information on Kenya
Kenya is the 'Land of the Lion King' and sits at the
center of the African safari experience, with an outstanding
variety of wild animals and Big Five viewing opportunities.
Although safaris are its greatest attraction, it is a country
of great diversity with much more to offer than splendid wildlife.
Essentially it is a place for outdoor living - the coast offers
beaches and water-based activities, the mountains present
a challenge to hikers and climbers, and the rolling savannahs
are a game-viewers paradise.
The country sits astride the
equator and offers fabulous scenery and a variety of tribal
cultures. From its central location, the sacred peaks of Mt
Kenya reign over a landscape primarily covered by grasslands
and thorn trees, much of it enclosed within its many parks
and reserves. To the west the spectacular Great Rift Valley
is sprinkled with lakes teeming with a variety of birdlife,
whose shores and surrounds are traversed by agricultural farmlands.
To the east lies the promise of an idyllic beach holiday with
the requisite white palm-fringed beaches and pristine coral
reefs. Inhabiting the highlands and Rift Valley are two of
the most well known of the numerous tribal cultures, the Kikuyu
farmers and the tall, red-clad Masai cattle herders. The coast
is home to ancient Swahili civilizations and old port towns
that are rich in a history of exotic spice trading and fighting.
Kenya has a sophisticated tourism
infrastructure, with two major cities controlling the majority
of the tourism trade. Nairobi, the capital, is the safari
and hiking hub, situated in the cool Central Highlands, while
on the east coast the hot and humid trading port of Mombasa
functions as the gateway to the resorts and pristine beaches
of the area. Sadly the heavy influence of tourism has meant
excessive prices for safaris, souvenirs and most activities
of interest to foreigners, as well as the constant hassle
by touts, guides and sellers to part with as much money as
they can dupe the guilty traveller into spending.
Despite this, the people are
friendly and visitors can choose to do as little or as much
as they like, and the combination of wildlife, together with
its beaches and mountains, make Kenya a fantastic holiday
Language: English is the official language
but Swahili is the national language, with 42 ethnic languages
Currency: The unit of currency
is the Kenyan Shilling (KES), divided into 100 cents. It is
not advisable to take Kenyan Shillings out of the country
as they are difficult to exchange elsewhere. Travelers cheques
in Sterling or US Dollars are recommended for your trip to
Kenya. US Dollars in particular have become commonly used
in many of the country's main hotels and safari lodges. Foreign
currency can be changed at banks, bureaux de change and hotels;
easiest to exchange are US dollars, pounds sterling or Euros.
Street exchange merchants should be avoided as they are operating
illegally. Banks open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm and
on the first and last Saturday of the month. Banks and bureaux
de change at the international airport stay open 24 hours.
Credit Cards (American Express, Visa and MasterCard) are accepted
in the larger hotels and stores, and some camps and lodges.
ATMs are widely available in Nairobi and the major towns.
Time: GMT +3.
240 volts, 50Hz. UK-style square three-pin plugs are used.
The international access code for Kenya is +254. The outgoing
code is 000 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00027
for South Africa), unless dialing Tanzania or Uganda when
the outgoing codes are 007 or 006 respectively. City/area
codes are in use, e.g. (0)41 for Mombasa and (0)20 for Nairobi.
International Direct Dial is available throughout most of
the country, but the service is expensive and inefficient.
Hotels usually add a hefty surcharge to their telephone bills;
it is less expensive to either call from one of the international
phone services, which are available in larger towns or buy
a pre-paid calling card for use in the public telephone booths.
For international operator-assisted calls call 0196. All major
urban areas are covered by the mobile network; the local mobile
phone operators use GSM networks that have roaming agreements
with most international mobile phone operators. Internet cafes
are widely available in most towns and tourist areas.
Duty Free: Travelers
to Kenya over 16 years do not have to pay duty on 227g tobacco
or 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars; 1 bottle of alcohol; and 473ml
perfume. Prohibited items include fruit, imitation firearms,
and children's toys pistols. No plants may be brought into
the country without a Plant Import Permit (PIP).
The Kenyan Director of Medical Services confirmed on 9 June
2005 an outbreak of cholera in the densely populated Eastleigh
area of Nairobi, following five deaths. Although the Provincial
Commissioner has banned the sale of food from road-side outlets
in the city, it is still widely available. Food prepared by
unlicensed vendors should be avoided. Travelers should get
the latest medical advice on inoculations and malaria prevention
at least three weeks prior to departure. Immunization against
yellow fever, Hepatitis A, polio and typhoid are usually recommended.
A malaria risk exists all year round, but more around Mombasa
and the lower coastal areas than in Nairobi and on the high
central plateau. Other risks include diarrhoeal diseases,
hepatitis A, B and E and dengue fever. Protection against
bites from sandflies, mosquitoes and tsetse flies is the best
prevention against dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases.
AIDS is a serious problem in Kenya and the necessary precautions
should be taken. Water is of variable quality and visitors
are advised to drink bottled water wherever possible. There
are good medical facilities in Nairobi and Mombasa but health
insurance is essential. A yellow fever certificate is required
by anyone arriving from an infected area.
Nairobi is notorious for robberies and muggings and visitors
should be alert at all times, but particularly at night. Recent
armed attacks on golf courses have occurred and players should
be cautious while playing in remote areas away from the club
house. Visitors should also be vigilant in Mombasa. There
have been a number of recent knife attacks on tourists in
the main south coast tourist areas of Diani and Ukunda. There
is a serious threat of banditry in the northern areas and
travel is only advisable with an armed escort. For security
reasons visitors to Lamu Island are advised to travel by air.
Visitors should take sensible precautions when driving; in
particular, landmines have been used in attacks around Moyale,
close to the main A2 road south. Vehicles crossing the border
at this point should stay on the A2. There is a high threat
from global terrorism in Kenya and visitors should be vigilant
in public places and tourist sites. Those traveling through
Kenyan airports should be vigilant as recent security incidents
have taken place at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The rainy seasons in Kenya are April to June and October to
early December. The coast is hot and humid all year round
but tempered by strong onshore breezes, the lowlands are hot
and dry and the highlands (including Nairobi) are more temperate
and cool at night.
Nairobi is best characterized by the variety of locally-given
descriptive names, representative of the city's contrasting
images - of wealthy spacious suburbs, charming flower-lined
streets and a refreshing climate, alongside crime, corruption,
filth and poverty. Names like 'Green City in the Sun', 'City
of Flowers' and the Masai name 'Place of Cool Waters' attempt
to overshadow the all too real version of 'Nairobbery' that
stands as a well-found warning to newly arrived tourists.
Nairobi is one of Africa's largest
and most interesting cities. It is a place of enormous energy,
a tireless and thriving bustle of people, and a city of differences.
Assorted races, tribes and origins are all a part of its make-up.
Rural immigrants and refugees are drawn by the hope of wealth
and opportunity, international businessmen are attracted by
profitable business prospects, and tourists are promised the
makings of the perfect safari. The city center buzzes with
the energy, aspirations and opportunism of moneychangers,
safari touts, would-be thieves, food vendors and trinket sellers,
prostitutes, shoppers, security guards, and sharp-eyed shoe
shiners assessing the footwear of the hurried throngs. Among
them are the disillusioned faces of the unemployed, the beggars
and the destitute.
Kenyatta Avenue is the city's
favorite tourist image, a broad avenue fringed by trees and
flowers that was originally designed to allow a twelve-oxen
team to make a full turn. There are several museums and places
of interest in the center, including the National Museum and
Snake Park. There are numerous markets selling traditional
crafts, especially the appealing Masai market. Just outside
of the center is the Nairobi National Park, and the nearby
Bomas of Kenya host performances of traditional dancing and
singing. The Langata Giraffe Center offers visitors the chance
to hand-feed the Rothschild giraffes who inhabit the area.
Nairobi is also the safari capital
of Africa and a good base for travel in Kenya. From here excursions
and safaris can be arranged to any of the national parks or
reserves in the country.
The most popular form of public transport in Nairobi is the
matatu, usually a Nissan minibus, which operate on set routes
collecting as many passengers as possible en route, with people
boarding and disembarking wherever and whenever they choose.
Loud music goes along with the ride in these cheap but unregulated
and usually overcrowded vehicles that have become part of
Kenyan culture. No less risky, but not as colorful, are the
local bus services which operate on set routes and schedules
through the city streets, renowned for overcrowding and speeding.
Taxis are widely available and convenient, usually congregated
in the street around hotels and areas frequented by tourists.
Taxis are not metered and the fare should be agreed upon before
departure. Nairobi taxis are marked with a yellow line along
the side of the vehicle, or they are, surprisingly, large
black London taxis. The better taxi companies have more modern
vehicles which can be booked by telephone. Three-wheel auto-rickshaws,
or 'tuk-tuks' are also used as taxis in Nairobi.