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Travel tips

Top Things to See, Do & Eat in Kenya

Feb 17, 2021 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

Dreaming of going on a tour of Kenya? There’s no place quite like it. The lush landscapes and wondrous wildlife might be what Kenya is known for, but between bustling cities, lovely locals, and extraordinary eats, you’ll learn there are many things to see in Kenya—and even more to do. Our Kenya travel guide covers the top Kenya travel tips, things to do, and best places to visit in Kenya.

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TRAVEL TIPS FOR KENYA

Currency: The official currency of Kenya is the Kenyan shilling (KES). Many larger vendors will accept payment in USD, but don’t count on it! ATMs are available in busy places like airports, malls, and gas stations.

Credit cards are also widely accepted in bigger cities like Nairobi, but you will want to have some cash on you, too. You’ll need it for smaller purchases like food, drinks, souvenirs, or tips.

Languages: Kenya is home to about 40 different ethnic groups, which means the country is highly multilingual. That said, English and Swahili are the two official languages. No matter where you go as a tourist, you’re likely to find someone who speaks at least some English.

The best way to get around: If you’re not on a tour bus, the best way to get around in cities like Nairobi is by ridesharing apps like Uber, Lyft, or Taxify, but you can also take buses and matatus (minibuses). Most Kenyan towns are linked by buses, as well.

Responsible travel tip: One of the top things to know before visiting Kenya is to always ask people if you have permission to take their photo. You can do this by asking “naomba kupiga picha” (“may I take your picture”) and thanking them once you’re finished with a simple “asante”!

Another tip for visiting Kenya? Kenyans are notorious for taking their time. They do not like to hurry, and may not like when you do, either! So you might hear the phrase “pole pole” (“slow down”) a lot. That means the locals want you to take it easy! Get more tips for what to know before your trip to Kenya.

Phrases to know: Wondering what to know before visiting Kenya? One of our tips for visiting Kenya is to brush up on the local lingo.

Jambo - “Hello”
Habari rafiki? - “How are you, friend?” 
Asante - “Thank you" 
Samahani - “Excuse me”
Wapi - “Where”
Choo - “Toilet”

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WHEN TO TRAVEL TO KENYA

When is the best time to visit Kenya? The optimal time to travel to Kenya is during the dry season, which is from July to October. The annual migrations happen during that time, too, which makes safaris during the dry season the best there is.

The rainy season is usually from late April to early June, though it tends to be pretty rainy again in November and December. If you travel to Kenya during the summer, which is from December to March, you’ll want to stay closer to the coast because it can get pretty hot.

Need help choosing the safari to travel on? Check out our guide to help decide which African safari is right for you!

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WHAT TO PACK FOR KENYA

We can’t write a Kenya travel guide without talking about what to pack. The main thing to know before traveling to Kenya is that you’ll want to bring lots of layers—it’s one of our travel tips for Kenya. You might be shivering in a fleece jacket in the morning, then sweating in a t-shirt in the afternoon, so layers will become your best “rafiki”!

  • Soft, flexible duffel bag. Safari luggage restrictions are strict and strongly enforced. That’s because you’ll be traveling in a special safari vehicle throughout your trip, and every travelers luggage has to fit. Your luggage must be a soft, flexible duffel bag. No hard suitcases or bags with hard sides are permitted. Your bag must also fit these size dimensions: 34” W by 17” H by 15” L. Lastly, the total weight cannot exceed 44 pounds, including your camera equipment and carry-on bag. Check out our guide for choosing the right safari duffel >
  • Lightweight, conservative clothing. One of the most important Kenya travel tips is that Kenyans tend to dress more conservatively than in places like the United States. Most men and women wear long sleeves and pants—no matter how hot it gets. On safaris or in cities like Nairobi, you can get away with dressing a bit more casual, with some people wearing shorts, tank tops, and dresses without sleeves. Quick-dry material is best for hot days outside. Overall, you’ll want to pack more lightweight long-sleeve shirts, blouses, pants, or long skirts than anything else.
  • Comfortable closed-toes shoes. Sneakers or lightweight hiking boots, are best for walking during the day. They’ll serve you well whether you’re walking through the bustling streets of Nairobi, or riding in your 4x4 land cruiser safari vehicle through the wide-open landscapes of Aberdare National Park.
  • Clothes in muted colors. Another one of our tips for visiting Kenya is to pack muted colors for game drives, as bright clothing may scare animals away and blue or black clothing attracts tsetse flies. Speaking of flies, packing mosquito repellent never hurts!
  • A warmer jacket. As the sun sets, you might be surprised how cold it gets. You’ll want to bring a fleece jacket or something of similar warmth. Early morning safari rides can also get really chilly! You’ll start the morning bundled up, and be sweating in a t-shirt by mid-afternoon. But without warm layers, you’ll be too busy being cold to focus on the incredible wildlife around you.
  • Rain jacket. Occasional rain showers are common during certain seasons. You don’t want a little storm ruining your once-in-a-lifetime chance to view all of Kenya’s top attractions, so lightweight rainwear may be necessary depending on the timing of your trip.
  • Your camera (yes, a real one). You’ll want to take so many pictures—of the wildlife, of your new friends, of the food—and sometimes a smartphone just isn’t enough. There are so many things to see in Kenya, so make sure you can capture it all! See some of the best snapshots captured on safari >
  • Sun protection and a swimsuit. Unsurprisingly, it can get very hot under the African sun. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a broad-brimmed hat to protect your face and the back of your neck from the sun. Any Kenya travel guide would suggest you pack a swimsuit too, as many of the hotels have pools that you are free to use at your leisure.
  • Binoculars. In order to spot all of Kenya’s top attractions (aka all those lions, elephants, and zebras) binoculars are a must pack. They’ll help you spot animals grazing farther away and get a better look at the ones close by during your game drives
  • Reusable, cloth bags. The Kenyan government has a strict ban on plastic bags. It is illegal to use, sell, or carry plastic bags anywhere in the country. Pack your toiletry essentials and other bits and bobs in reusable cloth bags. These eco-friendly bags are also great if you plan to go shopping on tour and need somewhere to store your souvenirs.

Shop top-rated tours of Kenya

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TOP THINGS TO DO IN KENYA

No Kenya travel guide is complete without suggesting what to do in Kenya and where to go! Here are some of the best things to do in Kenya, as well as some of Kenya’s top attractions. Plus, check out some of the hidden gems you’ll experience on a safari.

  • Search for the famous Big Five on a safari. What is Kenya known for, you ask? Well, safaris are undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Kenya. As soon as you take off on your safari, you’ll learn about the Big Five: leopards, rhinoceroses, Cape buffalos, lions, and elephants. The goal of every safari-goer is always to find them, but only the luckiest explorers see all five!
  • Visit the Karen Blixen Museum. Around 6 miles outside Nairobi’s center, you’ll find the Karen Blixen Museum. This century-old farmhouse on a former coffee plantation was once owned by Swedish Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke and his wife, Baroness Karen Blixen, who authored the 1937 memoir, Out of Africa. Here, you can explore the late 19th century bungalow and learn more about the owners’ stories.
  • Take a game drive through Amboseli National Park. We couldn't write a Kenya travel guide without including this incredible national park. Spanning across the Kenya-Tanzania border and protecting two of the five main swamps, this park is known as being the best place to spot free-ranging elephants. Drive through swampy plains and watch parades of giraffes, as well as ostriches, leopards, lions, and rhinos pass by with the breathtaking Mount Kilimanjaro as your backdrop.
  • Discover the Maasai culture. Immerse yourself in the Maasai way of life during a visit to this local village. Here, you can tour an authentic boma and discover the history and heritage behind the Maasai tribe—a joyous group of natives living in harmony with the natural world.
  • Spot flamingos at Lake Nakuru National Park. One of the best animals to see in Kenya are vibrant flamingos. These pretty pink birds make their home here among the glistening water, rolling hills, waving savanna grasses, and acacia trees. This park is also prime territory for spotting rhinos, baboons, and giraffes, as well other beautiful birds.
  • Visit Kazuri Beads. This Fair Trade jewelry workshop may not be in every Kenya travel guide, but we think it should be. It's run by community members in Nairobi, providing sustainable employment to local single mothers and disadvantaged women. The materials for the jewelry are even ethically sourced, with the clay for their beads coming from the Mount Kenya region. Plus, the jewelry in their shop makes an incredibly meaningful souvenir.
  • Feed giraffes at The Giraffe Centre. The Giraffe Centre is a preserve completely dedicated to raising rare giraffes and educating children and tourists all about Kenya’s wildlife and environment. Here, you can walk along the Nature Trail, see the world’s tallest animals up close, and even feed the giraffes by hand. The best part? The experience meets our animal welfare guidelines established in partnership with World Animal Protection.
  • Experience the Coriolis Effect at the equator. While you’re on your way to or from the Great Rift Valley region, you can stop at the Equator to experience the Coriolis effect—or lack thereof. The Coriolis effect, where objects in motion curve according to the Earth’s rotation, is strongest near the poles, but absent at the equator. Here, an object moving freely across the Earth's surface would exhibit no deflection due to the Earth’s rotation.

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BEST FREE TIME ACTIVITIES IN KENYA

Our tours take you to all the best places to visit in Kenya, but here are some of the best things to do in Kenya during free time.

  • Dance in Nairobi. The capital city's colonial club scene has transformed into a thriving modern nightlife experience. The Westlands neighborhood and nearby Waiyaki Way are home to a whole host of bars, clubs, and cocktail lounges where locals and tourists alike can dance the night away.
  • Take a tuk-tuk. These three-wheeled vehicles seat up to three passengers and you can hop aboard to travel short distances in one.
  • Learn about anti-poaching initiatives. Add an excursion to chat with a local expert from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. You’ll learn how locals, military officers, park rangers, and law enforcement officials work together to protect the wildlife in East Africa.
  • See Maasai Mara from the sky. If you’re looking for unique Kenya attractions, consider a hot air balloon ride. It’s like a traditional safari, but with a whole new view—unobstructed by trees, uninhibited by roads, and unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

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WHAT TO EAT & DRINK IN KENYA

We’ve talked a lot about the best places to visit in Kenya and what to do in Kenya, but what about the best things to eat? Here are the dishes you’ll want to dig into while on a tour of Kenya.

  • Ugali. A main staple for most Kenyans, ugali is a cornmeal porridge you eat with a meaty stew called assupu. In fact, the national dish of Kenya is Ugali nyama choma na kachumbari (maize meal, grilled meat, and salsa).
  • Karen Blixen Coffee. If you’re going to learn all about the history of the plantation, or if you’ve read her book, you’ll want to try her coffee!
  • Mukimo. No celebration in Kenya is complete without mukimo! This potatoes, corn, and green vegetable mash is just as delicious as it is nutritious. It’s definitely worth a try, and you can find it at almost any restaurant.
  • Tusker beer. This pale lager brand sells over 700,000 hectolitres in Kenya every year! Their slogan “Bia yangu, Nchi yangu” means “My beer, My country” in Kiswahili, and any beer lover should give it a try.

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THE BEST SOUVENIRS TO BUY IN KENYA

Of course, you can’t take a trip to Kenya and not come home with some souvenirs. Here’s what we recommend you pick up to remember your trip to Kenya. Just make sure to leave some space in your bag!

  • Maasai beads. Whether in the form of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, bowls, or other products, buying Maasai beads directly from the Maasai people is a gift you’ll want to take home. Each bead color symbolizes something different (for example, red symbolizes power and blood, while green symbolizes fertility), and these beads make a wonderful and meaningful gift.
  • Hand-carved wooden sculptures. No matter where you go in Kenya, you’re bound to come across stunning sculptures of the Big Five animals, as well as other sights you may have seen throughout the country. These are carved from mango trees, Neem trees, or ebony, with ebony being the rarest and most expensive kind.
  • Shukkas. These traditional Maasai blankets are made of either cotton or wool, and make the perfect keepsake for those who love comfort!
  • Kiondos. While a bit more challenging to bring home, these baskets are hand-woven and found throughout the country.

Have you traveled to Kenya? Share your favorite things to do in Kenya on our Facebook page!


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About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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