Let’s face it, Kenya is a traveller’s paradise. From the sparkling white beaches of the coast to the highest reaches of Mount Kenya, there is no shortage of adventures to choose from. And that’s before even getting to the country’s biggest attraction. The Great Rift Valley dominates western Kenya, providing easy access to some of the world’s most impressive wildlife on display in the many parks and reserves that pepper the landscape.
But how can you experience all of that using as little of your hard-earned cash as possible? Don’t worry. Here at Eccentrips, we’ve got your back. Already this month, we’ve explored Kenya away from the tourist trail, and uncovered the very best food the country has to offer. Now get ready for a tonne of priceless knowledge coming your way, as we reveal how to budget for this wonderful country without sacrificing on the awesome.
Did someone say cheap travel deals?!
When to go
The best and most popular time for both safari tours and trekking routes is the main dry season from July-October. In other words, right now! However, with western tourists making their own migration to match that of the wildebeest, this also happens to be when prices are at their highest. The wildlife watching and good weather continues into September and October, but the crowds and higher prices don’t, so this is definitely a better time to visit. And don’t forget about the second dry season from January-February, which actually provides perfect safari and trekking conditions, but is often overlooked by many tourists.
The Kenyan shilling (KES) converts roughly into 100 KES/$1/60 INR. As with every currency, there is no point paying lousy exchange rates and commissions to change your cash in person. It is a lot easier to just have a commission free credit card, or a Monzo account, so you can withdraw local currency from any ATM at the actual exchange rate and without any fees. There will be ATMs in every town, but they are a little harder to find in Kenya, so take out however much you’ll need for a few days at a time, and always keep it on you securely with a money belt.
Of course, you could instead join the millions of Kenyans who don’t use cash at all, but instead text each other money with an M-Pesa account. This might sound like too much hassle for your 30 day trip, but it couldn’t be easier. Just head to one of thousands of M-Pesa outlets, buy a local SIM card, set up an account and top it up with money whenever you need to. No need for cash, banks or even the internet. The system originated in Kenya and has now expanded to India as well, so you could even set up your account before leaving.
Despite many Kenyans not using cash anymore, the practice of haggling is not going anywhere. Anything that hasn’t already got a price tag is fair game, which can include the safari trips, transport fares and market goods us travellers are after. Sellers will spot you’re a foreigner and often try to exploit your lack of understanding. As a rule, open with one third of whatever they’re offering, and remain casual and friendly throughout it all. There’s nothing ruthless about it, it’s just a light-hearted back and forth embedded into Kenyan society. Because many services are arranged this way with the seller, tipping is often not necessary. Even restaurants and hotels, whose prices are definitely not negotiable, will usually include service charges in your bill. However, many tour operators do not pay very well, so a tip of around $10-$15/600-900 INR per day per group is customary for safari and trekking staff.
Check out the colours of the Masai Market, Nairobi – Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Before you go
Ah, every traveller’s favourite past time! Searching for cheap flights can get frustrating, so let’s try to get from India to Kenya for the cheapest possible price, following these three easy steps:
- Go to Skyscanner and use its country to country option to find the cheapest airports to leave from and arrive to. In our case, that’s Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji (BOM) and Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta (NBO).
- Now head over to Google Flights to find the best departure date for your flight. Save it so it can track the price for you and let you know when the best date to book is.
- Momondo says that’s on average 56 days before your date of departure. That can vary though, so it’s best to start looking around three months ahead. Use Momondo’s Flight Insight tool to analyse a whole bunch of factors like the best day, time and airline, which gives us overnight trips on 11/10-10/11, with RwandAir.
Just make sure you’ve got a seat booked or you might end up with a stool!
After that you’re all set. Let Momondo find the best online flight agency to book through for your chosen flights, which for us is Dream World Travel, and start planning your trip! So by using all of these tips, I managed to find return flights for just $360/23,000 INR. These deals might take a bit of time to find, but the more money you save on flights, the more you have left over to enjoy when you get there.
Once you’ve booked your flights you can apply for Kenya’s Single Entry eVisa. It’s simple to set up, valid for 90 days from the date of entry, and costs $51/3300 INR.
On top of the vaccinations freely provided in India by ITSU, visitors to Kenya will need injections for Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Yellow Fever (certificate required on entry). For Indians this will cost just $8/500 INR, though the combined market value is more like $250/16,000 INR in other countries. Many government vaccination programmes are not as extensive as India’s, so you should see a doctor to find out which vaccinations you’re missing before you go, and budget for them accordingly. Malaria is prevalent in Kenya, so you need to make sure you’re covered for the whole thirty days you’re there. Doxycycline is by far the cheapest prevention to go for, costing almost nothing in India, but around $40/2,500 INR elsewhere.
A few things you’ll have to budget for in Kenya on top of all the usual stuff:
- Type G travel adaptor ($5-$10/300-600 INR)
- Basic mosquito net to sleep under ($5-$20/300-1200 INR)
- Money belt ($10-$20/600-1200 INR)
- Prepaid SIM card ($3-$5/200-300 INR) on either Safaricom, Airtel or Telkom. All texts, calls and data for a 30 day trip should cost no more than 1000 KES/$10/600 INR.
Get me to the awesome
So you’ve made it to Kenya and you’re all set to get going! The budget ball keeps on rolling as we come to what crazy adventures you can get up to when you’re out there.
Kenya wouldn’t be Kenya without its stunning wildlife, and you’d be nuts to miss out on it. Safari tours have a reputation for being pricey, but there are plenty of ways to experience the wonder they display without breaking the bank.
- First up, head over to the Masai Mara with Big Time Safaris. Follow their 3 day adventure to watch the yearly migration of over a million wildebeest, one of the best spectacles of wildlife to be witnessed on this planet ($330/21,000 INR per person).
- Next up, check out Amboseli National Park with Flash McTours. For another 3 days, take time to gaze at protected elephant herds roaming freely across the plains below Mount Kilimanjaro, the classic shot of Africa ($425-$445/27,000-28,500 INR per person).
An icon of Africa – Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
- If that hasn’t quite filled your appetite, there is no shortage of other options. Check out Safari Bookings to compare trips and use the price filter to keep to budget. Alternatively, you’ll have no problem finding a good deal on the streets of Nairobi. Just be prepared to haggle and make sure you don’t get scammed! Prices are much cheaper in bigger groups, so buddy up with fellow travellers at your hostel.
Catch a safari with friends and share the cost – Photo credit: Madeleine Watson
Not quite enough adventure for you? How about scaling over 5,000m to the frosty heights of Mount Kenya’s jagged peaks? This imposing mountain is the inspiration for the country’s name, and the second highest spot in all of Africa. Buddy up again, and you could get yourself there in only 4 days for $650/41,000 INR with Go To Kenya. There are a load of other companies providing a range of treks along different routes, but this seems to be about the cheapest option out there. See if you can negotiate a better deal for yourself in Nairobi.
Adventure awaits just over the horizon – Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Nairobi itself is a hive of activity full of surprises, just about as curious as it is crazy. Often the first and last port of call for travellers to Kenya, it’s also a useful pit stop on your travels around the country. And there is no shortage of must-see sights to explore on those in-between days:
- Nairobi National Park, a mini-safari right on the doorstep of the city ($43/2,700 INR).
- Nairobi Giraffe Centre, a delightful haven for the critically endangered Rothschild’s giraffe (1000 KES/$10/600 INR).
- Nairobi National Museum, a treasure trove of art, natural history and cultural exhibits, including access to the Snake Park (1200-1500 KES/$12-$15/750-950 INR).
- Bomas of Kenya, traditional dance and song performance, showcasing Kenya’s various tribal groups and the colourful culture they all share (800 KES/$8/500 INR).
A day in the life
Away from these big spectacles and the bustling streets of Nairobi, Kenya is full of character and charm in just about every corner of the country. As long as you steer clear of the border with Somalia, there’ll be nothing but friendly people and their vibrant culture just waiting for you to experience. So don’t be afraid to jump off that tourist trail and forge your own path through the country. But how much money are you likely to need in a typical day?
Couchsurfing and Airbnb work just as well in Kenya as they would in any other country. You’ll have a lot more luck in metropolitan areas like Nairobi and Mombasa, but the popularity of these sites is rapidly growing throughout the country. If you’re ever stuck for a place to stay, Hostelworld is a great tool for finding good quality, cheap accommodation anywhere you go. The best deals you’ll find in the bigger cities will be around $10-$20/600-1200 INR per night, dropping to $5-$10/300-600 INR in the countryside.
Take a step off the tourist trail, you might just wake up to views like this!
Nairobi is infamous for its traffic, and as a bustling transport hub for the whole country, you’re almost certainly going to have to deal with it at some point. Within the city, private minibuses known as Matatus ply set routes and are by far the cheapest way to navigate the chaos (50 KES/$0.50/30 INR one way). They also run to destinations around the country, along with bigger coaches, but make sure you reserve a seat in advance as they are often over-booked (100-200 KES/$1-$2/60-120 INR per hour).
Coaches offer great value for money all across Kenya – Photo credit: Christianne Risman
Now for the best insight into Kenyan food, our recent article will certainly satisfy those taste buds! Just after something cheap and cheerful to stick to your budget? Look out for hostels and Airbnb stays including breakfast, and try to eat like a local as much as possible. Think street food stands and basic restaurants, where the food will be just as good for a fraction of the cost (200-400 KES/$2-$4/120-240 INR per meal). Ugali is an African staple and by far the best bang for your buck. Combine it with any one of the delicious foods we featured last week for a varied, wholesome, and most importantly cheap travelling diet.
Okay, gimme the numbers
|Type of Expense||Average cost per day||Total cost (30 days)|
|Flights||$360 / 23,000 INR|
|Visa||$51 / 3,300 INR|
|Health||$8 / 500 INR|
|Final preparations||$50 / 3,200 INR|
|Safari||$330 / 21,000 INR
$435 / 28,000 INR
|Mount Kenya||$650 / 41,000 INR|
|Nairobi||$76 / 4,800 INR|
|Accommodation||$10 / 600 INR x 30 =||$300 / 18,000 INR|
|Transport||$2 / 120 INR x 30 =||$60 / 3,600 INR|
|Food||$6 / 360 INR x 30 =||$180 / 10,800 INR|
|Total = $2,500 / 160,000 INR|
And don’t forget, no matter how strict you are with your budget, there’s always enough left over for a drink with friends on the road. Tusker beer is Kenya’s go to beverage, costing just $2/120 INR.
Alex is a traveller, adventurer, and all round go-getter from the UK. Having navigated his way through 37 countries by the age of 23, he’s got a huge wealth of experience and loads of epic stories to share. Look out for more articles coming from him soon as he gets his blogging and travel writing under way.