When you think of Kenya, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘Safari’. I do not believe that any other place on Earth is as adventurous and romantic as this African country.
With it’s measureless savanna’s, snow-capped mountains, immense wildlife and rich culture, Kenya is a magnet for adventurous backpackers and luxury travel lovers alike. Prepare to be dazzled by the diversity of things to do in Kenya, where wildlife spotting tops the list. But Kenya is not just about safari; beyond the safaris lie some abundant coastal treasures. Nairobi, the lively capital city of Kenya, is counted among the most exciting and evocative travel destinations.
Kenya Travel Info
Language: Swahili is the national language of Kenya, spoken by almost 100% of the population. English is the language of choice used in the tourism industry, businesses, and schools. Hence, you will not face any problem in communicating with the locals in Kenya.
Currency: Kenyan Shilling.
Visa: Both a Visa and a passport are required to enter Kenya. Single, as well as multiple entry visas are available. You need to ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of departure from Kenya. You can also get an E visa which is issued in 2 to 3 business days. Visa is issued for a maximum of 90 days and can be extended for another 90 days if you intend to spend some more time in the country.
Electricity: Kenya operates on 240 V electric supply with a frequency of 50 Hz. Associated plug type is Type G, and all appliances used between 220-240V will operate here. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Kenya Festivals & Celebrations
Lamu Cultural Festival: This festival is held in November in the beautiful island of Lamu. Lamu is a World Heritage Site, and this festival provides an insight into the lives of people of Lamu in the ancient times regarding lifestyle and architecture. Some cultural activities like Swahili poetry recitation, henna painting, dhow sailing, donkey racing and a few Swahili weddings are the main attraction of the festival.
Mombasa Carnival: This is believed to be the most popular of all Kenyan festivals and features some traditions and ethnicity of the country. Dance performances, music, colorful floats, and lively parades by people in traditional costumes are the highlights of the festival. If you visit Kenya during this time, you have the opportunity to purchase excellent souvenirs and relish some of the best Kenyan food.
Lake Turkana Festival: This annual festival is incredibly unique as it overcomes stereotypes and develops a sense of mutual understanding of diverse cultures and motivates people to coexist peacefully. People from ten different ethnic communities living in the Lake Turkana region give unique dance performances. You can visit the huts of the natives and taste their delicious food items.
Safety In Kenya
Safety is a concern for most people traveling to Kenya. Most regions of Kenya, including the major cities like Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa have a high crime rate. Kidnappings, robberies and carjackings are common here, even during the daytime. Bag-snatching, pick-pocketing and other scams to take advantage of travelers are also common in Kenya. Female travelers to Kenya should be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Based on my own travel experiences in Africa I would never leave home without travel insurance. I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your trip to Kenya.
Top Things To Do In Kenya
Lake Nakuru National Park
This park is located in Central Kenya and is known for the pink flamingos that live here. Lake Nakuru is a soda lake in the Rift Valley and covers about one-third of the area of the park. The park came into existence in 1961 and somewhere around 450 varieties of birds live here. You might even see some animals like lions, warthogs, leopards, waterbucks, white rhinos and pythons here.
Explore the Amboseli National Reserve
Amboseli is located at Mount Kilimanjaro and is the most renowned tourist park in Kenya. The park is extremely dry and parched and is the best place for wild elephant spotting. The other animals inhabiting the park are lions, cheetah, impala, giraffe, waterbuck, and about 600 verities of birds. Five different habitats can be explored here by the nature lovers. These are the dry bed of Amboseli Lake, wetlands having sulfur springs, woodlands, and savannah.
Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya and is famous for its vibrant colonial history. Long back it was the capital of East Africa under the British and used to attract people into settling here and making a fortune out of tea and coffee industry. The city houses some excellent museums like the Karen Blixen Museum and the Nairobi National Museum and some wildlife sanctuaries as well.
Visit the Lamu Island
Lamu Island is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is located towards the northeast of Mombasa. Lamu is among the oldest settlements in Kenya and is believed to be inhabited since the 12th century. The architecture and the streets ooze an old world charm and the rich trading heritage of the island. The architecture has glimpses of Arab, European, and Indian styles with a touch of the Swahili techniques. Visiting the Island is like going back to the 18th century.
Visit the Maasai Mara National Reserve
Also called Masai Mara, this is one of the most splendid game reserves of the World. It is situated at the border of Tanzania and acts as a wildlife corridor between Kenya and Tanzania. The park got its name from the red-cloaked Maasai population that has been residing in the park for centuries. The most significant aspect of the park is the Great Migration when a large number of zebras, wildebeests and Thomson Gazelle travel to and from Serengeti in July till October. The Mara River is home to crocodiles and hippos.
Relax at the beach at Diani
For any ocean lover, this beach is sheer paradise, with silky white sand being lapped by tides, and lush palm trees giving a perfect frame to the entire picture. After the exhaustive safaris, this is where you can just relax and unwind. The coastline has some resorts and where you can put up for a few days. Enjoy the stellar views, swim in the ocean and swing in a hammock, do whatever makes you happy.
Hike Mount Kenya
Mount Kenya is the second highest mountain in Africa and is situated right above the equator. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site and Biosphere Reserve. Most hikers manage to reach the third highest peak of Mount Kenya, and you will find several guided tours that will take you there via different routes. Hiking to the top of the mountain is extremely challenging, but if you take the challenge, the experience that you get on the way would be unparalleled.
Soak in the beauty of Watamu
Moving further on the coast of Kenya, towards the north of Kilifi, you will find the beach-side town known as Watamu. It has dazzling beaches, ancient ruins, and lush green jungles and visiting this town must be on top of your bucket list if you want to see some spectacular views. Indulge in some excellent espresso and gelato while you are here. The beach is swarming with Italian tourists, due to which it has some excellent coffee and ice-cream.
Spend a day in Mombasa
On the coast of Kenya lie another splendid and important city called Mombasa. If you are looking for things to do in Kenya, this is the best place to explore, even if you are staying here for just a single night. The Old Fort museum is among the highlights of the city, but the unique experience would be to revel in the chaos of the lively ancient city and wander around its market area.
Cycling your way out of Hell Gate National Park
If you are looking for a unique safari in a peaceful environment, away from the crowds, the Hell Gate National Park Cycle Safari is just your thing. Getting up at dawn to cycle past zebras, giraffes, and will remain in your memories forever. You can also get some surreal photo-opportunities with the morning sun on your face, wind in your hair and wildlife close by. This is one of a kind experience which you cannot achieve in a motorized vehicle.
Other than these top things to do in Kenya, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Plan ahead so that you can take your time exploring and be prepared to be flexible because sometimes travelers you meet along the way will have the best suggestions for undiscovered gems.
What To Eat In Kenya
Some of the most delicious, traditional dishes that you must try when in Kenya are listed below.
Irio: Iryo is a traditional dish from Kenya which is made of potatoes, green vegetables, and peas. In some versions of Irio, corn is also included. It is served as a side with steak-Nyama choma, and this combination in Kenya is known as Nyama Na Irio.
Pilau: Pilau is a rice meal where rice is cooked with spices like cumin, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, in a stock of chicken, meat or fish. Meat is usually pan-fried until it turns brown before adding it to rice. Most pilau uses goat meat and is absolutely delicious.
Chapati: Chapati is flatbread and the most preferred with all kinds of meals. White flour, salt, and oil are kneaded together and then rolled out to form chapattis. In Kenya, they are served with kachumbari or a tasty stew.
Matoke: Makote is a staple dish of Kenya and is made of green bananas. Bananas are cooked with tomatoes, garlic onion, and meat until they become mushy. The preparation is then mashed and served with an incredibly delicious sauce. The meal is super delectable and mouthwatering.
Maharagwe: This dish is made of red beans which are cooked in coconut milk, and authentic Kenyan spices are added to enhance the flavor. In a different version of Maharagwe, red beans are cooked with chicken, skipping the coconut milk.
Where To Stay In Kenya
Kenya is an incredibly affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Kenya is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget. Hostels and dormitories make travel to Kenya affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
If you’re traveling to Kenya during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. Kenya is a pretty popular year-round destination you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Morocco.
If you’re backpacking in Kenya or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Africa very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Kenya Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Kenya
The best time to visit Kenya depends on where in Kenya you’re visiting.
Kenya Travel Budget
Kenya is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Kenya really depends on the level of comfort you will expect while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $25 to $35 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $35 to $60 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Kenya then budget about $60 to $150 plus a day.
- Budget: $10-25
- Mid-range: $25-$60
- Splurge: $60+
Meal For One
- Budget: $1.00-$5.00
- Mid-range: $5-$15
- Splurge: $15-$50+
Kenya Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Kenya, like most other places in Africa, is a breeze because it’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates just remember to pack lightweight and breathable lose-fitting clothing.
Be prepared for the occasional cool evening depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater just in case. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need in the larger cities such as Kenya.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Kenya include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Kenya check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Africa Packing List For Female Travelers.