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Discover the Kenya tips you have to know before traveling

by Pilar Dujan | August 8, 2023
Explore tribal Kenya with our Kenya travel tips

Are you a nature lover? Do you want to see the most amazing wildlife the Earth has to offer? Then Kenya is waiting for you. 

To prepare you for your trip to Kenya, we have put together a list with the essential Kenya tips to make your holidays easier. Discover them here.

Do you need any vaccinations to travel to Kenya?

Proof of Yellow Fever vaccination is required to travel to Kenya. Though you will not be asked for it to obtain a visa, you will be asked to show a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter the country. 

This is the only compulsory vaccination, although tetanus, typhoid, malaria, cholera and hepatitis A and B are recommended.

Do you need to get a SIM card for Kenya?

If you wish to stay connected outside of the main tourist areas of Kenya, then you could use a prepaid SIM card

The typical companies are Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom. Safaricom can be found in most Kenyan cities and it has the best network, so it’s the best choice for foreign travelers. However, be aware that it’s a bit more expensive than other companies.

You could buy your SIM card at the airport, online or at mobile provider stores (the best choice). 

You can find different coverage plans with prices ranging from less than 1 dollar to 25 dollars.

Gnu migration in Kenya

What is the currency of Kenya?

The Kenyan currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KES/KSH). In places where tourists are frequent such as hotels in Nairobi or Mombasa, it may be possible to pay in American dollars, although it is still advisable to change money and pay in the local currency if possible. It is possible to do a currency exchange upon arrival at the airport in Kenya where prominent banks and bureau de changes will be available.

It is advisable always to take some local currency because use of foreign currency or credit cards are not always possible outside of the major cities. Credit cards are slowly making their way into the country, but they are still not widely accepted.

Do people leave tips in Kenya?

Yes, it’s common to leave a tip. Most restaurants expect a 10-15% tip from tourists (if the service was good, of course). 

At hotels you won’t tip for every meal, but if an employee helps you carry your bags, a 1 USD tip per bag is common.

If you take a tour, it’s common practice to tip the guide and driver at the end of the experience. Those tours tend to be for groups so everyone would leave a collective tip. The same goes for game drives and lodges.

Tips in Kenya should be left in local currency so you won’t inconvenience the workers by having to struggle to exchange foreign currencies. 

How to travel around Kenya 

Learning how to travel to Kenya will surely make every trip easier. The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi is the biggest in the country, and the one you will most likely arrive at. If you don’t, you’re likely arriving at Moi Mombasa International Airport in Mombasa.

Kenya is a relatively easy country to travel around. In big cities there are plenty of matatus which are shared minibuses which will take you to any point for a reasonable price.

There are also shared private cabs called Peugeot, and motorbike taxis called boda-boda

To travel between cities, there are several train options and also domestic flights.

Mt Kenya in Kenya

What to do in Kenya

There are many things to do in Kenya, but the most well-known is taking advantage of the amazing wildlife and biodiversity available. Visit Kenya’s national parks, like the Masai Mara, and go on safari for an experience you won’t live anywhere else. You can even go camping in the African wilderness!

But one of the most unknown Kenya tips for traveling is that it has beautiful cities. You may know about Nairobi and Mombasa, the biggest cities in Kenya, but there are several others that demand the visitors’ attention. 

Safari tips in Kenya

People from all over travel to join a safari in Kenya just for the wildlife. But it’s important to know how to act and stay safe while surrounded by animals.

The first step would be to pick the best time to visit according to the animals we wish to see. For example, those wanting to see the many different species of birds that live in Kenya should travel during the rainy season. If you wish to spot the Big Five, you should travel during the dry season. 

You need to do a thorough research of the different providers available and pick the best one. Don’t just look at the price: it’s better to enjoy a safari alongside experienced guides.

Safaris are ideal for taking photographs, but make sure you bring the correct equipment. A regular phone camera won’t cut it if you try to photograph an animal that’s far away. Carry with you spare batteries and different lenses (if you have them).

Always follow your guide’s advice, try not to make too many loud noises or sudden movements and keep doors and windows closed. Never turn your back on a wild animal! Also, some good advice is to never have food on you. 

Packing for Kenya tips

Contrary to many other places in the world, you won’t need to bring any special items of clothing to move around the country without inconvenience. 

However, if you plan on going on safari, then you will need to pack specific things:

  • Clothes in natural and neutral colors: khaki, beige or green are the safest choices. Don’t wear any strong colors or white, black or blue. 
  • Long-sleeved t-shirts. They will protect you from the sun and the mosquitos. Try to find some light breathable fabrics.
  • Safari pants or jeans
  • Jackets and sweaters, even if you travel in the summer. Early mornings and nights get colder, and they’re great times for going on game drives.
  • Waterproof shoes and jackets
  • Protection against the sun: sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat
  • Insect repellent and anti-malaria medication
  • Binoculars to spot faraway animals
  • Tote bags or other bags made of cloth. Plastic bags are forbidden in Kenya, so don’t pack any. If you buy something at the airport, you’re going to have to leave the plastic bag there. 

Kenya travel tips: useful phrases to learn

Kenya’s language is Swahili, although the most touristic places will have at least one person who speaks English.

If you ever need to communicate in Swahili, here are some phrases you can learn to make it easier:

  • Good morning: Habari ya asubuhi
  • Good afternoon: Habari ya mchana
  • Good evening: Habari ya jioni
  • Please: Tafadhali
  • Thank you: Asante
  • Yes: Ndiyo
  • No: Hapana
  • Excuse me, sorry: Samahani
  • I don't understand: Sielewi
  • How much is this?: Hii ni bei gani?
  • Can you help me?: Unaweza kunisaidia?
  • I need a doctor: Nahitaji daktari
  • Bathroom: Choo
  • Help: Saidia

Safari in Kenya

What’s the best time to travel to Kenya?

The Kenya weather consists of two seasons: the dry season and the wet season. The dry season is from mid-May to the end of October. If you are going on a safari or plan to enjoy the expansive beaches of Mombasa, the best time of year to go is from June to August. The great migration of the wildebeests is a world-renowned event which happens annual during this time.

The rainy season starts at the end of October and lasts until March. Though this may not be the ideal time for a visit, it does have its perks since the parks will be green, there will be fewer tourists and you may be able to take advantage of low season rates. The rainiest months are January, February and November. The rest of the rainy season usually only has showers in late afternoon or evening, without creating a significant inconvenience. If you travel in the rainy season take particular care with mosquito bites as they are more prevalent. 

Security tips for traveling to Kenya

Travel in Africa can be quite different to other places. Many people ask themselves before traveling: “Is Kenya safe?”. Luckily, this country is one of the safest in all the continent.

Kenya is a country that is used to tourists and that takes their safety and security seriously. It is reassuring that in the last few years police presence has increased in airports and public places around Kenya. However, visitors should exercise increased caution in big cities, avoid wandering around alone at night and keep valuables out of sight.

You will need to be extremely careful in places like the border with Somalia or South Sudan.

You should also make sure you stay away from public demonstrations or political events as these can sometimes get heated.

Kenya is a malaria-endemic area and there are still strong outbreaks of cholera in the densely populated areas. You should always carry mosquito repellent and a mosquito net if possible and take malaria prophylactics. Outside of the major cities, health care facilities are quite limited, so it is advisable to have travel insurance with medical assistance.

Matatus or small buses are the typical mode of transportation for average Kenyans. Keep in mind that many roads are in ill repair so these journeys will not likely be in any way comfortable. Always check the state of the vehicle and the condition of the driver, if you are considering traveling in this way. It is best to travel in legal taxis.

Other useful Kenya tips

  • Most foreign citizens need an approved Kenya Visa to be granted access to the country. Also, make sure to check out all the entry requirements for Kenya: they’re mandatory for every traveler.
  • Kenya has numerous natural reserves where you can see the African flora and fauna and enjoy the wild in its truest form. The parks are famous for lions, giraffes, elephants and huge herds of zebras, wildebeests and buffaloes.
  • Mombasa is the epicenter for tourists looking to enjoy the sun, sea and sand of the beautiful beaches of Kenya that bathe the Indian Ocean.
  • English and Swahili are Kenya’s two official languages. Generally, you can get by with English in the larger cities and when dealing with those connected to the tourism industry.
  • Kenya is famous for handicrafts, which are often the signature of a particular tribe or region. We highly recommend that you buy some handmade souvenirs to take home and remind you of your trip.
  • When you are in Kenya you must carry a form of ID at all times. Usually a copy of your passport is valid, but some places demand the original.