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Kenya gettingstarted

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© Lonely Planet Publications
14



G E T T I N G S TA R T E D • • C o s t s & M o n e y 15

You can buy, download and
print individual chapters from

Getting Started

this guidebook.
Get Kenya chapters

Planning a trip to Kenya is a pleasure in itself: the country is so versatile
it’s virtually a blank canvas, catering equally for thrill seekers and sun
seekers, budget backpackers and high-end high rollers, those who like it
tough and those who just want to get going. Whatever you want to do
here, you’ll discover that it’s pretty straightforward to sort yourself out
on the ground – in fact, in many cases you’ll find that advance planning
is often trickier and less reliable than dealing with everything in person
once you arrive.

WHEN TO GO

There are a number of factors to take into account when considering
what time of year to visit Kenya. The main tourist season is January and
February, when the weather is generally considered to be the best – many
areas of the country are hot and dry during these months. It’s also when
you’ll find the largest concentrations of birdlife on the Rift Valley lakes.
At this time, the animals in the wildlife parks tend to congregate more
around the watercourses as other sources dry up, making them easier to
spot. However, the parks can get crowded and rates for accommodation
generally go through the roof. Make sure you avoid Christmas and Easter
unless you want to pay a fortune.
June to October could be called the ‘shoulder season’ (see p345), as the
weather is still dry. During this period the annual wildebeest migration
takes place, with thousands of animals streaming into the Masai Mara
National Reserve from the Serengeti in July and October.
During the long rains (the low season, spanning from March to the
end of May) things are much quieter, and you can get some good deals;
this is also the case during the short rains from October to December.
The rains generally don’t affect your ability to get around unless you’re
right out in the sticks (although Amboseli National Park can be flooded);
it’s just that you may get rained on, especially in the Central Highlands
and western Kenya.
If you’re planning to visit Lamu, you might want to time your visit to
coincide with the centuries-old Maulid Festival (see p218).
DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT…
Sunglasses and hat
Binoculars
Answers – on a range of topics, for discussions with inquisitive locals
Patience – for everyday delays, especially on public transport
Vacci...
14 www.lonelyplanet.com
Getting Started
Planning a trip to Kenya is a pleasure in itself: the country is so versatile
it’s virtually a blank canvas, catering equally for thrill seekers and sun
seekers, budget backpackers and high-end high rollers, those who like it
tough and those who just want to get going. Whatever you want to do
here, you’ll discover that it’s pretty straightforward to sort yourself out
on the ground – in fact, in many cases you’ll find that advance planning
is often trickier and less reliable than dealing with everything in person
once you arrive.
WHEN TO GO
There are a number of factors to take into account when considering
what time of year to visit Kenya. The main tourist season is January and
February, when the weather is generally considered to be the best – many
areas of the country are hot and dry during these months. It’s also when
you’ll find the largest concentrations of birdlife on the Rift Valley lakes.
At this time, the animals in the wildlife parks tend to congregate more
around the watercourses as other sources dry up, making them easier to
spot. However, the parks can get crowded and rates for accommodation
generally go through the roof. Make sure you avoid Christmas and Easter
unless you want to pay a fortune.
June to October could be called the ‘shoulder season’ (see p345 ), as the
weather is still dry. During this period the annual wildebeest migration
takes place, with thousands of animals streaming into the Masai Mara
National Reserve from the Serengeti in July and October.
During the long rains (the low season, spanning from March to the
end of May) things are much quieter, and you can get some good deals;
this is also the case during the short rains from October to December.
The rains generally don’t affect your ability to get around unless you’re
right out in the sticks (although Amboseli National Park can be flooded);
it’s just that you may get rained on, especially in the Central Highlands
and western Kenya.
If you’re planning to visit Lamu, you might want to time your visit to
coincide with the centuries-old Maulid Festival (see p218 ).
COSTS & MONEY
Travelling in Kenya can cost as much or as little as you like, depend-
ing on what kind of standards you’re happy with. In general, for the
midrange traveller staying in small hotels with a decent level of comfort,
eating the occasional Western meal, using matatus and taxis, taking in
the odd museum and treating yourself to a beer of an evening should
come out in the region of KSh3000 per day. Budget travellers could get
this down to as little as KSh800 by foregoing private bathrooms, eating in
Kenyan canteens, walking or taking local buses and skipping the booze,
while top-end types can find themselves paying anything from KSh8000
upwards for a taste of the high life. Accommodation is the biggest single
expense, and staying in Nairobi or on the coast will push costs up sharply
(see p345 ).
On top of this, you’ll probably want to allow some extra cash for pricey
tourist activities such as trekking, diving and other excursions. The biggest
one-off outlay for most visitors will be visiting the national parks, whether
on a safari or independently. Basic camping packages cost from US$70 per
day (see p64 ); staying in lodges adds at least another US$50, while using
air transport and visiting the country’s most exclusive getaways could
run over US$500! Package deals from Europe can offer good value out of
season, especially if you want to stay around the coast.
TRAVEL LITERATURE
Reading up before you go is a great way to get a feel for Kenya – all kinds of
foreign authors have written on the country, and the prospective visitor can
choose from a wide range of perspectives on every facet of its culture.
Already a firm favourite among animal lovers and conservationists,
A Primate’s Memoir: Love, Death and Baboons in East Africa, by Robert
M. Sapolsky, is an engaging account of a young primatologist’s years
working in Kenya.
Equally personal and a bit less serious at heart, David Bennun’s enter-
taining Tick Bite Fever tells of the author’s accident-prone childhood in
Africa, complete with suicidal dogs and Kenya Cowboys.
For a more serious look at social and cultural issues, read No Man’s
Land: an Investigative Journey Through Kenya and Tanzania, by George
Monbiot, which follows the fortunes of the region’s nomadic tribes.
Bill Bryson turns his social conscience and trademark gentle humour
on the region in his African Diary, concentrating on a seven-day trip to
Kenya. All profits (and the author’s royalties) go to CARE International.
Londoner Daisy Waugh provides a city girl’s take on the thoroughly
untouristy town of Isiolo in A Small Town in Africa, giving a more modern
alternative to the many settlers’ tales in print.
Increasingly hard to find but worth the effort, Journey to the Jade Sea,
by John Hillaby, recounts this prolific travel writer’s epic trek to Lake
Turkana in the days before the Kenyan tourist boom.
Finally, whether you like her attitude towards the natives or not, Out
of Africa, by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), remains perhaps the single
definitive account of the colonial experience in Africa.
INTERNET RESOURCES
Artmatters (www.artmatters.info) Information on arts and culture from Kenya and East Africa.
Destination Kenya (www.destinationkenya.com) Handy directory of hotels, safari operators and
other companies offering tourist activities.
Jambo Kenya (www.jambokenya.com) A broad-based information website with lots of tourist
information.
DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT…
Sunglasses and hat
Binoculars
Answers – on a range of topics, for discussions with inquisitive locals
Patience – for everyday delays, especially on public transport
Vaccination card, insect repellent and malaria prophylaxis
Disposable nappies – if you actually have kids
Common sense – for avoiding scams ( p354 )
Lots of camera film
Space in your bag – for oversized souvenirs
Entry visa – if you’re feeling organised you could also arrange this before setting out, though
they are available on arrival at most airports and land borders. See p366 for full details.
HOW MUCH?
Local matatu ride: KSh20
Plate of stew/
biryani/pilau: KSh120
Large juice: KSh60
Pair of kangas: KSh350
Taxi home: KSh400
LONELY PLANET
INDEX
Litre of petrol/gas: KSh72
Litre of bottled water:
KSh55
Bottle of Tusker: KSh80
Souvenir T-shirt: KSh1000
Sambusa (street snack):
KSh10
GETTING STARTED •• Costs & Money 15
© Lonely Planet Publications
You can buy, download and
print individual chapters from
this guidebook.
Get Kenya chapters
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