Kenya is an alluring country that contains an essence of everything African whilst remaining truly unique. The first thing people associate with Kenya is its great plains teeming with wildlife. The most memorable are scenes of flamingos basking in the soda lakes of the Rift Valley, or wildebeest migrations that have been immortalised in films such as Out of Africa. There are numerous exotic creatures in the Masai Mara and Tsavo Plains such as bongos and aardwolves that attract any wildlife enthusiast.
For sea lovers, Mombasa and Malindi offer great opportunities for scuba diving and snorkeling. For beaches, the Arabic influenced island of Lamu is a must. For the more intrepid traveler then there are plenty of opportunities for adventure such as climbing Mount Kenya or maybe a camel trek in the north.
There is a rich tapestry of tribes in Kenya, such as the Kikuyu, Samburu, Swahili and Turkana and historic influences from settlers and colonialists from Arabia and Europe. The Europeans have had the most chequered history with Kenya, from the scandals of the ‘Happy Valley’, outside Nairobi, to the Kikuyu led Mau Mau uprising that led to independence in 1963.
More recently there have been problems such as the bombing of the US Embassy and attacks on tourists after the 1997 elections. However these incidents quickly fade into the past and tourism is once again thriving in Kenya, which is generally thought of as safe to visit.
Check with your local embassy for up to date travel safety advice.
There are four distinct climatic zones in Kenya.
The plateau of West Kenya is wet throughout the year, with huge amounts of rain in April, and temperatures range from 57 – 94F throughout the year.
The Rift Valley and Central Highlands has a pleasant, cooler climate that varies from 50 – 80F.
There are two rainy seasons, the ‘short rains’ from October to November and ‘long rains’ from March to June.
The third zone is the most unwelcoming bushland and deserts, which lie in the north and east of Kenya. There is a low annual rainfall and a dramatic temperature range from 67 – 105F between day and night.
The popular coastal belt is hot and humid ranging from 73 – 90F and a high annual rainfall.
Amongst the riot of flamboyant safari colours, you may notice that Kenyans are quite conservatively dressed.
Although the women are not shy with colour, they will be modestly covered.
A women traveller wandering around in bikini tops is not acceptable in towns.
In Lamu and other areas where the population is predominantly Muslim it is advised to cover up shoulders and knees.
English and Swahili are the national languages of Kenya, however there are an abundance of tribal languages spoken including Masai, Luo, Kikamba and Samburu.
In the more touristy areas such as the coast you will find locals who speak Italian and German, but English is still the mostly widely understood language for travellers.
Generally food in Kenya is basic potatoes or millet served with beans or dried meat.
Nyama choma has been adopted as Kenya’s national dish.
In addition there are good dishes that have a spice infused Arabic influence.
The vast number of Asian immigrants also means that there are a lot of Indian restaurants in Nairobi and Mombasa.
Tea is a major cash crop that is grown in Kenya. In Kenya tea is ranked as the third major foreign exchange earner, behind tourism and horticulture.
Most tea produced in Kenya is black tea, with green tea, yellow tea, and white tea produced on order by major tea producers.
The local currency is the Kenya Shilling (KES) that is reminiscent of its colonial past.
US $1 = 86 KES
UK 1 = 140 KES
1 Euro = 118 KES
For up to date currency information, check the Currency Converter.
If you are on Safari in Kenya, things can get fairly expensive, expect to pay $200 a day once you get there.
British, Americans, Australians, Canadians, French, Dutch and Japanese are amongst those requiring visas.
Amongst those exempt are Italians, Germans, Spanish, Turkish and Singaporeans.
It is advisable to consult the Kenyan Embassy who can issue both single entry and multiple entry visas.
Travel in Kenya varies according to your needs. four wheel drive vehicles are essential for off the road but if you are simply going between short distances then hitching is a different and relatively safe way to go short distances.
The infrastructure is fairly good and trains run quite smoothly, but services are limited. However taking domestic flights will give you some truly fantastic views of Kenya’s plains and wildlife.
Matatus, mini shuttle buses, are the local form of transport that comes in all shapes and sizes. These are quite dangerous and therefore only recommended for short journeys.
If you are on the coast then taking a dhow boat along the coast is a truly romantic and memorable experience.
Immunisation is required by law in Kenya so you will need to produce a certificate for some jabs, especially Yellow Fever.
Other recommendations are Polio, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Cholera, Rabies and TB. Malaria tablets are also recommended.
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