Our travel tips involves finding out about visas, health, safety, weather, currency and getting to and around Kenya.
US passport holders need a visa to enter Kenya, but they can get it at the airport or border crossing when they arrive in Kenya. If you want to plan ahead then you can apply for a visa in the US. Details and forms can be found on the Kenyan Embassy web site. Nationals from Commonwealth countries (including Canada and the UK) do not need a visa. Tourist visas are valid for 30 days. For up to date information see the Kenyan Embassy web site.
A single-entry visa costs USD $50and a multiple entry visa USD$100 If you are planning on visiting just Kenya, then a single-entry is all you need. If your plans include crossing over to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or visit the Serengeti, then you’ll need a multiple-entry visa if you wish to re-enter Kenya again.
Health and Immunizations
No immunizations are required by law to enter Kenya if you are travelling directly from Europe or the US. If you are travelling from a country where Yellow Fever is present you will need to prove you have had the innoculation.
Several vaccinations are highly recommended, they include:
* Yellow Fever
* Hepatitis A
It is also recommended that you are up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccinations. Contact a travel clinic at least 3 months before you plan to travel. Here’s a list of travel clinics for US residents.
There’s a risk of catching malaria pretty much everywhere you travel in Kenya. The highlands used to be a low-risk area, but even there you have to be careful and take precautions. Kenya is home to the chloroquine-resistant strain of malaria as well as several others. Make sure your doctor or travel clinic knows you are traveling to Kenya (don’t just say Africa) so s/he can prescribe the right anti-malarial medication. Tips on how to avoid malaria will also help.
In general people are extremely friendly in Kenya and you will be humbled by their hospitality. But, there is real poverty in Kenya and you will soon realise that you are far richer and more fortunate than most local people you meet. You will probably attract your fair share of souvenir hawkers and beggars, but try and take the time to meet ordinary people going about their day to day business too. The experience will be worth it. Don’t be afraid to step out of that tour bus, just take some precautions.
Basic Safety Rules for Travelers to Kenya
* Make a copy of your passport and keep it in your luggage.
* Don’t walk on your own at night in the major cities or on empty beaches.
* Don’t wear jewelery.
* Don’t carry too much cash with you.
* Wear a money belt that fits under your clothes.
* Don’t carry a lot of camera equipment especially in the major cities.
* Beware of thieves posing as police officers.
Roads in Kenya aren’t very good. Potholes, road blocks, goats and people tend to get in the way of vehicles. Avoid driving a car or riding a bus at night because potholes are difficult to see and so are other vehicles especially when they are missing their headlights, a fairly common occurrence. If you are renting a car, keep the doors and windows locked while driving in the major cities. Car-jackings occur fairly regularly but may not end in violence as long as you comply with demands made.
In 1998 an attack on the US Embassy in Nairobi left 243 people dead and over a 1000 injured. In November 2002 a car bomb exploded, killing 15 people outside of a hotel near Mombasa. Both attacks are thought to have been caused by Al-Qaeda. While these are scary statistics you can still go and enjoy your safari or the beach in Mombasa. After all, tourists haven’t stopped going to New York city and security has improved in Kenya since 2002. For more information on terrorism check with your Foreign Office or Department of State for the latest warnings and developments.
When to Go
There are two rainy seasons in Kenya. A short rainy season in November and a longer one that usually lasts from the end of March in to May. It doesn’t necessarily get cold, but the roads can become impassable. Here are the average weather conditions for Nairobi and Mombasa.
If you are on safari you can usually see more animals during the dry season as they congregate around the waterholes. If you wish to plan your trip around the annual migration of the wildebeest you should go between the end of July – September.
Train services operate between Voi and Moshi (Tanzania) and between Nairobi and Kampala (Uganda). Travelers should check beforehand as these rail services may be subject to disruption. For more information contact Kenya Railways, PO Box 30121, Nairobi (tel: (20) 221 211; fax: (20) 340 049).
The main crossing points from Tanzania are at Lunga Lunga and Namanga, with smaller posts at Isebania and Taveta. Some direct coach services operate. From Uganda there are crossing points at Buisa and Malaba. Note that at Malaba, the Kenyan and Ugandan customs posts are about 1km (0.6 miles) apart and no transport between them is available. For all road frontier crossings, it is advisable to contact the Kenya AA, PO Box 40087, Embakasi, Nairobi (tel: (20) 825 060-6; fax: (20) 825 068/119) prior to departure from the country of origin for up-to-date information concerning insurance requirements and conditions.
The following goods may be imported into Kenya by passengers over 16 years of age without incurring customs duty:
200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 225g of tobacco; one bottle of alcoholic beverages; 568 ml of perfume.
Firearms and ammunition require a police permit. Pets require a good health certificate, a rabies certificate and an import permit.
The import of fruit, plants, seeds, children’s toys and imitation firearms. The export of gold, diamonds and wildlife skins or game trophies not obtained from the authorized Kenyan government department is also prohibited.
Kenya Airways operates an extensive network of flights, which includes scheduled services to Eldoret, Kisumu (on the shore of Lake Victoria), Lamu Island, Lockichogio, Malindi and Mombasa. Air Kenya offers scheduled flights from Nairobi to Amboseli, Kiwayu, Lamu, Malindi, Masai Mara, Mombasa, Nanyuki and Samburu. Air Kenya also operates into all of Kenya’s game parks. Regional Air also operates from Nairobi. There are also private airlines operating light aircraft to small airstrips. Planes can be chartered and are useful for transport into game parks.
Local ferries run between Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu. For details, contact local authorities and tour operators. It is also possible to hire a traditional Kenyan sailing boat (dhow) in Lamu, Malindi and Mombasa. This is a very basic form of sea travel which requires travelers to take their own food and drinking water.
Kenya Railways Corporation runs passenger trains between Mombasa and Nairobi; trains generally leave in the evening and arrive the following morning after a journey of around 13 to 14 hours. There are also branches connecting Taveta and Kisumu to the passenger network. There is a daily train in each direction on the Nairobi–Kisumu route, and also an overnight service (travel time – approximately 14 hours). Trains are sometimes delayed, but most of the rolling stock is modern and comfortable, and most trains have restaurant cars. There are three classes: first class is excellent, with two-berth compartments, wardrobe, etc; second class is more basic but comfortable; third is basic. The dining-car service on the Nairobi–Mombasa route is very highly regarded. Sleeping compartments should be booked in advance. Sexes are separated in first and second class. Children under three years of age travel free. Children between three and 15 years of age pay half fare. For further information contact Kenya Railways (see address in Travel – International section).
Bus: Nairobi and Mombasa have efficient bus systems. Single tickets are sold (by conductors), but monthly bus passes are also available from the Kenya Bus Offices in the city center. There are also unregulated Matatu, 12- to 25-seat light pick-ups and minibuses. These are often severely overloaded and badly driven and therefore should be used with caution. Taxi: Dial a Cab, Jatco and Kenatco run fleets of taxis and these are usually very reliable. The older yellow-band taxis do not have meters, so fares should be agreed in advance. A 10 per cent tip is expected. Taxis cannot be hailed in the street.