Area Codes -- Nairobi, 020; Mombasa, 041; South Coast, 040; Malindi, 042; Nakuru, 051; Nanyuki, 062; Naivasha, 050; Kisumu, 057. If you're calling a cellphone number from abroad, you don't need to add the area code before the cellphone code, but you do need to drop the first 0.
Business Hours -- Standard shopping and business hours are Monday to Saturday 8:30am to 5pm, though many shops open Sunday morning, too. Some shops may close on Friday afternoons due to prayers. Bank hours are Monday to Friday 8:30am to 1:30pm and Saturday 8:30 to 11am.
Drinking Laws -- Alcohol is sold in bars, hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets with no restrictions. Away from the large resorts on the coast, small Muslim-owned restaurants may not offer liquor. The Lamu Archipelago is predominantly Islamic and largely nonalcoholic except for a handful of European-run resorts and hotels.
Electricity -- Kenya operates on 220-voltage electricity and takes square three-pin plugs (same as in the U.K.). While some safari properties provide adapters, you're advised to bring your own for charging equipment. If you're bringing electrical equipment from the U.S., you'll also need a convertor. Consult www.walkabouttravelgear.com for information on converters and adapters.
Embassies & Consulates -- All embassies are located in the nation's capital, Nairobi.
United States Embassy: United Nations Avenue, off Limuru Road, Gigiri, Nairobi (tel. 020/363-6000; http//:Nairobi.usembassy.gov).
British High Commission: Upper Hill Road, Nairobi Hill, Nairobi (tel. 020/284-4000; www.ukinkenya.fco.gov.uk).
Canada High Commission: Limuru Road, Gigiri, Nairobi (tel. 020/336-3000; www.canadainternational.gc.ca/kenya). Australia Embassy: ICIPE House, Riverside Drive, Westlands, Nairobi (tel. 020/444-5034; www.kenya.embassy.gov.au).
Emergencies -- For all emergencies (ambulance, fire, and police), dial 999.
Gasoline (Petrol) -- Taxes are already included in the price. One U.S. gallon equals 3.8 liters or .85 imperial gallons.
Holidays -- The Kenyan coast is predominantly Muslim, and many vacations are determined by the Islamic calendar, which shifts from year to year. These include Eid El Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), Ras El Sana (Islamic New Year), Moulid El Nabi (Prophet's Birthday), and Ramadan (fast during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar), followed by Eid al Fitr (Feast of the Breaking of the Fast after Ramadan). Public holidays are New Year's Day (Jan 1), Good Friday and Easter Monday (sometime in Mar or Apr), Labor Day (May 1), Madaraka Day (June 1), Moi Day (Oct 10), Kenyatta Day (Oct 20), Jamhuri (Independence) Day (Dec 12), Christmas Day (Dec 25), and Boxing Day (Dec 26).
Insurance -- Travel insurance is imperative for Kenya and should include coverage for theft or loss of valuables, full medical coverage in the event of an emergency, and medical repatriation to your home country. For more information on traveler's insurance, trip cancelation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, please visit www.frommers.com/planning.
Language -- Swahili (or, more correctly, Kiswahili, meaning "Swahili language") is the official national language and is taught in primary schools. However, English is taught in secondary schools, is widely spoken, and is the language of government, most media, and businesses. Some safari guides and hotel staff on the coast speak other European languages, too. Signs are usually in English. As in any country, it's always appreciated if you learn a few local phrases; most people will recognize Hakuna matata from The Lion King, which means "No problem!" in Kiswahili. For those wanting to go further, the Swahili Dictionary, compiled by D. V. Perrot (Hodder and Stoughton), contains a concise grammar and a guide to pronunciation, as does Teach Yourself Swahili, by Joan Russell (McGraw-Hill). The Swahili Phrasebook, by Martin Benjamin (Lonely Planet), has some useful phrases.
Legal Aid -- If you get into trouble with the law, contact your consulate or embassy, which, if necessary, can refer you to a qualified English-speaking attorney. Also bear in mind that if you are dealing with the police, even if reporting a crime (like a theft) against yourself, it is customary to address the police formerly -- that is, calling a policeman "sir" and policewoman "madam." Ranting and raving that they should do something about a situation will get you absolutely nowhere.
Mail -- The Kenyan postal service is cheap and reasonably efficient. Having said that, never send anything of value though the post; always use a courier service. An airmail letter will take about a week to Europe and about 10 days to North America and Australia. The bulkier your mail, the longer it will take to arrive. A postcard or letter costs around 90¢ to Europe and $1.20 to North America or Australia. International surface parcels cost about $14 per kilogram, and parcels by airmail are about $40 per kilogram. Post offices are open Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm and Saturday 9am to12pm.
Newspapers & Magazines -- Kenya has a number of English-language newspapers, of which the best is Daily Nation (www.nation.co.ke). The East African (www.theeastafrican.co.ke) is a weekly newspaper covering news throughout Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Kenyans themselves are avid newspaper readers, so papers can be bought on any street corner or from wandering vendors in the cities and towns. Rather delightfully, you will see groups of men reading the same newspaper and discussing its contents.
Smoking -- Kenya's ban on smoking in public places is harsher than in other countries, as it includes not only smoking in public buildings, but also smoking on the street. Smokers can smoke only in designated places, such as outside areas of some restaurants and bars or on hotel balconies.
Taxes -- Value-added tax (VAT) of 16% is included in all prices of goods and services.
Time -- Kenya is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
Tipping -- It is customary to tip guides, drivers, and support staff on your safari. That said, the decision to tip -- and how much to give -- is a personal matter and not an obligation. Most lodges and camps will indicate (usually with an in-room note) an amount that is considered appropriate. Unlike the U.S. and Europe, where gratuities are akin to wages and are almost mandatory in many places, in Kenya tips are gifts, and the people you meet will generally work incredibly hard for them. Typically, you will be asked to give any gratuities to your host (or the lodge manager) upon departure from each safari property, and these monies will then be distributed among all staff members. At some places, guides should be tipped separately, and you're often encouraged to hand over their tip personally. Guides can make or break a trip, so it's a good idea to bring extra money to reward a stellar guiding experience. Allow $10 and $20 per day (for each person in your party) for a guide, plus an additional $5 to $10 per person for drivers and, on budget camping safaris, cooks. In cities and on the coast, 10% of the bill is standard for restaurants, and you can hand over $1 for porters and similar services. Taking pens and sweets to give out freely to children in Kenya is not advised, as this encourages begging. If you want to contribute to any cause in Africa, it's always best to make a donation to a reputable charity. Your tour operator should be able to help you with this.
Toilets -- You'll find few public toilets while on safari -- or anywhere in Kenya, for that matter. Generally speaking, you'll want to avoid any type of public restroom unless it is in a hotel, resort, or safari lodge or camp. Upmarket restaurant facilities in larger towns and cities are generally acceptable, but never assume that you're going to encounter a decently managed toilet.
Visitor Information -- Your first port of call will probably be the Kenya Tourist Board's website (Kenya-Re Towers, Ragati Rd., Nairobi; tel. 020/271-1262; www.magicalkenya.com), although you'll soon discover that many of the tour operators specializing in Africa (or Kenya, specifically) carry similar, or even better, information on their websites. The Kenya Tourist Board will send you some brochures on request, so it's worth contacting them in advance. U.S. and Canada: Kenya Tourist Board, c/o Carlson Destination Marketing Services, P.O. Box 59159, Minneapolis, MN 55459-8257 (tel. 866/445-3692). U.K.: Kenya Tourist Board, c/o Hills Balfour, Notcutt House, 36 Southwark Bridge Rd., London SEI 9EU (tel. 0207/202-6362). If your primary interest is in game-viewing safaris, check out the website of Kenya Wildlife Services (www.kws.org). Other general destination websites with extensive information about Kenya include www.kenyalogy.com and www.kenyatravelideas.com.
Water -- Do not drink any tap water unless you have been given the thumbs-up by your host. There are only a few hotels, resorts, and lodges that treat, filter, or purify their tap water. (Tortilis in Amboseli National Park supplies naturally sourced mineral water direct to their bathrooms.) Nearly every safari property and beach resort will supply rooms with either a jug of filtered water or bottled mineral water. Remember that it is more environmentally friendly to use the filtered water if given a choice; some places make the extra effort to treat and filter their water and then bottle it in glass (remember that all plastic requires an elaborate disposal and recycling process). Always carry sufficient liquid with you when heading out for the day, since you never know how long it will be before you find a supply of drinkable water. Some river, stream, and mountain water may be safe to drink; however, remember that rivers may be used for human ablutions and bathing, and that hippos defecate in water.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.