8 Things You Need To Know Before Travelling To Kenya As A Digital Nomad

In this post we are going to take you through 10 things you need to know in depth before travelling to Kenya as a DN.

First up a few key facts…Kenya is a country in East Africa, with a population of more than 47 million people. The currency is the Kenyan shilling and the national language is Swahili. However, English is widely spoken. The capital city is Nairobi which means “place of cool waters”.

The country is a collectivist society, with the friendliest people making it easy to adapt and know your way around. It’s the 3rd largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and South Africa. Kenya has a lot to offer people.

Contents

1. Vaccinations and Health Precautions
2. Visas and Entry Requirements
3. Safety and Security Considerations
4. Cultural Norms and Etiquette
5. Finding Reliable Internet Access
6. Budgeting for Your Trip
7. Popular nomad destinations
– Diani
– Nairobi
– Mombasa
– Kilifi
– Watamu
8. Safaris in Kenya

 

1. Vaccinations and Health Precautions

Nothing below should be considered as health advice. Please seek advice from a qualified medical professional the information below was taken from London Travel Clinic, Health Pro and the CDC’s recommendations.

Required

COVID-19

Kenya accepts COVID-19 PCR tests for inbound travellers only valid for 96 hours from the date of sample collection to the point of initiating travel.

If this time expires due to delayed or rescheduled flights a re-test is mandatory. Children less than 5 years are exempt from the COVID-19 testing requirements.

Please check online before travelling as the rules can change regularly.

Yellow fever

Like many countries on the African continent, a Yellow Fever vaccine is required. When you get the vaccination, you should be given vaccination card which is your proof of vaccination.

It used to be the case that the vaccine was given every 10 years, this has now changed and you should be able to get any previous vaccine card re- certified as a lifetime vaccine at a travel clinic.

Recommended

Malaria prevention

Travellers take antimalarial, whether they are essential or not really depends on the length of your trip and specifically where you are travelling to.

Ask most Kenyans and they’ll tell you that they and most of their family have had it at one time or another. The reality is however that it’s quite a serious illness and can take 2-3 weeks to recover from.

 Rabies

In Kenya you’ll spot plenty of adorable street dogs, consider rabies vaccination before your trip if your activities mean you will be around dogs or wildlife

 Typhoid

Typhoid is spread through contaminated food or water. The vaccine is recommended for most travelers, especially those staying with friends or relatives or visiting smaller cities or rural areas.

Climate variables such as rainfall, vapor pressure, and temperature intensify the risk of typhoid transmission and distribution of typhoid infection in the human population.

2. Visas and Entry Requirements

Travel to Kenya is very straightforward for most travelers. All you need is a valid passport with the travel time you’ll be in the country plus an additional six months.

Visa free travel

Nationals of over 40 countries can travel to Kenya visa-free. If you are not on the list below, then you will need to apply for an eVisa online.

Ordinary passport holders who are citizens of the following countries are currently visa-free for Kenya for 90 days:

Bahamas

Barbados

Belize

Botswana

Brunei

Burundi

Cyprus

Dominica

Eswatini

Ethiopia

Fiji

Gambia

Ghana

Grenada

 

Jamaica

Kiribati

Lesotho

Malawi

Malaysia

Maldives

Mauritius

Namibia

Nauru

Papua New Guinea

Rwanda

Samoa

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Lucia

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

San Marino

Seychelles

Sierra Leone

Singapore

Solomon Islands

South Africa (30 days)

Tanzania

Tonga

Trinidad and Tobago

Tuvalu

Uganda

Vanuatu

Zambia

Zimbabwe

 Tourist Visa

Visa on arrival is no longer an option in Kenya. However, the process to apply for a tourist visa is fast, and not very expensive $51 and visas are issued as PDFs that you need to print for arrival at the airport.

Generally speaking, it’s advisable to apply for your visa at least 10-14 days before you travel.

Extending your tourist visa

If you come to Kenya for 90 days and decide you want to extend your stay it is normally possible to extend for a further 90 days through https://fns.immigration.go.ke/ or an agent.

Beyond that, you will need to leave the EAC area (Ethiopia is the closest non-EAC country) to be eligible to restart the clock.

Other types of visa available

There are two other types of visa that are applied for by people who decide they want to spend more than 180 days in Kenya.

Class K – This is the closest to a digital nomad visa that Kenya has available. It’s available to anyone who is over 35 and can prove an income of over $24,000 per year from outside the country and allows ongoing stays and/or multiple entries without needing to apply for new visas.

Class G (Investor Permit) – For those wanting to set-up a business in Kenya, you will need to set-up a limited company as well as bring in $100,000 of investment. That money is yours to spend once your visa has been obtained but it first needs to be deposited into a Kenyan bank.

If you have any visa-related questions feel free to reach out to us on our WhatsApp or Telegram group.

3. Safety and Security Considerations

One of the number one concerns we hear from people who’ve never been to Kenya is security. While security risks vary from time to time, it’s always good to do research in general, though most trips to Kenya are without incident.

General

Travel safe rates Kenya the same as Turkey, Senegal and the Maldives in terms of security.

In general, Kenyans are friendly, honest and quite religious.  However, Kenya is still considered a developing middle-income country with significant wealth gaps.

Regions

The border region of Somalia is unsafe for tourists. If you travel to less tourist-eccentric areas, you’ll usually find people are friendly and more interested in where you’ve come from than anything else.

Generally, on the coast, tourists should not travel further north than Lamu or within approximately 100 miles/150 km of the border in the rest of the country.

Some sensible safety tips

There are a couple of simple steps that I follow in almost every country I’m unfamiliar with:

  • {Arrival} When you arrive at the airport, have a taxi pre-booked to take you to your first accommodation.
  • {Talk to your taxi’s, tuk tuks etc} It’s a good opportunity to ask your driver what the local security situation is, where is safe, where isn’t etc.
  • {Night time} If you’re going anywhere at night in Nairobi take a taxi or car, on the coast or other areas, take Tuk tuk or a Boda Boda (motorbike) even if the distance doesn’t seem significant.
  • {Valuables} Don’t flaunt your expensive watches, headphones, iPhone etc while walking around.
  • {Bars & Drinking} Don’t go out on your own. Always try find someone to go with who will stay out as late (or as early) as you.

 

 4. Cultural Norms and Etiquette

cc-Ron Waddington

Kenya is becoming more & more culturally diversified, which makes it easy to meet people and blend in. People are welcoming and always ready to give a helping hand.

Time & Planning

In Kenya time is flexible, “Hakuna Matata” is a common term you’ll hear often.  Sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, delays and unexpected situations can happen. Having some patience and being able to adapt to unexpected changes will help you to make the most of your time in Kenya

Language and religion

English is widely spoken in Kenya, Swahili is the local language, and is made up of Arabic and coastal languages. Learn some basic phrases in the local language, an excellent icebreaker.

Finally, Kenya is a widely Christian country with a roughly 60:40 split of Christian to Muslim on the coast.

Other general tips

  • {Heat} During the day it is hot, so I’ll advise to pack loose lightweight layers in natural fabrics such as linen, bamboo and cotton that will keep you cool and are easier to wash and dry;
  • {Camo fashion} Camouflage/military clothing is not recommended and is potentially against the law;
  • {Religious sites & communities} Dress modestly if you’re planning to visit places of worship;
  • {Greetings} Kenyans are flexible when it comes to greetings, Muslims would however appreciate bows & nodding to avoid being frowned upon;
  • {Etiquette} When receiving or passing over anything, use the right or both hands. Doing this using the left hand is considered impolite;

 

5. Finding Reliable Internet Access

There is free WiFi available in most high-street hotels, motels, restaurants and coffee shops.

Speeds vary but from our own testing we’ve seen between 5-35 Mbps in coffee shops and up to 150 Mbps on 4G+ even in very rural areas.

In your accommodation

If you’re renting, ideally find somewhere with fibre. We used to ask where we’re booking to send us a speed test if good connectivity is essential.

Now more than often we’re happy to rely on 4G. In Nairobi the speeds vary depending on where you are and time of day on 4G. Outside Nairobi 4G is fast everywhere.

Mobile internet and 4G SIMs

Kenya is home to several 4G providers, including: Safaricom, Airtel, Faiba, and Telkom. However, Safaricom has invested the most in their 4G+ network and has been found to have a fast connection in most areas, with speeds topping 200 Mbps in remote areas.

We have written a full report on the different options here but there’s a summary below.

When it comes to mobile devices, most phones available in Kenya are dual-sim and have better battery life than the average iPhone. For around $100, you can purchase a reasonable smartphone that can handle most uses.

Safaricom

Fastest but a little more expensive. It is easy to acquire a Safaricom SIM card by visiting a phone shop with your passport.

Example Safaricom bundles:

5GB + WhatsApp = 1000 Ksh

15GB + WhatsApp = 2000 Ksh

25GB + WhatsApp = 3000 Ksh

Airtel

Popular provider, good coverage and reasonable speeds. They have a reasonable selection of bundles that are similar to Safaricom and are usually better value overall. However, the author has not extensively tested Airtel’s network.

Example Airtel bundles:

  • 20GB + WhatsApp = 1500 Ksh
  • 30GB + WhatsApp = 2000 Ksh
  • 50GB + WhatsApp = 3000 Ksh

 

6. Budgeting for Your Trip

Kenya is quite affordable. While there are, like a lot of countries, some high-end expensive restaurants, hotels and shops. In general, goods and services are more affordable than in Europe and the US.

Transport

  • {Nairobi airport} A taxi from Nairobi Kenyatta (JKIA)/Wilson (WIL) airport to Nairobi CBD is $30 – $45, It will take you 17 minutes without traffic.
  • {Mombasa airport} From  Mombasa International Airport (MIA) to Mombasa town or Diani $40 – $50;
  • {Tuktuks in towns} Short-hop tuk-tuk rides of around 15 minutes should cost around $1-$3 depending on the time of day and where you are in the country. Negotiate for a price to avoid any inconveniences;
  • {Train} There is a train from Nairobi to Mombasa that is 1,000 ksh $8 (Note no alcohol allowed in your luggage);
  • {Internal flights} There are internal flights to small regional airports with local airlines Jambo Jet, Fly 254 and Safarilink that cost approximately $100 each way;
  • {Travel to Zanzibar} You can fly to Zanzibar from Nairobi (JKIA) or Mombasa (MIA) for $380 by plane. Alternatively you can take a bus to Dar Salaam for $12-$15 and take the high speed ferry which is $35. Make sure to book in advance as the ferry is quite popular;

Food

Below are some approximate costs for food and drinks.

Accommodation

Costs for accommodation vary significantly. Kenya does not yet have a well developed mid-market hotel sector.

  • {Local hotels} Basic hotels $10-$30/nights
  • {International hotels & resorts} Usual suspects of international hotels at $100/night and upwards;

The main factors that influence costs are things like A/c and whether there is a pool at the property. If you’re visiting the coast Dec-Mar and are not used to warm climates and are looking to spend some time on your computer you might want to consider a/c.

Airbnb is getting quite popular and is a good starting point if you’re heading to a new town. With a little bit of research on the ground you can also usually find better deals if you’re planning to spend a bit more time somewhere.

Budget for additional expenses.If you choose to stay in Nairobi and your mode of transport is by public means, note that charges change depending on time I.e rush hour.

Before boarding a  taxi, tuktuk or bike,Meals at local restaurants range from $4-$10. There are also a number of notable affordable restaurants,  located in most areas.7. Nomad destinations in Kenya

Kenya is a popular destination for tourists and an ideal place for nomads to explore.

7. Popular nomad destinations

Diani

cc-The Sands Kenya

Top of our list is of course Diani which is where we’re based. Of course, we’re a little biased 😉

The town is known for its white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and lush vegetation. It is a popular tourist destination, with a diverse range of hotels, resorts, and restaurants which are generally located along or near the beach. Everything you need in Diani is within walking distance.

It’s also a kiting town, with 10 or more kite schools and a 13km white sandy beach protected by a reef. There are also some annual tournaments attended by avid surfers from up and down the coast.

There are 2 wind seasons in Kenya, Kaskazi (N/NE trade wind, blowing from mid-December until mid of March) and Kusi (S/SE trade wind, blowing from June until mid-September.

It being a small town makes it easy to find a community.

Places to stay

Skippers Coliving (Website | IG)

Well, this is us 😀 Skippers Coliving goes beyond accommodation. A hub curated for nomads, solo travellers and adventurers.

It’s the first of its kind on the coast with a co-working space, pool & chill and other amenities onsite, a serene setup, creating a home away from home feel. Rooms from around $500/mo

Simba Apartments (Website)

Located less than 10  minutes away from the airstrip. Studios and 1 to 3-bedroom apartments designed in a Moorish style, set in a well-maintained tropical garden with a pool in the middle.

There is a top fans restaurant right outside its gates Tiki Bar (FB) . They are a good option, rates per month approx  $1200/mo and have Fibre and A/c in many of the apartments.

Diani Campsite & Cottages (FB)

Wallet friendly Studios,1 to 3 bedroom apartments 5 minutes away from the Beach. WiFi, hot water, a restaurant and bar are available.

Best places to go eat/chill

Estuary beach lounge. (FB)

Beautiful location at the top of town. This is the ideal place to go for seafood and a good chat as digital nomads frequent the spot. Perfect for Sunrise & Sunset watching.

Amigos beach bar & restaurant (FB)

Probably one of the best on-beach local run hangouts. Fresh seafood servings and a friendly community. Located just between Diani and Galu, approx 10 minutes from Chandarana Supermarket in tuktuk.

Kokkos Cafe Bistro (FB)

Amazing ambience, good coffee, free WiFi with a backup power source enabling you to work even if the power goes out. Coffee costs ±$2. Check-in with them as they plan game nights i.e. darts & card games. You’ll surely meet someone looking to connect and easily make friends.

Salty Squid Beach Bar & Restaurant (FB)

Vibes on vibes. This spot which is in Galu is known as a hangout for remote workers, volunteers and residents, which makes it easy to find like-minded people to network and connect with.

Nairobi

cc-Kelvin Kamachu

Rated #20 globally on Nomad list and #2 destination in Africa. It is a popular destination for digital nomads due to its relatively low cost of living, compared to cities in Europe. The city has a vibrant culture and growing startup ecosystem.

There are a handful of popular co-working spaces in Nairobi, including Nairobi Garage (IG), The iHub (Website), and Kofisi (youtube)

Places to stay

Accommodation options in Nairobi range from budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses to more upscale hotels and serviced apartments.

Airbnb and other vacation rental platforms also offer a variety of options. Various Facebook groups might have better value options but it’s generally recommended to check out places in person if you’re heading off-piste.

Best places to go eat/chill

In Nairobi, there are hangouts and restaurants almost everywhere, however, the popular ones are located around Westlands and Kilimani. Restaurants as well.

Bao Box (IG)

Kenya’s first board game cafe. If you want a fun-packed competitive evening and socialize, this is the place to visit. it also offers dining options.

Fogo Gaucho (IG) – Brazilian Steakhouse

Fogo Gaucho Churrascaria is Nairobi’s only all-you-can-eat Brazilian Churrascaria with two branches, one in Westlands and one in Kilimani. They serve 17 cuts of meat and 25 different salads, sides, and desserts every lunch and dinner. Recommended for meat lovers as they serve 17 cuts of meat.

Chowpaty Restaurant (IG)

A vegetarian restaurant. It has several locations around town.

 Mombasa

cc-Adam Smith International

The second largest city in Kenya. Centuries old it’s actually an Island accessible by ferry and connected by bridges to the mainland.

The city is quite busy and noisy and while there are definitely some sights to be seen. We think that you should be able to see most of the key sights in a week and that there are nicer places to stay up and down the coast.

Its main occupants are the Mijikenda and Swahili people. There is a rich history here and scrumptious Swahili dishes. Book a day tour and excursions around Mombasa and grab a movie at the cinema.

Places to stay

If you’re dropping in for a couple of days the City Blue hotel next to the Nyali bridge is a decent hotel with rooms from around $55/night. Alternatively, there are a handful of backpackers located around the city and there’s always Airbnb.

Places to eat

Forodhani Seafront Restaurant (IG)

Located 200m from Fort Jesus, Mombasa. Beautiful setup with an ocean view.

Barka Restaurant

Located in a quiet environment of Mombasa old town. Serves authentic Swahili dishes, much loved by the former president. Ask for tamarind Juice.

AJ’s Bar & Grill Restaurant (IG)

Serene atmosphere with a view of the creek, minutes away from  Nyali Cinema. They serve savoury bar bites freshly prepared from their grill. Watch the ethereal beauty of the sunset from here.

Char Choma Restaurant (IG)

A beachfront restaurant, off Malindi road, just before White Sands.Busy hangout in the north coast, serving different cuts of meat, with a well set-up kiddie play area.

Kilifi

Kilifi is a town that is 73 km/45 miles north of the city of Mombasa. A popular kite spot with some nice waterfront eateries. Compared to Diani, it’s relatively quiet and a little less developed, giving the area an out-of-town relaxed feel.

Places to stay & Eat

Saltys  (IG)

An accredited Kite surf centre by IKO, located at Bofa beach, offering accommodation with a beachfront restaurant. Rooms range approx between $35 – $130.

Distant Relatives Ecolodge & Backpackers.  (IG)

A beautiful place surrounded by nature, showers under bamboo. Located on Kilifi creek. Word is it tends to get unpleasantly noisy at night from music.

Wild living restaurant

A restaurant in Kilifi serves mainly African dishes and has tables set under trees, providing a relaxing atmosphere with ample space for kids to play.

The Twisted Fig (IG)

I would say the best D N destination in Kilifi. providing accommodation, with Safari-style tents, showers under bamboo, and a clean, well-equipped communal kitchen. Additionally, there is an onsite restaurant structured on a bamboo deck.

Watamu

A little further north of Kilifi is the area of Watamu. Known as Little Italy by the locals due to its popularity with the aforementioned nations, this is not a bad thing.

There are a couple of really great coffee shops with top-notch coffee, croissants and of course, lots of Italian restaurants/pizzerias. It’s a great place to go to get away from the crowds.

Lamu Island

A beautiful island located in the northeast of Mombasa, this is the northernmost recommended destination for tourists in Kenya.

Heading further north takes you into a much less populated area closer to the border with Somalia, and travel in that direction is not advised.

Naivasha

Beautiful town easily accessible from Nairobi, the lake is a refreshing downtime getaway.

Lake Naivasha is famous for its high population of hippos and flamingos.

 8. Safaris in Kenya

cc-Ray in Manila

Kenya is one of the most popular Safari destinations in Africa, known for its diverse wildlife, stunning landscapes, and unique cultural experiences.  Home to the great migration which you might have seen on a David Attenborough documentary.

That’s when 2 million animals cross from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Mara in Kenya.

Here are four top places to go on Safari in Kenya and some important things to keep in mind before you go:

Masai Mara

The Masai Mara is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros) as well as large herds of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles. It’s also one of the best places in the world to witness the Great Migration, which takes place between July and October.

Amboseli National Park

Known for its large elephant populations and stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park is a great place to see elephants up close and to learn about the Maasai culture.

Lake Nakuru

This lake is located within the national park of the same name and is considered one of the most important bird-watching sites in Africa. The park is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including black rhinos, warthogs, and baboons.

Samburu National Reserve

This reserve is home to several species that are unique to northern Kenya, including the reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, and Beisa oryx. It is also a great place to see elephants, lions, and leopards.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy (Web)

Has a high rhino population and is one of the best places in Kenya to see these very endangered animals.

Generally, the dry season (July to October) is considered the best time to go on safari, as the wildlife tends to congregate around water sources and is easier to spot.

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