GENERAL INFORMATION ON KENYA
All travellers must have current passports valid for 60 days after the expected departure date from Africa along with yellow fever and polio vaccination.
The visa can be obtained through a Kenya embassy in advance of your trip or upon arrival at the airport/entry point.
During your safari to Kenya you will cross several weather zones: Nairobi – cool and dry, Mt. Kenya – chilly, Masai Mara – pleasant weather but chilly during the early morning game drives. Our rainy season is from November – December and April – June that involves short light showers that stop within an hour or so. Please prepare your clothes accordingly. Informality is the keynote. Be prepared for cool evenings at higher altitudes and on safari, try to wear neutral colours as much as possible. Green, beige and khaki are best not to startle the game. A hat and a pair of sunglasses are advisable for protection against the sun. Laundry can be done at most lodges. Light comfortable shoes are important.
Facts you need to know about Kenya
- The country is named after Mt. Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa and the only mountain in the world lying astride the equator with ice on its peaks.
- Nairobi is a Masai word meaning ‘place of cool waters’. It was initially used as grazing land by the Masai since the water there rarely dried up.
- ‘Hakuna Matata’ is a famous Kenyan song sang in many versions and the title means ‘no worries’, it was used in the animated movie Lion King.
The Capital city of Kenya is Nairobi.
Kenya is 3 hours ahead of GMT.
The currency of Kenya is the Kenya Shilling (KES).
Kiswahili is the National language and English is widely spoken.
Learn to speak Kiswahili!
A few words go a long way in making things easier for you in a new country…so here goes!!!
Jambo – Hello
Habari! – How are you?
Mzuri Sana – I am fine, thank you!
Sisemi Kiswahili – I can’t speak Swahili
Hapana – No
Ndiyo – Yes
Asante Sana – Thank you very much!
Kwaheri – Good bye!
Bia Baridi – Cold beer!
Kenyan food is an amalgamation of various cuisines. The Portuguese introduced maize, bananas, pineapples, sweet potatoes and cassava. The Europeans brought white potatoes, cucumber and tomatoes. The British imported Indian cooks to prepare dishes like curries, chutneys and chapattis that form a delightful part of traditional Kenyan food.
Some of the staple local food is –
Nyama Choma – Meaning literally ‘roasted meat’ goat, beef, mutton or chicken.
Ugali – Much loved staple food of Kenya. It is a stiff porridge of maize flour.
Mandaazi – Popular sweet dish of Africa quite similar to dough nuts, it’s made of flour, sugar and eggs.
Entertainment & Night Life
Nairobi offers the most choices for entertainment in Kenya, with an assortment of casinos, nightclubs, and movie theatres. The main theatres offer Hollywood features, with an assortment of Bollywood films showing in many of the cinemas. Nairobi and Mombasa both offer a good selection of dance clubs. Some clubs offer live entertainment in Nairobi, otherwise most feature discos with a DJ. Local theatres are located in Nairobi and Mombasa, providing productions of popular plays. Many hotels and lodges provide evening entertainment. Often this will include traditional tribal dancing.
Shopping in Kenya is dominated by souvenir sellers. Handmade items may be purchased at market stalls, roadside stands, and from street peddlers.
Nairobi has an endless variety of places to shop. The City Market, on Muindi Mbingu Street is a good source of inexpensive souvenirs. Bargains may be found at street stalls on many of the major thoroughfares, with local traders offering an assortment of goods.
There are also a number of department stores and shopping malls within Nairobi.
When traveling around, you will come across a variety of arts and crafts, many of them reflecting regional traditions and designs.
What you will find most are textiles, batiks, soapstone & wood carvings. Bead-work and traditional utensils made out of gourds are also very popular, but Kenya’s most important artisan traditions are ironwork, metal jewellery and basket ware. They go back centuries in some communities!
The Masai bead-work jewellery is particularly popular, with traditional and modern range of designs geared more and more to the tourist market. The leather/beaded bracelets can be worn by women and men and are great gifts to bring home.
Wooden carvings tend to come from the Kamba people who are specialized in them; there are people, animals, bowls and spoons to napkin rings.
Soapstone art is mostly produced by the Kisii carvers with beautiful paintings on small little boxes, chess sets, plates and little animal & people statues. If you hold them close enough to your nose, you can SMELL the soapstone!
Banana fibre picture, tribal masks and wire toys can easily be found by the big open markets, curios stalls and street vendors.
As far as for the textile; they are absolutely wonderful, colourful with endless different designs, light to pack and fantastic gifts and souvenirs to bring home.
The Kikoys, which make excellent scarves, table cloths or bed-covers
The Khanga, which can be worn as a skirt, headscarf or baby sling
And a Shuka that can be a red piece of cloth, or now, in more modern times, a red blanket, sometimes with checker designs.
Electric Plug Details
The standard electrical voltage is 220 – 240V, 50Hz. 3 plug rectangular sockets are most common.
Air: Kenya has a good network of domestic flights. These airlines serve the coast, major game parks and Western Kenya.
Taxis: In Nairobi, Mombasa and other large towns, taxis are widely available, and convenient. Taxis are often parked in the street around hotels and tourist areas. Nairobi taxis are usually marked with a yellow line along each side. Taxis are not metered, and a price should be agreed with the driver before departure.
Matatu: The most common form of public transport in Kenya is the Matatu, which has become a national icon and a large part of Kenyan modern culture. A Matatu is a minibus, usually a Nissan.
Rail: Kenya has a railway connection between Nairobi – Mombasa and Nairobi – Kisumu. The overnight Nairobi – Mombasa rail trip is the most popular rail route for visitors.
Luggage: Please pack in a couple of small soft duffel bags (NOT in hard suitcases), to facilitate loading in the small luggage compartments of the light aircraft that fly you from place to place. Your hand luggage should include your camera equipment, toiletries, medicines and a change of under clothes.
On internal flights, the total luggage limit, including hand luggage, is 33 pounds/15kgs per person.
Clothing: What to pack?
Kenya is casual. Please bring neutral colors. Remember, as there is lots of dust, khaki is always good. The best method of dress is layering. Early morning and evening game runs call for a sweater/fleece or windbreaker over a cotton long-sleeved shirt. A T-shirt or short-sleeved cotton shirt is good for mid-day. Hats are a must. Cotton or poly trousers, shorts, sneakers or comfortable hiking shoes are recommended.
Evenings are cool around the campfire but casual. A fleece with a light-weight turtle neck and jeans are perfect. Safari style jackets/vests are convenient for photographers with their many pockets for film, lenses etc.
For the Day:
- 2 to 3 pairs of shorts, 5 to 6 cotton shirts, and bathing suits.
- Enough underwear, socks and hankies.
- Sunscreen, 2 pairs comfortable walking shoes, hats or caps.
For the Evening – warm clothes for the cool:
- 1 safari jacket, or 1 light weight jacket, or a fleece jacket or a windbreaker, 2 long sleeve shirts.
- 2 pairs casual trousers.
Also remember to bring:
- Insect repellent (for the body) any special medications or prescriptions (bear in mind that you may not find your prescriptions in Kenya so bring enough).
- Extra pair of prescription glasses and sunglasses, contact lenses – as it is dusty brings ample cleaning solutions.
- Small, lightweight flashlight, lotions, Kleenex, moisturizers, chopstick.
- Personal cosmetics, toiletries, scarves, money belt, binoculars – extremely important.
Dos and Don’ts while on safari
- Do pronounce the name of the country KEHN-yah (KEEN-yah, which is the old British colonial pronunciation, may offend residents).
- Don’t photograph the people or their homes and livestock without asking permission first, and don’t be offended if you’re asked to pay for the privilege—it’s customary in some areas, particularly with the Masai who expect payment.
- Don’t encourage your driver to go off road on safari to get closer to the animals. Some will happily do this for the promise of a tip, but it is against national park rules and destroys the environment for the animals.
- Do stock up on insect repellent and general medicines in case you suffer from minor ailments while you are out on safari without access to a pharmacy or a doctor.
- Do take more camera film or memory cards than you think you’ll need. There are great photographic opportunities on safari, and most people get carried away taking photographs of animals. If you run out, it is very expensive to buy film or cards in the national park lodges.
- If you are going on a Safari, watch your clothing choices. Bright colours (such as whites and blues) attract wild animals as well as insects.
When on safari, please do not get out of your vehicle, unless you are told it is safe to do so. Do not attempt to go for walks outside the lodge premises, when staying in game lodges/camps.