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Best way to carry money for a safari to Kenya & Tanzania

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Jul 22nd, 2010, 10:20 AM
  #1
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Best way to carry money for a safari to Kenya & Tanzania

Hello Folks,

I am leaving for a 14 day trip to Kenya and Tanzania. I understand that tipping is an integral part of the trip and credit cards are not so widely used. What would be the 'safest' way for carrying money. Would travellers checks be ok? or is it has to be cash?

Thanks in advance for your suggestion.

Regards,
Milan
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Jul 22nd, 2010, 12:53 PM
  #2
 
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What is your itinerary? My experience is that you can easily get local currency in Nairobi and just use that--as long as your ATM card has a four-digit pin code. There are ATMs in Arusha too but I haven't been to TZ in several years so I'm sure someone here has more up-to-date information. I usually bring USD too in case I don't take out enough shillings while in town (no ATMs in the bush and sometimes they're not working in the smaller towns).

I wouldn't bother with traveler's checks.
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Jul 22nd, 2010, 12:58 PM
  #3
 
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Milan, have a look at this thread:

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...n-tanzania.cfm
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Jul 22nd, 2010, 01:03 PM
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There are many threads here on Fodor's that a "search" (use box above) will bring up.

But, in brief... Travellers Checks are not a good idea, as exchange rate is terrible; but also difficult to find place to exchange. If you want to have these "in case of emergency" they should be in your home currency, so they can be deposited in the back when you return home.

Otherwise, USD are widely accepted for tips in both countries. However, it's a good idea on arrival at each to obtain some local currency - Kenyan (KSH) or Tanzanian (TSH) Shillings, for small purchases at roadside souvenir stands. There are ATMs in Nairobi and in Kilimanjaro and/or Arusha. If you do get local currency, do your utmost to use all before departing as often difficult to re-exchange and you loose again in this process. Remaining local funds can be used for tips.

Credit cards can be used, but know that many hotels, lodges and/or camps will assess a fee for their use. This can be 5% or higher over what you're paying. Therefore, if you wish to use plastic, ask beforehand.

Otherwise, take cash based on what you expect to need for tips, souvenirs, beverages (often not included in daily room/tent rate), meals not included; of course, for your Visas if you didn't purchase beforehand.

USD notes should be no older than 2005, in good condition not folded, torn, stapled, taped, etc. With new larger faces ($5s, 10s, 20s, 50s... the $1s haven't been changed). Keep money, credit card/s, passports, airline tickets with you at all times, unless you decide to use hotel/lodge/camps safes.

Enjoy your holiday.
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Jul 22nd, 2010, 03:35 PM
  #5
 
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At our TA's suggestion we put cash for our tips in a series of individual envelopes. Then that money was all set aside and I never had to think about whether I had enough tip money when leaving one location for another. I kept all those envelopes together in my passport case....this went either in the room/tent safe (if there was one) or in my daypack that never left my side. (If in doubt, these could also go in a money belt...at least by the end of the trip when there were fewer envelopes left!) Then we got modest amounts of cash as needed for miscellaneous expenses and kept this separately. Our TA was able to advise where we might be able to use credit cards, generally city hotels and large camps.
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Jul 22nd, 2010, 07:24 PM
  #6
 
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We just returned from Kenya and TZ and only used USD throughout our trip- did not convert to local currency once. My advice is to go to the Bank in the U.S before leaving and get $75 to $100 in singles (perfect for tipping), then some $20s and the rest in large denomination notes. For the latter make sure the notes are new, undamaged, unmarked and issued in the last couple of years. Don't worry about the singles or the $20s as long as they are not damaged.
USD
At most camps they will request tips be made on a communal basis so a large bill per stay works well. We tipped the drivers/guides separately but everyone else on a communal basis.
Have a great trip.
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Jul 23rd, 2010, 10:18 AM
  #7
 
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I'm slightly confused by Sandi's statement:
"USD notes should be no older than 2005, in good condition not folded, torn, stapled, taped, etc."

How does my husband carry money in his wallet if it cannot be folded? He typically uses a tri-fold wallet but should we get something else to carry money around in and if so, what?
Thanks,
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Jul 23rd, 2010, 12:04 PM
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It's not that there can't be a single fold in the bill, but they should not be heavily creased. The more pristine, the better. My bank was quite patient while I stood at the teller's window and went through all the bills, exchanging any that were marked or looked at all worn.

Even then one of our porters in Rwanda asked if he could exchange one of our $10 bill tips for a different one; it had a very small tear on one end. He was right; it had escaped my notice. He had to rely on the village shopkeeper who acted as the local banker; if a bill wasn't pristine, he got a worse exchange rate.
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Jul 23rd, 2010, 12:10 PM
  #9
 
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Ah - Ok understood. I will probably have most of my tip money away in envelopes so hopefully that helps with most of it. I don't think I am ging to exchange too much - just for a few souveniers. Thanks
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Jul 23rd, 2010, 02:23 PM
  #10
 
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All the USD I take with me fit into a small envelope and lay flat in that. This envelope fits into my document case where I keep any local currency also in a small flat envelope. Document case fits easily in my backpack that is always with me. Do I sometimes have a few notes, USD or KSH/TSH folded in my pocket for easy access? Of course. I've never in 16/yrs had a note refused.

Locals just don't want those "nasty" folded ones. But what you get from the bank doesn't have to be freshly minted which can be a pain as they always stick together.

This ain't brain surgery! Notes in good condition with the parameters as above... simple!
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Jul 23rd, 2010, 04:34 PM
  #11
 
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I am in betweeen here:!

Like AKR1 I used only USD$ going through Kenya ,Tanzania and Zanzibar.

I never converted to local currency( but my friend Randy had to in one place only).

I used a Visa credit card when it was accepted.

Like sandi....... I place my US$ in small size envelopes that are just a little longer than the US$ currency.

I label the envelopes before I leave home and place the proper amount of money ahead of time in those envelopes that I am able to do this.

For example:

1. Money for Kenya Visa ... $ 25.00

2. Money for Tanzania Border Visa....$ 50.00

3. Departure fee from Zanzibar.....$ 30.00

4. Entrance fee to Karen Blixen Museum ... $ 20.00

5. $100.00 US$ in new one dollar bills for tips.

6. Money for end of the Safari for our driver/guide.

and finally

7. Spending money ( on whatever )!!

Then I place a couple of rubber bands about the bundle of envelopes ..and they are lying nice and flat.

When you are on a Safari, you are more than likely wearing shorts with those deep front outside pockets with zippers.

...just unzipper a pocket and the envelopes stand up in the pocket very well.

When I stoppd off at road side little shops like along the Rift Valley, they were happy to take the US$.

Where was the one place where my friend had to convert !!!

Well, at the beginning of our trip we went to the very top floor of the Kenyetta Convention Centre ( that round building in the city square)

View from the top here are terrific and you are totally outside.

Well when we first went up we paid the fee in US$

But three weeks later when we wanted to go up again.... a different lady was at the counter and wanted Kenya Shillings !!

I could have pleaded my case ( not sure it would have helped ) but since it was only a few feet down the hall to get the Shillings , we obliged here.

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Jul 26th, 2010, 01:22 PM
  #12
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Dear All,
Sorry for the delay in sending you all a very Big Thank You for your responses. This information is very helpful and insightful. I will carry enough USD to last me for the 14 days. But first thing I need to do now is to keep the visa money and the tip money aside.

regards,
Milan
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Jul 27th, 2010, 07:39 PM
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I read somewhere that US $100 bills were not welcome in Kenya. Any thoughts??
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Jul 28th, 2010, 07:03 AM
  #14
 
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Surprisingly, USD$100 notes are often refused in Kenya due to counterfeiting, but they're gladly welcomed in Tanzania where the rate of exchange is higher than for smaller notes. All very strange, but that seems to be the way it is.
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Jul 28th, 2010, 11:20 AM
  #15
 
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In Kenya, I find it easiest to just use shillings (except for the visa) obtained from an ATM (my account has forex fees waived) especially on a driving safari. There are ATMs at the airport and in most towns and withdrawals can be made as needed. If you're flying that changes the picture and most likely you won't have access to ATMs once you're out of Nairobi. I do bring some USD for the visa and just in case and usually end up coming home with most of it. Most larger shops, restaurants, hotels and camps in Kenya will take credit cards and I haven't had any add a surcharge so far (I've encountered this in Tanzania though) but it's a good idea to ask.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 12:43 PM
  #16
 
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14 days - all US currency. We never changed into local currency as camps exchange their guides tips at very reasonable rates. So no need to worry about the change and the "left overs".

guide - 10US$ pppd
camp staff - 5 US$$pppd

For that you can change into 5 and 10US$ bills.

We always have at least 50 US$ in 1 $ bills for small purchases and tip fpr taxi driver, bell captain etc.

We have always a couple of hundred US$ and € as back up.

We divide the cash amongst us and carry at all times. The same with CC.

We never leave our stuff at the manager's office as this is the place to go for - if I were a raider ;-)

Copies of passport, health certificate (yellow fever if crossing borders) and tickets are also carried with the money.
Originals as well.

That sounds a lot but fits into 2 money belts or purses.

Don't worry too much and don't let those thoughts spoil your safari!

Happy travels

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Jul 30th, 2010, 06:24 AM
  #17
TC
 
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I agree with all but this statement:

"We never leave our stuff at the manager's office as this is the place to go for - if I were a raider"

I, too, used the envelope/US cash method for tips etc. Those I sealed and placed in a small, flat, zipped bag to be put into the managers office safe at each camp. We signed each time, noting the amount of money. Once there, the camp assummed responsibility for the cash. The only time we ever lost cash on safari (and it wasn't actually us, but a traveling companion) was through slight pilfering of cash left in his tent. Most thefts are crimes of convenience.
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Jul 30th, 2010, 10:18 AM
  #18
 
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So then, are most prices listed in both $ and local currency or do you end up having to figure it out with the merchant once they know what you have? I'm not worried about the tip stuff, I'm all set with that it's just buying souverniers or the occassional meal that's not already in our plan.
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Jul 30th, 2010, 11:12 AM
  #19
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We found that if we were purchasing something in a city -- say a restaurant dinner or substantial souvenier such as at an art gallery, one could use a credit card. Our preference is Capital One Visa with no foriegn conversion fees. Once in the bush, there really just isn't anything to spend money on. Few camps have gift shops -- maybe an odd tee shirt or a little piece of handmade jewelry. For those we had no problem using US cash. For 22 days in Tanzania, we did not convert any US cash to local currency. DH would just do the conversion in his head and leave the appropriate amount. No one ever objected. Even for rather large art pieces in the Dar street markets, we just did our own conversion and made an offer or they would quote a price in US dollars. Pricing isn't as stritchly regemented as you might have at home.
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Jul 30th, 2010, 03:09 PM
  #20
 
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Most prices in Kenya and Tanzania are quoted in USD. In small towns, roadside, prices can be quoted in local (recent exchange was: Ksh75-80Ksh/USD$1 or 1200-1300Tsh/USD$1) currency. But you can offer USD if you don't have local.

That said, most restaurants in Nairobi and Arusha were priced at local currency; most entry fees for sights are in local. If these places are willing to take USD, the exchange rate just might not be as favorable as if you had obtained local funds from an ATM.

If you do decide to get some local currency, not too much (between $50-100/max), as difficult to re-exchange to USD (loosing on the re-exchange) when departing. However, any local left over funds can be used for tips.
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