Kenya

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ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

Kenya Money-Saving Tips

Language

English and Kiswahili are the official languages of Kenya. Most people you come across as a tourist will speak some English, but learning a few greetings in Kiswahili will grease your social interactions.

Visas

U.S. citizens need a visa to enter Kenya. Obtain one from your local Kenyan embassy as least two weeks before you leave. Single entry visas cost $50 and are valid for 3 months; multiple entry visas (valid for 6 to 12 months), are $100.

Money

ATMs are widely available throughout the country and most can process international withdrawals. Although credit cards are accepted throughout Kenya, it’s best to limit their use to upmarket hotels and restaurants to avoid having your digits stolen.

Getting around

Use taxis to navigate Nairobi. To travel around Kenya, take one of the buses that leave from the city’s River Road area or ride the trains from the station on Moi Avenue. Airports connect the city with national parks and reserves.

Customs

The laws governing the export of animal products out of the country are strict, prohibiting travelers from taking elephant, rhino, and coral products out of Kenya. Anyone caught smuggling these items will be slammed with a hefty fine.

Fee Alert

National Park entry fees are paid through a smartcard system. Unless you’re traveling with an organized tour, purchase cards in advance at one of the following parks: Nairobi, Lake Nakuru, and Tsavo East. The Kenya Wildlife Service in Mombassa also sells them (011-254-41-222612).

Travel warnings

Crime is prevalent in Kenya and ranges from petty theft to mugging to armed robbery. Leave valuables in your hotel room, always take a taxi after dark, and keep your wits about you, especially in large cities and at night.

Political scene

The December 2007 reelection of Mwai Kibaki sparked cries of election fixing, violent protest, and ethnic conflict, causing over 300 deaths and the displacement of thousands. Check State Department advice before planning a trip and avoid demonstrations while in the country.

Cuisine

Traditional Kenyan cuisine is quite bland. Nyama choma (barbecued meat, often goat) and ugali (cornmeal porridge) are local specialties. Fare from the coast, which is typically enhanced with coconut and spices, is more interesting. Game meat can be sampled in Nairobi and Mombassa's upmarket joints.

Ecotourism

Many community-run, ecotourism projects in Kenya, including ecolodges whose profits go straight back to the locals, aim to minimize human-animal conflict and conserve the environment. Laikipia’s Il Ngwesi lodge is one of the best.

Crafts

Most of Kenya’s craftsmen specialize in wooden carvings, but a wide range of other crafts like jewelry, textiles, and sisal baskets, are available as well.

Wildebeest migration

July and August of every year is wildebeest rush hour in the Masai Mara, when seemingly endless swathes of the animals trudge north from the Serengeti in pursuit of food and water.

Tea and coffee

Kenya grows some of the world’s best tea and coffee. The most popular place to sample the local brew is at the Nairobi Java House, which operates several branches city-wide (011-254-20-445-2273; www.nairobijavahouse.com).

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