In business meetings in 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 in Kenya is generally conservative. Business suits with ties and formal wear are preferred for work. Traditional Kenyan dress can also sometimes be seen, including Muslim attire, especially along the coast and north-eastern border.
Most Kenyans travel by public buses, or matatus. Marked taxis are readily available in most areas of Nairobi, and while fares are negotiable most trips in the capital will cost around KSh600-800 ($6.60-8.80). Long-distance trips are most convenient by air, with routes running to western Kenya and the coast. International driving permits are acceptable. Cars drive on the left.
Yellow fever vaccinations are highly recommended but not required to enter the country. As Kenya is in the “meningitis belt” of sub-Saharan Africa, a meningitis vaccination is a wise precaution during the dry season. Anti-malaria medications are advised when visiting rural areas or the coast. Visitors should drink bottled water. There are many private hospitals and clinics in Kenya with registration fees under KSh1500 ($16.50).
With a reasonable level of awareness, travellers can move about most parts of Nairobi freely during the day. The capital’s 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.
The official languages in Kenya are Swahili and English, but 69 other languages are spoken, some of them on the verge of extinction. Arabic can often be heard along the coast. Several of Kenya’s tribal languages are nearing extinction.
The dialling code is +254, and the GSM telecoms network is readily accessible. Mobiles can be topped up with credit at mobile phone shops and convenience stores. New regulations require SIM cards to be registered alongside passports upon purchase. Internet access is common in commercial centres and business centres.
Citizens of Uganda and Rwanda can enter Kenya using their national ID cards. Western visitors can obtain a visa on arrival at immigration, though the country is moving towards an “e-visa” system, that would allow pre-arrival applications online.
The national currency is the Kenya shilling (KSh), with a floating exchange rate and bills in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. Foreign currency can be exchanged at licensed offices; the rate as of October 2015 was KSh100.50;$1, KSh114.12;€1 and 155.36KSh;£1. ATMs are available 24/7 in all cities and counties, and credit cards are accepted at most establishments.
Tipping is not considered mandatory in Kenya. However, 10% is generally accepted for restaurants and hotels. Many establishments include a service charge already added onto the bill.
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. Three-pin UK plugs are standard.
The typical work week runs from Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm. Some businesses work a half-day on Saturday. Kenya celebrates Christmas, Easter and nine public holidays.
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