All visitors to Kenya are required to have valid passports. Visas are also required for visitors who are not citizens of the commonwealth countries in order to enter Kenya. At present visitors from Germany, Denmark, Norway, San Marino, Sweden, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Finland, Spain, Turkey and Uruguay do not require visas. However, since visa requirements may change, it is advisable for the visitors to check the current visa requirements through airlines, tour operators or Kenya Tourist Offices, Kenya Embassies or High Commissions in their countries before coming, to avoid embarrassment. Visas normally take up to six weeks to process and are valid for up to a three month period. Those visitors with proper documents and who also possess onward or return tickets may be given visitor’s passes free of charge on arrival at any Kenyan point of entry.
During the three months period, the visitors’ pass holders are not allowed to engage themselves in any form of work or business in the country without authority from the Principal Immigration officer. Visitors without proper documents will be required to pay a refundable deposit of Kshs. 5,000/= before they are issued with visitor passes.
Kenya enjoys a tropical climate. It is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and northeast parts of the country. The average annual temperature for the coastal town of Mombasa (altitude 17 metres) is 30.30 Celsius maximum and 22.40 Celsius minimum, the capital city, Nairobi (altitude 1,661 metres) 25.20 Celsius maximum and 13.60 Celsius minimum, Eldoret (altitude 3,085) 23.60 Celsius maximum and 9.50 Celsius minimum, Lodwar (altitude) 506 metres) and the drier north plainlands 34.80 Celsius maximum and 23.70 Celsius minimum.
There is plenty of sunshine all the year round and summer clothes are worn throughout the year. However, it is usually cool at night and early in the morning. The long rains occur from April to June and short rains from October to December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and when it does come it often falls in the afternoons and evenings. The hottest period is from February to March and coldest in July to August. The annual migration of wildlife between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya takes place between June and September. The migration of almost two million wildebeest, zebras and other species is nature’s greatest spectacle on earth. The animal trek has been captured by filmmakers worldwide.
Baggage space on safari is restricted to one medium suitcase or holdall per person, plus hand baggage (private safaris where there are less than 7 persons in the vehicle are not subject to this restriction). Visitors to Treetops and the Ark are asked to take overnight bags only; suitcases can be left at the base hotel. Hotels will normally store baggage at no extra cost. Baggage can also be stored at Alefran Tours & Safaris offices. A baggage weight restriction of 15 kg per person applies on air safaris. Where very small aircraft are used this maybe reduced to 10kg.
Hard currencies can be exchanged in cash or travellers cheques at banks all over the country, at forex bureaus in Nairobi and at most large hotels. US Dollars and Sterling Pounds are most acceptable and will cause the least delay. As normal, always ask what commission and charges will be deducted first and prior to transaction. Banks are usually open from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm, Mondays through Fridays and from 9.00 am and 11.00 am on Saturdays.
VISA, MASTERCARD and AMERICAN EXPRESS are widely accepted for tourist services. There’s usually a 5% mark-up on top of the price as establishments are charged a fixed percentage of their transactions.
Since rules concerning disease prevention change from time to time, a check should be made with the nearest Kenyan High Commission, Kenya Tourist Office or any airline flying scheduled services into Kenya. Malaria is endemic to most parts of Kenya and intending visitors should start taking anti-malarial tablets before departure and continue taking them for the prescribed time after their return. Insect repellents should be made use of after dusk and suitable cover up clothes should be worn in the evenings.
Flying Doctors Society
Membership of the Flying Doctors Society is strongly recommended. In event of accident or sickness while on safari, the society will fly patients by air ambulance to Nairobi for admittance to hospital. The current cost for 1-month membership is US$ 25 per person.
Drinking water from the tap must be considered risky. Hotels and lodges usually furnish safe water in a thermos flask in guest rooms. Bottled mineral water is available in every hotel and supermarket.
Normal precautions as in any other destination world-wide should be taken. Visitors are advised not to leave cash and valuables in their hotel rooms but to make use of safe deposit boxes and safes. One should never carry large sums in cash and women should keep a tight grip on handbags in crowds or busy streets. Jewellery snatching is quite common in city streets. As in all major cities walking alone or in small groups at night should be considered a hazard and avoided. Reliable taxis are available at all the principal hotels. Taking photographs at airports, near military installations, of policeman, the president, the national flag, the State House, state lodges, soldiers, prisons and prisoners etc., is prohibited. Before photographing local people, permission should be obtained and a fixed price agreed. Seek the assistance of your driver/guide in this matter.
Both mains electricity and generated supply in lodges provide 240 volts AC 50 cycles. Most large hotels and some game lodges provide shaving points with 110v 50 cycles. Sockets are normally three pin and of the ‘square’ variety.
Tipping and Pooterage
Although hotels and lodges include a service charge, it is customary to tip porters, waiters, taxi drivers and safari drivers/guides.
Kiswahili is the lingua franca while English is the official language. In addition, most tribes have their own language.
Post and Telephones
Keeping in touch by mail and telephone is generally easy. Direct overseas dialling is possible from major centers and increasingly from remote places such as game lodges. Call home bureaus are in plenty in Nairobi as are the Cyber café for e-mail and Internet access.
Arrivals and Departures
Kenya has two main ports of entry by air: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi. Located 16 km from the city center. Moi International Airport, Mombasa. Located 12 km from the town center. Mombasa is the main port of entry by sea.
Airport Departure Tax
International Airport departure tax equivalent to US$ 40 per person is payable on departure from the International airports. A local airport service charge is also payable on departure for domestic flights. As this varies from country to country, please check with us on the prevailing amounts payable prior to your flight departure.
Opening and Shoppng Hours
Major stores, tourist services, offices and museums open from 8.00 am to 5.00 PM in large towns though offices often break for lunch. In rural areas and out in the bush small shops can be open at almost any hour. Souvenirs to take back home can include wood and soap stone sculptures and carvings, ciondos (sisal baskets), beadwork and tribal regalia, masks, textiles and gemstones set in unique jewellery pieces.
Kenyan time is three hours ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time:
GMT + 03:00 hrs.
The official language is English, but the national spoken language is Kiswahili. There are also several other indigenous languages.
The official currency is the Kenya shilling.
As well as Kenya’s major means of transport, the narrow-gauge railway, Kenya also has numerous highways, waterways, ports and airports. The main airports are Nairobi and Mombasa. Nairobi maintains strong air links with Europe and the rest of Africa, with major airlines flying from the city’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The major airlines such as Kenya Airways, KLM, British Airways, SN Brussels, Emirates, etc. operate a total of 15 flights daily to Europe, the Far East, Bangkok, Bombay, Japan, etc.
Local airlines such as Kenya Airways, AirKenya and Safari Link fly to the major capitals in Eastern and Southern Africa and the main national parks.
All public transport within Nairobi is by public bus (Kenya Bus, City Hoppa) or large minibuses (Metro Shuttles).
Taxi cabs are available at all times of the day and night and are just a phone call away. Most of the taxi cabs can be seen parked outside hotels, restaurants, at the airport and in the city centre. If you decide to take a taxi, it is important to agree the fare before setting off as rates vary widely. Some taxi companies are:
International calls can often be made direct or operator-assisted by dialling 0195 and 0196. Public telephones which work with coins or with phone cards are available in the major towns. Many hotels also offer a phone service, but they usually charge much more than the providers.
The international country calling code for/to Kenya is +254.
As Kenya represents a cultural melting pot, visitors should not walk in towns or public areas in their swim-wear as this is against African culture and offends a large section of the community. Nude bathing is not allowed. Kenyans appreciate decent behaviour devoid of immoral tendencies. Visitors are therefore advised to show respect to the local people, their culture and traditions.
As for Safari-clothing the best is the ‘onion philosophy’, i.e. dress in layers. Safari clothing must be comfortable, light and loose, mainly cotton or linen. Avoid tight clothes, keep in mind that you will spend plenty of time seated inside a vehicle. Make it more comfortable: light clothes are worn in the heat of the day and a sweater is added in the cool and sometimes chilly nights.
Some ethnic groups or individuals (especially if wearing traditional clothes) might not like to have their picture taken. Please make sure to obtain the person’s permission prior to taking a photo.
The electrical supply in Kenya is the same as in Europe: 220-240 volts at 50 cycles, mostly using 13-amp three-pin square sockets.