If you want to go on a safari to spot African Wildlife than Kenya is one of the best destinations in the world. The national park Masai Mara is famous all over the world and inspired the creators of Disney to create The Lion King.
I travelled multiple times to Kenya and worked as a tour leader for several months and I loved it. It's not only just the best safari destination in the world, but there is so much more to explore. You can follow in the footsteps of others or go off-the-beaten-track to experience real and raw East Africa. Kenya can both be a relax destination or an adventurous one at the same time! In this Kenya travel guide, we will give you all the basic information you need to know before you go travelling to this beautiful country!
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The Republic of Kenya is the most powerful economy of East Africa with the capital Nairobi as the commercial capital of East and Central Africa. It is a former British colony and became independent in 1964. It has Somalia to the northeast, Tanzania to the south, Ethiopia and South Sudan to the north and Uganda to the west as neighbouring countries. Kenya lies on the equator and has 536 kilometres of Indian Ocean coastline with beautiful white sandy beaches.
Kenya has 43 different tribes that can be divided into three major linguistic groups: the Bantu, the Nilotes and the Cushites. The Kikuyu Community is the biggest tribe, but the Masai tribe is the most famous tribe of them all. Each tribe has their own unique values, skills, language and cultural practices. And it's definitely a must, to meet one of the indigenous tribes. You can only learn more about the country through its beautiful, soulful and colourfull people.
When you think of a trip to Kenya, you think of safari and envision the local Maasai Tribesmen wearing the distinct red robe, called the Shu...
Getting around Kenya is easy once you know your options. Flying, renting a car or motorbike, using the train system, taking a taxi, a bus or experiencing Kenya's popular public transport system like the "Matatu" are all viable options for travelling. It depends how adventurous you are and if you rather explore the country independently or book your trip in advance with many of local the tour agencies. It's all possible.
The roads in Kenya are in good condition between in the major cities and town. You will find dirt roads in the more remote and northern areas of Kenya. Hiring a car gives you more control and freedom while you travel, but can also sometimes be challenging because of the crowded roads and chaotic traffic. It's definitely worth it!
If you want to experience Kenya as a local than travelling with a Matatu is definitely an experience you will never forget. Matatus are privately owned minibuses and are the cheapest and most popular form of transportation in Kenya. If you don't have your own vehicle then public transport is your best option. You can travel with Matatus and buses between all cities and towns across Kenya. Buses are known to be safer, quieter and operate in a timely manner and also follow the same route as matatus. However, matatus play loud music, have random schedules with frequent stops, and gives you a more dramatic Kenyan public transportation experience.
Flights to Kenya
The two biggest International airports are Jomo Kenyatta in Nairobi and Moi in Mombasa. If you want to enjoy and relax at the beach it's best to fly to Mombasa. And if you want to go on a safari in the many national parks and game reserves its best to fly to Nairobi. It's central and it's easy to get to the many game parks in Kenya from Nairobi. You can also do both and catch the train or a domestic flight between these two major cities. There are many small airports in Kenya if you are short on time and rather fly to several places. There is even an airstrip in the Masai Mara. So everything is possible. Make sure to book your cheapest flights through Skyscanner.
Weather in Kenya
Kenya has a tropical climate. At the coast, it's hot and humid, more inland it's temperate and in the north, it's very dry and hot. The sun is shining all year round in Kenya which is great. However, it is usually cool at night and in the morning. Also because Nairobi and many other highland towns are at high altitude, it can even be cold during the months June - August. The upside is, in these months you don't have to worry about malaria mosquitos in these areas because it's too cold. Kenya has two rainy seasons. The long rain season is from April to June and the short rain season is from October to December. The rain is sometimes heavy but short and falls in the afternoons and evenings. The hottest period in Kenya is in February and March. The best time to watch the annual animal migration is between June and September right after the long rain season.
Visa for Kenya
Visas are available for almost all nationalities on entry at international airports and at land borders. The visa fee is USD 50 and your passport must be valid for at least six months after the date of your arrival in Kenya. You can apply for an Electronic eVisa and pay by credit card. The earliest you can apply for a visa for Kenya is three months before your departure date.
Vaccinations for Kenya
Besides your routine vaccines, it's also recommended for most travellers to get vaccinations for Yellow fever, Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Nairobi is a malaria free area but the rest of Kenya, especially during the warmer months, are malaria areas. We advise you to get information from your local doctor or travel clinic for your personal situation.
Currency in Kenya
The currency in Kenya is Kenyan shilling (KSH). Check the latest currency exchange rate here It's also possible to pay with USD, British pounds or Euro in some areas of Kenya.
Time in Kenya
The timezone in Kenya is UTC +3, Eastern Africa Time all year. There is no Daylight Saving Time in Kenya.
Because of the diverse population, Kenya has more than 60 different languages. Each tribe has their own dialect or language. The two official languages are English and Swahili.
Learn some Swahili words with this song and these words:
Hello = jambo How are you? = habari gani Fine (response) = nzuri Goodbye = kwa heri See you later = tutaonana Nice to meet you = nafurahi kukuona Goodnight = lala salama And the most famous sentence:
Hakuna Matata = No Worries/ no problem
Please do singalong!:
THINGS TO DO IN KENYA
There is so much to explore. And that's why we made the Ultimate Kenya Bucket list for you!
#1 Go on a safari!
You cannot go to Kenya without going on a safari. There are so many great parks where you can spot the Big 5: elephant, buffalo, leopard, rhino and lion and of course al the other amazing African Wildlife animals. This big 5 list is made up by hunters because these animals are the most difficult to hunt. Fortunately, it's now more commonly used as a list of animals you need to spot on your safari. Especially the rhino and the leopard are harder to spot than the other three. A safari is not limited as a driving safari in a jeep. You can fly in a Hot Air Balloon over Masai Mara, do cycling or walking safari in other parks that do not have lions ;).
#2 Do it as the locals do!
I mean transportation wise ;). The best way to experience real Kenya is hopping on a Matatu in Nairobi. It's a minibus that's loud, it's crowded but an experience you will never forget. In Mombasa and other places, you can also hop on the backseat of a bicycle. It's another form of transportation that you never see anywhere else in the world and only in Kenya. It's just like a taxi but then for 1 person on a bicycle, with a cushion. The quality of bikes diver but who cares, you're in Africa! Take it as it is. Hakuna Matata!
#3 Meet a local tribe
One of my very best travel experiences is meeting a Masai Tribe. We were in the middle of nowhere alone with just the 5 (my family) of us and surrounded by the most hospital and warm people of Kenya. And the tallest people we've seen. And we Dutchies are one of the tallest people of the world, so that means something. It's an ongoing "battle" between us and Masai who can call themselves the tallest of the world every year. So meeting other very tall people is very uncommon.
The Masai did a welcome dance for us, showed us how they lived and it was an experience I will never forget. Of course, there are many commercial Masai villages out there with lots of tourists coming over every day but ask locals for the less touristy ones. And there are so many other beautiful tribes in Kenya you can visit. But be discreet. Only visit a tribe that is open for it. Use a local guide to ask permission to visit.