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Practical Travel in Kenya and Tanzania.

Passport and Visas.  A valid passport is required for entry into both Kenya and Tanzania.  Visas can be obtained upon arrival in each country.  Both countries require proof of yellow fever inoculation when arriving from an East African destination (read more about vaccinations under “Health Concerns” below) – so travel to and from Kenya to Tanzania will necessitate this.


KENYA.  The Kenya shilling (KSh) is the currency unit, divided into 100 cents.  There are 5, 10, 50 cent coins as well as 1 and 5 shilling coins.  Notes come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 shilling denominations.  All foreign currency must be exchanged at licensed facilities – the airport or your hotel will handle exchanges of either currency or travelers’ cheques.  Exportation of Kenya shillings is prohibited.  As of mid-year 2000 the exchange rate was approximately 75 KSh to USD 1.

TANZANIA.  The Tanzanian shilling (TSh) comes in notes of 50, 100, 200, 1000, 5000 and 10,000 denominations.  As in Kenya, your hotel or lodge will be able to exchange foreign currency.  Going from country to country cash-wise makes calculations fairly simple – there are about 10 TSh to every 1 KSh and, as of mid-year 2000, the rate was approximately 780 TSh to USD 1.

Business Hours.  In both countries shops usually open at 9 AM and close at 5 PM, Monday to Friday with Saturday morning hours of 9 Am to 1 PM.  Your hotel or lodge will have a gift/curio shop that also sells convenience items; open hours vary but will always be posted.

Time.  Kenya and Tanzania are 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or 8 hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Health Concerns.  You will need a yellow fever inoculation and will also want to begin a malaria prophylactic (Lariam or doxycycline) prior, during and after your stay.  Your County Health Office or the Centers for Disease Control are the best sources of current information.  Malaria is mosquito borne and is endemic at altitudes below 2,600 feet and protection is the safest course.  Plan on long pants with socks and long sleeve shirts, especially during early morning and dusk when they swarm to feed.  Bring a good supply of a high DEET concentration repellent and apply liberally and frequently.  Be sure to bring a supply of any prescription as well as any over-the-counter medicines you might need (aspirin, antacid, anti-diarrheal, antibiotic ointment, contact lens solution, etc.) as the selection there is limited and expensive.  Water in your hotel, lodge or tented camp will be safe for teeth brushing and bottled water for drinking is available everywhere.  Your driver/guide will stop on your first day on safari so that you can buy bottled water to keep in the vehicle.  All hotels, lodges and camps have access to an on-call medical professional.  And, of course, your driver/guide will always be in radio contact with our safari operations base in case of emergency.

What to Bring/Wear.  Two absolute essentials:  your camera with lots of film (and a zoom lens would be ideal) and good binoculars.  Keep these in your carry-on luggage especially for the overseas flights.  Other essentials include the medicines and protective gear discussed above, a hat with shade brim, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip sun block and extra batteries for your camera. 

For clothing – casual comfort is the rule and layers work extremely well.  Start with lightweight materials (cotton or Tencel fiber) that you can add a sweater or jacket to for the higher altitude destinations.  A comfortable pair of closed shoes is a must.  Lightweight slacks or shorts (for men and women) is fine during the day, just as long as you switch to mosquito-bite resistant long pants for early morning or night.  The same holds true for sleeves – short during the daylight, but long for early morning and dusk.  We definitely recommend a good safari vest (and the TravelSmith version is a winner), just to have all those handy pockets.  Leave very dressy clothing at home; even at fancy hotel other restaurants all you’ll need is “smart casual.”  And out in the bush just about anything functional will do.  Traditional safari colors (khaki or olive) do work best – at both blending in and not alarming wildlife BUT at disguising the inevitable road dust.  If you have time in Nairobi prior to departure on safari we can arrange to have you visit a Nairobi safari outfitter for the “traditional” safari look…and this is also a lot of fun to do (and prices are reasonable).  Leave camouflage prints at home – this is the province of the military in both countries.  Bring a bathing suit and cover up (most lodges and tented camps have pools), and resort wear if you’ll be doing our Zanzibar extension; appropriate golfing attire for Windsor Country Club stays, and something a little dressier will be fine for dinners at either Mount Kenya Safari Club or the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi.

Electricity.  In Kenya the power system is 240 volts AC, with 13 amp square pin plugs; Tanzania operates on 220/230 volts AC.  Bring an adaptor/converter for small appliances.  Most hotels/lodges will happily recharge video camera batteries at the reception area.  And many of the most select hotels offer in-room hair dryers.  The bush lodgings all generate their own power but there may be hours when power is off…usually mid-day when everyone is out game-driving or during late night hours.

Mail Services.  You’ll find these at all hotels, lodges and tented camps but, be forewarned, mail is very slow.  Should you want to purchase something large or cumbersome (and you’ll see beautiful animal carvings that will tempt), your driver/guide will bring you to a reputable dealer/shop and you can safely make arrangements to have your purchase shipped.

Shopping.  Local crafts in both countries include beautiful wood carvings (animals and warriors predominate) in teak, ebony and rosewood.  Quality varies greatly as do prices…as in all things you get what you pay for.  Your driver/guide is a big help here.  Tanzanite gems can be found in many shops throughout Tanzania, locally made jewelry, colorful “kangas” (the cloth wraps you’ll see native women wearing), Masai warrior wraps, Masai beaded jewelry, soapstone carvings, batiks and all kind of modern and antique metalwork are available everywhere you stop.  Dickering over price is expected and considered social sport (except in the obviously formal shops like in hotels or in Nairobi’s shopping district)…a good rule of thumb is to counter at slightly below half the first price given and take it from there.

Local Customs.  Both countries should be justly proud of their open, polite and courteous societies, and you’ll quickly get accustomed to everyone you meet saying “Jambo” (hello), “Kwa heri” (goodbye), “Asante” (thank you) and “Karibu” (you’re welcome) – greetings you should return.  An effort to try out a few Swahili words will be rewarded with smiles and laughs of delight.  East Africans tend to be warm, outgoing and very friendly, and they appreciate the same treatment from their guests.  Your driver/guide, in particular, will do everything in his power to ensure your complete satisfaction and, even though an “average” gratuity has been included in your safari package price, you may feel you wish to acknowledge his good service with something extra.

Photography of the countries’ top officials, military personnel or installations, airports, bridges, railway stations, telecommunication installations, police stations and personnel and government buildings is expressly off limits.  Keep your camera and lens in its case when not in use to protect from dust.  Should you wish to take photographs of native people, ask permission first.  As a rule Muslim women do not appreciate having their picture taken.  Tribal people in native dress (Masai and Samburu people in particular) will expect you to pay for the privilege; the same holds true for pictures of their tribal villages or camps – and it’s impossible to try to “sneak a shot.”  They keep a keen ye on all safari vehicles as theses represent a potential source of income.

You may find yourself surrounded by a crowd of craft-sellers and, yes, sometimes beggars, both male and female when you stop for fuel or outside park gates.  Be polite yet firm if you have no interest in purchasing.  Understand, as well, that your driver/guide has no power to prevent this occurring…and that it’s easier if you directly explain that you have no purchase interest (otherwise these people may feel your driver is deliberately preventing you from buying and this may put him in a difficult position).  They will be persistent so you’ll have to be just as persistent, and look on this as one of safari’s varied experiences.

Safety.   As in any big city, Nairobi in Kenya and Arusha or Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, have their share of street crime.  We do not recommend walking streets at night.  Neither do we recommend taking/wearing obviously expensive jewelry or watches.  And your cash or travelers’ cheques are best kept on your person.  In the bush you and your possessions will be perfectly safe from both human and animal predators as these enclosures are always guarded and patrolled.  In any case, exercise the same prudence and common sense you would in traveling anywhere.

National Holidays.  

1 January New Year’s Day

Good Friday, Easter and Easter Monday

1 May Labor Day
1 June Madaraka Day (anniversary of self-government)
Idd ul Fitr Muslim holiday timed at the new moon after Ramadan
10 October Nyayo Day
20 October Kenyatta Day (former president Jomo Kenyatta’s birthday)
12 December Jamhuri   (Independence Day)
25 December Christmas Day
26 December Boxing Day


1 January New Year’s Day
12 January Zanzibar Revolution Day

Good Friday, Easter and Easter Monday

26 April  Union Day
1 May International Worker’s Day
1 June Madaraka Day (anniversary of self-government)
8 August Peasant’s Day
9 December Independence Day
25 December Christmas Day


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