Traveling to Kenya involves finding out about visas, health, safety, weather, currency and getting to and around Kenya.
Visa to Enter Kenya
Volunteers and visitors need to obtain a Tourist Visa to enter Kenya. Visas are valid for three months from the date of entry and can be purchased upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. You can also get a visa before you travel from Kenyan diplomatic missions overseas, visit this link: http://kenyaembassy.com/dcservices/appforvisaonline.aspx You should apply well in advance, especially if you are doing it by mail.
A single-entry visa costs USD 50 and a multiple entry visa USD 100. If you are planning on visiting just Kenya, then a single-entry is all you need. If your plans include crossing over to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or visit the Serengeti, then you’ll need a multiple-entry visa if you wish to re-enter Kenya again.
Health and Immunizations
Immunizations. No immunizations are required by law to enter Kenya if you are travelling directly from Europe or the US. If you are travelling from a country where Yellow Fever is present you will need to prove you have had the innoculation.
Several vaccinations are highly recommended, they include:
- Yellow Fever
- Hepatitis A & B
It is also recommended that you are up to date with your polio and tetanus vaccinations. Contact a travel clinic at least 3 months before you plan to travel. Here’s a list of travel clinics for US residents.
There’s a risk of catching malaria pretty much everywhere you travel in Kenya. The highlands used to be a low-risk area, but even there you have to be careful and take precautions. Kenya is home to the chloroquine-resistant strain of malaria as well as several others. Make sure your doctor or travel clinic knows you are traveling to Kenya (don’t just say Africa) so s/he can prescribe the right anti-malarial medication. Tips on how to avoid malaria will also help.
In general people are extremely friendly in Kenya and you will be humbled by their hospitality. But, there is real poverty in Kenya and you will soon realise that you are far richer and more fortunate than most local people you meet. You will probably attract your fair share of souvenir hawkers and beggars, but try and take the time to meet ordinary people going about their day to day business too. The experience will be worth it. Don’t be afraid to step out of that tour bus, just take some precautions.
Basic Safety Rules for Travelers to Kenya
- Make a copy of your passport and keep it in your luggage.
- Don’t walk on your own at night in the major cities or on empty beaches.
- Don’t wear jewelery.
- Don’t carry too much cash with you.
- Wear a money belt that fits under your clothes.
- Don’t carry a lot of camera equipment especially in the major cities.
- Beware of thieves posing as police officers.
Roads in Kenya aren’t very good. Potholes, road blocks, goats and people tend to get in the way of vehicles. Avoid driving a car or riding a bus at night because potholes are difficult to see and so are other vehicles especially when they are missing their headlights, a fairly common occurrence. If you are renting a car, keep the doors and windows locked while driving in the major cities. Car-jackings occur fairly regularly but may not end in violence as long as you comply with demands made.
In 1998 an attack on the US Embassy in Nairobi left 243 people dead and over a 1000 injured. In November 2002 a car bomb exploded, killing 15 people outside of a hotel near Mombasa. Both attacks are thought to have been caused by Al-Qaeda. While these are scary statistics you can still go and enjoy your safari or the beach in Mombasa. After all, tourists haven’t stopped going to New York city and security has improved in Kenya since 2002. For more information on terrorism check with your Foreign Office or Department of State for the latest warnings and developments.
When to Go
There are two rainy seasons in Kenya. A short rainy season in November and a longer one that usually lasts from the end of March in to May. It doesn’t necessarily get cold, but the roads can become impassable.If you are on safari you can usually see more animals during the dry season as they congregate around the waterholes. If you wish to plan your trip around the annual migration of the wildebeest you should go between the end of July – September.