Kenya Travel, Backpacking & Gap Year Guide
Expect exotic wildlife and incredible travel destinations, travelling to Kenya will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. Get information, advice and inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to travel, go backpacking or take a gap year in Kenya.
Activities & Things to Do in Kenya
Travel to Kenya
Kenya is a popular destination situated in Eastern Africa bordered by Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the north-east, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west & Sudan to the north-west.
Our destination guide aims to give you all the information you need to have an amazing experience in this amazing country. Find affordable travel and backpacking ideas with advice for amazing things to do and how you can be more than just your average traveller. You can also get recommendations for budget travel tips, where to stay and advice how to stay safe.
Get inspired to visit Kenya today!
- Capital: Nairobi (Population: 3,050,000)
- Currency: Kenyan Shilling (KES) $1 = 87KES / £1 = 137KES
- Population: 43,000,000 (approx)
- Official languages: Swahili and English
- Area: 580,000 sq km
- International Calling Code +254
- Currency: Kenyan Shilling (KES)
- Time zone: UTC+03:00
Top Reasons to Travel to Kenya
There are so many reasons why you should consider booking a break to Kenya including:
- Incredible National Parks
- Exotic wildlife
- Good infrastructure for international tourists
- Home of the Masai Mara game reserve famous for lions
- Ancient culture
- Spectacular scenery
- Amazing tourist lodges and accommodation
Weather & Best Time to Visit Kenya
Kenya enjoys a warm climate especially on the coast, sunshine is nearly all year round and there is no best time to visit.
Visa & Entry Requirements
Most nationalities can gain a tourist visa on arrival. Most international flights arrive into Nairobi which is a bustling city full of activity and noise, this is a good base with good transport links to the rest of the country. You will be granted a 90 day tourist visa on arrival, you will also need to pay a one off fee and have a valid passport to enter the country. Sometimes you might be asked to show a return ticket.
Travelling & Backpacking in Kenya
Kenya is a popular tourist destination located on the East coast of Africa. Kenya is often described as “the cradle of mankind, it is where scientists think life on Earth started but one thing is for sure, this is your opportunity to see a country unlike many in the world, expect friendly locals, exotic wildlife, diverse landscapes, busy cities and some of the best safaris in the world.
There are so many different things you could do here from checking our relaxing beaches along the coast around Mombasa to watching the annual wilderbeast migration at the Masai Mara National Reserve. For adrenaline junkies you can go trekking at the Mount Kenya National Park.
One of the main reasons people choose to visit Kenya is to see animals in their natural habitat - this is a very unique experience which allows you to travel like a local away from the tourist crowds. You will get to visit places like the Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru, Amboseli & see incredible wildlife like lions and elephants. If you are looking for adventure then the magestic Mount Kenya located in the center of the country is a must see destination, just south of the equator is the second highest mountain in Africa standing at 5,199 metres.
Kenya is a diverse country with many different cultures and customs from the Swahili on the coast to the Masaai with their beautiful beads. You will learn so much about the local people and culture. If you are planning a wildlife safari holiday in Kenya we recommend timing a break to watch the wildedeest migration which is best seen by hot air balloon or from the Samburu game reserve.
Fishing is popular in Kisumu, Lake Victoria is stunning, especially if you are fortunate enough to get close to the hippopotamus families that pop out of the lake. It will be fantastic to be on a tiny fishing boat and to enjoy the tranquil water. Be warned, if you are with the local fisherman; be prepared for him to make noises to the hippos! They have good conversations and you most definitely will hear some old tales of many moons of work on the water.
Best Places to Visit in Kenya
These are some of the best activities, attractions and essential places you should add to your Kenya travel itinerary:
- Amboseli National Reserve
- Hell's Gate National Park
- Lamu Island
- Lake Naivasha
- Lake Nakuru National Park
- Maasai Mara National Reserve
- Mount Kenya National Park
- Nairobi National Park and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
- Ol Pejeta Conservancy
- Samburu, Buffalo Springs, and Shaba National Reserves
- Tsavo National Park
Gap Year in Kenya
When you imagine Kenya you might not also think of a tropical coast with hundreds of miles of scenic ocean and white sandy beaches, blue / turquoise-coloured warm water, relaxed islands, tropical rainforest, high mountain peaks, non-active volcanoes and pretty savannas. Kenya is this and so much more.
Kenya is one of the most popular destinations when taking a Africa gap year. Our website features gap year programs and backpacking options for students, graduates and career breaks including adventure travel and budget options.
If you have every though about visiting Africa and doing something like helping then we highly advise Kenya as a potential destination. Kenya's culture is very different to what you might be used to but this country is very safe to visit and local people are very friendly. Gap year trips can be joined all year round and are very worthwhile. People are needed in Kenya throughout the year and there are lots of unique and different gap year programs you can join. Most organisations will need you to be aged 18 and over but there are also summer and shorter 2 week trips available for 16, 17 and 18+ age groups. Remember Kenya has a warm climate almost all year round so pack and dress light.
The safest and our best recommendation for traveling and seeing more of Kenya is to join an organised adventure. You can view these on our website, some include camping, going on safari or just traveling through this region of East Africa and seeing more countries. We recommend joining an overland tour on Kenya so you will be able to get off the beaten track and see this beautiful country for yourself. We list gap year small group adventure tours where you will travel with other internationals and really be able to see the real Kenya.
There are departures all year round and different trips for different interests, most trips start in the Kenyan capital Nairobi and from here you could go see the Masai or journey to the rest of the country. On safaris you can expect to see lots of wildlife like elephants, lions and buffalo roaming the savannas and endless plains. Research gap year trips in Kenya carefully though as they are not like an easy experience, living conditions can be rustic whilst this country does not have the same living standards as the West for example. Finding paid work in Kenya is very difficult unless you would like to work as a tour guide leading group trips.
"I booked a gap year starting in Kenya and then travelled across the country to Kisumu which is based on the shore of Lake Victoria and the third largest city in Kenya. It has even been named by the United Nations the 'Millennium City' - the first of its kind in the world. Kisumu is busy, but not on such a grand scale as Nairobi, but still buzzing with street music, markets and children! It is mind blowing at first when children come up and hold your hand. Again this is something that would never happen in the UK because of a lost society, with no spirit or resilience – something Africa and the places we visited were rich in. We had a very trusting guide who was never far away if we were not sure where to go." - Janine, UK
Kenya Travel Tips
If you are keen to travel independently we recommend booking private bus transport for Kenya, local services can be unreliable / unsafe.
Budget & Costs:
Kenya is a very cheap country to visit compared to other worldwide destinations but it is expensive compared to other destinations in Africa. How much you spend will really come down to what you do. You can experience Kenya very cheaply but if you want to do some of the best things e.g. see wildlife then you will need to add extra to your budget.
The local food is very cheap and also surprisingly good, we recommend you try a chapati (like a bread), Mtuzi Wa Samaki (fish and coconut) and githeri (rice and beans).
If you are travelling to Kenya and want to be in a city, but maybe not on a grand scale as Nairobi and want to have the choice of going rural communities, to experience both worlds (because there are district inequalities, even in the developing world) then Kisumu is a very wise choice! This city is generally cheaper than Nairobi too.
The street markets in Kenya are a must, but be warned, you will want to grab everything in sight! It would be too hard not to appreciate the skill that goes into the handmade crafts that are available. There are so many fantastic presents for friends and family back home or in your own home environment. Our best advice is not to buy straight away, these markets are usually long and you may spot something else while you are making your way through them all.