Visitors to Kenya arriving from yellow fever-infested and cholera-infested areas must have valid vaccination certificates. Malaria is rare in Nairobi and the Highlands, but prevalent in the hot and humid low altitude areas around the coast, Lake Victoria and the savannah. Prescribed dosages of malaria prophylactics should be taken two weeks before travel, during your stay in Kenya and continued for two more weeks after your departure.
It is safe to swim in the sea and swimming pools, but it is not recommended to do so in lakes, rivers and open reservoirs as they may be infested with bilharzia parasites. Drinking water from these places is not advisable. Tap water is safe to drink unless otherwise indicated. Bottled mineral water is also widely available.
For more information on health in the tropics and on vaccinations, please check the FAQs section of this website.
Health insurance & medical services
Most travel agents and tour operators subscribe to the Flying Doctors’ Service. Independent cover can also be arranged directly, by contacting the Flying Doctors' Society of Africa (AMREF).
Should you require medical assistance, Nairobi and Mombasa have qualified medical specialists that your hotel or travel agent can contact for you. Kenya has excellent medical facilities, which include Nairobi Hospital, Kenyatta National Hospital, Aga Khan Hospital and Pandya Memorial Hospital, as well as air ambulance services, offered by the Flying Doctors’ Service (AMREF) or Africa Air Rescue (AAR).
At the coast during the daytime, beachwear is acceptable while in the hotel or on the beach. Light cotton dresses or shirts are recommended when walking around the city. During the safari, "safari suits" are the most suitable attire, while for evenings in the Highlands warm clothing is essential. For Nairobi and the Highlands, lightweight clothing and dresses are suitable throughout the year except during the cooler months of June to August, when warmer clothing is advisable. A wide brimmed hat, suntan oil and sunglasses are recommended for a sunbathing holiday at the coast, while a raincoat and insect repellent can become handy during a safari. Some establishments insist on eveningwear, and your travel agent will advise you on this.
Please do not walk away from the hotel or off the beach in your beachwear, as doing so may offend the cultural and religious sensibilities of the local people.
Apart from personal effects, visitors may bring with them:
Cameras (still and video); films and binoculars, which must not be sold during the visitor's stay in Kenya.
Non-consumable provisions and non-alcoholic beverages in such quantities as are, in the opinion of the authorities, consistent with the visit.
Cigarettes, cigars, cheroots, tobacco and snuff, not exceeding in all two hundred and fifty grams in weight; spirits (including liqueurs) or wine not exceeding in all one litre; perfume and eau de toilette not exceeding in all one half litre, of which not more than a quarter may be perfume (these duty free allowances are granted only to passengers of seventeen and over).
Live animals/pets, provided they have a veterinary certificate. For requirements to import dogs and cats: please see the "Permits, Licences & Passes" section of this website.
Gifts are dutiable, while firearms, illicit drugs and obscene literature are prohibited.
Kenya is a photographer's dream country, since there is abundant wildlife in their natural habitats, magnificent scenery, captivating avifauna, colourful people, and reliable as well as unlimited sunlight. It is, therefore, not difficult to take memorable photographs even if you are not a professional photographer. A UV or skylight filter is necessary everywhere, and a lens hood helps reduce the glare. You may require a good telephoto lens for shooting dramatic close-ups of animals, as well as a camera bag to protect your photographic equipment from dust.
When you are on safari, please always remember that the animals you encounter are not tame and, as such, it is advisable not to get out of your vehicle. Please avoid photographing the local people you meet while on safari before seeking their permission.
Short-stay drivers require only their own valid driving licences, which have to be endorsed at the Road Transport Office in Nairobi, either at Income Tax House (Ngong Road) or Times Tower (Haile Selassie Avenue). An international driving licence is the most convenient. Your travel agent can organize a “carnet de passage” for you, which covers, amongst other things, international driving licence and insurance.
Driving is on the left, and drivers approaching from the right at roundabouts are given priority. Fuel is sold in litres, and distances are measured and marked in kilometres.
If you wish to drive your own car/motorcycle through Kenya, contact the Kenya Revenue Authority for information on the necessary papers you need to produce and the taxes that will be levied.
There are no restrictions on the foreign exchange you may bring into the country. However, if you wish to take out of the country amounts exceeding the equivalent of Ksh 500,000, you require written authorisation from the Central Bank of Kenya. Defacement of the Kenyan currency is an indictable offence. The unit of currency is the Kenya Shilling. Notes come in denominations of Kshs10, Kshs20, Kshs50, Kshs100, Kshs500, and Kshs1,000. It is recommended that you change your foreign currency only in banks, bureaux de change or authorized hotels.
Visitors should change any surplus Kenyan currency at a bank or bureau de change prior to their departure. Banks making this transaction may wish to see the original receipts issued when foreign currency was exchanged. Kenyan currency cannot be used for purchases at airport duty-free shops. Major international credit cards are acceptable in many establishments.
In keeping with the acceptable practice elsewhere in the world, visitors are advised not to leave cash and valuables in their hotel rooms but to make use of hotel safe deposit boxes or safes. Visitors should not carry large sums of cash in their pockets while walking on the streets. Female visitors are advised to be careful with their handbags in crowded places and busy streets. Necklaces and jewellery should be left at home or kept with other valuables in the hotel custody. As in all major cities, walking alone at night should be avoided. Kenya has an efficient police force as well as a special "tourist police unit" with highly trained officers. In addition, most hotels employ experienced security personnel. However, it is advisable to always take those precautions you would take anywhere else in the world.
BUSINESS AND BANKING HOURS
Most banks in the major urban centres have a bureau de change, while hotels are authorised to transact in foreign exchange. Banks are open between 9.00 am and 3.00 pm, Monday through Friday, and between 9.00 am and 11.00 am on the first and last Saturday of the month. Branches of banks at the Jomo Kenyatta and Moi International Airports run 24-hour services.
Offices in Kenya are generally open between 8.00 am and 5.00 pm, Monday through Friday.
TELECOM AND POSTAL SERVICES
Kenya has an excellent telecommunication network for both domestic and international services. The international STD system is fully operational in most urban centres. Radio call equipment is available in most lodges and tented camps in remote areas where telephone facilities have not yet been installed. Internet services are highly developed, especially in the cities. Internet access is available in most hotels and in cyber cafés. Mobile telephones are widely used in Kenya. The GSM network provided by Safaricom and Zain (Airtel) covers most of the urban areas in the country. These companies also provide roaming services to cover Uganda and Tanzania. Satellite phones can be obtained from the authorised dealers, either for hire or for permanent use.
The electricity supply in Kenya is 220/240 volts 50Hz. Sockets are usually three pins square. It is advisable to ensure that appliances such as videos or battery chargers operating on other voltage have a built-in adapter. It is recommended that you bring your own adapter.
International newspapers as well as the local English newspapers are readily available. Kenya has several television stations, which include: the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, the Kenya Television Network, Nation TV, Citizen TV, Metro TV and StellaVision. Other international television stations are received via satellite.
NO departure or airport tax is payable for both international and domestic flights. There are duty-free shops at international airports, but purchases are only made in convertible currencies. Customs officials may require the inspection of outgoing baggage. All baggage is weighed and subjected to X-ray inspection before being loaded. Please consult your travel agent for other formalities.
Most hotels and game lodges feature a boutique or two, stocking a wide variety of Kenyan souvenirs. However, the real test is in the art of bargaining at market stalls, wayside outlets and bazaars.
Kenya has only one time zone - GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) plus two hours (winter time) and one hour (summer time).
Appropriate insurance cover is recommended.
Most hotels, game lodges and tented camps include a service charge in their tariff, as do most restaurants, and in such cases tipping is not necessary unless exceptional service inspires a desire to express extra appreciation. Your Kenyan tour operator will be happy to make some suggestion concerning suitable amounts, which vary according to the quality of service rendered.
It is recommended that instead of giving money to street urchins, you donate it to established charitable organisations, since giving money to beggars only aggravates the situation. It is also recommended that you avoid street salesmen and beach hawkers, since some of them may be unreliable.