General information about Kenya

Airports/Sea Ports

.. JKIA: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi)

.. MBA: Moi International Airport (Mombasa)

.. Wilson Airport (Nairobi)

.. Kenya’s main sea port is in Mombasa.


Kenya has a modern banking system. The major banks include Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered, Kenya Commercial Bank, and CitiBank. Most major banks have automated teller machines (ATMs). However, not all banks have networks in the countryside, and it is advisable to get cash from the major cities or from the airports, where all major banks are represented. Most commercial banks are generally open from 09h00 to 15h00 Monday to Friday, and from 09h00 to 11h00 on Saturday.



Nairobi stands at 1,700 metres above sea level. Due to the proximity to the equator, sunrise occurs daily between 06.00hrs and 06.30hrs while sunset takes place 12 hours later. Temperatures will typically range from comfortably warm to hot, especially at mid-day. Evenings can be surprisingly chilly. The weather in Kenya is fairly consistent, and the temperatures rarely varies much between day temperatures of 25º C and night temperatures of 10º C in the interior, and between day temperatures of 30º C and night temperatures of 15º C at the coast – which has a high level of humidity.

The evenings and early mornings can be quite cool, and some of the areas, which stand at over 2000 metres above sea level, have both chilly and humid nights. There are two rainy seasons; the “long” rains between April and June, and the “short” rains between November and the middle of December. Rain can occur even in the driest months, and heavy rains occur frequently in Kenya from March onwards. Even during the rains, the weather can be pleasant, with rain occurring in the early morning and late in the afternoon or evening. The coldest months are July and August, while the hottest are January and February.


Casual and comfortable clothing is recommended. Dressing in layers is an effective method of compensating for the wide variations in temperatures. Some of the most practical items to pack are: Shorts and cotton tee-shirts, swimming suit, comfortable walking shoes, safari clothes – casual, light and neutral coloured cotton clothes. A jersey or jacket is needed for evenings and early mornings, as it can be quite cold especially at high altitudes. For open-air vehicle game drives, warm clothes are highly recommended. At the coast, summer clothing is ideal. However, note that the population there is mainly Muslim, and in the town centres and Muslim villages, it is not advisable for the ladies to wear tight or revealing clothing that could be considered offensive to the Muslim religion. Your attire is a key part of your non-verbal presentation. Your clothing should always show respect for local traditions. For dinner at the Mount Kenya Safari Club and in some restaurants in the cities, note that the dress code is a bit more formal, and will not admit diners dressed in jeans, tee-shirts or sports shoes. Some other items that you could bring along include; a hat, sunscreen, lip balm, a pair of binoculars, a camera, batteries for electronic equipment, a flashlight or head lamp, a money belt or neck pouch (for wearing under your clothes).


Distances are given in kilometres – km, while temperatures are given in degrees Celsius – 0C.

.. 1 mile = 1.62 kilometres

.. 200C = 68 0C.

Credit Cards

Most major credit cards such as Master Card, Visa, American Express, Diner’s Club and their affiliates are widely accepted. Signs will be clearly displayed in places where credit cards are accepted.


The official currency is the Kenya Shilling (Kshs) which is divided into 100 cents.
Bank notes currently available are Kshs1,000, Kshs500, Kshs200, Kshs100, Kshs50,and Kshs20.
Coins are Kshs40, Kshs20, Kshs10, Kshs5, and Kshs1. Most establishments accept Visa or Master Card. Traveller’s cheques are recommended for covering any incidental costs during the safari, although they are not readily accepted by the Curio vendors and other small traders.

Customs and Excise

Personal effects, film and cameras may be imported temporarily free of duty. However, professional video equipment, tape recorders, radios, musical instruments and souvenirs from other countries may require a customs bond to ensure re-exportation. Baggage is normally inspected by customs officials on arrival and departure. Please strictly adhere to baggage limitations as advised by the airline, as excess baggage charges can be quite expensive

Disabled Travellers

Few areas of interest and accommodations are designed to cater for the needs of the disabled traveller. However, if you contact the facilities in advance, many establishments would be happy to make your stay with them as comfortable as possible.

Drinking Water

In general, avoid drinking tap water. Mineral water is available in bottles for purchase throughout. On safari, rooms are provided with flasks of filtered and purified water. The ice served in the hotels is prepared with filtered, treated water, and is safe.

Driving/ Road Travel

Vehicles are available for hire in the main cities. Visitors must be in possession of a valid nternational driver’s licence. Driving is on the left side of the road and one always gives way to vehicles approaching from the right. Seat belts must be worn at all times. The use of cellular phones while driving is illegal. Road maps can be bought in bookstores, the Automobile Association and tourist information centres.


The voltage is 240 volts, AC and plugs with three round or square pins. Adaptors are available at hotel receptions. A small deposit is required as security when you borrow the adaptor, which is refundable.

While on safari, most hotels use generators which function only in the morning, and at night, but the rooms are equipped with flashlights and candles. Some hotels do not have sockets in the rooms. The guide or the hotel can arrange for the charging of your video batteries or mobile phones.

Emergency Numbers

.. Ambulance: 999
.. Fire Brigade: 999
.. Flying Doctors Service: 020-336 886
.. Police Headquarters: 020-335 124
• 020-240 000


Firearms need a special permit which must be obtained in advance.

Foreign Exchange

Although you will need some cash with you for personal expenses, it is wiser to bring most of your money in travellers’ cheques. It is recommended for visitors to convert the equivalent of 100 Euros per person and preferably into notes of small denominations. Money can be changed easily at airports, hotels, banks and foreign exchange (forex) bureaux. The exchange rate offered is clearly indicated and assistance is professional and is accustomed to performing international transactions. Banks and forex bureaux offer more favourable rates than hotels. Avoid changing money in the street with money vendors, as they are operating illegally.


As Kenya enjoys a healthy, invigorating climate, visitors need feel no concern for their general health during their stay. However, malaria is endemic in certain areas and anti-malaria medication should be taken according to your doctor’s or pharmacist’s instructions.

The African sun is hot and visitors should not over-indulge. Wear a good hat, lots of sunscreen and take time to acclimatize. Use mosquito nets and insect repellents, especially in the evenings, and avoid getting bitten even if you are taking anti-malaria tablets.

In case of any medical emergency, your hotel will have a doctor on call, or will have the medicine you may require. Visitors requiring special medication should pack sufficient supplies in their hand luggage. Chemist shops are well stocked, but the same generic medication may not be readily available.

Hospitals & Clinics

Medical services are fairly good in Nairobi and other major centres. If you require your own personal specialized medication, you should bring it with you on your trip. Medical treatment and hospital fees must be paid direct. Special travel insurance is recommended. Most hotels have a list of doctors, whose names may also be found in the medical section of telephone directories. Some of the hospitals and clinics are Aga Khan Hospital, Kenyatta National Hospital, Mater Hospital, Nairobi Hospital, MP Shah Hospital, Getrudes Children’s Hospital and Nairobi Women’s Hospital.


We would strongly recommend that tourists take out a temporary tourist membership of The Flying Doctors’ Society of Africa, if they are not already covered by their international insurance. In case of serious illness or injury, the Flying Doctors’ Society will provide emergency treatment and air transportation to the nearest hospital. Please note that enrolment does not include the cost of medical expenses incurred.


The official language in Kenya is English which is the commercial language as well as the language of instruction in all educational institution. The national language is Kiswahili, with a host of other local languages spoken.


Most hotels, game lodges and safari camps offer a 24-hour inexpensive laundry service.


The meal timings in the hotels are usually as follows:

.. Continental Breakfast: 07h00 – 09h30
.. Buffet Lunch: 12h30 – 14h30
.. Afternoon Tea and Coffee: 16h00 – 18h00
.. Dinner 19h30 – 21h30

The standard check-out time is 10h00, hence rooms may not normally be ready for occupancy until 12h00. Should an early arrival be anticipated, please reserve rooms from the preceding night. Day rooms up to 18h00 are usually available and payable directly, please liaise with the Hotel reception on the preceding evening.

Mountain Climbing

No special mountaineering skills are necessary for climbing Mount Kenya but, due to the high altitudes involved, the climb should not be undertaken unless climbers are fit and well-exercised. Climbers should have a physical check-up and start a fitness training programme at least 1 month before the climb. In Kenya, a little amount of equipment is available from the base hotels and recommended kit-lists can be provided on request.

Park Entrance Fees

Park entrance fees, determined by Kenya Wildlife Services and/or local authorities, are payable on arrival at all national parks and game reserves in Kenya. The fees vary from park to park. The rates for residents and non-residents are different and these will be clearly displayed at the park entrance. If these are not included in your safari package, please ensure you obtain a receipt as proof of payment, as inspections are undertaken now and then.


There is no shortage of the more usual film throughout Kenya, although it can be expensive in some places. Visitors are advised to bring plenty of supplies, especially where specialist film is concerned. Please note that one may only get out of the vehicle at designated points during the game drives. However, all safari vehicles are fitted with roof hatches for unobstructed viewing of wildlife and scenery. Sand or bean bags are recommended for use as camera rests. To get good shots of wildlife, a telephoto or zoom lens is recommended. Consider bringing a back-up camera in case your camera fails on the trip. Extra batteries are essential. Lens paper and a brush are also highly recommended due to the omnipresent dust on safari. When you are not shooting, keep your camera in a dust-proof case to protect it from dust.

Photographic supplies may be found in the hotel gift shops during the safari; however the selection is limited and often sold at an elevated price. Taking photographs at airports, near police or military installations, of policemen, the President or government ministers and/or their respective entourages, the national flag, the State House, state lodges, soldiers, prisons and prisoners etc., is prohibited.

Out of respect for the local communities, please seek your guide’s advice before taking any photos of people. In particular, Maasai people have particular concerns about photography. They know that professional photographers have profited from selling their images, and they will often ask for money in exchange for you taking their picture. Try to set a clear understanding before photographing people, even from a distance.

Public Holidays

If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following day (Monday) will automatically be a public holiday as well.

.. Jan 01 New Year’s Day
.. Friday before Easter Sunday Good Friday
<Variable Holiday> Easter Sunday
.. Day after Easter Sunday Easter Monday
.. May 01 Labour Day
.. Jun 01 Madaraka Day
.. Oct 20 Mashujaa Day
.. Dec 12 Jamhuri (Independence) Day
.. Dec 25 Christmas Day
.. Dec 26 Boxing Day

Restaurant & Food

During the safari, all meals are taken in the hotels. In Nairobi, generally only breakfast is included in the pricing of the hotel and lunch and dinner are billed separately. Drinks are usually not included. However, this varies from hotel to hotel and all the information will be provided before check-in. Most of the hotels have both local and imported beers and wines, liquors, fruit juices and refreshments available.

Fruit and salads are safely prepared. Vegetarian meals and special diets are also catered for in all major hotels. It is suggested that one informs the reception on arrival at each hotel.

Safety and Security

Normal precautions as in any other destination worldwide should be taken. Keep a close watch on handbags, wallets and cameras when walking in crowded places and avoid walking in narrow alleys or isolated streets especially at night. Only use taxis from reputable taxi companies at night. The hotel reception should provide you with the necessary information. Place all valuables in safety deposit boxes at hotels and lodges, and only carry small amounts of cash.

Do not wear jewellery or valuables that bring attention to yourself. Never leave valuables on show in an unattended car or tour bus. Do not leave your vehicle unlocked.

Please leave all valuables (jewellery, travel documents, cameras etc) in the safe or safety deposit box of the hotel you are staying at, and don’t leave anything of value lying around your hotel room.

Safari Etiquette

.. Observe the animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities.
.. Loud talking on a game drive can frighten the animals.
.. Never attempt to attract an animal’s attention.
.. Do not imitate animal sounds, clap your hands, pound on the vehicle or throw objects at the animals. Respect your driver/guide’s judgement about your proximity to the animals and do not insist that they take the vehicle closer so that you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned meal.
.. Never attempt to feed or approach a wild animal. This is especially important near lodges or in campsites where animals have become accustomed to human visitors.
.. While on walking safaris, stick to established trails to preserve grass and other plants.
.. Do not pick any vegetation, or remove any item of biological interest, including egg shells, feathers and bones of any kind.
.. Litter left on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds. Where other visitors have littered, consider alerting the officials or safely picking up the litter yourself. Local park rangers will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
.. Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a bush fire would cause unthinkable damage to the animals.


Kenya has a lot to offer and many items can be bought, either for personal use or as souvenirs and gifts. Some items of special interest include tea, coffee, wood carvings, traditional African woven cloths, hand-woven carpets and mats, baskets, leather goods, gems and gemstone jewellery, batik artwork, and traditional – especially Maasai –

Most hotels also have gift shops that sell souvenirs, T-shirts, toiletries, etc. In most big stores in towns, the prices are fixed. In craft markets and roadside curio shops, prices are negotiable. If this is your first experience at bargaining, do not worry – you will quickly find your own style. Your purchase decisions are very personal. You must use your judgement when deciding whether an item is worth the price being asked. Some advice would be; your opening offer should be well under the asking price; if you make an offer, you should be prepared to buy at that price; and finally, whatever price you pay is okay, as long as the item is worth that price to you. Happy shopping! Most shops are open from 08h30 to 18h00 from Monday to Saturday and some are even open on Sunday morning. Major supermarket chains such as Nakumatt and Uchumi are open from 08h30 to 20h30 Monday to Friday and on Sunday mornings. There is an open-air Maasai market in Nairobi during most days of the week at different venues – please request for information on venue. Don’t miss it!


Most of Kenya is now networked by automatic telephone exchanges provided by Telkom Kenya, with public telephone exchanges in even the most remote places. Some rural areas, however, still have manual exchanges. To make a call in such areas, dial the exchange code and wait for the operator, then state the desired telephone number.

Cellular phone coverage is provided by Kencell Communications Ltd. and Safaricom Ltd. Most of the major towns in Kenya are covered. International roaming on your cellular phone is also possible in Kenya.

When calling international to Kenya, dial +254 followed by the area code prefix (the first 0 in the area code should not be dialled) and then the local number. For calls from Kenya, the international access code is 000. When calling within Kenya, dial the area code, including the 0, and then the local number. The area code for Nairobi is 020. Kenya area codes and other country codes can be found in Kenyan telephone directories.

Most of the hotels have either a conventional telephone or a satellite phone and it is possible to make international calls from almost anywhere in Kenya. Major towns also have business centres offering email and Internet access.


Kenya time is GMT + 3 hours.


In Kenya, there is a custom of giving tips for good service. A tip is an indication of appreciation on the part of the customer for the services given and should only be given when the service was up to expectations, and is paid after all the services have been completed. It is never mandatory. The general recommendation is to tip in accordance with the level and quality of service provided. Remember that an excessive tip could make it difficult for the next customer.

A guideline for each traveller would be as follows:

.. Porters at the airports, hotels, lodges, etc. – US$ 1 per porter;
.. In restaurants – approximately 10% of your bill;
.. Safari drivers and guides US$5 per person per day.

Visa Requirements

Your passport must be valid until 3 months after your anticipated travel in Kenya. You must have a blank page for each country you will visit. Most visitors require visas with the exception of citizens of certain countries of the Commonwealth or otherwise. It is advisable to obtain visas in advance, from Embassies and High Commissions as several airlines insist on them prior to departure. They can also be obtained at the point of entry into Kenya.

The regulations vary depending on nationality and country of origin, and requirements may change, so you are advised to contact the appropriate Kenyan diplomatic or consular authority or tourist office before finalising your travel arrangements.