Things to Know Before Traveling to Kenya: Essential Guide

Things to Know Before Traveling to Kenya: Essential Guide

Essential Tips for Your Trip to Kenya

Darlene Aberin
PUBLISHED ONApril 1, 2024

Kenya, a land with a rich history and beautiful landscapes, offers travelers an experience. From the savannahs where lions roam to the bustling streets of Nairobi and the historic coastal towns like Mombasa, this East African jewel has captivated explorers for centuries.

But before you pack your bags and set off on your Kenyan adventure, there are things to know that can make your journey smoother. Understanding local customs, climate variations across regions, and conservation efforts can deeply enhance your visit.

Preparing for Your Travel in Kenya

Before you head off on your Kenyan adventure, you should learn some essential things. This will help make your trip both enjoyable and hassle-free.

Visa Requirements

Before you travel to Kenya, check if you need a visa. Some travelers can get one upon arrival.

However, it’s safer to apply for an e-visa before your trip. E-visas are easy to apply for online and save time at the airport. Make sure to keep a printed copy of your e-visa with you.

Vaccinations and Health

Malaria Prevention

Kenya is plagued by mosquitoes that carry malaria. Take antimalarial medication as prescribed by a doctor.

Use mosquito nets at night and apply mosquito repellents. Also, wear long sleeves and pants during dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Water Safety

Drink only bottled or treated water in Kenya. Avoid ice in your drinks since it might not be from safe water sources. Also, always use bottled water when brushing your teeth.

Packing Essentials

Clothing Tips

The weather in Kenya is warm but can cool down at night. During the day, wear light, breathable fabrics.

A hat and sunglasses will protect you from the sun. Include a light jacket for cooler evenings, just in case.

Power Bank

Your phone or camera battery may run out quickly on safaris. Carry a power bank to keep it charged. A solar-powered power bank is a good idea, as it is safer for the environment.

What Kenya Has in Store for You

Kenya offers incredible sights and traditions. It is a good idea to know what to do in the country before visiting.

Geography Insights

Kenya is a land of breathtaking landscapes and geological wonders. It sits on the equator, offering a mix of coastal areas, mountains, and vast savannahs. Each region brings its unique climate.

For example, the Great Rift Valley cuts through Kenya from North to South, and it’s a sight you can’t miss. This valley is part of a massive earth crack stretching from Lebanon in Asia through East Africa, all the way to Mozambique in Southeast Africa.

Weather Patterns

Best Safari Times

Kenya shines during its dry seasons, which run from June to October and December to March. These months are perfect for visiting safaris because animals gather around water sources.

From July to October, you can witness the fantastic wildebeest migration. It’s one of nature’s most spectacular events.

For bird lovers, visiting between October and April is ideal. You’ll see many different species in their natural habitat.

Beach Holidays

Kenya’s coastlines, like Diani Beach and Watamu, boast stunning white sands. They’re perfect for relaxing or diving into underwater adventures, and you can find great hotels in Kenya nearby to enhance your stay.

The best time for snorkeling and diving here runs from October to March when the waters are clearest. Remember to dress modestly at beaches out of respect for local customs.

Currency Information

Kenyans use the Kenyan Shilling (KES) as their currency. You can also use USD, but make sure your bills are newer than 2006. Before leaving home, tell your bank about your travel plans to avoid card issues later.

Cultural Etiquette and Tips

Diving into local customs and being friendly can improve your trip and make connecting with people you run into easier.

Greeting Customs

In Kenya, a handshake is the most common way to say hello. Using your right or both hands for extra respect is polite. Saying “Jambo” means you’re trying hard to speak Swahili, which locals love.

People in Kenya often ask about your family or health. They’re not being nosy; they care about how you are doing.

Bargaining Tips

Bargaining is part of shopping in Kenyan markets but not in regular stores. You should start by offering half of their requests and then talk it out from there.

Being friendly helps a lot when trying to get a good deal. It makes the whole experience nicer for everyone.

Tipping Etiquette

Leave a 10-15% tip at restaurants without a service charge. Safari guides look forward to $10-$15 per person daily. The hotel staff would appreciate any small tips, too.

Dress Code

Kenya is pretty traditional outside the tourist spots, especially regarding clothes. Women should wear long skirts or pants and cover their shoulders when not at the beach or poolside. Swimwear is only okay at beaches and pools.

Safety and Health Advisories

Remember that the most important thing for a great trip is to stay safe and healthy. This way, you can enjoy your adventure without any issues.

Travel Insurance Importance

Travel insurance is a must-have for your trip to Kenya. Make sure it covers medical evacuation and activities like safaris.

It’s also wise to check if the policy includes trip cancellations or interruptions due to unexpected events. Always keep both digital and physical copies of your insurance policy handy.

Having robust travel insurance gives you peace of mind. If an unforeseen event occurs, you won’t be left stranded financially.

Safety Tips for Safaris

Safaris are thrilling but require caution. Always listen to your guide’s instructions for safety around wildlife. You should stay inside vehicles unless advised otherwise by the guide.

It’s essential to keep noise levels low during safaris. This helps avoid disturbing animals or attracting unwanted attention.

Environmental Health

Dust Protection

Dust can be a nuisance in Kenya, especially on safaris. To protect your eyes, wear sunglasses or goggles in dusty areas.

Bandanas or dust masks help cover your nose and mouth. Electronic devices should also be sealed in bags to protect them from dust damage.

Insect Protection

Insects can pose health risks in Kenya. Use insect repellent with DEET regularly for protection against bites.

Wear light-colored clothing so you can easily spot insects on you. Where available, sleep under treated mosquito nets for extra safety at night.

Best Time to Visit Kenya

Kenya’s diverse landscapes and climates make it one of the most versatile holiday destinations in the world. With each activity offering its peak season, it’s no surprise that the best time to visit Kenya can vary depending on what’s on your itinerary.

Wildlife Safaris

If you want to see wild animals up close, the best time to go is from late June to October. Since it’s dry, animals hang out more at water spots, making them easy to find.

Plus, it’s when the Great Migration happens in Kenya. Tons of wildebeest and zebras move together, and it’s fantastic for taking photos and for people who love wildlife.

Bird Watching

Kenya is a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 1,100 bird species. The vibrant birding season stretches from November to April, when Kenya is home to several migratory species from Europe and Northern Africa. The foliage is richer after the rains, presenting a stunning backdrop for bird photography and observation.

Mountain Climbing

For mountaineers eager to conquer Mount Kenya, January to February and July to October offer the most precise conditions with minimal precipitation, ensuring safer and more enjoyable ascents. These periods coincide with the dry seasons, promising stunning views and fewer clouds obstructing the majestic landscapes from the summit.

Beach Holidays

Those seeking sun, sand, and sea will find Kenya’s coast sultry and inviting throughout the year. However, the best time to visit Kenya for a beach holiday is typically from October to March, when the weather is slightly more relaxed and less rainy. This season makes it ideal for lazing on the beaches or taking to the water for diving and snorkeling in the clear, coral-fringed waters of the Indian Ocean.

Best Things to Do in Kenya

Kenya serves as a canvas of endless beauty and cultural diversity, and when you venture into this remarkable country, there are many activities to partake in. Here are some of the best things to do in Kenya that promise unforgettable experiences.

Witness Life in the Wild at Maasai Mara National Reserve

The Maasai Mara is the ultimate African safari spot and a must-do in Kenya. It’s packed with the Big Five: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalo. You can see how these animals and others live together in the vast savannas. Also, from July to October, there’s this fantastic event where millions of wildebeests migrate across the area.

Scale Mount Kenya

Hiking Mount Kenya is cool because you’ll see different plants, weather, and glaciers. You can choose different paths, but Sirimon and Chogoria have the best views. Reaching Point Lenana, the top spot, shows off impressive views of Kenya’s highlands, making all the hard work worth it.

Bargain at Nairobi’s Maasai Market

Visiting Nairobi? Don’t miss the Maasai Market. It’s like diving into Kenya’s culture with all its colors and vibes. You’ll find incredible stuff, like beaded necklaces and carved soapstones, that show Kenya’s astonishing heritage.

Plus, you can chat with those who do these things and learn about their skills. Buying something also helps the local community. Pretty cool, right?

Explore the Ancient Ruins of Gede

Visiting Gede Ruins is like going back in time. Hidden in the forests near Malindi and Watamu, this ancient Swahili town has a lot of history. The ruins are still super cool to see despite being overgrown with plants. It shows how East Africa’s people traded and blended cultures. Also, Gede is full of hidden stories and is a must-see in Kenya for anyone who is into history or adventure.

Sail in Lamu

Sailing in Lamu is super chill. You hop on old-school boats with sailors who know their way around, cruising the same routes ancient traders did. Everything’s slow-paced, from the sea to the incredible buildings and culture. And you have to catch the sunset boat rides – the sky and sea turn into a crazy beautiful color mix you won’t forget.

Best Places to Visit in Kenya

Brimming with natural wonders and vibrant cultures, Kenya offers a myriad of attractions that will captivate every type of traveler. Here are some of the best places to visit in Kenya, each promising an experience of a lifetime.

Aberdare National Park

Aberdare National Park is a fantastic place in the Aberdare Range. It is filled with bamboo woods, incredible landscapes, and waterfalls.

Walking there, you might see black leopards, wild dogs, and elephants. There are also more than 290 kinds of birds.

Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru National Park is a stunning spot known for its pink flamingos. This small lake, surrounded by trees and grass, is worth a visit. You might also see rhinos, giraffes, and various birds there.

Diani Beach

Dreaming of the beach? Try Diani Beach. It’s a lovely spot by the Indian Ocean with white sand and clear blue waters. It’s perfect for diving or just chilling.

There are excellent resorts, places to eat, and bars on the beach. It’s a top beach location in Kenya.


Nairobi is Kenya’s largest city and is always buzzing with markets, tasty food, and good music.

Visit Nairobi National Park, the Giraffe Centre, and the Elephant Orphanage. The Nairobi Museum is excellent for learning about Kenya’s story and culture. If you like exploring cities, Nairobi is the place to go.

Mombasa Old Town

Mombasa Old Town blends Arab, Asian, and European styles. It has narrow streets and old buildings with beautiful Swahili designs.

Check out Fort Jesus, an extraordinary place protected by UNESCO. Or, enjoy the local Swahili food and shop for traditional items. Walking here feels like going back in time to Kenya’s second-largest city.

Accommodation and Transportation

Figuring out where to stay and how to get around quickly and comfortably is essential to having a great time in Kenya. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your trip and travel smoothly.

Staying in Kenya

Kenya offers a variety of places to stay. You can choose from luxury lodges to budget hostels. Those who care about the environment should consider eco-friendly lodges. These places support conservation efforts.

Booking your accommodation early is smart, especially during peak seasons. This way, you ensure you have a place to stay.

Getting Around

Arrival by Air

When flying into Kenya, most travelers land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. Moi International Airport is your destination if you’re heading to the coast. Remember, some health requirements, like yellow fever vaccination, might need attention upon entry.

Transportation Options

Getting around Kenya has its quirks:

  • Matatus (minibusses) are everywhere but often packed.
  • Renting a car gives you freedom, but be cautious of road conditions.
  • For quick travel between cities, consider domestic flights.

Environmental Responsibility

In Kenya, looking after the environment is super important. It’s not just talk; it’s how they live every day. They do it to protect their landscapes and wildlife. When you visit, showing respect for nature proves you get why it’s crucial to keep our world safe for what comes next.

Ban on Plastics

Kenya takes pride in its pristine natural environments. To protect these, the country has a strict ban on single-use plastics in all protected areas, including national parks, beaches, and forests. If you plan to visit these beautiful places, bring reusable water bottles and shopping bags. It’s not just about following rules; it’s about preserving nature for future generations.

Violating this ban can lead to hefty fines, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Always check your bags before heading out for a day of adventure to make sure you’re not unintentionally carrying prohibited items.

Respecting Local Communities

Respecting local communities is critical when traveling through Kenya. Before snapping photos of people or their homes, always ask for permission first. It shows respect and acknowledges their dignity.

Supporting local businesses is another way to show respect. Purchase handmade crafts instead of mass-produced souvenirs from big stores. Not only do you get unique items, but you also help sustain the livelihoods of local artisans.

Learning basic Swahili phrases can go a long way, too. Greetings like “Jambo” (Hello) or “Asante” (Thank you) can open doors and hearts alike.

Driving in Kenya

Heading out on the roads in Kenya? You’re in for a real adventure. Keep your eyes open and be ready for anything. Every corner and stretch is different, showing off Kenya’s fantastic variety.

Road Conditions

Driving in Kenya offers a unique experience. The roads vary widely in quality. In cities, you might find well-paved roads. However, rural areas often have rough and unpaved paths.

You will encounter both smooth highways and bumpy tracks. This can make your journey adventurous or challenging, depending on your view. Always check the road conditions before heading out.

Traffic Laws

Kenya’s traffic laws may differ from what you’re used to. Understanding these rules is crucial for a safe trip.

One key rule is driving on the left side of the road. Speed limits are enforced but can change suddenly between areas. It’s important to stay alert and follow local signs.

International Driving Permit

Getting an International Driving Permit in Kenya is necessary if you’re not a Kenyan resident.

This permit translates your current driver’s license into multiple languages, including English, widely spoken in Kenya.

To get an IDP, apply before leaving your home country. Remember always to carry your IDP and original driver’s license when driving.

Tips and Reminders

Paying close attention and being ready can turn a trip abroad from annoying to super smooth and fun. When planning to visit a lively place like Kenya, being thoughtful and alert helps you enjoy every bit of your trip without stress.

Checking Itinerary Details

Before you set off for Kenya, double-checking your itinerary is crucial. Make sure all booking confirmations are in place. Look over the dates, times, and locations carefully. Mistakes can happen, but catching them early saves stress.

Transportation in Kenya might not always be on time. So, allow extra time for travel between places. This buffer helps if there are delays or changes in plans.

It’s also wise to watch travel advisories regularly before you leave. The situation can change quickly anywhere in the world.

Embassy Contacts

Knowing how to reach your embassy or consulate in Kenya is essential. Write down their contact details before you go. If they offer a service to register your trip, do it. It could help a lot if there’s an emergency.

You should also keep a list of emergency contacts with you at all times. This includes local services like hospitals and police stations.

Time and Patience

In Kenya, things often run on ‘African time.’ This means schedules are more like guidelines than strict timings. Delays usually happen here, so expect them.

Learning to embrace this slower pace can make your trip more enjoyable. Seeing it as part of the cultural experience adds value to your journey. Patience becomes essential when dealing with any bureaucracy while traveling here.

Knowing Kenya Before You Go

Traveling to Kenya is like opening a book full of adventures, cultures, and breathtaking landscapes. But don’t just dream about the savannah sunsets and the warm smiles of locals; make it a reality.

Your Kenyan adventure awaits, and trust us, it will be epic. So, what are you waiting for? Dive in and let Kenya change you forever.

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