Travel Guide to Kenya

Located on the East African coastline, Kenya is teeming with wildlife and has an imposing mountain range overlooking the Indian Ocean. Its population of 49.7 million makes it one of the busiest countries in Africa. Bordering Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Tanzania, Kenya has an amazing history that's connected with its neighbours.

With some stark differences between the bustling cities and the wild, untouched nature, remember to take out travel insurance so you're prepared for whatever adventure awaits you in Kenya.

Here are a few Must-know Facts About Kenya:

Currency Kenyan Shilling
Official Languages Swahili, English
Capital Nairobi
Population 49.7 million

Visiting the Capital City

Few cities in Africa have as much to offer as Nairobi does, particularly because it so effortlessly blends its concrete jungle and its natural wonders.

The city is home to the Nairobi National Park, a massive game reserve specialising in the preservation and breeding of endangered black rhino.

The wildlife expedition doesn't end there, though, with several giraffe and elephant orphanages opening their doors to these lone creatures of the wild, welcoming and encouraging visitors to interact up close and personal. Mamba Village House offers another fascinating wildlife experience and is home to numerous crocodiles, and it allows interaction with the crocodiles in a safe and controlled environment.

Topographical view of buzzing, urban Nairobi buildings, with a striking blue sky, and semi-lit businesses.
Kenyan heritage site, old building with stairs and chipped paint and a woman walking into an open doorway.

History of Kenya

Culture buffs will be thrilled when visiting the Nairobi National Museum, where they can learn about the amazing culture of a city and country steeped in a rich history.

You might want to venture off the beaten track, too, as you won't struggle to find vast areas of unspoilt beauty, untouched by Western culture.

Landmarks in Kenya

Kenya offers a diverse mix of modern and prehistoric landmarks that will take your breath away. The country has something for everyone, so you can explore something unique every day.

If prehistoric sites interest you, a visit to Koobi Fora is essential. This is an active excavation site, which has produced a great wealth of fossil evidence, located near the northern shores of Sibiloi.

Continuing along the historic route, you can venture towards Mombasa Island, where you will find Fort Jesus Museum. The fort was built to secure the safety of Portuguese citizens living in the East Coastal region of Africa. It was also used as a barracks for British soldiers and was later converted into a prison.

Kenya's Lake System was listed as a World Heritage Site on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001. The enormous lake covers an eye-watering area of 32 034 hectares and is home to an array of wildlife, such as flamingos and white pelicans. Other animals include white rhino, lion, cheetah, and greater kudu.

If a more aquatic scene is your taste, take along your scuba gear. Kenya offers some of the most astonishing marine parks in the world, where you can literally see hundreds of exquisite sea creatures.

Old town boutique building in historic Mombasa Kenya
Maasai tribesman looking up at white thatched roofing accommodation, with palm trees and blue skies.

Accommodation in Kenya

Most of the main cities offer an array of accommodation for visitors. One could stay over in Nairobi, Nakuru, or Maasai Mara, where you can book hotels or bed & breakfasts. If you are on a stringent budget and don't mind travelling with basic amenities, you can book something a bit simpler, like an affordable private room.

Homestays are becoming popular as many Kenyans see the value in renting out rooms in their homes for a little extra money. So, if you choose this kind of accommodation, you'd help support a local business.

Airbnb is still relatively new in the country, although it is growing fast. You might not always find exactly what you are looking for, or in the right price range and area, but there are a number of options. Book early to avoid any disappointment, though.

For the Adventurous

Kenya has a vibrant nightlife. While exploring the city of Nairobi, expect to be tempted by the many beautiful restaurants and bars. The Maasai Market is a popular destination to search for those memorable keepsakes, while other visitors might prefer to spend some down-time skating on an ice rink in Panari.

One of the most popular activities is elephant watching in the Amboseli region. This is a perfect opportunity to take a photo of these magnificent creatures and see them in their natural habitat.

Another not-to-be-missed sight is the migration of the wildebeest at the Maasai Mara and grasslands area of Eastern Africa during October and November. With this migration comes a host of opportunistic predators, too, so it's definitely a bucket-list adventure.

While you are in the Maasai Mara region, a pleasant experience to indulge in is the Mara Balloon Safari. A relaxing flight in a hot air balloon is one of the best ways to enjoy the vistas that seem to stretch forever, with the teeming wildlife way below.

Kenya offers many world-class golf courses, too, for relaxation at its finest under the African sun. Golfers are spoilt for choice with a fine selection of excellent courses including the Vipingo Golf Resort. It offers lush greens mixed with beautiful ponds surrounded by dense Kenyan forests. The Windsor Golf Country Club is also a relaxing and traditional experience for golf fanatics.

Man feeding giraffe out of his hand, with family under a thatched roof in the background
Breathtaking view of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, with grass and trees at the bottom and stark blue skies and small white clouds.

Weather in Kenya

Kenya offers a mixed tropical climate with humid coastal areas, with the temperature varying inland and in dry northern areas. The temperature changes significantly between day and night, with excessively hot days and cool nights with gentle breezes.

The rainy season occurs from April until June, while a shorter rainy season may be expected between October and December, which coincides with the wildebeest migration in Maasai Mara.

Food in Kenya

Since Kenya is home to such a culturally diverse population, you will find an array of restaurants catering to all tastes and palates, from Chinese takeaways to French classics. However, if you want to have a true Kenyan experience, a visit to the many street markets for fresh fruits and vegetables is a must. The bustling markets are colourful and vibrant with hundreds of vendors offering you a true taste sensation.

If you're a little less adventurous when it comes to food, you will be glad to hear that parts of Kenya have many of the same fast food outlets that South Africa has, including McDonald's, KFC, and Steers.

Take a stroll and you might be pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant coffee culture, with a few coffee houses offering their rich and tasty blends. Just follow your nose and the delightful aroma will guide you.

If you would like to experience something a bit more unique, Kenya is also home to the hearty carnivore. Indulge in exotic meals and experience the taste of crocodile, ostrich, and even camel meat.

There are numerous beers and wines on offer, too, for the connoisseurs.

Colourful and delicious breakfast buffet on wheat bread with pieces of watermelon on the side and a hand putting an omelette on wheat bread with a fork.
Tourists riding inside an SUV while buffalo watching with binoculars

Crime and Safety in Kenya

Although Kenya is a pulsating and popular destination, the crime rate can be high, especially in the capital city. Rather play it safe and get travel insurance before you head to Nairobi. Vigilance will also go a long way in preventing crime, so stay alert.

Travelling to and in Kenya

Driving in Kenya

By sticking to the main road routes, you can expect to find decent quality roads. Car rentals are also quite popular and are a great way to explore further out of the city. There are many public transport services available and they are quite efficient, depending on the season and time of day.

Flights to Kenya

If you are flying to Nairobi from Johannesburg, South Africa, you can expect the flight to be around four hours long. Most international airlines travel to Kenya, as Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) is one of Africa's busiest airports.

Boat Hire

Kenya is accessible by boat, with several cruises docking at its harbours. A quick search and you'll find suitable cruises on various lakes and rivers, with some offering an array of water sports activities. You can also partake in water sports at one of the many lakes in the country, and there are a couple of mini-cruises where you can relax while floating gently on a lake.

White private aeroplane flying over green and brown bush with small green trees and blue skies.
Map of Kenya with green drawing pin stuck to Kenya.

Tips for Visiting Nairobi

  1. Plan your Drive

    Kenya is a developing country and traffic management is still lacking at times. Avoid driving through the main city roads at peak traffic times, as you will likely get caught in traffic jams.

  2. Bribing Police

    As with many countries, you're bound to find a few police officers looking for bribes. Avoid this at all costs and report any corrupt officials you might encounter.

  3. Bring Mosquito Repellent

    Kenya has reported cases of malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever; ensure you bring mosquito repellent along. In some cases, you will be required to get a malaria card if you apply for a visa.

  4. Buy Bottled Water

    Although the water is clean in the major cities, always be safe by drinking bottled water. Various reports of water-based bacteria and diseases have surfaced over the years. If you feel unwell after drinking tap water, see a doctor immediately.

  5. Respecting Cultures

    Kenya is predominantly Christian, with some liberal influences. There is also a relatively large Muslim community in Kenya, especially near the coastal regions. Ensure you respect the cultures by not wearing beachwear while strolling through the streets or showing intimate affection in public.

Prices quoted are correct at the time of publishing this article. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.

Sources: Wikipedia, Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor