While the national language of Kenya is Kiswahili, English is the official language and is widely spoken and understood across East Africa.
Don't walk in apparently deserted areas, especially in and around the cities. It is preferable and usually more enjoyable to walk with company or in groups. Don't carry large sums of cash in your purse or pocket or display expensive jewelry. Be aware of the possibility of pick-pockets and bag snatchers in crowded areas. Nairobi is like any major city in the world be it New York, London or Paris. Don't leave money or valuables in a hotel room. Most hotels offer safety deposit box service, and ensure that you have adequate insurance coverage before leaving home.
While on Safari, always remember that the animals are wild, and hence keep your distance. It is illegal to feed any animal, make excessive noise to attract their attention, or deviate from designated roads for that closer photograph. Never get out of your vehicle except at designated points. Close all windows and zippers when you leave your room or tent and spray it with insect repellant.
Note: The best way to get the most out of your safari is to take an active interest in everything going on around you, not just the number of species you can see in the shortest possible time. Ask all the questions you can think of and take reference books on not only wildlife but birds, insects and trees and read up about everything you see.
Currency and banking:
The amount of money in any currency brought into the country is not limited. Only change your money at the hotels, in official banks and bureau de change. We don’t recommend you to change money on the street and especially at places such as the Namanga border. Several con artists still work in these areas and often cheat on rates or use fake notes in their dealings.
Note: Old US dollar notes (printed 1996 - 1999) are not acceptable in Kenya and should be avoided. Also, the exchange value for smaller notes ($5 to $20) is often less than the value for $50 and $100 bills.
Traveler's cheques are no longer preferred here as a mode of payment. This is because banks now charge a fee for depositing traveler's cheques and also delay their payment by more than two weeks.
It is advisable to change some small amount into local currency to use for tipping and buying curios. The currency in Kenya is the Kenya shillings and is divided into 100 cents and is available in notes of 1,000/-, 500/-, 200/-, 100/-, 50/- and 10/- shilling denominations as well as coins of 40/-, 20/-, 10/-, 5/- and 1/- shilling values and a coin of 50 cents (1/2 shilling).
Currency may feature photographs of one of the three presidents of Kenya. It is a serious offense to deface or destroy currency. There are also limitations as to the amount of Kenya currency that can be exported.
Shopping and bargaining:
Bargaining is particularly used in markets and curio shops. Requesting for the final best price is almost expected and starts off knowing you are being charged tourist prices and end up paying what you think the item is worth to you.
Do not purchase game skins, trophies or elephant hair bracelets. These items are prohibited as hunting was banned in 1976.
Power supply is 220/240 volt 50 cycle. Plugs are usually 13-amp 3 pin square (British type)
Kenya is considered to be a photographers dream destination. From panoramic scenery, wildlife and birds to people and vibrant ceremonies. Rich color and good low lighting conditions abound. Ask for permission before photographing local people. Your driver guide will assist you in this and will possibly help you agree on modeling fee. Do not take photographs of any official buildings such as airports; military installations, border posts or roadblocks. You are free to take photos of the Wildlife.
It is advisable to carry your cameras in dust-proof bags on safaris, especially in the dry season. Films are available in hotels and lodges but it is advisable to stock up in Nairobi as there is variety and at a fair cheap.
For more information on photography while on safari, visit Fashion & Travel Photography Blog
Taxis are available at a reasonable rate, but the rates are not fixed, therefore you should be able to negotiate before the start of the trip. However, hotels can arrange a chauffeur driven car on request. We can also provide transfers to your destination. Travel between Nairobi and Mombasa can be made by bus, scheduled train or flights.
Postal services are fairly well organized in Kenya and you should have no problem sending or receiving letters. Telegrams are less certain. All major hotels have phones & fax machines at the disposal of their guests as well as telex services. Both local and long-distance calls are metered on a time basis. (Note the surcharge at hotels is quite high, therefore it is advisable to purchase a local sim card for use in your cellular phone for local calls)
It is a common courtesy to tip your driver guide, and porter/waiters when on safari. The following list is a guide - as always you should tip based on your satisfaction with service as tipping is not a must.
Driver guide: US$5-10.00 per person per day
Porters / waiters / room stewards: US$2-3 per service
Packing list and other travel tips:
Assuming that your intend on traveling on safari during your stay in Africa, you should make every effort to pack your belongings into a soft sided duffel bag and one 'carry on' style bag for cameras, valuables and day trips. Chances are you will have limitations in your safari vehicle and, in some cases where and if you will use small aircraft on your itinerary, luggage is limited 15kgs / 33 pounds per person. If you plan on doing a lot of souvenir shopping, you might consider carrying another bag tucked in your suitcase to help judge your limits.
Note: If you are doing a lot of traveling and need to carry more than the suggested items, keep in mind that you may be required to leave them at the town hotel.
Advice: The customs and culture of East Africa, especially in coastal areas and Zanzibar are conservative. Revealing or very tight clothing should be avoided, never the less smart casual wear is recommended
Packing lists suggestion:
- At least one major credit card (ATM cards will work in most cities - but it's easier if connect your VISA/MC to your bank account for use in the automatic teller machine
- Money belt, or travel pouch (make sure the pouch hangs/clips inside your pants or shirt)
-Your flight tickets, itinerary & passports/visas
- Immunization records (Immunization Records are required for some countries)
- Sun Hat/cap, sunglasses, clip-ons for regular glasses
- Pick up many rolls of film before even getting to the airport, the price of film increases dramatically at the airports and overseas.
Don't forget to visit your doctor before you travel. You will probably receive inoculations and preventative medication for malaria. Make sure you bring these and a good supply of any medications you take on a regular basis with you. Make a list of any medications, including their strengths, and carry the list in a separate place in the event your bag gets lost, some of the things you may consider are:
- Basic stuff (band aids, gauze, tape, first-aid cream, pick up a kit from EMS, etc)
- Antibacterial hand gel (very useful when water is scarce)
- Personal prescription medications
- Pepto-bismol tablets, chewable (important) & Painkillers
- Imodium A-D or other diarrhea medicine
- Benadryl pills or other antihistamine & cold/flu medicine (important)
- Mosquito repellent & sunscreen (especially if you are visiting the coast)
- Mount Climbing: Glucose tablets (critical for the final summit push on Kilimanjaro and Kenya) and recommended prescribed medicines: dysentery antibiotic pills (Cipro), altitude pills for Kilimanjaro (Diamox).
- Manual shaver & shaving cream
- Deodorant stick (not aerosol)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss
- Shampoo and hair conditioner (in small leak proof bottles)
- Bar soap with soap bag/container
- Chapstick for dry lips
- Disposable contact lenses
Clothing is a matter of taste, and laundry service is provided at all hotels/lodges during the safari. Days are warm and nights are cool so dress accordingly. If you wish to purchase some special "safari" clothes, here is a recommended list:
- Wear tan, beige or light sage green clothing (these colours hide dust, don't look dirty).
- Comfortable sandals are all around great footwear, or tennis shoes are okay for beach and bush
- Use packing plastic smush bags to store sweaters/fleece, bulky clothing (these seal out the extra air and make sweaters more compact).
- 3 pairs of pants (2 for the field, 1 for evening)
- Long casual khaki button-down dress or skirt (okay for day wear & evening in the bush or lodge)
- 3 shirts (stone/light moss/sage-colored, not white colored) (2 for the field, 1 for evening)
- A number of under T-shirts, pairs of underwear, pairs of khaki-color cotton socks (enough to last the safari period, can wash these out).
- Fleece jacket for early morning/sunset game drives
- Bathing suit, bikini, swim goggles (white water rafting, swim at hotel/resort)
Know before you leave
- Double-check your airline reservation; make sure there have been no changes.
- Get vaccinations six weeks in advance if possible, a Yellow Fever certificate is necessary when visiting Zanzibar (you don't need the actual shot) - be sure to ask for one at the travel clinic.
- Buy trip insurance (for international medical/dental) from an independent trip insurance agency; be sure to get trip cancellation and medical evacuation coverage.
- Make sure you have flight insurance coverage (for lost luggage, delay, or cancellation) many credit card companies offer flight insurance if you purchase your ticket with the card.
- Personal effects (clothes, camera, etc) are normally covered on your renter's or home insurance - they will not be covered by trip or flight insurance - be sure to verify that you have coverage.
- Get entry Visas at least one month in advance, ensure passport is updated and will not expire while you are overseas.
- You may want to rent a powerful zoom lens for safari photos, 300-500mm lens is standard when taking game viewing photographs (1000mm and tripod needed for good bird pictures), also a good pair of binoculars and/or good zoom digital video camera if you wish.