6 things you need to know before visiting Kenya for the first time

visiting Kenya for the first time
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Kenya is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, it’s diverse landscapes, incredible animals and friendly people make it a truly special place. This post is aimed to make venturing there a little less daunting than it may initially appear. Kenya is a comparatively safe African destination but like any destination there’s still plenty you should know before taking a trip there. So here you have it, a complete guide of 6 things you need to know before visiting Kenya for the first time!

visiting Kenya for the first time

1. Personal Safety 

Whilst Kenyan’s are incredibly friendly there is considerable poverty in Kenya and as a tourist you will draw more attention to yourself especially if you’re carrying around fancy cameras and wearing obviously expensive jewellery. Like much petty crime, it’s entirely opportunistic. If you minimise yourself as a target and be vigilant then you’ll most likely be absolutely fine.

The following tips are pretty obvious ones, but are important none the less:

  • Dress respectively, whilst it’s not as imperative as when you’re visiting many Asian and Arabian countries, if you dress modestly to not draw attention to yourself, this minimises risk. Ladies this tip especially applies to you!
  • Make a copy of your passport to keep in your luggage
  • Wear a money belt under all your clothes if you’re travelling through a city with valuables (money, passport etc)
  • DO NOT wear expensive jewellery, carry flashy cameras (in towns and cities, obviously on safari it’s fine!) or carry too much cash. 

visiting Kenya for the first time

2. Medical 

There’s a number of mandatory injections and medication needed when you travel to Kenya. So here’s a list of them for you!

The strongly advised jabs and boosters recommended are:

  • Diphtheria, Hepatitis A,  Poliomyelitis, Tetanus and Typhoid

I know that in England you can either get these injections from your doctor or from private travel clinics – the clinics are likely to be more expensive.

The other injections you should strongly consider:

  •  Yellow FeverCholera, Hepatitis B, Meningococcal Meningitis and Rabies.

Yellow Fever is mandatory, especially if you’re travelling around Africa, you often need to present a Yellow Fever certificate on entry to be allowed in to each country, so be sure to get this one if you haven’t already.

It’s fairly pricey as injections go, for example, at a travel clinic my Yellow Fever jab was £80 – however it does last 10 years and prevent you from getting Yellow Fever so I’m sure you’ll be getting value for money!

  • Malaria – There’s no injection for Malaria but it’s likely you’ll be told to purchase malaria tablets.

Whist Nairobi and some highland areas have relatively low risk it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to malaria!

WARNING: Malaria tablets have pretty much every side-effect possible listed on the box however fortunately the most common are not too serious.

Upset tummies and light-sensitivity are two of these. I’m of the olive skin type that usually tans once instantly exposed to sun however for the first time in my life I found myself turning beetroot in a matter of minutes, even smothered in sun lotion! So be super careful and keep an eye out for this.

visiting Kenya for the first time

3. Insects and Animals 


If you’re on safari in Kenya it’s likely your guides will tell you about the dangers and precautions to take around wild animals or the course of action if you were to stumble upon a leopard in your bath tub.


When it comes to insects, be prepared. I’m definitely not the best judge of how bad insects and bugs are in Kenya, given that I’m one of those annoying people who is frantically swatting whilst running away from the dinner table at the slightest buzz. However, definitely cover yourself in insect repellent, not only will this further prevent any mosquito related diseases but then you won’t be itching and scratching your way round safari the next day.

visiting Kenya for the first time

4. Visas 

You will need a visa when travelling into Kenya. These are around £30 / $50 and you can either purchase one on arrival or from the Kenyan High Commission. It is relatively easy to acquire one on arrival so I personally wouldn’t stress too much about having one beforehand just make sure you have US dollars with you to pay for it.

visiting Kenya for the first time

5. Food and Drink 

There is no staple Kenyan dish as such however you can expect amazing steak and most meals are served with a grain of some sort (couscous, rice etc) with a portion of meat or fish. Everything is deliciously seasoned and makes use of the fresh produce available in the area.

WARNING: Like in most countries, be cautious of ‘street food’, ensure that if you are eating from them you’re eating food cooked at very high temperatures that is still hot when you buy it. The large majority of the time it will be fine. However, especially if you have a sensitive stomach or you’re not acclimatised to the cuisine yet, it’s best to be cautious and steer clear of street vendors.

In terms of the water in Kenya, we were told it was fine to drink if your stomach has acclimatised to it however if you’re coming from abroad they advise bottled water. For things like brushing your teeth the water is fine to use.

visiting Kenya for the first time

6. Culture, Language and People


The culture and traditions in the country completely depend upon where you’re staying. The country is predominantly Christian with a smaller percentage of Muslims.


The largest difference in cultures will be found in the different tribes within the country. The most well known to tourists being the Massai and the Samburu tribe.

If you’re interested ask your guide or a local to tell you about the different traditions within the different tribes, they’re incredibly interesting, you’ll soon realise how complicated your modern technological life seems in comparison!


There is extreme poverty in the country, with Nairobi being home to Kibera – the largest urban slum in Africa. You have to bear in mind that you will be incredibly wealthy in comparison to some of the Kenyan population that you may meet along the way, so be wary of that and be sure to minimise the risk to your personal safety by abiding by the tips I listed above.


Kenya is a multilingual country with English and Swahili being the two official languages. So here’s a couple of Swahili words to help you along your way:

“Jambo!” – this is the most common greeting, it’s sort of like an all inclusive “Hello how are you?”

“Asante” / “Asante Sana” – this means thank you / thank you very much.

“Pole Pole” – You’ll probably hear this being said a lot, it translates to ‘slowly slowly’, everything is “pole pole” here so get used to it!

visiting Kenya for the first time

I think it’s time for you to be booking that plane ticket now, don’t you?! Enjoy!

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    Vacation Rentals In Kenya
    April 9, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    That’s really interesting and informative knowledge. Thanks for sharing it !

    August 18, 2015 at 5:58 am

    As a Kenyan, I’m afraid I don’t agree with most of what you’ve said. All those injections? Wow what a fraud. None of those injections are a requirement for locals. Are you saying we’re immune from contracting these diseases? We have some x-factor gene?

    Staple food: At least every household eats ugali-maize flour cooked in boiling water. Usually served with vegetables and/or meat

    Bottled water? It’s all psychology. I drink water straight from the tap and I’m fine. For the skeptics, I would advise boiling of tap water (at 100 degrees all impurities are killed) then let it cool

    About safety, I agree. Flash your valuables (phones, laptops, money, etc) on the wrong streets (mostly downtown Nairobi) there is a high chance they’ll be snatched. As a foreigner, I wouldn’t know what you’ll be looking for in downtown Nairobi.

    Just like Dagenham in London is prone to burglary, there are such areas everywhere in the world.

    No local says “Jambo” as a greeting. Habari yako?=How are you?

    You generalized Kenya by only visiting a few places-from the pictures it can be deduced you went on a safari. I challenge you to visit other places in Kenya.

    alfredo ciano
    August 4, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    A Complete Guide for the Kenya but the Real Life is Beyond the Words…

    Simone Lye
    July 30, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Excellent tips, definently things to think about! Thanks Brooke x

    Alisha Paul
    July 27, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Hey… i adore your’s stunning.. You’ve Literally roused me to begin my own travel web journal seeing as there is a hole In the Kenyan travel blog scen

    July 26, 2015 at 12:17 am

    Good piece of article . I would like to disagree with the part you said that Kenya has extreme poverty otherwise i will not be at your website. I also happen to follow your YouTube videos. Another thing Kenya has a staple food , maize which is prepare in form of matoke, githeri or ugali. Those asking about attractions, there are lakes , game parks, mountains and sandy beaches. Google brand Kenya. I live in Kenya .

    July 24, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    I would love to visit Kenya one day and go on a safari. I think I have most of those injections already from last years trip to South America.

    July 24, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Aah Africa <3 I miss it.

    Salman Dean
    July 24, 2015 at 5:51 am

    So happy you did a blog post on Kenya as there aren’t many. I’m going to be visiting soon and hopefully will have a bunch of posts up myself!

    July 24, 2015 at 5:33 am

    Thanks for the tips 🙂

    July 24, 2015 at 5:11 am

    Hey…i love your’s amazing.. You’ve Literally inspired me to start my own travel blog seeing as there is a gap In the Kenyan travel blog scene.
    I’m happy that you had a great time in my beautiful country.I feel like Kenya is underrated.. It’s magical
    You should definitely come back!!

    July 24, 2015 at 4:30 am

    Such a great thorough review of what to expect when traveling to Kenya! Thanks for sharing these tips.

    July 24, 2015 at 4:07 am

    are u serious!!!!!!!!….. all those negative stuff are pure malice nkt!!.. pssssst

    Alaçatı Otel
    July 23, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    Alaçatı gezilecek yerler rehberine hoş geldiniz! Alaçatı’da nereler gezilir, en ünlü plajlar, tarihi yerler nerelerdir merak ediyorsanız yazımızı sonuna kadar okuyun…

    Ege’nin incisi Çeşme’nin bir beldesi olan Alaçatı, yıl boyu esen serin rüzgarı, taştan Rum Evleri, çiçek kokan sokakları, yöresel lezzetleri ve güler yüzlü insanları ile biliniyor.

    Saakshi Kumar
    July 23, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    Thanks for the head’s up! 🙂 Kenya definitely sounds like a place one should head to sometime in their life. Looks like its going to offer you a completely different life there.

    July 23, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Great post with a lot of useful info. I think you mean dress respectfully not respectively though.

    Eunice Musuamba
    July 23, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    The blogosphere needs more posts about Africa. True story

    July 23, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Great post! Kenya must be wonderful place. I have read the book White Masai and since then I would love to visit Kenya!

    July 23, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Fabulous tips Brooke and love your pics! Yet to venture to Africa, might have to head there after this years Europe adventure!!

    July 23, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    Great post! This post was perfect timing for me as I have a 24 hr layover in Nairobi in a few days!

    Deepti @ Endless Postcards
    July 23, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Kenya is one of my absolute favorite places. I volunteered there and didn’t have the chance to go on a safari, so I’ll probably be making my way back there sometime. The poverty there is tough to see, but all the people I’ve met are incredibly friendly! Great photos and tips

    July 23, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Especially agree with no.3. I traveled to Vietnam last October, and cannot even begin to imagine how uncomfortable I would have been had I not taken so much insect repellent. Great tips!

    Mama Munchkin
    July 23, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Great list!! I visited Ethiopia in 2010 and I am thinking of traveling back soon. I was looking at other African countries we could visit this time around. I loved your tips!!

    July 23, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit Kenya! I remember as a kid I was obsessed with a series about a girl living in Kenya with her parents working as vets. She would save a different animal every novel. Ah! The memories! I’ll save this post for one day when I’ll be volunteering – well, that’s the plan.

    Chalsie x

    July 23, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    This post is very informative, but after reading it I have zero desire to go there. At least not for a while

    Laura Nelson
    July 23, 2015 at 11:20 am

    This is an awesome article.

    July 23, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I don’t know much about Kenyan food at all, but your description got my intrigued! Do you have any favorite dishes?

    July 23, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for sharing… Definitely not the last minute vacation destination.

    I’d be interested to hear why people travel to Kenya. I’d imagine it’s a great place to visit and support financially or through volunteering, but what are some other attractions or purposes for travel to Kenya?