Useful Information for Traveling in Kenya and Tanzania
A valid passport and visa are required for all U.S. citizens traveling to Kenya and Tanzania. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the return date and contain at least 2 blank visa pages for endorsements (per country visited). To get more blank pages added to your passport check with the US Government Passport office.
For more information on visa requirements, contact
Embassy of the Republic of Kenya at (202) 387-6101
Embassy of the Republic of Tanzania at (202) 939-6125
IMPORTANT NOTE ON PASSPORT PAGES
It is the responsibility of each traveler to make sure their passport is valid and has sufficient “VISA” pages to stamp entry visas. Please note the last three pages on the passport are “NOT VISA” pages; they are amendment pages, and thus visas cannot be stamped on these pages. There should a minimum of at least two (2) blank (unstamped) “VISA” pages for each country to be visited. Failure to have 2 blank (unstamped) “VISA” pages puts you at risk of being denied entry even when in possession of valid passport.
Note: On July 1, 2012 Tanzania began charging $10.00 (cash) U.S. as a departure tax upon exiting the country from Kilimanjaro International Airport. This must be paid in cash at the airport when obtaining your ticket.
Effective January 24, 2008, a current yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into Tanzania. Anti-Malaria medication is strongly recommended for Kenya and Tanzania. No vaccinations are currently required for Kenya. We advise you to consult your physician or the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia at (404) 639-3311 for any further requirements or recommendations.
East Africa enjoys a moderate climate without extremes in temperature. The average altitude during the safari will be between 3,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level, so the days should be pleasant with temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees, and the nights a moderate 55 to 70 degrees.
Dress in Africa is casual. Clothing should be lightweight, loose fitting and of “breathable” fabrics, such as cotton. While on safari, you will find that neutral colors are best as they blend in with the natural surroundings and show the least amount of dust or dirt. Make a note that bugs are more attracted to blue, black and yellow so it is best to avoid those colors when selecting your clothing for safari. Laundry service is available at most hotels, lodges and camps at a nominal fee. The nights at the higher elevations can be cool, so you should bring a sweater or jacket. While on safari, only 4 or 5 changes of clothes are necessary. For the daytime, shorts and T-shirts are most comfortable with perhaps a fleece jacket or sweater for early morning games drives. In the evening, long pants and long-sleeve shirts or lightweight sweatshirt is good. Boots are not necessary for safari. Comfortable walking or running shoes are just fine. Sandals or flip-flops are handy around the lodges and swimming pools.
Some lodges and camps have a supply of insect repellent, however, it is a good idea to bring some with you. Many lodges and camps have mosquito nets in the bedrooms. The mosquitoes usually come out around sunset.
FOOD & WATER
We recommend using only bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. This is an easy way to avoid health problems. Two bottles of water per day are supplied by lodges for your use and complimentary bottled water is supplied by Somak for you during game drives. Bottled water, beer, wine, cocktails and soft drinks are also available for purchase from the lodges.
The cuisine throughout is outstanding. Meals include full American buffet breakfast with fresh local fruits; safari lunches usually consist of hot and cold buffet’s and dinners are sit down with an excellent choice of menu items.
Two pieces, per person, of checked baggage are allowed on Virgin Atlantic international flights into Kenya. Each bag must not exceed 50 lbs.
Bag dimensions are up to 35.5 x 29.5 x 16 inches (Up to 90 x 75 x 43cm ).
We recommend baggage be kept to a minimum; one main lightweight bag and an overnight bag are adequate. Most city hotels have storage space for excess luggage not required on safari. Check with your airline for further requirements.
CURRENCY & BANKING
If you plan to use your credit cards in Africa, before you leave home contact your credit card company and tell them where you are going and the dates you will be traveling. This will keep your card from being denied when you want to use it.
Local currency in East Africa is expressed in shillings. Travelers checks and most major credit cards are widely accepted. Banking hours are generally from 9:00 am – 2:00 pm. Monday through Friday in most cities.
As in most major cities, sensible security precautions should be taken. Keep a close watch on purses, handbags, wallets and cameras. Avoid wearing expensive or flashy jewelry. It is advisable to hire a taxi if you wish to move around at night and for your personal safety, avoid deserted lanes and streets.
Voltage throughout East Africa is 220-240 AC. To use an electrical device in Tanzania and Kenya (where the voltage can be 220/230/240) and the appliance is multi-voltage (says input 100-240 volts) or dual voltage (says input 125/250 volts) you should only need a plug with three rectangular prongs (shown below) on your power strip or adapter. The input voltage (and the watts or amps) information can usually be found on the device label but it could be anywhere on the appliance. It is often on the main body of the appliance in the same color where it can be difficult to see. Some dual voltage appliances have switches and some others are self-sensing, switching to the higher voltages for you automatically.
For computers, battery chargers or appliances rated up to 240 volts, a power strip such as the one shown below is ideal. The power strip model BB-13-6-UK is available at Travel Oasis, and can be shipped to you in just a few days. The plug on the chord with three rectangular prongs, fits the electrical outlets in Kenya and Tanzania. I recommend this for anyone planning to plug in multiple devices, such as computers and battery chargers. The plugs in the power strip itself, will accept many types of plugs including the two and three pronged plugs used in the United States. If you use this power strip you do not need an electrical adapter, however, if your electrical device is rated for 110 volts you will need to use an electrical converter. Depending on the type of device, it may be less expensive to buy a new appliance than a converter. It will usually also be lighter weight than a converter.
If you plan to bring a hairdryer, electric shaver, or any appliances rated for only 110 volts you will need to bring your own electrical converter and adapter (universal adapter with three square prongs).
Below are pictures of the power strip configuration I use at all of the lodges we stay at in Kenya and Tanzania. It comes with the correct plug configuration so that you will not need to purchase an electrical adapter.
Note the three rectangular prongs on the plug that fits into the outlets used in the lodges we stay at in Kenya and Tanzania.
Close up view:
If your electrical device is listed at 110 volts you will need to use a transformer and an electrical adapter. For use in Kenya and Tanzania the male side of the adapter needs to have three rectangular prongs as shown in photo below.
The female side of the plug accepts a standard US three pronged plug (grounded) or two pronged plug (ungrounded).
Most U.S. appliances used in world travel are designed to handle both the U.S. voltage and the higher voltage of 220-250 used in foreign countries. Most devices switch automatically, but some have switches that need to be set to the higher voltage ratings.
Furthermore, be aware that, if your device is designed for world travel, you should not use a voltage converter. Using one may cause both the converter and the appliance to malfunction.
Most major hotels and restaurants include a service charge. A gratuity of 10% is customary at restaurants and bars if a service charge is not included. On our safaris, the tips for the meals are included, however, the tips for the drinks you purchase are not included.
Tips for your driver/guide are not included in the price of your safari. Because we limit our vehicles, to only three passengers, we recommend a minimum tip of $20.00 per person per day. At the end of our stay in each country I will collect the tips for the drivers and divide the amount equally among them. If during your safari you would like to tip your driver extra for doing a great job, that is entirely up to you.
Porters at airports, hotels or lodges may be tipped $1.50 per piece of baggage.
As in most African countries, there is a huge range of souvenirs to be purchased along the roadside. These are handmade, but mass produced, so always check the quality before buying. Materials include ebony, soapstone and ivory. Note that it is illegal to export products that contain any elements of elephant, rhino or sea turtle. Tribal souvenirs are available; including Maasai beaded jewelry, kiondas (woven sisal baskets) and natural or decorated calabashes (dried gourds). Bright sarongs (kangas or kikois) make good wearable souvenirs. If you are after quality artwork, it is probably wisest to look in galleries and shops that deal in it, rather than buying on the roadside markets.
SUGGESTED PACKING LIST
- Important Documents
- Airline tickets
- Passport and visa for each country you will be visiting
- Photo copies of your passport, credit cards, and airline tickets (to be kept separately from the originals)
- Vaccination certificates
- Emergency phone numbers (in itinerary given to you by Somak Safaris)
- Trip Itinerary
- Extra passport photos
- Gifts for children: If you would like to take gifts for children when we visit a Masai village, we suggest bringing school supplies, such as paper, pens, pencils together with a hand crank pencil sharpener, crayons, magic markers or other items for school. A soccer ball and hand pump with a needle to pump up the ball, would also be greatly appreciated. We do not recommend bringing candy or gum because dentists are few and far between.
- Your favorite Protein Bars or snacks to carry you through in the event of long game drives between meals.
- Your prescription medications (bring enough to last through the entire trip)
- 3-5 changes of casual clothing (cotton shorts, T-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, sweater or jacket, slacks, sport shirts, blouses, dress, etc.) Avoid bright colors and whites. Clothing in neutral colors or earth tones: khaki, light brown, tan or green is best for improved wildlife viewing on game drives and they are also less likely to attract bugs.
- Laundry facilities are available at the lodges when we stay for two or more nights so you can get your clots washed quite often.
- Two pairs of comfortable shoes and a pair of flip-flops or sandals
- If you have back problems, bring an extra pillow or cushion for the seats in the safari vehicles.
- Compression socks. They help to minimize swelling in arms and legs on long flights.
- Hand Sanitizer
- Swim suit and cover-up
- Hat with a visor
- Sunglasses (neck string comes in quite handy)
- Sun Screen
- Medical history
- Copies of prescriptions
- Malaria Tablets
- Insect repellent
- Eye drops (the sun is very bright and it will be dusty)
- Extra contact lenses and contact lens cleaning solution
- Skin and Hair moisturizers
- Toothbrush/toothpaste/dental floss
- Dust Mask (especially if you suffer from allergies)
- Throat Lozenges: (for sore throat caused by dust or colds)
- Imodium (or other Anti-diarrhea medicine)
- Personal medications (there are basic first aid kits in the lodges and camps)
- An extra pair of glasses/contact lenses if you wear them
- Large zip-lock bags (great for keeping film and camera equipment clean, storing wet swim suits and dirty shoes, etc.)
- Pre-moistened small individually wrapped towelettes for quick freshen ups.
- Small travel towel
- Small scissors
- Lip balm or chap stick
- Q tips and cotton balls
- Razor & shaving cream/gel
- Birth control (enough to last through your trip)
- Sanitary requirements (shops are sometimes few and far between, and very basic)
- Band aids and moleskin
- Cold/flu tablets
- Allergy remedy
- Ace bandage
- Medicine for headache and/or pain
- Antiseptic cream
- Motion sickness tablets
- Heartburn remedy
- Re-hydration salts
- Small compass
- Book to read between game viewing or during leisure time
- Money Belt
- Electrical adapter (3 square prongs) and a power strip for charging your equipment
- Mini sewing kit
- Small, bright Flashlight with extra batteries and bulbs
- Small calculator
- Travel Alarm Clock (small, but loud enough to wake you )
- Extra batteries
- Diary to record your favorite memories
- Phone card and international access numbers
If you are still shooting film bring plenty of it, and extra batteries as both items are very expensive in East Africa. Make sure you have some way of protecting your camera from dust while on safari. Most game viewing is done in the early morning and late afternoon and 100 or 200 ASA film is probably the best to use. A telephoto or zoom lens and a wide angle lens are recommended for some truly outstanding and impressive photographs. If you are using digital cameras be sure to bring extra memory cards, rechargeable batteries and charger, plus a way to down load and store your photos from the camera, The lodges have electricity so charging batteries and using laptops is no problem.
Do not take photographs of military installations, police stations, government facilities, airports, border post soldiers or police. Always ask before taking photographs of people. They will most likely want to charge you, so ask your driver to negotiate for you.
Suggested Photography Equipment
- Video Camera
- Back up camera (This isn’t essential but you would hate to be in Africa and have your camera malfunction.)
- Film Those that are still shooting film, should bring lots of it!
- Extra batteries for camera
- Wide angle lens (Most of your shooting will be with telephotos, but wide angles always have their place. One thing I like to do is photograph people, like Maasai tribesmen, from a low angle with a wide angle lens. )
- Telephoto lens (I think you should have at least a 300mm capability, but 400mm or longer would be better. Much of our shooting will not require long lenses, since animals are often close to the vehicle – within a 200mm range for nice close-ups. But there are, indeed, quite a few situations where you will want and need a longer lens. (One solution that gets around spending a fortune for a long telephoto is to use a 200mm lens with a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter. If you have a camera with a chip that is not full frame, the magnification factor plus the teleconverter will give you a significant focal length. For example, if you have a Canon 20D, or 30D a 200mm lens becomes a 320mm (200 x 1.6x = 320mm), and then with a 1.4x converter that equals a 512mm telephoto.)
- Tripod You will not need a tripod while shooting wildlife from the safari vehicle. Instead, you will use a bean bag or some other type of soft support for your long lens. A tripod would only be used around the camp. I always carry one because “you never know” when it might be needed. If you want to limit the weight and bulk of your baggage, leaving the tripod at home would not be a bad thing to do.
- Bean bag: (This is a sewn pouch that can be sealed on one side with a zipper, and when we get to Africa you fill it with beans or corn. It is used in lieu of a tripod in the vehicle to steady your camera when you shoot.) A good one called the Safari Sack 1 made by Kinesis can be purchased here: Kinesis
- Flash and extra batteries for it.
- Filters: Skylight or UV filters that protect your lenses, Polarizing Filter, Split image neutral density filter
- Compact Flash or SD cards: I recommend 8 or 16 gig cards, especially for cameras with 8 megabytes and higher. Bring as many as you think you will need and then one or two extra. If you are shooting RAW it is not hard to shoot 16 gigs a day.
- Sensor cleaning materials: Hand blower, Sensor swabs, pec pads with the liquid Eclipse, Sensor brush, Arctic Butterfly, etc. This is essential to keep your sensor free of dust specs. I will be bringing three things: hand blower, pec pads and sensor cleaner.
- Portable hard drive or laptop: This is for dumping your images from the flash card so you can re-use the card. I strongly suggest redundancy, meaning two portable hard drives or a laptop and a portable hard drive so you have two sets of your images in the event of equipment failure or computer crash. I realize a laptop is one more large, vulnerable thing to carry, and therefore you need to think carefully about whether or not to bring one. If you don’t want to carry one, that’s perfectly fine, but make sure that you have redundancy in storing your digital images. Once you erase a flash card and put new images on it, the previously erased shots are gone forever. Bring more storage than you think you will ever need. On these photo safaris it is not uncommon for people to shoot 10 to15 thousand images. For that you will need lots of storage space!
- Extra camera battery
- Battery charger
- Power strip: (This is so you can charge several things at one time.)
Electrical adapter with three rectangular prongs (This fits into the Kenyan electrical sockets so you can plug in your accessories. I have been very happy with this one from Travel Oasis. Also, using this one eliminates the need for an adapter.
- Camera manual: (I strongly suggest you bring this and keep it with you during the game drives!)
- Crucial electrical connecting cables: Check and double check that you have all the cables you need.
- Small paint brush: (I use this for dusting camera off because there can be a lot of dust in Africa on the game drives.)
- Pillow case: (This is for placing the camera inside in areas of a lot of dust.)
- Lens cleaning: tissue or microfiber cloth
- Binoculars: A good pair that does not hurt your eyes is very nice for watching wildlife if they are at a distance.