Kenya – Travel Guide
Facts to assist you when travelling to Kenya
- The Kenyan population currently stands at 53.01 million (2021).
Capital City and Largest City
- The capital of Kenya is Nairobi, with a population of 4. 397 million (2019).
- The official languages of Kenya is English and Swahili.
- The Kenyan Shilling.
- 08:00 – 17:00.
- Weekends in Kenya is held over Saturday and Sunday.
- If a service charge is not included in the bill, a tip of 10% is acceptable.
- Most countries are represented by Embassies or consulates located in the capital city.
- Unitary presidential constitutional republic.
- Kenya’s climate varies from tropical along the coast to temperate inland to arid in the north and northeast parts of the country. The area receives a great deal of sunshine every month, and summer clothes are worn throughout the year. It is usually cool at night and early in the morning inland at higher elevations.
The “long rains” season occurs from March/April to May/June. The “short rains” season occurs from October to November/December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoons and evenings. The temperature remains high throughout these months of tropical rain. The hottest period is February and March, leading into the season of the long rains, and the coldest is in July, until mid-August.
- Main airport: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi). The country has an extensive network of paved and unpaved roads. Kenya’s railway system links the nation’s ports and major cities, connecting it with neighbouring Uganda. There are 15 airports which have paved runways.
Kenya has a major international port at Mombasa.
- Main industries include small-scale consumer goods (plastic, furniture, batteries, textiles, clothing, soap, cigarettes, flour), agricultural products, horticulture, oil refining; aluminium, steel, lead; cement, commercial ship repair, and tourism.
- The best course of action is to behave formally and follow the lead of others. The honoured guest is usually served first, followed by the men, children, and women. Do not begin eating until the eldest male has been served and started eating. If you use your hands then scoop the food with the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand.
- Handshakes are the most common means of greeting. However, Muslim men/women do not always shake hands with women/men. The most common greeting is “Jambo?” (“How are you?”), which is generally said immediately prior to the handshake. People are generally addressed by their academic, professional or honorific title followed by their surname. Once a personal relationship has developed, you may be able to address a person by their title and first name, first name alone, or nickname. Wait for the Kenyan to determine that your friendship has reached this level of intimacy. Women over the age of 21 are often addressed as “Mama” and men over the age of 35 are often addressed as “Mzee”.
- The Kenya currency unit is the shilling (KSH), divided in 100 cents. The Kenyan shilling has been quite stable over the years. The best currencies to bring are US dollars, UK pounds or euros. It is advisable to exchange these for the local currency as soon as possible at banks and forex bureaus. Barclays Bank is the best banking option, because their ATMs accept both Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Plus bank cards. The ATMs of Kenya Commercial Bank accept only Visa cards.
- Driving is on the left-hand side of the road. Public transport is limited, unreliable, uncomfortable, slow and not recommended. It is common practice for expats to employ a driver. If driving do so carefully and slowly (speed kills), remember animals and humans can cross the road at any time, try never to drive at night, roads are often poorly maintained and pot holes are to be found.
- As in any country, there are a few safety and security issues in Kenya. Kenya is a poor country, and there are many people who are forced to make a living by illegal means. Normal Kenyan citizens are definitely targets, but rich, naive tourists are an even bigger temptation for thieves, pick pockets, and con artists. Crime is not so common in rural areas, but is in big cities, especially Nairobi. By taking necessary precautions, however, the risks of a security incident can be reduced drastically. Violent crime is rare in Kenya, even in Nairobi.
- In Kenya, respect for elders is important. Many Kenyans still believe strongly in the ancestor world, where the dead have powers for good or bad over their living descendants.
- Shopping in Nairobi is convenient and safe. There are plenty of modern shopping malls, grocery stores, open-air markets, convenience stores and supermarkets located throughout the city.
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Written by Saudika Hendricks
Edited by Eloise Williams