Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Kenya travel guide - Travel S Helper


travel guide

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.

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Kenya - Info Card




Kenyan shilling (KES)

Time zone

UTC+3 (East Africa Time)


580,367 km2 (224,081 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language

English - Swahili

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.

Best Time to Visit Kenya

On the coast, the best months for a beach vacation are August and September, as these are the coolest months, but also the sunniest, with hardly any rain. If you want, you can also choose January and February, which are the driest months of the year, but also the hottest and most humid; on the other hand, in these months the sea is calmer and clearer and therefore best for diving.

If you want to visit the dry region, July and August are the least hot months, although there is not much difference with the rest of the year: the heat is always intense.

For a safari in the national parks and highlands, you can choose between two periods: June-September and January-February. In the first period, the risk of afternoon and evening showers is higher in the high altitudes, and in the second, the risk of intense heat is higher in the low altitudes. However, since it can be cool throughout the year in the early hours of the day and at high altitudes, it is best to dress in layers.

It is useful to remember that the equatorial sun is very strong and is even stronger at high altitudes; the sun is strongest during the two months when it passes directly over our heads at noon, i.e., March and September.

The days last about 12 hours all year round, so the sun rises at 6 am and sets at 6 pm and is used as a clock by the local population.

The worst period is the long rainy season, from March to May inland and from April to June on the coast, with a peak in April inland and in May on the coast: this is usually the wettest period and the one with the greatest risk of flooding.

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

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 to warm almost every day.

The farther Kenya is from the coast, the drier the climate becomes. In an arid climate, there is almost no rainfall, and the temperature varies considerably depending on the general time of day and night. In many parts of Kenya, the daytime temperature increases by about 12°C (equivalent to about 22°F) almost daily.

Elevation is the main factor in temperature levels, with the highest areas averaging 20°F (11°C) cooler, both during the day and at night. In the many cities that are more than a kilometer high, there are temperature variations of about 50-79°F (10-26°C). In Nairobi, at 1,798 meters, temperatures range from 9 to 27°C (50-79°F); in Kitale, at 1,825 meters, temperatures range from 11 to 28°C (50-79°F). Heavy clothing or blankets are required at night in the highlands, when the temperature drops to about 10-12 °C each night.

At low altitudes, the temperature rise is like day and night, literally: like starting the morning with the highest point of the day on the highlands and then adding back the heat of the day. Thus, low night temperatures near sea level are almost identical to high temperatures on the Kenyan highlands. In locations across the Indian Ocean, on the other hand, there are generally more moderate temperatures, for example, in Mombasa

There are slight seasonal variations in temperature, from 4°C or 7.2°F, cooler in winter. Although Kenya is located on the equator, it has the same seasons as the Southern Hemisphere: the hottest summer months are in December-March and the coolest winter months are in June-August, although again, temperature variations vary across the country.

On the high mountains, such as Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon and Kilimanjaro, it can get very cold almost all year round. Snowfall sometimes occurs on the highest mountains.

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

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.

Internet & Communications In Kenya


Internet 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 providers

Safaricom, Airtel, Orange Telkom and YU: After buying a starter SIM card, you can go online immediately if you have an internet-capable mobile phone or modem. If you use your account credit for access, however, the prices are steep. It’s much cheaper to buy a data package, and the more expensive ones offer a much better price/limit ratio. For example, in January 2016, a 2GB data package costs KES 1000.00 from Orange Telkom, while a 3GB from Safaricom costs 1000.00. A SIM card costs between KES 50-100.

You will need to show valid identification as it is a legal requirement that all SIM cards must be registered.

You can purchase the packages by topping up your account with scratch cards and then dialling *100# or *544# (Safaricom and Airtel), *124# (Orange Telkom). Be warned: once the data package is used up, internet access is via a fallback method using your current account balance, which is much more expensive.

Language 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, are also proficient in English, but this varies depending on their level of education. Efforts to communicate in Swahili are generally appreciated by Kenyans and can be of great benefit in more rural areas where English is less common.

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.

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. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (Countries marked with an “*” are limited to a 30-day visa-free stay; a visa is required for longer stays).

For citizens of other countries/territories, pre-departure visas can be obtained from a Kenyan embassy or consulate and are valid for 6 months from the date of issue. Current costs for tourist visas are: USD/€20/GBP10 (transit), USD/€40/GBP30 (single entry) and USD 100 (multiple entry). Unlike visas from other countries, the Kenyan visa application is short (1 page) and not very detailed, and is processed in 10 days, and in 12-16 days during the high season from May to August.

  • Visas can now be applied for in advance online via the Kenyan government‘s eVisa portal.
  • Visas are also available on arrival at international airports and borders for almost all nationalities.
  • Make sure you are in the right queue at the airport to avoid extra waiting. No photo is required, just pay £50 or £30 in cash.
  • Nationals of the following countries are not entitled to an entry visa and must apply for one in advance:

Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cameroon, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mali, North Korea, Senegal, Somalia, Syria, Palestine, Tajikistan.

If you need a visa to enter Kenya, you can apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you are legally resident if there is no Kenyan mission abroad. For instance, the Embassy of the United Kingdom in AlmatyBelgrade, Budapest, Guatemala CityJakartaPrague, Pristina, Rabat, Riga, Sofia, TallinnViennaWarsaw and Zagreb accept applications for Kenyan visas. British diplomatic missions charge GBP 50 for processing a Kenyan visa application and an additional GBP 70 if the Kenyan authorities require the visa application to be forwarded to them. The Kenyan authorities may also charge an additional fee if they correspond directly with you. Single entry visa holders can effectively re-enter Kenya if they have only travelled to Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda and declare this on their return to Kenya by providing proof of their passport stamps.

  • There is now also the 90-day (multiple entry) East African visa, which is valid for Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and costs US$100.

How To Get in Kenya

Get In - By plane

Kenya 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 3 international airports:

  • Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) in Nairobi. About 20 minutes from the main business district.
  • Moi International Airport in Mombasa.
  • Eldoret International Airport (local flights and cargo only).

Jomo Kenyatta is the main arrival point for visitors travelling to Kenya by air. There are excellent air links between KQ and major tourist destinations such as Mombasa, Kisumu and Malindi.

Fluggesellschaften, die NBO anfliegen, sind : Air Arabia, African Express Airways, Air Mauritius, Lufthansa, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, China southern airlines, Condor Airlines, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Fly Sax, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch, LAM Mozambique airlines, Jubba airways, Precision Air Tanzania, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, South African Airways, RwandAir, Swiss International Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Jombo Jet.

More and more airlines are flying to Kenya, and Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has become a hub for Central and East Africa. From Nairobi, Kenya Airways (among others) operates direct flights to Lagos, Nigeria, Bamako, Mali and several other countries in West Africa, including direct flights to Bangkok as well as connecting flights to Hong Kong and China.

Get In - By train

Train services are only available between Kenya’s two largest cities. There is no passenger train service linking Kenya to neighbouring countries, although freight lines exist and international passenger services are planned for the future. The SGR standard gauge railway (so called because it will be the first major standard gauge 1435 mm railway line in the region) is being built at a cost of nearly 0.5 trillion shillings, and will connect the country and the region seamlessly. Construction began in 2013 and is expected to connect Mombasa and Nairobi by 2017, after which other extensions are expected to come into service.

Get In - By car

Main roads are good, but secondary roads can be bad. All neighbouring countries are accessible: Ethiopia via the border town of Moyale, Uganda via Busia and Malaba, and Tanzania via Namanga and Lungarunga. Turkana, Marsabit, Moyale, Mandera, Garissa, Isiolo and parts of Ijara are considered insecure and vulnerable to banditry and terrorist attacks from Somalia. Before travelling to the northern region, check if there are any security instructions or if you need to arrange a security escort in advance.

Kenya’s major cities are relatively ideal for a drive. The public transport system is a bit chaotic, with matatus (7-seater vans, 9-seater vans, 26 and 33-seater minibuses) being the most popular forms of public transport. As public transport is generally inconvenient or irregular, it is advisable to rent a car or use a taxi.

Get In - By bus

There is a regular bus connection to/from the airport.

Nairobi (Kenya) & Arusha (Tanzania); Nairobi (Kenya) & Kampala (Uganda); Mombasa (Kenya) & Dar es Salaam (Tanzania); Kisumu (Kenya) & Kampala (Uganda) ;

The modern Coast Express has buses of:

  • from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam at a cost of Ksh 3250.
  • From Nairobi to Kampala. Rates from Ksh2400. 4 times a day.
  • From Nairobi to Jinja. Rates from Ksh2000.
  • From Nairobi to Kigali. Rates from Ksh3700.
  • From Nairobi to Arusha. Rates from Ksh1100.
  • From Nairobi to Moshi. Rates from Ksh1300.
  • From Nairobi to Mwanza. Rates from Ksh1500.
  • From Mombasa to Dar es Salaam. Rates from Ksh1200.
  • From Mombasa to Tanga. Rates from Ksh800.
  • Kisuma in Kampala. Tariff of Ksh1500. 3 times a day

Get In - By boat

It is limited to Lake Victoria (e.g. from Mwanza in Tanzania to Bukoba in Tanzania) and the coastal zone (e.g. Mombasa-Zanzibar cruises).

How To Get Around in Kenya

Get Around - With plane

Most 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 (KQ) offers most scheduled flights from JKIA and daily scheduled flights to the following destinations: Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu and Kisumu. A return flight from Nairobi to Mombasa costs around Ksh 11,000 and bookings are available online. Check-in is 45 minutes before departure for local flights and 2 hours for international flights. Be careful of announcements while in JKIA Unit 3 as passengers on different flights are put in the same waiting area.

If you are travelling to Nairobi from another destination and using Kenya Airways during the peak tourist season (July-September, December-February), please note that KQ flights are often delayed and priority is given to international connecting passengers, Platinum frequent flyer card holders and first class passengers.

The low-cost airline Jambojet also operates flights from JKIA and offers regular services to Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu, Kisumu, Eldoret and Ukunda (Diani). Plans to extend the service to the East African region are being developed. A one-way flight from Nairobi to Mombasa costs Kshs. 2950 ($34). You get 10 kg of hand luggage free. It is best to book online with Visa/Mastercard.

Another airline, Airkenya, flies between Nairobi’s Wilson Airport and Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu, Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara, Meru, Nanyuki and Samburu. The lounge has a cafe in the dormitory. Check-in can be made up to 15 minutes before departure. Wilson Airport was once the busiest airport in Africa outside South Africa and remains an important hub for local flights to Kenya’s nature reserves and cities in neighbouring countries. Anyone using Airkenya is advised to lock their checked luggage. There have been cases where things have gone missing from luggage while in the custody of Airkenya.

Jetlink provides the link between Nairobi and Mombasa, Eldoret and Kisumu.

Most charter tourists go directly to one of the coastal airports in Mombasa or Malindi.

Get Around - With bus

Kenya has a network of long-distance bus lines. The speed limit is 80 km/h and the roads can be very bumpy and dusty. Make sure you choose a comfortable bus company with a good reputation for long journeys. Kenyan buses only run during the day.

Local buses in the city are operated by private companies, such as the green and yellow Citi Hoppa, which provide transport at reasonable prices ( typically around US$0.66). They regularly travel to and from the suburbs of Nairobi City. They generally offer 20 to 35 seats (standing is not allowed by law) and are a cleaner and less hectic mode of transport than matatus, although they use many of the same routes.

Get Around - With Matatu

The Matatus are a very cheap and fast means of transport in all major cities and many rural areas. The name matatu comes from the Kiswahili word for the number three – tatu – because some time ago the standard fare was three dimes.

The Matatus are private minibuses, usually for 14 or 25 passengers, which travel short and medium distances. Some are poorly maintained and many end up with intriguing and colourful decors – usually world icons in sports and music, designer labels, among others – which is an important feature of Kenyan urban culture.

Travelling in matatu can be extremely risky as vehicles are often very poorly driven, with matatu drivers sneaking into traffic and stopping at the roadside for passengers when called. Matatu used to be considerably overcrowded – up to 25 people in a 14-seater vehicle – but in recent years, government regulation and control of matatu has increased, particularly in large cities. Today, most matatus are equipped with seat belts and do not exceed the declared capacity of the vehicle.

An unfortunate side-effect of the improved regulations is the loss of individuality and character of some vehicles, and drivers and conductors are now required to wear special uniforms. Tourists must ensure that they wear designated seat belts if they do not want to be taken on an unpleasant and unexpected journey between the roadside checkpoint and the police station. All of these new rules are intended to make the roads safer for passengers, and matatu drivers have gone on strike several times to oppose the new traffic rules.

Although most matatu are on fixed routes, outside the big cities it is often possible to hire a matatu on site as a taxi to get to the desired destination. Make sure you have confirmed the negotiated price and exact destination before the vehicle goes anywhere, otherwise you could find yourself at the mercy of an indignant matatu driver in the darkest parts of Nairobi at night.

In January 2013, the government ordered that a cashless system be introduced by 1 July 2014. Surprisingly, this could well happen, as the president of the Matatu homeowners’ association said at the end of May 2014 that they were losing too much of their income due to corruption by traffic police and robbery officers: “We are losing more than 30% of our income every day. For a long time there were no rules for Matatu’s business, but we hope that now we will find a solution. “

Get Around - With train

The Kenya-Uganda railway starts in Mombasa and passes through Nairobi to reach Kampala, Uganda. It is the famous “Lunatic Express” and was also featured in Val Kilmer & Michael Douglas’ film “The Ghost and the Darkness”. The train is extremely slow and is usually late. The speed of the train is due to the old narrow gauge track installed by the colonial authorities, which was not improved during the 50 years of independence. Currently, the only train service is the Nairobi-Mombasa line, which runs three times a week.

Get Around - With the rental car

Most of the world’s rental agencies have offices in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, which offer reliable cars with a comprehensive back-up network. Cheaper cars can also be rented from local dealerships, which are generally reliable. However, it is always a good idea to do a background check before paying a deposit. When renting a car, whatever the make, always pay attention to the different dents or conditions of the car as this can be contentious, especially if a ‘refundable’ deposit has been posted.

It is quite convenient to rent a car online and pick it up at the airport upon arrival. The minimum age to drive a car in Kenya is 18 years old. To be able to rent a car you must be at least 23 years old and have at least 2 years driving experience. Other rules to follow are as follows: Drive on the left side of the road, talking with a mobile phone is prohibited, seatbelts must be worn and drivers must always carry a valid driver’s license. Make sure that the car you rent is covered by up-to-date comprehensive and liability insurance, usually posted on the upper left side of the windshield. If you are renting a car for cross-border journeys, you may need to take out additional insurance and carry the original vehicle logbook.

The CBD in Nairobi is very busy and it is difficult to find parking during working hours. If it is possible, you should avoid going to the CBD on weekdays. However, the roads outside the city are relatively easy to navigate and pleasant. Kenya offers beautiful scenery and most roads connecting the major cities are in good condition. However, smaller roads can be dilapidated and you may need to hire a 4×4 to get there. A good map is essential and if you are driving to a wildlife park or other wildlife area, a GPS would be very useful. Signs are rare and you are never sure you are on the right road, resulting in many wrong turns and detours.

Some car rental companies offer free extras, such as a mobile phone with a local number. Other paid extras include extra GPS, child seats, camping equipment, a roof tent and a driver.

Most car rental agencies offer cars of all sizes, with Japanese models dominating. All bookings can be made in English, with some rental companies also offering bookings in French, German, Chinese and Spanish. International car rental companies such as Europcar, SixtBudget, Avis and Hertz offer car rental services in Kenya. Local car hire companies such as Hire N’ Drive, Elite Car Rental, Offroad Car Hire, Afford Car Hire and Davina Cabs tend to be very competitive and professional.

Destinations in Kenya

Cities in Kenya

  • Nairobi – Kenya’s capital and economic centre
  • Garissa – a predominantly Muslim town in the east, near Somalia.
  • Kisumu – the largest city in the west, on the shores of Lake Victoria
  • Lamu – Main town of the Lamu archipelago
  • Lodwar – to the north, on the main road to southern Sudan with access to Lake Turkana
  • Malindi – Vasco Da Gama’s landing point in Kenya
  • Meru – a town located near the base of Mount Kenya. It is the crossroads for the journey to Nairobi.
  • Mombasa – historic port on the Indian Ocean and probably the longest continuously populated city in Africa.
  • Nakuru – National Park of Lake Nakuru and the Extinct Volcano (Menengai)

Other destinations in Kenya

  • Aberdare National Park – a cool and cloudy national park with lots of big game and over 250 recorded bird species.
  • Amboseli National Park – a swampy park in the Maasai lowlands that is one of the best places in all of Africa to see large mammals, especially elephants.
  • Lake Nakuru National Park – 400 species of birds have been recorded here, including the largest flocks of flamingos in the world.
  • Maasai Mara National Park – probably Kenya’s most popular reserve due to the high concentration of big cats.
  • Mount Kenya National Park – a challenging trek to the high peaks
  • Nairobi National Park – convenient to travel to Nairobi and an excellent option to see big game for those on a tight schedule.
  • Tsavo East National Park – large game park on the main road from Nairobi to Mombasa
  • Tsavo West National Park –
  • Sibiloi National Park
  • Mount Elgon National Park

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 per night. As long as you don’t mind basic accommodation, you should not spend more than $100/night in a hotel or hostel. In less touristy areas, you can find accommodation for as little as US$5 per night. However, beware of bed bugs – it may be wise to buy insect repellent and bring your own bedding if you plan to travel very cheaply. There are also the international chains Intercontinental and Hilton, as well as some very reputable local chains (Serena and Sarova Hotels). Small hostels and accommodation are ubiquitous in the central areas of the cities for little money, although they are rarely safe as in high crime areas.

Stays with host families are gaining in popularity. One of the reasons is that you can experience Kenyan culture in a deeper and more meaningful way. Most homes charge around $20 per night, including meals. For some, linen is also included in the price.

People who stay longer can rent accommodation; prices range from “international style” rentals by a real estate agency for $150 or more per month, to private furnished flats, from $50 to $100 per month, to “local” accommodation, usually unfurnished, with prices ranging from Ksh 5-7,000 per month with windows, water and electricity, to Ksh 500 per month without windows, no electricity, noisy neighbours, mosquitoes and shared access to a tap. To find privately rented accommodation, you need to find out – taxi drivers, shopkeepers, merchants, all could save you the brokerage fees.

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 out tour operators before choosing one to see what is currently on offer, who you are friendly with and get a competitive price.

The annual wildebeest migration (from the Maasai Mara to the Serengeti) is a breathtaking spectacle and is best experienced on a balloon safari. Reservations to attend the migration should be made months in advance at best due to the high demand and limited accommodation in the Mara. Migration takes place in August and September.

Kenya is also a prime destination for beach holidays, with several along the coastal regions and the city of Mombasa. Other coastal towns worth visiting are Lamu and Malindi.

Kenya is also becoming a holiday destination for golfers, with an abundance of beautiful courses around major urban areas. Entrance fees range from $15 to $40 per round, plus $5 to $7 for the caddy.

Northern Kenya is home to spectacular tribes who lead a very traditional way of life. You can meet these remarkable societies near and around the main road leading to northern Ethiopia (the A2 which passes through Marsabit and leads to Moyale on the Ethiopian border), as well as to the west of it in places like Wamba, Maralal, Baragoi, Korr, Kargi, South Horr, and so on.

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, a variety of antelope species, baboons, monkeys and more.
  • If you prefer to spend some time on the urban social scene, you might consider attending music and cultural events such as Blankets and Wine, where various international and local artists perform in a picnic atmosphere so that families and friends can enjoy African talent. The event takes place once a month in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi (every first Sunday of the month).
  • The Rift Valley Festival combines a camping experience with a sampling of cultural and musical flavours from across the country and abroad.
  • The Samosa Festival is an event that aims to significantly integrate Asian and African culture in the country. A significant percentage of the urban population is of Asian (Indian) origin and existed before independence. Their immigration was triggered by the construction of the railway.This event will present culinary delights from both cultures, poetry and literature (spoken and written), music and games.
  • The week-long Maulid Festival can only be held in the coastal region, especially in the timeless town of Lamu, where the majority of the population is Muslim. It is the only event that everyone in the region is looking forward to.
  • The three big cities also have a number of nightclubs that play local and international music. Although the experience can be exhilarating, it is advisable to enjoy it in the company of a guide or trusted local. As in any other country with a nightlife, nightclubs also attract unreliable partygoers and clubbers, but this should not spoil your experience, as nightclubs are also popular meeting places for singles and new friends.

Food & Drinks in Kenya

Food in Kenya

There 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, beef or goat). Fresh produce is also available at the street food stalls, which offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables depending on the season. Street food is also worth a try and is generally safe. Typical dishes are mandazi (a sweet bread-like fritter), grilled corn with chilli and samosas.

There are many restaurants catering to foreigners in Nairobi city centre and in the Westlands, Hurlingham, Kilimiani and Lavington areas. There are Italian, Brazilian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, German and French restaurants. The Westlands also has a high concentration of Indian cuisine due to the large Kenyan and Indian community in the area.

Drinks in Kenya

The Kenyan beer is excellent and has won several international awards. The local favourite is Tusker, a brand of the East African Breweries Company. Imported beers are available but not very popular due to high retail prices caused by import duties and local people’s loyalty to their own products. In recent years, breweries such as Brew Bistro and Sierra in Nairobi have taken the initiative to offer Kenyans their own products, which has attracted the attention of expatriates and tourists because of the sweetness of their creations.

A wide range of imported and locally produced wines and spirits are available. It is advisable to avoid local beers such as “changaa” and “busaa”, which are illegal, brewed in unhygienic conditions and whose consumption has led to many deaths. It may be useful to remember that “changaa” literally means “kill me quickly” before deciding whether or not to drink a glass of the drink offered.

There is an excellent selection of soft drinks, mainly from the Coca-Cola stable, but also try the locally produced Stoney “Tangawizi” Ginger Ale.

It should also be noted, as is common in many African countries, that when you return an empty glass drink bottle to certain traders, they will refund part of the price you paid, called a deposit, which covers the cost of the lost bottles.

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 and is located in various places in Nairobi. On Sundays, for example, it is at the Yaya Centre near Hurlingham, and on Saturdays it is in the central business district near the Ministry of Justice car park.

On Fridays, they are at the market in the village of Gigiri, near UN headquarters. Gigiri, like Yaya Centre, is a well-to-do suburb, so the vendors price their goods accordingly. There is also a good selection of craft shops in Mombasa, where the atmosphere is a little more relaxed. However, the best prices are obtained by buying directly from the artisans in their rural villages.

In addition to typical souvenirs, such as wood carvings, it may be worth buying one of the large books containing photos of wildlife, nature or culture.

Don’t forget to listen to and buy local Kenyan music. Reggae is also very common on the Matatu rides.

The currency is the Kenyan shilling (KES), which can be divided into 100 cents. From April 2016: 1 USD = 101.44 KES and 1 GBP = 145.61 KES.

  • Equity Bank’s ATMs accept Visa/MasterCard/American Express/JCB.
  • The MasterCard/Visa can be used at all ATMs of Barclays BankCFC StanbicKenya Commercial Bank, GT Bank, I & M Bank, Equity Bank and ECO Bank.

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, but not when walking around town. Although some hotels allow topless or nude sunbathing, these are in restricted areas and not in public places.

Kissing or fondling is not popular in public, although young Kenyans do it widely in nightclubs.

Homosexuality is prohibited in law, but it is practised in secret. Any open manifestation of homosexuality (particularly in male-male relationships) can sometimes lead to open hostility. Although violent reactions are quite rare, it is best to be discreet when engaging in such activities with fellow travellers or locals. However, it is common to hold hands with a person of the same sex during a conversation.

For reasons of etiquette, it is necessary to obtain permission to photograph people.

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 the Central and Western parts of the country, as well as the Nilotic groups to the North West. The Maasai culture is well known for tourism, although they make up a relatively small part of Kenya’s population. They are known for their elaborate upper body adornment and jewellery.

Kenya also has an extensive music, television and theatre scene.


Kenya has a number of media outlets that broadcast domestically and worldwide. They cover news, business, sports and entertainment. Popular Kenyan newspapers are:

  • The Daily Nation; part of the Nation Media Group (NMG) (largest market share)
  • The Standard
  • The Star
  • The people
  • East Africa Weekly
  • Taifa Lion

Television stations based in Kenya include:

  • Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)
  • Citizens’ Television
  • Kenya Television Network (KTN)
  • NTV
  • Kiss TV
  • K24 television
  • Kass TV

All these terrestrial channels are transmitted via a digital TV signal DVB T2.


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is one of Kenya’s best-known writers. His novel “Weep Not, Child” depicts life in Kenya during the British occupation. The story describes in detail the impact of the Mau Mau on the lives of Kenyans. Its combination of themes – colonialism, education and love – has made it one of Africa’s best-known novels.

M.G. Vassanji’s 2003 novel The In-Between World of Vikram Lall won the 2003 Giller Prize, a fictional memoir of a Kenyan of Indian descent and his family adapting to the changing political circumstances in colonial and post-colonial Kenya.

In addition, the literary magazine Kwani? has been publishing contemporary Kenyan literature since 2003.


Kenya has a diverse assortment of popular music forms, in addition to the many types of folk music based on the diversity of over 40 regional languages.

Drums are the dominant instrument in popular Kenyan music. The drum beat is extremely complex and includes a mixture of both indigenous as well as imported rhythms. Popular Kenyan music usually involves the interplay of several voices and, more recently, striking guitar solos.

The lyrics are mostly in Kiswahili or English. There is also an emerging aspect of Lingala borrowed from Congolese musicians. Song lyrics are also written in local languages. Urban radio usually plays only English music, although there are also a number of vernacular radio stations.

Zilizopendwa is a genre of local urban music recorded in the 1960s, 70s and 80s by musicians such as Daudi Kabaka, Fadhili William and Sukuma Bin Ongaro, revered and enjoyed especially by the elderly – and popularised by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation’s Kiswahili service (formerly called Voice of Kenya or VOK).

The Isukuti is a powerful dance performed by the Luhya sub-tribes to the beat of a traditional drum called Isukuti on many occasions such as the birth of a child, a wedding and funerals. Other traditional dances include the Ohangla among the Luo, the Nzele among the Mijikenda, the Mugithi among the Kikuyu and the Taarab among the Swahili.

There is also a growing Christian gospel music scene in Kenya. Prominent local gospel musicians include the Kenyan Boys Choir.

Since the late 1960s, Benga music has been particularly popular in the area around Lake Victoria. The word benga is occasionally used for any kind of pop music. Bass, guitar and percussion are the usual instruments.


Kenya is active in several sports, including cricket, rally, football, rugby union and boxing. The country is best known for its dominance in middle and long distance athletics and has consistently produced Olympic and Commonwealth Games champions in various long distance disciplines, notably the 800m, 1,500m, 3,000m steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m and the marathon. Kenyan athletes (especially Kalenjin) still dominate the world of long-distance running, although competition from Morocco and Ethiopia has reduced this supremacy. Among the best-known Kenyan athletes are four-time Boston Marathon women’s winner and two-time world champion Catherine Ndereba, 800m world record holder David Rudisha, former marathon world record holder Paul Tergat and John Ngugi.

Kenya was the most successful African country in the 2008 Olympic Games, winning multiple medals at the Beijing Olympics – 6 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze medals. New athletes attracted attention, such as Pamela Jelimo, the women’s 800m gold medallist who went on to win the IAAF Golden League jackpot, and Samuel Wanjiru, who won the men’s marathon. Former Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Kipchoge Keino helped usher in Kenya’s enduring long-distance dynasty in the 1970s, followed by Commonwealth champion Henry Rono’s spectacular string of world record performances. Recently, there has been controversy in Kenyan athletics circles as a number of Kenyan athletes have migrated to represent other countries, most notably Bahrain and Qatar. Despite the Kenyan sports ministry trying to stop the breakaway, they continue anyway, with Bernard Lagat most recently choosing to represent the USA. Most of these departures are for economic or financial reasons. The Kenyan government’s decision to tax athletes’ earnings may also be a reason for the exodus.

The Kenyan women’s volleyball team is the dominant force in Africa. Both the clubs and the national team have won various continental championships in the last decade. The women’s team has participated in the Olympic Games and World Championships, but without significant success. Another popular sport is cricket, which is also one of the most successful team sports. Kenya has participated in the Cricket World Cup since 1996. They have beaten some of the best teams in the world and reached the semi-finals of the tournament in 2003. They won the inaugural World Cricket League Division 1 held in Nairobi and participated in the World T20. They also participated in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Their current captain is Rakep Patel.

Kenya is represented by professional rugby league player Lucas Onyango, who plays for Oldham Roughyeds. Apart from the former European Super League team, he has played for Widnes Vikings and Rugby Union at Sale Sharks. Rugby Union is growing in popularity, especially with the annual Safari Sevens tournament. The Kenya Sevens team finished 9th in the IRB Sevens World Series in the 2006 season. In 2016, Kenya defeated Fiji in the Singapore Sevens final and became the 2nd African country after South Africa to win the World Series. Also in football, Kenya was a regional power. However, its dominance was undermined by squabbles within the now defunct Kenya Football Association, which led to a suspension by FIFA that was lifted in March 2007.

On the rally scene, Kenya is home to the world-famous Safari Rally, widely regarded as one of the toughest rallies in the world. It was part of the World Rally Championship for many years until it was discontinued after the 2002 event due to financial difficulties. Some of the best rally drivers in the world have participated in and won the rally, such as Björn Waldegård, Hannu Mikkola, Tommi Mäkinen, Shekhar Mehta, Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae. Although the rally still runs annually as part of the Africa Rally Championship, the organisers hope to be included in the World Rally Championship again in the coming years.

Nairobi has hosted several major continental sporting events, including the 1993 FIBA Africa Championship, where Kenya’s national basketball team finished in the top four, their best performance to date.

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 as Azania.

In the 1st century AD, many of the city states such as Mombasa, Malindi and Zanzibar began to establish trade relations with the Arabs. This led to increasing economic growth of the Swahili states, the introduction of Islam, Arab influences on the Swahili Bantu language, cultural diffusion, and the Swahili city-states becoming part of a larger trade network. Many historians had long believed that the city-states were founded by Arab or Persian traders, but scholars now recognise that the city-states were an indigenous development that peaked around the 8th century.

The Kilwa Sultanate was a medieval sultanate centred in Kilwa in what is now Tanzania. At its height, its authority stretched the length of the Swahili coast, including Kenya. It is said to have been founded in the 10th century by Ali ibn al-Hassan Shirazi, a Persian sultan from Shiraz in southern Iran. Successive Swahili rulers built elaborate coral mosques and introduced copper coins.

The Swahili developed Mombasa into a major port city and established trade links with other nearby city-states as well as with trading centres in Persia, Arabia and even India. In the 15th century, the Portuguese traveller Duarte Barbosa claimed that “Mombasa is a place of great traffic, and has a good harbour, where there are always small boats of many kinds, and also large ships coming from Sofala, and others coming from Cambay and Melinde, and others sailing to the island of Zanzibar.”

Later in the 17th century, when the Swahili coast was conquered and came under direct rule of the Omani Arabs, the slave trade was expanded by the Omani Arabs to meet the needs of the plantations in Oman and Zanzibar. Initially, these traders came mainly from Oman, but later many came from Zanzibar (like Tippu Tip). In addition, in response to the disruption of the transatlantic slave trade by the British abolitionists, the Portuguese began to buy slaves from the Omani and Zanzibari traders.

Over the centuries, the Kenyan coast has hosted many merchants and explorers. Among the towns that line the Kenyan coast is the city of Malindi. It has been an important Swahili settlement since the 14th century and once competed with Mombasa for supremacy in the African Great Lakes region. Malindi had been traditionally considered a friendly seaport town for foreign powers: during the Ming Dynasty in 1414, the leading Chinese merchant and explorer, Zheng He, visited the East African coast during one of his last “treasure voyages”. The Malindi authorities welcomed the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498.

British Kenya (1888-1962)

Kenya’s colonial history begins with the establishment of a German protectorate over the coastal possessions of the Sultan of Zanzibar in 1885, followed by the arrival of the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1888. An incipient imperial rivalry was averted when Germany ceded its coastal possessions to Britain in 1890. This was followed by the construction of the Kenya-Uganda Railway, which ran through the country.

This was resisted by some ethnic groups – especially the Nandi led by Orkoiyot Koitalel Arap Samoei – for ten years, from 1890 to 1900, but eventually the British built the railway. The Nandi were the first ethnic group to be put in a native reserve to prevent them from interfering with the construction of the railway. In 1920, the East Africa Protectorate was turned into a colony and renamed after its highest mountain in Kenya.

During the period of railway construction, there was a significant influx of Indians who provided the bulk of the skilled labour needed for construction. Most of them and most of their descendants remained in Kenya afterwards and formed the core of several separate Indian communities, such as the Ismaili Muslim as well as the Sikh community.

During the construction of the railway through Tsavo, some of the Indian railway workers and local African workers were attacked by two lions known as Tsavo maneaters.

At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the governors of British East Africa (as the protectorate was commonly called) and German East Africa agreed on an armistice to keep the young colonies away from direct hostilities. Lieutenant Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck took command of the German forces, determined to tie up as many British resources as possible. Totally detached from Germany, von Lettow conducted an efficient guerrilla war, living off the land, and capturing British goods, while remaining undefeated. He finally surrendered in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) fourteen days after the armistice was signed in 1918.

To hunt von Lettow, the British used British Indian Army troops from India, but needed a large number of carriers to handle the massive logistics of transporting supplies far inland on foot. An aircraft carrier force was formed, which ultimately mobilised more than 400,000 Africans and contributed to their prolonged politicisation.

During the Second World War, Kenya was an important source of labour and agriculture for the United Kingdom. Kenya itself was the scene of fighting between Allied forces and Italian troops in 1940-41, when Italian troops invaded. Wajir and Malindi were also bombed.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the interior central highlands were settled by British and other European farmers who became prosperous through the cultivation of coffee and tea. (For an account of this period of change from a colonist’s perspective, see the Danish author Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke’s memoir Out of Africa, published in 1937). In the 1930s, some 30,000 white settlers lived in the area and gained a political voice through their contribution to the market economy.

More than a million Kikuyu people already lived in the Central Highlands, most of whom had no claims to land in the European sense but lived as migrant farmers. To protect their interests, the settlers banned coffee cultivation, introduced a hut tax, and the landless were granted less and less land in exchange for their labour. There was a massive exodus to the cities as their opportunities to make a living from the land diminished. In the 1950s, there were 80,000 white settlers in Kenya.

Princess Elizabeth with her husband Prince Philip was on holiday at the Treetop Hotel in Kenya in 1952 when her father, King George VI, passed away in his sleep. The young princess cut short her trip and immediately returned home to ascend the throne. In 1953 she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey. As British hunter and conservationist Jim Corbett (who accompanied the royal couple) put it, she went up a tree in Africa as a princess and came down as a queen.

Mau Mau Uprising (1952-1959)

From October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was in a state of emergency due to the Mau Mau uprising against British rule. The governor called for and received British and African troops, including the King’s African Rifles. The British began counter-insurgency operations. In May 1953, General Sir George Erskine took command as Commander-in-Chief of the colony’s forces, with the personal support of Winston Churchill.

Following the capture of Warlord Itote ( also known as General China) on 15th January 1954 and his subsequent interrogation, a deeper knowledge of the Mau Mau structure of command was established. The Anvil operation began on 24 April 1954, after several weeks of planning carried out by the Army under the approval from the War Council. The operation effectively placed Nairobi under military siege. Nairobi residents were searched and Mau Mau supporters were taken to internment camps. The Home Guard formed the core of the government’s strategy as it was composed of loyal Africans rather than foreign forces such as the British Army and the King’s African Rifles.

By the end of the state of emergency, the Home Guard had killed 4,686 Mau Mau, which was 42% of the total insurgents. The capture of Dedan Kimathi on 21 October 1956 in Nyeris marked the final defeat of the Mau Mau and essentially ended the military offensive. During this period, there were significant governmental changes in land tenure. The most important of these was the Swynnerton Plan, which was used both to reward the loyalists and to punish the Mau Mau.

Independent Kenya (1963)

The first direct elections for indigenous Kenyans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. In spite of the desire of the British to transfer their power to a more “moderate” indigenous rival, the government was formed by Jomo Kenyatta’s Kenya African National Union (KANU). The Colony of Kenya and the Protectorate of Kenya each ended on 12 December 1963 with the granting of independence to the whole of Kenya.

The British ceded sovereignty over the colony of Kenya.The Sultan of Zanzibar agreed that at the same time as the colony of Kenya became independent, he would also relinquish sovereignty over the Protectorate of Kenya, so that the whole of Kenya would be a sovereign, independent state. In this way, Kenya became an independent state under the Kenya Independence Act 1963 of the United Kingdom. On 12th December 1964, after exactly 12 months, the country became a republic under the name “Republic of Kenya”.

At the same time, the Kenyan army was fighting the Shifta War against ethnic Somali rebels who inhabited the Northern Frontier District and wanted to join their relatives in the Somali Republic in the north. A ceasefire was finally reached with the signing of the Arusha Memorandum in October 1967, but relative uncertainty prevailed until 1969. To prevent further invasions, Kenya signed a defence pact with Ethiopia in 1969, which is still in force today.

The Republic of Kenya was officially proclaimed on 12th December 1964 with Jomo Kenyatta inaugurated as the country’s 1st President.

Era Moi (1978-2002)

In 1978, following Kenyatta’s death, Daniel arap Moi became president. Daniel arap Moi retained the presidency as he had no opposing candidates in the 1979, 1983 (snap elections) and 1988 elections, all held under the one-party constitution. The 1983 elections were held a year earlier and were a direct result of a failed military coup attempt on 2 August 1982.

The failed coup was masterminded by a low-ranking air force soldier, Private Hezekiah Ochuka, and carried out mainly by air force soldiers. The coup was quickly put down by troops under the command of Chief of General Staff Mahamoud Mohamed, an experienced Somali military man. These included the General Service Unit (GSU) – a paramilitary wing of the police – and later the regular police.

After the Garissa massacre of 1980, Kenyan troops perpetrated the Wagalla massacre of thousands of civilians in Wajir County in 1984. An official investigation into the atrocities was later ordered in 2011.

The 1988 election saw the introduction of the mlolongo (queuing) system, whereby voters were expected to line up behind their favoured candidates instead of voting by secret ballot. This was considered to be the culmination of a highly non-democratic regime and led to a widespread demand for constitutional changes. Several controversial clauses, including one that allowed only one political party, were amended in the following years. In democratic multi-party elections in 1992 and 1997, Daniel arap Moi was re-elected.


In 2002, Moi was constitutionally disqualified from running and Mwai Kibaki, who ran for the opposition National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), was elected president. Anderson (2003) reports that the elections were judged free and fair by local and international observers and seemed to mark a turning point in Kenya’s democratic development.

Kenyans have rejected plans for the replacement of the 1963 independence constitution with a new one in 2005.

In mid-2011, two consecutive rainy periods led to the worst drought in East Africa in 60 years. The northwestern Turkana region was particularly affected and schools were closed as a result. According to reports, the crisis was over by early 2012 thanks to coordinated relief efforts. Subsequently, aid agencies shifted their focus to reconstruction activities such as digging irrigation canals and distributing plant seeds.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Kenya

Stay Safe in Kenya

Although 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, if possible, make sure you have a guide with you. Even in daylight, muggings are not uncommon on busy streets. Violent and sometimes fatal criminal assaults, including armed carjackings and house robberies/burglaries, can occur at any time and in any place, especially in Nairobi. Especially avoid walking after dark. Take a taxi if you can afford it, or a bus if you can’t, but be careful as most buses, even modern ones, tend to be overcrowded and can pose pickpocketing dangers.

Avoid ostentatious displays of wealth and property, especially tempting items such as cameras, mobile phones, laptops, MP3 players, etc. The bus from the airport to Nairobi city centre is a notorious target for pickpockets.

If you are unlucky and get mugged, a good tactic is to wave your arms and shout at the would-be robber. However, confrontations with armed robbers should be avoided – in this case, remember that your possessions are far less important than your life. Most criminals in Nairobi are more interested in a quick grab and getaway than a prolonged confrontation. Since robbery is often punishable by long prison sentences or even death, most muggers are deterred by a good show of force. As in any other city, it is quite possible to see and enjoy much of Nairobi without incident if you take sensible precautions.

The north of the country has a reputation for lawlessness and becomes more dangerous the closer one gets to the South Sudanese, Ethiopian and Somali borders. Armed robberies and kidnappings by shiftas (bandits) on the roads in these areas are common. Avoid travelling to this part of the country if possible and take extra precautions when travelling by car. Armed convoys are normal in this part of the country. Visitors to Lake Turkana (referred to as Lake Rudolf on the map) in the northwest and Lamu at the northern end of the coast should travel by air. Lodwar, Lokichokio (“Loki”) and Moyale are towns best avoided by casual travellers unless they have business with the humanitarian organisations based there.

Stay Healthy in Kenya

Protect yourself from mosquitoes as they transmit many diseases such as dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever. Get expert advice on malaria preventatives. Protect yourself from mosquito bites. Wear long sleeves and long trousers and use an effective insect repellent, for example one with DEET. When travelling to other East African countries, a yellow fever vaccination is compulsory (without it, you not only risk your health, but complications may arise and you may have to take a bribe when crossing the border). It can be administered at an affordable price at most reliable clinics and hospitals in Nairobi, but takes 10 days before it offers protection – so get vaccinated in advance!

Malaria prophylactics taken as tablets during travel can be very effective. Consult your doctor. The most commonly used prophylactics in this region are doxycycline (an antibiotic) and malarone (a combination of atovaquone and proguanil, also sold as Malanil). (Chloroquine is less useful due to a higher rate of tolerance. Mefloquine, also commonly known as Lariam, Mehram and Mefaquine, is associated with several side effects, such as a) a higher rate of mood disturbances and a smaller risk of serious neurological disorders).

If you get flu-like symptoms, including fever, joint pain and vomiting, see a doctor immediately. If no doctor is available, take a treatment dose of an appropriate antimalarial and go to hospital immediately. While public hospitals are somewhat cheaper, long waiting times and poor conditions and care in these facilities may make it worthwhile to go to a private clinic. Costs vary, but a typical trip to the hospital for malaria tests, doctor’s visit and medication costs USD 12-30, depending on the clinic. As malaria can become serious, a trip to the hospital is recommended at the first sign of malaria.

If you get such symptoms within twelve months of returning home, you should see a doctor very quickly and tell him immediately where you have been for the last year. Delaying treatment, even by a few hours, can lead to permanent brain and liver damage or death.

Do not have unprotected sex as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are a risk. The adult HIV prevalence rate in the country (15th in the world) is over 6.1% or 1 in 16 adults. Voluntary Testing and Counselling (VCT) clinics offer free testing and counselling for HIV/AIDS.

Cholera is another danger. If you are in affected areas, seek medical attention immediately and drink plenty of water.

All water should be treated, either by boiling or by purification tablets or filters. This applies to Nairobi as well as rural areas. Typhoid is a risk and as with malaria prophylaxis, vaccination is not 100% effective. It is advisable to buy bottled water to drink. It is available throughout the country. All fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly. Eating at roadside kiosks is part of the cultural experience that should not be missed, but be aware that such places do not always have the best hygienic conditions and stomach illnesses can occur.

It is advisable to take out travel and accident insurance.



South America


North America

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