We all know how difficult it can be to piece together useful information on our travel destinations to help us plan our travels ahead of time. While there are plenty of sources of travel information on the web, it often takes time to sort through them and pick and choose what is truly necessary information.
Let’s face it, Africa is a long journey away from where most of us are based. Africa is also very large, making the task of gathering good information for your travel plans that more challenging. One of Africa’s most famous destinations is none other than Kenya — the country some might refer to as the origin of safaris.
Whether your travels to Kenya are motivated by an eagerness to spot wildlife on safaris, or by your curiosity of its culture, rest assured that this travel guide will help you plan your trip to Kenya and make the absolute best out of it!
Before You Go
There are certain crucial elements that one must prepare before making the trip of a lifetime to Kenya. To help you along, here’s a breakdown of the most important aspects of your trip to consider before you go.
When it comes to price, Kenya isn’t known as the cheapest African destination. If you are on a tighter budget, Tanzania and Zanzibar may be a better choice, as they are gentle on the pocket but still offer a great African holiday. However, despite being slightly pricier than many other African destinations, Kenya is still considered affordable.
The 2017 Africa and Middle East Backpacker Index outlined the Daily Backpacker Index for Nairobi, Kenya to be at US$43.29 per day. This is based on estimates on the variables below:
- A night stay at the least expensive hotel in the city
- Two public transportation rides per day
- One paid/famous attraction per day
- Three “budget” meals per day
- Three cheap, local beers each day
More often than not, travelers come to Kenya to see animals in their natural habitat. Animal population is extremely dense in Kenya, so much so that even its urban capital of Nairobi has its own game reserve. If you are planning on experiencing a safari, keep in mind that they can be quite pricey. Be sure to add this to your calculation of overall cost of travels.
If you are concerned about cost, great tips to use when planning a trip to Kenya include traveling during off-peak season, using public transportation and going on safaris in smaller reserves.
As with traveling to other countries, do ensure that your passport is valid up to six months after you leave Kenya. Visitors to Kenya are required to pay US$50 for a single entry visa that lasts up to three months. If Kenya isn’t your only destination in Africa, you can opt to apply for an East Africa Tourist visa for US$100, which will allow you to travel between Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda for up to 90 days.
Kenya’s official currency is the Kenya shilling (Ksh) and is available in 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 shillings. Be sure to bring along U.S. dollars along with shillings when you travel to Kenya, as many hotels and larger restaurants tend to quote prices in U.S. dollars.
While tipping is not mandatory in Kenya, porters and guides usually expect it. You can either tip your porters and guides directly or add it to a gratuity box that is usually present in most hotels and bigger establishments. When dining at restaurants, it is customary to leave a 10 percent tip.
Kenya falls within the yellow fever zone, which makes it essential that you receive a yellow fever vaccine. You will be asked to show your yellow fever vaccination card before you leave Kenya, so be sure to pack that!
Malaria is not an issue in Nairobi, but can become a problem in game reserves and along the coast of Kenya. Take along antimalarial medication with you, and dress appropriately to avoid mosquito bites.
On the Ground
Congratulations! You’ve moved on from planning your trip to actually setting foot in Kenya! This remarkable African country has much to offer travelers looking for an unforgettable experience.
There are several ways to get around during your stay in Kenya. Intercity travel by train is now possible with the newly launched modern commuter rail service. The service links Nairobi city with Athi River, Kitengela and Syokimau. If you are planning to travel long distances, the train may not be your best option as there are limited routes available. However, if you plan to head to Mombasa from Nairobi, there is an overnight train option available.
If you are looking for flexibility and control and have a bigger budget, opt for car hire. Kenya’s roads are paved and well maintained, making driving relatively easy and comfortable.
The cheapest and most convenient form of travel is by bus, good for both short and long distance travel within Kenya. Buses in Kenya are generally on time and reliable. If you’re looking for a more adventurous experience, hop on the matatu (privately owned minibuses) — they have erratic schedules with frequent stops and always guarantee a rowdy and fun ride with their loud music blasting through the speakers.
Food in Kenya
While in Kenya, take the opportunity to sample some of the country’s famous local delicacies. From irio to Kenyan bajias, Kenya is a hidden gem in terms of culinary delights!
Nyama Choma (Roasted Meat)
Kenya’s nyama choma is certainly a must-try when visiting the country, particularly because the locals view it in very high regard. Nyama choma means roasted meat. The most commonly used meat in in this dish is goat and beef, but chicken and fish can also be used. You can find various eateries across Kenya serving delectable nyama choma, but if you find yourself in Nairobi, make your way to Kenyatta Market, where you will find a line of stalls serving only the best roasted meat in town.
Matoke (Plantain Banana Stew)
Originally from Uganda, matoke is now a popular dish, especially in west Kenya. Matoke is made up of plantain bananas cooked with oil, onions, garlic, chilies, tomatoes and lemon juice. Meat is sometimes added to the pot. The bananas are left to cook until soft, resulting in a lovely dish that can be eaten with rice or ugali.
Where to Go in Kenya
Kenya is home to the safari tradition, with the first known safaris dating back to the 14th century. Safaris in Kenya have attracted many travelers over the years, including royalty, all wanting a taste of the African savannah.
Africa’s most popular reserve, the Maasai Mara, is located in Kenya and is home to the wildebeest migration, the great spectacle of animal migration that attracts those of us yearning to witness the amazing movement that as many as 2 million wildebeest make every year. Elephant enthusiasts would be delighted to make their way to Amboseli National Park, while bird lovers will find Lake Nakuru National Park an astounding scene with its sea of pink flamingos.
Beyond the savannah and wildlife, Kenya is also known for its amazing beaches. Thirty km (28 miles) south of Mombasa lies Diani Beach — an ideal haven for those seeking a little peace and tranquility amidst salty air. But Diani is not Kenya’s only seaside gem. Vipingo Beach near Kilifi is also a great escape, with its calm waters and isolated surroundings.