As you may know I’ve lived in Kenya for some years, more exactly in the coastal province of Malindi, and I was lucky to get the chance to travel a bit around as well, not only as tourist but more as local.
Let me tell you something first. You might get really sick, no remedies nor prevention but coming back. This is the risk of visiting Kenya, an absolute african’s illness, the so called ” Mal d’Africa“.
Let’s enjoy now the ride with me, and come to explore the ultimate Kenya’s travel tips.
How to plan your flight to Kenya
Depending from where you’re travelling of course, but let’s assume you’re leaving form Europe and wants to spend you Holiday travelling through Kenya. The first point to plan is the flight that will get you there.
You can fly to Nairobi and decide to start your tour from here (let’s see later how) or flying to another smaller airport in the country, that usually for travellers should be Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu or Kisumu.
Many airlines offers flights to Nairobi, either direct from several airports ( London, Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich..) or with a transit point (with Emirates, Turkish airlines, Qatar airlines, Ethiopian, Egypt air..). During the main touristic season, from July to April, you should be able to find also some charter flights to Mombasa (there are several from Milan or Rome, but also Condor from Frankfurt): those flights are perfect if you want to reach the coast in a quick way without many transit, otherwise there are daily flights from Nairobi to Mombasa or Malindi.
Sometimes the cheapest way is to book at least with 2 months in advance and so far I’ve noticed that the cheapest flights are offered from Turkish airline and Egyptair, but for both arrival time (and departure) to Nairobi is not very convenient.
Keep an eye to Skyscanner , google flights (which I personally love) or Kayak to check prices, and sometimes can be worthy to travel with a direct flight to Nairobi and taking an internal connection to your final destination.
A local low cost airline which fly to several destinations is Fly540.
I suggest you to book in advance a transfer from the airport to your hotel even if at the airport you can find several cars and trusted or less taxi drivers: as foreigner it’s easy to finish in some scam if you are not experienced, especially in big city as Nairobi or Mombasa. Most of the hotels and resort organize transfer to pick up the guests, otherwise you can check with some safari company which usually provides also transfer.
Where to sleep in Kenya
Kenya is a country for every budget: you can travel really low-low cost, with a budget of 15 euro a day, or you can choose the luxury accommodations to enjoy the best of your stay.
Here is a small selection of hotels and accommodation divided by budget for some of the most visited location, Nairobi, Mombasa, Diani, Malindi & Watamu
Expensive: €100 and more
Mombasa & Diani
Malindi & Watamu
Cheap (€10 – €60)
Mida Eco camp: I Highly recommend this one, it’s not only cheap but surrounded by the tropical forest and totally eco-sustainable.. Perfect for a sustainable and responsible tourism!
Expensive (more than €60)
How to move within Kenya
You can either decide to rent a car (with or without driver) take part in some organized tour and Safari, or moving with local public transport. What I suggest you is to not take to much risk, especially if you’ve never been to Kenya and you don’t have any local contact. Being scammed is more than extremely easy there.
Anyway, you have plenty of choice and freedom to decide the way you want to visit the country.
There are several coach company which travels around the country, from luxury buses with airco to cheapest one.
The price for a ride between Nairobi and Mombasa by a luxury bus would be around 10 to 20 euro, and the journey takes approximately 10 hours.
This is the website of the modern coast company, which provides buses to several east African location.
Another good experience would be taking the train and cross the Tsavo East with the Mombasa – Nairobi railways. An AllI-inn first class service is about 40 euro, but you can save money with a third class ticket for about 7 euro! Check at Rift Valley railways
The small buses ( up to 12 people, but they used to fill in it as much as they can) are called Matatu and they run within the cities or (usually) for shorter distances. They are all very cheap, from 20 cent depending on the destination.
An alternative is to plan your itinerary with a safari agency, which will guide you through the very best of Kenya with a professional guide. That’s maybe less adventurous but can save you a lot of time and inconvenient!
What you should not miss while in Kenya
I guess you can find as many information about safari parks and reserve, so I am not going to tell you to not to miss Masai Mara or the view of Kilimanjaro.. I would rather like to give you some smaller tips, if you are looking for something special and to get closer with this country and its people.
A visit to Mama Sarah, in Kogelo
This is not for everyone. I’ve been there in 2009 and still not sure on how we really managed to find the place. Is in the middle of nowhere, not far from Uganda’s border, in this small african village surrounded by green hills. I was so lucky that I could met her and Obama’s aunt and visit the house. This is definitely an experience that I will never forget!
A walk through the mangroves and admiring sunset
Imagine a mangroves forest and a suspended bridge. Imagine a canoe, silently sliding in the warm waters. Imagine now this silent broken by birds and some swahili songs. Imagine, the color of the sunset in front of you and the feeling of peacefulness surrounding you. This is an experience in Mida Creek, offered by the mida eco camp excursions
Sleeping under the stars
The night in Kenya can be very dark. When you are in the savannah, looking at the sky with its billion of stars is really an impressive and exciting experience: I’ve never felt so connected to my self as when I was looking at those stars, admiring the universe and the perfection of Mother Nature around me.
I think there’s nothing like being so far from the fast- paced world and so happy.
Eating Samosas at the Malindi Marine Park
Ok, maybe there is also something better than this but I personally love those samosa, and eating it with the view of the ocean in front of me is something that makes me feel extremely happy!
Riding a donkey in Lamu
Lamu is one of those places where time is stopped about 100 year ago. It has a particular charm, you migh like it or dislike. Personally, I’ve loved it.
One of the most bizarre things I’ve ever done is to ride a donkey through the island. They goes fast and you feel they will hit a pole or a wall for sure! But in the end, they are just so sweet (and I was feeling very guilty that they had to bear me )
A sunset dhow trip
If you decide to visit Lamu (not highly recommend right now but hopefully it will be safer soon..) you can’t miss the suset trip with a Dhow, the typical Swahili boat. The landscape you can see from there is simply stunning, it will stay in my sweetest memory forever.
A visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi
The Orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in Nairobi is now the most important of organizations for wildlife in East Africa. They rescue and save elephants and rhinos and the reintegrate orphans back once they are ready. You can visit the center and meet these amazing people and animals. I’ve never been so close to an elephant without feeling in danger!!
Kenya of course has a lot more than this to offer. But Then I should rather write an e-book about that 😉
I hope that my experience and suggestions might be useful to you, and if you have some more suggestion please share it in the comments below!