Kenya - Useful Tips
Much of East Africa is considered to have perfect climate with generally warm sunny days, minimal humidity and cool evenings. Temperatures do vary with altitude. Coastal Climate is tropical, being hot and humid most of the year round. Highland areas can get quite cold at night.
Cotton, linen dresses, light slacks and short sleeved shirts are recommended. It is however advisable to bring a warm sweater or jacket as nights can be chilly at high altitudes and even out on safari. The emphasis is on informal wear but some few restaurants and clubs require gentlemen to wear jackets and ties in the evenings with the ladies dressed accordingly. Comfortable walking shoes, swimsuit, sunglasses, suntan lotion, flashlight and an alarm clock will complement your safari kit.
Hotel check in and check out:
Check out at most hotels/Lodges is at 10.00 am and Check in is usually at 12.00 noon. Hence check in cannot be guaranteed before this time unless room is reserved and paid for from the previous night. Day rooms upto 1800hrs are usually available at a percentage of the cost of overnight stay (usually around 80%)
Should be kept to a minimum due to limited space in tour vehicles and domestic light aircraft. One main lightweight bag and an overnight bag is adequate, most city hotels have space for storing luggage not required while on safari. On flying safaris, where light aircraft are utilized, baggage is limited to 15kilos per person.
While malaria is rare in Nairobi, it is prevalent in hot and humid low altitude areas around the coast, lake Victoria and the savannah. Visitors are therefore advised to take prescribed dosages of anti-malaria medication two weeks before travel, during their stay in Kenya and two weeks after leaving the country. Health certificates are required, but these vary with country of origin and so should be checked with the relevant authorities. However, a yellow fever and cholera vaccinations are recommended. It is also advisable that one drinks only bottled water at all times.
All visitors to Kenya are required to have valid passports. Visas (US$50 for single entry) are also required to enter Kenya can be obtained upon arrival at the airport. It is advisable for visitors to check visa requirements through airlines, tour operators or Kenya tourist offices, Kenyan embassies or High commissions in their countries before they embark on their visit.
All valuable items should be left in the hotel's safe deposit box. While walking in the streets, visitors should carry with them only copies of their passports and small amounts of cash. They should avoid dark alleys and isolated places at all times. Avoid walking at night; instead use a taxi to go to restaurants etc.
Visitors should not walk in towns or public areas in their swimwear as this is against African culture and offends a large section of the community. Nude bathing is not allowed. Kenyans appreciate decent behavior devoid of immoral tendencies. Visitors are therefore advised to show respect to the local people their traditions and culture
You may bring personal effects like binoculars, cameras, film, etc temporarily into the country without a permit. Consumables in small amounts of one litre alcohol, a quarter litre of perfume, 50 cigars 200 cigarettes or quarter kilogramme of tobacco will be allowed duty free. Obscene literature is not allowed. Pets accompanied by a recent health certificate and special permission from the commissioner of customs will be allowed. These are however, not allowed into national parks/reserves. Firearms cannot be imported without an import certificate from the central Firearms bureau.
Respect of authority:
Visitors are expected to show respect to the head of state and other leaders or uniformed officials of the public service. Tearing or burning the president’s portrait is an offence. Avoid breaking laws especially the laws against prostitution, sexual abuse and taking or trafficking drugs. However chewing of a locally grown shrub called Miraa, a mild stimulant reputed to keep chewers active and awake throughout the night is allowed.
All major towns have hotels or lodges ranging from high international standards to simple inexpensive holiday hotels. In addition, there are tourist lodges in nearly all major national parks and reserves in the country. The accommodation charges vary with the seasons, group and corporate rates.
Kenya’s currency is based on the decimal system. The unit is the Kenyan shilling, divided into 100 cents. Coins are of cents 50 and shillings 1,5,10 20 and 40. Notes are of Kshs 50,100,200,500 and 1000. There are no restrictions on the movements of currency into or out of Kenya for current transactions. Travelers can bring into or take out of Kenya currency notes up to the equivalent of US Dollars 5000 and Kshs100, 000 without making a customs declaration. Currency notes in excess of the above can still be brought in or taken out of the country upon making a declaration. It is advisable to carry only US$ bills printed after the year 2000 as you may find it difficult to transact with older bills in East Africa...
All major credit cards are widely acceptable in Kenya, but to a lesser extent in Tanzania and Uganda. US$ Traveler's cheques are also a widely accepted form of payment but only in major towns..
ATMs (Cash Machines):
These are readily available and located conveniently in major shopping malls, entertainment spots, in and around Nairobi and Mombasa. Most of the ATMs accept major credits cards (Visa and MasterCard).
Parks and reserves:
Kenya has 26 national parks and 29 national reserves. All of them occupy a total area of 44, 359sq. kilometers or 7.5% of the total area of the republic (582, 644 sq. kilometers). They range from marine national parks, savannah-bush woodland national parks, mountain national parks, arid and semi-arid national parks, to lake ecosystem national parks/reserves. Rare and fascinating species abound in Kenya. They include the high altitude bongo, a rare forest antelope to giant sea turtles and the unique dugong, origin of the mermaid legend.
Hunting and Game Trophies:
Hunting and trafficking in game trophies is banned in Kenya. Export of live animals birds and reptiles is also banned except by a licensed professional dealer with special permission from the director of Kenya wildlife service.
There is a variety of beautiful souvenir markets where local handicrafts in wood and stone sculptures as well as beadwork, paintings, drawings, basketry, wearing apparel and jewelry can be purchased in cash US$ or Kenya Shillings – it is advisable to have smaller denomination notes whilst shopping at these markets.
It is an offence to photograph the national flag, the president’s state lodges, soldiers, prisons, convicts and military barracks. However photographers find a paradise of colorful birds beautiful people and magnificent sceneries all embellished in regular sunshine. Always ask for permission before photographing the local people. Protect your camera and film from dust with a plastic bag. A lens hood and ultra violet filter are also advisable. Films and batteries are available at most lodges but in restricted stocks and sizes so it is suggested you bring your own supply. A 200mm to 300mm lens is recommended for game and bird photography.
In addition to other security checks, customs officers may weigh and inspect all outgoing baggage departing travelers are therefore required to identify their baggage for inspection by the customs officers. Like for most international flights, Airport departure tax (US$20) is payable at both Nairobi and Mombasa airports, however this is usually included on the ticket fare. Some airports within Africa may require the departure tax for domestic flights.
- Travel with reputable operators and qualified safari guides. Insist that your tour operator and accommodation facilities use only trained and certified safari guides.
- Support eco-friendly accommodation facilities .Try to stay at lodges and safari camps that looks after their environment and support local conservation projects.
- Respect local cultures and promote community benefits, support projects and properties that benefit local people through employment ,social development and the preservation of traditional livelihoods.
- Keep to designated roads. Please encourage your driver to stay on roads or designated tracks when visiting our national parks and reserves.
- Minimize disturbance to animals. Many wild animals, such as cheetahs become distressed when many vehicles or when one vehicle get too close to them surrounds them.
- Please keep noise to a minimum and never try to attract animal’s attention.
- Stay inside the vehicle at all times. Do not stand on the roof or hang out of your vehicle while inside the parks, and refrain from getting out of the vehicle except in designated areas
- Keep to the speed limit. Feeding wild animals can upset their diet and lead to unnatural dependence upon people
- Take care not to disturb the ecological balance. Please do not purchase collect or remove any animal products, rock, plants seeds or birds’ nests from the wild, or alter the natural environment in any way
- Litter and garbage can be very dangerous to wild animals. Please keep all litter with you, and be extremely careful with cigarettes and matches, which can cause major bush fires
At the Coast:
- Never buy or remove animals or shells from the sea. Do not catch fish or remove other creatures from protected areas, and avoid buying starfish, shells, or any products that derive from turtles, whales or other endangered species.
- Protect the marine environment. Please take care not to touch or stand on coral reefs, and never dispose of any litter on the beach or in the sea.
- Avoid buying undersize crabs and lobsters. Avoid restaurants and hotels that serve undersize crabs and lobsters, which are contributing to the rapid demise of these species.
- Support traditional coastal livelihoods. Try to support inland market areas, where traders are making an effort to keep their businesses off the beaches, do not give money to children on the beach, which can encourage them to stay away from school
- Respect local cultures and customs. Always dress in respectful way when visiting towns and villages-and never bathe topless on the beach.