Visas, Tips, and Credit Cards

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Aug 4th, 2003, 09:21 AM
  #1
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Visas, Tips, and Credit Cards

I'm heading to Kenya and Tanzania in September and I've got a few questions that I'm hoping this board can answer.

1. I'm flying into Tanzania and then driving into Kenya. Will I have any major problems getting visas at the airport and the Kenyan border?

2. How much do you usually tip your guides? We will have our own guides for our travels in Tanzania and then will be using the Governors Camp guides in Kenya.

3. When buying drinks at the lodges (beer, coke...) is it possible to pay off your tab with a credit card? Do I get charged extra if I do?

Thanks
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Aug 4th, 2003, 01:28 PM
  #2
sandi
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Roderick -

I've always obtained my VISAs prior to travel, but living in NYC it was easy, almost all the embassies/tourist offices are here. Someoe indicated that you can get a Visa upon landing in Kenya and I assume you can do so for Tanzania. But would recommend you contact each of these embassies directly to find out for certain.

Will you be driving to Kenya as part of a tour w/guide/driver or are you doing this on your own? Well, last I knew was that when your cross this border by land in either direction you not only have to have proper VISAs, but also a Yellow Fever Certificate.

Yellow Fever innoculations aren't available from your regular physician, rather a travel clinic or physician specializing in tropical deseases. Cost can range from $85 to $150, but is good for 10-years. And don't forget your other innoculations - Tetanus, Hep A, Polio Booster and some recommend Thyphoid. And of course, your Malaria meds and repellent.

Tipping - Generally we tipped guides between $5-7/dy - if in Tanz its a driver/guide I go with $7/dy. In Governors it would be $5/dy. This is just a guideline - sometimes we've tipped more, up to $10/day if guide, ranger was exceptional. And when staying at camps, we'd leave tips for the wait staff, housekeeping - between the two of us about $6/dy.

You can pay your bar tab by credit card, and I don't recall any additional fees, but because our bar tabs weren't that high, we usually paid in local currency or USD

It might be a good idea when you arrive in Tanz to go into a supermarket and buy a case of water and of cokes and beer if you like. Of course you can get ice for the cooler that most vehicles have, but don't ever drink from those bottles direct to your lips after they've been in that ice water. Use straws. A straw popping out of a bottle/can of Tusker ("Export" I found to be the better) or Kilimanjero (sp) beer looks real cute, but at least it's safe.

Then when we got to camps, we'd take out a few bottles/cans from our supply (which were warm) and swap them with the camp supply that was refrigerated. In other words one-fo-one.

 
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Aug 4th, 2003, 06:40 PM
  #3
LizFrazier
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Roderick-
I've noticed on some of the safari travel sites they have an information page that covers tipping. Also at all of the camps there is a tip jar at reception. It is for the "staff" not including the managers. It covers cooks, house keepers, etc. I forget the percentage, but when you book a group safari that is figured in to the total cost of your trip, and the guide does that tipping for you. I just can't remember if it was a percentage of the bill for that camp, or so many dollars a day per person recommended. The manager divides this up among all of the support people who provide service. This is every bit as important as the tips to the drivers if you are on an independent safari not booked through an agent and guided with your own guide paying the bills from what you paid for the trip.
We tipped our drivers in Botswana $5.00 after each drive, because there were two of us and we had 2 game drives a day. That way if a different driver took us out some of the time each was tipped directly. On a guided safari, even with the guide paying all of the incidental tips throughout,at the end of the trip when he drops you at the airport, you tip that person for the entire trip. It is on a daily basis and paid in cash in one lump sum. Who you booked with will be sure you are informed as to what is the standard practice, in the final instructions you get with your tickets.
When will you be at Governors Camp? Which camp will you be visiting?
My husband and I are going to get our VISAs at the airports in Kenya and Tanzania. You can download the applications on the internet and have it all filled out. People have posted here that you can get VISAs at almost every entry point. Just do a search of Kenya and Tanzania and put VISA as the subject to find the applications. It is pretty recent information also.
Where we stayed in Botswana, the drinks appeared on the bill at those camps that charged extra for them. The standard practice in Southern Africa is for drinks to be included in the tarrif, except for champagne. Its nice not to worry if you just want an extra 1/2 glass of wine, to have to keep track of it. In East Africa drinks are extra and I've seen people pay in cash or charge at the reception. We carry lots of $1.00s and fives for such things.
Also, back to VISAs, when you purchase the VISAs, a new crisp $50.00 U.S. bill helps to expedite your wait. Or so many have posted. Liz
 
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Aug 4th, 2003, 06:50 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Roderick:

1. Visa for Kenya - I think its still $50usd per person for a single entry visa, make sure you have cash (US $$, no local currency, no credit card) & exact change - if you give them 3 x $20usd its unlikely they'll be able to (want to) make change, but if you have the change getting the visas in advance will help (I'm about a 10 min drive from the Kenyan High Commission office in Canada & it took <20 to fillout the forms & get the passports stamped)

2. Tipping - depends on your driver/guide situation, if your part of a larger group (e.g., you 2 of 6 to 8 people in your group) then $5-7usd per per person day is the norm for the driver/guide you have every day & $5usd per person if someone else does the game drives, in our situation it was just the 2 of us in a vehicle that could accomidate 8 with an excellant/very experienced driver/guide for all interlodge & game driving for 8 days - it was recommended to tip $20usd each per day, math said $320 but I gave him $450 because the service was exceptional (most was in local currency)

Also don't forget tipping the lodge staff (& use local currency, if you have it, for these tips as the lodge staff will unlikley be able to do much with US currency without exchanging it) -
- $5 per person/day (usually a general 'collection box' at the front deck for the tips)
- $1-2 per bag each way (let them carry the bags, don't be tempted to do it yourself)
- and also if some at the lodges does something special or just provides exceptional service then give them an extra tip directly

3. Drinks at the lodges - while they can be put on a credit card, I only did it once as the $$'s were so low that I paid cash - soda was $0.80, large bottled water was $1.50 & beer was $2.50, our total for the 7 nights at the lodges was <$75usd (but I had picked up a couple of cases of water & snacks at the supermarket in Nairobi before we left & that was another $15)

4. You also may want to pickup some postcards of your home town, self address them & hand them out - I'd read that in "The Rough Guide to Kenya" & while I did think it was rather pretenious I did take 25 (of the cheap 4 for $1 type) and wish I had a few more (gov't buildings, gardens & something with snow, if native to your area, went over the best & a good way to strike up a conservation with the people you meet) and I did get a couple of followup letters from them

Enjoy the trip, it will be amazing.

Z
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Aug 5th, 2003, 05:11 AM
  #5
 
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Hi Roderick!! First off, have a fantastic trip. Wish I was going, but alas, I must wait until next year. Liz, Sandi and Travelmaster have already covered just about everything. If you are crossing into Kenya at Namanga, you will have no problem getting your visa right there. Since you are not traveling until September, you may want to get your visas ahead of time. I found the Kenya and Tanzanian embassies in D.C. to be the easiest to deal with. If not, just be prepared at Kenyatta airport to deal with a throng of tourists all filling out their visa paperwork at the same time! It's quite a sight to see! I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to remember the staff at wherever you are staying. There are the "staff" tipping depositories, and they do get the money. I think you will find that most of the lodge/camp staff are fantastic. Considering they get menial wages (by most standards), your tips go a long way in helping them. That is not to say that you should tip if you get poor service. But if you get excellent service, good food prepared by the chef, wake up "calls" at the right time, etc. just remember it was the staff that helped make your stay so memorable. Have a wonderful time. I am pea-green with envy!
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Aug 5th, 2003, 07:10 AM
  #6
 
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My fiance and I are also traveling to Tanzania at the end of Sept. beginning of Oct. We were highly encouraged to get our VISA in Tanzania, so that is the route we are going.

I have a rather personal question to ask though. I have been reading up on who to tip and how much to tip them, so with all these tips, how much extra money should we take. This is our honeymoon. We do plan on drinking some alcoholic beverages at night with dinner, but water is included in our package. Did you all take a lot of cash with you? Traveler's checks? Credit Cards? It seeems that the consensus is that many people do not use credit cards over there... How much cash should we expect to spend for a 12 day trip? How much of this should be in cash? What kind of cash, US dollars? And how do you take the rest of the money?

I know this is a lot of questions, but the advice on here has always been so welcome and wonderful.

Thanks,
Kristy
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Aug 5th, 2003, 07:22 AM
  #7
LizFrazier
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Kristy-
I'm in the same spot. I've always travelled with a group in East Africa and the guide paid the park fees. Big item. $30 a day per person. We'll be staying in the Masai Mara and will have to pay an extra $420. I emailed to ask if that was paid in USD, Kenya Schillings, Travelers Checks, credit card, whatever. Does anyone know? The camp cannot collect it for us. The park ranger has a desk at Governors Camp and we pay him direct for the park passes.
Could some recent returnees please post, at least if you travelled independently. Thanks.
 
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Aug 5th, 2003, 11:23 AM
  #8
 
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Roderick - I forgot to mention, you'll also need a seperate passport sized photo for your visa in Kenya.

Kristi - little value in taking travelers cheques, as few business will likely accept them. But even the smaller curio shops at the side of the road took VISA - I picked up a seperate 'classic' VISA (no annual service charge but no precs either) from my bank before I left with a fairly low credit limit (reduced my credit exposure over my 'gold' card if it was compromised). But I paid cash for virtually everything (not that much was needed). Local currency preferred over US $$, as its more difficult for the local people to exchange US $$.

Liz - can't get the schillings outside Kenya, but easy to get as Barclay's & Standard Bank ATM's in virtually every town. Narok (last town before Maissa Mara) & Isilo (last town before Samboru) were the only town we stopped in that didn't have ATMs, but earlier stops those days were in towns with one. "The Rough Guide to Kenya" had line maps of most of the towns along the trip that showed the banks (with ATMs) and gas stations - so when we stopped for gas & I needed some more cash I went to the bank. My bank in Canada is aligned with Barclay's so paid no forgien ATM service charge & had great exchange rate.

Z
TravelMaster is offline  
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Aug 5th, 2003, 01:28 PM
  #9
sandi
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We travelled with USD only in small denominations $1 (lots), $5, $10,$20 (few). Sure we had them packed all over out bodies, but had no problem with local people in Kenya accepting USD, in fact, they preferred USD.

We did get Shillings from a money changer before we left NBO, but not much, maybe $100 worth.

In fact, we notices that most tourist, regardless where they were from, had converted their currency in USD.

Reminder, try to have clean bills, all with "new faces" (except the $1 which haven't changed yet) - they don't have t o be fresh from the mint, but no tears or faded (as if they've been thru the wash). Surprisingly, we saw many locals actually check the date on the bills to see if they had been printed within the past two years!!! Strange, but they did.

Always travel with Travelers Checks for emergency purposes only - so far, they've always been redeposited when we return home.

Have used credit cards for large purchases or a hotel bill, but even that was rare.

Happy travels.
 
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Aug 5th, 2003, 05:48 PM
  #10
LizFrazier
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Re: Tipping

I just found this on e-gnu:

http://www.e-gnu.com/tips.html

That helps me for the guides and the general "staff" tip. This should be current too. Liz
 
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