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Travel Info


Quick Facts
CapitalNairobi
GovernmentRepublic
CurrencyKenyan shilling (KES)
Areatotal: 582,650 sq km
water: 13,400 sq km
land: 569,250 sq km
Population31,138,735
LanguageEnglish (official), Kiswahili (official), approx. 72 indigenous languages
ReligionProtestant 45%, Roman Catholic 33%, indigenous beliefs 10%, Muslim 10%, other 2%
note: a large majority of Kenyans are Christian, but estimates for the percentage of the population that adheres to Islam or indigenous beliefs vary widely

Kenya is a country in Eastern Africa. Its Indian Ocean coast lies between Somalia to the north east and Tanzania to the south. Its other surrounding countries are Ethiopia and Sudan to the north and Uganda to the west.

Regions

Administrative divisions 
7 provinces and 1 area*;
  • Central,
  • Coast,
  • Eastern,
  • Nairobi Area*,
  • North Eastern,
  • Nyanza,
  • Rift Valley,
  • Western

Cities

  • Nairobi

Ports and harbors

  • Kisumu
  • Lamu
  • Mombasa

National Parks

  • Aberdare National Park
  • Amboseli National Park
  • Lake Nakuru National Park
  • Masai Mara National Park
  • Mount Kenya National Park
  • Mount Elgon National Park
  • Nairobi National Park
  • Meru National Park
  • Samburu National Park
  • Sibiloi National Park
  • Tsavo East National Park
  • Tsavo West National Park

See also African National Parks

Other destinations

  • Rift Valley

Understand

Kenya is a former British colony. Fossils found in the Rift Valley are of significant scientific interest. It is believed that this area of Africa is the source of the ancestors to the human race.

Magical Kenya (http://www.magicalkenya.com/) is the official travel and tourism guide of the Kenya Tourism Board. Kenya Wildlife Service (http://www.kws.org/) manages the National Parks.

Getting There

By Plane

Kenya Airways (http://www.kenya-airways.com/) (KQ) is the national airline. KQ has extensive regional (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Entebbe, etc) & international connections (Dubai, London, Amsterdam, Mumbai, etc). It is also a SkyTeam associate member.

Kenya has three International airports, these are:

  • Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) in Nairobi. Approximately twenty minutes from the main business district.
  • Moi International Airport Mombasa.
  • Eldoret International Airport (Cargo Only).

Jomo Kenyatta is the primary arrival point for visitors flying into Kenya. There are excellent flight connections provided by KQ to major tourist destinations like Mombasa, Kisumu & Malindi.

Major airlines that serve NBO are:

  • Air India
  • Air Malawi
  • Air Mauritius
  • Air Tanzania
  • Air Zimbabwe
  • African Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Egypt Air
  • Emirates
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Kenya Airways
  • K.L.M. Royal Dutch
  • SN Brussels Airlines
  • Saudia
  • South African
  • Swiss Air
  • Uganda Airlines

An increasing number of airlines are flying to Kenya and Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta Airport has become a hub for East & Central Africa. Kenya Airways (among others) also provide direct flights from NBO to several West African countries e.g. Lagos in Nigeria, Bamako in Mali, etc. The largest internal carrier is the national carrier Kenya Airways.

By Train

Slow & takes longer than a flight. Take the overnight express (12 hours vs 1 hour flying) from Nairobi to Mombasa. As a tourist try & buy the 1st or 2nd class seats which come with sleeping cots.

By Car

The roads may be poor but all neighbouring countries can be accessed including Ethiopia is via the border town of Moyale, Uganda via Busia, Tanzania via Namanga.

Beware of overland routes coming through the northern deserts as these are essentially lawless regions. Most vehicles traveling through the area travel via armed convoy.

By Bus

Regular bus services operate between:

Nairobi (Kenya) & Arusha (Tanzania) Nairobi (Kenya) & Kampala (Uganda) Mombasa (Kenya) & Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) Kisumu (Kenya) & Kampala (Uganda)

By Boat

This is limited to: - Lake Victoria e.g. Mwanza in Tanzania to Kisumu in Kenya - Coastal area e.g. Mombasa-Zanzibar cruises

Getting Around

By Air

Nairobi has three airports:

  • Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) - Local, regional & international flights
  • Wilson Airport (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson_Airport) - Local internal flights only.
  • Eastleigh Airbase (military only)

Wilson Airport (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson_Airport) is the busiest airport in Africa outside South Africa. It is a major hub for local flights to the nature reserves in Kenya and to cities in neighboring countries.

Another major international airport in Kenya is Moi International Airport in Mombasa, destination for many tourist charter flights to the Kenyan coast.

By Bus

Kenya has a network of long distance bus lines. Speed is limited to 80km/h and the highways can be very bumpy and dusty so ensure you pick a comfortable and reputable coach company for the long journeys. Travelling during the day is preferable to travelling at night due to the threat of carjackings and road traffic accidents.

By Matatu

Matatus are privately operated minibuses, typically for 14 passengers and operating over short and medium distances. Travel by matatu can be risky as many vehicles are extremely badly driven, with matatu drivers swerving in and out of traffic and stopping at a moment's notice by the side of the road for passengers. Some are poorly maintained but many are to be found in fascinating and colourful decor. Matatus provide a very cheap, quick, and reliable method of transport in all the major towns and many rural areas. The name matatu hails from the Kiswahili word for the number three, because some time ago the standard fare was three ten cent coins.

By Train

The Kenya-Uganda railway starts from Mombasa via Nairobi to Kampala, Uganda. This is the famous "Lunatic Express" & was also featured in the Michael Douglas starrer "The Ghost and the Darkness".

By jeep

If you have some experience with travelling in developing countries, you can hire a jeep and drive through Kenya. A complete guide for a self-drive safaris can be found at http://www.michna.com/kenya.htm.

Do

Nightclubs

Simba Saloon (within the Carnivore in Langata)


Restaurants

Mandhari (Nairobi Serena in Uhuru Park) is a 5-star restaurant Haandi (The Mall in Westlands) - Indian Trattoria (CBD)- Italian

Porini (Mombasa) - Seychoillois

See

Kenya is a country with some of the world's best parks (which may be referred to as National Parks or Game Reserves) where you can see some of the finest African flora and fauna. They are famous for lions, giraffe, elephant and huge herds of Zebra, Wildebeest or buffalo.

The annual migration is a awesome sight & best experienced via a balloon safari.

Kenya also is a great destination for beach holidays and has some of the worlds beautiful beaches, located along the coastal regions and the city Mombasa.

Talk

English is an official language, and is spoken in the major cities as well as by those connected to the tourist industry. Outside of the large cities, Kiswahili (otherwise known as Swahili) is the major language, and a few words of this language will go a long way.

Some Common Words:

Jambo - Hello (this is pidgin Kiswahili - expect to be greeted with this if you look like a tourist, Kenyans never 'Jambo' each other, although may sometimes use the more grammatically pure, 'Hujambo?')

Habari gani? - How are you?

Mzuri Sana - Fine, thank you

Jina langu ni Nancy - My name is Nancy

Shilingi ngapi? - How much does it cost?

Buy

Apart from the typical souvenirs like wood carvings it may be a good idea to buy one of the large books with photos of wildlife, nature, or culture. Also available is some quite beautiful original African style jewellery.

Do listen & buy some local Kenyan music. One of the most popular songs is titled "Hakuna Matata" (not the Lion King Version!)

Drink

Kenyan beer is among the best you will ever taste. There is one major brewer whose flagship brand is "Tusker". Do try the Tusker Malt Lager. A good Pilsner beer is White Cap Pilsner.

There is an excellent selection of soft drinks especially from the Coca Cola stable but try the "Tangawizi" brand of ginger ale.

If you are in Nairobi, visit the "Diamond Plaza" in Highridge where you will get a range of freshly squeezed juices including Tangerine, Sugarcane & Mango.

Sleep

Learn

Learn Kenyan Community Languages using TLY (Tusome Lugha Yetu), a vernacular language series published by KENYA LITERATURE BUREAU, that will guide you and help you learn most of Kenyan Community languages. Icluded are Kikuyu, Kiluo, Kikamba, Kiluhya (All Subsets), Kimeru, Kigiriama, Ekegusi etc. TLY is published by KENYA LITERATURE BUREAU (e-mail: info@kenyaliteraturebureau.com.... website:- www.kenyaliteraturebureau.com)

Work

A high unemployment rate means work permits are required. These can be difficult to obtain unless you have specialized skills that lack in the workforce.

Stay safe

Stay alert when walking or driving through Nairobi. You should be careful to always be aware of your surroundings and if possible ensure that you have a guide with you. Nairobi is not nicknamed 'Nairobbery' for nothing and even daylight muggings on crowded streets are not uncommon. Particularly avoid walking after dark (take a taxi if you can afford it, at least a bus if you can not). Avoid ostentatious displays of wealth and property, particularly tempting objects such as cameras, mobile phones, laptops, MP3 players etc. If you are unlucky and get mugged, a good tactic is to wave your arms and start screaming at the would-be mugger. Most criminals in Nairobi are more interested in a quick grab and dash than they are in a prolonged encounter. Since robbery is frequently punished by lengthy prison terms or even death, most muggers can be dissuaded by a good show of force.

Stay healthy

Protect yourself from mosquitos, they carry malaria and a number of other diseases like yellow fever. See a doctor for anti-malaria pills and don't expose yourself to mosquitos in the evenings and through the night. Wear long sleeves and long trousers and apply an effective insect repellant, for example, one containing DEET, in the evenings when there are mosquitos around.

Apart from digestion problems, malaria is by far the biggest health risk, and certain types of malaria (e.g. malaria tropica) can be deadly. For short stays, at least up to a month, it is highly recommended to take prophylactic medication. The newer anti-malaria pills (like Malarone) have fewer side effects than older drugs. Some other anti-malaria drugs are Doxycycline (prevention only) and Artemisinin (cure only). A malaria self-test kit is also available, but difficult to obtain in Kenya.

If you get flu-like symptoms including fever, consult a doctor immediately. If no doctor is available and if you haven't taken prophylactics, take a cure dose of anti-malaria medicine, even if you're not sure whether you have malaria.

If you get such symptoms after returning home, seek a doctor's advice very quickly and immediately tell him where you have been travelling. Delayed treatment, even by just a few hours, can lead to permanent brain and liver damage or death.

Do not have unprotected sex, as people might have HIV/AIDS. Cholera is another danger. When getting in contact with it, see a doctor immediately and drink plenty of water.