The Kenyan shilling is the currency of Kenya. And the currency code is KSH. There are notes of Ksh1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50, and coins of Ksh20, 10, 5, 1 and 50 cents (half a shilling). In Kenya, prices are indicated by Ksh or /=. The Kenyan shilling is a weak currency, thus prices in the tourism industry tend to be quoted in US dollars.
Dollars, British pounds and Euros, are regularly accepted, and often preferred, as payment. People often have calculators and know the latest exchange rates. If you have US dollar bills in Kenya, be sure they are less than five years old as they won’t be exchangeable in many places otherwise.
Cash will be needed only at the local market or to give out a tip as card machines are getting more common. Therefore, it is recommended to travel with little cash in hand. In worst case, there are ATMs. A Visa or MasterCard is essential for accessing money from ATMs.
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted for tourist services such as hotels, shops and restaurants, flights, safaris and car rental. Most transactions use chip-and-PIN, but if you’re paying by using a manual machine, make sure you’ve filled in the leading digits with zeros and the voucher specifies the currency before you sign.
Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks or licensed foreign exchange bureaus all over the country. Currency can also be exchanged at the hotel, though for a poorer rate. US dollars, British pounds and Euros are always the most easily changed.
Forex bureaus usually offer better rates of exchange than banks and are open longer hours (often on Sunday mornings too). Changing money on the street is illegal. An exception is when entering or leaving Kenya by land from Ethiopia, Uganda or Tanzania, where changing each country’s currency to or from Kenyan shillings is deemed acceptable. But be careful with any transaction – always count notes very carefully before swapping. Having said this, it is best to get cash at an ATM.
To reconvert Kenyan shillings to hard currency, the easiest would be at the airports before departure.
ATMs can be found in the towns, at petrol stations and shopping malls. When on the street, ensure to find one inside a secure booth or with a guard on duty. ATMs usually offer the best rate of exchange, but home banks charge a fee for withdrawing cash from a foreign ATM and there may be a daily limit.
Monday to Friday: 09:00 to 15:00
Saturday: 09:00 – 11:00
When planning holidays to any countries in Africa, Health and Vaccinations are always on top of mind concern. What vaccinations to take, what are the precautions to take, what diseases are there in the country? So many concerns, which should not take over the excitement of your upcoming unique holidays.
For anybody on a booked short stay holiday, risks are low if you take the necessary precautions.
As recommended by CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) and WHO (World Health Organisation, one should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to any destination. For travel to Kenya, there are indeed some other precautions to take. Depending on the intensity of your holidays and activities in Kenya and /or surrounding countries, you can read the health information for Kenya section under CDC to be fully aware of precautions necessary before visiting Kenya.
For visitors to Kenya, according the Wold Health Organisation (WHO), yellow fever vaccination is not mandatory unless you are arriving from a country where yellow fever is present, such as Tanzania and Uganda. But it is strongly recommended.
A full list of countries and their level of risk and recommendations are available on the World Health Organisation (WHO) page. But it is strongly recommended.
Yellow fever is spread by infected mosquitoes. Symptoms range from a flu-like illness to severe hepatitis (liver inflammation), jaundice and death. Vaccination must be given at a designated clinic and is valid for 10 years. It’s a live vaccine and must not be given to immunocompromised people or pregnant women.
You should carry a certificate as evidence of vaccination against yellow fever if you’ve recently been in an infected country, to avoid immigration problems. A traveller without a legally required up-to-date certificate could possibly be vaccinated and detained in isolation at the port of arrival for up to 10 days, or even repatriated.
You must take anti malaria tablets when planning a visit to Kenya.
Malaria is endemic in tropical Africa and has a variable incubation period of a few days to several weeks, meaning that you may fall sick long after being bitten.
Malaria is caused by a parasite carried in the saliva of the female Anopheles mosquito. Anopheles is rarely found above 1500m, which means Nairobi and much of central Kenya are naturally malaria-free. But infected humans are vectors for the disease, meaning that an uninfected Anopheles mosquito that bites an infected person can pass malaria on to someone else. This puts the whole country at risk and protection against the disease is absolutely essential as it can be very dangerous if not treated quickly.
One of the main precautions is course anti malaria tablets, which you can get from your doctor before travelling as the treatments starts pre travel and ends post travel. It is very important to respect the routine and cover the period required with the right doses. And then during your holidays, do your best to avoid being bitten. Sleep under a mosquito net, burn mosquito coils, keep your arms and legs covered as much as possible at dusk as this is when the mosquito loves biting and use a strong repellent. Deet is what is recommended and with a strong factor to be properly protected.
Citronella oils are not recommended, as it is an oil which is said to attract elephants. So, if you do not intend to spend the night with an elephant, it is not recommended.
As a matter of information, the symptoms for malaria are fever, shivering, headaches similar to flu and they come in waves. If you have these symptoms, even weeks after travelling, make sure you visit the doctor to eliminate all risks.
Diarrhoea is the most common travel-related illness and it is often the change in diet which is the cause. To avoid such troubles, the most important is to take it easy on new foods. Eat only fresh fruits and vegetables, be careful of dairy products, and as adventurous as you might be, try to be selective if you would like to try street food. Avoid also drinking tap water.
However, should you really be developing diarrhoea, try plain rice or ugali, this should tighten things up in your stomach as a first remedy. An Imodium tablet or similar from your first aid kit should also help. Drink a lot of water for rehydration. If it persists for more than 72 hours, then it is recommended to get medical assistance.
It is important to note that diarrhoea reduces the efficiency of malaria pills as they may pass straight through your system without being absorbed.
Sun and Altitude
You are on the equator and the sun is powerful. Always wear suncream with a high factor sun block and a hat to protect yourself from the rays. Even if you are in the shade or on a cloudy day, you can still get sun burnt by the sun rays through the clouds. Never leave your hat, sunglasses and sun cream. Always hydrate yourself to avoid heatstroke as this can be dangerous as well, specially along the coast. Moreover, while on holidays, we do enjoy a few drinks and a lot of coffees, so it is important to drink a lot of fresh non-alcoholic fluids to rehydrate the body, specially in the heat.
As you go up in altitude, over 2500m above sea level, the sun’s radiation becomes stronger and the highest risk is altitude sickness. This may affect climbers on Mount Kenya, and even walkers in the Cherangi Hills.
Cuts and Bites
In the tropics, a small scratch can quickly become highly infected. It is thus advised to pay more attention to minor cuts and bruises. Your tube of antiseptic from the first kit becomes handy.
Avoid playing with stray dogs in Kenya, as rabbies does exist there. A lick from a dog can get you infected.
While on holidays, be safe drink bottled water only which is readily available at hotels, in restaurants and supermarkets. Do not drink tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered or chemically disinfected (such as with iodine tablets). Never drink from streams, rivers and lakes.
General information: Only 58 percent of Kenyans have access to basic drinking water.
As in Britain, Kenya uses square, 3 pin plugs on 220-240V.
Appliances using other plug fittings will need an adaptor to fit Kenyan sockets (available in major supermarkets), while North American appliances that work only on 110V (most work on 110–240V) will also need a transformer.
General Information: Kenya’s electricity supply is not very reliable, but almost all establishments have back up generators and/ or solar panels. Some of the remote safari lodges and tented camps which are not on the national grid, rely solely on generators. Therefore, light time is precious and they will advise when generators are switched on – usually for a few hours in the evening and the early morning.
Internet & Communications
Kenya offers many reliable internet service providers and Internet service is readily available in remote areas. Wi-fi is widely available in urban areas, with free or low-cost access in the airports at Nairobi and Mombasa, some of the modern shopping malls, most hotels and beach resorts, many city coffee shops and an increasing number of public places (especially in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu).
If you need to stay connected, the cheapest option is to buy a sim card with a data package or an internet stick, which are available at any phone shop (Safaricom, Airtel and Orange), rather than do roaming. These shops are commonly found in the urban areas and the staff are very professional and helpful.
Is it safe to travel to Kenya?
Do let your holiday be spoilt by what you read on Kenya. Most visits to Kenya are completely trouble free. Having said this, it is good to be informed before travelling to Kenya. You certainly will not be mugged by an elephant while on safari, but during your visit to the towns and cities, take the necessary precautions.
Kenya is a country where poverty rate is high, which goes in rate with an elevated crime rate. Muggings, pickpocketing, armed carjacking, burglaries are common in Kenya. Road safety is also a problem. It is thus important to be aware of the situation, to take the necessary precautions. It must be said that most tourists who visit the country each year experience no difficulties.
Be informed, prepare yourself and do not take unnecessary risks when visiting Kenya.
Some primary precautions to take and to be aware of are:
Terrorism is, unfortunately, something you have to consider when visiting Kenya, although the vast majority of the country is safe to visit.
Remember that it is often the cities which are targets for any type of attacks. While you are on a safari in the wild, you are pretty safe from any kind of terrorism attach. Just beware of the animals.
It is also good to be informed about the official travel advisories of your country before travelling to Kenya. The country has in the last few years been the scene of various attacks endorsed to terrorism, and it is better to be safe. Having said this, the security has really been tightened since then. There are airport-style baggage scanners and metal detectors at entrance of shopping malls and big hotels as a strengthened security measure.
Having said all the above, be sure you choose the right operator who will give you the right advice on the dos and don’ts.
It is advised to always take a travel insurance whenever you go on holidays.
Ideally travel insurances should cover:
Some tips when buying your insurance:
Before you go
Take some cash with you. You can exchange money on arrival at the airport, and this might be the most practical. You do not want to waste time during your holidays to go look for ATMs or foreign exchange bureaus.
What to wear
Visitors to Kenya need to obtain a visa. It is therefore important to check your eligibility before travelling. There are different types of visas in Kenya: Multiple entry, single entry and transit visas. Prices and validity differ for each type of visa. Kenyan visa can be obtained on arrival or in advance from Kenyan embassies or high commissions or online.
Visa on arrival is straight forward, a list of documents are required:
Online visa application:
You can apply for an e-Visa online, but be sure to check the list of eligible countries for the Kenyan e-visa to see if you are eligible. Online e-visa is for single entry only.
Some useful phrases in Swahili
No problem: Hakuna Matata!
Good morning: Habari ya asubuhi
Good evening: Habari ya jioni
Good night: Usiku mwema
How are you? : habari yako
All good? : Sawa / Sawasawa
Thank you : Asante
Thank you for a great day : Asante kwa siku nzuri
What time is it?: Ni saa ngapi
How much is it?: Shillingi ngapi
Can I have a beer please?: Je, ninaweza kuwa na bia tafadhali
You are welcome: Karibu
Don’t worry: Usijali
Sign up to become a member of the Travel Africa family.
Receive exclusive deals, travel tips travel stories.