Many nationalities need to obtain a visa before departure. To ensure a smooth process, visit Kenya's official visa website and allow sufficient time to complete the application. Keep in mind that random checks may lead to additional questions, even after submission and payment. Please note that you won't receive an email confirmation of your Kenya visa application or payment, so be sure to log in and check its status. Once your visa is issued, print a color copy (or two) of the visa and payment receipts, and keep them on hand, even for domestic flights, such as those between Nairobi and Mombasa.
Packing Tips for Kenya:
When preparing for your trip to Kenya, consider the following tips:
1. Sun Protection: Be aware of the strong sun on the coastline. Despite constant winds, sunburn can occur quickly. Pack items like lycra clothing, sunscreen, and protective headwear. Some restaurants may have dress codes, so bring suitable lightweight clothing. Keep in mind that swimwear should not be too revealing, especially when visiting remote areas. Avoid overpacking, as most hotels offer laundry facilities. Water shoes can come in handy, particularly if you plan on snorkeling near sharp rocks. Wetsuits are generally unnecessary as the water temperature is around 28°C (82°F).
2. Environmental Responsibility:
Kenya banned single-use plastics in 2017. Leave carrier bags, single-use plastic water bottles, and straws at home. The plastic bag ban is enforced nationwide, and luggage is often scanned. Avoid packing items in plastic bags. In national parks, single-use plastic bottles and straws are prohibited, so bring a reusable water bottle from home.
3. Malaria Prevention:
The risk of malaria is low in Nairobi and in highland areas above 2500 meters (8200 feet) and around the beach. However, if you plan to travel to malaria-prone regions, consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable antimalarial medication. Common options include Atovaquone/Proguanil, Doxycycline, and Mefloquine (brands like Malarone and Lariam). It's advisable to seek medical advice about a month before your trip, as some medications should be taken before departure.
4. Local Greetings:
Greet locals with "mambo" or "niaje." "Jambo" is the most recognized greeting, but you can impress by using "mambo vipi." The common response is "poa." Alternatively, you can use "niaje," to which someone will reply with "niaje."
5. Bargaining Etiquette:
Bargaining is common in markets and some shops. It's acceptable to offer a lower price, as many sellers initially set higher prices. Have a sense of humor while negotiating, and enjoy the process. However, avoid pushing sellers to the point of losing money, as some may be in need of it.
Tipping is not expected in Kenya but appreciated for good service. Leaving around 10% for meals or services is customary. In hotels, consider tipping porters and housekeeping staff. Some suggest calculating it at KSH100 to KSH200 (US$1 to US$2) per day, while others round it up at the end of your stay. Keep small change for tips and shopping in markets. If taking a taxi, round up to the nearest 100, but tips are not mandatory. Taxi apps are prevalent, and you can add a tip through the app.
7. Respect Local Communities:
Always seek permission before taking photos of people, especially in rural areas and Mombasa. If you plan to publish photos, even on social media, it's respectful to carry a consent form and express gratitude with "asante" (thank you). Be particularly mindful when photographing children and vulnerable individuals. If permitted to take a photo, show it to them. Exercise caution when photographing infrastructure, airports, and military installations.
8. Dress Appropriately:
Kenya is moderately conservative, but you don't need to cover up entirely. In Nairobi, towns, and on safaris, shorts, dresses, and sleeveless tops are acceptable. Similar attire is suitable for most beach resorts, but avoid walking around in swimwear. In Muslim communities like Lamu Town, it's advisable to dress more conservatively. Loose-fitting clothing is comfortable in the heat.
9. Go with the Flow:
Keep in mind that life in coastal areas, such as Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu, is lived at a more relaxed pace due to the heat and humidity. Don't expect immediate task completion; instead, embrace the "pole pole" (slowly in Swahili) way of life.
10. Water Quality:
You can boil tap water in Kenya and drink it. Alternatively, use filtered water in restaurants and hotels. Carrying your reusable water bottle and a water filter or tablets is eco-friendly and practical.
11. Pack a Power Bank:
Power cuts may occur in Kenya, especially in some places. If you rely on your smartphone, have a charged power bank on hand. For safaris, consider carrying a spare camera battery and a decent flashlight for navigating in low light and for safety during nighttime activities.
12. Safety Precautions:
While Kenya is generally safe for tourists, avoid areas near the Kenya-Somali border, Garissa County, and some parts of Lamu County. Always keep your valuables secure, especially in major cities like Nairobi.
13. Embassy and Consulate Details:
Be aware of your embassy or consulate contact details, and keep photos of your important documents, such as your passport, visa, and vaccination records, on your phone and accessible via email. If possible, carry an original form of ID, such as a driver's license.
What to Pack for Kenya:
Packing for Kenya depends on your trip style and travel time. Consider the climate variations in different regions. We recommend packing light with a practical backpack or an overnight bag with a shoulder strap. Here are some essential items to consider:
Comfortable closed-toe walking boots for camping or bushwalking.
Light, loose-fitting clothing, including knee-length shorts, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts. Smart-casual outfits for evenings.
For relaxation and casual outings.
4. Warm Layers:
Fleece and a beanie for cooler mornings and evenings.
5. Sun Protection:
Wide-brimmed sunhat, sunscreen, and polarized sunglasses.
6. Travel Towel:
Quick-dry towel for camping and showering.
7. Toiletry Bag:
Waterproof toiletry bag for camping and basic shower facilities.
High-beam headlamp or torch for nighttime activities.
9. Personal Medical Kit:
A small kit with essentials for minor injuries and illnesses.
10. Insect Repellent:
Mosquito repellent to prevent insect bites, especially around your ankles and exposed areas.
11. Water Bottle:
A reusable water bottle with a 1.5-liter capacity to stay hydrated.
Consider bringing a proper camera for capturing memorable moments. Don't forget spare batteries or a charger.