Tips for visitors to Kenya

Etiquette

Work meetings begin with an exchange of greetings and a handshake. As is common throughout the region, personal relationships and networking are crucial for business interactions, and it is common to open a meeting by engaging in a casual discussion about health, family and travel. The host will generally indicate when the business discussion should commence.

Dress

Work attire generally follows conservative Western styles. Business suits with ties or appropriate office wear are most common. Traditional Kenyan dress is occasionally worn, including Muslim attire, especially along the coastal regions and the north-east.

Transport

Major cities have a range of transport options, notably privately run shuttles and buses, or matatus. Licensed taxis are available in most areas of Nairobi, and most trips in the capital will cost around KSh600-800 ($5.88-7.84). Uber also currently provides car-sharing services in most of central Nairobi. Kenya Airways has a well-developed domestic network. The new Standard-Gauge Railway provides a safe and affordable link between Mombasa and Nairobi.

Health

As with most African countries, proof of yellow fever vaccinations is generally required at the airport. A meningitis vaccination is also a wise precaution during the dry season, and anti-malaria medications are advised when visiting rural areas or the coast. There are many well-regarded private international hospitals and clinics in Nairobi and Mombasa with registration fees under KSh2000 ($19.60).

Safety

Travellers can move about Nairobi freely during the day, although a degree of awareness of the surroundings is advised. Foreigners should avoid unnecessary displays of wealth and travelling alone in low-income areas at night. The Central Business District, along with higher-end neighbourhoods such as Westlands and Karen, tend to be comparatively safe. Counties bordering Somalia to the north-east have traditionally faced more porous borders and challenges with security. The emergency response line is 999.

Language

As is common throughout East Africa, there is significant linguistic diversity, and roughly 70 different languages are spoken, some of them on the verge of extinction. The official languages are Swahili and English, with the latter commonly used in business meetings. Arabic can often be heard along the coast.

Communications

Kenya offers 3G and 4G coverage, with services available across the country. Network quality is comparatively reliable and mobiles can be topped up with credit at local 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, and Wi-Fi is increasingly available in restaurants and cafés. The international dialling code is +254 VISA: Citizens of Uganda and Rwanda can enter using their national ID cards. Western visitors can obtain a visa on arrival for a fee, though there is an “e-visa” system that allows pre-arrival registration as long as the application is submitted two weeks prior to arrival.

Currency

The national currency is the Kenya shilling (KSh), with a floating exchange rate and bills in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. ATMs are available 24/7 in all cities and counties, and both Mastercard and Visa are accepted at most hotels.

Tippping

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

Electricity

Three-pin UK plugs are standard, although some hotels in Nairobi may have outlets for US or European plugs. For cities and rural areas connected to the grid, power supply is irregular, causing many businesses and homes to invest in back-up generators. Kenya has a 240-V, 50-Hz network.

Business Hours

The typical work week runs from Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 5.00pm. Some businesses may also work a half day on Saturday. Kenya celebrates Christmas and Easter, in addition to nine public holidays.

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