Kenya is 580,367square kms in area – about the size of Texas – and borders on (clockwise from the south): Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Indian Ocean. The country’s population of 28.3 million people is growing at 1.7 percent annually and concentrated in the southern two-thirds of the country with the majority residing in rural towns and villages. Less than 25 percent of all Kenyans live in large urban areas. Kenya has been a major migratory pathway over the centuries, which has led to a diversity of people from almost every part of the continent. Kenya’s national parks and game reserves have long been famous for their variety and wealth of flora and fauna. One tenth of all land in Kenya is designated as national parkland. Over 50 parks and reserves cover all habitats from desert to mountain.
All visitors require valid passports and return air tickets. Visas are required for most visitors to Kenya at a cost of US $50 and can be obtained on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. You do not require a photograph if applying for your visa on arrival. The US $50 Kenya visa allows the traveler multiple entry for a period not exceeding three months from the date of issue as long as the travelers stays within the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Should the traveler depart these East Africa countries, when they return to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, they will either pay US $20 for transit visa or US $50 if they overnight in Nairobi. Those travelers who are in transit only are issued a Visitor's Pass, valid for up to six months.
Note: Please check with your nearest Kenya Consulate for up to date information for other than US citizens. Yellow fever and cholera vaccinations are not mandatory. However, anyone entering Kenya from or via a yellow fever infected area must be in possession of a valid International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever. If you have any questions regarding inoculations, please discuss with your local health organization or personal physician.
In Kenya, the unit of currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KSh), which is made up of 100 cents. Notes in circulation are KSh1000, KSh500, KSh200, KSh100, KSh50, and Ksh20, plus there are also new “copper” coins of KSh20, KSh10, KSh5, and KSh1 in circulation. Travelers’ checks are generally accepted, but having some U.S. dollar cash is also advisable. American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa and Citibank travelers’ checks are popular, easy to exchange and, if lost or stolen, can be easily replaced. Travelers’ checks or cash can be converted to local bank notes at airports, hotels, and banks. Banking hours are Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 2:00pm and on the first and last Saturday of the month from 9:00am to 11:00am. Some banks in Mombasa and Nairobi stay open later on weekdays. The bank at Nairobi airport is open 24 hours. Cash should either be kept with you or locked up in a secure hotel safe. In Kenya, Barclay’s Bank has a huge network of ATMs covering most major towns. They support MasterCard, Visa, Plus and Cirrus international networks. You can draw up to KSh40,000 at one time. Major credit cards are widely accepted by shops, restaurants and hotels but may be subject to a surcharge. Credit cards are not accepted by market traders or government institutions, so travelers should keep some local and foreign notes with them at all times.
Kenya is divided by the equator and enjoys a tropical climate. It is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the arid north and northeastern parts of the country. The hottest period is February and March and the coldest is July and August. The average annual temperatures in the main areas are Mombasa (72°F – 86°F); Nairobi (55°F – 77°F); and North Plainlands (73°F – 92°F). Long rains occur from April to June and short rains from October to December. Rainfall is sometimes heavy and mostly occurs during afternoon or early evening hours.
While traveling in Kenya, it is advisable to take precautions regarding drinking water and the use of ice. If you don’t know for certain that the water is safe, rather use only sealed bottled water, which is available from most hotels and lodges.
Bayonet light sockets are used in Kenya and voltage is 220/240 AC, 50Hz. The power supply is usually reliable in most places, though there are occasional failures. Power sockets are of the three-square-pin variety as used in the United a Kingdom, although some older buildings have round 2-pin sockets. If a power supply is important to you, be sure to bring universal adapter with you. Remote lodges and camps get their electricity from generators. Often the generators are only operated at specific times of day.
You can make direct dial domestic and international telephone calls from Kenya. The international dialing code is 254. Be aware that hotels are likely to impose a substantial surcharge to make calls from your room. In smaller towns, international calls can be made from the post office by connecting to the international operator in Nairobi. These operator-assisted calls can be very expensive as well. Local and long distance calls can be made from public phones in most towns. The trick is to find one. Make sure you have coins available. Telephone cards can be bought from post offices in major towns, but not all public phones are equipped to use them. Most lodges have central phones at reception, but not individual ones in rooms. Some major centers like Nairobi and Mombasa have internet access and internet cafes.
Greenwich Mean Time + 3 hours throughout the year.
The official national language is Swahili, although English is spoken throughout. In total there are 42 ethnic languages.
| 2249 R Street NW
Washington, DC, 20008
Telephone: ( 202) 387-6101
| 45 Courtland Place
London, W1N 4AS England, UK
Telephone: (071) 6362371
WHAT TO BUY
East African products are as diverse as the countries that make up the region. There are traditional artifacts, fantastic jewelry, beautiful wood carvings, the world’s best coffee, precious stones, furniture, brightly colored cloth, clothing and textiles, musical instruments, wonderful modern art, and much more. The best buys include makonde carvings, sometimes made from ebony (but often softer woods stained with boot polish), kiondos (woven sisal baskets), jewelry and tribal souvenirs, including colorful Masai beaded jewelry, elephant hair bracelets, decorated calabash (dried gourds) and shields. There are also batiks, local sarongs (kangas and kikois), soapstone carvings from Kisii in the west of Kenya, and paintings. There are also excellent gift shops in many hotels and lodges throughout East Africa where prices are not usually negotiable. But for the dedicated bargain hunter, the markets are the place to be, and visitors are expected to “haggle”. The art of bargaining is deeply rooted in East African culture — it’s considered an essential business skill. Starting prices are always exaggerated and the negotiating process can be lengthy, which frustrates some westerners. If you do become impatient, you can finalize proceedings by declaring your “absolute final price” and then asking for the sellers final price as well. If you both agree on this amount, the deal is done, and you will probably have ended up paying approximately 50% to 60% of the vendor’s starting price. The bottom line is, bargain hard but be reasonable . . . don’t forget that good carvings and beaded jewelry in particular, are works of art, both difficult and time-consuming to create.
| 1 January
| New Years Day
||Good Friday, Easter Monday
||Madaraka Day (anniversary of self government)
||Moi Day (anniversary of Moi's inauguration)
||Kenyatta Day (anniversary of Kenyatta's arrest)
||Jamhuri Day (anniversary of independence)
||the Muslim celebration of the end of Ramadan is variable from year to year.