Kenya

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

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 

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.


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.



Tanzania

The name Tanzania conjures up images of wildebeest stampeding across vast savannah, rain forests teeming with monkeys and birdlife, and great plains brimming with legions of game. All of these natural wonders and more are on offer in this exceptionally diverse African nation. Visitors typically visit Tanzania to partake in at least one of the four well known Tanzanian tourist experiences: a relaxing seaside vacation on the picturesque island paradise of Zanzibar, an underwater tour of some of the world’s most renowned dive sites around the gorgeous Spice Islands, a safari adventure in some of Africa’s most impressive game reserves, or a hiking excursion around Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. Whichever of these incredible holidays you choose, you will undoubtedly be welcomed by some fabulously friendly and peaceful inhabitants who, despite being divided into 120 different ethnic groups and cultures, live in harmony with one another and provide some of the most wonderfully exotic local cuisine you could imagine. With all of this diversity on offer, the most difficult part of your Tanzanian holiday experience is likely to be deciding where to go!


Banking and Currency

Currency

In Tanzania, the unit of currency is the Tanzanian Shilling, which is divided into 100 Cents. Notes are issued in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10000 Shillings. Coins are issued in denominations of 50, 100 and 200 Shillings.

Banking

Banks are open from 9:00am to 3:00pm Monday to Friday. Many banks are equipped with 24 hour ATM machines. 

Credit cards and travellers checks are not widely accepted in Tanzania. Where they are accepted can high service fees and poor exchange rates be expected. Major foreign currencies - particularly US $ - are accepted in Tanzania and are convertible at banks and bureau de changes in the main towns and tourist areas. If bringing cash in US $, please make sure bank notes are in good condition, with no cuts or damage and are not older than 2006. Most banks offer higher exchange rates for US $ 100 / US $ 50 bank notes compared to US $ 20 / US $ 10 or US $ 5 bank notes.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

If you are visiting a number of parks and reserves in Tanzania, you can either drive or fly between them. Roads in most of the wilderness areas are in poor condition and unmarked, and self-driving is not recommended. Operators will supply you with a driver who doubles as an informal guide; alternatively, you can arrange to fly to your destination and utilize a car and driver supplied by the lodgings. Elsewhere in Tanzania, towns and cities are linked by a steady stream of buses and dala-dalas (minibuses), and in the cities, there is public transport in the way of buses, dala-dalas, taxis, and, in some places, bicycles or tuk-tuks.

Precision Air run regular services, mostly via Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro or Zanzibar, to all main towns and other destinations in East Africa and beyond. All national parks and some of the top-end luxury lodges have airstrips and Coastal Air operates between these and the main airports on the mainland and the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia. ZanAir has frequent connections between Zanzibar, Pemba and the mainland.

Driving is on the left hand side of the road


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Most camps, lodges or hotels cater specifically to tourists and serve Western-style food, ranging in standard, but generally are excellent. Game lodges tend to offer a daily set menu with a limited selection, so it is advisable to have your tour operator specify in advance if you are a vegetarian or have other specific dietary requirements. First-time visitors to Africa might take note that most game lodges in and around the national parks have isolated locations, and driving within the parks is neither permitted nor advisable after dark, so that there is no realistic alternative to eating at your lodge. 

Tap water in Tanzania is generally not safe to drink, and most travellers try to stick to mineral water. Filtered and bottled water can be difficult to find you are travelling outside of main town and so it is advisable to stock up. Most camps, lodges and hotels have bottled water readily available.

Please note that, as of 2016, Tanzania has banned the use of plastic bags in a bid to tackle pollution and protect the environment. Travellers' to Tanzania will no longer be allowed to bring plastic carrier bags into the country. This ban targets all plastic bags that are imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used. 


Climate and Weather

Just south of the equator, Tanzania is huge and its sheer size means that the climate varies considerably within it. However, generally the main rainy season, or the 'long rains', lasts during about March, April and May. Afternoon tropical downpours are the norm – which are heavier and more predictable beside the coast and on the islands. The humidity is high and daily temperatures reach the low-mid 30°s.

The long dry season lasts throughout June, July, August, September and October is when rainfall is unusual, even on the islands. Temperatures vary hugely with altitude and location, but it's usually a fine, clear sky and sunny weather – it's a great time to visit Tanzania. During November and December there's another rainy season: the 'short rains'. These are much lighter than the main rains and less reliable.

If it has rained during the short rains, then it normally dries up for a few months, January and February, which is Tanzania's 'short dry season', before starting to rain again in earnest in March.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

It never gets really cold in Tanzania so lightweight clothing, preferably cotton or linen, is recommended. While on a game viewing safari, avoid brightly coloured clothing, stick to whites, beiges, khakis and browns. There may be long days sitting in safari vehicles, so it is advisable to wear light comfortable clothing such as short sleeved shirts and cotton/linen trousers or shorts. Denim will become too hot and extremely uncomfortable. Walking shoes and socks will be required.

The evenings will be chilly, so long sleeved shirts and trousers should be worn. A sweater may be needed. These will also prevent you being bitten by insects. A hat should be worn at all times outside. The sun may sometimes not feel hot, but it can still easily burn, especially if it is cloudy and overcast.

If visiting Zanzibar or any coastal town don't forget to take a swimsuit, as it is invariably warm. Ladies are recommended to take cotton skirts, blouses and dresses. Sandals are a must for this environment! On the beaches and within the confines of hotels, normal swimwear is acceptable but nudity is not.

As over a third of the population in Tanzania is Muslim, it is therefore not etiquette for ladies to walk around in public displaying their legs and shoulders. Remember to dress modestly as short shorts, miniskirts, vests and tank tops will be frowned upon.


Internet Availability

Tanzania has good Internet Service Providers with email and internet services offered by many hotels and lodges (free / paid). In most towns there are plenty of private business centres and cyber cafes offering email and internet access, although the speeds might be somewhat slower than what you are used to. 


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical sockets in Tanzania are one of three: Type G (BS-1363) and Type C (CEE 7/16 Europlug) and Type D (BS-546) electrical socket types: 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 Tanzania usually supply electricity at 230 volts AC / 50 Hz frequency. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 230 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 230 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.


Ethiopia

Situated in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia boasts extraordinary natural features, a vast range of wildlife, and a captivating historical and cultural heritage. An increasing number of visitors are frequenting this treasure trove filled with unique attractions. Popular attractions include: the medieval castles of Gondar; the walled city of Harar; and Lalibela, a pilgrimage site known for its ancient monolithic churches, hewn into the area’s steep rocky hillsides. Ethiopia’s stunning natural landscapes are the real tourist drawcard. From the lush Simien Mountains to the sulphur vents of the Danakil Depression, the country’s outstanding natural environment is unforgettable. Bahir Dar, located on Lake Tana, is popular as a base from which to explore the fascinating monasteries situated on the numerous islands dotted around the lake, as well as the Blue Nile Falls, which are arguably the most spectacular falls in North Africa.


Banking and Currency

Currency

Ethiopia’s currency is the birr. It’s divided into 100 cents in 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cent coins as well as a one birr coin, and there are 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 birr notes.

According to National Bank of Ethiopia regulations, all bills in Ethiopia must be paid in birr. But this isn’t enforced and Ethiopian Airlines, most major hotels and most travel agencies accept (and sometimes demand) US currency.

The US Dollar is the best foreign currency to bring with you to Ethiopia and it can be exchanged at banks and foreign exchange bureaus. US Dollars should be carried in cash (they do not accept US Dollar travelers checks)

One regulation that’s strictly enforced is the conversion of birr to US dollars or euros; this transaction can only be done for people holding onward air tickets from Ethiopia. This means people leaving overland must budget accordingly. There are black-market traders around the borders, but rates are poor and it’s risky.

Visitors may import an unlimited amount of foreign currency but this must be declared on arrival to the customs authorities on the appropriate blue-colored form.

Foreign currency may only be exchanged at authorized banks and hotels, and a receipt must be obtained. The currency declaration form must be retained as this will be required by customs on departure along with the currency exchange form. Visitors may change back any surplus Ethiopian Birr to cash at the airport before departure.

Banking

Please note that the banking infrastructure is not well developed in Ethiopia and can cause problems for independent travellers. Therefore, it is advisable to use a reputable tour operator while travelling in Ethiopia as they will be able to assist you with dealing with payments while travelling.

Banking hours are usually from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm from Monday to Friday and from 8:00 am – 11:00 am on Saturdays. Closing times may be an hour later in some private banks. Most banks work through lunchtime; however foreign exchange services close during lunch hours (12:00 noon – 1:00 pm).

In the main city centres there are a limited number of ATM machines and they are often clustered together. You are likely to find six to seven ATM machines concentrated at some malls or hotels and then none at others. Outside of the city centre ATMs are very rare so it is advisable to carry as much cash as is possible and safe. Note that ATMs in Ethiopia often do not recognize foreign debit or credit cards. It is best to contact your local bank to find out if your card will be compatible with Ethiopian ATMs.

Major credit cards can be used to pay for flights with Ethiopian Airlines and maybe 2 of the big hotels in Addis Ababa - but that's about the extent of their usefulness. It's best to bring cash. Wearing a money belt that fits discreetly under your clothes is recommended.



Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Ethiopian Airlines is reasonably priced and has fairly comprehensive domestic services. Flights are often overbooked, so it is essential to reconfirm your tickets at least a day in advance and show up at the airport on time. If you forget to reconfirm, they may assume you aren't going to show up and give away your seats.

Tip: Booking tickets for Ethiopian Airlines on-line works out to be very expensive compared to booking at their office in Addis Ababa. Even better: If you have booked your international trip to Ethiopia via Ethiopian Airlines's webpages you will get a 50% discount on domestic flights.

Ethiopian buses fit into one of the following categories: the ubiquitous minibuses or matatus (typically Toyota vans that carry up to 14 people) that operate throughout the region; small to large sized passenger buses called "Higer bus" (named after the manufacturer) that often travel between regions ("1st level" to "3rd level" indicating the class); luxury buses (Korean modern standard buses) going between the main cities, and the large (often double-jointed) red Addis Ababa city buses.

There is a comprehensive network of cheap Higer buses along the major roads, although these are slow and basic. Buses travelling shorter distances generally leave whenever they have filled up with passengers (in practice, this means once an hour or so). Buses do not travel at night; they will stop before sundown in a town or village with accommodation for the passengers, or, between Dire Dawa and Djibouti, just in the plain countryside. Between some cities (eg, Adama and Addis Ababa), minibuses will run after the larger buses have stopped for the night. Everyone on the bus must have a seat by law – this prevents overcrowding, but often makes it difficult to catch a bus from an intermediate point on a route. If planning to travel by bus, keep in mind that almost all the vehicles are old and very dusty and some of the roads are in bad condition.

The bus stations usually open somewhere around 05:00. If you are catching an early morning bus, you should get to the station at 05:00. They are very chaotic first thing in the morning, and many buses will sell out of seats before they leave at about 06:00. To make things easier and less stressful, you can often buy a ticket in advance. In smaller cities, you can often buy your ticket from the conductor when the bus arrives from its previous trip the afternoon before you travel. Even if you already have a ticket, arrive early and claim a seat as soon as possible. If you don't have a ticket, you will have to ask people to show you the correct bus (unless you can read Amharic). In this case, don't waste time trying to buy a ticket from the window or from the bus conductor—push your way on board the bus and claim a seat! The conductor will sell you a ticket later. Medium sized backpacks can usually be squeezed under the seats, but large packs and most luggage will have to go up on the roof. Claim your seat before you worry about your luggage. Luxury buses however have a really professional approach with both numbered seating and dedicated luggage compartments under the bus. Anyone assisting you with your luggage, including the person passing it up to the conductor's assistant on the roof, will expect a small tip (around 2-3 birr).

Although more expensive than public transport, renting a car is a good way to explore Ethiopia. You can take small aircraft to expedite your tour, but you will see more of the scenery if you travel by car. However, there are few rent-a-car services in Ethiopia outside of Addis Ababa so you may prefer to depend on the services of touring companies that offer cars and 4x4s complete with an experienced local driver. Petrol costs 21 birr a litre. Make sure to check the pump is zeroed before re-fuelling starts.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Most upmarket restaurants in Ethiopia will have reasonably high standards of food hygiene. Eating from roadside food stalls is not recommended as the food safety cannot be guaranteed. Travelers should be warned against eating vegetables such as those in salads that may have been washed in water. Try limiting fruits and vegetables to those you peel yourself such as oranges, mangos, etc.

Ethiopian cuisine characteristically consists of vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes. This is usually in the form of wat (also w'et or wot), a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdoughflatbread, which made out of fermented teff flour. Ethiopians eat exclusively with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes. Utensils are optional.

It is important to remember to only drink bottled water. There are many brands to choose from; always check the plastic seal on all bottles before paying any vendor.


Climate and Weather

The best time to visit Ethiopia is between January and March when clear, sunny days bring regular average daily temperatures of 25°C (77°F). This is Ethiopia's busiest time to visit, with wildlife spotting at its peak and the festivals of Timkat and Leddet drawing huge crowds.

The rainy season (April to September) brings soaring temperatures and humid conditions. Due to rain, from May to August some roads in the Lower Omo Valley become impassable. August is the hottest (and wettest) month with temperatures reaching 45°C (113°F) regularly in the lowlands. In the highlands temperatures are much more moderate but sightseeing is hampered by downpours of rain.

October to December is an excellent time to visit Ethiopia as the countryside is lushly pretty after all the rain, there are plenty of sunny days and historical sites and monuments are not overrun with tourists. Night time temperatures in highland areas often drop to between 5°C (41°F) and 10°C (50°F) during November and December so be sure to pack a warm clothing.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Due to vast altitude differences between highland and lowland areas, if you are intent on exploring Ethiopia fully you should prepare for a wide range of temperature differences.In general between seasons clothes and layers are appropriate.  Bringing clothes that can be easily layered is the obvious choice. You will need lightweight clothing for the lowlands and mediumweight for the hill country. At least one warm jumper or pullover should be brought along to cope with dramatic temperature drops once the sun goes down.At higher altitudes, a warm or a coat are needed in the evenings. Travelers should take rain coat or other rainwear, particularly when visiting the country during the period from February to October. It is usually possible to have clothes laundered at or near hotels within a short period of time (frequently services are offered 24 hours a day).


Internet Availability

There are numerous internet cafes in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Nazret, Bahir Dar, Gonder, Awasa and other cities. In Addis Ababa, connection speeds are usually more than adequate for performing tasks such as checking e-mail. A typical internet cafe will have a dozen computers using one broadband (usually starts from 128kbps) connection. Ethiopia's international connection is unstable: On bad days, even a broadband connection will only deliver dial-up speed, because the whole country's traffic is running via an undersized backup satellite connection.

Outside of bigger towns, it is harder to find a working Internet connection and the charge per minute is often much higher than in bigger towns. Using the internet costs between 25-35 Ethiopian cents/per min in the bigger cities but outside the cities it usually costs more than 1 birr/per minute.

Take care of computer viruses! Most computers or flash disks in use are infected.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Ethiopia has 220 volt electricity, meaning unless your computer or appliance is dual voltage or designed for 220 volts, you will need a converter or transformer. The cycles (Hz) are 50 per second. The power sockets that are used are of type C / E / F / L. While adaptors are available in Ethiopia, buying one prior to leaving home is recommended to avoid the hassle of trying to find one when you arrive.


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