1. Book the “Right” Flight.
So, you’ve decided you want to go to Kenya and you’re ready to book your flight. Start your search by looking for flights into the capital, Nairobi. If you’re feeling extra spontaneous and would like to check out Uganda too, you can fly into Entebbe and take a bus to Kenya. The bus ride is around 6 hours. I like to stick to Expedia and Hopper when searching for flights. Hopper has a cool feature that allows you to see on what days prices are higher/lower. Let’s say you can be flexible with your dates. Here are some things you want to think about:
- Price: If you’re like me, you want to find a cheap flight. But hold on because those cheap flights can have some consequences. Which leads me to…
- Layovers: Make sure the layovers aren’t too short or too long. I will be flying from Colorado, so I will have two layovers - one in the states and one in Europe. Both layovers are no longer than 3 hours long and no shorter than an hour. Remember, you will have to go through customs, so your layovers can’t be too tight. And on the other end of the spectrum - One time I had a 20-hour layover in London, on my way back to the states. I just wanted to be home!!!
2. Register with Your Embassy.
I am a United States citizen so clearly, that is the embassy I registered with. The STEP program gives you an option to choose the dates you will be in said country or gives you the option to leave it open – given you have bought a one-way ticket. It’s important to register with your embassy in case something happens while you are there. Given the unpredictable nature of Kenya’s government, it’s a good idea to register (and it only takes about 5 minutes).
3. Take Your Medicine!
And not just any kind of medicine. What I’m talking about is that good old Western medicine to prevent MALARIA. Speaking as someone who has had malaria…twice (because I didn’t take my meds), trust me, take the meds! There are several different medications you can take to help prevent Malaria but my tried and true is Doxycycline. Your reglular Primary Care Physician should be able to prescribe this to you. Always remember to follow Doctor’s orders but normally you will take the Doxy a day or two before you travel, every day that you are there and 28 days after you leave.
4. Get Your Shots.
The CDC highly suggests getting a vaccine for Yellow Fever before your trip to Kenya. I got this vaccine, along with others, back in 2010. The Yellow Fever vaccination lasts a lifetime, but the CDC suggests getting a booster every 10 years if you frequently visit countries where the virus is present. Yellow Fever is spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure the infection. Other ways to prevent getting sick from yellow fever are to use insect repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
5. Keep Contact.
Back in the day…I had to buy a phone over Kenya to communicate with my family and friends back in the states. Luckily, phone service providers like AT&T and Verizon have added Kenya to their international plans. All the international plans I’ve found can be added on a month-to-month basis. Add an international plan to your phone to avoid buying a phone in Kenya and have better access to those back in the states. There are also internet-based apps you can use in order to communicate. My favorites to use are WhatsApp, iMessage, Viber and Skype. And yes, I use them ALL.
6. Notify Your Bank.
You don’t want to get stuck over in another country with no access to money! Make sure you let your bank(s) know when you are going to be traveling. Bring some US dollars with you. There are pros and cons to this. Of course, there is a risk of having it stolen but it is also a good safety net if you can’t get access to your bank account immediately.
Your Kenyan visa will cost $51 at can be purchased with US dollars, at the airport. I suggest bringing at least $200 cash, as opposed to Travelers’ checks. I tried this the first time I traveled to Kenya and it didn’t go great. It was difficult to find a bank that would take the check. Once you are in Kenya, I find it easiest to withdraw from ATM’s. The charge for withdrawing is relatively low and depends on which bank or credit union you use.
The exchange rate in Kenya is currently 0.0099 US Dollars to 1 Kenyan shilling. An easier way to look at this would be a US dollar is equivalent to about 100 Kenyan shillings. 100 shillings can easily buy you a meal, in Kenya. For a better frame of reference of the value of a shilling, our rent is $14,000 shillings, approximately $140 US. Budgeting for your trip will largely be determined on the reason you are going and where you will be staying. Whatever it is that brings you to the beautiful country, make sure you have completed these 6 key things!