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Visiting Kenya | A Brief Guide

Traveling to Kenya is a dream destination for many. As the world's safari capital, there are many sights to see and adventures to be had. Here is all you need to know to prepare for your next trip to Kenya!

Things To Take with You

You can purchase a Kenya visa online, and you must have a negative COVID test that is active within 96 hours before you leave for your trip. You will also need a passport with two blank pages, at least six months validity, and if you plan to work while you are there, your permit must be sent over six to eight weeks before you head out for your trip. Make sure that your plug adapter is compatible with a Kenyan power outlet. You will likely need a power converter as the voltage in Kenya is different than it is in the US. Make sure that yours can accommodate a 50hz power outlet.

Kenya Hotel Costs

Depending on where you stay, you can pay anywhere between $41 to 196 per night. Most hotels go for about $78 per night, and vacation rentals are a bit more, ranging between $60-$470 per night to stay in the entire home. The cheaper times to travel and stay in Kenya include January to May, September to October, and October to December. The cheapest time to go is the beginning of November. Consider staying at Giraffe Manor or Anga Afrika, both of which are in Nairobi. The latter is a luxury camp with proximity to national parks, and the former is a 1930s manor with wildlife surrounding the property.

Kenya Travel Do's

  • Do inquire about the wellbeing of a local's family. This shows respect and effort to acquaint with the culture.
  • Do respect the elderly, which includes anyone older than you.
  • Do understand that discussing one's level of education is seen as positive and not a form of bragging.
  • Do learn as much Swahili as you can. It is appreciated that you try to understand Kenyan language.
  • Do understand how to great a local. If you are greeting an elderly individual, the word "Jambo" is a respectable way to say 'Hello.'

What Not to Do in Kenya

  • Do not show public displays of affection.
  • Do not take pictures of locals without their permission.
  • Never point using just your index finger. If you are pointing to someone, use all your fingers at once.
  • Do not criticize Kenya. Foreign criticism is offensive.
  • Do not be frank. Direct critiques are negatively perceived by Kenya's indirect style of communication.
  • Do not wear thin straps or exposure your bare shoulders. Clothing that rests above the knee is also considered too revealing.
  • Do not lose your cool. Outbursts and speaking without deliberate intent are looked down upon.

Basics of Kenyan Culture

Kenya is hierarchical. The amount of land one owns indicates their socioeconomic status. Ownership of farm animals is also a sign of wealth. Although hierarchy is heavily embedded into society, Kenya remains collectivistic, implying that locals place the group before themselves. ‘Groups’ in the context of a collectivist society regard one’s family.

The culture in Kenya is diverse, as it is composed of 43 ethnic groups. Each group has an independent language and other traditions that are distinct from the other groups. The universal attribute across Kenyans is the emphasis on hospitality.

Kenya has a diverse cuisine that reflects the many ethnic groups that call Kenya home. Some food staples include rice, chapatti, and Ugali. Nyama Choma is the national dish of Kenya, which is a roasted goat sheep meat dish.

How To Dress

Men and women dress in jeans and shirts made from Masai Shuka, a fabric associated with the Masai and Samburu tribes. Kenya's dress is an example of their blended traditions.

Transportation in Kenya

A common form of transportation is matatus, the workhorses of Kenya's transport. There are buses and trucks you can also use in northern regions. Buses are the most used form of transportation, and many towns own independent buses that are cheap and kept tidy. Do keep in mind that Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is currently undergoing rapid urbanization, so traffic is hectic.

The Weather in Kenya

Kenya experiences a dry and a wet season. Since Kenya is close to the equator, it never experiences a proper winter or summer. The weather is generally warmer on the coast, and average temperatures range from 68 degrees to 82 degrees. Kenya experiences three climates: hot and humid coasts, hot and dry eastern and the northern regions, and in the west and southwest highlands near Nairobi, the climate is temperate subtropical.

Elevation of Kenya

The average elevation of Kenya is 2,500 ft. The highest peak in Kenya is Mount Kenya, at 17,051 ft. Nairobi, Kenya is 5,889’ above sea level.

Illegal Activities in Kenya

  • Sunbathing topless in public
  • Smoking in public places
  • Selling illegal drugs
  • Photographing official buildings
  • Carrying a firearm prior to entering the country
  • Using plastic bags
  • Homosexual activity
  • Not carrying ID

Areas to Avoid

If possible, avoid Thika Road and Mombasa Road, as both are very busy in response to expansion. A total of 80 black spots have been documented across three highways. Road accidents are common, although careless driving is taken seriously in Kenya. You can serve Life in Prison, as it is treated as cause for murder. High-risk areas to avoid also include those regions which border Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Some of these areas include Kibera, a slum district in Nairobi, Eastleigh, Nairobi, and The Old Town of Fort Jesus; these areas are particularly dangerous at night. 

Languages Spoken in Kenya

The national language is Swahili, a common identity factor across ethnic boundaries. English is also an official language used for business and education. Each ethnic group has its own native language, with most languages falling into either the Bantu or Milotic category.

Kenya is filled with exciting cultural and scenic experiences. Be sure to follow the guidelines here to have the best possible trip.

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