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Is there any good advice for traveling to Kenya?

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Is there any good advice for traveling to Kenya? by Kenyans247(1): Sat Jan 2020 07:47am
I traveled to Nairobi for work last year and stayed about two months. My company provided an apartment and a car with driver. I worked with our local team members and found them to be smart, kind, and engaging.

The threat of crime is something to be considered. As a foreigner you will stick out, so take sensible precautions like do not travel alone at night and stay at a well reviewed hotel or lodge. I asked my hosts if they’d actually ever been a victim of crime, and they all answered yes. So, while I didn’t have anything happen to me during my stay, the possibility of crime and its avoidance should factor into your plans. There is a general fear of the police. Do not assume that the police will be helpful if you get in trouble - there is a lot of corruption.

Everyone will also assume you’re rich and you will be approached numerous times for money. There was never any threat of violence, but on any given walk, you will be approached for money. Politely declining works fine

English is one of the national languages and it is taught in school. It is also the prestige language, so professionals will be able to speak it fairly fluently. However, it is rarely anyone’s first language with Kenyan Swahili spoken by far more people. People are very patient, so even if there is a language barrier they are happy to try and work with you to communicate.

The infrastructure is weak. While there are lots of roads, the roads will be poorly maintained and as you leave the cities the road condition deteriorates. Because of this, travel is very slow and very bumpy. One weekend we traveled to Meru National Park, a distance of about 300km. It took 8 hours.

While indoor plumbing is common, you should not drink the water, though it’s fine for washing. Bottled water is used by both foreigners and locals and is inexpensive. My apartment came with a water cooler dispenser.

In Nairobi, which is one degree from the equator, I came packed for high temperatures. That was incorrect - the weather everyday was an amazingly perfect temperature, usually around 20 - 25C.

One piece of infrastructure is very good. The mobile phone network is excellent with 4G well deployed and 3G available almost everywhere. Mobile payments, called MPESA, are more common than credit cards. Make sure you either buy a phone in Kenya for local use or get a local SIM card for your phone so you can use the mobile payment system. It might be possible to use US currency, but it’s not that common. At least one of the banks at Two Rivers mall in Nairobi gives you a choice of US or Kenyan currency when making ATM withdrawls. If you want to use US currency, expect to haggle over its relative value at shops.

There’s a large Indian community in Kenya so the Indian food is quite good there. Samosas and chapati are common street foods and are delicious. Most meals will come with ugali which is boiled cornmeal that has little taste on its own but goes well when combined with other items on the plate. All the meat I had there was well done (overcooked to my taste). At first I thought it was just the places I tried, but it happened everywhere. It’s possible they decided to play it safe with cooking since I was a foreigner. If you get a chance, try an Ethiopian restaurant. Washington D.C., where I’m from, has a large Ethiopian community so I have experience with the cuisine, but the Ethiopian food I had in Kenya was better than any similar cuisine in the US.

The people in Kenya were very nice, friendly, and interesting. There’s a decent museum by the University in Nairobi. Pay for a tour guide - it’s worth it.

Tipping is expected. If you have a driver, you (or your company) will pay the driver’s company, but you should also pay a couple hundred KS per day to the driver (more if it’s a long trip).

I hope you have a wonderful time. Kenya is absolutely beautiful and you can make some nice friends there.

BY Joe Herman, Have visited all continents but Antartica

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