Every country, every city has different ethics, different values and different lifestyles. When you are travelling to a foreign land, you must respect their traditions and ensure that you don’t offend the locals. Like the popular saying goes – “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.
Kenya is a wonderful country with very warm and welcoming people. There a number of things to keep in mind, once you have your trip planned out.
Don’t wear any flashy jewellery
Kenya is a country plagued by widespread poverty. While Kenyans in general are friendly towards tourists, it is best not to wear any expensive or flashy jewellery on you, so as to avoid any mugging incidences.
Travel in groups
While the city during the day might be safe to travel alone, in the night it is especially risky for tourists. Like in most world cities, Nairobi also has some notorious pockets where you shouldn’t venture at all. So, if you want to explore the city on foot, best do it in a group.
Carry limited cash
Traveller’s cheques or a forex card are the most ideal modes to carry money in any foreign country. It’s recommended not to keep a lot of cash on you while you’re out doing touristy things. Alternatively, you can leave a maximum part of the money in your hotel’s lockers and carry the amount that you would need for the day.
Be friendly towards locals
A country with warm hospitality deserves to be treated with utmost respect. Be polite in your exchanges with the locals. Knowing a few Swahili greetings will go a long way for you.
Clicking photos of the locals is a very common practice that all travelers engage in, but make sure you seek their permission beforehand. Don’t forget to thank them for the photo after.
Something as basic as this is often ignored by most travellers. If you are going to a foreign land, you wouldn’t want to offend them just because your attire is not in keeping with their traditions and culture. Women travelling to Kenya need to take into consideration that besides the fashion aspect, safety also plays a big role in your dressing. Kenya draws religious and cultural influences from Christianity as well as Islam. The country is more conservative than the West but much less restrictive than the Middle East. Ideally, you should wear clothing that covers most of your thighs and cleavage. In resorts or at beaches, wearing sleeveless wouldn’t be a problem. But the same would be frowned upon along the eastern coast of the country which has a majority of Muslim population.
Most tribes in Kenya are always dressed in colourful clothing but the same people switch to greens and browns while in forest reserves. Similarly, when it’s time to go on your safari, pick out all the subtle and dull hues that you can. Wear colours that would seamlessly mix with the jungle shades. Wearing bright colours can cause disturbance to animals. Instead, camouflage tones go a long way on your safaris.
Refrain from buying items derived from endangered animals
In Kenya, you will see a lot of roadside stalls selling animal skins, animal horns and what not. Refrain from buying any of that as this kind of trade is illegal in most countries – Kenya as well! This exchange is close on the lines of smuggling as nobody would give you any purchase receipt. Thus, don’t buy things that you might suspect are being made from animals.
While on safari, do not feed any food item to any wild animal in the reserve. It is strictly prohibited, an offence which can be fined. It can also be a cause of unnecessary provocation. Don’t tease animals, either by making faces at them or by booing them.
While clicking photographs, make sure that your camera’s flash is off. The flashlight can irritate the animals. Don’t get down from your vehicles in the park, unless your driver/guide says it’s okay to.
Kenya is a plastic free country. If you are found carrying plastic bags, then you can be heavily fined, even though you are a tourist. Anyone found violating the plastic ban faces the strictest punishment in the world – a penalty of $35,000 or jail term of up to 4 years. While plastic pouches with locally packed snack items are allowed, ziploc bags are not permitted. There is a possibility of your bags being checked at the immigration counter at Nairobi airport. However, on our trip to Kenya, we did not face any hassle regarding the plastic ban (we had taken the necessary measures though).
Kenyan economy is heavily reliant on agriculture and tourism. While salaries are not high in the country, locals earn side income from tips and gratitude that they receive from tourists. Don’t shy away from tipping generously for the services offered by the locals. For a restaurant server, the ideal tip amount would be KSh 100-200. For your hotel’s housekeeping staff, make sure you give around KSh 200 per day, per room. The hotel’s manager should get around KSh 500 per day. Tip your driver the most as he would be with you throughout your tour, around KSh 100 per person, per day. The above tip amounts are only suggestions, they can however differ from person to person.
Besides these do’s and don’ts, there a number of other things that you need to know before you travel to Kenya. Make sure you’re aware about them too.