Kenya gracefully bestrides the equator, covering an area of 581,309 km2 (224,445 sq mi), on the East African Coast. On the South-East, the Indian Ocean kisses its sandy shores while Lake Victoria dabs the Westside shores along with Uganda. South Sudan and Ethiopia neighbour Kenya on the Northside, Tanzania on the Southside and Somalia on the Eastside.

Mt. Kenya, the second-highest mountain in Africa, is the country's eponym. The Capital City (and the largest), Nairobi, aptly named the ``Green City``, is the only one in the world with a National Park a stone's throw away from the business district.

Powdery white beaches that stretch for miles on end; fiery red sunsets and wildlife that roams freely in the savanna; equatorial mountains, some snow-capped, coupled with jungles characterize the natural features of the country. The people, warm and hospitable, showcasing their diverse vibrant cultures, from the vast Maasai plains to the coastal town of Lamu.


While Swahili is the national language of Kenya, English is the official language. It is widely spoken and understood across East Africa.

Generally, Kenya has a pleasant climate throughout the year with temperatures ranging between 10º C and 25º C. This varies depending on the region.

The Coastal region is hot and humid, but the temperature falls sharply at night. Across the country, the Lake Victoria region has a similar climate.

The Kenyan inland is relatively cool due to its high altitude, and mornings can be extremely chilly.

However, as you move toward the lowlands of the Northern and Southern regions, the temperature increases significantly - sometimes over 30º C. The evenings, though, can be surprisingly chilly.

There are two rainy seasons; the “long” rains between April and June, and the “short” rains between November and the middle of December. The coldest months are July and August, while the hottest are January and February.


While travelling in East Africa, it is advisable to exercise the same caution and awareness normally accorded in any large city.

  • Never walk in solitude in apparently deserted areas, especially within cities. It is preferable (and usually more enjoyable) to walk with a companion or in a group.
  • Beware that pickpockets create a distraction. Hold on to valuables (or money belt) if in such a situation
  • Beware, con artists target travellers. Walk away if an encounter with a local becomes convoluted and involves money or valuables
  • Never carry more than a day's supply of cash.
  • Do not carry travel documents and cash in plain sight.
  • Keep copies of travel documents, flight tickets and passport separately from the originals.
  • Lock all valuables in the hotel safe. In case one is not provided, enquire at the hotel reception.
  • Get adequate travel insurance coverage before travelling.

Passports must be valid 6 months after the anticipated travel date. Leave a blank page for each country to be visited. It is advisable to obtain visas in advance, from Embassies and High Commissions or online
at visa/ VISAS can also be obtained on arrival at all entry points.

Regulations vary depending on nationality and country of origin, and requirements may change. For more information contact the appropriate Kenyan diplomatic/consular authority or the government portal: visa/ VISAS can also be obtained on arrival at all entry points.


The currency unit is the Kenya shilling (Ksh.)

For current exchange rates, please refer to the Internet or a newspaper.

The importation of both local and foreign currency is unrestricted, but any amounts exceeding US$ 9,999 must be declared. The exportation of both local and foreign currency is also unrestricted, but amounts totalling to US$ 4,999 require documentation showing both the source and the purpose of the money. The most popular global foreign currencies can be traded at any of the Forex Bureaus (Bureau De Change) establishments in the main towns. Their rates are usually higher than bank rates.

How to carry your money

Cash is more readily exchanged and accepted and commands a better exchange rate in East Africa. Try for a diversity of denominations.

Credit Cards

Major credit cards (and debit cards with Visa or Master Card logos) are a superb emergency back-up. Every traveller is encouraged to carry one, even when there are no intentions of using it – it comes in handy during an emergency, for instance, if you are called upon to fly home or alter your general travel arrangements.

Credit cards are accepted in most establishments in Kenya.

How much money to take

Carry enough money to cover all expenses (souvenirs, laundry, drinks) plus a small reserve. Although ATMs are widely available in all major cities, they may be unreliable. Credit cards should be a financial emergency kit.

As Kenya enjoys a healthy, invigorating climate, visitors need not feel a concern for their general health during their stay. However, malaria is endemic in certain areas and anti-malarial medication should be taken according to prescription recommendations. Visitors requiring special medication should pack sufficient supplies in their hand luggage. Chemist shops are well stocked, but the medication may not always be readily available.

During the safari, all your meals will be taken in the hotels, lodges & Camps.

The food is of excellent quality. A majority of hotels grow organic vegetables, and to some extent fruits.

In Nairobi and the coastal region, dinner and lunch are billed separately.

The meal timings are usually as follows:

  • Full breakfast is served from 07:00 hrs to 09:30 Hrs
  • Buffet lunch is served from about 12:30 Hrs to 14:30 hrs
  • Tea and coffee is served from 16:00 hrs to 17:00 Hrs
  • Dinner is served from 19:30hrs to 21:30 Hrs

Most hotels have both local and imported alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments available (beers, wines, liquors, liqueurs, and fruit juices).

Drinks are not included (unless otherwise stated).

Mobile Infrastructure

The mobile network coverage in Kenya is extensive, almost all the 'usual' safari circuit areas including National Parks and remote towns are covered.

Wi-Fi Infrastructure: Most, if not all, major hotels have wireless internet connectivity.

Tipping is optional.

Use the following tipping guidelines, if need be:

  • Many travellers budget between 2% and 3% of their trip cost for all tips
  • If travelling in a group, every group member does not have to give the same amount.
  • At the end of the safari, a volunteer group member can 'pass the hat' and present a collective tip to the drivers/guides. Many travellers give between $5 to $ 10 per safari day. Drivers can also be tipped individually.
  • The preferable tipping currencies are US$ Dollar/Euro/Pound Sterling.
  • A tip of 1 to 2 units is appropriate for airport and hotel porters as well as housekeeping staff.
  • It is not necessary to tip in any establishment if they charge a service fee, usually 10%.
  • Otherwise, a tip of between 5 and 10 % of the total bill is considered usual and customary.

It is recommended to take up a travel insurance cover for compensation in case of loss of items, flight delays, trip cancellations or even medical emergency. Ensure you understand the nitty-gritty of the cover.

Some places are serviced by generators, hence, ration electricity (and the lights may be dim).

Kenya's electricity supply is at 220/240 volts AC, 50Hz, using a three-pin plug and socket. Carry plug adapters, if need be.

It is important to charge all devices while there is supply. Travellers dependent on an overnight electrical supply (as in the case of those with sleep apnea) should communicate well in advance.

SawaSawa Africa provides a litre of bottled water on a complimentary basis per safari day.

In general, avoid drinking tap water.

Bottled mineral water is available for purchase throughout.

Purified mineral water is available in the rooms while on safari.

Throughout the year, the Standard Time in Kenya is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+3), two hours ahead of Central European Winter Time, and eight hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time in the U.S.

While donations may seem charitable, they can be disruptive and intrusive especially when a portion of people get them while the others are left empty-handed. Other times, it could place the traveller in danger of being hustled by a mob. As such, avoid distribution of money, pens, candy, and left-over food to children or adults encountered on the way.

If beggars approach, make eye contact, smile politely and keep moving. Offering anything to one beggar will open the harassment floodgates to the whole group.

During community visits, it is advisable to contribute towards community development as opposed to benefitting a few individuals. For example, instead of giving stationery to a few students, bring a large package of pens or pencils and hand it to the school head or administrator for distribution.

Every traveller should be mindful of the effects of their actions.

The intention may be good, but the effect may be negative. For example, sweets/candy may cause tooth decay yet remote villages have few, not to mention expensive, dentists. Also, giving out sweets and other gifts encourages children to run to every foreigner in the neighbourhood, leaving their school or house chores undone. It may also project a bad impression of their parents who may not afford the same gifts.

When Chief Seattle said ``Take only memories, leave only footprints.``, he never thought of mementoes. Shop till you drop is the name of the game whenever you travel. Memories fade, but relics will always stand the sands of time. Leave plenty of space for memories (if you have a photographic memory), photographs and SOUVENIRS.

There are well-stocked gift shops in many hotels, lodges and camps throughout the country, offering a wide array of traditional artefacts, jewellery, Kenya's famous tea and coffee, all-purpose fabric wraps to some beautiful stone and wood carvings - all inspired by the diverse range of cultures within Kenya's borders.

These are some of the other shopping places to try:

  • Maasai Market: This flea market has market days all around Nairobi on staggered days. There are a variety of local arts, crafts and signature clothing. Enquire from the hotel or tour guide on the market's operational days, and location.
  • Kitengela Glass Studios: This is undoubtedly the best place to get pretty glass creatives, ornaments and houseware items made from recycled glass and scrap metal. To add to the thrill, use the suspension bridge to the place through Nairobi National Park.
  • Kazuri beads: Their artful jewellery made from handcrafted ceramic beads and ceramic tableware grace many a shop all over the world. But Kazuri beads allows visitors to interact with the single mothers supported by this project. It is easily reachable, located within the suburban Karen neighbourhood, and can be combined with a trip to Karen Blixen Museum and/or the Giraffe Centre.
  • Spinners WEB Kenya: For an assortment of handicrafts, pottery, home decor, jewellery, and other accessories, this is the place to shop. It is also close to a couple of high-end shopping malls.
  • Utamaduni: This boutique is comprised of several shops that sell all kinds of artwork. It was opened by the famous archaeologist, who at one time headed the Kenya Wildlife Service, Dr Leaky. So, it is befitting that a portion of all proceeds goes to local conservation and charitable projects.
  • MatBronze: They craft and sell wildlife bronze artworks. The sizes vary though – from small portable pieces to very large pieces that will require shipping.
  • Shopping Malls: Nairobi is dotted with shopping malls of all sizes. The major ones are Sarit Center, Village Market, Yaya Center, The Junction, Two Rivers, Galleria, Westgate, and Karen Hub full of shops selling beautiful Kenyan memorabilia.
  • Outside of Nairobi, there are plenty of CURIO shops selling mementoes on virtually all of the safari circuits – likely bathroom stops on all routes.

Most businesses operate from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm then from 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm from Monday through to Friday.

On Saturdays, they operate from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm.

Most businesses do not operate on Sundays and Kenyan public / National holidays.

The supermarkets operate all day, including over lunch hour, until 8.00 pm on weekdays, and until 6.00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

  • Leave any luggage that will not be in use during the safari at the City Hotel, for collection upon return.
  • Carry a piece of small luggage if staying at The Ark and leave the rest of the luggage at the base hotel (ABCC) for overnight.
  • Note that international airlines allow a luggage allowance of 20 – 30 Kgs whilst LOCAL carriers allow 15 Kgs only – especially those flying into and out of the bush (Parks and Reserves)
  • On Check-out / departure day, place all luggage at the door while heading for breakfast to cue the porters to take it to the reception, to await check-out.

There are a few Dos to keep in mind while travelling.

  • Upon arrival at the hotel, register at the reception to get the room key.
  • Check-in is generally from 12.00 hrs while check out is at 10.00 hrs
  • Check out for day-use rooms is at 6.00 pm.
  • For concessions on late check-outs, it is recommended to contact/liaise with the Hotel Reception, the night before.
  • Upon checkout, return the key to the reception while settling the bill (if possible, settle all bills the night before to avoid the long queues in the morning).
  • Once checked out, request for a luggage ticket, which is required to leave the hotel.

Respecting Wildlife:

  • Observe the animals silently with minimum disturbance of their natural activities.

Loud talking on a game drive can frighten the animals away. Noise may also antagonize fellow visitors.

  • Stay in the vehicle at all times, except at designated picnic or walking areas.

Animals are wild and can be unpredictable.

  • Never attempt to attract an animal's attention.

Don't imitate animal sounds, clap your hands, pound on the vehicle, or throw objects.

  • When viewing wildlife, keep to a minimum distance of 20 meters and pull to the side of the road to allow others to pass.
  • Please respect the driver-guides' judgement about proximity to wildlife, particularly lions, cheetahs, and leopards.
  • Don't insist on getting closer for a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned meal.
  • Litter tossed on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds.
  • Never attempt to feed or approach any wild animal on foot.

This is especially important near lodges or in campsites where animals may have become accustomed to human visitors.

  • Refrain from smoking during game drives.

The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can harm hundreds of animals.

Conserving East Africa's Natural Environment:

  • Minimise the disposable items brought on the trip. Leave film boxes, wrappings from new clothes, and other un-needed items at home.
  • Please note that the use or importation of plastic carrier bags was banned in Kenya in August 2017.
  • Be conscious of disposal of tissues, lens paper, water bottles and caps, food wrappers and other trash.

Avoid using the trash containers on the road-side stopping places since the garbage will not find its way to the dumping site. Instead, keep a small              trash bag and empty it back at the hotel or camp each night.

  • Entry into the National Parks and Reserves is restricted between 6.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m.
  • Night game drives are NOT allowed, except in private wildlife conservancies.
  • Off-road driving is prohibited in the Parks and Reserves. Stay on established trails to preserve grass and other plants.
  • Don't pick any vegetation, or carry any item of biological interest, including eggshells, feathers and bones of any kind as souvenirs.
  • Consider picking up litter left by other visitors. It is important to be mindful of the environment.

Kenya is considered to be a photographer’s dream destination. From the panoramic scenery, varied wildlife and birds to the culture-centric people and the vibrant ceremonies; rich colour and good lighting conditions abound.

Note that it is considered rude to take pictures of people without asking for their permission. The Maasai and Samburu warriors will expect a token for posing.

Please note that it is prohibited to take photos of:

  • The President and/ or his entourage
  • The police or uniformed personnel
  • Military installations, ministers, official and military buildings, airports, and border posts
  • The national flag, the tomb of Jomo Kenyatta and official residences

It is recommended to bring a power bank with sufficient storage and memory cards as they may not always be readily available on the ground.

Keep cameras in a dust-resistant padded case, away from direct sun.

An ultra-violet filter and a lens cap are strongly recommended.

A 200mm (or longer) telephoto lens will prove very useful on safari.