Ministry Prep: Kenya
Updated: Jul 20
Language: English & Swahili. Urban young people sometimes speak Sheng, a mixture of Swahili, English, and Bantu languages.
Currency: Shilling (KES)
Appropriate Dress: While although you have a lot of freedom in the clothing you wear in Kenya, it's important to try and model the moderately conservative clothing style that the locals wear. Women do not wear short shorts or skirts. Trousers and skirts are worn usually just above the knee. Men typically do not wear shorts either. Shirts with sleeves are recommended for both men and women.
Food: Goat, beef, lamb, chicken, and fish are common meats. Staple foods include milk, ugali (a stiff dough made from cornmeal, millet, sorghum, or cassava), uji (porridge made from ugali ingredients), red bean stew, mandazi (a doughnut-like food), githeri (corn and beans), and chapatti (a flat bread). Sukuma wiki (collard greens) is grown in nearly every garden and is a popular side dish to ugali. Abundant fruits include pineapples, mangoes, oranges, bananas, plantains, and papaya. Sweet potatoes, avocados, and cassava are also common. European cuisine is prevalent in major cities, and Nairobi and Mombassa have restaurants with a wide variety of international cuisine.
Weather: Late April to early June is the season of "long rains". June to October are the cooler months in Kenya, with much less rain. There's another season of "short rains" that occur from November to December, and following is a "hot and dry" season until mid March. Generally, the hottest periods are January to March and the coolest are July to August, though the difference is not too big.
Transportation: There are several types of public transportation in Kenya including public busses, taxis, matatus, train, and mopeds.
Cultural Norms: Shaking hands with polite small talk is a traditional greeting. Eye contact is important, as Kenyans are more willing to trust a person who will look them in the eye. Male visitors should get comfortable with holding hands while being escorted. Pointing with your finger is the equivalent of an obscene gesture. Traditionally the left hand is reserved for unhygienic acts and the right for passing things to others or eating and touching.
Health Information: Immunizations include, but are not limited to: routine vaccinations, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Malaria, Hepatitis B, and Meningitis. An anti-diarrehal medicine is recommended as well as bug repellant to avoid bug bites (particularly mosquito). Read more information at cdc.gov.
Airport Customs: A single-entry visa purchase is required upon entry into Kenya for each traveler, regardless of age. A single-entry visa is $50 and a multiple-entry vise is $100. "Immigration has instituted a new visa policy whereby all visitors must obtain visas by using a new online system" found here.**
Gifts: Most Kenyans are paid very low wages in the travel industry and heavily rely on tips. Award what you feel is appropriate according to your service.
Important Gear To Pack:
-Hat with brim
-A roll of toilet paper
-A couple dozen single serve Gatorade powder packets (life saving!)
-Small container of hand sanitizer
-Poncho with hood
-Anti-bacterial wet wipes/body wipes
-A Camelbak/Contigo/ or Nalgene water bottle to store clean, filtered water
-Small flashlight -Small battery-powered fan (if accommodations don't have A/C)
-Small first aid kit
Current Travel Advisory: The last updated U.S. Passports & International Travel Kenya travel advisory can be read here.
Important Reminders: Don't drink any tap water (be attentive to this when showering/washing face). Don't rinse your toothbrush/retainer with anything except purified bottled water. Make sure the food you are consuming has been properly prepared. Be frugal with clean water and electricity. These resources are precious to Kenya!
Keep safe and follow these tips to have a great, healthy trip in Kenya!
**Information provided by the U.S. Department of State.