Travel guide to Kenya

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Kenya offers fantastic National Parks - elephants, lions, antelopes, people, zebras and rhinos live together - harmonious nature. Mount Kenya, its summit eternally snow-clad, is a very popular destination for trekking and mountain climbing.

Facts

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Local name
Kenya
Capital
Nairobi
Size
582.650 km2
Principal Languages
Kenya has two official languages, English and Swahili
Principal Religion
Christianity is the principle official religion - but in addition the traditional variations on animism are also widespread.
Inhabitants
28.808.658 (1999)
Government
Republic
Geography
Kenya is situated in East Africa. Kenya stretches from the Indian Ocean in the east to Uganda and Lake Victoria in the West. The landscape is very varied, deserts in the north and fertile lowland along the coast, snow covered mountains in the west and flat savannah land in the south!

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

Most tourists visit Kenya in January and February; it is during these months that the weather is generally the best. It rains from March to May and then from June to September it is warm and dry again. Rainfall begins again from October until December, but not as heavily as in the spring months.

Literature

Lonely Planet Kenya Insight Guides Kenya Rough Guide Kenya Fieldings Kenya

Local conditions

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Currency

Kenyan shilling (KSh). 1 KSh = 100 cents

Net cafes

Net cafés are not particularly widespread in Kenya. It is possible to borrow a computer that is connected to the net at a few hotels in Nairobi.

In case of emergency

In case of emergencies ring: Police and Ambulance: 999

Tipping

It is customary to tip in Kenya. In restaurants a service charge of 10% is included in the bill but it is expected that one gives a further 5-10%. Doormen, Porters, other service staff and taxi drivers also expect to be tipped.

Timezone

When it is 12:00 in Great Britain (GMT)(summertime), it is 14:00 in Kenya When it is 12:00 in Great Britain (GMT)(wintertime), it is 15:00 in Kenya

Weight and Measures

In the Kenya the following weights and measures are used: Length: metres Weight: ounces Liquid/Volume: gallons Surface area: acre

Photography

It is forbidden to take photos in Airports and Police/Military areas. One should always ask before photographing the local people, otherwise it could be problematic for the photographer.

Drinking water

It is safe to drink tap water in the larger towns but it is recommended to buy bottled water when in the more rural areas.

Electricity

In Kenya the following current is used: 220/240 Volt. 50 Hz. Plugs are round with 2 prongs or flat with 3 prongs.

Behaviour

You may definitely not bathe topless or nude in Kenya. It is not considered proper to wear shorts in the cities and in the Muslim parts of the country, particularly along the coast, women should dress 'modestly'.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 9.00 to 14.00 (Monday to Friday) and from 9.00 to 11.00 the first Saturday of every month. Shops don't have any strict opening times, somewhere from 8.00 to 18.00 as a rule. Many shops close for a couple of hours over lunchtime.

Food and drink

The local food can be very tasty but it is also rather monotonous. Ugali (a kind of maize porridge) is served usually with animal flesh such as chicken, beef, fish or goat. The stable diet consists of potatoes, rice, beans, maize and spinach. A wide variety of fruit is available - mangoes, papaya, coconuts and many others. The restaurants in the larger cities are more European in inspiration. Kenya's national drink is tea.

Disabled travellers

Kenya is not very well equipped with facilities for the disabled and it is nearly impossible to get around in a wheelchair. Some of the larger hotels have limited facilities for wheelchairs but unfortunately these standards don't meet with western standards.

Holidays

New Years Day: 1 January Workers Day: 1 May Madaraka Day June Moi Day 10 October Kenyatta Day 20 October Independence Day 12 December Christmas Day 25 December Boxing Day 26 December Flexible Public Holidays Good Friday and Easter Monday March or April The Muslim holiday Eid Al Fitr, falls in either December, January or February and is celebrated in the Muslim parts of the country.

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

There are large Tent Camps in Kenya where it is possible to rent a tent. One can choose between luxury tents that have wooden floors, a toilet and a big bed and the more primitive where you take a bath in a tub and there is no electricity. It is also possible to try a camp-safari, where you sleep in a tent out in the wild!

Hotels

There are hotels in all price ranges. There are expensive, luxurious hotels and the more spartan, less luxurious too. The Luxury hotels are definitely not cheap, but you do receive luxury service for the price.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

There are many places in Kenya where you can stay in a private home. It is often out on small farms or ranches that one will find rooms set aside for tourists. It is a good way to find out a bit about the way the locals see the land, it is often the case that the people who rent their rooms out are very eager to share their knowledge of Kenya with their guests.

Other Accommodation

Safari-Lodges are luxury hotels where you can stay overnight while on a Safari. They are beautifully situated and blend in well with the natural surroundings.

Local transport

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Planes

There are 232 landing strips in Kenya but only 21 are tarred. There are daily flights between the big cities (with Kenya Airways or Air Kenya). Local companies fly tourists around in little propeller driven aeroplanes. Sometimes it is cheaper to fly long distances than it is to take a bus or train. It is possible to reach nearly every part of the country by plane.

Bus

If staying in a hotel outside of town a bus service is often provided, this is cheaper than taking a taxi. Taking a local bus is definitely an interesting experience. The buses are of a poor standard and most bus drivers drive hazardously. It is however a good way of getting close to the local inhabitants.

Trains

Kenya Railways only covers the long stretches: Mombassa-Nairobi-Kampala and Nairobi-Kisumu. The trains are divided up into first, second and third class. The third class offers sitting places only. The other two classes provide bunks. The trains are also equipped with a restaurant.

Taxi

It is not customary to hail a taxi on the street; one must find them at their taxi rank. One should check whether it is a licensed taxi first. Most taxis use a meter but with those who don't be sure to agree on a set price before embarking on your journey.

Car rental

In Nairobi and Mombassa there is a good supply of car rental firms. It is also possible to hire a car and driver from reliable companies. Prices do vary but it is often expensive.

Other Transport

A popular mode of transport in Kenya is the so-called Peugeot Taxi. Peugeot taxis are minibuses, which drive once full; it is just a little more expensive than a regular bus.

Special conditions

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You cannot phone for Emergency help outside of the big cities. If you have insurance with the Flying Doctors you can be flown to the nearest hospital for free. Cars drive on the left hand side of the road in Kenya. There are a lot of things to beware of in Kenya, there is often unrest and the crime rate is high.

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