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Kenya / questions about visas, money, electricity, Nairobi, etc.

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Oct 19th, 2004, 01:11 PM
  #1
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Kenya / questions about visas, money, electricity, Nairobi, etc.

We're planning to get our visas on arrival. My understanding is that all that's necessary is the visa form from the Kenyan Embassy website and $50 cash per person, no photos, is that correct?

Is the 3 prong UK adaptor the one that I need for my battery chargers?

Is it acceptable to pay for most things (including tipping) in USD? Is there anything specifically that I need to pay for in shilling?

What needs to be paid with cash other than our visas, tips, souvenir shopping? Do camps/lodges accept credit cards for incidentals, how about restaurants? I don't like to carry much cash when I travel. Can I rely on ATM's? Should I bring some traveler's checks as a back up?

Has anyone visited Kiambethu tea farm outside of Nairobi? If so, did you think it was worthwhile?

Any restaurant recommendations in Nairobi besides the Carnivore?

Many thanks!
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Oct 19th, 2004, 01:32 PM
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Patty:

Just make sure you fill out the Visa application in advance and have it in hand with your $50.00 when you approach the Visa desk. Things should then move fairly quickly.

The adaptor you want is EA23MCG. It is indeed a 3 pronged adaptor marked ritish electric plug - ground.
You can get them from Magellans.com for around $7.00.

You might change about half the amount of cash you are taking into Kenya shillings. You can do it at the airport. The Thomas Cooke booth usually has the best exchange rates.

Almost everyone will accept US dollars. However, if lodge employees are stuck in the parks for 2 - 3 months at a time they would have trouble converting it to KES. That is why I try to have some Kenya shillings on hand.

Tips will probably be the thing you spend on the most. Then water, drinks, souvenirs.

The problem with using the ATM (at least the two times I have tried) is you have to stipulate the amount you want in Kenya shillings and I never know what to enter. Travelers checks in the lodges are alright (if they have the available cash on hand). However, I've had several experiences at banks where they didn't want to cash travelers checks unless you had an account there or in one case it took 45 minutes to get this done. Most bank employees don't realize travelers checks are the same as cash.

I always use a TravelSmith or Eagle Creek money fold which you can hide under a sweater or blouse. As soon as I get to a lodge I lock money, passport, airline tickets etc in a safety deposit box. It is also a good thing to have suitcase locks - the kind where you dial in a combination of four numbers. Have never had a problem.
However, one gentleman I know of states when he leaves his room/tent he always leaves the zippers of his luggage open a tiny crack. When he gets back he checks to see if they have been moved and if anyone has tried getting into his luggage.

You will be able to use credit cards most places you go except for the very small shops and souvenir stands.

Have never been to the tea farm. Perhaps someone else will let you know whether it is worth the trip. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a great place to go from 11 - noon. They mudbathe the baby rhino and elephants there every day. Giraffe Manor is another fun place where you can hand feed the giraffes. Another very nice place is Utamuduni (?sp) which has a very nice selection of gifts. There are 7 or 8 shops all connected with lovely gifts (however, it would be wise to do this just before you leave Kenya so you don't have to drag the souvenirs around with you.

The Tamarind Restaurant is another great one, especially for seafood.

Jan
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Oct 19th, 2004, 01:54 PM
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Thanks for bringing up the issue of what to do with passports & airline tickets. When you say safe deposit box, do you mean at reception? What about cameras and video cameras? I'm planning to bring both. Is it OK to leave these in the tent? I'm thinking during dinner or an afternoon swim.
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Oct 19th, 2004, 01:57 PM
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I agree with Jan re how to use your spending funds. We tipped our guide/driver in USD as they are in/out of Nairobi and have no problem exchanging the USD; used Ksh for tipping camp staff (waiters, housekeeping, porters) and for spending at souvenir stands around the country.

The Currency Exchange at the airport has a good rate of exchange (the current rate is USD$1 = 81.5Ksh); avoid changing USD at hotel, though hotels are more agreeable in changing travelers checks. Go to one of the Currency Exchange websites and print out a "cheat sheet" to have with you so you know how much local currency you are parting with.

It's also a good idea to have relatively new (doesn't have to be freshly minted) currency (rather then old, torn or washed out bills) in small denominations of USD$1, $5, $10, $20. Anything higher can sometimes be difficult to exchange. And wherever possible have the bills with "new" larger faces and even those $20s that are tri-colored - your local bank should be able to change these for you.

Our beverage bills weren't all that high, so we paid with local currency or USD. Used our credit cards only in NBO for meals or purchases.

While I placed airline tickets and other important papers in the lodge/camp safe while out on safari, I always had my money with/on me.

Unfamiliar with the tea farm outside of NBO. And yes, the Carnivore and Tamarind are good for restaurant meals.

When do you leave?
 
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Oct 19th, 2004, 02:20 PM
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We leave Jan 24th now. I changed our original dates (late Feb) when some additional award seats opened up.
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Oct 20th, 2004, 12:46 PM
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Patty:

Many of the lodges have actual safety deposit boxes in reception where you keep one key and they keep the second. Both keys are needed to open box. I have even locked cash in there and only taken small amounts with me. Never had a problem.

Tented camps may or may not have safety deposit boxes. In that case I would probably take half with me hidden under clothes and lock half in secure locked suitcase. Never keep all your money in one place though.

I take one SLR camera with extra lenses and two video cameras and have always left them in the room or tent when I go to dinner at night. No problems. However, I have stayed in these camps six times and they know me. Don't know how I would feel in a place new to me. Perhaps others can give you advice as to how they handled the camera situation.

We might run into each other. I leave on January 22nd. You will absolutely love it.

Jan
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Oct 21st, 2004, 03:57 PM
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Thanks for the additional advice. I forgot to mention earlier that we do have plans to visit the Sheldrick Orphanage, Blixen Museum and Giraffe Center on our last day in Nairobi (we fly out at 10:30pm). We have one other afternoon and the tea farm sounded interesting, but then again we may be too tired and just want to rest.
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Oct 21st, 2004, 09:41 PM
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Hi Patty:

We used the Kenyan Consolate in Ottawa for our visas and they wanted pasport sized photos but that was in 2002. But most people on my flight just had the forms and paid at the airport (if you go that route make sure you have exact $$).

Try http://kropla.com/electric2.htm for power from around the world (but yes its the 3 prong UK adaptor type).

US $$, Kenyan shillings & credit cards were equally used (as eveb a few remote courio shops took VISA) and ATM were quite common in many towns where we stopped for gas ("The Rough Guide to Kenya" did a good job identifying where the Standard & Barclay ATMs were located).

Hope this helps,

Z
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