Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Travel Tips

TRAVEL TIPS
Kenya is one of the oldest and most traditional safari destinations. A country with a wide range of cultures, wildlife and contrasting landscapes complete with a long tropical coastline. Kenya never fails to thrill the visitor who may be expecting the rolling plains of the Masai Mara, but is pleasantly surprised with the dramatic escarpments of the Great Rift Valley, the numerous picturesque lakes, the dense tropical rain forest, the harsh arid deserts and a splendid coastline. Almost all species of African wildlife are accessible in Kenya. Birdlife is prolific and a great number of species can be identified.

The People
While the national language of Kenya is Kiswahili, English is the official language and is widely spoken and understood across East Africa.

Safety
In the cities, adhere to the following:
Don't walk alone in apparently deserted areas, especially in and around the cities. It is preferable and usually more enjoyable to walk with company or in groups. Don't carry large sums of cash in your purse or pocket,
or display expensive jewelry. Be aware of the possibility of pick-pockets and bag snatchers in crowded areas. Make photocopies of the first few pages of your passport, air ticket and other important travel documents. Keep this separate from the originals. Don't leave money or valuables in a hotel room. Most hotels offer safety deposit box service, and ensure that you have adequate insurance coverage before leaving home.

Wildlife Areas:

Always remember that while some animals have become accustomed to the presence of people they are still wild animals. Keep your distance. It is illegal to feed any animal, make excessive noise to attract their attention, or deviate from designated roads for
that closer photograph. Never get out of your vehicle except at designated points. Close all windows and zippers when you leave your room or tent and spray it with insect repellant. The best way to get the most out of your safari is to take an active interest in everything going on around you, not just the number of species you can see in the shortest possible time. Ask all the questions you can think of and take reference books on not only wildlife but birds, insects and trees and read up about everything you see.

Health
It is advisable to take out emergency medical insurance prior to entering Kenya.
Bilharzia: The bilharzia parasite is found in many lakes, streams and rivers on the continent. Avoid swimming in them! Vaccinations for cholera, tetanus and yellow fever are advised. Malaria is virulent in Kenya. Take prophylactics two weeks before arrival and continue two weeks after leaving. Your chemist or doctor can advise you of the most suitable drug available as certain drugs lose their effectiveness. Tap water in the major towns is purified and perfectly safe to drink. In the more remote areas always boil it first, except if you’re staying at a lodge or hotel where drinking water is perfectly safe. Bottled water is readily available in the bigger towns.
It is advisable to buy travel insurance covering accidents, illness or hospitalization for the period of your stay. Temporary membership in East African Flying Doctors' Service is also recommended for safari goers. Members who require emergency medical attention on safari are flown to Nairobi for the best medical attention available in the country.

Water
Drink only bottled water or from flasks of filtered and boiled water provided by most hotels and lodges.

Chemists / pharmacies
Travelers should carry an adequate supply of medicines and first aid accessories with them as supplies are limited in Kenya. Most chemists in the major towns are open from 0830h to 1230h and 1400h to 17h00 but some operating 24hs. Monday to Friday and 0800h to 13h00h on Saturdays. There are no emergency chemists open after hours or Sundays.

Accommodation
Standards and services range from up-market to tourist. Deluxe and first class hotels are found in the main cities and the resorts on the coastline of the country. Luxurious lodges are set in exotic locations, while comfortable tented camps are found in the main game parks.
Electricity
Power supply is 220/240 volt 50 cycle. Plugs are usually 13-amp 3 pin square (British type)
Banks
There are numerous banks in the major towns as well as many bureau de changes. Hours of business vary from bank to bank, but most are open from 9h00 to 13h30, Mondays to Fridays, and 9h00 – 1200h on Saturdays. Hotels and lodges change money outside these hours. Banking services are also available at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and at Moi International Airport in Mombasa.

Currency
Currency unit is the shilling, comprising 100 cents. Coins are in denominations of 5c, 10c, 50c and 1 and 5 shillings. Bank notes are in denominations of 5, 10, 2-0, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 shillings. Importation of foreign currency is unlimited and does not have to be declared on arrival. The importation and exportation of Kenyan currency, however, is illegal. It's best to come into the country with either Travelers’ checks or dollars or pounds which can be exchanged at any of the many Bureau de Change in the main Towns. If you are offered an exchange on the black market at the borders, exercise extreme caution as they are notorious for cheating you without you even realizing it.

VAT (Value Added Tax)
A VAT (tax currently 16% on most items) is levied and visitors cannot claim a refund on goods purchased.
Credit Cards, Cash and Traveler's Checks International credit cards are accepted by most restaurants, stores, hotels, lodges, camps, car rental firms, etc. However, many small shops in rural areas will not accept them. American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa and MasterCard Traveler's Checks are widely accepted.

Tipping
A tip of 10% for good service is adequate. Service charges are frequently added and it is usual to tip a tour driver or guide at least US $5 a day.

Communications
Postal services are fairly well organized in Kenya and you should have no problem sending or receiving letters. Telegrams are less certain. Public telephones are in a bad state of repair and you could wait hours for a line. Rather make international calls from a private home or large hotel. All major hotels have fax machines at the disposal of their guests as well as telex services. Telephone directories will list all the international dialing codes. Both local and long-distance calls are metered on a time basis. (Note the surcharge at hotels is quite high, but it will cost less in frustration).

When to go
Between December and mid-March, the days are sunny, hot and dry and the nights are cool. Best time for deep sea fishing and scuba diving is between August and March when the ocean is calm and water is clear. Rains fall mainly from mid-March to May and again in November.

Climate
Although Kenya is considered to fall in the tropics, climate and temperature varies depending on altitude and proximity to the ocean. Coastal regions are hot and humid while the central plateaus are warm and dry, with cool nights.

Clothing
Lightweight casual clothes can be worn all year round, with a jacket or sweater for early winter mornings and evenings. On safari keep clothes to a minimum and mostly of neutral coloring - khakis, browns and greens. A sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellant are a must. Bring a hat, good walking shoes and sun screen. Don't forget swim wear and binoculars. Some city restaurants and clubs have dress codes - casual jacket and tie for men, informal dresses for women.

Laundry
Most hotels and lodges will offer a laundry service. For low budget travelers there are no coin operated laundromats at all so consider drip dry clothing and be prepared for hand washing. In most places one could hire someone to do your washing.

Photography
Kenya is considered to be a photographers dream destination. From panoramic scenery, wildlife and birds to people and vibrant ceremonies. Rich color and good low lighting conditions abound. It is considered rude to take pictures of people without asking them first. Maasai and Samburu warriors will expect payment for posing. Always bring plenty of film and video cassettes if you're bringing a camcorder as well as batteries - as these items are difficult to get in Kenya. Keep your cameras in a dust resistant, padded case and out of the midday sun. A 200mm (or longer) telephoto lens will prove very useful on safari, and an ultra violet filter and lens cap are strongly recommended. Please note that taking pictures of government and military personnel and installations is prohibited!

Driving
Driving is done on the left side of the road. Drivers require a valid license that must include a picture of the holder. A valid foreign license may be used for up to 90 days, but only after it has been endorsed by the Road

Transport Office in Nairobi.
If you’re doing a vehicle trip through Kenya it is a good idea to carry a range of tools and essential spares with you. Two spare wheels and a couple of spare tubes are a must due to the condition of the roads. Spare jerry cans of fuel and water, a tow rope, compressor, winch and a spotlight are useful items to have. Many of the villages along the main routes offer tire mending services at a very reasonable fee. Be very careful in towns and villages not to leave your vehicle open and unattended. You should have no problem sleeping outdoors in designated camping areas or remote places along the way, but get into the habit of locking things away before you go to sleep.

Car Rental
Car rental companies are represented at the major airports and in the cities, as are taxis.

Transportation by Air
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and Moi International Airport in Mombasa are main points of entry. Many charter services operate out of Nairobi's Wilson Airport. Regular services link Kisumu, Lamu, Malindi,

Mombasa and Nairobi.
Air Kenya, flies to Amboseli, Lamu, Masai Mara, Nyeri, Nanyuki and Samburu. Kenya Airways is the national airline. South African Airways links Johannesburg and Nairobi with regularly scheduled air services.

Departure Tax
An airport departure tax of U.S. $20 is levied when leaving the country.

Customs Requirements
All visitors must have a valid passport and are subject to clearance through customs. In addition, all non-Commonwealth citizens require a visa, to be obtained from Kenyan Missions abroad or at the post of entry. Personal effects, including cameras, binoculars and film are allowed into the country duty free
Time Differences
Throughout the year, Standard Time in Kenya is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, two hours ahead of Central European Winter Time, and eight hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time in the U.S.

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