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Travel & Tourism . Tourist Guide to the Country

Kenya Travel Requirements

All visitors require a visa except citizens of some Commonwealth countries and citizens of selected countries such as Denmark, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Apply well in advance for your visa especially if doing it by mail.

Health risk
Malaria (except in Nairobi and high-altitude areas), cholera, hepatitis, meningitis, mugging, typhoid, Rift Valley fever and yellow fever.

Time Zone
GMT/UTC plus three hours.

Kenyan shilling (KSh), divided into 100 cents.

When to Go
The main tourist season is in January and February, since the hot, dry weather at this time of year is generally considered to be the most pleasant. It's also when Kenya's birdlife flocks to the Rift Valley lakes in the greatest numbers. June to September could be called the `shoulder season' as the weather is still dry. The rains hit from March to May (and to a lesser extent from October to December). During these months things are much quieter - places tend to have rooms available and prices drop. The rains generally don't affect travellers' ability to get around.

What to Wear
Light summer clothing and casual wear are appropriate at most place. Bring a sweater or light jacket for evening.

Getting Around
It’s strongly recommended that first-timers take an escorted tour. There is limited train service: the most famous line connects Mombasa and Nairobi on a moderately priced, leisurely overnight or day-service run. Cars may be rented (traffic moves on the left), and limited bus service is available, though not recommended except to experienced budget travelers.

By air: The main airports are Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi and the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. From the airports, Kenyan Airways operates a shuttle into the city centre, as does Kenyan Bus Services, which leaves every 20 minutes. You can also use the government-owned Kenatco Taxi Service and the Voda taxis as well as other private taxis, although Kenatco and Voda are safer and more reliable. The Kenacto taxis work on a fixed rate and the British-style Voda black cabs charge per kilometre.

AirKenya Aviation and Kenya Airways fly within the country. Kenya Airways operates an extensive network of flights, which includes scheduled services to all major towns and tours to the game parks as well as the coast from Nairobi. Wilson Airport in Nairobi, one of the busiest airports in Africa, is a popular base for many small aircraft in Kenya. From this airport, local charter companies operate scheduled flights to different destinations like Masai Mara, Amboseli and the coral coast. Planes are also useful for transportation into game parks.

Note: Immigration procedures in Kenyan airports are likely to be extremely slow, so it is advisable to arrive early. Departure tax: US$20 for international flights (or the equivalent in freely convertible hard currency, including Kenya Shillings) and KSh100 on all domestic flights.

By bus: City buses operate in Nairobi and Mombasa at reasonable prices. Peak hours should be avoided as buses get very crowded. Only single tickets are sold and fares are paid to the conductor. There are also the unregulated 12-to-25-seat light pick-ups and minibuses, called Matatus; the fares do not vary greatly, but buses tend to be the safer method of transport (Matatus are often severely overloaded, recklessly driven and notorious for being involved in many road accidents. They therefore should be used with caution). Be careful about using the matatus, as theft is rampant.

Actually, the most popular method of tourist transport in Kenya is by road using mini-buses, which are specifically built for tourist safaris in this country. They are operated by nearly all established tour operators in Nairobi and Mombasa. These chauffeur-driven mini-buses will pick you up from the airport on arrival and take you to the city hotel of your choice.

By taxi: Taxis are plentiful in urban areas, and shared taxis are a common and inexpensive way to travel between cities, especially when you are travelling on the coast. Taxis cannot be hailed in the street.

Kenatco runs a fleet of taxis and these are usually very reliable. They run taxi services from the international airports to all the main urban hotels. They are also available to take you from your hotel to the railway station, the city centre for shopping or to the parks and other recreational areas near the city or around Mombasa town. There are other privately owned and run taxis usually marked with yellow lines on the sides. They offer the same services as the Kenatco taxis with much cheaper negotiable charges but may not be as comfortable. The older yellow-band taxis do not have meters, so fares should be agreed in advance. A 10% tip is expected.

By car: Traffic drives on the left. The standard of driving in Kenya is extremely low and the risk of accident on the main road between Nairobi and Mombasa is especially high.All major roads are paved and many of the others have been improved, particularly in the south-west, although vast areas of the north still suffer from very poor communications. Care should be taken when leaving trunk roads as the surfaces of the lesser roads vary greatly in quality, particularly during the rainy season. There are petrol stations on most highways. Self-drive and chauffeur-driven cars may be hired from a number of travel agents in Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi. This can be expensive, and rates, particularly the mileage charges, can vary a good deal. Most companies insist that only 4-wheel-drive vehicles should be rented.

On safaris: To move to the National Parks and Reserves in the rural areas, tourists travel in the packaged tour operator mini-buses or in chauffer-driven saloon cars, Toyota Land Cruiser vans, or in Range Rovers which are operated by tour operators or are available for hire from many car-hire companies in Nairobi and Mombasa. Those who want to enjoy exclusively private self-drive safaris will find numerous local companies offering everything from Range Rovers and Troopers to small saloon cars for their convenience. It is perfectly possible for visitors to the country to hire and drive around the country without problems. Nearly all roads to the National Parks or Reserves or to major towns are sign-posted so that strangers will find their way around the country with ease.

By sea: Short-distance ships sail between Mombasa, Dar-es-Salaam and Zanzibar. The ports in the Lake Victoria passenger service include Port Victoria/Kisumu, Homa Bay and Mfangano. Ferries in Lake Victoria connect Kisumu in Kenya to Mwanza, Musoma and Bukoba in Tanzania. It is also possible to get ferries from Mombasa to Pemba and Zanzibar in Tanzania, and also to Chiamboni in Somalia. Local ferries run between Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu. Fares are paid for in the port of embarkation currency. Enquire locally for details. You can also to hire a dhow, the traditional Kenyan sailing boat in Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu.

By rail: The safest and most reliable transport, when available, is the train. Kenya Railways runs the very popular route from Nairobi to Mombasa and vice versa, or from Nairobi to Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria, with lake steamer connections to all the ports in the lake. Trains generally leave in the evening and arrive the following morning after a journey of around 13-14 hours. The rail travel in the first or second class coaches offers visitors spectacular views of the countryside from the coach windows in addition to first class cabin services, bars and restaurants. Trains are sometimes delayed, but most of the rolling stock is modern and comfortable, and most trains have restaurant cars.


Acknowledgements: ASIATRAVELMART.COM

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