Ultimate Kenya Travel Guide
Kenya is one of the premier destinations in Africa for travellers who seek to enjoy the scenic beauty and natures’ endowments that the region is blessed with.
It is also synonymous with beautiful wildlife and scenic natural attractions. I share with you the ultimate Kenya travel guide to Kenya. Lying on the eastern coast of Africa, Kenya tourism offers an extensive travel network pristine destination to suit any travellers’ needs.
The country borders Tanzania to the south, Uganda and Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the east. This is your ultimate guide to visiting one of East Africa’s gems.
It is divided into several regions, the great rift valley, central, coast, northern Kenya, eastern and western Kenya. The wide plains and savanna of the rift valley are the home of lions and other predators. Volcanic hot springs and geysers also exist in the valley.
The central highlands encompass three mountain ranges that include Mt. Kenya, the Aberdare and the Mau. This area is very fertile and is suitable for agriculture. Kenya tourism has tremendously grown and is today showing a rich variety of vibrant modern arts, music, theatre and dance.
Do You Need A Visa For Kenya?
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Malindi Airport service numerous international carriers included the national airline, Kenya Airways. The country has good connections to destinations throughout Europe, the Asia Pacific region, USA and Africa.
A Visa is required before entry into Kenya and is readily obtained at the airport upon arrival. You can also obtain one from the Kenyan embassies and high commission offices abroad before departure. Visas to Kenya are valid for up to 3 months and only allow one entry.
Communication and Internet
There is a well-developed communication system for both domestic and international services. Phone and internet are the most common means of communication in Kenya.
The internet, email and social media are popular communication options. Some hotels and major restaurants offer free Wi-Fi and telephone services. Kenya uses GSM network for mobile phones and key players are Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom.
If you want to travel short distances or take a one-time trip across the city or the suburbs, there are plenty of taxis such as BOLT and Uber that you can order via mobile applications.
There are also yellow stripped cabs where you pay upfront before riding to your destination. In Kenya, people drive on the left side of the road and all vehicles are right hand driven.
Business Hours and Banking Hours
Most businesses in Kenya are open from Monday to Friday through some trade on Saturday. Business hours are generally from 9 am to 5 pm closing for an hour over lunch (1.00 pm -2.00 pm).
In regards to currency exchange for local Kenya shillings, major banks are the best place to go. Major credit cards are widely accepted in Kenya. If you are unable to get to a bank, there are foreign exchange tellers at airports most camps, hotel and lodges.
Banking hours are generally from 9 am to 2 pm and run through Friday and some even operate on Saturday. The unit of currency is Kenya Shillings (Ksh). Currency notes are in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000.
Is Kenya Safe To Travel?
The tourism industry created a safety and communication centre under the Kenya Tourism Federation which is operated for 24 hours a day to monitor safety. Muggings and incidences of armed robber can occur at any time, particularly in Nairobi and Mombasa.
I would advise visitors to be alert at all times. You should avoid walking around after dark especially in isolated areas. While at the coast avoid going to empty beaches after dark.
Do not carry valuables in public places especially on crowded streets of Nairobi such as Tom Mboya Street, Ronald Ngala Street and downtown Nairobi. Do not carry credit cards or prepaid cards unless you must. There are instances where victims have been forced by thieves to go to ATM lobbies to withdraw cash.
Beware of thieves masquerading as police officers. Always ask for identification. You must also obtain a valid work permit before taking up any paid or volunteer work in Kenya.
If you do not get the valid documentation you risk getting a fine, being sentenced to jail or being deported back to your country. Off course this all depends on the nature of the offence.
Kenya’s culture blends diverse tribes, traditions and religions into one beautiful, well-woven tapestry. These traditions complement each other while incorporating the modern influences of globalization- resulting in a vibrant cultural spirit that is uniquely Kenya.
Kenya has 42 tribes with different languages and dialects. Kenyan tourism has made the Masaai and Samburu the most popular because of their long preserved culture.
When you mention sports and Kenya a large number of world-class long-distance runners immediately comes to mind. These are the likes of Eliud Kipchoge who broke a record recently by running a marathon in just under 2 hours and Vivian Cheruiyot among others.
Kenyans have generally performed well in international track and field competitions. Other popular sporting activities in Kenya include rugby, football, cricket, basketball and ladies volleyball. Kenya has two international sports centres the Nyayo National Stadium and Kasarani Sports Complex.
Where To Stay In Kenya For Safaris
Kenya safaris offer travellers a wide range of accommodation options from budget hostels to five-star luxury hotels. From pitching your tent in the wilderness to relaxing on a private beachside villa to the recently introduced Airbnb the possibilities are endless.
Your choice of accommodation for your stay in Kenya should be dictated by your travel budget, but also your interests. For some travellers, sleeping on canvas in the Kenyan bush by an open fire and surrounded by the spectacular night noises of the wild animals is a once in an l lifetime experience that has greater value than the most costly hotel or lodge.
Vaccinations For Kenya
It is advisable to travel with a small first aid kit that includes Band-Aids, thermometer, sunscreen, oral rehydration sachets, anti-diarrhoea medication, antiseptics, and water purification tablets and if you happen to fall sick in Nairobi, there are many hospitals that you can afford.
The rates range from budget standard while others are of middle range and first-class service. There are also several vaccinations that you need to get before travelling to Kenya.
It is recommended that you take the following vaccinations before your travel to Kenya: Yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, polio, measles, mumps and rubella. These are especially mandatory if you are travelling with children under 5 years.
Wine and Dine
Dining in Kenya is relatively affordable. Many hotels and lodges offer an elaborate buffet spread to satisfy your taste. Dishes served in restaurants include African, European, Italian, Asian, Chinese, American and much more.
Tropical fruits and fresh seafood come from the coast a region that is popular for Swahili cuisine, a blend of Middle Eastern and African cooking.
Nyama Choma which means roasted meat is popular in most hotels and restaurants. Nairobi’s carnivore is known for Nyama Choma and game meat. Ugali which is maize flour cooked in plain boiling water is Kenya’s staple food.
What Should You Pack For Kenya
Kenya’s hottest months are from December to March. The coastal region has very humid during April and May. Kenya also has two main rainy seasons; the short rains and long rains.
Pack light clothes as Kenya is generally a warm country. Except for the months between June and September where you experience cold. Wet months start between April and June. You can also shop in Kenya and get inspiration for the beauty of Africa. See more inspiration on what to wear in Nairobi with the Ankara outfit inspiration.
So if you are travelling during this time pack clothes for the rainy season. If you are planning on travelling to the coastal area pack summer clothes. Items such as sunscreen, shorts and sundresses will come in handy.
The short rains normally occur from late October through November and the long rains from March through early June in the western, rift valley and Lake Victoria region there is no dry season. Although rainfall is lowest in January and February. However, rainfall is seldom continuous over long periods.
Towns to Visit in Kenya
Nairobi is a charming cosmopolitan city, blessed with most wildlife in the world making it a great safari destination. Nairobi is the largest city and as well as the capital city of Kenya. It has a well-developed infrastructure with modern equipment and systems.
The Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) is one of Africa’s largest stock exchanges and is officially recognized as an overseas stock exchange by the London Stock Exchange. NSE ranks fourth in African terms of trading volumes and fifth in terms of Market Capitalization. Nairobi is an awesome city to visit. Download a seven day Nairobi Itinerary here
Kisumu is situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest and the world’s second-largest freshwater lake. The city has one of the most breathtaking sunsets. It is the principal lake port of Kenya, the third-largest city and the commercial centre for a farm region.
Manufactures include refined sugar, frozen fish, textiles, beer and processed sisal. The city is developing a tourism industry with the attraction of Lake Victoria and nearby wildlife. Kisumu is popular for freshwater fish (tilapia) and famous for its Benga music.
Attractions in the city include Kibuye Market, the Kisumu Museum, an impala sanctuary, a bird sanctuary, Hippo Point, the nearby Ndere Island National Park and Kit Mikayi a weeping rock.
Nakuru is currently the fourth-largest urban centre in the country. It lies about 1850m above sea level. Tourism is an important economic activity in Nakuru.
Nakuru is home to Lake Nakuru National Park. This is one of Rift Valley soda lakes which forms part of Lake Nakuru National Park. The lake is famous for vast numbers of Flamingoes that can be seen foraging in the shallow lake.
Other sites of interest accessible from Nakuru these include the Menegai Crater, a dormant volcano. The second-largest surviving volcanic crater, it plunges 483m down from the rim and the summit is accessible by foot by vehicle 8km from the main road to Nyahururu.
Naivasha is a town in the rift valley and forms part of Nakuru District. It located on the shores of Lake Naivasha along the Nairobi- Nakuru highway. Naivasha’s main industry is agriculture especially floriculture. Hells gate national park.
Longonot National Park and Mount Longonot are the nearby attractions. You can also observe birdlife and the hippopotamus at Lake Naivasha
Eldoret is the fifth largest town in Kenya. Eldoret is derived from the word Edlore a Maasai word which means stony river. The bed of the nearby Sosiani River is stony.
The Nandi, the Maasai and the Sirikwa ethnic groups occupy this area. If you are travelling to this city you will be served by Eldoret International Airport.
It is a connecting airport to other western towns such as Kitale, Kakamega, Bungoma and Busia. The International Association of Athletics Federation high altitude training centre for Kenyan athletes is home to great athletes such as Kipchoge Keino.
Moi Teaching and Referral hospital and Eldoret polytechnic are among notable institutions of higher learning.
Nyeri is the administrative headquarters of the central province during the colonial period. Nyeri was a garrison but it later became a trading centre for the white farmers who produced wheat, coffee and cattle.
There are banks, shops and bookstores, hardware stores and a vibrant market. It is also the gateway to Aberdare and on a clear day, you will see the majestic Mt.Kenya in the distance.
The coastal town of Mombasa is a popular destination both for local and international tourists due to the white sandy beaches and the warm weather. The locals are friendly and the town also bears a rich historic Swahili culture.
Other towns in the Kenyan coast that are popular tourist attractions include Malindi and Lamu. I wrote a comprehensive guide on the 10 best things to do when you visit Lamu.
Best time to visit Kenya?
As Kenya is on the equator, it means that seasons are consistent. The main tourist season starts from December to February and from July to August. It is better to plan your trip to Kenya. Booking for safaris and accommodation if you are planning to travel during these seasons.
From January and February, the weather is hot and dry. This is usually considered to be the most enjoyable time that is perfect for animal and bird watching. There are large concentrations of birds on the rift valley lakes.
Another best time to visit Kenya is from June to September during the so-called shoulder season when the weather is dry. This season offers excellent adventure options.
It is a perfect time to visit and witness the great wildebeest migration at the Masaai Mara. There are two rainy periods in Kenya: The long rains period starting from March to June and the short rains starting from October to December.
Facts About Kenya
Kenya is the go-to destination for your safari adventure and Nairobi is the safari capital of the world. Kenya has a system of well-managed nature reserves around the country where lions, elephants, zebra, antelopes, rhinos and birds can be seen in the wild.
Kenya also has beautiful sandy beaches along its more than 500-kilometre coastline and with palm trees blue seas and resorts with cool Marinis. Kenya was colonized by the British and this left a huge mark on its culture and language. Kenya attained its independence in 1963.
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