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Travel Tips for East Africa

Home » Travel Tips for East Africa

Language

English is the official language in East Africa; though Kiswahili is considered the second official language.

Passport & Visas

A valid passport is required. It is advisable to seek information from our Mission in your respective country. Visas are required by all.

In Kenya; the shift from Manual to E-Visa applications commenced on 1st September, 2015 as scheduled. Due to some of the challenges experienced, the Government has approved both processes (manual visa on arrival and E-visa prior to arrival) to run side by side. No time limit has been specified before the return to E-Visa only applications, but ample notice will be given when that time comes.

While visitors to Kenya are now able to make manual visa applications upon arrival at the ports of entry, we recommend that intending visitors make use of the online application as much as possible. This will assist in identifying any deficiencies in the system and help to improve the process.

Uganda and Rwanda Visas are can now be applied for online while Tanzania VISAs are applied for on arrival.

Online VISA Application Links

Kenya http://evisa.go.ke

Rwanda https://irembo.gov.rw/rolportal/en/web/dgie/newhome
Uganda https://visas.immigration.go.ug

Kenya, Tanzania & Rwanda charges US$ 50.- per passport while Uganda charges US$ 100.- per passport (In Kenya, VISA for Persons below the age of 16 years is free of charge)

There is an East African Community single visa available for Kenya-Uganda-Rwanda, at port on entries/airports for a fee of US$ 100.- per passport.

NB: there are exceptions and different prices for certain countries. Please refer to the immigration websites or the Embassy for specific information.

Also for guests combining Kenya and Tanzania, please note that only a single-entry visa for each country will suffice.

Guests visiting Kenya on a stay shorter than 24 Hours, can apply for a Transit Visa (delivered at the discretion of the Immigration officer) for a cost of USD 20.- per passport

Prohibitions

PLASTIC BAGS
The government of Kenya has taken a exemplary step to aid in environment sustainability bu banning the use, manufacture and importation of plastic bags. Be advised that you should not bring plastic bags into Kenya. The ban applies to carrier bags with handles & with or without gussets and flat bags without handles & without gussets.
There may be checks at international airports and within Kenya and the fines for being caught with a plastic bag are quite severe.

UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES
Please be advised that the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones) is not allowed in any of the countries we take you on safari and beach stay.

Health & Immunisations

A course of anti-malarial tablets is essential; please seek advice from a GP.

A mosquito repellent is also advisable.

Yellow Fever Vaccination is now obligatory for all visitors to Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda & Kenya.

For visitors from Asia and India, yellow fever vaccination is mandatory for re-entry purpose to their home countries.

Travelers out of India visiting Kenya now require a vaccination against Polio.

Please ensure that you have this before your arrival.

Swimming is not recommended except in hotel pools and in the ocean.

If on medication, it is best to take a supply of medicines to last the entire trip.

Currency

The Kenyan Shilling (KSH or KES) is denominated in notes of 1000, 500, 200,100, 50 and coins of 40, 20, 10, 5 and 1.

The Tanzanian Shilling (TZS) is denominated in notes of 10000, 5000, 2000, 1000, 500, and coins of 200,100 and 50.

The Rwandese Franc (RWF) is denominated in notes of RWF 5000, 2000, 1000, and 500, while coins are RWF 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1.

The Ugandan Shilling (UGS) is denominated in notes of 50000, 20000, 10000, 2000, 1000 Shillings. Coins are issued in denominations of 500, 200 & 100 shillings.

US Dollars, Sterling Pounds and Euros are acceptable everywhere. However we advise you to have a certain amount of local currency at all times.

‘Bureau de change’ are available at all airports and in the cities.

A commission is levied for changing of the foreign currency.

However, most of the Banks and establishments including African Quest Safaris will not accept US Dollar bills printed prior the year 2006.

ATM’s are also popular and seen in most areas ( you may only draw in the local currency)

Exchange Rates check with XC.COM – note that actual rates my vary.

Customs

Visitors may import, duty-free, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, and one litre of spirit.

Baggage Claim

All bags arrive on the conveyor belt.
Each person picks his/her bag, onto a trolley and then clear Customs – where he/she presents their passport.
This is just a formality – nothing more than that.

And immediately in front of them are the Exit doors to the Public Waiting Area/ Rendez-vous point.

Meeting Point Arrival

Once you clear immigration and customs – our representatives will meet you on arrival entry outside the Arrival Halls.
The common name on the MEETING board will read the name of the Family, Individual or Group.

Power

Our National grid power supply ranges between 240v-220v. Many of our lodges/camps in the parks and reserves get this supply from the National grid. Most of them generate their own power supply from generators and power ranges 240v –220v.

However, a variety of plugs are usable and an adaptor is available upon request.
For stress-free travel, we recommend you carry a universal adaptor.

Telecommunications

Auto roaming of mobile phones is available in all East African Countries with excellent network in the cities and in and around some of the national parks and reserves. This will however depend on whether there is a reciprocated agreement with your country. Otherwise, most lodges/hotels are connected to land lines.

There is a cost for usage of the phones.
You may also buy a Pre-Paid line from the various mobile operators with easy switch over from Kenya to Tanzania to Rwanda and or to Uganda whilst on holiday here. This is the cheapest option.

Water

Piped water in East African region is chlorinated and safe to use for showering and washing of hands but should not be drank directly from the tap.

It is highly recommended that you use the purified or mineral water provided for you at the hotel or you may buy some at the hotel bar/shops and service stations.

Flying Doctors

The temporary membership cost is US$ 15 per person and is valid for a 3 months visit in East Africa.

It entitles the subscriber to one free Air Ambulance flight from a radius of 1000 kilometers within East Africa.

The areas we are traveling to fall within this range of mileage.

The Air Ambulance consists of, depending on the emergency, a nurse, a doctor, flight attendant and of course the crew.

The aircrafts are equipped with Blood, Oxygen, etc.

So, if we had an accident or somebody fell ill, we could call upon the Flying Doctors and within a turn-around time of a maximum of 40 minutes to one hour, they would be at the nearest airstrip to our location.

Website: www.flyingdoctorsocietyafrica.com

What to carry

Baggage: the ‘mantra’ is TRAVEL LIGHT!

Clients should be encouraged to carry soft bags as opposed to hard or roller cases such as samsonite, etc.

This saves time during the loading and offloading of the safari vehicles.

Other Personal Items.

Don’t forget the camera, camcorder and a plentiful supply of storage memory and spare batteries.

A pair of binoculars will greatly enhance game viewing while a torch to find your way around camp after dark is a good idea.

Books, pencils, crayons and crackers are very welcome as gifts to the children of local villages that you would pass (or visit) whilst on safari.

What to Wear

Summer clothing is worn throughout the year, although at times a jacket and light raincoat may be necessary.

Early morning and evening temperatures at altitude ( most national parks are located 1000m plus asl) are cool.

So we recommend a sweater to keep you warm especially during your dawn and dusk safaris.

On safari; Sensible walking shoes are also recommended and since laundry is only possible where you are staying for 2 nights, try to carry quick-dry type of clothing.

Casual wear is the norm during the day, a short-sleeved shirt for men, light cotton dresses, or a skirt and top for women. In the evening, all hotels and restaurants require long trousers for men in particular.

Sunglasses and a hat for protection against the sun are recommended and swimsuits should be packed for the swimming pool or beach.

Topless sunbathing is not permitted.

We have below appended a packing list for Gorilla Treks. For any other specific activity, we can provide you with details on request.

Tipping & Gratuities

Tipping is customary and in many occasions, actually ‘paves the way’.

It is indeed a way of life in our part of the world.

Please note that there are variations between all the EA countries on tipping and gratuities.

Whilst the actual amount of money to tip is left at your discretion, we would like to offer some guidelines here below:

KENYA

Porter – per bag : US$ 1.- each time

Server in restaurant – per meal : US$ 1.50- per person

Driver-guide – per day : US$ 10. to 30.- per person

TANZANIA and RWANDA

Porter – per bag : US$ 1.50- each time

Server in restaurant – per meal : US$ 2.- per person

Driver-guide – per day : US$ 10.- per person

UGANDA

Porters :US$ 0.50 per piece of bag.

Trekking Porters :US$ 10.- per person.

Waiters – For drinks waiters :10% of consumption.

Server in restaurant – per meal : US$ 2.00 per person per meal or if service exceptional 10%.

On average, we would recommend that you budget for US$ 100. per person on a trip of 7-10 days, which would comfortably cover all tipping & gratuities.

Shopping

There is a big variety of souvenirs to take home. Most hotels have licensed souvenir shops and there are a large number of such outlets in the main towns.

Popular items are wood carvings, African art, African clothing, soap stone carvings, wax batiks, tie and dyes, African jewelry, gem stones

As you move along from point to point, you will come across many souvenir shops “kiosks” , if you like something, BARGAIN and BUY.

At several places, barter is also possible. You may want to bring your used T-shirts, caps, sneakers etc.. and in exchange pick up Masai bead bracelets, small animal carvings etc..

As your time can be limited, don’t put off your shopping till the ‘last day’.

Often some of these ‘kiosks’ may stock items that are not available in the city.

The traders accept all major currencies in cash and some of the bigger outlets also take International Credit Cards.

If you like, you may also visit the gold smiths where there is a wide range of beautiful jewelry made from gold, silver and diamond. Latest in African Fashion is available at select outlets.

Value Added Tax

Nearly everything has Value Added Tax component.

There is no facility for tax refund except in Tanzania which has introduced this for passengers exiting at their International Airports.

Duty free items can be purchased from the duty free shops located at our international airports.

Cost of Living

The average cost of eating out is equivalent to that in most developed countries. Lunch costs around US$25 per head and an “a la carte” dinner is between US$ 30 and US$50 per person.

Diners can choose between Local, Indian, European-Continental and Asian cuisine. There are also fast food outlets and fish-and-chip shops!

Kenyan & Tanzanian beer is actually very good and costs around USD $3 for 300ml bottle.

Public Holidays

Kenya :

January 1, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May 1, June 1, October 20, December 12, and December 25 & 26.

Religious Holidays : Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, Easter and Christmas Day.

Tanzania :

January 1, January 12, April 7(Zanzibar), April 26, May, July 7, September 10, December 9 , December 25 & 26

Religious Holidays : Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha , Easter and Christmas Day.

Rwanda :

1 January ,1 February (National Heroes Day), 7 April (Genocide Memorial Day),1 May (Labour Day),1 July (Independence Day),4 July (National Liberation Day),15 August (Assumption Day),1 October (Patriotism Day), 26 December(Boxing Day)

Religious Holidays : Easter & Christmas Day

Uganda :

1st January, 26th January (Liberation Day), 8th March(International Women’s Day), 1st May(Labour Day), 3rd June (Martyrs’s Day), 9th June(Heroe’s Day) ,9th October(Independance Day), 26th December(Boxing Day )

Religious Holidays : Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, Easter & Christmas Day

Suggested Packing List for Gorrila Trekking

Clothing
Waterproof Jacket
Soft Jacket, fleece or soft-shell
Long Sleeve Shirt, light-weight
Short Sleeve Shirt, light-weight
Hiking Pants (convertible to shorts recommended)
Shorts (optional)

Footwear
Hiking Boots or Trail Shoes
Sandals

Accessories
Sunglasses
Brimmed Hat, for sun protection
Gloves, gardening or similar Poncho, during rainy season (optional)
Stuff Sacks or Plastic Bags, to keep items dry

Equipment
Daypack, for you to carry your personal gear
Flashlight

Other ( for trek and safari)
Toiletries
Prescriptions
Sunscreen
Lip Balm
Insect Repellent, containing DEET
Binoculars
First Aid Kit
Hand Sanitizer
Pencil and Notebook, miniature, for trip log (optional)
Camera, with extra