Facts for the Visitor
Visas, Climate, Currency - all you need to know for your holiday in Kenya
CURRENT ENTRY RULES IN RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19): The suspension of international flights to and from Kenya was lifted on 01 August 2020. The Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs have advised that:
Travellers arriving from the UK and other selected countries are not required to enter mandatory quarantine for 14 days, as long as they have a negative COVID-19 test.
The negative COVID-19 test must be a negative PCR test result. Travellers with a negative rapid test result will still need to enter mandatory or voluntary quarantine for 14 days, depending on the Kenyan authorities’ assessment on the traveller’s ability to quarantine.
The test must have been taken within 96 hours of flying.
Travellers must have a medical certificate confirming they are free from coronavirus. All travellers will be screened on arrival and anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19 will be required to quarantine in the place they are staying for the first 14 days of their stay and observe Government of Kenya protocols as directed. Passengers travelling in the 2 rows surrounding the person displaying symptoms will be traced and required to quarantine for 14 days.
Normally, a visa is required for entry into Kenya when travelling as a tourist. Whilst tourists to Kenya can still obtain a visa upon arrival at the port of entry (payment by credit card ONLY) it is now strongly advised to apply online for your visa via the eVisa portal https://www.ecitizen.go.ke/.
If you apply online, please ensure that you apply at least 3-4 weeks prior to your travel dates as approval for the eVisa takes up to 7 working days to process.
Once the eVisa is issued, it is valid for 3 months. You must print a copy of your visa to present to the Immigration Officer at your point of entry into Kenya.
A full list of the nationalities who can be issued with an eVisa can be found here: http://evisa.go.ke/evisa-faqs.html and the following eVisa types are available (please note that visa fees for children under the age of 16 has been removed):
Single Entry - Allows you to enter into Kenya once - current cost USD 51 (subject to change).
Transit - Allows a short stop over (up to 3 days/72 hours) in Kenya - current cost USD 21 (subject to change). This is ideal if you want to leave the secure area of the airport, for example for an overnight stay inbetween flights, or for a period not exceeding 72 hours. No visa is required for a direct transit (not leaving the secure area of the airport, aka staying ‘airside’, within the airport terminal) between 2 flights.
It is also possible to get an East Africa Tourist Visa which is valid for 90 days and allows holders to travel to and within Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda - current cost USD 100 per person (subject to change) - but you can only apply for this at the point of entry or via your local Embassy.
Your passport should also be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Kenya. Make sure you have 2 blank pages in your passport on arrival.
PLEASE NOTE: Countries can change their entry requirements at any time. Travel Butlers try to ensure that the information displayed here is correct, but the onus remains with the traveller to verify the information with the relevant High Commission or Embassy and ensure that they can comply with current passport and visa requirements.
You are advised to contact your doctor or clinic around 4-8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations and to get their professional medical advice regarding travel to Kenya.
To help prevent diarrhoea, avoid tap water – drink only bottled water and use bottled water for tooth brushing, and avoid ice made with tap water – and only eat fruit or vegetables that are cooked or can be peeled.
To help avoid heatstroke, drink plenty of bottled water/fluids, and keep out of the midday sun.
There is a risk of malaria in all areas of Kenya, except Nairobi and the highlands - check with your doctor about suitable antimalarial tablets. Dengue fever can also be transmitted via mosquito bites. Try to avoid mosquito bites wherever possible - wear loose long-sleeved clothing and trousers, and use a repellent on clothing and exposed skin.
Kenya falls into the yellow fever region in Africa. There is only a low potential for exposure to yellow fever in Nairobi, Mombasa, Lamu, Malindi and Shimba Hills National Park, but in the rest of the country there is a higher risk. It is therefore advisable for all travellers aged 9 months and older to obtain a yellow fever vaccination no less than 10 days prior to travel, but depending on the rest of your travel plans and country of origin, it is not compulsory:
Travellers from the UK who are only travelling directly to and from Kenya are not required to produce a vaccination certificate upon their return to the UK.
If you are arriving into Kenya from a country which has a risk of yellow fever transmission, you will be required to provide a certificate of your vaccination upon entry into Kenya. These countries include Angola, Argentina, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Peru, Rwanda, Uganda and Venezula but it is up to the traveller to check the full list via http://www.who.int/ith/2015-ith-annex1.pdf?ua=1
Certain countries including South Africa and Tanzania will deny entry if you are arriving from Kenya without the vaccination. Please ensure you check the full list via http://www.who.int/ith/2015-ith-annex1.pdf?ua=1 to see which countries impose this rule.
If your doctor advises that it is not safe for you to have the vaccination then you should obtain a medical waiver and travel with this instead.
language and people
English is the common commercial language, therefore it is spoken in the major towns and at all lodges and hotels. There are 52 tribes in Kenya, each with their own tribal language. The national language in Kenya is Swahili.
We would ask that all travellers are respectful of the local culture as follows:
Showing anger is not acceptable – Kenyan people pride themselves on their emotional control and expect the same in others. Try to remain patient, polite and friendly, even if the situation is very frustrating. Pointing with your finger at someone is considered very rude and is deemed to be an obscene gesture.
The coastal areas are predominantly Muslim so it is important to dress conservatively out of respect for the Muslim culture. On the beaches and within the confines of hotels, normal swimwear is acceptable but nudity/topless sunbathing is not. Away from beach resorts (especially in Mombasa, during the holy month of Ramadan or if you visit religious areas), women should avoid walking around in public areas displaying their legs and upper arms/shoulders - ‘short’ shorts, mini skirts, vests and tank tops may be frowned upon and viewed as a sign of disrespect. Long, loose hair is also seen as very provocative, so to avoid unwanted attention ladies may wish to tie their hair back or wear a headscarf.
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya. Whilst everyone is of course entitled to their own sexual preferences and gender identity, we would advise all clients of the LGBT+ community to refrain from public displays of affection (including kissing and holding hands) and to be as discrete as possible about their relationship.
You should always ask permission before taking anyone’s photograph, or before photographing official buildings including Embassies.
Smoking in all public places (except in designated areas) is prohibited.
You must carry a form of ID with you at all times. A copy of your passport is normally acceptable, but recently some police officers have been insisting on the original document.
The monetary unit is the Kenyan shilling. There is no limit to the amount of currency or traveller's cheques that you can bring into the country. US dollars are widely accepted too, however, notes dated before 2001 are no longer accepted and high denomination notes may also not be accepted.
All the major Credit cards are widely accepted in the city hotels, city restaurants and city shops but this may not be the case in the rural areas or whilst on safari. A commission charge is normally added to any transactions using a credit card.
Travellers cheques may be cashed in a bank but this can be a somewhat lengthy process.
The smaller safari lodges and camps or rural hotels may not all accept travellers cheques or credit cards and where they do they may give an unfavourable exchange rate or add a surcharge, so it is recommended that you obtain whatever local currency you may need on safari in advance by drawing cash from an ATM at a bank in Nairobi or there is a bank at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport which is located in the far corner of the Baggage hall, so you can obtain money while waiting for your luggage to come through.
Reverting your Kenyan shillings into hard currency is easily done at the airport, hotels and banks. The rate of exchange varies between banks, foreign exchange bureaus and hotels. Do NOT change money on the black market, or destroy Kenyan currency as both acts are illegal.
You can read more about the climate in our guide to the best time to visit Kenya.
The international dialling code for Kenya is +254. Most areas of Kenya have some form of mobile phone network, however it is often weak or unreliable, so please do not always rely on it.
Voltage in Kenya is 240 volts, and plugs are generally square 3-pin UK style. In some properties power is only available in the early morning and evening, and some do not have power points in the rooms/tents. Where power points are not available, there will be charging facilities for cameras, phones and computers in the main areas.
Kenya Standard Time is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+3). Kenya does not operate Daylight-Saving Time.