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Kenya Tourist Information

Location: East Africa.
Time: GMT + 3.
Area: 582,646 sq km (224,961 sq miles).
Population: 34.7 million (CIA estimate 2006).
Population Density: 59.5 per sq km.
Capital: Nairobi. Population: 2.5 million (UN estimate 2003).

Kenya MapKenya shares borders with Ethiopia in the north, Sudan in the northwest, Uganda in the west, Tanzania in the south and Somalia in the northeast. To the east lies the Indian Ocean. The country is divided into four regions: the arid deserts of the north; the savannah lands of the south; the fertile lowlands along the coast; and highlands in the west, where the capital Nairobi is situated. Northwest of Nairobi runs the Rift Valley, dotted with lakes and containing the town of Nakuru, while further west the Aberdare National Park is overlooked by Mount Kenya (5,200m/17,000ft), which also is a national park. In the far northwest is Lake Turkana (formerly Lake Rudolph), and in the southwest is Kenya's share of Lake Victoria.

Kenya is a multicultural society; in the north live Somalis and the nomadic Hamitic peoples (Rendille, Samburu and Turkana), in the south and eastern lowlands are Kamba and Masai and the Luo live around Lake Victoria. The largest group is the Kikuyu who live in the central highlands and have traditionally been dominant in commerce and politics, although this is now changing. There are many other smaller groups and, although Kenya emphasises nationalism, tribal and cultural identity is a factor. A small European settler population remains in the highlands, involved in farming and commerce.

Republic: Gained independence from the UK in 1963.
Head of State: President Emilio Mwai Kibaki since 2002.

Recent History
President Mwai Kibaki claimed victory in controversial presidential elections in December 2007. His swearing-in for a second term in office prompted a wave of unrest across the country and 300 people were killed in the bloodshed that followed the polls. Opposition candidate Raila Odinga rejected Kibaki's victory and accused the government of rigging the result. International observers also expressed doubts about the poll, and called for an independent enquiry.

When President Kibaki's National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) won a parliamentary majority in 2002, he promised that his main objective would be to fight against corruption. However, both former and current ministers have become embroiled in a recent corruption scandal, involving a multi-million dollar scam. Furthermore, voters rejected a draft constitution in a referendum in late 2005. While the president presented it as a modernising measure, his opponents said that it would have left too much power in the hands of the president. Kibaki responded by sacking his entire cabinet and appointed new ministers.

Kiswahili is the national language and English is the official language. The terms Swahili and Kiswahili are used interchangeably, though the term Swahili normally refers to the people while Kiswahili refers to the language. There are over 42 ethnic languages spoken, including Kikuyu and Luo.

Mostly traditional but there is a sizeable Christian population (both Catholic and Protestant) and the majority of people living along the coast are Muslim.

Kenya Banking
Banks are open Monday to Friday from 0900 - 1500 and from 0900 - 1100 on the the first and last saturday of the month. Banks at the international airports are open 24 hours. ATMs are common in the main cities and generally work well. Credit cards are widely accepted.

Kenya Business Hours
Business hours are generally 9 - 5 and lunch is from 1- 2pm from Monday to Friday. Banks are open from 9 - 3 from Monday to Friday and some banks are open on Saturday morning from 9 - 11am. Banks at Jomo Kenyatta airport are open 24 hours.

Kenya Climate
The coastal area is tropical and the higher altitude areas are cooler. Rainfall can be expected between April to May (the long rains) and again between October and December. January to March is the dryer season and temperatures are generally higher. Snow is possible on Mount Kenya and frost on the other high mountain ranges. On the high lands around Nairobi temperatures are in the range 25 - 30 degrees and nighttime temperatures can do down to 5 degrees. On the coast daily temperature is between 27 and 31 degrees with high humidity.

Kenya Clothing
Lightweight clothing is generally required but cold nights can be expected in the high altitude areas which includes some of the game parks so bring a sweater and long sleeves for the evening. If you are in Kenya in the rainy season you will need a waterproof, a hat is advisable and walking shoes. It is not advisable to bring expensive jewellery and watches with you.

Kenya Currency
The currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KES) divided into 100 cents. Notes in denominations of 1000, 500, 200 and 50 are produced. Coins are 5,10 and 20 shillings. Only change currency at official bureax de change, banks or authorized hotels. The best currency to bring is UK pounds, US dollars or Euros but other currencies will generally be exchanged. There is no restriction on the amount of currency that can be brought into Kenya. However the limit for taking out Kenyan Shillings is 500,000 unless written authorisation is given. Do not deface or destroy Kenyan currency.

Kenyan Customs
For visitors over 17 years of age the allowances are 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco (not exceeding 250 grams in total), one bottle of wine or half a litre of spirits and 250 millimetres of perfume. Cigarettes must be labeled correctly with the health warning conforming to Kenya standards, failure to do so will resulting a fine and or imprisonment. and so best not to bring any cigarettes into Kenya! The import of firearms, agricultural or horticultural produce and pets is prohibited.

Kenya Electricity
Kenya operates a 220/240V service. Plugs are three point square plugs as used in the UK. In rare cases such as old buildings and in the town of Kisii the large two round pin plugs are used.

Kenya Emergency Services
For Fire, Ambulance, Police dial 999.

Kenya Health
Consult your doctor for advice on the latest vaccinations to be taken. The common ones are vaccinations for Tetanus; Diphtheria; Polio; Typhoid; Hepatitis A; Hepatitis B; Yellow Fever; Rabies and Meningitis. A Yellow fever vaccination certificate may be required for visitors arriving from infected areas.

Malaria does exist in Kenya and protection is required and advice must be taken as to choice of tablet and which areas are deemed to be high risk. Try and reduce the chance of being bitten by mosquitoes as other diseases such as dengue fever are carried by mosquitoes. Use insect repellents and spray your room each night.

Bilharzia is a potential risk and comes from tiny flukes that live in the water. Check with locals on the safety of the lakes and rivers before you swim. Don't drink tap water and use the readily available bottled water. Rabies is common and if bitten by an animal seek immediate medical attention. There is a very high risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

If you join the Flying Doctor Service you will be covered for an evacuation flight but will also be supporting the work of AMREF which provides medical support in rural areas. It is not expensive to join (020 315454).

Nairobi Hospitals are good and the main ones are: Aga Khan Hospital (374000); Children's Hospital (763474); Kenyatta National Hospital (726300); Nairobi Hospital (722160). In Mombassa the Aga Khan Hospital (041 312953); Coast Provincial Hospital (041 314204); Mombassa Hospital (041 312191) and Pandya Memorial Hospital (041 229252).

Kenya Public Holidays
1st January
Idd il Fitr (changeable dates)
Good Friday and Easter Monday (changeable dates)
1st May Labour Day
1st June Madaraka Day
10th October Moi Day
20th October Kenyatta Day
12th December Jamhuri Day
25th December Christmas Day
26th December Boxing Day

Kenya Post
The postal system is reliable and stamps can be purchased from hotels and many shops. Post Restante service is available in Nairobi and Mombassa.

Kenya Safari Code
Whilst on Safari please follow the Kenya Safari Code:

  • Keep to designated roads or tracks
  • Minnimise disturb to animals
  • Stay inside your vehicle at all times
  • Keep to the speed limit
  • Support eco-friendly accommodation facilities
  • Never feed animals
  • Take care not to disturb the ecological balance
  • Take all your litter with you.
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