Which symbol stands most for Kenya?
On this page you can find out more about Kenya. They read general information to prepare for your vacation, travel tips such as the best time to go, the time difference, safety tips and other helpful information for your trip to Kenya.
facts and figures
|Official languages||English and Swahili|
|currency||Kenyan Shillings (KES)|
|time shift||2 hours (1 hour during summer time)|
|Flight time||8 hours|
|electricity||240 volts, 50 Hz|
|plug||Type G (plug adapter required)|
|tap water||No drinking water|
|visa||Visa required for Kenya|
History of Kenya
Kenya has been inhabited for at least 2,000,000 years. Originally, the area was mainly inhabited by hunters who crossed the country in groups. Trade routes to and from Arab countries, India and Indonesia were established around 2000 years ago. Arab traders founded various cities on the coast around 1500 years ago. As a result, Islam later quickly became the country's most important religion. The Portuguese arrived in Mombasa about 500 years ago. However, they were quickly expelled due to a conflict with the Oman Arabs who ruled the region. In 1887 the British succeeded in conquering and colonizing the coastal region of Kenya. In the following decade, the colony was expanded to cover the entire area of present-day Kenya.
The importance of the railroad for Kenya
In 1895, a railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi was laid in Kenya. This enabled the country to be crossed within 12 hours. Over the years, however, the rail link has been so neglected that in 2016 it took no less than 24 hours to cover the same distance. With an investment of 3.6 billion dollars by the Chinese state bank, the railway line was completely renewed in 2017. This led to a reduction in travel time to five hours. The railroad is an important lifeline in the country. The connection will be expanded into a rail network over the next few years, which will connect all of East Africa (also financed by China). The port of Mombasa plays an important role in this: This starting point for the train connection enables trade between East Africa and the rest of the world. German, Austrian and Swiss factories, flower and vegetable growers will also benefit from the new connection.
The independence of Kenya
During World War II, many Kenyans were forced by the British to fight. This contributed to a growing aversion to the colonizer. During a four-year uprising by the original population from 1952 onwards, the British killed more than four thousand insurgents. However, due to the continuing efforts of the independence movement, Kenya became independent in 1960. Jomo Kenyatta, leader of the insurgents, became the first president. Nowadays his son, Uhuru Kenyatta, is the President of Kenya. Both the father and his son were frequently accused of corruption and electoral fraud.
Current developments in Kenya
Kenya is a country that is going through tremendous changes. The infrastructure, the level of employment, the school system and the health system are improved. In 2005, the average gross income in Kenya was still $ 520 per year; in 2017 it was $ 1,440 per year. The number of Kenyans with access to electricity has doubled in the past six years from 30% to 60% of the population. You can also see progress in life expectancy. In 2005 the average life expectancy was 51 years, in 2018 it was 67 years (for comparison: 81 years in Germany). This is mainly due to the decline in child mortality among children up to five years of age: from 10% in 2000 to 5% in 2017 (for comparison: 0.4% in Germany). The number of children infected with HIV has also halved in the past decade. However, that the country is developing in the good direction does not mean that Kenya is a prosperous country. In the capital Nairobi, for example, there is the largest slum in Africa. Many Kenyans still live in abject poverty.
Many tourists travel to Kenya to see the Big Five, which are all found in Kenya
Highlights in Kenya
Most of the tourists who tour Kenya visit Masai Mara, the most famous nature reserve in the country and the only place where all the animals of the Big Five can be found. However, the leopard and rhinoceros are particularly difficult to spot. A perfect place to see rhinos is Nakuru Lake. Both Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru can be reached by car in a few hours from Nairobi.
In addition to nature, many tourists in Kenya also visit the beach. The most popular place for this is Diani Beach. The resorts are known for their white palm-fringed beaches. This beach is not only an ideal place to relax, but also a wonderful base for diving or kite surfing. If you want to really discover Kenya, it is best to rent a car and explore the country on your own or with a guide. Read more about it on the What to do in Kenya page.
Hell's Gate is the only national park in Kenya that you can explore by bike. Beware of the Lions!
The map of Kenya
If you look at Kenya on the map, you will immediately notice that the country lies on the equator. Most of the inhabitants live in the south of the country, south of the equator. This is mainly due to the fact that the climate in the north is too dry for agriculture. Of the 29 million inhabitants, around 6.5 million live in and around Nairobi and 3 million in and around Mombasa.
Climate and the best travel time
The temperatures on the coast are very constant. So when you go on a beach vacation it doesn't matter what month you travel in. The maximum daily temperatures are between 27 degrees Celsius (July) and 31 degrees Celsius (January). The minimum temperatures fluctuate between 22 and 24 degrees Celsius and are therefore also very even. However, the amount of rainfall per month varies greatly in this area. The rainy season is from April to June. Most of the rain falls in May, with an average of one centimeter per day. August to March are the driest months, with an average of no more than four or five days per month and almost no rain all day.
The best time to travel to the Kenyan coast
The temperatures on the coast are very constant. So when you go on a beach vacation it doesn't matter what month you travel in. The maximum daily temperatures are between 27 degrees Celsius (July) and 31 degrees Celsius (January). The minimum temperatures fluctuate between 22 and 24 degrees Celsius and are therefore also very even. However, the amount of rainfall per month varies greatly in this area. The rainy season is from April to June. Most of the rain falls in May, with an average of one centimeter per day. August to March are the driest months, with an average of no more than four or five days per month and almost never rains all day.
The best time to travel to southwest Kenya (and the national parks)
Most of the German, Austrian and Swiss tourists travel to Kenya during our summers. However, this is the coldest time of the year in the south-west of the country. The average maximum daily temperature of 22 degrees Celsius is still very pleasant to go on safari, for example. February and March are the warmest in the national parks with an average temperature of 26 degrees. The difference between summer and winter is therefore also small in this part of the country.
The best time to travel to northern Kenya
The north and part of the east of Kenya (yellow on the topographic map) is hot and dry. It rains very little here, only from March to May light rain falls from time to time. The temperatures in this part of the country are constant: the minimum daytime temperature (at night) is 22 degrees Celsius, the maximum temperature (during the day) 36 degrees. The sun shines all year round, so all months of the year are ideal for traveling in this region. Please note that the part of Kenya north of the equator is not always safe to travel. In particular, avoid the border areas with Somalia. In addition, the roads in this area are often extremely poor and there are plans to renovate the main roads in the coming years.
Best travel time when the sun is shining
Are you planning a safari or other activity in Kenya? Because Kenya is on the equator, it doesn't matter which month you travel. However, we recommend that you take the time of day into account. Since the country is on the equator, the sun rises and sets very quickly and early. The sun always rises around six in the morning and sets at half past six in the evening. If you are planning an activity, please be aware of the very short twilight, as there is a warning against going out on the street in the dark. Please also note that, due to its location near the equator, the sun's rays sometimes lead to severe sunburn after half an hour. So smear or spray yourself well with sunscreen. You burn much faster here than you are used to in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.
Easy to spot: elephants in the Masai Mara National Park
Money in Kenya: Pay with Kenyan shilling (KES)
The national currency of Kenya is the Kenyan shilling. Some local tour operators (safari operators and resorts) require you to pay in dollars. This happens especially if the owner is not a Kenyan, which is regularly the case. Sometimes paying in dollars can save you money. Nevertheless, there is almost always the option of paying with Kenyan shillings.
The cheapest way to pay in Kenya is to withdraw the highest possible amount in Kenyan shillings from a cash machine (ATM) with a single withdrawal. (The largest possible amount is usually around € 400). If possible, it is cheaper to use your debit card (bank card with Maestro or V-Pay symbol) and not your credit card. If you are asked whether you want to carry out the transaction with or without conversion ('conversion'), always select without conversion ('without conversion'). This means that you pay as few fees as possible for the transaction to the local Kenyan bank as well as to your German, Austrian or Swiss bank or credit card company. There are relatively few ATMs, especially outside of Nairobi. So always make sure that you have enough cash with you, especially if you have not yet paid for your accommodation. For security reasons, however, do not carry too much cash with you either. It is best to keep some in your hand luggage, some in your main baggage and some in your accommodation and / or your rental car.
Sometimes you need to have your bank card activated for use in Kenya (Africa) before you leave. Most banks automatically block debit cards for use outside of Europe when issued to prevent fraud. You can usually simply unblock the use of your bank card outside of Europe on your bank's website or app.
Internet and phone calls in Kenya
Good internet and telephone connections are not as natural in Kenya as in Europe. Hotels that offer WiFi often have a relatively poor internet connection. Mobile phone providers often only offer limited coverage outside of the densely populated areas. The mobile operator with the best network coverage in Kenya is Safaricom. At the airports in Nairobi and Mombasa you can buy a SIM card easily and relatively cheaply. A local Kenyan SIM card with 500 minutes of call and 20 GB of Internet for use within 30 days costs around € 25. Many Kenyans do not have a bank account and pay in stores with their mobile phone credit. It is therefore possible to top up cell phone credit almost everywhere - even in remote areas.
Traveling in Kenya: by rental car, plane or train
Are you only traveling between Nairobi and Mombasa? Then you can use the brand new railway line between these cities. While the journey by car is eight to eleven hours, the train journey takes only five hours. Are you traveling between Mombasa and Nairobi or Masai Mara? Then you can also take the plane. The best way to travel around Kenya, however, is possibly a rental car.
Rent a car in Kenya
Many tourists book a local guide, but the more adventurous can choose to drive themselves. However, always rent a car that is high on its wheels, i.e. not a sedan or hatchback. The roads leave a lot to be desired in many places, especially outside of Nairobi. However, all-wheel drive is not required. Driving can be frustrating, especially in and around Nairobi and Mombasa, as there is a lot of traffic on the way and the traffic situation is chaotic. Trucks often travel at 20 or 50 kilometers per hour on the freeway, and overtaking is sometimes difficult and dangerous. Do you often get angry about anti-social behavior in traffic or speed restrictions in Germany, Austria or Switzerland? Then it is better not to drive in Kenya. Further away from Nairobi (in all directions) the traffic conditions get better. A rental car is a great way to enjoy the breathtaking landscape and get off the beaten path.
Car insurance and international driver's license
If you drive a car in Kenya, make sure that the car is well insured. The easiest way to get a well insured rental car is to rent a car from a company headquartered in Germany, Austria or Switzerland. Although the actual rental is outsourced to a local company in Kenya, you can rest assured that everything is legally in order. The landlord can ask for your German (or Austrian or Swiss) as well as an international driver's license. However, in most cases, renting a car is not a problem if you do not have an international driver's license.
If you are stopped by the police on the way, always call the rental company first and let them speak to the police. Before you drive away, check that you have a good spare tire and jack in the car. If you have a flat tire on the way, change the tire immediately and have it repaired at the nearest petrol station (this usually costs no more than two to five euros). If you don't know how to change a tire, you will almost always find someone nearby to help you with this. Incidentally, this applies to almost everything that you need help with in Kenya. In general, the population is super friendly. However, it is believed that a small reward will be paid in return for the help.
With a rental car you can get very close to the white rhinoceros in Kenya. However, do not leave the path.
During the European summer time (March to October) the time difference between Germany or Austria or Switzerland and Kenya is one hour. In our winter time, the time difference is two hours. In Kenya it is later than in Germany, Austria or Switzerland. So you don't need to worry about jet lag upon arrival.
Safety and health
For a safe trip to Kenya, we recommend that you make some preparations. These are mainly vaccinations, malaria prophylaxis (take medication with you and possibly as a precaution) and areas in Kenya where there are safety risks. Also make sure that you always have enough clean drinking water with you, as tap water is not drinking water in Kenya. Please be careful if you belong to LGBT community. Expressions of homosexual tendencies are a criminal offense in Kenya.
Visa to Kenya
German, Austrian and Swiss citizens are only allowed to enter Kenya with a valid visa. Children up to the age of 15 receive a free visa at passport control. You can easily apply for a Kenya visa online using the application form on our website. Avoid problems and submit your application in good time, if possible, at least one week before your departure.
Apply for a Kenya visa immediately
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