How we went to Kenya for 335 thousand rubles
This text was written by a reader in the Community T-J. Carefully edited and formatted to editorial standards.
I adore wildlife and protest circuses and zoos, so it was my dream to visit one of Africa’s national parks to see elephants, lions, buffalos and the rest of the savannah inhabitants.
I nurtured the idea of going to Kenya for about a year. Stopped by the lack of sufficient information about the resorts, safety in the country, the epidemiological situation. After reading and reviewing everything about it that came across my eyes, I decided: Kenya is better to see once.
My husband and I always travel independently. Kenya was no exception. We left on December 20, 2019, welcomed the new year, 2020, and returned on January 5. The trip lasted 16 days.
Briefly our program looked like this:
- Visit to the Maasai Mara National Park.
- A visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Foundation in the capital, Nairobi.
- Vacation at beach resorts: Malindi, Mombasa, and Diani Beach.
Visa and Vaccinations
Visas can be arranged at the airport or online. We made it online ecitizen.go.ke. It costs $ 51 (P 3,774) per person, it was issued 5 days after the application. The document must be printed out and presented at the passport control at the entrance to the country. I advise to apply for the visa well in advance: at the airport we saw a long line of tourists waiting to get it.
Vaccinations are not required to enter Kenya, but it is recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever. Despite the fact that there have been no cases of the disease in the country for over 10 years, we still decided to get vaccinated. We received an international certificate, which is valid for life, and now we can enter exotic countries, such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Where to vacation abroad in 2022?
Specify your preferences, and we will choose the suitable countries for you, which are allowed to Russian tourists.
We live in Yekaterinburg, so I was looking for a flight with a comfortable connection and minimum change. Our final choice was Ekaterinburg – Dubai – Nairobi with a four-hour stopover. The trip to Nairobi took 16 hours, which was an easy option for us.
We paid 96,984 P for the tickets to Nairobi and back with luggage and meals. We flew with Flydubai and Kenya Airways.
I booked hotels, villas, and apartments on the well-known services Airbnb and Bucking. For New Year’s Eve I chose a decent hotel Lotfa Resort Diani, within walking distance of the coast, and I was right. For the days after the safari, we booked the cool Lion House villa in Malindi because we realized we would be tired after such an adventure. It exceeded all expectations.
Lodging expenses for two people for two weeks – 59,370 P
|Where we stayed||For how long||Cost|
|Hotel in Nairobi||1 night||3200 Р|
|Villa in Malindi||2 days||8635 Р|
|Apartments without air conditioning in Mombasa||5 days||10 082 Р|
|Bed and Breakfast in Diani Beach||5 days||37 453 Р|
In Mombasa, we decided to take an easier accommodation – Zuri Studio Nyali Mombasa apartments, as we planned to sleep and bathe there only. That’s how it turned out. We suffered a lot the first two nights without air conditioning, but then we got used to it, and the shower with only cold water was not a problem. And the girl with whom we rented an apartment, made our vacation unforgettable: showed the best bars, took us to local discos, told us what to see and where to eat. We are still in touch.
To get from Nairobi to the coast, I chose a flight, which was not the most budget-friendly option. Since I planned to visit three resorts, I took a flight to Malindi Airport and back to the capital from Mombasa Airport.
We bought our first tickets for 13,000 P for two people round trip. But two days later I got a notice that the reservation had been canceled and there were no more tickets for those flights. A new search showed a price tag of 30,280 P for two people. We accepted and bought them. The domestic flight was taken a couple of weeks before departure, so our fault. Buy your tickets in advance.
The alternative to flying is the bus. It’s about 450 kilometers from Nairobi to Mombasa and the travel time by bus is 10-12 hours. It leaves in the evening and arrives the next day. 450 kilometers in 12 hours is rough. The thing is the lack of normal roads and terrible traffic jams. The price of this pleasure, if I’m not mistaken, – about 1000 P per person. But we decided to refrain from such exoticism. And our first checkpoint was in Malindi. We did not want to spend almost a day on the road.
We took a shuttle bus from Malindi to Mombasa and we paid 600 KES (377 R ) for two people – that’s Kenyan shillings. By comparison, an Uber cab costs 6,500 KES (4,085 P ). From the villa to the bus station we took a tuk-tuk with the code phrase “We need shuttle bus to Mombasa” for about 70 R.
From Mombasa to Diani Beach, where we celebrated the New Year, we were dropped off by a friend of the girl we rented an apartment from. We paid him 2000 KES (1257 R) and had a cold beer and interesting conversations. He drove us to the airport in Mombasa for 4,000 KES (P2,514).
How to beat burnout
I recommend to all lovers of wildlife to go on safari. Almost all three days I cried from happiness. Periodically, of course.
The first mistake was the decision to go on safari directly from the airport. The road to Masai Mar takes about 7.5 hours, mostly off-road. I haven’t gotten so tired of the road in a long time.
The second mistake was saving money on lodging. The tent itself is quite comfortable. It’s a big tent with an attached shower room, there’s light from 6 to 10 p.m. and in the morning, and hot water. But I didn’t take into account that we are going in the rainy season. At night the temperature drops to +15 ° C and it is very humid. All night it is a real tropical downpour and screaming baboons. It felt like we were sleeping under a cold wet blanket. One night someone jumped on our tent and tried to climb inside.
Masai Mara is considered one of the coolest reserves in Africa. All of the big five are found there: lions, rhinos, elephants, buffalo, leopards. We saw many animals: zebras, antelopes, cheetahs, crocodiles, hippos, elephants, many different birds, wild boars. And of course we saw lions every day.
When we were approaching the Masai Mara, we met a zebra. I was impressed to the point of tears: I was incredibly happy to see one, it was so unusual. On the second day, meeting a zebra became the norm, and my brain perceived it as a dog in the street. Then we were impressed to see lions – again there was a storm of emotions, plus there were little lion cubs. On the third day, I finally stopped crying with joy at seeing them. The brain quickly adapts, and what yesterday caused great excitement, today already seems to be an ordinary thing.
We watched all the animals very closely. We could not get close only to cheetahs, because there were many cars with other tourists around, and cheetahs probably do not like it. We saw them from a distance of 20-30 meters.
No one allowed us close to the hippos, because most people die in accidents on safari because of the hippos. They are very aggressive and unpredictable.
I remember how we left to look for animals very, very early. The rest of the group didn’t want to get up, because it seemed like we had already seen everything. We met the sunrise and then were the only ones who came across a pair of young male lions. They posed at arm’s length for us, lying down, yawning, and opening their mouths.
The advantages of going in the rainy season are that there are few tourists, the prices are half as much, the temperature during the day is no higher than +25°C. This is important when you sit in the car all day, albeit with an open roof.
Also, the company I chose had a four-wheel drive Land Cruiser. This allowed us to drive through the national park during the rainy season with almost no problems, and the downpours there just wash out the roads. Most of the cars that come into the park are part-wheel drive. In three days we pulled out three or four jeeps with tourists that got stuck in the middle of the park.
On the second day, after it had rained all night, we got into a severe traffic jam because one vehicle was stuck in the mud on the road. It was impossible to drive around it. We were followed by about 20 cars that couldn’t move forward. Then all the campers got out of the cars and started dragging the rocks to the place that had been washed out by the water. They stacked stone after stone in the mud so the car could get out. That is, the tourists themselves were paving the way for their jeeps.
For the sake of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Foundation, we stayed in Nairobi for a day. This is a very cool organization that is dedicated to rescuing elephants left without their mother. The elephant shelter opens its doors to guests for one hour each day. Admission costs $7 (518 R ), and all the money raised goes to running the shelter.
Volunteers tell about the work of the elephant asylum and the history of the animals that arrive there. All cubs when they reach a certain age are sent to their native savannah. 90% of them successfully adapt in the wild. Anyone can “adopt” an elephant by transferring a small amount of money to the fund. The foundation will send you letters with pictures of your elephant. You can become a sponsor without coming to Kenya – all the information is on the foundation’s website.
We only went to the giraffe center in Nairobi because we had some free time. For approximately R2000 they give you a plate with delicacies and let you get close to the giraffes and feed them by hand. This, of course, is a very strong emotion.
But in general, I do not recommend visiting the center. Other than feeding, there is nothing to do there. And as I mentioned earlier, I do not support such establishments.
Resorts and Beaches
Due to lack of information, I thought any resort on the coast of Kenya was a paradise.
In Malindi we encountered such a strong tide that we couldn’t even see the water, and the whole beach was covered in seaweed. By evening the water was knee-deep, but I didn’t want to swim in the warm jelly of seaweed. I would not recommend Malindi as a holiday destination.
Malindi is also an Italian resort, and there we did not find any normal cafes. There are either Italian ones, which start working at lunchtime and close at 10 pm, or completely local with complete antisanitation. But we didn’t suffer from any poisoning.
I read that Italians came there about twenty years ago. At first it was a few families. Then their friends and friends of friends started coming. Soon there was a settlement of Italians, they fenced it off with a high fence, brought Italian coffee machines, olive oil. There were signs in their language, cooks from Italy began to arrive.
Now mostly elderly Italians live there. According to my impressions, they go there for exoticism in the form of escorts. Nowhere else have I seen so many retired European men escorted by African girls. As Caroline, whom we stayed with in Mombasa, told us, this is the norm for them. English and Italian retirees come there, rent a house for a year, get a permanent girlfriend who accompanies them, goes to the beach with them and spends time together.
We spent five days in Diani Beach. There’s a chic multi-kilometer beach with snow-white, fine, flour-like sand, one of the most beautiful in Kenya. And in one part of the beach thanks to the reefs there are no waves and you can safely swim with children, as it is shallow. The second part of the beach is designed for windsurfing: there is a constant wind. There are surfers and windsurfers hang out there.
Another feature of the beach is that on the first shoreline are several dozen abandoned hotels. The beach is a popular tourist destination in Kenya and hotels are being built along the beach. But for some reason the coast of Kenya has not become a popular tourist destination. And the huge luxury hotels either stand overgrown, or the building itself is closed, but on the territory there are sunbeds and sometimes a swimming pool. Local entrepreneurs use them as a beach club, but the name sounds too loud for them, in fact, everything there is modest.
Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya and is on the ocean. We liked it there very much. First of all it has an infrastructure: shopping centers and cafes. But the city is very small by our standards, it has no tall buildings and no special entertainment. All locals come in the evening to swim in the ocean at sunset. Overall, I recommend visiting Mombasa to see how people live in the country’s second largest city. The people there are much kinder than in Nairobi. If you compare the two cities, it’s just heaven and earth.
We were not impressed by the local cuisine. We tried one dish, I do not remember its name. It’s severely overcooked pieces of meat you can’t chew. Everybody eats them there, and they advised us to try it too. But we couldn’t even eat a piece of it. The cook was very upset that we refused to finish our meal, came out to us, asked what was wrong, and asked to let us cook the dish again, perhaps he had failed and it would taste better the second time. But we explained that it was just atypical food for us, so he didn’t waste his time.
Then we decided not to experiment and ate in European restaurants, which, oddly enough, abound in Kenya. Apparently, this is due to the fact that retired Europeans come there. Almost anywhere you can find a good cafe or restaurant with very good food. In Mombasa, we ate in such a café in the mall, and in Diani Beach there are several good restaurants on the coast. And of course, there is delicious and inexpensive African wine everywhere. In our money it was 300-500 R for a bottle. There were cheaper, but we did not take any inexpensive ones.
On the average dinner for two with a glass of wine and a glass of beer, and sometimes with a couple, cost in the region of 2000 P. Our biggest check from the restaurant was 3,600 P . Take our word for it, we got out of there like koloboks – full and cheerful.
To say that Kenya is a safe country, my tongue does not rotate. Neither is it safe to say that Kenya is dangerous and you will be robbed, stolen or killed. You just need to follow basic safety rules in this country. And the level of risk in the capital of Nairobi and on the coast is completely different.
Nairobi is horror, filth, poverty, the most inhospitable city I’ve ever seen. On the side of the highway, we encountered three-year-olds with infants strapped behind their backs and playing in piles of garbage with plastic cups. This is the backside of Kenya with its stunning nature reserves and miles and miles of white-sand beaches.
With all the flights and overnight stays, we were in Nairobi for no more than two days. During that time we saw two fatal motorcycle accidents and were in an accident ourselves: we were hit by a motorcyclist. Fortunately, no one other than the vehicle was hurt. As our huge cab driver looked at the car and the motorcyclist, I had only one thing on my mind: “Please, just don’t shoot each other.
The Kenyans tried very hard to make us feel comfortable. Both the cab driver and the motorcyclist and even the policeman, seeing my distorted face with fear, apologized and said that everything was all right.
It was dangerous to go out after 7 p.m. in Nairobi. We wanted to go from the hotel to the nearest mall for dinner – it’s less than a kilometer away. But the front desk told us it was risky and we had to call a cab and they wouldn’t let us out on foot. The hotel gates close in the evening, there is a checkpoint and guards with machine guns. They let the cab through, the guests get into it, and the cab leaves the hotel with them.
In Mombasa, it’s much easier, kind smiling people. Even the child beggars there are very nice. We were in town on December 31. I bought a bunch of chocolates and handed out Snickers to the kids who were selling green oranges outside the mall. They were very happy. Amazing difference between the two cities.
The only recommendation is not to walk in Mombasa in the dark on deserted streets. When we talked to the landlady we were staying with, she didn’t understand how you can walk at night in Russia and when the mafia comes out then. In Kenya, there are no ordinary locals on the street at night. Tourists can always take a tuk-tuk or order a cab through Uber or Bolt. By the way, Bolt always has a lower price.
One time in Mombasa, they tried to take my phone away from me. We got there from Malindi on a public bus. We got off at the bus station and the cab drivers asked for three times the price of the trip between the cities. We went on foot. A guy followed us. He was walking very close behind us, and at some point I sensed something wrong and turned around. The guy was standing right in front of me. I started yelling to him, “Hey, man, what do you want?” and waving my arms. He walked away. I took off my backpack, and it turned out that my pocket had already been unzipped, and I had my card and phone in it. Literally a split second saved me from being stranded in Kenya with no cell phone and no money.
But when I shared this with Caroline, she said I should have yelled loudly that he was trying to steal from me. Kenyans are very hopeful that tourists will come to the country and locals could punish him publicly: catch him, beat him, or take him to the police. Every honest citizen wants Kenya to be known as a good-natured country where tourists are welcomed. So this guy was more of an exception.
On the whole, I really liked the people in Kenya – they are wonderful, kind, cheerful. We’ve been many places, but Kenyans seemed to me the most sincere. Whatever we asked, whatever question we asked, they always helped us, and absolutely unselfishly.
Communication and Internet
We didn’t use cell phones in Kenya. But we found out that we need a passport and about 500 P for a package plan with minutes and Internet.
There is wifi in almost all cafes, hotels, villas and apartments. You probably can not download movies, but to send photos on “Votsapu” or upload to your Instagram is quite possible.
Travel – the best way to learn the world, yourself and spend money. We spent a lot – for us a trip to Kenya was the most expensive trip. But not because of the high prices, but because we had a chance to eat in expensive restaurants, drink wine and pamper ourselves with gifts.
We took a small amount of cash with us in dollars. But there are no problems with cashless payment in Kenya. All restaurants, cafes and hotels accept cards. Cash is needed for minor expenses, souvenirs, tuk-tuks. I never had any problem withdrawing cash: there is an extensive network of ATMs almost everywhere except Malindi.
Trip to Kenya
Planning an independent trip to Kenya: how to get a visa, how to get to Kenya, what vaccinations are needed and what the weather is like there at different times of the year. We also give tips on holidays in Kenya.
How to get to Kenya
Kenya is the “air gateway” to South Africa, and it is to Nairobi that most foreign tourists fly to explore the region. You can fly to the capital of Kenya from Russia by Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Aeroflot, airBerlin, KLM and so on.
Kenya is one of the most inexpensive African destinations for independent travelers. The fares from Moscow to Nairobi and to the resort of Mombasa will surprise you: you can fly from Moscow to Nairobi and back from 28 thousand rubles, a bit more expensive tickets to Mombasa – from 29,5 thousand rubles.
An example of Moscow-Nairobi airfare with Skyscanner:
Prices for tickets to Kenya from St. Petersburg are higher, but in general not by much: you can fly to Nairobi from 31 thousand rubles, to Mombasa – from 33 thousand rubles.
Sometimes airlines have special offers or they have incorrect fares, and then you can fly to Africa for absolutely cheap. For example, in August last year you could fly to Africa from 14500 rubles, and recently, thanks to the mistaken Qatar fare – from Ekaterinburg to Nairobi from 13,5 thousand rubles! Our cheaper tickets section and “VKontakte” group is where we announce all the interesting airline promotions and write about the cheapest tickets.
Where to look for bargain tickets? The best way to do this is with the search engines Aviasails and Skyscanner. To find the best price, check with both and see tickets for different dates. Read also the instructions on how to look for cheap airline tickets correctly.
(Photo: Wajahat Mahmood / flickr.com / CC BY-SA 2.0 license)
Visa to Kenya for Russians
A visa to Kenya is required for Russian citizens. When planning an independent trip to Kenya, decide exactly what kind of visa you need.
Types of visas to Kenya:
- entry single and multiple entry (purpose: tourism, private or business visit);
- transit visa;
- Single East African.
Documents required for an entry visa to Kenya (purpose: tourist trip):
- A passport valid for at least 6 months at the time of visa application. Two pages of the passport must be blank;
- Two visa application forms filled out in English;
- 2 photographs;
- 2 copies of your passport;
- Copy of hotel reservation confirmation or invitation from a Kenyan travel agency (2 pcs.);
- Return air ticket or ticket to a third country.
Single entry visa is valid for 3 months from the date of visa issuance, the cost – $50. Multiple entry visa is valid for 6 months; it costs $110. A transit visa allows you to stay in Kenya for 72 hours and costs $20. A single East African visa is the most advantageous if you want to visit neighboring Uganda and Rwanda as part of your self-trip to Kenya. It allows you to enter Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda multiple times within 90 days and costs $110.
You can apply for an entry visa to Kenya online at the eCitizen website. How to get it?
- Register online at www.ecitizen.go.ke.
- When registering select “Visitor”.
- Log in and select “Departament of Immigration services”.
- Choose “submit application”.
- Choose Kenyan visa.
- Choose the type of visa you want, and carefully read the instructions.
- Fill out the application form, attach your passport scan and passport size photo.
- Pay the fee.
- After the confirmation will come to e-mail, download the visa form in your personal office on the website and print it.
- Present your electronic visa to the immigration officer.
The address of the Embassy of Kenya in Moscow: 5, Lopukhinsky Lane. Tel: +7 (495) 637 21 86.
For more information about transit visa and East African visa requirements, please visit the website of the Kenya Embassy in Moscow.
(Photo: Jofre Ferrer / flickr.com / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)
Vaccinations for travel to Kenya
Although yellow fever vaccinations have not been required for holidays in Kenya since 1997, we still recommend that you get one for prevention and your own peace of mind if you go on an independent trip to Kenya (or any other country in Sub-Saharan Africa). Vaccination against yellow fever should be administered at least 10 days before departure. The vaccination is recorded on the international certificate of vaccination.
In addition, we recommend vaccinations against typhoid, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, poliomyelitis and tetanus, all of which are done in advance, before travelling to Kenya.
We also recommend taking measures against malaria – take pills (e.g., Meflohim or Lariam, but it is better to consult a doctor) before, during and after your holiday in Kenya (there is no vaccine against malaria). Also, cover exposed areas of the body, use insect repellents and mosquito nets.
Prices in Kenya
Our article “Recreation in Kenya: prices” is devoted to this topic. It discusses in detail the prices for food, transportation, hotels, safari tours, etc., and calculates how much it would cost an independent trip to Kenya for 10 days for two people – it turns out that not so expensive as commonly thought!
Weather in Kenya
Kenya is located on the equator and the climate in the country is subequatorial, so you can vacation almost all year round – except for the rainy season. Kenya has two rainy seasons: from late March to May and from late October to mid-December. During the second period, it rains mostly early in the morning or in the afternoon or evening, and during the day the weather is good. From June to August there is almost no rainfall.
Depending on the region of Kenya, the weather can vary: for example, the plateau at Lake Rudolph is considered the hottest place, where the temperature can reach +38 ° C; in the mountain areas it is quite cool, for example, in Nairobi the temperature reaches +25 ° C. Near the ocean, the climate is mild and humid, the farther away from the ocean, the drier the air (the temperature ranges from +21 ° C. +27 ° C).
Holidays in Kenya on the beach is better to plan in January, February and October: the temperature in these months is about +31 ° C. But it is better to go on safari in Kenya from January to March.