Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Africa & the Middle East (
-   -   Exchanging $$ in Kenya/Tanzania (

missynole Jun 11th, 2007 10:44 AM

Exchanging $$ in Kenya/Tanzania
Does anyone have any suggestions about exchanging U.S. $$ into Kenyan and Tanzanian currency? Should I do it at the airport in Nairobi or here in Atlanta? We're going on safari with Micato tours and aren't sure about how much $$ to exchange as well. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Patty Jun 11th, 2007 11:40 AM

You'll likely get a better exchange rate if you wait until you get to Nairobi airport rather than exchange in Atlanta. There are exchange desks at the baggage claim area so you can get that done while you wait for your luggage. There are also 2 ATMs outside the customs area of Nairobi airport where you can withdrawal Kenyan shillings or you can use an ATM in town. I pretty much switch to shillings when in Kenya and rarely use dollars, but others prefer to carry a combination of dollars and shillings. I'll leave it to those who have been on a Micato tour to let you know what's a good amount to exchange. You'll need enough cash for tipping and small purchases. Lodges and camps generally accept credit cards for incidentals.

I don't know if you're crossing into Tanzania by land border or flying. If flying, you can exchange any remaining Kenyan shillings you have into Tanzania shillings at an exchange desk in the departures area of Nairobi airport or after you arrive in Tanzania.

Jess215 Jun 11th, 2007 12:03 PM

I posed a similar question a while back, and received this very helpful and comprehensive reply:

Author: hausfrau
Date: 05/01/2007, 04:08 pm
On a Micato tour, the only people you should feel obligated to tip are your driver/guide (this is one person, called a "driver/guide" because they are not just drivers, but knowledgeable guides as well) and your safari director (you will have one in Kenya and one in Tanzania). Anyone else is optional, based on the service you receive and whether you personally want to tip. You will probably have a different driver/guide for each park you visit. Suggested tips are $8-10 per day for the driver/guides and $10-12 per day for the safari directors. Porters are taken care of by Micato, so you do not need to tip the people who take your bag to your room.

I brought some notecards and envelopes so I could write a note with each tip, which I handed to the driver/guides and our safari directors when we said goodbye.

Aside from souvenirs, the only things you will need money for are drinks and any activities you might participate in that are not covered by Micato. For us this included a bush walk in Amboseli ($15 per person) and horseback riding at Mt. Kenya Safari Club ($35 per person per hour). Virtually all of the lodges will also take credit cards for these sorts of things.

We found that Euros were not that widely accepted (we are living in Germany so that's what we had). Best to take American dollars and also change some money for Kenyan and Tanzanian shillings while you are there - you can do this at most of the lodges. Some people also paid tips to the driver/guides and safari directors in traveler's checks.

If your tour includes a visit to a Maasai village, you will want either local currency or U.S. dollars.

missynole Jun 12th, 2007 04:31 AM

Thanks everyone for the valuable advice. I can't wait until we go in September!

dssxxxx Jun 12th, 2007 05:04 AM

When we were in Kenya, we did not find one place/person that would not take US $$$'s.

sandi Jun 12th, 2007 05:30 AM

While US$ are accepted at lodges/camps/hotels, it's a good idea to have some local currency for items if in outlying areas where locals don't have easy access to banks.

The comments from "hausfrau" were apropros for Micato as they leave only the guide/driver tip to the client; Micato, A&K & maybe Tauck include the tips to others - camp/lodge staff and some incidentals - in the cost of their trip. Other tour outfitters do not include these latter tips in the cost of your package, so are left to the discretion of the visitor.

So inquire of your safari company which tips are/aren't included and base your funds on their response.

Jess215 Jun 12th, 2007 07:15 AM

Thanks, Sandi, for the clarification. The OP's question was re: Micato, but I am sure other travelers will be following this thread, and your advice will prevent miscalculations.

jvnoledawg Jun 12th, 2007 04:12 PM

Thanks Hausfrau, I figured you or Sandy would provide excellent "been there, done that" advice.

LyndaS Jun 12th, 2007 11:49 PM


We just returned from our second Micato trip (in the spae of 11 months!)a few weeks back.

No need to exchange any $$ before you leave, it would be probably hard to find ksh or tsh here at any rate. Your safari director will pick you up from the airport - mention to him that you need to get some Ksh - the best way to do this is use an ATM - he will take you to one the day you arrive, or if it's late, first thing the next morning. (he will be outside of the airport)

For Tanzania, you will change safari directors, so mention to your new director as soon as you meet him that you need to find an ATM in TZ. Last year on the Stanley Wing, we crossed over by road, and most of us hit up an ATM in Arusha. This year, on the Hemmingway, we flew from Kenya to TZ and I forgot to go to an ATM at the Arusha airport. We then flew to the Serengeti, and I ended up cashing in a couple of US travellers cks that I had left over from last year to Tsh - but it's not the greatest exchange rate doing it that way.

Hasufrau says it all though, you really don't need too much - just enough for any laundry or alcholic beverages you may enjoy. For Tanzania we didn't use much at all - I think it was less than 25.00 USD.

The only tips you will need is the driver guides & the safari directors, and for that you can use USD. Micato takes care of the rest of the tips at the lodges & camps.

That being said though, we did bring a about a hundred dollars in 5's, 10's and ones (US) for 'special' tips, which in the most part was for the guys/gals serving the drinks, an extra special waiter at Bateluer/Kichwa Tembo that really took care of us, and for other such people that did 'extras' for us. But some of that was also for tips on the day we spent in Nairobi prior to the Micato safari.

Which Micato trip are you on, and when are you going?

roadwarriorafrica Jun 13th, 2007 06:45 AM

May I suggest that you change $$$ at the airport, as you will get a better rate. Then when you give tips, you can in local currency. At the moment, at the airport in Nairobi you may get around Kshs 63 for 1USD. If you give a tip in the bush of say US$10, the lodge will change it for their staff member at around 58 meaning the staff member looses 10% to the lodge. If they got it in Kshs at 63 when you exchanged it at the airport, they will get more in Kshs. A little goes a long way.

jvnoledawg Jun 13th, 2007 07:46 AM

Thanks LyndaS. (I meant to say you and Hausfrau, but I remembered your name as Sandy for some reason.)

Anyway, we're going on the Stanley Wing in September. (Yes, Missynole is my sister.)

rsnyder Jun 13th, 2007 09:12 AM

Just returned from Tanzania a few days ago (still working on trip report and pics). Doubt you can get Tanzania currency other than in Tanzania. We could have gotten by without any but did so anyway. Actually, in some cases we paid less when using T. shillings than US dollars. Exchange rates I remember (still looking over notes) were 1,000 Tshillings for a US $1 but something like 1,265 for $5 and higher denominations. I remember getting the 1,265 rate at the Serengeti Serena Lodge. Regardless, take plenty of $1 bills for tips. I think we exchanged maybe $100 worth mostly for small purchases and bar bills. In some places, I noted when people paid in US currency, often change was not possible except in T shillings. In those cases, one may be at the mercy of the seller in regards to exchange rate. Dick

sandi Jun 13th, 2007 12:59 PM

Reminder -

If you do convert to local currency in either country, be aware that these cannot be reconverted to USD when departing for home. It is, therefore, important to use all foreign currency before heading home. Of course, if you have some small clean denomination bills in Ksh or Tsh that you wish to retain as souvenirs or your scrapbook, do so.

While some airports have a box at departures where you can deposit/donate your left-over funds, I don't recall seeing these at either NBO or JRO. If others have found this, pipe in. If you are routing through Dubai, be aware they do have these boxes and gladly accept ALL currencies for such purposes.

LyndaS Jun 13th, 2007 11:13 PM

I don't recall seeing any boxes, Sandi, but BA has a Change For Good program, each seat has an envelope and you can put any of your unused currencies in there - they will use it towards the charities/programs that they support in many of the countries aroun d the world.

I save mine though - as you say, small amounts go in the scrapbook, and then, I save mine for when I next go to that country. Of course now I do have multiple currencies that are no longer in circulation and good only for scrapbooks, such as drachma, lire, etc. But saving the Tsh and Ksh from last year worked good for this year!

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:53 PM.