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Kenya travel guide - Travel S Helper


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Kenya, formally the Republic of Kenya, is an African country that was one of the founding members of the East African Community (EAC). Nairobi is the country’s capital and largest metropolis. Kenya’s territory is located on the equator and abuts the East African Rift, encompassing a diversified and broad landscape that stretches roughly from Lake Victoria to Lake Turkana (previously known as Lake Rudolf) and farther south-east to the Indian Ocean. Tanzania borders it on the south, Uganda on the west, South Sudan on the north-west, Ethiopia on the north, and Somalia on the north-east. Kenya has a land area of 581,309 km2 (224,445 sq mi) and a population of roughly 45 million people as of July 2014.

Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline enjoys a warm and humid tropical climate. The temperature is colder in the savannah grasslands surrounding Nairobi, especially closer to Mount Kenya, which has snow on its peaks all year. Further inland, in the Nyanza area, the climate is hot and dry, becoming humid near Lake Victoria, the world’s biggest tropical fresh-water lake. In the neighboring western region, this gives place to temperate and wooded hilly regions. The northern borderlands with Somalia and Ethiopia are dry and semi-arid, with near-desert terrain. Kenya is well-known for its safaris, diverse temperature and terrain, and vast animal reserves and national parks such as East and West Tsavo National Parks, the Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru National Park, and Aberdares National Park. Kenya has multiple world heritage sites, including Lamu, as well as several beaches, including those in Diani, Bamburi, and Kilifi, where international sailing contests are conducted each year.

Humans have lived in the African Great Lakes area, of which Kenya is a part, since the Lower Paleolithic period. The Bantu expansion had reached the area from West-Central Africa by the first millennium AD. As a result, the current state’s borders include the crossroads of the continent’s Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, and Afroasiatic regions, which constitute the majority of the continent’s main ethnolinguistic groups. The Bantu and Nilotic groups account for around 97 percent of the country’s population. The presence of Europeans and Arabs on the coast of Mombasa dates back to the early modern period, while European exploration of the interior began in the nineteenth century. The British Empire founded the East Africa Protectorate in 1895, which gave way to the Kenya Colony beginning in 1920. Kenya gained independence from Britain in December 1963. Kenya is currently divided into 47 semi-autonomous counties controlled by elected governors, after a referendum in August 2010 and the ratification of a new constitution.

Nairobi, the capital, is a regional business centre. Kenya’s economy is the largest in East and Central Africa in terms of GDP. Agriculture is a key job; traditionally, the island exports tea and coffee, but it has lately began to send fresh flowers to Europe. The service sector is also a significant economic engine. Kenya is also a member of the East African Community economic group.

Kenya | Introduction

Kenya is one of Africa’s most important economic hubs and is considered the power centre of East and Central Africa. Kenya has recently realigned its economy and reached the middle income level.

Although it consists of many different ethnic groups and tribes, Kenyans have a strong sense of national pride. This may partly be due to their united struggle for Uhuru (Kiswahili: “freedom”) – their independence from the British imperial rule that was achieved in 1963. Most Kenyans seem optimistic about the future of the country, although the continuing corruption at all levels of government is causing concern and mistrust. Understandably, Kenyans follow the business opportunities offered by tourism with a zeal that may discourage some visitors, but which is usually open, talkative and friendly once business matters are settled.

Lake Turkana and its surroundings are also known as the cradle of mankind, as many prehistoric fossils have been discovered. Fossils of hominid origin of considerable scientific importance have been discovered in parts of the Rift Valley like Olorgesaille, and this area of Africa is often thought to be the birthplace of the human species (although more recent findings in Ethiopia disprove this theory)

Tourism in Kenya

Kenya’s service sector, which accounts for 61% of GDP, is dominated by tourism. The tourism sector has been growing steadily for most of the years since independence and had become the country’s main source of foreign exchange by the late 1980s. Tourists, most of whom come from Germany and the UK, are mainly attracted by the coastal beaches and game reserves, in particular the extensive Eastern and 20,808 square kilometres of Tsavo West National Park in the south-east of the country.

Tourism has experienced a considerable boom in recent years and is a major contributor to the country’s economic growth. Tourism is now Kenya’s largest foreign exchange earner, followed by flowers, tea and coffee. In 2006, tourism generated USD 803 million, compared to USD 699 million the previous year. Kenya currently also has many shopping centres. There are also four major hypermarket chains in Kenya. Tourism improves the water supply. Tourism in Kenya also includes ecotourism. The Maasai Mara tribe is being driven off their land. Tourism in Kenya is associated with drugs, alcohol and prostitution.

Demographics in Kenya

Kenya had a population of about 45 million people in July 2014. Kenya has a young population, with 73% of the population under 30 years of age due to rapid population growth; from 2.9 million to 40 million in the last century.

Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is the home of Kibera, which is one of the world’ s largest city slums. Between 170,000 and 1 million locals are said to live in the slum. The UNHCR base in Dadaab in the north is also currently home to around 500,000 people.

Ethnic groups

Kenya has a diverse population that includes most of Africa’s major ethnic and linguistic groups. There are an estimated 47 different communities, with Bantus (67%) and Nilotes (30%) making up the majority of the local population. Cushitic groups form a small ethnic minority, as do Arabs, Indians and Europeans.

There are 42 tribes in Kenya and some of the main ethnic groups are represented as follows Kikuyu22%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 12%, Kamba 11%, Kisii 6%, Meru 6%, 15% other African and the remaining 1% non-African ( from Asia, Europe and the Arab world).


The majority of Kenyans are Christians (83%), with 47.7% considering themselves to be Protestant and 23.5% Latin rite Catholics. There are 3 million followers of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa in Kenya and in neighbouring countries. 621,200 Kenyans are Orthodox Christians, and there are smaller conservative Reformed Churches, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Africa, the Kenya Independent Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Church of East Africa. Kenya is notably the country with the largest number of Quakers in the world, with approximately 133,000 members. The country’s only Jewish synagogue is located in the capital, Nairobi.

There are minorities of other faiths (Muslims 11.2%, indigenous beliefs 1.7%) and non-religious minorities 2.4%. Sixty percent of the Muslim population lives in the coastal region of Kenya, which accounts for 50% of the total population of the region. About 4% of Muslims are Ahmadiyya, 8% Shia and 8% nonreligious, while 73% are Sunni. The western parts of the coastal region are predominantly ChristianUpper Eastern Kenya is inhabited by 10% of the nation’s Muslim population, who form the majority religious group. In addition, Kenya has a large Hindu population (about 300,000 people), which has played a key role in the local economy; most of them are of Indian origin.

Climate in Kenya

Kenya has a wide range of tropical climates. It is hot and humid on the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and north-east of the country. The country receives plenty of sunshine all year round and summer clothing is worn all year round. It is usually chilly at night and in the early morning. Being at high altitude, Nairobi can be very cold even during the day during the period from June to August. The long rainy season takes place from April to June. The short rainy season takes place from October to December. Rainfall is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoon and evening. The hottest time of year is between February and March while the coldest is between July and August.

The annual animal migration – especially the migration of the wildebeest – takes place between June and September, with millions of animals taking part. It is a popular event that is captured by film makers.

Geography of Kenya

With 580,367 km2 (224,081 square miles) Kenya is the forty-seventh country in the world (after Madagascar). It is situated between the latitude 5°N and 5°S and the longitude 34° and 42°E. From the Indian Ocean coast, the lowlands rise to the central highlands. This highlands are divided in half by the Great Rift Valley, and a fertile plateau to the east.

Its highland is considered one of the most productive agricultural regions in Africa. The highlands are home to Kenya’s highest point and the second highest peak on the continent: Mount Kenya, which reaches 5,199 m (17,057 ft) and is covered by glaciers. Kilimanjaro (5,895 m or 19,341 ft) can be viewed from Kenya south of the Tanzanian border.

Wildlife in Kenya

Kenya has a considerable amount of land that provides habitat for wildlife, including the Masai Mara, where blue wildebeest and other cattle participate in an important annual migration. There are over a million wildebeest as well as 200,000 zebras participating as they migrate through the Mara River.

Africa’s “big five” animals – lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant – are mainly found in Kenya and the Masai Mara. The country’s national parks and game reserves are home to a large population of other wildlife, reptiles and birds. The annual wildlife migration takes place between June and September and millions of animals participate, attracting valuable foreign tourism. Two million wildebeest migrate clockwise in search of food and water over a distance of 2,900 kilometres, from the Serengeti in neighbouring Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya. This migration of the Serengeti wildebeest is a curious sight among the seven natural wonders of Africa.

Economy of Kenya

Although Kenya is the largest and most advanced economy in East and Central Africa and has a wealthy urban minority, it has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.519, which is 145th out of 186 in the world. In 2005, 17.7% of Kenyans were living on less than $1.25 a day. One third of people’s income is spent on bribes, which averages sixteen bribes per month per Kenyan.  Agriculture, a key sector, is among the least developed and mostly non-efficient sectors, which employ 75% of the workforce, as compared to less than 3% in the food-safe developed countries. Kenya is generally classified as a border market, sometimes an emerging market, but it is not one of the poorest countries.

Its economy has been expanding rapidly, as reflected in strong performances in the areas of tourism, higher education as well as telecommunications, and satisfactory results after the drought in agriculture, particularly in the essential tea sector. Kenya’s economy grew by more than 7% in 2007 and foreign debt has been greatly reduced.  However, this changed immediately after the disputed presidential elections in December 2007, following the chaos that swept the country.

The largest economy in East and Central Africa has experienced tremendous growth in the services sector, boosted by the rapid expansion of telecommunications and financial activities over the last decade and now accounts for 62% of GDP. 22% of GDP continues to come from the unreliable agricultural sector, which employs 75% of the labour force (a persistent feature of underdeveloped economies that have not achieved food security – an important catalyst for economic growth) A small proportion of the population is dependent on food aid Industry and manufacturing is the smallest sector, accounting for 16% of GDP. Manufacturing, services and industry only employ 25% of the work force, while generating 75% of GDP.

The privatisation of state-owned enterprises such as the defunct Kenya Post and Telecommunications Company, which created the most profitable company in East Africa – Safaricom – has led to their revival thanks to massive private investment.

From May 2011, the economic outlook is positive with GDP growth expected to reach 4-5%, mainly due to expansion in tourism, telecommunications, transport, construction and a recovery in agriculture. The World Bank estimates growth at 4.3% in 2012.

The Presidents of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda relaunched the East African Community (EAC) in March 1996. The EAC’s objectives include the harmonisation of tariffs and customs systems, the free movement of persons and the improvement of regional infrastructure. In March 2004 the three East African countries signed an agreement on a customs union.

Kenya is East and Central Africa’s financial services hub. The Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) ranks fourth in Africa in terms of market capitalisation and the Kenyan banking system is supervised by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK).At the end of July 2004, the system consisted of 43 commercial banks (compared to 48 in 2001), several non-bank financial institutions, including mortgage companies, four savings and loan associations and several central foreign exchange offices.

How To Get in Kenya

By planeKenya Airways (KQ) is the national airline and one of the largest and most renowned in Africa. KQ has numerous regional (e.g. to Johannesburg, Harare, Cairo, Entebbe, Accra, etc.) and international (e.g. to Dubai, London, Amsterdam, Mumbai, etc.) connections. It is also an associate member of SkyTeam.Kenya has...

How To Get Around in Kenya

With planeMost international visitors will arrive via Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) (NBO). If you are already in Nairobi and need to drive to the airport, please allow at least 2 hours as the main road to the airport is very busy and security checks are lengthy.Kenya Airways...

Visa & Passport Requirements for Kenya

No visa is required for the following nationalities: Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Burundi, Cyprus, Dominica, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gambia, Grenada, Grenadines, Ghana, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia*, Maldives, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa*, St....

Accommodation & Hotels in Kenya

There is a wide range of tourist hotels in Nairobi, from backpacker campsites (Upper Hill campsite on Hospital Road) to five-star establishments such as the Norfolk Hotel. There are a number of other guesthouses that offer private rooms with shared bathrooms and self-catering rooms for between €1,000 and €4,000...

Destinations in Kenya

CitiesNairobi - Kenya's capital and economic centreGarissa - a predominantly Muslim town in the east, near Somalia.Kisumu - the largest city in the west, on the shores of Lake VictoriaLamu - Main town of the Lamu archipelagoLodwar - to the north, on the main road to southern Sudan with...

Weather & Climate in Kenya

The climate in Kenya varies depending on the location and ranges from generally cool to always warm. The climate along the coast is tropical. This means that rainfall and temperatures are higher throughout the year. In the coastal cities of Mombasa, Lamu and Malindi, the air changes from cool...

Things To See in Kenya

Kenya has some of the best hunting reserves in the world where you can go on safari and see some of Africa's finest species of flora and fauna. The parks are famous for lions, giraffes, elephants and huge herds of zebra, wildebeest and buffalo. It is advisable to seek...

Things To Do in Kenya

Observe wildlife migration. Go on safari in the country's many parks and reserves. If you have a busy schedule, go on safari in Nairobi National Park, which is less than 20 minutes drive from Nairobi's Central Business District (CBD). Main attractions : Big cats like lions and leopards, buffalo,...

Money & Shopping in Kenya

Kenya is famous for many handicrafts that are often the signature of a particular tribe or region. You will find Kisii (soapstone) stone carvings, Masai jewellery, Mkonde wood carvings, Lamu chairs and batik objects. You will probably find the largest selection of handicrafts at the Maasai market, which rotates...

Food & Drink in Kenya

FoodThere are many different cuisines and types of restaurants in Kenyan cities, from fast food to high-end western cuisine. Kenyan cuisine varies greatly from one ethnic group to another, but the staples are ugali (corn dough), pilau rice, cabbage vegetables, chapati (Indian flat bread) and grilled food (usually chicken,...

Traditions & Customs in Kenya

Although Kenya is predominantly Christian and reasonably liberal, there are areas with a strong Muslim influence, such as the coastal regions, where it is considered indecent to wear short dresses. This is also true in Christian rural areas. However, the inhabitants are extremely friendly.Beachwear is accepted on the beach,...

Internet & Communications in Kenya

InternetInternet cafés are common throughout Kenya and usually offer decent connection quality. Expect prices around 0.50c/1KSh per minute. Most internet cafés now charge 0.50c KES per minute.Mobile providersSafaricom, Airtel, Orange Telkom and YU: After buying a starter SIM card, you can go online immediately if you have an internet-capable...

Language & Phrasebook in Kenya

English and Swahili are the two official languages. As Kenya is a diverse country with over 40 ethnic groups and 60 languages, most Kenyans are multilingual and speak their own ethnic language along with Swahili, which is the preferred language for inter-ethnic communication. Most people, especially in urban areas,...

Culture in Kenya

Kenya's culture consists of a variety of traditions. Kenya does not have a single outstanding culture that identifies it. Instead, it is made up of the different cultures of the country's diverse communities.Notable groups include the Swahili people in the coastal areas, a number of other Bantu groups in...

History Of Kenya

Swahili Culture and Trade (1st century-19th century)On the Kenyan coast there were communities of iron traders and the Bantu subsistence farmers, hunters and fishermen whose economy was supported by agriculture, fishing, metal production and foreign trade. These communities formed the early city-states of the region and were collectively known...

Stay Safe & Healthy in Kenya

Stay safeAlthough Kenya is generally safe, there have been recurrent outbreaks of jihadist activity as well as the uncharacteristic post-election violence in January 2008 following a disputed presidential election result.Stay alert when walking or driving through Nairobi. You should always make sure you are aware of your surroundings and,...



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