7 Essential Things You Should Know Before Your Kenya Safari

All holidays involve a fair amount of planning – especially specialist tours or those involving international travel – so let us take the stress out of your safari admin with this helpful summary of the key things you need to think about before you set off.  
With these points covered, you can sit back, relax and look forward to your African adventure…
1. Passports & Visas
You’ll need a passport valid for at least six months from the date of entry with at least two blank pages to travel to Kenya. If you’re from the UK, EU, US, Canada, or Australia, you’ll also need a visa.
It’s best to apply for an e-visa online, but you can also visit your local Kenyan embassy if you have any problems or questions. You’ll need two passport photos and proof of travel arrangements to support your visa application. It is also possible to obtain a visa on arrival at the airport in Nairobi, in which case you do not require passport photos but you will just need to complete a form that you should be given on the aircraft as you fly in.
Always carry spare photocopies of your passport and any visa documents with you when you travel.
See more details of Visa requirements here.
2. Vaccinations and health requirements
There are no compulsory vaccinations required for entry to Kenya unless you are arriving from a country listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as having Yellow Fever, in which case a Certificate of Inoculation against Yellow Fever is required from travellers older than one year. Visitors coming from other countries in Africa where Yellow Fever may occur, including Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda, require a Yellow Fever certificate to enter.
Some countries, including Australia, Bahrain, China, Dubai, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Oman, Rwanda, Seychelles, Singapore, Tanzania, Thailand and Uganda require arriving visitors from Kenya or elsewhere in East Africa to have a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. So if you are returning to or travelling to one of these countries after a stay in Kenya then you need to have a Yellow Fever certificate.
Other health precautions recommended by the WHO and CDC include::

  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Meningitis
  • Polio
  • Influenza
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)

It’s also highly recommended that you purchase travel insurance for evacuation and medical treatment—many, if not most, tour operators require it.
3. Money
Most safaris are all-inclusive when it comes to food and drink, but you’ll still need money for certain activities, local purchases and tipping.
Kenya’s currency is the shilling and it’s a good idea to carry some along with your major credit card(s). The US dollar is widely accepted by international hotels and safari camps and in fact, may even be required for certain activities. Due to a problem with counterfeit dollars, some places may not accept US bills older than 2003, however.
Travellers cheques are also an option.
ATMs are available in some larger towns and the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa, but they only dispense Kenya shillings—and not all cards are accepted. Visa cards are usually a safe bet no matter where you go.
We recommend that you change some money at the airport as the banks there typically give a better exchange rate than at the hotels. There is a bank at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (open until midnight every day) as well as an ATM so that you can obtain local currency on arrival.
Remember to call your bank and credit card companies to let them know you’re travelling in Africa. That way, your card won’t be accidentally suspended for unexpected activity away from your home!
If you are booked on an inclusive safari which covers all the costs, then a good rule of thumb is to bring between $150 and $250 in cash per person per week for extras, in addition to any known cash expenses which you are likely to incur after arrival (like a hot air balloon ride, for example).
4. Packing
We strongly recommend that you travel with small soft bags (that are lockable) as the smaller aircraft do not allow large hard suitcases. The weight limit is normally limited to 15 kgs per passenger inclusive of hand luggage, with excess baggage over the 15 kg charged at prevailing rates, subject to availability and depending on the size of the plane.
Gamewatchers Safaris clients can send any excess luggage to be stored at our head office at no charge, provided it is locked.
Please note that plastic bags are not allowed to be brought into Kenya.

Go for comfort and convenience when it comes to your clothing. Pack clothes you’d pack for any warm weather adventure holiday, but remember these Kenya-specific pointers:

  • Bring lightweight layers in both long and short lengths, plus socks, sleepwear and swimwear.
  • A warm layer (sweater, fleece jacket) is a smart idea, as is a windbreaker or light jacket.
  • Please note that in the highland areas of Kenya above 5000 feet it may get extremely chilly at night or in the evenings and early mornings – especially in June, July, August when temperatures can be very much colder – so it is important to ensure that you pack some items of warm clothing to avoid freezing on game drives in open vehicles.
  • Bulky hiking boots are rarely necessary—a comfortable pair of lightweight trainers is probably your best bet. Flip-flops are nice to have if you are going to the beach after your safari.
  • You’re going to want a hat to protect your face and scalp from the equatorial sun.
  • Don’t forget a nicer outfit for your time off-safari if you are planning an evening out in Nairobi.
  • Yes, khaki or dark green colours do hide the dust better than other colours, and it’s not recommended to wear bright colours on safari.
  • Military-style camouflage prints on tops or trousers are illegal here, so best avoided.

Most camps have laundry facilities, so go ahead and pack light.
The must-haves…

  • Mosquito repellant and sunblock (you can buy them here, but they will be pricey), plus hand and body lotion.
  • Personal hygiene products.
  • Any prescription drugs (keep in hand luggage)
  • Anti-Malaria prophylaxis.
  • First aid kit with over-the-counter diarrhoea medications, motion sickness pills, and full trip supply of any medications you take on a regular basis, plus generic names if available.
  • A flashlight and/or a headlamp with extra batteries.
  • A camera (and zoom lenses if you’re serious about your photos).
  • Electrical adaptors: the electricity supply is 240V running at 50Hz (same as the UK) and the plug types are 3 pin rectangular blade plug
  • Sunglasses.
  • Binoculars: a pair per person
  • Pocket knife (not in hand luggage).

The nice-to-haves…

  • A Kindle or other e-reading device.
  • A smallish bag or day pack.
  • A flash drive if you plan to take a lot of pictures.
  • Alarm clock.
  • Sewing kit and small scissors (not in hand luggage).

5. What to Pack in Your Camera Bag

  • Ideally a dSLR (digital Single Lense Reflex) camera, though with the correct techniques, composition and lighting great shots can be captured on less expensive equipment
  • Serious photographers will want interchangeable lenses: in the range of 200-400mm for wildlife photography and wide angle lenses in the range of 24-100mm for close-ups and landscapes
  • The charger / extra batteries. If you are using rechargeable batteries, most lodges and safari camps should have facilities to charge them.
  • Plenty of memory cards

Before you leave home double check that your cameras are working and practice photographing moving objects, like your pets!
For more advice see these 6 Essential Photography Tips by Wayne Hammond –  Wildlife Photographer and one of our expert Safari Advisers.
6. Reading Up
It’s a good idea to do a little pre-travel reading to help you prepare. We highly recommend these books:

The Big Cat Diary: Year in the Maasai Mara by Brian Jackman
The Safari Companion, A Guide to Watching African Mammals by Richard Estes
The Rough Guide to Kenya by Richard Trillo
Wildlife of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda (Travellers Guide) by David Hosking, Martin Withers
The Wildlife Photography Workshop by Ross Hoddinot & Ben Hall
You can see a full list of our favourite safari guides and photography books here.
7. What to Expect On Arrival At Nairobi Airport
Upon arrival you will need to clear Immigration. You may already have your visa, but if not you’ll need US$50 each in cash. Make sure you have the exact amount of US dollars in banknotes with you before you leave home as there is no foreign exchange facility in Immigration and they do not accept Credit Cards or Travellers Cheques and do not give change.
Unless you have already obtained an E-Visa then the Visa process can be a bit chaotic at the airport with everyone trying to fill in the forms and join the queues. You should have been given an immigration visa form on the plane and it is best to complete this before you land so you can go straight into the Visa queue to purchase your visa from the counters before going through passport control. Your passport must have at least 6 months left before expiry date and 2 blank pages left for visas.
After you have had your passports stamped by the Immigration Officer, you will be directed to the Baggage Reclaim area to collect your luggage and then go past Customs and exit the building and down the ramp outside, where our Gamewatchers Safaris representative will be waiting to meet you, holding a signboard displaying your name.
Often the Arrivals hall may be very crowded and, before you see our representative, you may be approached by taxi drivers offering to take you to your hotel. Please ignore such approaches and look out for our representative holding up a signboard with your name.

More Information

Do take a look at the Recommendations & Frequently Asked Questions section of our web site for more useful tips.
If you have already booked with us and you have any queries then please contact your Gamewatchers Safari Adviser who will be happy to answer your questions.
If you haven’t yet made your safari arrangements then do take a look at our latest Special Offers here, or contact us via our online Enquiry Form to start your planning and one of our team will be in touch to help you through all the options.
Alternatively, sign up for our free 6-part How to Book A Safari email series and discover how to make the most out of your time and budget.



Reduced rates for safaris of 6 nights or more


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