Wednesday, May 29, 2013

RECE 2013: Travel FAQs

To start off our dialogue, Beth Swadener has posted some frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers regarding the upcoming conference in Nairobi.  Feel free to add your experiences and information - and pose questions not yet addressed - to the blog comment section below this post.

Messages will be organized by topic, together with responses - let the dialogue begin! 







Do I need a visa before traveling to Kenya?

Check with the Kenyan Embassy in your country.  For example, if you are traveling from the USA, go to this website: http://www.kenyaembassy.com/visa.html

There are visas available, for 50 USD (or equivalent in pounds) upon arrival, but make sure that this is available to people traveling from your country.

 

Should I be concerned about safety while there?

Visitors to Kenya should use the same good sense they would in any large city while in Nairobi.  The country's overall security has improved in recent years and in my many trips I have always felt safe.  We will not be near any areas where conflicts have occurred (which tend to be in the far north and northeastern parts of the country).

 

If I take a 2-3 day safari (trip) and want to see wildlife, what are best national parks?

Most tourists go to one of the many lodges in Maasai Mara, in southwestern Kenya near the Tanzanian border to be sure to see most of the "big five" animals.  Maasai communities benefit from tourism and prices vary according to what type of lodge or tented camp you book.  Work with a travel agent for your booking.

Here is the website for the Kenya Wildlife Service, that lists all parks: http://www.kws.org/  Samburu is also a great area - further north.  The closest national park, where many from the conference will go (likely as a local tour option) is Nairobi National Park, where the elephant orphanage is based (http://www.kws.org/parks/parks_reserves/NANP.html)

 

What immunizations do I need and will I need to take an anti-malarial medication?

If you are traveling from outside the region, you should see a travel nurse and make sure your immunizations are up to date;  a yellow fever shot may be needed and you WILL want to take an anti-malarial medication (avoid stronger ones such as Larium) starting before you travel and continuing one week after.  While Nairobi has a high elevation (a mile high city) and fewer mosquitoes, any travel for safaris or into areas with greater rainfall will mean you may be exposed to malaria.
 
Here is a bit more information:

The Physicians Plus Travel Nurse recommended that people traveling to Kenya have vaccinations against:

  • Yellow Fever
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies (Tetantus)
  • Polio
  • Meningitis
(Having your up to date record in a yellow International Health booklet is handy, though no one ever asks to see it)
 

What are the accommodations like at the conference centre?

The Kenyatta University Conference Centre is a new building and has excellent facilities, including comfortable, self-contained rooms and provides breakfast and other meals, as needed.  The campus is very secure and spacious - a lovely walking campus. Housing is quite affordable for the conference (see housing information).
 

What meals will be provided?

There will be a welcome reception, lunch each day of the conference, and two tea breaks with light refreshments in the morning and afternoon.  There will also be a special dinner and cultural experience at the Bomas of Kenya.

 

What should a taxi ride to Kenyatta University from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport cost?

The ride should be 3,500 Kenya shillings (at current exchange rate of 82 shillings (Kshs) to USD, that would be around $42 - so plan on $50 for taxi fare and change your currency at the airport for Kshs.
 

How do I find out the exchange rate between my currency and Kenyan shillings (Kshs)?

You can look up your country's currency exchange rate at sites including these:  


What should I pack for November in Kenya  and what should I be considering as I prepare to travel?

November is a beautiful, spring time of the year in Nairobi - the Jacaranda trees are blooming and the temperatures mild - with occasional rain clearing to warm afternoon tropical temperatures.

Here is some packing advice we give volunteers working with The Jirani Project (www.jiraniproject.org), prepared by board member, Diane Adams, who has done work in East Africa over the past 40 years:
 

  • Rule #1:  Travel light – one bag, plus carryon – you’ll be very glad you did!
  • Rule #2:  Avoid bringing much electronic gear (I-pod, cell phone, computer, etc.) – these items are easily stolen and/or may quit working (camera is an exception)
  • Rule #3:  Take in/leave there - some clothing (and school supplies or toys) may be left behind for later distribution, and you can use the space for small crafts you purchase
  • Rule #4:   Lock your suitcase when you leave the room – you may leave your passport at a hotel safe, but can also leave valuables in a locked suitcase if there is no safe (bring the lock and key or combination with you)

Clothing:
            Sweatshirt (hooded)
            Light rain jacket (lots of pockets are good!)
            Small portable umbrella
            Tennis shoes or walking shoes
            Sandals
            Swim suit (most game park lodges have swimming pools)
            Shirts and/or blouses that can be worn in layers (cotton is best, polyester can be
                        uncomfortable on the Equator)
            Underwear and socks for your stay
            1 pair of walking shorts (modest length) for camp or beach (not city)
            2 pairs comfortable slacks or jeans (no holes!)
            1 skirt and top (women) for church; 1 slacks and nice shirt (men) for same
            Hat (equatorial sun is direct)
            Nightwear (use sandals as slippers)

Supplies:
            Digital camera
            Cord and recharger for camera (note: current is 210, not 120)
            Travel alarm clock
            Waist and/or shoulder pouch for valuables
            Small reliable flashlight (electricity goes out frequently)
            Extra batteries for camera and/or flashlight (they are available but expensive)
            Wash cloth (there are none to be had at hotels or guest houses!)
            Ziplock plastic bags (quart and sandwich)
            Binoculars
            Locks for suitcases
            Blank notebook for diary
            Small calculator (or learn to compute Ksh. 90/- to the $ in your head!)
            Adapter for 220 volts (for recharging cell phone and/or camera)
            Plastic or mesh bag for dirty clothing
            Make a copy of your passport and take 2 extra passport photos – 

                  keep separate from your passport
            A few rolls of Lifesavers or Mints
            Paperback books
            International Health Card          
            Passport/tickets (always lock up when you leave your room)
            A few pictures of your family to show the people you meet
            E-mail addresses of your family and friends – 

                 you may have access to an Internet cafĂ© along the way
            Portable clothesline, small clothespins (completely optional)
            Small plastic bag of clothes washing soap (or buy Omo in Kenya)

Medical/toiletries***:
            Small bottles of shampoo, small tube of toothpaste, toothbrush
            Shaving materials
            Any personal medications or other items (enough for your length of trip)
            ****Anti-malarial tablets (Doxycyline – start 2 days ahead of trip)
            Small tube of insect repellent
            Small tube of sun block
            Small bottle of hand sanitizer
            Small packet of wet wipes
            Antacid tablets may come in handy
            Immodium for traveler’s diarrhea
            Small packets of Kleenex
            Small first aid kit (bandaids, antibacterial cream)
            Sun glasses, extra prescription glasses or your prescription
            Lip balm
 


Reminder – all airlines now require “liquid” items like shampoo and toothpaste to be passed through security in a separate quart (not sandwich or gallon-sized) Ziplock-type plastic bag.  Note:  Shampoo and most personal items listed above are available at shops in Nairobi or cities but tend to be expensive.

Bottled water will be widely available – never drink tap or river water.  Avoid “juice” on the street – it tastes terrific, but probably is made with unfiltered water.



- Beth Blue Swadener