Nairobi Stories and Tips

Kenya-Getting There. Summary Part IIa. Airports

As the precedent has been set I’ll stick to putting them in the order I’ve found them most useful or appealing or in the case of one of them so far back in the queue I’d like to put them further back than last place.

Zurich Airport (ZRH)
The downside to this airport is that you will almost certainly be delayed in your arrival at this airport, especially if arriving in the morning as you are likely to get fog - this is in the Alps you know. Fortunately so will all the other planes due to arrive and depart so you probably won’t miss your connection, mine was over an hour and a half late leaving. The other downside is you have to go down to the train to take you from arrivals to departures and then go through the process of a security check again and there’s no orderly queue, if you need to get through fast just jostle and push like all good Europeans. Also there didn’t seem to be a public call box that you could text internationally from.
The upsides of this modern building is the airport is spotless, as are the toilets and the shops that are available all seem to take most currencies at a sensible exchange rate written on a board which were clearly visible thus ensuring no unnecessary debates. The coffee was well made as was the tea. The seats at all points were comfortable too even the ones in the smoking box which at the time I thought was great (was a smoker, have now quit but am not reformed enough to open all windows as some reformed smokers do). I’m not sure how I’d feel if I go through Zurich as a non-smoker and the most comfortable seats are in the smoking box. Also the announcements are clear and crisp in whatever language is used.
Overall–Very Good!

Amsterdam (AMS)
I’ve only been through Schipol twice once on the way to my wedding and once when returning on both occasions we flew between London & Amsterdam on KLM and landed promptly. The place is well mapped and the signs are very clear in almost all languages. The shops are well placed as are the phones and most things are reasonably priced including the teas and coffees. The public conveniences were just that convenient and more importantly spotless. The downside – it takes longer than the time they reckon it takes to get from 1 gate to another. I’m a fairly quick walker and am definitely faster than the walk escalators that you get at most modern airports now but it took me 25 minutes to get from the disembarkation gate to the boarding gate. However that is including the time to work out where I had to go so maybe it really would be 15 minutes next time. The other downside was when returning when it would’ve have been easier to let the woman on with her extra bag a security officer was extremely vigilant and insisted that she repack, throw away stuff or check-in her bags for the flight to Britain. He could see she was upset and knew he was aggravating everybody else in the queue and wouldn’t move on this issue although the flight was clearly not full and it would have been of no consequence to let her take on her 1 extra bag that had already been cleared as OK by someone else in authority!
Overall–Just Above Good!

London (LHR T4)
I caught British Airways to Nairobi and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to Amsterdam
for the onward flight to Nairobi, arriving early the same morning for the BA flight and the night before for the KLM flight. Early in the morning there wasn’t much open - I arrived at about 06.15am and the check-in desks were not open though when they did on both occasions we were through very quickly though I do remember thinking that the KLM woman at the check-in desk was quite rude, her British counterpart however was polite and charming. The only place that was -Costa Coffee. At spot on 7am everything opened and we were quickly checked through. If coming the night before it was atrocious, nowhere to keep a low profile and grab a couple of hours sleep before the 4am check-in for early flights. Airside is the same the shops aren’t open 1st thing and so you’re not able to get a paper or even water and they seem to start opening just before the early flights take-off. The breakfast I had there before the BA flight was delicious and though at the time I thought it was overpriced, in retrospect it was good value for money.

London (LGW)
From here I have travelled three times now and always to Mombasa Airport – once with Britannia Airways and twice with First Choice Airlines.
The first time the security system was a doddle and certainly did need toughening up but unfortunately there wasn’t much affordable on the other side and when we were suddenly informed of the late departure of our flight all refreshment possibilities had or were shutting down, Having said that security is much better though the shopping is still over priced and exploitative of its “trapped customers”. The 2nd time security had been toughened up as was necessary but perhaps a tad too much and it seemed to take forever to get through to airside. The 3rd time we were through fairly rapidly with just the right amount of security though it would’ve helped if the security personnel were all on the same page when it comes to boots and shoes “on or off” I do like the internal airport train, a nice simple thing no need to sit and at the other terminal in just a couple of minutes and though the shops are overpriced considering some of them claim to be “tax-free” it’s a fairly comfortable airport that seems to run ok most of the time,
Overall–Somewhere between Above Average and Good

Nairobi (NBO)
Apart from the long queue to check–in and that your spouse can’t even enter the first part of the building before said check-in Nairobi Airport is effectively a reasonably efficient hub for most people travelling through East Africa, the staff always smile (even the security). Despite what you may have heard the cafes will take Kenya Shillings and at reasonable rates. The boarding rooms are fairly comfortable though the queues for the boarding rooms can be irritating as sometimes the staff take their time to appear and then do the appropriate job. Getting your visa here is quicker and cheaper than in Britain if you pay in Dollars! Also there will be no need for a passport photo either thus keeping the costs of the holiday down.
Overall–Distinctly Average!

London (LHR T2)
From here I caught Swiss International Airlines (owned by Lufthansa) to Zurich for my onward flight to Nairobi. I had to arrive the night before as the check-In time for the flight was before the first train arrived. If you have to stay at the airport for the night at this terminal, arrive early I got there at 3am and it was pretty full fortunately I only had an hour to kill and after a couple of changes to the luggage it was time to queue for check-in. It was an unusually long queue to a major football match and people were going to Portugal via Zurich as it was decidedly cheaper that way. The Swiss check-in desk was excellent as they let me get a new lock as soon as W. H. Smith opened and jump the queue to put the lock on my suitcase (mine had broken whilst at the airport). The security check was extremely vigorous and over the top and many people nearly missed their flights and you could see people holding their belts, shoes and hand luggage and running for planes! They were having to call people forward from the next plane and were still checking them a second time. This was not necessary!

Mombasa (MBA)
A constant battle with rude staff who are aiming to empty your pockets before you get into Kenya proper by trying to get either a bribe or duty tax for presents you might have brought in for people. This includes those for charity even when people have the appropriate paperwork. Some have been told it’s not legitimate though the airline have sorted it correctly. If they think your weak they might just try to confiscate your wine or alcohol for your special occasion and this is just on the way in. On the return you are searched at every opportunity even by people that have searched you 5 minutes previously and know there is no way you could have added anything whilst laughing as it’s funny to them but still searching you anyway!
Overall–Atrocious avoid if at all possible (sometimes I have no choice)!

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