Located on the eastern boarder of Africa with the beautiful Indian Ocean as a backdrop, surrounded by lakelands, the Great Rift Valley, a dramatic mountain range and an abundance of wildlife, it's easy to see why tourists flock to Kenya each year.
From Safaris and Mountain Hikes, to Beaches and Lake Reserves, you can plan an action packed break, or a relaxing getaway, with something for all ages.
Language and Currency
The two official languages of Kenya are Swahili and English, however, there are over 60 other languages spoken within the country. Most of these are derived from Tribal Language from varying provinces.
Currency used is the Kenyan Shilling (KES) and as of October 2015, the following exchange rates were correct:
- 1 USD = 103.16 KES
- 1 GBP = 157.30 KES
- 1 EUR = 117.50 KES
Kenya sits near the equator and so doesn't really have a Summer or Winter; its seasons are split into "Wet" and "Dry". Wet Season is typically November to May where temperatures are around 26'c and Dry Season (June to October) will see temperatures of 30'c. Remember though that altitude has an effect on how cold it gets - if you're in the mountains, be prepared to wrap up!
Kenya is famed for its Nature Reserves and so a trip there wouldn't be complete without visiting one! With several to choose from, we'd recommend the Maasai Mara National Reserve; it is home to an impressive population of Maasai Lions, Cheetahs and Leopards, as well as the Wildebeest and Zebras that migrate over from neighbouring Serengeti National Park during the Great Migration between July and October.
For something a bit more relaxed, how about staying in the stunning Indian Ocean beach resort of Diani Beach? With white sands and clear, warm, coral lined waters surrounded by lush vegetation, it is often referred to as "Paradise".
Or how about combining elements of the two by visiting the Watamu Marine National Park which is home to over 1000 species of coral and fish, including barracudas, Whale Sharks, Octopus and Manta Rays. You may even be able to spot some Green Turtles!
Travel to the capital of Nairobi to do the bulk of your shopping, especially if you are wanting to purchase locally produced goods. Head to the City Market; a large covered market where you will need to put your bartering skills to the test! Once you have them nailed, take your pick from wood carvings, jewellery, soapstone and even spears! (Although, we're not sure how much luck you'd have getting a spear onto the plane home!)
If you truly want to support the local economy, and even meet the masters behind the creations, you should certainly take a trip to the village of Maasai- here you will find beautiful fabrics, intricate wooden sculptures and handmade, beaded jewellery (some may even let you watch as they craft). As with the city centre, prices are not fixed and when they can see you are a tourist, they will try to drive a hard bargain! When bartering, use the word ghalli which means "too expensive" and watch the price drop (fairly!)
Dining Out and Nightlife
Whether you are at a restaurant, a street vendor or your hosts home, you're more than likely to come across Ugali, a thick cornmeal starch paste, fried with stewed meats and vegetables, usually Sukama Wiki (collard greens) - this is a staple dish across Kenya!
For a real 'comfort food' dish, make sure you try Maharagwe - a bean stew usually made with kidney beans in a coconut curry soup, and serve with more ugali or rice. Then there is the simple dish of Nyama Choma, the Easy African style of roasted meat, usually sheep or goat. Served simply with a side of salt and a chilli and tomato salsa, known as kachumbari, it is simply delicious! If you fancy adding a bit more to the plate, the most famous dish in Kenya, Irio is a great choice; green peas, potato and fresh corn cooked and mashed together, it also goes really well with most stews!
As far as nightlife is concerned, Nairobi is the place to head, the city transforms into a bustling hub of bars, restaurants and clubs, with something for all tastes. Head to Havana Bar and Restaurant for an all in one experience, Galileo Lounge to mix with the locals in their favourite spot or Mercury Lounge to spend some serious cash!
If you're thinking of hiring a car to make the most of your trip to Kenya, be sure to know the following tips!
- Drive on the left hand side of the road.
- If you are doing a self drive safari on your trip, let your hire company know so they can provide you with an appropriate vehicle.
- Seatbelts must be worn by the driver and all passengers at all times.
- At all times, ensure you have your drivers licence, insurance and registration documents in the car with you at all times.
- The legal blood alcohol content in Kenya is 0.08mg/100ml.
- Nairobi is known for having a high risk of car jacking incidents - always keep your doors locked when you are driving or parked.
For all the information you need on your trip, please visit Magical Kenya, the official tourist board for the country.