Travel Tips for Kenya
 
      Weather-wise | Some notes... | Clothing | Photography
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Travelling | Health | Eating out | Shopping | Games | Safety

Online Travel Tips for Kenya

 
Kenya, the lands that must have seen Tarzan run amock with his animal friends is a delight for almost everyone - nature lovers, adventure tigers, beachy romantics, the history-haunted and the water-sporties too. What we offer you here are some suggestions and notes that will make it that wee-bit easier and a lot more fun!
 
Weather Climatic Tips

Luggage Packing Travel Safety Tips for Malaysia

If you love warmth, you'll love Kenya....and Kenya will love you too. This is your summer country. Not to say that it stays hot all the time. Climate varies from place to place. The Rift Valley is friendlier while the dry bushlands and semi-desert regions generally range from daytime highs of 40°C to lows like 20°C at night. Western Kenya and the eastern coastal fringe are generally hot and humid year round.

The brochures are right when they talk of weather - as right as one can get about weather. They say it is ' pleasant year round with warm sunny days and cool crisp nights'. Nights sure are cold and you might need hot water bottles tucked under the blanket to keep you cozy. Days are hot. Keep suntan lotion handy at all times and remember even on hazy days, it can burn.

The main tourist season is in January and February, since the hot, dry weather at this time of year is generally considered to be the most pleasant. This is when Kenya's birdlife flocks to the Rift Valley lakes in the greatest numbers. June to September is the 'shoulder season' as the weather is still dry. The rains hit from March to May (and to a lesser extent from October to December). During these months things are much quieter - more rooms are available and prices drop. The rains won't hamper your traveling plans.

 
Some more tips...

If diving or snorkeling, you may be tempted to collect some pretty shells from Zanzibar's many coral reefs. Resist doing this as it kills most of the entire reef population. Buying shells, besides 'hunting' for them, also encourages this harmful industry.

If you sare non-Muslim, then of course you cannot enter any of Zanzibar's many mosques.

The local currency, Tanzanian Shilling, isn't available internationally. It's easier to bring a good mix of hard currency traveler's cheques and cash. Changing these into the local Shilling can be done at the Bureaux de Change or Banks. The best rates of exchange go to US Dollars.

From December to mid-March are your best months. Sunny days and cool nights - cannot get better than this here. This is 'the' time to fish deep sea. You can scuba dive between August and March, when the ocean is calm and water is clear. Rains come by mainly from mid-March to May and again in November.

Muslim festivals, including Ramadan, and the Prophet's Birthday, make for 4 days of public holidays. Their precise dates depend on the lunar calendar. Good Friday and Easter Monday are 2 other off days.

Most big restaurants, stores, hotels, lodges, camps, car rental firms, etc. take international credit cards. American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa and MasterCard Traveler's Checks find easy accepted.

E-mail and internet access shouldn't be a problem in Kenya. Just say your Jambos and walk straight to one of the many growing Internet Cafes in the country in Nairobi, Zanzibar.....Write to your friends and family about all the fun you have had in the Simba land.

Kenyans are party animals. Not surprising since their music, known as Benga, is so foot-tapping and dance-inducing. A contemporary style of music, Benga has been popular here since the 1950s.

Clothing and Dressing Tips

Summer time's here ! Tropical and balmy, Kenya will have you in summer clothing most of the time. Your jacket and raincoat might be in use too sometimes.

Casual wear is the norm during the day - maybe a short-sleeved shirt for men and a light cotton dress or a skirt and top for women. Evenings though add a different color - slip into your fancier stuff, especially at some hotels and restaurants in the cities. A jacket, tie or anything that denotes 'formal' dressing for men and a cocktail dress for the lovely ladies. Goes without saying (yet we must !) that sunglasses and a hat for sun protection are 'highly' recommended. At the beach, anything is ok unless it's nothing - nudity or topless bathing are not permitted.

For your favorite safaris, you don't have to invest in the 'right' wardrobe. Again t-shirts might seem like a good choice but actually they are too light. Collared shirts are the best. They protect your neck from the sun, look better and can be worn for other occasions too.

Dawns and dusks are cooler. If you are out that time for a safari or even a walk, a sweater will keep you warm in the chill. Incase it's a safari that you are on, please remember to wear neutral colors - browns, beiges and khakis are ideal. Guess why we say that? Bright colors may alarm the animals and shoo them away from you. Soft and comfy walking shoes are nice too. As always, travel light as some safaris/air charters limit baggage to a maximum of 10-15 kilos.

Now that you know what exactly to wear in Kenya, just some words about clothes while you travel. On airplanes, for example, it's tempting to wear the most comfortable thing in the world like an old, faded t-shirt and sweat pants. Yet, keep a good mix between comfort and looks. Stiff coats and jackets are certainly out but smart casuals are just what you need.
 

 
Photography Tips

Photography Tips - Travel Safety Tips for Kenya

Close-ups of wild animals and birds, dramatic scenery, exotic tribes - Kenya is extremely photogenic and can boast to be any photographer's dream destination. The land is colorful and the lights glow well to give you postcard-like results.
Since it is so lovely around, you might just end up clicking everywhere. For photographs of people, please ask their permission first unless it is government and military personnel - you cannot ask them to say cheese. Clicking them is strictly prohibited ! It is ofcourse rude to take pictures without asking. Maasai and Samburu warriors expect payment for posing.
A 200mm (or longer) telephoto lens is just right for your safari. An ultra violet filter and lens cap are must to protect your camera from the strong mid-day sun.
Carry plenty of film rolls. They are expensive and scarce in Africa. Also take extra batteries and a waterproof pouch to protect your camera. The air is packed with dust and moisture. For a video camera, pack all the accessories needed.
Traveling Tips

 

Taxis and minibuses are available from tour operators and can also be found at most major arrival points and around town. Local buses (known as daladala's) span the entire island. Car rentals are also available at most cities.
Air Travel Tips for Kenya
You can hire vehicles to drive but remember to bring your International Driver's Permit. Just a word of caution about country side driving - it can be intimidating. Roads could be made of gravel and have potholes too. Help from villages could be miles away. Needless to say, you should wear a helmet while driving a motor-cycle.
In this land of the beasts, remember that the elephants have the right of way.

Step out of the airport and be ready to be the focal point of dozens of taxi drivers and kids who will jump at you for business. Do check the airport/hotel fares with your travel guide for the mode of transport you choose. If not, people in the airport should be able to tell you this.
What you should, should do is sign up with an airline carrier to collect your mileage. Some good mileage gets you goodies like upgrades, free flights and sometimes those supersavers like a ' buy one get one free' offer. To make this work, you gotta keep all old tickets in case they ' forget' to credit you.
Make sure the cab you take is licensed. Most big operators have metered vehicles and the others are usually owner-drivers. You can spot the latter with the yellow lines on the side of their vehicles. Always settle a price before-hand, if the cab is unmetered. Hotels often have vans and buses. If you are the outgoing, adventurous sorts, try the local buses and mix with the local people.
If you want to drive your own car, get it into the country but get some other things as well - a Vehicle Registration Certificate, Insurance, and your driving license or an international permit.
 
Eating Tips

Eating and Restaurant Travel Tips for Malaysia

Eating is a delight in Malaysia. You have choice as Malaysia has it all. Malay, Chinese, Indian, western, anything your palate wants. Food hawkers are very popular and offer a great variety. Try "teh tarik", a smoothened, creamed tea, "roti canai", a fluffy pancake. Then there’s spicy hot Malay food, such as "nasi lemak". You can’t be in Malaysia and not try the enormous variety of delicious seafood that it offers.

It is safe to drink water straight from the tap but it doesn’t harm to take precautions in any case. Boil it or buy branded bottled water and you can’t go wrong.
Health Tips
Like most developing countries, Kenya has it's share of risks too - malaria (except in Nairobi and high-altitude areas), cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, schistosomisis (this worm-infection is terrible as it sounds), meningitis, HIV, the Rift Valley fever and yellow fever. You can catch Bilharzia if you swim in some lakes, streams or rivers. That's where this parasite lives. Always check with your guide or the locals before you jump in the water.

Besides people, Zanzibar is loved by many others. It's a hot favorite of mosquitoes too. No wonder it is a malaria area. Carry anti-malaria pills, mosquito repellents and take other precautions like sleeping under the net etc. Most docs advice one to start popping tablets 2 weeks before you leave for Kenya. Continue throughout your stay here and stop 4 weeks after you return.

Water shouldn't cause any major worries. Tap water in the most big towns is purified and perfectly safe to drink. Remote areas can be dicey in this regard. Always boil water first, except of course if you’re staying at a lodge or hotel where they do it for you. If you don't want to do all this, pick a carton full of bottled water. It's easily available in bigger towns.

Precautions:

Vaccinations for cholera, tetanus and yellow fever are advised.

Obviously, carry a 'medical bag' with some regular essentials like a bug repellent, stomach medicines, suntan lotion and skin ointments.

It is a wise decision to buy travel insurance. God forbid that you'll need it but just incase...., it'll cover accidents, illnesses or hospitalization for the period of your stay.

Safari-goers should take a temporary membership to the East African Flying Doctors' Service. Members needing urgent medical attention while on a safari are flown to Nairobi for the best medical attention available in the country.

Eating Out Tips

Eating and Restaurants Tips for Kenya

Kenya is not and does not even claim to be one the world's best eating places. There are some good restaurants around though. And, food is a curious fusion of English cooking, American salads with a dash of some African taste.

Red meat is like the staple diet - everyone's eating it. At restaurants, you can get almost everything - from Continental to Chinese, Italian savories, good seafood, hot Indian, French and Mexican, Californian rolls....the list is endless.

And by the way, beer lovers have a reason to say 'cheers' - Kenyans love beer and it flows everywhere. Bon Appetite.

Tipping is much practiced in Kenya. With a thriving tourist industry like Kenya's, it much like the unwritten rule. At ordinary eating joints, the tip amounts to 5-10% of the bill. Tips are fatter on safaris - drivers, guides and cooks expect about US$3 per day per employee.

Remember we are out to travel and take things (read food) in our stride (read plates).

 
Shopping Tips

Shopping is what most travelers just love to do. To pick up unique stuff for oneself and other hopefuls back home like friends and relatives. Shopping in Kenya can be a lot of fun yet unpleasant at the same time.

The experience of shopping in Kenya is more about bargaining than much else. Almost everywhere, anything and everything is bargain-able. Don't feel odd doing it - you are expected to do this. Everything is marked up for tourists. Don't also think that you are ripping someone off or being exploitative or stingy. Haggling is like a game here and an entertaining one at that. So, hone up your skills before you pick that African artifact.

Shopping Tips for Kenya

Now, if you would rather be dead than haggle, there head for places with good quality stuff and fixed prices. African Heritage in Nairobi and Utamaduni in Langata (10 minutes drive out of Nairobi) are 2 such places you could try. It's relatively expensive here but the selection is wider. You can also pay by your credit card and big items can be shipped home.

For some great suede clothing, designed and made by the local craftsmen, Lavington, outside Nairobi, is just the place. This is popular among the locals and sells well abroad too. Check this out.

Biashara Street, Nairobi, is the address for fabrics. Khangas (printed fabric) are aplenty here and so is Kikois, the cloth piece that everyone wraps around themselves. These make for cheap and unique gifts and are pocket-friendly too. There are myriad colors to choose from. Never settle for something on the first look. Walk the street for a few minutes and plan your moves. Prices are pretty low - won't be wrong to say that it cannot get better. A little bargaining though is still ok.

If you are looking for souvenirs for friends, take something more indigenous - there are wood carvings, batiks, ethnic and modern jewelry, semi-precious stones, tie-dye cotton material, safari outfits, soap-stone carvings and basketware - all with a distinct Kenyan tang.

Shopping hours generally are between 0800 - 1700, Monday to Saturday.

 
Games people play....

...in Kenya. Well, it is impossible to come to this wild, wild land and not play at the game safaris. Who doesn't know that Kenya has the best selection of game parks and countless beasts. This is your chance to get up and close with a roaring lion or the huge elephants. Take a photo safari or zoom down in a jeep past the sandy hinterlands that boast not just of fresh pug marks but frequent sightings. Hold your breath !

Some must-dos and must-sees while you are there:

The Masai Mara Game Reserve is almost synonymous with this place. And why not ? There are hordes and packs of animals here who coolly hang around in the Savannahs here. And, they are very accustomed to dealing with vehicles and people. You can go as close to a Cheetah and it's cubs as your guts take you. Keep your handycams and cameras ready....you could even catch the lion's eyelashes. Besides the regulars, a number of migrating herds (and birds) can be spotted too like the Wildebeest and the big cats that prey on them. Their entry to the Park depends on the season though - late July through August is the time to visit them. By the way, you can even catch some superb views from the hot air balloon rides offered here.

For the most excitingly picturesque backdrop in this land, must go to the Amboseli Game Reserve. This is where Mt. Kilimanjaro is, the tallest and awesome peak that stands here. There are many a games here but the views can be very distracting ! Adventure enthusiasts love it for all the climbing that you can get to do, up and down (hopefully) the mountain.
 

 
Safety and Security Tips
How safe can it be in the land of roaring lions, huge elephants with intimidating, large tusks and sly leopards ? Scared? Jokes apart, Kenya is largely a safe place to be unless you act super adventurous and do all that you won't even dare in your own hometown....

When in a Kenyan city, it is advisable to follow some and common safety measures like don't walk alone in an apparently deserted area. Rather, try and stay in a group, have company and it is anyway more enjoyable, ain't it ? Moving around with bulging pockets or with a purse/wallet stuffed with wads of currency notes is like acting honey to a bee. The pick-pocket will surely sting ! It'll be nice to leave for expensive Rolex and Cartier jewelry at home too. Don't tempt anyone to mug you. If you are carrying precious stuff around, ask if your hotel has a safety deposit box service.

All popular and thus crowded areas are the favorite haunts of thieves. This is where they make a living. So, be on a general alert here. Keep photocopies of the first few pages of your passport, air ticket and other important travel documents and squirrel them away from the originals. Leaving money or anything valuable in a hotel room is not done too. A good insurance coverage before leaving home can give you some piece of mind.

In the wild jungles of Kenya, it can be dangerous though the predator is very different this time. Here you gotta watch out for the less wicked but stronger 4-legged ones. Some common-sense tips, if followed, will assure you a safe trip out of the jungle. Though most animals in the national parks are used to having human visitors with curios eyes and flashing camera lights, remember that they are wild life. The love and gentle look in your eyes doesn't convey much to the leopard or the lion. Keep your distance.

Feeding animals, making catcalls or other noises to attract their attention and deviating from the designated roads for that closer look or photograph are all illegal. Keep excitement under wraps and don't jump out of the vehicle except at select points.

If staying in the jungle, spray it with insect repellant and close all windows and zippers when you leave your room / tent.

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