Here are some of the guidelines we followed during our trip to Kenya. Of course, this list is far from comprehensive, and we always recommend you do your own research before traveling.
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BEFORE YOU GO
Check out the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs website for any travel advisories, cautions, vaccinations, visa/document requirements, etc. prior to traveling to Kenya. Note: there had been a Level 2 travel advisory in place for Kenya since April 9, 2019 at the time of our travel, which meant we needed to exercise increased caution while traveling here.
Yellow Fever vaccination is technically “recommended”, but we also read that proof of this is required to enter the country. Two of us were not checked, but the other four were, so it’s not worth the gamble. This particular vaccination isn’t the easiest to find as not many facilities offer it, so make sure you get this done well in advance; you need to have it done at least ten days prior to travel for it to take effect. Heads up: it’s also not the cheapest.
There are other recommended travel vaccinations for Kenya, and we were all advised to take malaria pills shortly before, throughout, and after the trip. Check the site above for more information and schedule a travel visit with your doctor to make sure you don’t miss anything.
A Kenyan travel visa is required to enter the country. An e-Visa can be purchased 100% online through the Kenyan eVisa website and is valid for travel within three months of the date it’s issued. A couple of notes on this:
- Possessing a visa is not the final authority to enter the Republic of Kenya, and you technically could still be denied entry (although unlikely).
- Give yourself plenty of time for processing, and don’t forget to print it out and pack it with your passport after you are approved.
- Most of us had issues getting the eVisa site to work – we ended up being able to pay by debit card after many tries with credit card; this seems to be a common issue with the site.
- Single-entry visas are available upon arrival at Kenyan airports, but this may change in the future; multiple-entry visas must be applied for ahead of time.
Remember to pack your passport, visa, vaccine records and any prescriptions (you sometimes need to show proof of these to bring medicine into the country), and leave a copy of these with a friend or family member back home just in case there are any issues or you lose a document while traveling.
IMPORTANT: You can’t bring plastic bags of any kind into Kenya; they’re illegal, and you could face steep fines if you’re caught with one. This is great for the environment, but tricky for packing!
We pre-ordered local currency from our banks and got out $200 USD each. Request bills that are no older than five years; clean, new bills with no tears are expected in Kenya.
This HAOZI Universal Travel Adapter works in Kenya and has room for multiple USBs and a plug.
In addition to our must-haves for any trip, which can be found in our Trip Tips, here are other key items to pack for a safari trip:
- A good camera to capture photos of all the animals
- Binoculars! Can’t stress this enough, but you won’t want to miss checking out these magnificent animals up close
- Money belt for under clothes; theft in Nairobi is especially common. We have personally used and recommend any of these products: Lewis N. Clark RFID Blocking Stash Wallet, Peak Gear Neck Wallet, Stashbandz Sports Running Belt Waist Pack, and DAITET Money Belt
- Sunglasses – it’s super dusty at times and covering your eyes will help
- Hat with a tie or chin strap for sun protection; if it ties, it won’t blow off while driving in the safari vehicle
- Lip balm with SPF protection – the sun is hot near the equator!
- Lots of bug spray; we suggest bringing a spray bottle of Repel (or a few) for on the go and this slow-release lotion by Sawyer for mornings before your safari and for evenings at the camp
- Hand sanitizer
- Anti-nausea medicine for the bumpy car rides
- Backpack or smaller bag for safaris to store binoculars and other necessities
- Headlamp or flashlight for walking around the camps at night
- Locks to secure luggage while traveling and at the camps
Clothing deserves its own section for a trip to Kenya; here’s what you’ll need:
- Lots of layers for the varying temperatures throughout the day; we wore lots of tank tops and full-length or capris-length leggings or elephant pants
- Neutral colored clothes; no white, blue or black clothes – white will show all of the dust from driving in a safari vehicle and blue and black attract unwanted attention from pesky bugs!
- One warm jacket for early mornings and at night when it’s chillier
- Comfy clothes for long car rides
- A lightweight scarf to wear when its colder out or to wear with nicer outfits as a shawl at night; this is also nice to cover your face when it’s dusty
- A couple of dresses or nicer outfits to rotate through for dinners
- One pair of tennis shoes and one pair of sandals is all you need for footwear!
- Bathing suit(s) – most of the camps have luxurious pools
Many of the camps and lodges have laundry services, so don’t over pack.
Pack your own medicine and feminine products, as there may not be ones that you are accustomed to readily available.
If you plan on visiting the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, you will need to complete an orphan animal adoption before you go. This was $50 USD per couple at the time of our trip, and you need to bring a printed copy of the confirmation with you to get in.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
Kenya’s currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KES). The exchange rate was around $1 USD to 100 KES at the time we went, so easy for quick calculations. U.S. currency is also accepted in Kenya, but it’s best to have some local currency on hand.
Carry a small amount of cash in your money belt each day – however much you intend on spending for tips, water and souvenirs, and keep your remaining cash divided up between a purse, camera bag, luggage, etc. so it’s not all in one place. This protects you from being spotted with lots of cash, so you’ll be less susceptible to theft.
Don’t drink the water, use ice in your drinks, or brush your teeth with it. You will need to purchase water bottles throughout your trip, and these are not included in the price for hotels or camps.
We recommend bringing water, snacks, bug repellent, tip money, tissues, sandwich baggies, hand sanitizer, lip balm, sunblock, a scarf, a cross-body or secure purse/wallet, and sunglasses on any of your excursions.
There are squat toilets in Kenya and some of the stops between various reserves don’t have the best quality bathrooms. The car rides are long, so other times, you may have to go on the side of the road. We recommend this female urination device by Venus To Mars for such occasions.
The restrooms many times will not be fully stocked with toilet paper or soap/hand sanitizer, so it’s smart to carry your own just in case.
Tipping is expected, as Kenya thrives on its tourist industry. We tipped with these guidelines in mind:
- Driver/guide (who will likely be with you throughout the trip): $10 USD per person, per day
- Hotel/lodge/camp staff: $5-10 USD per person, per day
- Porters: $1-2 USD per bag
- Restaurants: 5%-10% of the bill unless a service charge is already included
We would love to hear your tips for Kenya. Feel free to leave your ideas for us in a comment below, and don’t forget to pin it!
XOXO Travel A-Broads