Time zone: GMT+3
Plugs: UK-type square three-pin
Dialing code: +254
Currency: Kenyan shilling – $1=101KES
Language: English and Kiswahili
Despite the lean times, Kenya is bouncing back and remains East Africa’s most advanced economy. It is one of Africa’s more powerful nations, and the economy has seen much expansion, with strong performance in the services sector – which contributes about 63% of GDP. Tourism remains a key element, which makes the events of the past few years even more important.
Industrial activity concentrated around the three largest urban centres – Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu – is dominated by food-processing industries such as grain milling, beer production, sugarcane crushing, and the fabrication of consumer goods, whilst the oil and gas sectors are also growing.
Yet this counted for nothing in 2013, 2014 and 2015, when much of the international community applied the brakes to their travel into Kenya, in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and persistent terrorist activity in Mombasa and Nairobi.
It was a ‘double-whammy’, with tragedies such as the Westgate Mall attack in 2013 and the Garrissa University massacre in 2015 doing nothing for Kenya’s image as a safe African travel destination. A shift in approach was required, with many Kenyan operations having to re-look their offering, in an attempt to convince the international community that it was safe to visit and do business in the country.
“We’ve had to enhance our security systems,” says Moshi Perera, General Manager of the Sankara Nairobi in Westlands. “Sankara Nairobi also received accreditation from Safehotels for its excellence in safety and crisis management.”
The last few years may have been years to forget, but the prevailing feeling out of Nairobi – Kenya’s premier business travel destination – is that things have turned.
The main business travel destination in Kenya is the capital city Nairobi, which is surrounded by kilometres of plains, cliffs and forest that make up the city’s Nairobi National Park. It also features modern skyscrapers, quality restaurants, fully-equipped hospitals, modern shopping malls, and a number of schools.
Mombasa, the second largest city, is Kenya’s main tourist destination. It is located on the eastern coastline of Kenya bordering the Indian Ocean, which has made it a popular destination for its beaches. Mombasa offers a diverse marine life, good quality hotels, and a friendly atmosphere.
AIRLINES & AIRPORTS
The revamped Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is the main entry point, and offers domestic, regional and international flights and connections. The Mombasa Highway runs adjacent to the airport, and is the main route of access to the city.
The airport has numerous taxis and car rental services that operate 24 hours a day. A taxi ride to the city centre will cost you between $25 and $40. You can use your Visa, MasterCard and Maestro cards to draw money from ATMs available at the airport. There are also 24-hour banking services and forex bureaux.
JKIA opened Terminal 4 – now Terminal 1A – in July of 2014, but further work is underway to upgrade the airport. That includes construction of a new $64 million terminal, which is expected to be completed by 2017.
“There has been a much-needed facelift, especially with the new terminal, which offers a product and service of international standard,” says Ghulam Samdani, General Manager of the Ole-Sereni hotel. “Today the business traveller is looking for ease of travel, and I’m glad to see that JKIA understands these demands and is addressing them.”
There seems to be consensus that JKIA now offers a much-improved experience.
“The changes have been positive and this has made the business travel experience much more smooth and efficient,” says Perera.
Also added at the end of 2014 were two new lounges – Pride and Simba – in Terminal 1, for Kenya Airways Premier World and Sky Priority passengers from SkyTeam partner airlines. Both lounges offer free wi-fi, a sound-proof transit passenger sleeping area, dining lounge, washrooms and showers.
The Simba and Pride lounges aren’t the only lounges on offer, though.
“Ole-Sereni is now managing a world-class lounge in partnership with Swissport,” says Samdani. “It’s called Aspire Lounge and is located at Terminal 1B opposite Gate 10. We cater for the major international carriers.”
In terms of airlines, Kenya Airways has an extensive route network and offers connections from JKIA to most major African cities. It also offers direct services to the likes of France, the Netherlands and the UK in Europe, China, Vietnam and Thailand in Asia, India and Dubai, whilst Jambojet, KQ’s low-cost subsidiary, flies to Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Malindi, Lamu and Ukunda in Kenya.
Fellow African big-hitters, SAA and Ethiopian Airlines, also fly in to Nairobi, whilst alternative European connections are provided by the likes of BA, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, SWISS, Air France and KLM. No surprise that Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways also all have Nairobi routes.
Nairobi offers a selection of high-quality hotels including many international brands, such as Radisson Blu, InterContinental, Hilton, Best Western, Fairmont, Kempinski and Crowne Plaza, as well as a number of very highly regarded local chains, such as Serena and Sarova Hotels.
The newest ‘kid on the block’ is Carlson Rezidor’s new Radisson Blu in Upper Hill, which opened late in 2015 with 271 guestrooms.
Fairmont’s The Norfolk Hotel has played a leading role in Kenya’s colourful history, and continues to be one of Nairobi’s finest and best-known hotels, boasting 170 guest rooms and suites, eight conference rooms, a heated outdoor swimming pool, health club with gym, sauna and steam room, gift shops, and its own private tropical gardens.
The InterContinental Nairobi is ideally located for business, close to the parliament buildings and CBD, and adjacent to Kenyatta International Convention Centre, as is the Laico Regency in the same area.
The Nairobi Serena is very popular and one of the old, established hotels in the city. It has a colonial feel, but has also kept pace with the times, and still offers a quality 5-star experience, along with a great location, should you need to be in close proximity to the city centre.
Also in the 5-star category are the Villa Rosa Kempinski and the dusitD2 nairobi, both of which opened in the past two years in close proximity to each other, between the CBD and Westlands.
There are a couple of ‘modern’ hotel options, in the form of the Tribe Hotel, which has received great reviews and looks to have some stunning facilities and rooms. Then there’s the Sankara Nairobi, which opened a couple of years ago and has become the standout hotel in the suburb of Westlands, where a lot of international businesses are relocating. The Sankara offering is nothing short of 5-star, with an eye-catching pool area, modern rooms and a new steakhouse, as of 2015. In a similar category is Hemingways in Karen, offering an exclusive, boutique 5-star experience.
Just a few hundred metres away from the Sankara is the Southern Sun Nairobi, a member of the South African Tsogo Sun Hotels group.
Competing with the new Radisson Blu in Upper Hill are the Crowne Plaza and the Fairview, which is a homely 4-star hotel now owned by South African group City Lodge. The Fairview also has what was previously known as the Country Lodge attached to it, and this hotel has been rebranded as a Town Lodge, which is City Lodge’s 2-star brand.
The Best Western Premier opened in 2013 – the international group’s first property in Nairobi – and offers 96 4-star rooms in Upper Hill Estate, with free wi-fi, a health club and three restaurants.
Another hotel worth noting is the Sarova Stanley, whilst the Ole Sereni is arguably the best hotel on the airport road, and just 10 minutes from Jomo Kenyatta International. It overlooks the national park, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see game roaming on the other side of the fence. It also has a bar and pool area overlooking the park, very comfortable rooms and stunning food.
Also on the airport road are the Panari Hotel and the newish pair of the Eka Hotel and The Boma Hotel. All of these hotels will receive some competition in 2016 when Hilton opens its new Hilton Garden Inn Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Visa exemptions are applied to nationals of the following African countries: Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. South Africans are limited to 30-day visa-free stays, and longer visits require a visa.
On 1 September 2015 Kenya stopped issuing visas on arrival. Visitors are now required to purchase a visa online in advance of travel and will be asked to produce a printed copy of the e-Visa upon check-in, without which they will not be permitted entry into Kenya. Alternatively, travellers can also contact their nearest Kenyan embassy, high commission or consulate to arrange a visa. Travel agents or tour operators will be able to register and make visa applications on their clients’ behalf. An e-Visa will be valid for 90 days from the date of approval and not from the date of arrival in Kenya.
Kenya Airways Area Manager – Southern Africa
Currently (late 2015) the arrivals terminal is under construction with a temporary terminal being used. Upon arrival, passengers should pay attention to notification by airline staff as to whether they are transiting Nairobi or arriving in Nairobi, as they will be transported to different arrival areas.
Kenya is currently investing in its road network. Most places across the country are connected by good accessible roads. Nairobi is easy to get around and I suggest the use of taxis which are readily available and a safe way to travel. An estimated cost for a taxi fare from the airport to the city ranges between KES1800 ($17.50) and KES2300 ($22.50).
Most establishments offer free wi-fi, which is reliable and fast. The growth of the country as a technology hub has seen an increase in investment in the industry. The major mobile networks in the country – Safaricom, Airtel and Orange – have services available at the airport – all one needs is an identification card. The networks have invested in connectivity across the whole country and offer reliable data services.
Most hotels offer convenient airport transfers from JKIA. There has been an increase in the number of boutique hotels across the country, offering alternative accommodation.
Nairobi offers a wide range of culinary choices with some of the best restaurants in the region. The choices are however limited as one travels out of the capital city. Eatout.co.ke is a popular website listing some of the restaurants across the country and what they have to offer. One of my favourite restaurants is the Tamarind Restaurant in Nairobi.
10 THINGS TO DO IN KENYA
1. Visit the Maasai Mara
2. Climb Mount Kenya or the smaller Mount Longonot
3. Enjoy a game drive in Nairobi National Park
4. Enjoy a sundowner in a game reserve, or dinner in the bush
5. Adopt an elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
6. Feed giraffe from the palm of your hand at the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi
7. Visit the Lamu Archipelago for a rich cultural tour
8. Visit Iten, the home of long distance running in Kenya
9. Visit and shop in one of the many Maasai markets across the country
10. Learn about mobile money, a way of life in Kenya
African Express – africanexpress.co.ke
Air Berlin – airberlin.com
Air France – airfrance.com
Air Madagascar – airmadagascar.com
Air Mauritius – airmauritius.com
BA – britishairways.com
Condor – condor.com
Daallo – daallo.com
Emirates – emirates.com
Ethiopian – ethiopianairlines.com
Etihad – etihad.com
Fly540 – fly50.com
Jambo Jet – jambojet.com
Jubba – jubbaairways.com
Kenya – kenya-airways.com
KLM – klm.com
Kulula – kulula.com
LAM – lam.co.mz
Qatar – qatarairways.com
RwandAir – rwandair.com
Saudi – saudiairlines.com
SAA – flysaa.com
Swiss – swiss.com
TUIfly – tuifly.com
Turkish – turkishairlines.com
Tanganyika – flytfconline.com
Best Western Premier – bestwestern.com
Crowne Plaza – ihg.com
Bedelle – thebedelle.com
Bidwood – bidwoodsuites.com
Boma Hotel – theboma.co.ke
Boma Inn – theboma.co.ke
Dusit D2 Nairobi – d2nairobi.com
Eastland – eastlandhotel.co.ke
Eka – ekahotel.com
Fairmont – fairmont.com
Fairview – citylodge.co.za
Hemingways – hemingways-nairobi.com
Heron Portico – theheronportico.com
Hilton – hilton.com
House of Waine – houseofwaine.com
InterContinental – ihg.com
Jupiter – jupiterguestresort.com
Kempinski – kempinski.com
La Mada – madahotels.com
La Maison Royale – lmrhotel.com
Laico Regency – laicohotels.com
Monarch – monarchhotelskenya.com
Ndemi Place – ndemiplace.com
Ole-Sereni – ole-sereni.com
Palacina – palacina.com
Panari – panarihotels.com
PrideInn – prideinn.co.ke
Progressive – progressiveparkhotel.co.ke
Radisson Blu – radissonblu.com
Reata Serviced Apartments – reata.co.ke
Safari Park – safaripark-hotel.com
Sankara – sankara.com
Sarova Panafric – sarovahotels.com
Sarova Stanley – sarovahotels.com
Serena – serenahotels.com
Silver Springs – silversprings-hotel.com
Southern Sun – tsogosunhotels.com
Town Lodge – citylodge.co.za
Tribe – tribe-hotel.com
Weston Hotel – westonhotel.com
Windsor Golf – windsorgolfresort.com
Avis – avis.com
Budget – budget.com
Europcar – europcar.com
Sixt – sixt.com
Amex – amextravel.co.za
BCD – bcdtravel.com
CWT – carlsonwagonlit.com
FCm – fcm.travel
HRG – hrgworldwide.com
Uniglobe – uniglobe.com