Capital city: Nairobi
Airports: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) and Wilson Airport (WIL) - regional
Language: Swahili/Kiswahili, regional dialects and English as second language
Currency: Kenyan Shilling (KES) AKA a “bob”, Symbol KSh
Time zone: East Africa Time (GMT + 3)
International dialling code: +254
Emergency services: Dial 999 for police, ambulance and fire
U.S. Embassy: A: United Nations Ave., Gigiri, Nairobi | T: +254 (20) 363 6451 / +254 (20) 363 6170
passport & visa
Passports must be valid for at least three months beyond your date of departure from Kenya.
Passports must have two blank pages.
A visa is required for entry to Kenya. It is recommended you purchase your single entry visa online.
Visas cost $50 USD + $1 USD service charge per person.
E-visas are valid for three months so do not purchase your visa more than three months prior to your departure date.
It is recommended you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and your yearly flu shot.
Additional vaccines include cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid which can be contracted through contaminated food or water.
You do not require the yellow fever vaccination unless you are travelling to Kenya from a country with risk of yellow fever, which the U.S. does not.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes bites.You cannot be vaccinated against malaria. Malaria risk is high throughout the year in the whole country, but low in Nairobi, the immediate surrounding areas, and the highlands (above 2500m). We recommend you consult your doctor or a specialist travel doctor around 8-12 weeks before travel. They will assess your particular health risks before giving preventative advice, recommending vaccines and antimalarial tablets: atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline or mefloquine.
Dengue Fever is a viral illness that transmitted by mosquito bites. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. Symptoms include fever, headache, severe joint, bone and muscular pain. There is no vaccine so prevention is through avoidance of mosquito bites.
Avoid mosquito bites by covering up with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers especially after sunset, using insect repellents on exposed skin and, when necessary, sleeping under a mosquito net.
Bilharzia is transmitted to humans through contact with fresh water. The parasite enters humans through the skin and prevention is through avoidance of swimming, bathing or paddling in fresh water lakes and streams.
Pack prescription medications in their original containers with pharmacy labels in your carry-on luggage. Also bring along copies of your prescriptions in case you lose your medications or run out. Don't forget an extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses.
Use sunscreen and stay hydrated throughout your trip.
Tap water is not safe to drink in Kenya, we recommend you buy bottled water and drink filtered water in hotels and restaurants.
Currently the U.S. government’s travel advisory for Kenya is at level two: exercise increased caution. Their additional notes are to not travel to the Kenya-Somalia border and some coastal areas due to terrorism, and to reconsider travel to Eastleigh at all times and Old Town in Mombasa at night due to crime.
Violent crime, such as armed carjacking, mugging, home invasion, and kidnapping, can occur at any time.
Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting Kenyan and foreign government facilities, tourist locations, transportation hubs, and markets/shopping malls.
Some key advice:
Stay alert for pickpockets and purse-snatchers, particularly around tourist sites, in restaurants and on public transit.
Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
Monitor local media and listen out for hotel updates for breaking news events.
Always carry a photocopy of your U.S. passport with you and keep the original documents in a secure location in your hotel.
Enrol in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
It is compulsory to travel to Kenya with travel insurance. At a bare minimum this should cover medical expenses and medical evacuation, but we also recommend purchasing trip cancellation cover for the entirety of your trip.
Your U.S. health coverage and/or Obamacare do not apply overseas.
Medical coverage is incredibly important should you need medical care while away. A doctor or hospital may require proof that you have coverage so they know their medical bill will be paid.
Pre-existing conditions must be disclosed when purchasing travel insurance otherwise you may be refused medical treatment when you need it. Ensure you understand any limitations or restrictions in your travel insurance regarding this.
Medical coverage for the duration of your stay should you need to be treated in-country is vital, as well as medical evacuation for when you are ready to return home. Some providers allow you to add coverage for a spouse or family member to stay with you if you are hospitalised.
Read through your policy once you receive it so you fully understand how it works and what to do in the case of an emergency.
You should carry proof of your health insurance and policy details with you at all times.
CLIMATE IN DECEMBER
Daytime Average: 80ºF (75ºF at higher altitudes) | Overnight Average: 55ºF
Sunrise: 6:15am | Sunset: 6:30pm
The mornings and evenings are cool, especially at higher altitudes, but once the sun breaks through the days are warm. The “short rains” may carry through to December, but when they happen they are short, heavy and often in the evening or night.
what to pack
On the whole Kenyans dress conservatively and show a lot of respect to those who do the same. We recommend you pack accordingly and cover your arms to the elbow and your legs to your knees. Tops should not expose your midriff and necklines should not fall too low.
Important documents: passports, travel insurance details, emergency contacts, credit cards, debit card for ATM withdrawals and cash (USD)
Safari days: neutral-coloured, non-distracting clothing, warm layers for mornings and evenings spent in open air safari vehicles
Relax days: swimwear, beach bag, cover-up and flip flops
City days: loose light layers: shorts, t-shirts, skirts and sundresses
Evenings: skirts, dresses, pants, shirts, cardigan, sweater and a light scarf
Practical: day pack or cross-body bag, sunglasses, sunhat, reusable water bottle, binoculars and comfortable shoes
Toiletries & medicines: sunscreen, after-sun, bug spray, prescription medications
Electronics: chargers, travel adapters, phone and camera
For fun: books, magazines, deck of cards, travel journal or notebook
CURIO TRIPS COMPREHENSIVE PACKING LIST...
electricity & PLUGS
Power in Kenya comes out at 240 V, which is a lot higher than appliances in North America are used to. For this reason we recommend purchasing an adaptor with built-in power convertor or transformer to reduce the voltage from 240 to 110.
Plugs in Kenya are type G: triangular three square pin that is the same as the UK.
currency & MONEY
1 USD: 100.15 KES (as of February 2019)
Arriving in Kenya with $100 - $200 USD per person is highly recommended. Notes should be manufactured in 2008 or later as most banks/foreign exchange bureaus (Forex) won’t accept those printed earlier.
ATMs and Forex are readily available at airports and in major cities and towns should you want some local currency for smaller purchases. ATMs usually offer the best exchange rate when compared to commercial exchange bureaus and hotels. Your bank may add a surcharge for every withdrawal you make.
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in mid-to-high-end hotels, restaurants and shops. Card payments may come with exchange rate and bank charges from your home bank. We urge you to contact them prior to departure to let them know you will be using your card abroad, and to ask what fees may apply.
Kenya has a Sales Tax (VAT) of 16%. It is usually included in the ticket price, not added at the point of sale.
A 2% catering levy is applied in restaurants.
Tipping amounts vary between institutions but typically it is recommended to tip:
$10-$15 USD per person per day to safari guides
$1-$3 USD to hotel porters and cleaning staff
Up to 10% in restaurants
Kenya is a welcoming place with a vibrant culture. Kenyans are open, lighthearted, friendly and they like to take things slow. Laughter is around every corner. They love bright vibrant colours, time together and food. Enjoy your time getting to know people and bantering once comfortable, Kenyans love it.
A handshake is the most common form of greeting. If you are greeting someone whose hands are not clean they might politely choose to extend their arm and expect you to grasp their arm at above the wrist instead, rather than their hand. It is common to see men who know each other well, walking and talking whilst remaining hand in hand. This is an accepted behaviour in Kenya and in no way seen as strange. It is less common to see men and women/couples hand in hand or displaying affection in public.
Kenya is a culturally diverse nation made up of different tribal groups, each with distinct languages, dress, music, and food. One of the better known tribes are the Maasai warriors who live in the wildlife rich grasslands. The Kenyans have a family and community oriented culture, influenced by African traditions. They are creative and artistic and the nation has produced a number of notable writers and musicians and has a well developed cultural scene.
Religion is important in Kenya’s culture. More than half the population in Kenya are Christians, 10% are Muslims, and 10% hold Indigenous beliefs.
Poaching is highly illegal in Kenya so care should be taken to avoid such purchases while in country.
Even though English is widely spoken in Kenya, especially in the tourism industry, here are a few helpful phrases to know in Swahili/Kiswahili
Habari Gani: Good morning/How are you?
Nzuri: I’m fine
Thank you: Asante sana
Hapana asante sana: No, thank you
Unaitwa nani? What’s your name?
Jina langu ni: My name is
Goodnight: Lala Salama
food & drink
Kenyan cuisine is rich in ethnic diversity. Popular foods include rice, chapatti, beef, chicken, goat, tilapia and an assortment of fresh vegetables and fruits. Meals consist of a starch with meat and vegetables.
If you have specific dietary requirements we will let your hotels know prior to your arrival but we recommend you reiterate that upon arrival. This will be understood and respected by your hosts.
Ugali: maize porridge
Sukuma wiki: greens cooked with onions and served on the side of your main starch dish
Nyama Choma: roast meat, typically goat or beef
Pili pili: chilli/red pepper
Beer: Tusker, White Cap
Kenya Tea/Chai: sweet and milky
Before departing home contact your service provider to enquire about using your phone in Kenya. They will let you know your call, text and data roaming options. If you purchase a roaming plan, once you arrive in Kenya your phone will connect to a local service provider and you will be good to go. We recommend turning data off for any apps you do not need to use regularly, as these will drain your data package with automatic updates. Packages vary by provider so be sure to check the rates for local charges and making and receiving calls and texts internationally.
Alternatively you can purchase a local SIM card upon arrival in Kenya. You will need to show your passport, which will be scanned or photocopied, along with your address in Kenya. SIM cards expire after a certain period of inactivity, usually within 3-6 months, so it is best to use all the pre-paid credit before returning home.