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Welcome to Kenya

Kenya

Beaches and wildlife, a holiday all about the great outdoors

If you're looking for two totally different experiences within one holiday, Kenya is the perfect destination. Flying into the coastal city of Mombasa you'll have the opportunity to sample wonderful beaches, whilst inland Nairobi is the perfect base to begin a safari and gaze at the wonders of the animal kingdom.

The capital of Kenya, Nairobi is teeming with markets offering a wide range of local products, whilst Mombasa, predominantly split into two regions gives you the option of the well developed North or the more traditional south coast.

Kenya provides the perfect opportunity to see the big five and many other animals amongst the beautiful backdrop of some of Africa's most fantastic game reserves. Each one offers a different safari experience from Tsavo East the largest African reserve to Amboseli set against the spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro.

As the temperature rarely drops below 30oc, lazing out on the beach or taking a dip in the pool is a must. The white sandy beaches at Watamu are largely considered to be amongst the world's top 5 beaches and are a haven for snorkelling and scuba diving enthusiasts alike.

Book with Horizon Direct and you're guaranteed a great holiday experience in Kenya. Whether you're looking for the luxurious setting of the Indian Ocean Beach Resort or the cheaper paradise of the Bamburi Beach hotel, we will ensure you experience the holiday of a lifetime.

Information & Facts

Attraction Overview

Meat in Kenya is outstandingly good, as are tropical fruit and vegetables. Inland, a local freshwater fish, tilapia is popular and tasty. On the coast, Swahili cuisine features fragrant rice, grilled fish and seafood curries with coconut milk.

Indian and Middle Eastern food is available in most areas, and there is a wide range of international restaurants in Nairobi and Mombasa. Tourist hotels provide buffet meals and hotels in smaller towns offer a dish of the day, such as chicken and chips or stew and rice. Sumptuous tropical fruits, ranging from pineapples to mangoes, can be bought seasonally at local markets.

Specialities: 

• Nyama choma (barbecued meat served with a spicy tomato relish)

Ugali (maize meal porridge, usually eaten with a meaty stew known locally as supu)

Mandazi (fried dough ball with a similar constitution to a doughnut)

Kachumbari (spicy tomato relish served with meat)

Tilapia (freshwater fish associated with the Rift Valley lakes and often grilled whole)

Sukuma Wiki (spinach-like leaf often served boiled as a side dish or in a stew with meat)

Biryani (spicy rice-based stew similar in appearance to risotto but with a more oriental flavour)

Matoke (cooked banana, also known as batoke, with a constitution similar to boiled potatoes, most commonly eaten in the Uganda border area)

Things to know: 

Local opinion varies as to the drinkability of tap water in Nairobi and elsewhere in the country, but it is probably safest to stick with bottled water. Unpeeled and uncooked vegetables and fruit might also carry sanitation-related diseases.


Regional drinks: 

Tusker, Safari and White Cap (locally brewed lager beer)

Kenya Cane (spirit distilled from sugar cane)

 

Business

Western business practices prevail in Kenya. A formal handshake (using the right hand) is the standard greeting between men. It is customary to lower your gaze when greeting someone who is older or of a higher professional rank than you. Men should not shake hands with a woman unless she extends her hand first. Address Kenyans by their surname and title unless you are invited to use their first name.

Suits are the expected attire for business meetings, though a shirt and tie will suffice in less formal situations. Kenyans are quite conservative and advance appointments are required for meetings. Call ahead if you are likely to be late.

Most businesspeople speak English and it is customary to exchange business cards. Small talk is normal and it may take some time to get to the point of a meeting. The eldest person in the room is often designated as chairperson. When negotiating a price, some haggling is expected, but angry exchanges are to be avoided. If exchanging gifts, do not choose items with a high value as this may be seen as an attempted bribe.

Businesses and government offices in Kenya are open Monday to Friday from 0900-1300 and 1400-1700. Some offices also are open on Saturdays from 0815 to noon.

Office hours: 

Mon-Fri 0900-1300 and 1400-1700.

 

Climate

Weather & climate

Best time to visit: 

Throughout the country, the hottest months are December to March. The coastal areas are tropical, with particularly high humidity in April and May, but tempered by monsoon winds. The lowlands are hot but mainly dry, while the highlands are more temperate with four 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.

Required clothing: 

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. Lightweight layers are needed for much of the year in the highlands. Rainwear is advisable between March and June, and October and December.

 

Communications

Telephone: 

International calls can usually be made directly, but in some rural areas, international calls are diverted through the operator. Public telephones, operated by Telkom Kenya (www.telkom.co.ke), work with coins or with phone cards (which may be purchased from post offices or from international call services in major towns); coin-operated phone booths are painted red, card-operated booths are painted blue. Major hotels also offer an international phone service, but they usually charge up to 100% more. In larger towns, private telecommunication centres offer international services. For local calls, it is useful to have plenty of small change available.

Mobile phone: 

Roaming agreements exist with international mobile phone companies. The main network providers are Airtel (www.africa.airtel.com), and Safaricom (www.safaricom.co.ke). Local SIM cards and top-up cards are available to buy everywhere. Wide areas around Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, as well as the whole coast region, the popular safari parks and the road between Nairobi and Mombasa, have good network coverage. Outside of these areas coverage is limited.

Internet: 

There are internet cafes in the cities. Even smaller towns have at least one venue, usually on the main street. Almost all post offices now offer at least one terminal for public access. Tourists can also access the internet in many hotels; the more upmarket and business orientated ones have in-room Wi-Fi. Accommodation in parks and reserves generally don’t have internet.

Post: 

Post is efficient and most towns have post offices run by the Postal Corporation of Kenya (www.posta.co.ke). Post boxes are red. Stamps can usually be bought at post offices, stationers, souvenir shops and hotels. Airmail to Western Europe takes around five days, and to the US, 10 days. The service is generally reliable. If you are sending parcels out of the country the contents must be inspected and the parcel wrapped (in brown paper and string) at the post office.

Post office hours: 

Mon-Fri 0800-1700; Sat 0800-1200. Small branches close for an hour at lunchtime.

Media: 

Kenya enjoys a more diverse media scene than many other African countries. The print media is dominated by two publishing houses, the Nation Media Group and the Standard Group, which also have broadcasting interests. The main dailies (all published in English) include Daily Nation, The East African Standard and Kenya Times. Newspapers from Tanzania and Uganda are also widely circulated in Kenya.

State-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC; www.kbc.co.ke) has TV channels in English and Swahili; Kenya Television Network (www.ktnkenya.tv) is operated by the Standard Group; NTV (www.ntv.co.ke) is a Nairobi-based station operated by the Nation Media Group. Other private channels include Nairobi-based station Citizen TV and Family TV. DSTV (www.dstvafrica.com) is multi-channel international satellite TV found in most hotels.

In Nairobi and Mombasa there is a comprehensive choice of international newspapers and magazines sold in bookshops, airports, hotels and at pavement kiosks. Day-old copies of UK and other European newspapers are available.

 

Getting Around

Air: 

Nairobi has two airports for domestic and regional flights; Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport (www.kaa.go.ke). Kenya has over 150 domestic airports and airstrips and there are daily flights to the most popular destinations. In addition to the scheduled airlines, several private charter companies operate out of Wilson Airport.

Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com), Air Kenya (www.airkenya.com), Fly 540 (www.fly540.com), Mombasa Air Safari (www.mombasaairsafari.com) and Safarilink (www.flysafarilink.com) serve the most popular safari destinations, plus many others such as Lake Victoria.

Air notes: 

On smaller, domestic planes the baggage allowance is restricted to 10-15 kg (22-33 lbs). Arrangements can be made to leave excess luggage with hotels or airlines.

Departure tax: 

All taxes are included in the price of an air ticket.

Road: 

Main roads between the major cities and towns are generally in good condition, and easily navigable in a normal saloon car. Most highways in the south are paved, but that’s not the case in the north.

Side of road: 
Left
 
Road quality: 

While major roads are generally in a good condition, most minor gravel roads have deep potholes which deteriorate further in the rainy season. Dirt roads, including those in the parks and reserves, are extremely rough, and some are only passable with a 4x4.

Road classification: 

About 10% of Kenya’s estimated 170, 000 km (105, 000 miles) of roads are tarred. The rest are gravel or dirt tracks. There are several major tarred routes classified as ‘A’ or ‘B’ roads, which include the A109 from Nairobi to Mombasa, the A104 from Nairobi to Namanga, and the B2 from Nakuru to the Uganda border.

Car hire: 

Self-drive and chauffeur-driven cars can be hired from travel agents and international hire companies. Drivers must be at least 23 years of age. Budget (tel: (020) 496 1200, www.budget.com), and Europcar (tel: (020) 822 625; www.europcar.com) have outlets at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and downtown in Nairobi. Europcar also has a desk at Moi International in Mombasa. Car hire can be expensive and rates vary significantly.

Taxi: 

Matatus (shared minibus taxis) hop from town to town, starting and finishing at bus stations. Fares are paid to the conductor. Private taxis can also be hired for long-distance journeys.

Bike: 

It is not possible to rent motorbikes or mopeds. Some of the beach resorts hire out bicycles.

Coach: 

Numerous private bus companies operate in Kenya. Most vehicles are old and tend to depart when full, which means there are no set timetables. Petty theft on the vehicles and at bus stations can also be a problem. Nevertheless, the buses are cheap and link all long-distance destinations. Plus, seatbelts are now mandatory, so the buses are relatively safe.

Regulations: 

In non-residential areas, speed limits are 100kph (62 mph) and 60kph (35mph) in built up areas. It is compulsory to wear a seat belt and obligatory that all vehicles carry two red triangles to be placed 20m (66ft) in front and behind the vehicle in the event of a breakdown.

Breakdown service: 

Automobile Association of Kenya (tel: (020) 2612300; emergencies 072-0227267; www.aakenya.co.ke).

Documentation: 

A driving licence from a home country (and a translation if this is not in English) or an International Driving Permit is required. Third party insurance is mandatory when hiring a car and it’s recommended to take out the additional collision damage waiver. A valid credit card is also needed.

Getting around towns and cities: 

Nairobi and Mombasa have efficient bus systems and there are also frequent matatus, but reckless driving and petty theft makes them a dodgy option for tourists. Three-wheeled auto rickshaws are popular in town centres and carry up to three passengers.

The newer fleets of taxis – usually painted white with a yellow band – are reliable and have meters. The older yellow taxis do not have meters, so fares should be agreed in advance. In Nairobi, there is a fleet of London-style black cabs. A 10% tip is expected. Cabs cannot be hailed in the street, but can be found parked in taxi ranks.

Rail: 

Kenya Railways Corporation (tel: (020) 222 1211; www.krc.co.ke) runs passenger trains between Nairobi and Mombasa. Trains generally leave in the evening and arrive the following morning after a 13 hour journey. There are three classes: first class is reasonably comfortable, with two-berth compartments, washbasin, etc; second class is in basic, four-berth compartments; and third is simple wooden seating.

The dining-car service for first and second class passengers on the Nairobi-Mombasa route is adequate, but it’s always a good idea to take snacks and drinks. Sleeping compartments should be booked in advance. Children under three years of age travel free.

The railway connecting Nairobi to Kampala (Uganda) via Kisumu is no longer operational, but plans are in place to resume the service, with a further link to Juba (South Sudan).

By water: 

Mombasa is located on an island just offshore. The mainland is linked by bridges with one exception; the south coast which is reached by the Likoni Ferry. This takes foot passengers and vehicles to beach resorts in the south. There are also a few irregular ferry services operating on Lake Victoria.

 

Tipping

Optional. Most hotels and restaurants include a 10-15% service charge in the bill; if they don't a small tip is customary.

 

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