Kenya Fact File

View across Uhuru Park towards NairobiView across Uhuru Park towards Nairobi

General Information

Capital: Nairobi
Time: GMT +3
Population: Approximately 27 million
Area: 582,000 sq km
Language: Swahili
Local Currency: Kenyan Shilling

Climate

The weather in Kenya is fairly unpredictable and is largely determined by altitude, which varies considerably from area to area. In broad terms the pattern is as follows:

Mid December to February - hot and dry
April to June - hot and wet. The 'long rains'
July to September - warm and dry
October to early December - warm and wet. The 'short rains'

Visa Requirements

Prior to departing for Kenya, it is essential that you check with the Kenyan embassy or consulate what the visa requirements are for entry.  The Kenyan authorities are known for changing the visa status of particular countries without much notice.

It is advisable that should a visa be required it is purchased prior to departure for Kenya in order to avoid any delays on arrival in Kenya.  It is possible to purchase a visa on arrival in Kenya, but it could mean standing in a queue for a long time after an international flight.  Only US dollar or UK pound sterling cash are accepted when purchasing a visa on arrival in the country.

Transit visas:  If a there is a visa requirement for a particular nationality to enter Kenya and the guest is only entering Kenya for a short stay (including an overnight) while in transit to another country, a transit visa is required.  This can be purchased with dollar or UK pound sterling cash on arrival in Kenya.

IMPORTANT NOTE: As at November 2000 British and American passport holders who are visiting Kenya on holiday for less than 30 days are no longer required to obtain visitors or transit visas.  Once again it is essential to check this status prior to travel.

Health Information

Guests should check with their local travel clinic or doctor on what medical precautions to take prior to their holiday. Malaria: Malaria does occur in Kenya and it is essential that guests consult their doctor prior to travel and it is always a good idea to carry insect repellant at all times.

Yellow Fever: Even though not an official requirement for Kenya, it is recommended that guests arriving into Kenya either overland or by air via another African country have a yellow fever inoculation at least 10 days prior to departing for East Africa and ensure that they carry the certificate with them as it may be requested upon entry into the country.

Water

It is not advisable to drink the tap water.  Although sometimes not cheap, bottled water is readily available for purchase in the majority of hotels and at roadside and garage cafes.   It is recommended that guests carry bottled water with them throughout their trip as it can get very hot and dusty while on safari.  On the drive-through safari, a constant supply of bottled mineral water is kept in the vehicle cooler box for guest consumption. During the dry seasons, water is often in short supply and rations are sometimes enforced.  Most hotels have a note about what measures to take in order to conserve the supply.

Electricity

Voltage in Kenya is 220-240 volts.  The plugs are the same square 3-pin plugs as those used in Britain.  Adaptors are available for purchase, but they are expensive and if in short supply at the tourist shops, hunting around for an electrical supply shop could take some time.  It is therefore recommended that guests bring adaptors with them.

During the dry seasons and periods of drought, the mainline electricity supply is rationed and hotels have to rely on generator power (particularly affects those hotels in the main towns and cities).  Generally speaking, the larger hotels maintain a 24-hour power supply no matter what the mainline supply status is but guests should check with reception on check-in as to what the status is with regard to the hours that power is available. Many safari lodges rely solely on generator power and the power supply hours vary from property to property.

Money

Hard currency travelers cheques is the safest way to carry money.  It is advisable when changing them for cash that you request small denominations.  When paying for merchandise with large denomination hard currency cash you are more than likely going to get the change in Kenyan Shillings, which can be cumbersome as it tends to convert into a wad of notes and coins.

Guests should always check what the rate and commission is when changing hard currency travelers cheques and cash as it varies greatly from place to place.  Hotels tend to give the worst rates and it is often worth a trip to either Barclays Bank or Standard Chartered Bank to change money at a reasonable rate. It is advisable to carry a small amount of small denomination hard currency in cash at all times (US dollars are the most usable). Most restaurants and hotels take credit cards but there is usually a 2%-5% commission charged.

Photography

Photographing of people, in particular the popular Samburu and Maasai people can be a sensitive issue and usually requires permission and / or payment. 

It is inadvisable to randomly try and take photographs of people along the roadside as many people now use it as an income and can get fairly upset and unpleasant if a deal isn't negotiated.

Government buildings such as police stations, border posts, military bases, airports, prisons etc. are considered to be strategic installations and the taking of photographs is illegal.  This rule also applies to the national flag and His Excellency the President who is often seen attending state occasions in Nairobi.

A wide range of film and batteries are available in Nairobi, but can be expensive.  Outside the main cities it is often difficult to get exactly what you want, in particular video camera film.  The guideline is to pack twice as much film as you think you are going to need.

Mid season and high season take into account the annual wildebeest and Zebra migration that crosses from the Serengeti in Tanzania into the Masai Mara in Kenya around July / August.  The animals remain in the Mara for most of the 'short rains' period and head back south to Tanzania again around October.  This event is spectacular and a definite highlight if guests are privileged enough to experience it.

African Safaris Guide to South and East Africa
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