Kenya Culture & Connection
To help you enjoy your trip to the fullest extent, we have gathered information for you below.
We also are having a Wellness in Wilderness Safari meeting to go over all the information, get to meet each other, and answer questions. That date is TBD.
Purchase your airline tickets early. And remember travel insurance, as per our contract. The recommended time to purchase your airline ticket is 4-6 months prior to travel.
Travel : Nairobi, Kenya is your destination airport. You will book your own flights.
2020: Book your flights to arrive in Nairobi on June 22, 2020. We will gather all the information from you, and arrange the rest of your trip. If you choose to travel outside these times ask Samira for guidance on arranging your transportation. Transport outside of our arranged times would be your own financial responsibility.
Book your flights to depart Nairobi after EDIT TIME on June 30. We will have vans transport us to the airport after our day’s activities.
We recommend that you check multiple airports local to you, as prices may vary a good bit. There is a lot of advice online on how to maximize your airline dollars. Purchasing tickets 4-6 months prior to international travel is the general guideline. We’ve looked into Air Emirates and Lufthansa, and noticed they have decent flight from Dulles. Sometimes making the drive to a larger, international US airport can save you a lot of money. Only you know your own money vs time value priorities. We will sent you an email as a reminder in the winter of 2020. As of fall 2019 round trip flights start in the $1,100 range.
Most flights leave the east coast in the afternoon or evening, and are an overnight flight. Nairobi, Kenya is 7 hours ahead of us, and it is a longer flight, so you arrive the following day. This means you will book your departure flight on for at least June 21, depending on your chosen flight’s travel time and stops.
Remember to check your airline’s checked baggage fees, and weight restrictions.
If you plan on supporting local artists and artisans, packing one suitcase or duffel inside another is something we have done to make our return packing easier. Large items such as rugs can be shipped by some retailers.
A visa is required to enter Kenya. US citizens can apply online. The processing time is at least 2 days. We recommend you apply as soon as your purchase your airline tickets so it is taken care of. Use this link to apply online. Email me to notify me when you have received your Visa.
You can also apply with a paper application. This requires sending in your actual passport. Here is the link for that process.
At least 12 weeks before we travel, it’s recommended that you check with your physician for their travel recommendations. Check that you are updated on all your regular vaccinations. Kenya has some common sense recommendations for traveling abroad. Scroll down and expand sections for food guidelines and more.
Samira's Mum recommends getting a flu shot before international flights! Samira is glad she listened to her this time. ;) Anti-malarial pills are recommended for this region.
Check your airline guidelines for carry on and baggage information.
Important note! Plastic bags are not allowed in Kenya! If you usually put your toiletries in ziplock baggies acquire an alternative such as dry-bags used for kayaking to protect your other items from possible leaks.
Contact your phone carrier to ask about international use and plans. Purchase and pack a converter for your phone charger.
We will be enjoying beautiful wildlife safaris on some of the world’s most stunning preserves. If you have a camera, binoculars or other viewing equipment, you want to consider bringing it. Binoculars are recommended.
Contact your bank and credit cards to let them know when and where you'll be traveling. Standard travel guidance includes the advice to pack a list of any cards you will bring with you and the phone numbers of the companies.
Aquire a travel yoga mat if you plan to take classes.
Weather for June in Kenya is temperate. The days are likely to be in the 70s and nights down in the 50s. This is fantastic for traveling! Remember to bring layers. In the mountains it will be cooler at night and in the morning.
You want to wear long sleeves, long pants and shoes at night time, to avoid mosquitos.
Remember to pack your usual glasses, contacts, sunglasses, vitamins, prescriptions and toiletries. Bring sunscreen, lip balm and a wide brim hat!
Pack lightly! We will be traveling within the country, and fewer bags makes your trip more comfortable.
Currency and customs
Bring US cash with you and upon landing in Nairobi go to one of the kiosks to exchange your US dollars to Kenyan Shillings. They’re well marked. Using the currency exchange at the airport will get you the best rates and fewest charges. All meals, transportation, guide services, water, lodging and classes are inclusive in our trip, but tips, bar drinks and purchases such as gifts are of course your own responsibility. Many places accept major credit cards, but some will prefer cash.
There are ATMs and banks around, but not always convenient, working, or able to give out more than $20US per transation.
Tipping – Small tips, about 10%, are given for service at cafes and restaurants.
Wear comfortable clothing and bring layers. Wearing long pants and long sleeves at night will protect you from mosquito bites. Bring a fleece or sweater for chilly mornings or evenings. During the day it will likely be more t-shirt weather or light-weight long sleeve shirt weather.
Kenya is a fairly conservative culture. Wearing skirts or pants that fall below the knee, and covering up your shoulders and cleavage area will not only protect you from the sun, but will also help our host country feel more comfortable.
The average June temperatures in Kenya are low 70F in the, with lows in the 50F range at night.
Samira has created a Pinterest board of packing tips specifically for Kenya.
Choose footwear for comfort. We recommend flat shoes everywhere. The desert is dusty, so shoes with socks is most comfortable. For in the lodges and walking to our wellness classes during daytime, sandals can be comfortable to have.
We also have color recommendations that are important! The best colors to wear on safari are colors that blend in with the landscape. Choose khaki, olive, taupe, sage - basically try to stick with mostly greens and browns.
Black, dark blue and some bright colors attract tsetse flies, which have a nasty bite, so avoid these colors. White is lovely for at night, but will collect all the desert dust while on safari. Camouflage print is associated with military, so best avoided.
Many lodges have inexpensive laundry services. The custom here would be to simply have one or two items done at a time and does not include underwear. Each lodge has different pricing, and this would be a separate fee for you. If you are a “wash your clothes in the sink” traveler, know that Africa is a dry continent and your clothing will usually dry over night if you wring it out well.
Pack as light as you are comfortable with, as the less you pack the easier it will be to move around.
Kenyans are known for their lighthearted spirit and welcoming nature. You will be delighted by how kind and friendly they are. Do not be surprised when shop keepers start a friendly conversation, or if a guide who is leading you somewhere takes you by the hand. This is common.
Here are two guides to etiquette in Kenya; Rough Guides and Adventure Alternative. We’ve made all your travel arrangements, so it’s not necessary for you to memorize these guides. It is very helpful for you to understand your surroundings, though, and derive the most enjoyment in the cultures. Kenya is a nation of several cultures, and is largely a Muslim country with heavy influence from it’s original cultures and traditions.
If you want to photograph individuals, please always ask permission first. Some people are very private, especially in a more conservative culture.
The way of life is very different in Kenya from the west. Be prepared to love some things, and not love others. It’s these differences that create beauty in the world.
The pace is slower and often more relaxed when doing business, when preparing meals etc. Savor these moments to look around you and enjoy each other’s company. When out and about, there will be lots of people in both traditional and modern clothing, and of numerous cultures! Be aware of your surroundings.
When walking, default to the left hand-side unless passing, just like with their traffic, and things will go much more smoothly. That is not a rule, but a handy guideline.
When walking as a group, stick with the group and try not to get too distracted by the chaos and colors around you. There will be time for shopping and dawdling later.
We will be enjoying wonderful, freshly made food, much of it from nearby farms. We have cultivated an itinerary that will provide traditional dishes from the area as well as cuisine from other cultures. Most lodges have buffet style meals, so you will be able to choose what you like and what suits your dietary needs.
We recommend that you stick to bottled water on this trip. Many people recommend bringing both probiotics and Pepto Bismal. See above in links under Preparation & Packing.
Digestive travel issues sometimes occur in many parts of the world. Kenya is no exception. Rimmi and I both have had great experiences on numerous international retreats, and the places we go, and food we eat is all carefully prepared for travelers. Your doctor might recommend bringing Cipro, in case you run into these issues. Listen to your doctor’s recommendations on this.
Wine, beer and cocktails are available in Kenya. They are your own additional expense, with a couple exceptions. We will fill you in on those details.
Identification & communication
Kenya requires a VISA from US citizens. Please note that your passport expiration date MUST be after the date of your intended return if you are a US Citizen. You will need two blank pages in your passport for the entry stamp which they will add at customs.
We recommend making 2 copies of all your IDs, cards, medical and other information, such as travel itinerary. One copy you travel with, one you leave at home with someone. We also recommend you email it, so you can retrieve it online, if necessary. Although, keep in mind wifi is not available everywhere.
We mentioned it in Packing and Preparation, but it bears repeating: Check your phone carrier for international travel information as it relates to your own plan. Inform your bank and credit cards of your plans.
We will be using WhatApp while in Safari. It’s a free app for your smart phone. We will start a Wellness in Wilderness group chat and use that to share information with you, such as meeting time for the next game drive or next morning.
If you plan on sending postcards, be sure to have your friends’ and family’s addresses with you.
If you register solo with double occupancy, we will be assigning a roommate to you. We will share their name and contact information with you before the trip, so you may communicate, if you wish. It will be a wonderful opportunity to get to know someone while enjoying a spectacular adventure.
In our luxury tent accommodations, keep your tents zipped. Monkeys are very clever at monkey business and they may try to enter while you are not there.
Security: In Nairobi all the hotels have security protocols for everyone’s safety. In addition, while enjoying some activities in game reserves, such as Sundowners, there may be armed guards. These are just safety precautions that all smart people make around large wild animals. All our Land Cruisers are equipped with GPS and two way radios, as well.
Lions and tigers and beads! In addition to the safari sights, you will be delighted at the traditional items available in Kenya. The reserves have shops with indigenous cultural items. Maasai handwoven blankets are particularly beautiful, and glass beads are also a site to see and culturally significant.
Negotiating tips. Remember it's kind of like a sport, and do not take anything personally. Negotiating is a friendly endeavor.
Animals are basically in charge of our schedule in Kenya. They are most active in the early morning and evening, and that is when most of our game drives will be.
In general, we’ll go on a morning game drive around 7 am and return around 10 or 11am for a hearty breakfast. The rest of the day is leisure, and most often this is when we will provide our classes. We will also have time to enjoy the safari lodges (swim, read or just watch animals from the comfort of your bed or veranda). We have chosen our lodges for your comfort and also for the frequent animal viewing possibilities from your rooms!
In the late afternoon, we’ll go on another game drive at around 4 or 5pm, and return after sunset around 7pm. Dinner will follow.
Respect the privacy of the wildlife, this is their habitat.
Beware of the animals, they are wild and can be unpredictable.
Don’t crowd the animals or make sudden noises or movements.
Don’t feed the animals, it upsets their diet and leads to human dependence.
Keep quiet, noise disturbs the wildlife and may antagonize your fellow visitors.
Stay in your vehicle at all times, except at designated picnic or walking areas.
Keep below the maximum speed limit (40 kph/25 mph).
Leave no litter and never leave fires unattended or discard burning objects.
Respect the cultural heritage of Kenya, never take pictures of the local people or their habitat without asking their permission, respect the cultural traditions of Kenya and always dress with decorum.
Other visitors must leave the parks at 6pm. As we are staying / camping on some of the reserves, we will be allowed to view game in the evening.
Thank you for reading through all of this! Feel free to print it out for your convenience. We also have a checklist for you!