What to know for a trip to Kenya

Who I am
Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Kenya is one of the most fascinating and representative destinations on the African continent.

A country rich in wild beauties like few others, from the Afro-Alpine prairies of Mount Kenya to the coconut palms of the beaches of Mombasa, from the immense spaces of the savannah to the desert, arid and scorching.

A trip to Kenya combines the adventurous experience of safari for a relaxing break on fine sandy beaches, under palm trees and in front of the immensity blue of the sea. An experience that will mark you so much so that on your return you will discover the true meaning of the famous "Mal d'Afrique"!

If you are planning to treat yourself to this exotic experience, here is a list of useful tips to better prepare your trip to Kenya.


  1. Best time
  2. Required documents
  3. How many days
  4. How to dress and what to bring
  5. To see
  6. Getting around
  7. What to book in advance
  8. Accomodation
  9. Where to eat
  10. How much
  11. How to pay
  12. Safety
  13. Useful advice and rules of conduct
  14. User questions and comments

Best time

The climate varies from area to area. To evaluate the best time to go, we need to establish what the purpose of our trip is.

For a safari in national parks and in the highlands, you can choose two periods: from June to September, perfect both for the large number of animals and for the landscape that takes on a green aspect. Possible afternoon and evening showers at high altitudes. IS January February even if it is to be expected that the heat is felt even at low altitude - Find out more

August and September are perfect for the beach life, on the coast. They are the least hot but quite sunny and not very rainy.
To visit arid areas (Lodwar), they are fine July and August because they are the cooler months (we always talk about intense heat).

Remember that the equatorial sun it is very strong, especially when climbing in altitude.
Absolutely from avoid the period from early April to late June, characterized by heavy rains. In October and November there is the possibility of incurring some rain, but with much less intensity and duration.

Required documents

Passport with residual validity of at least 6 months and at least an entire blank page, in order to be able to affix the entry visa. Otherwise, travelers may not be accepted in the country and returned to Italy with the first useful flight!

Travel visa to be requested at the airport, at the Embassy in Italy or on the website.
The visa categories are as follows:

  1. Transit visa valid for up to 72 hours. € 18,00
  2. Tourist visa valid for one month, three months and renewable for up to six months. € 46,00
  3. Multiple visa for business. Valid from one month to one year. The request must be submitted to the Kenyan Embassy in Rome. Present the letter of invitation from the local company. € 90,00
  4. Visa valid for a single trip. € 47,00
  5. East African Tourist Visa. Valid for 90 days, it allows you to travel to Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. € 92,00

Finally at the border they could require the exhibition of return flight ticket e booking at least of the first structure where you will be staying.

How many days

  • Minimum travel time: at least 8 days (excluding flights)
  • Recommended travel time: at least 15 days (excluding flights)

How to dress and what to bring

It is always and in any case to dress in layers because in the early hours of the day and at higher altitudes it can be cool all year round.
For the safari: clothes in neutral colors (white, beige, khaki) and in breathable fabric, comfortable canvas shoes, sun hat or turban.
For the plateau: layered clothes, sun hat and raincoat for possible showers.
For hiking in the mountains: trekking shoes and suitable clothing for the cold (warm jacket, hat, gloves, scarf).
For the seaside stay: beach equipment, snorkeling equipment and water shoes.

Don't forget: sunglasses and sunscreen. The binoculars, indispensable tool for this kind of adventure.

First aid kit and medicines that you usually take, intestinal disinfectant and mosquito repellent. Sanitizing wipes and / or gels. Electric adapter type G lamellae (Anglo-Saxon type). Torch to shed light during the numerous blackouts.

To see

The must-haves for a "first time" in Kenya are the classic al safari Amboseli National Park from where, among other things, you have the best view of Kilimanjaro; further photographic safari in Tsavo National Park, visit of Lake Nakuru, known as the paradise of birdwatchers and the inevitable stop at the Masai Mara National Park for an ethno-anthropological approach.

With more days at your disposal, you can think of a more complete tour that touches not only the more classic places, but also "secondary" areas. The Aberdare National Park, offers a singular scenario, made of hills covered by a dense green forest, the imposing peaks of Mount Kenya and deep ravines; the Naivasha lake, populated by hippos and thousands of pink flamingos, learn more about the local culture by exploring the Samburu Reserve and, finally, a visit to Nairobi and Mombasa. Also interesting is theLamu archipelago where there are charming fishing villages.

Possible sea extension in Malindi and Watamu National Park.

  • If you are visiting the destination for the first time: Amboseli National Park, Tsavo East National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, Masai Mara
  • If you are returning to your destination: Nairobi, Mombasa, Aberdare National Park, Lake Naivasha, Samburu Game Reserve, Lamu Archipelago, Malindi

Getting around

Safaris they always go made by relying on specialized agencies and professional rangers. Between one safari and the next, you won't have to worry about getting around because your guide will take care of it.

Internal flights. The national airline Kenya Airways connects large cities and other small towns. Eg. From Nairobi to Malindi 1h and 30 min flight starting from € 82,00.

To move there is the train, is the option only for the more adventurous! Better to book tickets at least 3 days in advance. But if you feel like driving independently, you can rent a car. The guide is on the left side and an international driving license is required (around € 25,00 per day, even up to € 50,00 for four-wheel drive vehicles). The roads are all difficult and with few indications, so there is a risk of getting lost. It is always better to always carry a spare fuel tank with you.

Within the individual cities there is a good transport network consisting of bus (matatu), minibuses, collective taxis and tuk-tuk. Cheap but not very safe options, accidents are frequent, taxis are a bit more expensive, not worth using for short trips.

What to book in advance

The flight to and from Italy is certainly the first thing to be booked months in advance, especially if you plan to stay in high season.

Pre-book also theaccommodation. Accommodation during safaris are always included in the "Safari" packages (also to be booked in advance); book in advance the structure where you will reside in the seaside resort: resort, village or villa for rent.

As mentioned above, the various are to be booked safari: decide which Parks you are interested in visiting and for how many days; ditto for very special excursions such as multi-day treks on Mount Kenya.
for daily excursions to be carried out in the seaside resorts (visiting islands, typical villages and marine parks), on the other hand, you don't need to move well in advance. In fact, you can easily decide when you will be there and book them directly on site even the day before by the various beach boys on the beach.


During safaris, there are reserves different accommodation solutions, which differ more in shape than in price.
The lodges are hotel structures equipped with basic comforts such as hot water (there are also luxury versions).
The alternative "in mood" with the environment is the tented camp: same services as the lodge but in open-space environments and rooms inside spacious tents.
For the more adventurous there are the banda, small bungalows in areas used for camping where you have to bring everything you need.

In Nairobi and Mombasa there are hostels and B & Bs at ridiculously low prices: € 7,00 for a bed in Nairobi, even half in Mombasa. Hotels, in the most specific sense of the term, are highly efficient structures equipped with all comforts and services, with restaurants and night clubs; perfect for business travelers.

On the coast there are many resort chains, almost always all-inclusive, to choose from. Prices vary according to the quality of the structure and the operator who sells it. The most convenient choice is the charter + hotel package.

Finally, possibility of to rent a villa (€ 20,00 per day, approximately + € 5,00 / 6,00 for the cook service).

Where to eat

Kenyan cuisine looks like a melting pot of different cultures and traditions. It is varied and spicy but not spicy.

The national dish is nyama choma (grilled meat); other specialties are ugali, a thick white polenta, madafu, a condiment based on coconut milk and the excellent fresh fish.

The hotels, simple Inns, they are only open for lunch. To dine you can choose between internal hotel restaurants medium-high category: they offer more varied menus and at a more expensive price.

On the streets they meet Street vendors of roasted corn on the cob, fried yams, sambusa, mkate mayai, cassava cooked as chips, various types of chapati and mishikaki (meat skewers).

On the coast, a simple meal in one of the many bar-kiosks on the beach costs about € 10,00, a fish grill in an elegant restaurant € 25,00 / 30,00.

If you have accommodation with a kitchen, every town has a market with fresh products; Western-style supermarkets (Nakumatt chain) in larger cities.

How much

  • Cost of flights and travel: return flight from Italy € 500,00 / 600,00 - Internal flights € 100,00 on average - Car rental from € 25,00
  • Accommodation cost: lodge or tented camp included in the safari package - room in a nice b & b in Watamu from € 35,00 - Hostel and B&B in Nairobi € 7,00 - villa for rent from € 20,00 per day
  • Minimum daily budget for meals and attractions: 1 night safari + meals from € 200,00; 4 nights safari + meals from € 370,00; 6 night safari + meals from € 1.220,00. On the coast simple meal € 10,00, dinner in a restaurant € 25,00
  • Pre-packaged tours from the catalog: from € 3.000,00 to € 5.000,00 per person for the most complete tours; € 2.700,00 on average per person for easier solutions such as 3 days safari + 4 days sea extension

How to pay

The local currency is the Kenyan Shilling, € 1,00 = KSH 115,97.

Excursions and safaris are easily payable in Euros. For small expenses (souvenirs, snacks, drinks etc ...) better pay in local currency.

E' convenient to change the currency directly in Kenya (at the airport or at the Watamu casino).
Always have cash as there are often disruptions to cash dispensing services at ATMs.

Usually Visa and Mastercard circuits accepted, more rarely American Express, but outside hotels, large shops and safari lodges it will be difficult to find affiliated businesses.

Available and a lot ATM-BANCOMAT counters are widespread, but not all are Cirrus-Maestro enabled. Before leaving, make sure at your bank that the ATM is enabled abroad and keep in mind the application of the minimum 4% commission.


Tourist areas, (coastal area of ​​Watamu and Malindi and the various National Parks) they are safe.
However, a high level of crime and petty crime (thefts, muggings, small violence) in big cities. It is therefore not recommended to visit Nairobi or Mombasa without a local guide who knows the neighborhoods and pitfalls well.

The terrorist threat is high of Islamic origin. Maximum caution in all public places, places of worship and in conjunction with religious holidays, anniversaries and political events.

Risk floods and landslides during the rainy season (March-May and October-December).

There is a risk of seizures. Avoid the border area with Somalia. Avoid unnecessary travel in the arid and remote regions of the north of the country; in Nairobi all marginal areas are not recommended.

In the reserves visitors must be accompanied by authorized professionals.

Antimalarial prophylaxis recommended.
There are no mandatory vaccinations, but those for yellow fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, typhus are recommended.
Keep up to date on the official website of the Farnesina.

Useful advice and rules of conduct

  1. It is not recommended to eat, drink and smoke on the streets or in public places before sunset.
  2. Bring some small items (pencils, notebooks, clothes ...) to give as gifts to less fortunate children and adults who will be very happy.
  3. No candy for children! Even if they will ask you for them themselves, in Italian or in their "Peremende" language. Better a fruit or a 125 cl minibrik of milk. Protein and calcium to strengthen your teeth, not to destroy them.
  4. Respect those who do not want to be photographed even if most of the time they do it because they want a small gift.
  5. No photos of the starfish. Starfish are on the verge of extinction and removing them from the water for even a few minutes can cause their death. Avoid the stupid fashion of the "selfie" with the star.
  6. It is strictly forbidden to export the following items and their derivatives from the country: elephant ivory, rhino horn, sea turtle, corals, madrepores and reptile skins.
  7. The use of plastic bags is prohibited. Extremely severe penalties: 4 million shillings (approximately € 35.000,00) fine or 4 years of imprisonment. The only bags allowed, besides paper, are totally ecological ones.
  8. Prohibition to wear clothing attributable to law enforcement or military-like uniforms such as overalls, jackets, shirts or t-shirts.
  9. Avoid affusion with your partner in public places.
  10. Homosexuality is still discriminated against. Declaring oneself or showing oneself publicly is considered a provocation, therefore a crime punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment.
  11. Bargaining on prices. In some cases, not to bargain, one passes for superior and arrogant.
  12. Tip: not mandatory but certainly very welcome. Avoid giving tips in "currency" € / cent as these are often not changed and those who receive them may have serious difficulties in converting them into shillings.
  13. Topless on the beach is strictly prohibited. Also in the city it is not recommended to travel in a bathing suit and, in any case, with clothing that can "offend" local customs and religion. Consistent majority of Muslim population.
  14. Do not communicate to anyone the exact date of your departure. Most of thefts and robberies take place just before departure and often the perpetrators are people who have been given this kind of "confidence".
  15. Travel / health insurance: recommended.

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