Beginner's questions -- Kenya

Dec 31st, 2010, 01:55 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 12
Beginner's questions -- Kenya


I read thru several threads and I found conflicting info so maybe someone can point me in the right direction.

1. Do I need anything other than USD?

2. Are there really any colors I CANNOT wear in Kenya on Safari?

3. It is safe for a solo female traveler right? I read so many threads where folks were upset about 'crime/etc' in the parks. There is crime every where so I dunno... seems safe to me.

4. Any ideas on what to do with 2 days before my safari starts in Nairobi?

Thanks for your answers and thanks for all the threads I've been reading =-)

Cheers and Happy New Year
WorldAwaits4Me is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 02:23 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 133
Hi there, WorldAwaits! I know the frustration of getting the conflicting advice, but this forum was immensely valuable when I planned for my recent trip.

So, your question 1 -- no, I don't think you need anything other than USD but, depending on where you are, it might be preferable to convert a small amount into Kenyan shillings. I think they prefer shillings in Nairobi, for instance, and that might also save you some hefty credit card fees (if you use cash instead of plastic, that is). That said, I can't think of any places I visited where they refused to take USD, and it's what I used for the majority of my trip. Just make sure to bring bills dated in the last five years.

2. I wouldn't recommend white -- it really is dusty in some areas. I know black and dark blue aren't usually recommended, either, because of tse-tse flies, but that might depend on exactly when and where you're going; it wasn't a problem on my trip. Having said that, I always felt better when I was wearing the drab khakis, browns, etc.; it put me more in the spirit of things. I saw a few people wearing bright turquoise and such, and I thought they looked pretty jarringly out of place. YMMV.

3. I'm a solo female and just got back from my first safari in Kenya a few weeks ago, and I can assure you that I never once felt unsafe. Not in Nairobi, and not in the parks.

4. There's a thread discussing this very question elsewhere in the forum that you might want to look for. On my one full day in Nairobi, I visited Sheldrick's (the elephant orphanage with adorable baby eles), the Giraffe Centre (where I was "kissed" by a giraffe), the Karen Blixen Museum (I only recommend this if you're already a fan of hers), and the Kazuri Bead and Pottery Factory (a good place to pick up gifts, and I like that they employ so many single mothers). It was easy to do all of this in a day -- I probably could have done more, but I'm actually glad I didn't overschedule (jet lag). My driver told me that most of the tourists he drives around Nairobi go where I did.

Good luck on your planning, and have a great time! I know I'm already longing for a return trip, myself.
WindowlessOffice is offline  
Jan 1st, 2011, 03:13 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
Congrats on your trip...

There is a new warden message on Kenya might review that

Would definitely go in a group with a reputable

guide and be very careful wise.

1.I ATM local currency with my no fee CC on arrival.
I do carry backup USD new small bills no tears.
Use my no fee Cap 1 Visa CC for all major transactions.
I never travel with my debit card due to theft skimming.

2.Dark colors attract insects kakis and off color whites
work best stick with them for options
Insect precautions like wise for best Kenya health info.

3.Overall pretty safe with a group on safari if careful.

4.Many tour options close by the Capitol set up when you
get there it is a long flight takes a couple of days
for me to get over jet lag so mostly take it easy.

Happy journey,
flight mostly take it easy

qwovadis is offline  
Jan 1st, 2011, 05:54 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Good resolution to go to Kenya, WorldAwaits!

Regarding the warnings mentioned by qwovadis: These have been in effect for over a decade, since the embassy bombings. I could not detect a change in the severity of the warnings.

Note they specifically mention the Lamu district, which is a coastal district. Here are some maps to help place Lamu.

Just so you are aware, some US agents (and maybe others) will have you sign a form indicating you are aware of the Kenya travel warnings. I think there is also a “Worldwide Caution” currently in effect.

I agree with qwovadis about getting a reputable guide, as well as a reputable company. Going too cheap can undermine your investment of time and money. But as to a group, I’d rely on your personal preference. I usually go alone with a good company and guide and all has been great.

1. Good advice so far. The more independent you are, especially in cities or towns, the more Kenyan shillings are needed. US dollars are welcome for all transactions at lodges, camps, and for tips. Bring many $1 bills—like 75 or more. Good advice on new bills and make sure they are unworn, no writing, not crinkled, etc.

Plenty of places to exchange $ at Jomo Kenyatta Intl Airport. I prefer to get more of the local currency than I think I’ll need, just in case. I use any extra for the guide tips.

2. If doing walking safaris, not just bush walks booked at the lodge, then absolutely wear khaki. The advice on avoiding white and dark blue is good. Here is what I wrote in my recent report on colors:

“At least at the larger lodges and camps in Kenya where guests remain in a vehicle anything goes now. I saw every color in the rainbow on both guides and guests during game drives. Hawaiian shirts, gold lamé, ruffled skirts, white chiffon veils fashioned into a flowing cape, sports jerseys with netting, black and white checks, fire engine red, hot pink, purple, royal blue. Bejeweled sandals were also popular.

If it’s comfortable and not camouflage, (which is outlawed by the military) and it’s not tse tse-attracting blue (if tse tse infested areas are on the itinerary) pack it and wear it proudly!”

3. If you go with a reputable company and stay in reputable lodges and camps, I believe you are as safe in Kenya as most places. I usually go alone and never have a problem. In Nairobi, I err on the way cautious side and don’t venture out alone. At camps and lodges, you are not allowed to leave the premises due to wild animals. There are rare instances of crime in the parks, probably statistically less per person than in your own city. Where I live there were about 100 murders last year. Far worse odds than for tourists in Kenya.

4. Windowless gave you a good list. You could also consider the National Museum. It has a snake park too, if you are interested. If not, you can avoid it completely and never see a snake. Nairobi National Park is the only national park in a city. Not a zoo by any means. Animals in the foreground (such as rhino, giraffe, buffalo, even lions) with the backdrop of modern highrises in the distance is an interesting perspective.

Here are some additional links on NBO activities and NBO National Park.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 1st, 2011, 06:23 AM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 597
We only took US$ with us and it was all we ever needed. Plenty of small bills is better than big ones. Also we wore only Khaki and it was great. It doesn't show the dust, but more importantly we had virtually no problems at all with tse tse flies either. Our driver had to wear a navy blue shirt as part of his uniform, and I was constantly swatting the tse tse flies off of his shoulders and collar, and off him also, as they love dark colors. This explains why some people report that they bite right through blue jeans. It's their favorite color.
tinydancer is offline  
Jan 1st, 2011, 06:35 AM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 53
First of all, I agree with everything Windowlessoffice stated in her post, although I do have a challange with another poster regarding being on a group tour for safety reasons, although I guess each person has their own comfort zone.

Please do not be too alarmed by the travel warning. This is something that was also posted throughout last year and is just a precaution. The areas listed are not the Parks which you'd most likely be visiting in Kenya as these are further north and closer to the Somalia border.

I'm a female and I traveled on my first solo safari 2 days after the vote on the new constitution in August and I had absolutely no challanges. I felt very safe in the Parks/camps and I was alone in 4 different tented camps and some of these were without any fences to keep out predators. While in Nairobi just follow the general precautions of being in a foreign city (or even New York) and you'll be fine.

In regards to joining a group tour, this depends on what you're comfortable with and your budget. I did not go on a group tour as I had very specific dates that I wanted to travel and I didn't like their itineraries as they only had 2 nights in the Mara, and I feel this area deserves at least 4. I actually would've been happy with a week in the Mara as the Migration was in full swing.

It was important to me that my game drives be in open 4x4 vehichles and my accommodations be in tented camps for a more authentic experience. If you take a group tour, most (not all) will have you in Mini buses driving between camps and staying in Lodges.

After obsessively reading the boards on Fordors and TA (and asking questions of the experts) and consulting guidebooks, I had a good idea of what I wanted out of my first safari. I consulted several KATO approved companies and ended up with Go2africa (Diederik van den Hoeke) and he put together my trip which included all flights between Nairobi/Amboseli,Ol Pejeta and Masai Mara. Each camp I selected sent a driver to the airstrip to meet me and transfer me to camp where I was assigned along with other guests to a guide/driver for our game drives. Everyone had a window seat (and sometimes there were only 3 of us in the vehicle but never more than a total of 6) in an open 4x4 for our game drives. Vehicles varied but all had completely open windows and some had tops that also rolled back.

Go2africa used Gamewatchers as their ground operator and they met me at my hotel before I was off to my first flight to Amboseli. In Nairobi I'd made my own hotel arrangements and stayed at the Fairview (Maschula house was full). More importantly, I'd contacted Kennedy whom I'd heard about on the boards and he was available to be my guide for Nairobi. Kennedy is wonderful and he instantly makes you feel comfortable and he is happy to share with you his vast knowledge and his great sense of humor. At the end of the day you feel as though you have your first friend in Nairobi. If you're visting during busy season, he also knows the order to see the sights in Karen to avoid the most tourist.

Whatever you decide I'm certain you'll have a spectacular safari and if you enjoy it as much as I did (and most people), you'll be dreaming about another safari almost as soon as you return home.
nycjv is offline  
Jan 1st, 2011, 07:11 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
"While in Nairobi just follow the general precautions of being in a foreign city (or even New York)"

Please folks, know that New York is one of the safest big cities in the world.

But as with travel anywhere, don't leave your common sense at home; always be aware of your surroundings. Nairobi is safe during daytime hours and if doing so on your own, always let your hotel know where you're going (leave large amounts of cash back at hotel in safe, take only one credit card, and a small camera... nothing to attract attention... good sense anywhere; it's best to use taxis venturing out at night.

That said, all of the advice above is spot on. If your budget allows, you can certainly travel as a single female, though know you will be assessed the Single Supplement... but worth it.

There's plenty to do in Nairobi for a day or two prior safari, but one day is often more than sufficient.

The USGovt "warning" link shown, has been reissued about every 6-8/months since the Embassy bombing in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania in '98... it's a "warning" only as there are for many destinations worldwide nowadays. Also, the areas mentioned are those close to the Somali border which is hundreds of miles from the traditional tourist stops.

Avoid white as it gets dirty and may never be white again. So stay with neutrals - tan, beige, khaki, brown - that don't show dust/dirt; and attire should be interchangeable, whether pants/tops/shorts/jacket etc. Easier when trying to dress in the 6am dark before morning game drives.

USD are accepted most everywhere, though when in Nairobi, most of the entry fees or purchases they prefer local Shillings which can be obtained on arrival at ATM outside Baggage Claim... a small amount of $50-100 is sufficient; any remaining before heading home can be used for tips to guide/driver or lodge/camp staff.

Go for it!
sandi is offline  
Jan 1st, 2011, 10:00 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 12
Thank you very much for your detailed and fast responses. I'm very excited and feel better equipped now =-)
WorldAwaits4Me is offline  
Jan 1st, 2011, 10:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 53
Sandi, thank you for clarifying my remark about New York as I forget that some people already have the very wrong impression about the city and it was my clumsy way of saying don't worry just use common sense. I've lived in Manhattan for over 7 years and can atest to the fact that it is extremely safe and I always feel secure, however I wouldn't go out walking in Central Park at 2am, nor would I do that in Nairobi or any other city. Happy New Year!
nycjv is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2011, 07:42 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
nycjv - you've forgiven

Neither would I take a walk in Central Park at 2am... it's not Disney Land!

It's a matter of using common sense and people, whether local or visitors, have to consider regardless where traveling in the world!
sandi is offline  

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