Introduction – My Love Letter To Kenya
Are you planning a trip to Kenya or just dreaming about it?
In Kenya, you can wake up to the sounds of elephants in the distance, eat with Giraffes on your balcony, take a hot air balloon ride over the savanna, and explore the beauty of nature in adventurous ways!
Kenya is truly a destination unlike any other.
Kenya is easily at the top of my list of my favorite places that I have traveled to. From the friendly people that you will meet to the wildlife safaris you will experience, Kenya is just incredible.
So I want to help you prepare for your unforgettable trip to Kenya (or inspire you to book one).
In this ultimate Kenya travel guide, you will be walked through every step of exploring Kenya.
Why Kenya Is The Perfect Destination To Travel
You’ll See Unbelievable Wildlife:
Every moment that you’re on a safari game drive, you will feel like you’re in nature’s paradise surrounded by abundant wildlife.
From the lions hunting their prey to elephants walking in front of you. You may even be lucky enough to witness the great migration.
The Great Migration is the largest animal migration in the world, as you can see over 2 million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelle cross the Mara River.
I had the privilege of experiencing the Great Migration and seeing the Big 5, which includes the black rhino, elephant, buffalo, cheetah, and lion.
Watching the animals in a safari is truly a breathing experience and it’s in Kenya.
You’ll Connect with Nature:
The nature and landscapes in Kenya are stunning. This is because Kenya has a strong emphasis on conservation which allows these beautiful landscapes to remain untouched and wild.
As far as the eye can see, you will be surrounded by nature. This beauty of nature is something straight out of The Lion King, or a nature documentary, but better.
Because you will be experiencing the beauty of nature for yourself.
You’ll Meet Amazing People:
The warmth of Kenyans is contagious. Everywhere I went, from bustling Nairobi to remote villages, Kenyans were always happy and had a smile.
I’ve danced with Maasai warriors, shared stories with local artisans, and made close friendships with Kenyans. The people that I met in Kenya truly inspired me to become happier and enjoy life more. This is exactly why the people in Kenya will also be the highlight of your trip.
You’ll Taste Delicious Food:
The food in Kenya is flavorful and delicious. From the traditional meals to the local foods in markets, you’ll fall in love with Kenyan flavors.
There is so much more to add to this list. But everything about Kenya will leave you speechless as you realize it’s the perfect destination.
When Is The Best Time To Visit?
Depending on what you’re looking to do in Kenya, this will determine the best time to visit:
- Best Wildlife Viewing: June to October
- Best time to see the Great Migration: Late July to Early September
- Best Time to Visit Kenya Beaches: October to January
- Best Time for Green Landscape Photography: November to May
- Best Time for Bird Watching: November to May
- Cheapest Time for Budget Safari: November to May
Check out this article for a more in-depth review of the best time to visit Kenya, with a month-by-month weather guide.
While in Kenya there are so many great places that you must visit and it’s difficult to cover all of them in this overview Kenya Travel Guide.
But here are my top 3 choices to ensure you have an amazing trip:
- Explore The City of Nairobi
- Experience the Migration at Masai Mara
- Hike Around Hell’s Gate
Check out this guide on the best places to visit in Kenya, if you want to know more about the best things to do in each of these destinations.
Unique Experiences in Kenya:
Here are my top 3 choices to ensure you have some of the most unique experiences in Kenya:
- Explore by a hot air balloon ride while watching the great migration over the sunrise.
- Take a boat safari ride into the sunrise as you watch hundreds of birds and see dozens of hippos!
- Have breakfast with Giraffes while visiting Giraffe Manor.
Check out this guide on the best things to do in Kenya, if you want to know more about all the unique experiences you can have in Kenya!
Best Foods To Eat in Kenya
Kenya’s food is an explosion of flavor and tradition!
Must Try Traditional Kenyan Food:
- Nyama Choma – Grilled meat, typically goat or beef, often enjoyed with kachumbari (a fresh tomato and onion salad).
- Ugali – A staple made from maize flour, usually served as a side with meat or vegetable stews.
- Sukuma Wiki – Sautéed leafy greens, often collard greens or kale, cooked with onions and spices.
- Samosas – A popular street food, of deep-fried pastries filled with spiced meat or vegetables.
- Mandazi – Sweet, doughnut-like fried bread, often enjoyed as a snack or for breakfast.
In Kenya, it is surprisingly really easy to eat Vegan (or with any other dietary restrictions), as the food is heavily influenced by Indian cuisine so there are plenty of vegan or vegetarian options.
Just be sure to ask if any meat or bone broth was used to cook the soups, vegetables, or beans.
All ingredients on the menus at restaurants or in buffet-style hotels were clearly labeled, so I found eating in Kenya as a vegan plentiful and oh-so-delicious!
Must Try Drinks:
- Dawa – A cocktail made with vodka, honey, lime, and crushed ice, often touted as a remedy for common ailments.
- This is a very popular drink and an absolute must try for you!
- Tusker Beer – A popular Kenyan lager with a light, crisp taste.
- As a non beer drinker, I really enjoyed this drink!
- Kenyan Coffee – Known globally for its quality, Kenyan coffee is a must-try, either black or with milk.
- Uji – A traditional drink made from fermented millet or sorghum, often enjoyed as a breakfast beverage.
Traveling to Kenya Tips
When I first traveled to Kenya, I made tons of rookie mistakes like not knowing how to negotiate for a good deal. And I’ve seen plenty of other travelers make this same mistake (and many other’s mistakes)!
If you’re others and don’t know that you should bargain, then you may be charged 2-4 times the actual price.
So please, avoid these rookie mistakes, and look into these best travel tips to Kenya, so you can know all of my best advice before your trip!
Packing For A Trip To Kenya: Travel Essentials
Knowing what you should wear on a safari or the essential items that you must bring is crucial to your trip to Kenya.
Otherwise, you will have a miserable time since you didn’t pack correctly. (Trust me, I have seen it happen to other travelers).
For example, did you know that you should pack earth-neutral colors and should avoid packing camouflage clothing?
Thankfully, this ultimate safari packing list will allow you to know exactly what you should and shouldn’t pack. Plus, some other extremely helpful tips on what you should wear on a safari!
If you like me and love having clothes that inspire your trip, then you must check out these safari outfit ideas that will inspire your adventure filled trip.
This is exactly what I used during my trip to Kenya and I hope that has been proven useful for you!
Staying Safe in Kenya:
I will admit that before my trip, I had concerns about my physical safety, the unknown possibility of getting malaria from a bug bite, and other concerns that come along with traveling to a foreign country.
You may have these same concerns, but I assure you that traveling to Kenya is safe. But you must take all the necessary precautions.
So before traveling, it’s best to know how to stay safe in Kenya, plus get additional tips to have a safe and memorable trip.
Also, if you’re an American citizen, you can enroll in the US Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows you to get real-time notifications of any “high-risk”’ activities in or near the area you’re traveling to. This is a great way to stay up to date on any safety concerns such as natural disasters or civil unrest in your area.
Before your trip, you should have one of the best travel insurance, that can help protect you against common travel issues to major medical emergencies.
Currency in Kenya:
The official currency of Kenya is the Kenyan shilling (KES). $1 is around 159 KES.
Most accommodations and tour operators will accept payment in the US dollar or by visa card.
However, it is highly advised to have at least $100-$200 converted to KES for your trip. You will need this in rural areas, tipping, or paying for small items in markers or souvenir stores.
Trust me, you do not want to pay 2-3 times more than the prices because you are paying in American dollars versus shillings. This has happened to me!
I explain all of this in my Kenya travel tips guide and how you can avoid my beginner rookie mistake, especially when it comes to tips for barging in Kenya.
Thankfully, you can easily exchange your currency upon arrival at the airport or at any ATMs found in major malls or banks (just be mindful of international transaction fees).
Understanding The Language:
While Kenya has over 60 languages spoken, Swahili is the official language in Kenya, but English is widely spoken. English is commonly used in business, education, and tourism, so communicating in major cities and tourist spots won’t be a problem for you.
However, I encourage you to learn as much Swahili as you can as it will greatly enhance your trip. Greetings like “Jambo” for hello and “Asante” for thank you are appreciated and show respect for local customs.
Not only that, but when Kenyans saw that I made an effort to speak to them in Swahili, by using phrases like “how much, or “how are you”, it really made them happy.
I even got discounts from souvenir markets when I really tried to embrace their culture and use the Swahili language during our interactions.
Navigating Through Kenya: Transportation Tips
Traveling to and through Kenya is extremely easy and pretty affordable!
You can fly to one of Kenya’s four international airports, several small airports, and over 200 airstrips.
While you’re in Kenya, you can easily take a small cheap plane, train, rent a small 4×4 car (needed if on self safari tours), or use public transportation.
In Nairobi and Mombasa, you can use ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Bolt for short distances.
I honestly recommend going with one of these best tour groups for solo travelers or looking into small tour operators in Kenya. As they will take care of arranging most (if not all) of your accommodations and transportation needs.
That way, you can just show up and have a great time.
While you can plan the entire trip yourself or do self-driving safari tours to save money, you simply cannot beat out the experience and knowledge that local safari tour operators have (especially when it comes to where animals are inside the park).
Insight in Kenya’s Culture and Etiquette
Kenyans are generally very warm and hospitable. From my observations, Handshakes are common when meeting someone, and it’s polite to inquire about their well-being.
Many Kenyans have a conservative approach, so it’s best to dress a bit more modestly and avoid big displays of affection, especially in rural areas.
Punctuality in social situations is flexible, often referred to as ‘Kenyan time’.
So everything happens “In Time”, and not “On Time”. So you may see that people have a very “Hakuna Matata” mindset, that there is no rush with timing or no worries in life (especially if you cannot fix it).
I personally love this mindset, because it allowed me to enjoy my trip more as I didn’t have to stress about things outside of my control. I simply allowed myself to be present in every moment and it was amazing!
Respecting Kenya Through Sustainable Travel:
Kenya’s rich heritage and natural beauty should be enjoyed responsibly.
When it comes to wildlife it’s important to know how to ethically interact with animals. As you should observe from a distance, don’t feed the animals, and adhere to park rules.
This should go without saying, but it’s illegal to hunt animals or to sell, buy, or trade ivory. There is also a ban on plastic bags, so make sure you leave them at home.
This respect for wildlife helps preserve Kenya’s unique ecosystem and allows the animals to live long happy lives.
You can also become a more sustainable traveler, by supporting local businesses and communities. Choose local guides, stay in locally-owned lodges, and buy from local artisans. This not only provides you with a more authentic experience but also contributes to the local economy.
Your actions as a traveler can have a lasting impact. So you might as well make it a positive one.
Concluding My Love Letter To Kenya
I hope that you have found this Kenya travel guide helpful on your journey or has at least inspired you to consider traveling to Kenya!
I have absolutely loved my trip, as there is something truly magical about this place. Maybe it’s all the happy people or the incredible wildlife that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.
But Kenya will always hold a very special place in my heart and I hope you get to experience the same magic.
Safe travels and Hakuna Matata!