| Local currency
The local currency in Kenya
is called Kenyan shilling, KES.
KES 1,000 = approximately USD 17 / EUR 11.
The local currency in Tanzania
is called Tanzanian shilling, TZS.
TZS 1,000 = approximately USD 0.90 / EUR 0.60.
USD and EUR
American dollars (USD) have long been used in parallel with the local currencies within
the tourist industry. Hotels, bars, restaurants, tour
operators etc usually accept USD, even when bills are in shillings. Just be prepared
that the exchange rate used for recalculating your bill into dollars will not be as
good as when exchanging in an exchange bureau.
We recommend that you exchange at least some dollars into local currency, to use for
small expenses and tips.
If travelling off the beaten track, don't expect to use dollars other than where prices
are given in dollars.
The safari industry is getting more and more used to euro (EUR), and when for example
asking for prices for a tailored safari or hotel stays, you may ask to have them quoted
in euro. Exchange bureaus accept euro. They also accept many other currencies, but often
at poor rates.
Some exchange bureaus outside Africa can offer Kenyan shillings, but rarely Tanzanian
shillings. We suggest that you exchange after arriving in Kenya or Tanzania, though.
There are lots of exchange bureaus in the cities, and at least one or two in every international
You get the best exchange rates for USD or EUR in high denominations. (In October 2007,
you got TZS 1,200 per USD for USD 50 or 100 bills, while getting TZS 1,000 for USD 1
bills.) Exchange bureaus may also accept GBP and other currencies, but you normally
don't get the same good rate as for USD or EUR.
Exchange bureaus in Kenya and Tanzania may refuse to accept older USD bills.
Cash rules. You may get 510 % less when exchanging traveller's cheques (and
even less when using bank or credit cards).
The cards most widely accepted are Visa and MasterCard. They are accepted mainly in
banks, hotels, major souvenir shops and other businesses dealing with tourists. You'll
get a poor exchange rate compared to paying cash.
Most ATM's/cash machines are found in major cities such as Arusha,
es Salaam, Zanzibar,
but they gradually become available also in smaller towns. For example, there are now
ATM's in Karatu and Mto wa Mbu on the northern safari circuit (Lake
Manyara, Ngorongoro, Serengeti)
Visa and MasterCard are most usable. Visa may be used in most ATM's, while MasterCard
mainly can be used with Barclays' ATM's.
Cash rules. Don't travel with a bank or credit card only, but also bring cash. The ATM
systems are not as reliable as you may be used to from home. You may find more than
one machine in an area out of order.
Don't exchange on the black market. It's illegal. There isn't much money to save doing
it, anyhow, and there is a great risk of scams or being robbed.
Expenses during your tour
Most safari tours include all lodging, board and activities. That means you'll have
fairly few and small expenses yourself, mainly for beverages and tips. You may want
to exchange USD 100150 per person into local currency for a one-week safari.
Some side activities may not be included in your tour price, for example visits to Maasai
villages (approximately USD 10 per person), walks (USD 20), night safaris (USD 20) etc.
Your itinerary should clearly state what's included, and you may ask your travel
companies for prices on activities not included.
Meals are included in most safaris, while beverages are not. A bottle of beer is around
USD 2 in lodges,
camps or hotels, a soda or a bottle of water slightly less. You'll probably want
to buy 1 or 2 bottles of water per day, plus what you drink to dinner and for sundowners.
Imported products cost more than those produced locally. For example, a bottle of coke,
which is produced locally, may cost just half of a diet coke, which is imported.
South African wines cost from USD 20 in lodges and restaurants, while wines imported
from other continents cost considerably more. When it comes to beer, we suggest that
you stick to the local brands, as there are a number of really good ones.
Tipping driver guides
It's customary to pay your driver guide a tip after the safari. A normal tip is USD
5 (or equivalent in local currency) per day and person, i.e. USD 35 for a seven-day
safari. The tip is given to the driver at the end of the safari.
This tip is a tip, though, not a fee. A driver guide who doesn't do a good and professional
job should have less, if anything. A driver guide who does an excellent job, and thereby
seems to give you and your group more and better experiences than other groups, may
be rewarded with a better tip.
Tipping in general
You may tip whenever someone does you an extra service; a tip is rarely refused. Tipping
in local currency is best, as the receiver can use the money right on, without first
finding a way to exchange it.
Typical tips are for porters carrying your luggage in hotels, lodges, camps and airports
(USD 1 per bag) and in bars/restaurant (10 % of the bill).
You may tip housekeeping in hotels etc (USD 12 per night), but if the hotel, lodge
or camp have a tip box in reception, you may want to put your tip there instead. The
tips in the box are divided between the staff, including kitchen staff and others who
rarely meet you and other guests.
African souvenirs are sold in shops and by street vendors, and there's a lot to
choose from, ranging from one or two to thousands of dollars. There are woodcarvings,
masks, spears, Maasai trinkets and rugs, beautiful books etc. In the ArushaMoshi
area in Tanzania, you may also buy tanzanites,
a type of gemstones found nowhere else in the world.
Shops in lodges, hotels and airports are normally the more expensive ones, and prices
may not be negotiable. In such shops, you may find clothes, souvenirs, postcards, books,
cigarettes (also sold in many hotel and lodge bars) and sweets.
You're likely to make one or a few stops at souvenir shops along the road. All kinds
of African souvenirs can usually be found there. The price levels may vary, depending
on the shop and its clientele, and are sometimes really steep. You may bargain.
Wherever safari vehicles usually stop for breaks, you'll find street vendors, offering
souvenirs, maps etc. Bargain!
Guidebooks often mention that you may bring pens to give children, as they need them
for school. As a result, many safari-goers give away pens. (You can even see children
doing a special hand sign, asking for a pen.) The downside is that the pens can be traded,
and that children may prefer hanging by the roads, hoping for pens or other gifts, instead
of actually going to school.
If you want to help, you may improvise a stop at a local school and give pens and other
stationery directly to the teachers or the headmaster. That way, you also get to see
the school and meet the children.
Another highly appreciated gift is balls such as footballs (don't forget a pump). You
may bring soft toys and ask the driver guide to stop at an orphanage, where clothes,
toothbrushes, basic medical supplies etc can also find good use.
Corruption and scams
Corruption is widespread in Kenya and Tanzania, although rarely experienced by safari-goers
travelling on packaged tours.
If you're travelling on your own, or at least handle some safari expenses yourself,
if good to have an idea of which these are before going, and how big they are. Visa
fees, park entrance fees, hotel rooms etc always have a set price. If you know these
prices, you'll know if someone is trying to swindle you.
Should you have to deal with officials or policemen in matters out of the ordinary,
for example thefts or lost passports, you may need a lot of patience, because bureaucracy
may be slow. If you are asked to pay a fee that you didn't expect, or a bribe, you may
ask your tour operator, driver guide or tour leader for assistance. You may also turn
to your embassy in Kenya or Tanzania. We recommend you not to pay bribes; they are illegal,
and paying them means supporting a system that these countries need to counteract.
Take care to pay fees, such as visa and park entrance fees, to people who really work
with these matters. Safari-goers in airports and at border posts have been known to
pay their visas fees to just about anyone asking for their money. Don't. In Kenya and
Tanzania, official matters are handled in official ways, at official desks, by bureaucratic
officials who carefully examine your passport, slowly count your fee money, and deliberately
fill out pre-printed official receipt forms. You can't miss them. Go there. Pay there