Helpful tips for business and leisure travellers

Etiquette

In business meetings across Kenya it is customary to exchange greetings and shake hands. As relationships and networking are important in the business community, it is common to open a meeting by engaging in casual discussion about health, family and travel. The host will generally indicate when the business discussion should commence.

Dress

Dress code in Kenyan culture is generally conservative. Business suits with ties and formal wear are preferred for work. In some settings traditional Kenyan dress can be seen, including Muslim attire, particularly along the coast and north-eastern border.

Transport

Most Kenyans travel by way of public buses, or matatus. Marked taxis are readily available in Nairobi in most areas and while fares are negotiable, most trips in the capital will cost between KSh600 and KSh800 ($6.80-9.10). It is not recommended to hail taxis on street corners. Long-distance trips are most convenient by air, with frequent routes to western Kenya and the coast. Rail is still in its nascent stages. Local and international driving permits are acceptable. Cars drive on the left side of the road.

Health

A Yellow Fever vaccination is highly recommended, but not required to enter the country. Kenya is in the “Meningitis Belt” of sub-Saharan Africa, which makes a meningitis vaccination a useful precaution during the dry season. Anti-malarial medications are suggested when visiting rural areas or the coast. Visitors should drink bottled water. There are numerous private hospitals and clinics in Kenya, with registration fees under KSh1500 ($17.10).

Safety

With a reasonable level of awareness, travellers can move about most parts of Nairobi freely during the day. The main business and embassy districts of Westlands and Gigiri generally maintain a lower risk profile. Foreigners should avoid unnecessary displays of wealth and travelling alone in low-income areas at night. Counties bordering Somalia to the north-east have traditionally faced more porous borders and challenges with security. The emergency response line is 999.

Language

Swahili and English are the official languages in Kenya, however 69 other languages are spoken as a reflection of Kenya’s diverse population. Arabic is commonly found along the coast. A number of Kenya’s tribal languages are on the verge of extinction.

Communications

The dialling code is +254, and the GSM telecommunications network is readily accessible, with most Kenyans owning mobile phones. Mobiles can be topped up with credit at mobile phone shops, convenience stores and street corners. New regulations require SIM cards to be registered alongside passports when purchased. Internet access is common in commercial centres; business centres and cybercafés are popular throughout the country.

Visa

Citizens of Uganda and Rwanda can enter Kenya using their national ID cards. Western visitors can obtain a visa on arrival at immigration.

Currency

The national currency is the Kenya shilling (KSh), with a free-floating exchange rate. Bank bills are in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 Shillings. The exchange rate as of July 2014 was KSh89.21:$1, KSh121.34:€1, and 152.7KSh:£1. Foreign currencies can be exchanged at licensed exchange offices. ATM machines are available 24-hours at all major financial institutions in every city and county. Credit cards are also accepted at most major establishments.

Tipping

Tipping is not considered mandatory in Kenya, however 10% is generally accepted for restaurants and hotels. Most major establishments include a service charge already added onto the bill.

Electricity

For cities and rural areas connected to the grid, power supply is irregular, causing many businesses and homes to invest in back-up generators. Many rural parts of the country remain completely disconnected. Kenya has a 240-V 50-Hz network. Threepin UK plugs are standard.

Business Hours

The average work week runs from Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm. Some organisations work a half day on Saturday. In addition to Christmas and Easter, Kenya celebrates nine major public holidays.

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