Before you go

Fast Facts before you go to Kenya


Best time to visit

Kenya is a year round destination with some of the best game viewing activities in the world. The best time to go is usually July to February.
Kenya’s main tourist season is January and February, when the weather is generally considered to be the best – hot and dry, with high concentrations of wildlife. From June to October the annual wildebeest migration takes place, with thousands of animals streaming into the Masai Mara National Reserve from the Serengeti in July and October.
During the long rains (from March to the end of May, the low season) tourism is much quieter; this is also true during the short rains from October to December. The rains generally don’t affect your ability to get around the country.
  • Game viewing: June to February with the annual highlight of the huge wildebeest migration which takes place from June to October.
  • Birding: October to April. Kenya has some of the best bird viewing in the world. There are over 400 species of bird in the country.
  • Botany: March to October. Kenya is a country of vast bio-diversity including mountain rain forest, moor land, thick bamboo forests, sub alpine plants, acacia forest and vast savannah plains. March through to June and September and October are the months when flowers come into bloom.
  • Diving: Along the entire Kenyan coast stretches a vast fringing coral reef protected from overfishing and development in many places by Marine Park laws. Diving Seasons vary according to each area, but the best time of year to dive most places is Nov before the short rains & Feb/March before the long rains. May / June and in some areas July / August are no dive periods due to strong winds. 

Passports & Visas

As with all international travel, the visitor to Kenya is required to be in possession of a valid passport.  United States of America passport holders require a visa for Kenya. Visas may be obtained in advance (contact the Kenya High Commission), although airport visas are available. Travelers who opt to obtain an airport visa should expect delays upon arrival. If purchasing the visa on arrival, have the exact US$ CASH available. Kindly note that travelers purchasing their visas on arrival in Kenya (airports and road border posts) must pay in US dollars using bills that have been issued after the year 2006. Older notes are not accepted and may result in travel delays or entry refusal.
Effective July 1, 2011, the fee is $50 for single-entry visas, $100 for multiple entry and $20 for transit visas for each applicant regardless of age, and whether obtained in advance or at the airport. Evidence of yellow fever immunization may be required, and some travelers have been turned around at immigration for not having sufficient proof of immunization. Travelers to Kenya and neighboring African countries should ensure that the validity of their passports is at least six months beyond the end of their intended stay. Kenyan immigration authorities require a minimum of two blank (unstamped) visa pages in the passport to enter the country; some travelers have experienced difficulties when they arrive without the requisite blank pages. Travelers should make sure there are sufficient pages for visas and immigration stamps to enter into Kenya and other countries to be visited en route to Kenya or elsewhere in the region. Nationals of other countries must check the list of visa exempt countries to see if they need to apply for visas.  
As a general precaution, all travelers are advised to carry a photocopy of the photo/bio information page of their passport and keep it in a location separate from their passport.

Malaria Prophylaxis

Many local people and some travelers do not take ant-malaria prophylaxis, but it is strongly recommended that you obtain anti-malaria medication before entering East Africa. All guests must consult their own medical doctor or health authorities regarding the use of anti-malarial tablets prior to departure.
Whether you take oral prophylaxis or not, always use mosquito repellent, wear long pants, closed shoes, light long-sleeved shirts at night, and sleep under a mosquito net in endemic areas (the anopheles mosquito, which carries malaria, operates almost exclusively after dark). Mosquito repellent containing “deet” is best.  It is advisable to avoid malarial areas if you are pregnant.

Health Requirements & Inoculations

ALL travelers from or through Kenya will be required to show proof of Yellow Fever vaccination (unless in possession of a valid waiver certificate) or they will be denied entry into South Africa. South Africa requires a valid Yellow Fever certificate from all citizens and non-citizens over one year of age “traveling from a yellow fever risk country or having been in transit through a yellow fever risk country”
Definition of a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate – “vaccination should be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), and administered at a Yellow Fever-approved vaccination center at least 10 days before departure to South Africa.
Vaccinations for cholera, hepatitis A, meningitis and tetanus are recommended, but not required. 

Medical Care

Adequate medical care is available in Nairobi & Mombasa, though facilities are limited elsewhere. Air evacuation will generally take place from rural areas to Nairobi. Most doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance. Serious medical problems will require air evacuation to a country with state-of-the-art medical facilities (generally South Africa). Visitors are advised to secure medical cover on their medical insurance before arriving in the country. Make sure your health insurance covers you for medical expenses abroad. If not, supplemental insurance for overseas coverage, including possible evacuation, should be seriously considered. Major hotels have contracts with physicians and dentists. Visitors are however advised to bring along sufficient supplies of specialized medication they may require.  
As always, don’t forget to use sun screen and drink plenty of water while out in the African sun.


Travel insurance is highly recommended and can be purchased through South African Airways Vacations or your travel agent. It can be used to cover baggage & personal item loss as well as trip cancellations.  South African Airways Vacations will not be held responsible for any loss or damage to passenger’s belongings.  Travel Guard is the (travel) insurance carrier that is offered through South African Airways Vacations. For additional information, please inquire.


Clothing & Necessities

Here is a guideline list of important items to bring:

  • Casual, comfortable wash and wear clothing is most useful.  
  • Shorts, capris & Cotton T-shirts
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Long pants & shirts with collars for evenings
  • Fleece jacket for early morning and evening game drives
  • Swimwear
  • Rain ponchos
  • Casual light-weight cotton, khaki or neutral colored clothes for safari.
  • Bright & white colored clothing will attract unwanted insects.
  • Studies have proven that most African game animals are able to see bright blue over any other color.
  • Wide brimmed hat, personal toiletries, sun screen and lip balm
  • Anti-malaria prophylactics, insect repellent and prescribed medication
  • Binoculars, camera, batteries and accessories
  • Sunglasses
Laundry service is available at most hotels, camps and game lodges. Luggage is restricted to 20kg/44lb in SOFT SIDED BAGS. Soft sided bags ONLY are to be carried on safari and internal flights. Large suitcases are impossible to store in vehicles and on small aircraft and should NOT be used. 

Mobile phones, Land lines & Internet access

Kenya’s mobile phone operators utilize the GSM system; if your phone is GSM compatible, set up international roaming with your service provider before you leave home. In Kenya mobile phones are used widely – much more than normal land lines. One in three adults in Kenya carries a mobile phone. While the northern part of the country has no network access, the southern part – where most tourists stay – has good network access. This goes especially for the wide areas around Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, and as well for the whole coast region, the popular safari parks and the long road between Nairobi and Mombasa.
Fixed line telephones are generally unreliable. Both local and long distance calls are metered on a time basis and every second counts in terms of cost.  Major hotels offer fax and internet service, but lodges that are located in remote areas do not necessarily offer these amenities.

Internet and wireless capability is available in the bigger centers like Nairobi.  However, the more remote the location the less accessible it becomes.  Most hotels and game lodges have some internet capability and computer access is usually in the main areas of the lodges. Internet usage is charged for and can be expensive.   


Credit Cards

Visa and Master Card are honored by most restaurants, stores, hotels, car rental firms, and other points of sale and service. American Express and Diners Club less so.  Proof of identity may be requested in some instances and it is therefore advisable to carry a passport or some form of photo identification at all times.  Credit cards are seldom accepted in the rural areas however, ATM’s are available in larger towns and the city centers. It is prudent to only use credit cards at hotels, lodges, reputable shops and restaurants. Debit cards are not accepted.


Banking hours at most commercial banks are:
Mon – Fri 9:00am – 2:00pm (4:30pm in the major cities). The airport banks are open until midnight every day.
Sat                           8:30am – 11:30am
Certain branches of Barclay’s Bank in Nairobi: Hours of Business 
Mon to Fri: 8:00am – 5:00pm 
Saturday: 8:00am – 12:00pm 
Sundays and public holidays: Closed
Major hotels have foreign exchange facilities and most city shops, lodges and travel agencies take traveler’s checks. Automated teller machines (ATM’s) are available in cities and towns..  


It is customary to tip guides, drivers, and support staff on your safari. That said, the decision to tip -- and how much to give -- is a personal matter and not an obligation. Most lodges and camps will indicate (usually with an in-room note) an amount that is considered appropriate. Unlike the U.S. and Canada, where gratuities are seen as wages and are almost mandatory in many places, in Kenya tips are gifts, and the people you meet will generally work incredibly hard for them. Typically, you will be asked to give any gratuities to your host (or the lodge manager) upon departure from each safari property, and these monies will then be distributed among all staff members. At some places, guides should be tipped separately, and you're often encouraged to hand over their tip personally. Guides can make or break a trip, so it's a good idea to bring extra money to reward an exceptional guiding experience. Allow $10 to $20 per day (for each person in your party) for a guide, plus an additional $5 to $10 per person for drivers and a similar amount for Camp/Lodge staff. In cities and on the coast, 10% of the bill is standard for restaurants, and you can hand over $1 for porters and similar services. Taking pens and sweets to give out freely to children in Kenya is not advised, as this encourages begging. If you want to contribute to any cause in Africa, it's always best to make a donation to a reputable charity. Your tour operator will be able to help you with this.


Bottled water is available and the only guaranteed safe drinking water. Make sure you buy your bottled water from reputable outlets as some of the bottled water is not up to standard. Avoid drinking water straight from the faucet. Alternatively boil the water first and cool it for drinking.  Ensure that you take bottled water with you when traveling to remote rural areas and the bush. Most lodges and camps will have bottled water supplies available either for sale or on a complimentary basis.


Kenya is a multilingual country. The Swahili language and English, (which was inherited from colonial rule), are the two official working languages used in Kenya.
Kenya's urban population is variedly fluent in their mother tongues and the two official languages, English and Swahili. Rural populations are less multilingual, with many in remote villages speaking only their native language.


There is a variety of wildlife that can be seen in Kenya. 
  • THE BIG FIVE - Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo 


Electricity in Kenya is 240 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second (U.S./Canada are 110-120 Volts). If you travel to Kenya with a device that does not accept 240 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. With a few exceptions (in deep rural areas) electricity is available almost everywhere. Most Lodges and Camps will be run on Generator power. However, you will need to purchase or bring adapters/voltage convertors for the outlets. Traveling to Kenya you will need to use electric travel adapter G also known as the standard British 3-pin rectangular blade plug or the “13-amp plug”. You can purchase the adapters in many US/Canadian stores, online, or from certain shops in the major tourist cities like Nairobi.  Adapters are usually available on loan at major hotels and Lodges in Kenya. The following table shows the proper adapters for South Africa, Kenya and neighboring countries, as well as the voltage and other necessary information.  This information was retrieved from Feel free to visit the website to get further information, or to see pictures of the listed items.  




Plug and Socket Type







  Plug Adapters

Power Cord

South Africa

220/230 V

50 Hz


WA-10L,  WA-10

WE-110L,  WE-110


240 V






230 V


G, D




Metric Conversion

To convert Celsius into Fahrenheit = double then add 32
.62 miles = 1 kilometer
3.3 feet = 1 meter
1 acre = .405 hectare
1.05 quarts = 1 liter
2.2 pounds = 1 kilogram


Self-drive safaris in Kenya should only be undertaken by those with significant experience of African driving conditions. Roads in Kenya generally leave a great deal to be desired and many areas are remote and without any significant form of backup in terms of breakdowns and safety. It is highly recommended that guests utilize the services of a reputable tour operator when visiting Kenya.
You'll find few public restrooms while on safari -- or anywhere in Kenya, for that matter. Generally speaking, you'll want to avoid any type of public restroom unless it is in a hotel, resort, or safari lodge or camp. Upmarket restaurant facilities in larger towns and cities are generally acceptable, but never assume that you're going to encounter a decently managed restroom. Tour leaders will ensure that when rest stops occur, that these stops will take place at approved and acceptable facilities.

Souvenirs & VAT

There are many outlets in Kenya where you can find a rich array of arts, crafts and books to remind you of your vacation. Gifts and souvenirs can be readily purchased at the various Masai villages and road side stops. These curios are largely handcrafted by local artisans and revenues derived are used to support the local communities. A certain amount of “haggling” or bartering is required and it is an accepted form of commerce to do so at these local curio outlets. City and town center shops do not generally follow the bartering practice.
In Kenya the value-added tax (V.A.T.), currently 16%, is included in the price of most goods and services, including accommodations and food. To get a V.A.T. refund, foreign visitors must present receipts at the airport and carry purchased items with them or in their luggage. Fill out Form V.A.T. 4, available at the airport V.A.T. refund office. Make sure that your receipts are original tax invoices, containing the vendor's name and address, V.A.T. registration number, and the words tax invoice. Refunds are paid by check, which can be cashed immediately at an airport bank or refunded to your credit card with a small transaction fee. Visit the V.A.T. refund desk in the departures hall before you go through check-in, and organize receipts as you travel. Officials will go through your receipts and randomly ask to view purchases.
Airport taxes and fees are included in the price of your ticket.

Travel Emergencies

If you have lost your passport or wallet, please contact the local police department and file a report.  Once you have done this, contact Kenya’s U.S. Embassy, located at United Nations Avenue, Nairobi. All visitors seeking Consular services including ACS enter at the main Consular entrance located at the front of the Embassy compound off of UN Avenue. The Embassy is next to the Warwick Center directly opposite the U.N. Complex. • Telephone: (254) (020)-363 6622
The American Citizen Services section provides emergency services to Americans in the event of an emergency such as a death, arrest, illness, injuries, missing persons, destitution and other circumstances.  However, the types of services provided are limited. For general information on the type of services that can be provided, please refer to the State Department’s website for travelers. 
If you are an American citizen with an after-hours emergency, please call the hotline at: +254-(0) 20 363 6170
If you are an American citizen with an emergency during business hours, please call +254-(0) 20 363 6451.  
For Non-Emergency Issues please use the following contact information:
• Telephone               + 254 (0) 20-363-6622 
• Email Address  
Callers in the United States can also call the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services toll free at 1-888-407-4747 (from overseas call 1-202-501-4444). 
For more information on crises and emergency assistance overseas, please see the State Department website on Emergencies and Crises
Although every effort has been made to ensure the content accuracy, travelers are urged to check independently on matters of specific interest.  SAA Vacations, its associates and/or affiliates will not accept any responsibility or liability for any losses or damage resulting from the advice given.