Dreaming of an African Safari? This is our guide to first-time travelers in Kenya, home to the Masai Mara National Reserve, one of the best safari destinations in Africa. This travel guide includes itinerary, expenses, and travel tips to help you plan your future trip to this exquisite country.
Entering Kenya is quite easy. Most nationalities including Philippine Passport holders can get a visa online or at the airport. The visa cost is only USD51 or roughly around Php2,600. You can also get an East Africa Tourist Visa for USD100 that entitles you to enter Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda for 90 days. Check out our Kenya Tourist Visa Application Guide to know if you are eligible for a visa on arrival or e-Visa.
Important Things to Remember When Visiting Kenya for the First Time
- Make sure you have a shot of Yellow Fever Vaccine and always carry your Yellow Card when you explore East Africa. If you don’t have one, you can read our guide in getting a Yellow Fever Vaccine in the Philippines.
- If you are coming from the Philippines, book in advance or consider going to other countries closer to Africa like India. I flew to India and took a flight from Mumbai to Nairobi.
- Book a return flight as it is way cheaper than booking separate one-way flights.
- To avoid hassle and long lines in the airport, consider applying for an e-Visa online.
- Book your accommodation in advance. I stayed at Greenvale Hotel in Nairobi and I booked via Booking.com.
- If you are going to Masai Mara, which you should, book your tour in advance. I used the Safari Bookings website to get a quote for a 3D2N safari.
- Know the fine print of the tour. Some tours include water, hotel pick-up, etc.
What to expect when you arrive in Kenya?
- First and foremost, expect friendly and kind people. Based on my experience, Kenyans are really nice. I had a positive experience from the immigration officer to the Uber driver and to the hotel staff where I stayed.
- After clearing the immigration, you’ll get down to the ground floor to get your bag. Once you have your bag, you can proceed to the currency exchange center just before you get out of the airport. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has a pretty good wifi connection so you can book your transportation via Uber just like I did. There are also prepaid taxi booth if you prefer to take a cab.
- The Uber meetup point is in the car park so you will have to walk a bit. Ask around if you are unsure but it should be marked in the Uber app.
- Expect a bad traffic situation in the city center during rush hour.
- English is widely spoken in Kenya so you should be able to communicate well with the locals.
- The local currency is Kenyan Shilling (KES). One US Dollar is about KES100.
Itinerary and Expenses
I haven’t explored much of Kenya since my sole purpose of going there was to experience the game drives at Masai Mara National Reserve. Here’s my short itinerary and expenses in Kenya.
Day 0: Mumbai to Nairobi via Addis Ababa
- I took an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Mumbai to Nairobi via Addis Ababa. We departed Mumbai around 11:05 AM local time and arrived in Addis Ababa around 2:00 PM local time. The travel time is around 5 hours. I had around 3 hours layover and I arrived in Nairobi almost 7:00 PM. The flight cost from Mumbai to Nairobi and Kigali back to Mumbai was INR25,640 or around USD370 (Php19,200).
- Kenya Visa Cost: USD51
- Uber to Hotel – KES1,450
- Accommodation at Greenvale Hotel – KES2,000
- Total expenses Day 0: USD455 / Php23,675 / KES46,323
Day 1-2: Masai Mara National Reserve Safari
- Uber to the meet-up point (City Market) – KES750. The safari that I booked at Kibera Holiday was supposed to include hotel pick up but a night before the trip, I got an email that there will be no pick up since I was not staying in the city center. Before I booked the tour, the guy Peter was aware of my hotel and still confirmed that I will be picked up from the hotel.
- Grocery (food) – KES370
- Safari – USD300
- Water – KES400
- All meals during the safari were included in the price. Water was supposed to be free but I wasn’t given any bottled water during the tour.
- Total expenses Day 1-2: USD315 / Php16,400 / KES32,000
Day 3: Back from Masai Mara
- Taxi from city market to the hotel – KES1000
- Grocery – KES340
- Laundry KES500. I stayed in the same hotel so I left my dirty clothes before I went to Masai Mara.
- Hotel Accommodation at Greenvale Hotel with free breakfast – KES2,000
- Total expenses Day 3: KES5,360 / USD53 / Php2,755
Day 4: Off to Kampala, Uganda
- Uber to Mash Bus terminal – KES600
- Photo for visa KES250
- Bus to Kampala KES2,500. I only got the normal seat which turned to be very comfortable since I did not have a seatmate.
- Lunch – KES350
- Purchased a day pack at KES1,000.
- Early dinner – KES400
- Total expenses Day 4: KES5,100 / USD50 / Php2,600
Total Expenses in Kenya (inclusive of a round trip ticket from Mumbai to East Africa): USD873 / Php45,420 / KES88,880
- Buy a local sim to get connected to the internet and avoid getting lost.
- Exchange some currency to Kenyan Shillings. You can also withdraw cash from the ATM if you have a debit card with Visa or Mastercard logo.
- Download maps.me so you can access an offline map.
- Use Uber or Bolt (formerly Taxify) as much as possible to avoid getting scammed.
- Avoid riding unmarked taxis.
- You can reduce the expenses significantly if you stay in hostels or travel with another person to divide the hotel room cost.
- Flying with a combination of full-service airline and a low-cost carrier will also help you save money if you are traveling on a budget.
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Glen Nomad is a travel blogger and the founder of Escape Manila, one of the top travel blogs in the Philippines. He has visited all 82 provinces in the Philippines and has explored 53 countries across Asia, North & South America, East Africa, Europe, and Australia. Follow him on IG at @escapemanila