single-Entry Visa” (which also includes Double Entry) and complete the Application Form online which includes adding the passport photo and booking confirmation.

You will then submit the Kenyan Visa Application and pay the online fee of US$51, or equivalent, using Visa or Mastercard debit cards. Credit cards are also acceptable for payment, but an additional 3% fee applies to make a total of $54.

Then wait for approval to be shown on your E-Citizen account page within 3 days, with the status of your application indicated as ISSUED to enable you to click on the Download tab and then print your E-Visa.

Present your printed E-Visa to the Passport Control officer on arrival at the airport in Kenya.

Note: you should proceed straight to join the E-VISA queue at Passport Control.

Disclaimer From Government of Kenya:

The Visa processing fee is nonrefundable.

Incomplete applications will be rejected.

The possession of an E-Visa is not the final authority to enter The Republic of Kenya.

Engaging in any form of business or employment without a requisite permit or pass is an offence.

A Kenya visa is required prior to entry into The Republic of Kenya.

The E-Visa printout must be presented at the port of entry

WARNING: beware of the websites of spurious visa handling companies which may look like the official Kenya Immigration department, but which charge exorbitant fees to process visas for unsuspecting applicants. The charge for the visa on arrival is US$50 in cash while the charge for processing the E-visa application yourself via the correct Kenya government website (http://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html ) is US$54 including credit card fee.



Passengers with a certificate of COVID-19 vaccination are exempt from providing a PCR test. Unvaccinated travelers aged 5 and above require a PCR test 72 hours before departure and will be subject to an antigen test on arrival at a cost of USD30.

Fully vaccinated means having received the prescribed doses of the specific vaccine, with the latest vaccination received at least 14 days before arrival in Kenya (not including the day of vaccination);


In addition to a negative PCR test, the Kenyan Ministry of Health requires all travelers to fill out a Traveler’s Health Surveillance Form at https://ears.health.go.ke/airline_registration/ prior to departure. After completion, you will receive a QR code via email to print and present to the port health officials on arrival in Kenya. The form will ask you for a contact number from which you can report your health status during your trip. Please use the following phone number: +254 715 980 988. The form will ask you to indicate the location of your first night’s lodging. Please use the following information:






 P.O. Box 15541 - 00509


Departure from Kenya If your destination requires you to present a Negative Covid PCR Test upon entry, PCR testing is available to all our guests with a 24-hour turnaround. Absolute Vantage can facilitate this testing on request, and the group/traveler will be tested on one of the final days of the trip to ensure everyone receives their results in time for their departing flights home. The test result is then automatically uploaded to the Trusted Travel Portal (Panabios), and emailed to the traveller, with a TT code. Pre-travel rapid antigen tests are also available at the airport. Any documentation required by your destination must be presented at JKIA airport on departure.


Certain airlines may have further requirements above and beyond the negative COVID-19 test entry requirement of the United States. For example, some airlines, depending upon the country you are departing from and/or the country you are connecting through, may require a rapid test within four hours of your flight’s departure. Please be sure to research your airline’s requirements for your specific flight routing.

If you will require additional testing above and beyond what is required for entry to your country of origin, please let your tour consultant or guide know prior to departure so that we can plan to assist you with this on the ground.


Banking and Currency

The currency is the KENYA SHILLING, which is used only in Kenya and not in the neighboring countries. When traveling in KENYA, it is best to arrive with US Dollars cash or US Dollar traveler cheques, which can be exchanged at many of the Bureau de Change in the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the main towns.

Please note the pre- 2013 US Dollar notes are no longer accepted here, so only bring the newer notes.

US Dollars are widely accepted in the camps as gratuity payments, and small denominations are readily accepted


Visa and MasterCard are usually accepted throughout East Africa, but American Express and Diners Club are often not accepted. Most hotels, restaurants and bigger shops will take credit cards.

The bigger banks will advance local currency against a credit card. Please note that in remote areas, credit cards are not accepted so it is preferable to travel with cash or travelers’ cheques. Please remember that traveler’s cheques should be in small denominations.

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


Routine Vaccinations

It is important to make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date before traveling anywhere in Africa. These include measles, influenza, chickenpox, polio, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus). If you are not up to date, get these vaccinations before you travel.

Essential Vaccinations

Although you should read the CDC’s specific advice for your intended destinations, four vaccinations are recommended for all countries in Africa: yellow fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. According to the CDC, there is a high risk of hepatitis A in every African country, a high risk for hepatitis B in sub-Saharan Africa and a high-to-intermediate risk of hepatitis B in North Africa. You must get all four vaccinations before departure.

Other Vaccinations

Other vaccinations may be recommended by your health care professional depending on your destination(s) and intended activities. A pre-exposure rabies vaccination may be recommended for travelers who will come into close contact with animals, spend time in rural areas or stay in Africa for an extended period. A polio vaccine (or booster) is necessary before you visit some African countries; these include (but are not limited to) Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Ghana. A meningitis vaccine is recommended before travel to countries in the “meningitis belt” of sub-Saharan Africa, especially during the dry season (December to June) and during periodic epidemics. The “meningitis belt” is an east-west strip located roughly above the equator. It includes Gambia, Burkina Faso, northern Nigeria, southern Niger and Chad, central Sudan and western Ethiopia.

Time Frame

The CDC recommends scheduling doctor visits for vaccinations at least four to six weeks before your trip to Africa, and ideally consulting a health care professional up to six months in advance. Some essential vaccinations are best administered in a series of several injections, and some do not provide immediate immunity. If it is not possible for you to get vaccinated within the recommended time frame, you still need to see a health care provider. A vaccination given closer to your travel time than recommended is infinitely better than none.


You'll need a yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Documentation is also essential when you are traveling to most international destinations from sub-Saharan African nations where yellow fever is present. Although the yellow fever vaccination is the only one you are legally required to document, this does not mean it is safe to overlook other vaccinations and health precautions.

Other Considerations:

Although there is no vaccination for malaria, your health care provider will recommend anti-malaria medication before your trip. Depending on the specific drug, you may need to take it before, during and after your visit. A thorough professional medical consultation is essential for travelers with medical conditions and those with infants and children. Preventive measures are just as important as vaccinations. Practice good sanitation and bite prevention; be vigilant about food and water preparation and consumption; purchase travel insurance; and think twice about that tattoo.

Please remember that the best precaution is the preventative kind:

         Avoid being bitten by using mosquito repellents liberally.

         Wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers/slacks in the evenings.

         Please use the mosquito net over your bed where supplied/available.

         If staying in a bungalow or tent, spray with a suitable insecticide to kill any mosquitoes that may have flown into your room.

         Mosquito coils are also effective.


It is very important that you drink plenty of water especially during the warmer months. It is generally recommended that guests drink at least 4 to 6 pints (2 to 3 litres) of water per day to limit the effects of dehydration. This excludes tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages, which act as diuretics and therefore can contribute to dehydration. It is recommended that you drink bottled water throughout Africa.

Safety Notices

Visitors landing in Nairobi are met and transported to their hotel under the direct control of our local representative.  It is NOT advisable to wander into the city at night. Please note that traveling in any City carries safety risks. Please exercise the same caution as regards personal safety as you would while traveling in any foreign city anywhere in the world. When traveling by vehicle, always lock your doors, and place handbags etc.  out of sight, in the trunk or on the floor. In the rural areas and bush there is no risk to be concerned about.

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.

The tropical climate is tempered by a cooling effect in the highlands of Nairobi and on the Laikipia Plateau. Generally, it tends to be warm to hot during the days, and cool to cold at night and early morning, warming up quickly. The coastal regions are warm and slightly humid, and the far north is arid and hot. The hinterland is generally quite equable. The warmer months are February/March, and the cooler months are July/August.

Nairobi  Elevation 1661m/5449 asl.                      Max. 25C/77F   Min. 13C/54F

Mombasa          Sea level                                   Max 30C/86F    Min 22C/71,6F


Short Rains = November and December                       Long Rains = April to early June

The rains are variable in their starting and ending, but it is NOT a monsoon climate. Rainfall tends to be heavy thunderstorms in the afternoons and evenings with some extended cloudy days in the highland areas and plateau.

Clothing and Dress Recommendations


On safari, dress is informal. Think comfort: loose fitting, tan, neutral, or khaki cotton clothes are best during the days. You will need a warm fleece or sweater for the early mornings and evenings, which tend to be surprisingly cool. Dressing in layers is the best. It is advisable to wear light colored clothes at night, as insects tend to avoid light clothing at night.

Remember to pack the following items:

         Insect repellent is recommended Comfortable hiking boots /socks Tennis shoes, rafting or Teva sandals Jersey or anorak for cold evenings

         Binoculars are a ‘must’ for any safari. Flashlight, and spare batteries Sunglasses, hat with brim or peak cap

         Sun block and lip balm lotion (Recommended to bring minimum factor 30 SPF)

         Camera with a zoom or telephoto lens and spare memory cards. Anti-malarial prophylactics are essential all year round

         Passport and air tickets (+ photocopy of page of passport showing number, your photo and information on it – in case of loss). Leave a copy of these documents at home as well, with a contactable friend.

         Yellow Fever Card

         Sufficient locks or baggage ties for baggage safety. Sometimes a colored ribbon will identify YOUR luggage more easily if it is just a black bag!

         Insurances should cover: Accident, Medical, Cancellation /Curtailment and Air Rescue Inoculations required together with the relevant certificate or booklet


Most of the Hotels, Lodges and safari camps provide a daily laundry service. Most if not all camps will require travelers to wash their own underwear and provide soap in the rooms for that purpose.

Internet Availability

Wi-Fi is readily available in major cities and hotels, as well as in luxury game lodges.

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.

Camps and Lodges in the more remote areas do not have electricity. These usually rely on generator power for lighting and refrigeration and this power only runs at certain times of the day.

General Guidance


Please advise us if you have any special occasions such as a birthday or anniversary during your trip so we can ensure it will be even more memorable.


Before taking photographs of any people in East Africa, obtain their permission (often only given for a fee). Your guide will help with this. Taking photographs of airports, Military installations, policemen, or the President is strictly prohibited.


Most wildlife viewing is done from a vehicle.  It is essential that travelers purchase decent binoculars for any safari they undertake, as these tools will be used daily. Sharing is not always an option. The recommended sizes are as follows, and brands are a matter of budget and personal preference! Size: 8x40, 10x40 or 10x42. Nikon offer a great value for money range.

Cameras are always a debate. The wildlife will be at least 30m from a vehicle as a minimum distance, and several companies produce good small, digital cameras that will collect an ‘OK’ image. You need a lens ability to reduce the image from looking like a spot on a field of green! A X10 lens will just do.

We do however recommend that guests consider investing in a good SLR camera with a 300mm zoom lens.

Please ensure that you have enough memory cards and batteries for the duration of the trip, as these are not always available locally. Recharging facilities for video and camera equipment are generally available at most camps and lodges. It is advisable to bring your own adaptor and re- charging equipment. Ensure your equipment is in a padded, dust and heatproof case, as dust will get ‘in’ everywhere!


There are strict weight restrictions in place on any itinerary, which includes light aircraft transfers for the following reasons:

• The aircraft are designed with a maximum bodyweight and luggage weight allowance.

• Most of our airfields are over 1000 meters above sea level and are in the tropics, and therefore the permissible aircraft carrying capacity is reduced.

• The aircraft have physical space restrictions.

Some important issues must be noted for air transfers:

Luggage is restricted to 15kgs/33lbs per person. Only soft bags will be accepted, no hard suitcases can be transported as they physically cannot fit into the aircraft. The maximum dimensions of the soft bags which can be accommodated are as follows: 10 inches wide x 12 inches high and 24 inches long. Please keep in mind that the baggage compartments on the light aircraft are only 10 inches high, so the pilots must have the ability to manipulate the bag into the compartment. Passengers weighing 100 kgs or more, or two guests travelling together whose combined weight is 200 kgs, must please advise us in advance as an extra seat for the additional weight will have to be costed into the package for safety purposes.



Luggage that goes missing on scheduled flights is beyond our control or the airline concerned. The airport controls what happens to passengers’ luggage from when it is checked in or out until it is put on or taken off the aircraft.

We suggest that you take the following precautionary action: pack a small bag with your essentials including any life sustaining medication, which can be carried with you as hand luggage. If your luggage goes missing, you will still have your essential items on hand to see you through the first couple of days while we try and recover your lost baggage.


Please note that we cannot accept any responsibility for the misplacement of any articles whilst on your travels. Naturally, we will endeavor to reunite you with your misplaced items.


It is a condition of booking, that the sole responsibility lies with the guests to ensure that they carry the correct comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover themselves, as well as any dependents/travelling companions for the duration of their trip to Eastern Africa.


Safety is of utmost concern to us, and we request you take note of the following guidelines:

         The wild animals found in and around safari lodges and camps are not concerned about human scent and movement. THIS does NOT mean they are tame or tolerant of close approach by humans. They are still wild.

         Most of the safari camps are unfenced and dangerous animals can (and do!) wander through the camps. Many of the animals and reptiles you will see are potentially dangerous. Attacks by wild animals are rare. However, there are no guarantees that such incidents will not occur.

         Please listen to the camp staff and guides. The safety precautions need to be taken seriously, and strictly adhered to.

         Never walk on your own without a guide, particularly at night – even to your rooms. After retiring to your rooms at night, do not leave them.

         Observe animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives can frighten the animals away.

         Never attempt to attract an animal's attention. Don't imitate animal sounds, clap your hands, pound the vehicle, or throw objects.

         Please respect your driver-guide's judgment about proximity to lions, cheetahs, and leopards. Don't insist that he take the vehicle closer so you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned meal.

         Litter tossed on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds and is unsightly.

         Never attempt to feed or approach any wild animal on foot. This is especially important near lodges or in campsites where animals may have become accustomed to human visitors.

         Smoking is generally not permitted on game drives. Apart from the anti-social aspect, discarded cigarettes are considered a fire hazard.



Telecommunications in the urban areas is possible, and even some cell phone access is found. BUT in the less accessible areas do not expect there to be cell phone coverage. Many camps and lodges do have satellite-link Internet access on a restricted basis, however. If this is important, enquiries should be made beforehand. Your guides can communicate with each other using VHF radios that are fitted in their vehicles. These have a range of about 10-50 kms depending on the type and terrain. To date, there is good cell phone coverage in many parts of Kenya; this allows you to keep in touch with family. However, many people come on safari to “get away from it all”, kindly be considerate of this when using personal phones.


Tipping is not compulsory. If, however, you want to tip because you have received good service, we have enclosed a brief guideline to assist you:

Transfer Driver Transfer  US$3-5 per person        

Safari Driver Guides US $10 to $20 per person per day

Porterage - We recommend about US $1 to $2 per person per movement. per journey

Private Guides/Tour Leaders

Normally these individuals make all the difference to a safari, and their roles are more involved than just guiding. Guests generally use their own judgment in this regard.

Restaurants / Hotels

10% is customary on meal accounts if you are satisfied with the service.


Please check in early at all airports (at least one hour prior for domestic flights, three hours for all flights to the USA and two hours for regional and other international flights) due to additional security which now affects international travel around the world.

Please be aware that during peak season, delays are often encountered on scheduled flights. Remember that you are on holiday... relax and enjoy the ambience, which sometimes has no sense of urgency at all!


Please ensure that your onward flights are reconfirmed, when applicable, at least 72 hours prior to flying.  The camp managers will be responsible for reconfirming your local onward flights between camps, but INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS should be your responsibility.


Absolute Vantage Limited Guides & Leaders carry a set of reference material on all their vehicles. However, if you are a keen birder, we recommend that you bring your own bird book or but the online app version of Birds of East Africa. Everyone should bring their own pair of BINOCULARS to get the most out of the safari.


We pride ourselves in running quality itineraries and offering the best experience.

If you have a problem, please bring it to our attention at the time, giving us a chance to try and rectify it immediately at the time as it will be more difficult to resolve later.


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