All the facts you need to know about the country itself.
Full Country Name Republic of Kenya
Area 583,000 sq km
Population 46.66 million (UN 2015)
Capital and largest City Nairobi
Borders Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda
Religion Christian, Animist, Muslim
Time Zone Standard time is three hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time
Languages English and Swahili are the official languages and are taught in schools throughout the country. However, there are many other tribal languages including Kikuyu, Luhia, Luo and Kikamba as well as many minor tribal languages
Country Dialling Code +254
Kenya has enchanted travellers for centuries with the allure of wildlife, spectacular scenery and exotic tribes, and today is one of the finest safari destinations in Africa. Kenya comprises of wildlife, culture and the cradle of mankind – a natural paradise and land of contrasts, with world famous national parks like the Masai Mara, Samburu, Amboseli, Tsavo and Mt Kenya.
Kenya’s wildlife regions are the magnet, which lure safari enthusiasts to East Africa, but the white sandy beaches and tropical palms of the Swahili coast is another good reason to choose this hospitable, friendly country as a vacation destination.
There are many different ways to experience Kenya. Whether you want to view a pride of lions from a 4X4 safari vehicle, walk through herds of plains game, watch a herd of elephants from the comfortable veranda of your safari lodge, track game on horseback or search for birds in a thick rainforest, the possibilities are endless.
When to Travel
When to Travel
There is no right time to travel to Kenya, just the right time for you! Here we go through the benefits and downsides of each season.
Expert Tips for Experiencing The Great Migration
- If you want a more exclusive safari then you can stay in one of the conservancies bordering the Masai Mara where there are far less vehicles and more activities allowed, such as night drives and walking safaris.
- If you want to get up close to the wildebeest migration from July to October then make sure that the camp offers one day in the Masai Mara National Park itself.
- Here is our Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Migration
The Climate in Kenya
The climate in Kenya varies due to the sharp variations in altitude from sea level to 5,100 metres. Due to the proximity of the Equator, Kenya generally experiences a pleasant climate throughout the year with plenty of clear sunshine all the year round and although warm by day is often chilly at night.
Green Season: November to June
This period is known as the green season. November – February is a very enjoyable time to visit, as tourist numbers are lower in this time and the weather is not disruptive. The heavier and longer rains are in March-May. June can also be very agreeable, although habitually with some rainfall.
Benefits to visiting Kenya in the green season:
- This can be a great time for photographers to travel to Kenya.
- The landscape is lush and the birdlife is fantastic at this time of year.
- There are a lot of baby animals at this time of year.
- Properties offer discounts of up to 25% of what they would usually charge so it is excellent value for money.
- The rains usually only last a couple of hours so it doesn’t impact the whole day.
- You can expect more exclusive safaris as there are fewer people.
- In the Masai Mara you are more likely to spot tree-climbing lions, as due to the long grass they need to climb trees to spot their prey.
Downsides of visiting Kenya in the green season:
- You are best to travel in 4WD vehicles as minibuses can get stuck in the mud.
- Animals are more difficult to spot, as there is a lot of water around so they can disperse from the more permanent water sources.
Dry Season: July - October
The weather at this time of year is lovely. This is the time that the wildebeest migration moves into the Masai Mara, in time for the famous river crossing.
Benefits to visiting Kenya in the dry season:
- This is when the temperature is most pleasant and there is little to no rain.
- There are lower grass levels and less sources of water so the wildlife viewing is optimum.
- This is the season when the wildebeest migration moves through the Masai Mara and so it is the only time that you can witness the river crossing.
- The dry season offers better weather for those who are hoping to also visit the beautiful beaches in Kenya.
Downsides of visiting Kenya in the dry season:
- Prices are higher, as it’s peak season.There is also higher grass for the animals to hide in.
- This can be a busy time to visit, especially July to September when tourists are hoping to catch the wildebeest migration/river crossing.
For those that are more budget conscious: June or November are good times to travel to Kenya. It is excellent value for money as it’s not peak season, the rainfall is very minimal and there still aren’t too many tourists at this time.
Here is the “need to know” information about visas for Kenya.
Do I need a Visa to Travel to Kenya?
At the time of writing, a visa for Kenya is required for Australian Passport Holders. The visa can be obtained online, on arrival at the airport or at border posts.
Online applications take around seven working days to process. Visitors are required to present their printed e-Visa upon entry. The four step procedure requires visitors to submit an application form and passport sized photo.
What is the Cost of a Kenyan Visa?
- Single Entry Visa: USD 50 per person on an Australian Passport (subject to change).
- Multiple Entry Visa: Please note that if you are travelling within East Africa (Tanzania, Zanzibar or Uganda or Rwanda) you can request free re-entry into Kenya. You will however be required to pay the normal visa charges for the other countries but may re-enter Kenya freely.
- Transit Visa: USD 20 per person on an Australian Passport. Transit time in Kenya cannot exceed 24 hours (subject to change).
- Kenya has enforced a ‘blank pages’ condition of entry. This means that all those requiring a visa to enter Kenya must have at least two blank pages available in your passport upon arrival. Failure to meet this requirement may result in an entry visa being refused.
- Your passport must be valid at least six months beyond the intended stay.
- Visitors must also be in possession of onward travel documents and have sufficient funds for the duration of their stay.
- Yellow Fever: A Yellow Fever vaccination is required. All travellers must carry proof that the Yellow Fever vaccine has been administered at least 10 days prior to travel.
What you need to know about your finances for your holiday in Kenya.
The Kenyan currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KSH), which is divided up into 100 cents, and it is now permitted to take local currency into the country.
You Should Know...
- US Dollar notes printed before the year 2000 will not be accepted. Barclay’s Bank in Kenya has implemented a new policy where they will no longer accept notes printed before 2000. Clients who carry US Dollar notes printed before 2000 will be compelled to accept a rate of exchange lower than normal.
- It is recommended to carry some cash in small denominations.
Is Kenya the right choice for you and your family? Here’s what you need to know about travelling with children.
Considerations when Travelling with Children
We would not recommend travelling to Kenya with children under the age of 6 as it is not malaria-free.
- Most hotels will not charge for children under the age of 2 and usually children under the age of 12 will pay just 50% of the adult rate.
- Exclusive lodges may impose a minimum age limit but speak to one of our Africa experts and they will tailor-make a safari for you and your family.
- Some safari properties will have child-friendly activities and clubs to amuse and educate children.
Why Choose Kenya for your Family Holiday?
- Kenya is better equipped to look after small children than a lot of other African countries.
- Kenya has some of the best beaches in Africa and so ending your family safari at the coast means relaxation for the “big kids” and plenty of fun and excitement for the little ones.
- Older active children really enjoy the interaction with the Masai people, teaching them their culture and engaging them in activities whilst parents can relax and enjoy their own version of safari.
If you speak to one of our consultants they can design a holiday to suit the needs of you and your family.
Although electricity in Africa is a lot more reliable than it used to be, here’s what you need to be aware of.
VOLTAGE & FREQUENCY
In Kenya the general voltage is 240 and the frequency is 50 Hz.
- The British three rectangular blade plugs are common.
- Some lodges and camps only have power in the early mornings and evenings.
- Batteries may be recharged in camps during the day but it is wise to double check with the camp manager.
- As the sockets can vary a ‘Travellers Adaptor Set’ is recommended. Voltage sometimes fluctuates and whilst power cuts are rare, they are not unknown. It is useful to carry a torch.
Travelling by road in Africa may seem daunting to some so we have put together some information so that you know what you can expect.
- Kenya like most countries in Africa is a third world country. Therefore please be aware that the infrastructure in certain areas is not up to the standard you would find at home.
- Roads are often very rough and short journeys can take much longer than expected. For example a journey from Nairobi to the Masai Mara which is 300 kms takes 5-6 hours and from Lake Nakuru to Amboseli 6-7 hours. Some days will be very long and bumpy due to Kenya’s road conditions.
- The views and spectacular scenery encountered usually make the trip well worthwhile.
Road travel in Africa can be a risky business. We cannot stress enough how important it is that you travel with a reputable ground operator, who has strictly enforced guidelines regarding speed and road safety. We have spent the best part of 50 years assessing the ground operators in each country that we sell. In booking through Bench you know that you will be the safest that you can be!
Here are our recommendations to thumb through either before you leave for your trip to Kenya, or whilst on safari.
- Out of Africa: Isak Dinesen and Karen Blixen
- It’s Our Turn to Eat: Michela Wrong
- Born Free: Joy Adamson
- Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story: Daphne Sheldrick
- Lonely Planet Kenya: Lonely Planet
- 101 Things to Know When You Go on Safari in Africa: Patrick Brakspear
Tipping is a delicate and sensitive issue and many people ask us for tipping guidelines, here is all the information you should require.
Tipping is usually considered customary in Africa although not as widespread as the United States or Europe. It is always at your discretion. If you feel that someone has gone the extra mile to make your stay more enjoyable, a tip would be considered a nice way of saying thank you.
To help you budget for your trip, the following is given as a guideline only (shown in US Dollars):
Driver (per person per full day): $5.00
Guide (per person per full day): $5.00
Safari Guide/Driver (per person per full day): $10.00
Local Transfers/bus (per person per activity): $3.00
Camp Staff (per person per full day): $5.00
Hotel Porter (per bag): $1.00
Restaurant (per person per meal): $1.00
A la Carte dining: 10% of the bill
Here are some numbers you might need.
High Commission of the Republic of Kenya
Level 3 Manpower Building 33/35 Ainslie Ave, ACT 2601, Australia
Tel: +61 2 6247 4788/4722/4688/4311
Australian High Commission in Kenya
Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road) Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254 20 4277 100 or +254 20 4277 160/
Here are some guidelines for travelling by light aircraft in Kenya.
- Please ask the local operator at your hotel/lodge to reconfirm all onward flights prior to departure to ensure the flight timings are still correct.
- Most departure taxes (domestic and international) are included on tickets, however some regional and private airports have taxes to be paid for locally.
General Luggage & Weight Restrictions on Light Aircraft
- The maximum baggage allowance on the light aircraft utilized for transfers between game lodges is 15 kg per person in a soft bag. This includes photographic equipment and hand luggage.
- Only soft bags will be accepted – no wheels, frames or rigid structures can be transported, as they physically cannot fit into the aircraft.
At Bench Africa we carefully select the properties that we use, and one size certainly does not fit all. Here is a list of all the different types of accommodation awaiting you in Africa.
We recommend this for the more intrepid travellers who want to get their hands dirty! Guests will put up their own tents and may be required to help around the campsite. The basics are catered for, as well as two-man tents and sleeping mats and campsites preselected to stay at along the journey. The amenities at these campsites can vary quite drastically depending where you are in Africa and what you pay. For example in the Serengeti there is no running water at the campsites, however in other parts of Africa the campsite may have a swimming pool.
Fully Serviced Camping
For those that want to experience a traditional safari, under canvas but would still like the chance to relax and take time to enjoy their environment we would recommend fully serviced camping. On arrival the mobile camp is set up and ready to go. The tents are spacious and can be really quite luxurious, often with camp beds and en-suite bathrooms, as well as a full staff of chefs, waiters and other helping hands. Here you will have lighting, hot water and cold drinks but you still have that amazing feeling of being at one with nature!
Luxury Tented Camping
Luxury tented camps are a very popular choice on safari because these camps are very intimate, usually with no more than 20 tents on site. These luxury tents offer spacious rooms with electricity, proper beds, as well as en-suite bathrooms with running hot and cold water. The cuisine and service is of a very high standard and you will eat like a king, with 3 decadent meals a day, as well as snacks. All luxury tented camps offer an all-inclusive package to incorporate meals, local drinks and game viewing activities. At night you can still go to sleep, under canvas with the sounds of the African wilderness around you. This is how you do safari in style!
Safari Lodges vary considerably in size and architectural design but essentially these are much more permanent structures, often with many more rooms than luxury tented camps. They will often have a swimming pool and conferencing facilities. A lodge will celebrate the nature surrounding it and will usually blend in with its surrounds and built making natural, locally sourced materials.
This would commonly be the largest of all the accommodation types but again can vary quite dramatically in style, size and the amenities that it offers. There is typically a reception area, with rooms opening directly onto a hallway. They would be less exclusive that the aforementioned accommodation types, with restaurants and other facilities open to the public.
A boutique hotel is a 5-star establishment providing all the features and facilities of a standard hotel but is always unique and very stylish. These properties are usually smaller and more intimate than a hotel and offer a very high-end service.
Hotels, lodges and tented camps in Africa range from good tourist standard to award- winning deluxe properties. On occasions it may be necessary to change a hotel, lodge or camp due to various reasons, which would be out of the control of Bench Africa. In this situation we will make every effort to give you as much advance warning as possible. In the event of this happening we may not be able to send out up-to-date information on this substitute property.
For more information on the individual hotels, lodges or tented camps where you will be staying please refer to your itinerary or speak to one of our Africa experts.
What to Pack
What to Pack
Here we have listed our recommendations of what you should pack for your travels in Kenya
- Formal clothing is generally not needed throughout most of Africa. We recommend that you limit your luggage to the basics. More formal attire is usually only required when staying in the more prestigious city hotel establishments.
- On a wildlife safari, casual cotton clothing is the most practical. Calm neutral colours such as tan or khaki are a good idea although a bush outfit is not essential. Some form of headgear is recommended, and sunglasses are essential. A warm fleece or jacket is advisable for colder evenings and early mornings. A lightweight raincoat may be useful as some seasonal rains can occur.
- Heavy footwear is not required, but sturdy, comfortable walking shoes or boots are recommended for nature walks, with a change of shoes (such as trainers) for the camp.
- The dress code is informal at all of the camps and it is advisable to bring long sleeved shirts and trousers for the evenings to minimise insect bites.
- Good laundry facilities are readily available at many hotels, game lodges and camps, and often on a complimentary service where the amount of luggage is restricted. However, on a busy itinerary it is advisable to check that your clothes will be ready before your departure. For your transfers between camps you may be subject to some very strict baggage restrictions.
- You will be limited to a certain weight, often between 15–20 KG. Bags also have to be soft-sided cases so that they can fit in the hold. These restrictions cannot be avoided, as there simply is not the capacity on small planes and/or road vehicles so bear this in mind when you are packing for your Kenya trip.
- It is always a good idea to dress in layers on activities to accommodate the early morning and late afternoon change of temperature. Winter months will definitely require a warm jacket and perhaps a beanie, gloves and a scarf.
- Hat for protection from the sun
- Good quality sunglasses preferably polarized
- Camera, charger and adaptor
- If you wear contact lenses, we recommend that you bring along a pair of glasses in case of dust irritation.
- Good walking shoes, trainers as well as sandals
- Socks (long socks, if you are doing a gorilla trek)
- Long trousers/slacks
- T-shirts/long-sleeved cotton shirt for cooler evenings
- Sweater/fleece/raincoat. These may be required for early morning and late afternoon game activities throughout the year.
- Lip balm
- Sports bra – ladies, you may need this for bumpy game drive
- Swimming costume
- Basic medical kit (aspirins, elastoplasts, Imodium, antiseptic cream etc
- Malaria tablets AND anti-histamine cream
- Insect repellent (many lodges do supply sprays)
- Protective suntan lotion particularly for pale and sensitive skins
- Tissues or ‘wet wipes’
Food & Drink
Food & Drink
What you can expect from food and drink in Kenya.
- Most lodges and safari camps have restaurants and licensed bars, and the food offered ranges from good basic meals to gourmet style. The standard of food in lodges and camps is generally very good.
- Bottled water is available in all tourist centres. It is advisable to drink at least 2-3 litres of water per day whilst on safari as dehydration can occur quickly, especially in the summer months.
- It is best to assume that water is NOT safe to drink unless it has been boiled. It is always wise to double check locally if in any doubt.
- Wine tends to be imported and may be expensive; however, local beer and local spirits are reasonably priced and easily available as are soft drinks (Pepsi, Coca Cola etc) and bottled water.
It is vital that you visit your doctor at least 6 weeks prior to travel.
- We are not health professionals and as such we recommend you speak to your GP or local Travel Doctor for up-to-date information and advice.
- Malaria: It is recommended that precautions against malaria be taken for travel to most regions in Kenya. We suggest you contact your doctor for advice on which prophylactic is recommended.
Make sure that you are covered from the moment you place your booking with us!
Our Tips for Choosing Insurance
- We strongly recommend you take out Comprehensive Travel Insurance at the time of booking your trip.
- Note, it is essential that you are fully aware of the Terms and Conditions of your travel insurance policy therefore we recommend that you read your policy wording carefully and contact your insurer should you have any questions.
Here is some “need-to-know” information about taking photos in Africa.
- Photographing of airports, Government buildings, etc is prohibited.
- Some local people strongly object to photographs being taken without permission, but will sometimes agree upon payment of a small tip. Please check with your guide.
- Film and memory cards are generally available, but stocks can be limited and could be expensive, so we suggest you carry with you adequate supplies.
- Telephoto lenses for game viewing, lens hood and ultra violet filters will be useful – bring your dust cover.
- Batteries can be recharged at most lodges and hotels, but it is advisable to bring spares. 7 Easy-to-Follow-Tips to take Mesmerising Wildlife Photos
Safety and Security
Safety and Security
Although Africa is now safer to travel than it ever has been it is important to take note of the following information.
- Doors should be locked when driving after dark.
- Don’t walk alone at night in city streets, isolated beaches or remote areas.
- Travellers should not display unnecessary signs of wealth (e.g. mobile phones, money, and expensive jewellery) on the streets.
- Leave all your valuables including passports locked in the room safe where available.
Safety on Safari
- The wild animals are not like those found in theme parks – they aren’t tame.
- Most of the safari camps are unfenced and dangerous animals can (and do!) wander through the camps. Many of the animals and reptiles you will see are potentially dangerous. Attacks by wild animals are rare, however, there are no guarantees that such incidents will not occur. Bench Africa, our staff members, associates, agents, or their suppliers cannot be held liable for any injuries caused during an incident involving the behavior of wild animals.
- Please listen to the camp staff and guides. The safety precautions need to be taken seriously, and strictly adhered to.
- Do not go wandering off on your own without a guide – even to your rooms. After retiring to your rooms at night, do not leave them.
- Observe animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives can frighten the animals away.
- Never attempt to attract an animal’s attention. Do not imitate animal sounds, clap your hands, pound the vehicle or throw objects.
- Please respect your driver/guide’s judgment about proximity to lions, cheetahs and leopards. Don’t insist that he/she takes the vehicle closer so you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned meal.
- Litter tossed on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds and is unsightly.
- Never attempt to feed or approach any wild animal on foot. This is especially important near lodges or in campsites where animals may have become accustomed to human visitors.
- Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can kill animals.
A little handy advice to get the best out of your shopping in Africa!
- There is an abundance of wonderful souvenirs and crafts to buy. Look for colourful materials, sisal bags, wood or stone carvings, unusual artwork, handcrafted jewellery, woven goods and attractive basketry are recommended.
- Bargaining is expected at markets and roadside stalls, but not in shops. The locals may start off with highly inflated “tourist prices” and you will need to bargain until you feel you are paying what the product is worth.
- Cash in local currency is accepted, as well as US Dollars, while credit cards may only be accepted in larger shops.
- Do not purchase ivory, rhino horn, animal furs/hides, tortoise shell, coral, game skin, trophies or elephant hair bracelets. These items are prohibited as hunting was banned in 1976.