Kenya: Travel Information
Kenya: Travel Information
When to Go
The dry season is considered the best season to visit Kenya. Animals clustered around water points are easily visible through the dry grass and short savanna. In addition, all roads are passable. Thus, most tourists visit from December to March and July to August, while the locals prefer the months of June, September and October as they are quieter. During July and August Masai Mara hosts massive herds of wildebeest that migrate from the Serengeti plains in search of new pastures where they will stay for a few weeks before returning to the Tanzania.
During the rainy season, the days are punctuated by sudden and unpredictable showers. Spectacular storms can easily give way to beautiful sunny weather. The nights are often cool and the days warm, but not often hot. Photographers will appreciate the beautiful lights of this period and the green surroundings. Many species give birth during this period; however the fauna is less visible in the tall grass, and more dispersed because water is more abundant. Many side roads turn to mud, making travel more difficult. Often the journey can take a turn and become a true African adventure! The main advantage of traveling during this season is that there are far fewer people and vehicles, significantly reducing the cost at most accommodation. On the coast, it is important to first make sure that your hotel will be open, especially in April-May, when the rainy season is the strongest, and many hotels close.
How to Get There
Kenya has two major international airports, located in Nairobi (NBO) and Mombasa (MBA). Nairobi airport is the primary hub for air traffic throughout East Africa, and is very well connected with the rest of the world (Europe, West Africa, South Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and India). Mombasa has mainly flights to Nairobi, Tanzania and Zanzibar, with few major international routes.
There are no direct flights from the United States to Nairobi. Most flights connect in Europe (Amsterdam, Paris, London, Zurich, or Brussels), but you can sometimes find good deals on flights via Dubai, Doha, Cairo, Istanbul and Addis Ababa.
The most reliable service to Nairobi is with KLM, who flys the route daily with a Boeing 747. Flights can be booked directly through the KLM website or through Delta. Fly with Air France provides an option for a stopover in Paris, Swiss Air is also an affordable option. Qatar Airways, Emirates Airlines, and Turkish Airlines are reputable companies that offer high quality affordable flights, however the travel time is significantly longer than other routes.
Passports & Visas
All travelers entering Kenya must have a valid passport. The passport must be valid for six months after your intended return date.
Currently it is possible for Americans and most other nationalities to get a tourist visa upon arrival at the airport in Nairobi or Mombasa. A three month tourist visa costs $50 and can be paid for only in cash. Visa forms are available at the airport or can be filled out in advance to save some time (Form V.1). Lines can be very long and the process can move very slowly. You can save time by getting your visa prior to your trip, directly from the Kenyan Embassy. Alternatively, many people find it useful to use a visa service to assist you in obtaining your visa.
Health & Safety
It is extremely important to consult a doctor that specializes in tropical medicine prior to your trip. While Kenya does not require any vaccinations, neighboring countries such as Tanzania do require proof of the Yellow Fever vaccination. Your doctor may recommend other vaccinations depending upon the length of your trip.
Your doctor will also be able to suggest which malaria prophylaxis would be best for you. While taking a prophylaxis greatly reduces your chance of getting malaria, it is also important to take actions to prevent mosquito bites. Always sleep under a mosquito net that has been treated with mosquito repellant. In the evenings and during the night wear clothing that reduce skin exposure and put on mosquito repellant.
Don’t forget that the sun is much stronger along the equator than in the United States. It is important to avoid being in the sun for extended periods of time. Strong sunscreen (SPF 50+) and a brimmed hat are essential for your safari.
Only drink bottled water, soda, and beer that was opened in front of you and served without ice. Before pouring your drink into a glass, be sure that it is clean and dry. If bottled water is not available, tap water may be treated with iodine tables or by passing it through a water filter. If you find yourself with none of the above, boiling water for at least 5 minutes will kill most bacteria.
While most of Africa is much safer than “bad neighborhoods” in the United States, it is always wise for travelers to take some extra precautions. After dark don’t go for walks, in the cities you could become an easy target and in the bush you could encounter a hippo, a buffalo, or other dangerous wildlife. Petty theft is the most common issue, keep your valuables out of sight and locked up. Money, telephones, and cameras should be carefully looked after. Money, passports and other travel documents should be kept in the room safe even when you are in your room sleeping.
Check the State Department’s Travel Information for any specific travel warnings. Many believe that the US Government tends to be very prudent towards East Africa, posting travel advisories or warning more often than for countries that could easily be considered more dangerous.
Check with your medical insurance to see if you are covered for medical evacuations while traveling. We highly recommend this cover along with a general travel insurance that protects you from cancelation among other travel related problems. Travel Guard is one of the leading travel insurance providers.
The official currency of Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling (KES). The US Dollar is also widely accepted and easily exchanged into Kenyan Shillings. US Dollars are only accepted if they are not torn and are not more than 10 years old. Smaller denominations are difficult to use or exchange. It is best to bring 50 or 100 dollar bills that are issued after 2005.
Travelers Checks are very difficult to use or exchange. The few banks that will accept them will give a much lower exchange rate. Instead it is advisable to carry some cash and your Visa or MasterCard. ATMs are widely available. Be sure that you have informed your bank that you will be traveling to Kenya so that they don’t accidently block your card. While use of an ATM will incur a fee from your home bank, you usually end up with a favorable exchange rate that normally makes up for the fee. It is more advisable to take cash from the ATM to pay your meals and rooms. Some restaurants and hotels do accept credit-cards, however there are many stories of double billing, theft of numbers, and false transactions.
Park Entrance Fees are payable only in US Dollars for non-residents, but don’t worry if you book with E-Trip Africa all of your Park Entrance Fees noted in the itinerary are included in the price of your trip.
Kenya has a relatively well-developed mobile phone network. Many American Telephone companies can activate your phone number to work while traveling in Kenya. However, it can be very expensive to receive or make calls. If you have an unlocked GSM phone it is possible to simply purchase a SIM card in Kenya. By topping-up your prepaid credit with local currency you are now ready to make and receive calls at much better rates than if you were to use your roaming American line.
Many hotels and restaurants offer wireless internet connections. Smart phones and USB modems are also quite efficient on the EDGE network throughout Kenya.
When you book your trip with Trip-E Africa, we help you Stay Connected. Your driver will provide you with a phone and/or USB modem upon your arrival. All you need to do is load some prepaid credit and you are connected. Learn more about the Stay Connected Program.
Solo Travelers & Couples
Solo travelers and couples should consider joining a Group Safari. These fixed date departures are often a more affordable and environmentally friendly alternative. By bringing together several individual travelers we are able to run more efficiently. Not only do we pass the saving on to you, Group Safaris also helps us to insure that we maintain a net positive impact.
Traveling with Children
Traveling with young children can often be complicated. You can usually find everything you will need in Kenya's larger cities (diapers, baby formula, wipes, cereal, etc.). Many tourist hotels, especially in the National Parks do not allow young children. Check ahead before making your booking. We have lots of experience traveling with young children, so don’t hesitate to ask any specific questions.