The coastal areas are tropical and temperatures are moderated by monsoon winds. The lowlands are hot and mainly dry, while the highlands see a more temperate climate with four distinct seasons. Nairobi has a very pleasant climate throughout the year due to its altitude. Near Lake Victoria, the temperatures are much higher and rainfall can be heavy. The main tourist season is in January and February, because the hot, dry weather at this time of year is generally considered to be the most pleasant. It is also when Kenya's birdlife flocks to the Rift Valley lakes in the greatest numbers. June to September could be called the 'shoulder season' as the weather is still dry. The rains fall from March to May (and to a lesser extent from October to December).
The Kenyan Shilling is the currency in use throughout Kenya.
Foreign-exchange bureaus are the best places to change money. Their rates are competitive and they don't charge commission. Banks will change money, but their commission can be steep. The place to carry your money is in a pouch against your skin. In Kenya, tipping is expected in anything more than a basic eatery. Five to ten percent of the bill is the usual amount expected. On safari, drivers, guides and cooks often rely heavily on tips to get by. (About 3US dollars per employee per day is normal.)
GMT / UTC +3 hours
Office hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1300 and 1400-1700. In Mombasa, offices usually open and close 30 minutes earlier.
Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 0830-1230 and 1400-1730.
Note: The sale of souvenirs made of wildlife skins (this includes reptiles) and shells is forbidden.
Modern communication facilities and services are widely available in urban centres and in resort areas catering to an international clientele. This is not true of the rural regions however, so be sure to manage your communications prior to embarking on a safari.
Although Swahili is the national language, English is the official language and is widely spoken.
Lightweight cottons and linens with rainwear are advised for the coast and lakeside. Warmer clothing is needed in June and July and for the cooler mornings on the coast. Lightweights are needed for much of the year in the highlands. Rainwear is advisable between March and June and October and December. Western European habits prevail throughout Kenya as a result of British influences in the country. Dress is informal, and casual lightweight clothes are accepted for most social occasions.
Air: Kenya Airways, Air Kenya, and Regional Air operate an extensive network of flights throughout the country. Air Kenya also offers scheduled service into all of KenyaA^'s game parks. There are also private airlines operating light aircraft to small airstrips. Planes can be chartered and are useful for transport into game parks.
Rail: Kenya Railways Corporation runs passenger trains between Mombasa and Nairobi; trains generally leave in the evening and arrive the following morning after a journey of around 13 to 14 hours. There are also branches connecting Taveta and Kisumu to the passenger network. There is a daily train in each direction on the Nairobi-Kisumu route, and also an overnight service (travel time - approximately 14 hours). Trains are sometimes delayed, but most are modern and comfortable, and include restaurant cars. There are three classes: first class is excellent, with two-berth compartments, wardrobe, etc; second class is more basic but comfortable; third is basic. Sleeping compartments should be booked in advance. Sexes are separated in first and second class. Children under three years of age travel free. Children between three and 15 years of age pay half fare.
Road: Traffic drives on the left. All major roads are paved and many of the others have been improved, particularly in the southwest. Vast areas of the north still suffer from very poor communications.
Bus: City buses operate in Nairobi and Mombasa at reasonable prices. Peak hours should be avoided as buses get very crowded. Fares are paid to the conductor. There is a network of regular buses and shared minibuses (Matatu); the fares do not vary greatly, but buses tend to be the safer method of transport. All bus companies are privately run. In some towns the different bus services and the matatu share the same terminus.
Taxi: Kenya is very well served by long-distance taxis, carrying up to seven passengers. The best services are between the capital and Mombasa and Nakuru. The older yellow-band taxis do not have meters, so fares should be agreed in advance. A 10 per cent tip is expected. Taxis cannot be hailed in the street. On the coast, taxis and minibuses are a convenient method of travel.
Car hire: Self-drive and chauffeur-driven cars may be hired from a number of travel agents in Malindi, Mombasa and Nairobi. This can be expensive, and rates - particularly the mileage charges - can vary a good deal. Most companies insist that only 4-wheel-drive vehicles should be rented.
insurance is essential. East African Flying Doctor Services have
introduced a special 'Tourist Membership' which guarantees that any
member injured or ill while on safari can call on a flying doctor for
free air transport. There are good medical facilities in Mombasa and
Nairobi. The Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) safety communication centre
(24 hour) help tourists in difficulty:
(tel: (20) 604 767; e-mail: email@example.com).