Written by actonsteve on 04 Nov, 2008
There are various thrills to travel but none but that rush of adrenalin when you "fit" into your new environment. The creeping realisation that no one is looking at you – no one is going to accost you. You can move from A to B…Read More
There are various thrills to travel but none but that rush of adrenalin when you "fit" into your new environment. The creeping realisation that no one is looking at you – no one is going to accost you. You can move from A to B with relative ease, there’s a buzz to fitting in to your new surroundings. You have mastered your new environment – it has not mastered you.I felt that on my first day in Nairobi. This city, like Lagos or Johannesburg has a wicked reputation. It has a sense of edginess amongst travellers and is the recipient of many warnings in the usual guidebooks. But nothing happened to me. Every person I spoke to said that crime was exaggerated – my taxi driver to the Karen Blixen house even said it was safe at night. I wouldn’t like to test the theory out but since taxi driving is such a high risk proffession I trust his judgement more then most.So the first morning after an overnight flight from London (no jetlag, I love Africa) I set off to run a few errands in central Nairobi. With a deep breath I joined the crowds down Moi Avenue. I was the only non-African as far as the eye could see. It was mainly Kenyans in suits walking purposely along battered pavements. I took the bull by the horns and crossed the congested traffic. Then got swallowed up by the flood of humanity in this city.I was staying just off Moi Avenue. Opposite is Bishara Street – famous for its Asian shopkeepers. Here is also the Jiamat hotel and a number of persistent touts trying to get you interested in the Central Market. They usually comment on your shoes – and with my enormous feet they couldn’t believe their luck. But they aren’t as persistent as some countries and were easily shaken off.Mbingu Avenue takes you south to the big Kenyatta Avenue – a wide street lined with skyscrapers. Some of the m very impressive such as the I&M tower and were as good as those in London’s Docklands or Shanghai. Can you imagine a villager up from the bush seeing skyscrapers for the first time? Kenyatta Avenue is bisected by a central reservation lined with palm trees. South of here is the government centre and Parliament. The northern side is crowded with banks. I found a chemist to buy some shaving cream but no one serving seemed to know what I wanted – one girl thought I wanted lady shave.Mokdar Dadar Street is not far away is not far away and is tourist Nairobi. Obvious by the touts and taxi drivers who hang around Nginyo Towers (another skyscraper) waiting for custom. There are several good African restaurants around here with lunchtime buffets for about 350 shillings. There are number of mosques in this area and its pretty orthodox Islam around here with women in burkhas and men in religious dress. Watch the TV and you will see how solid religion is in Africa.Central Nairobi does not have any obvious sights and is a busy place to wander around but you get a sense of achievement getting from A to B here. And the more time you spend here the less intimidating it becomes.Who knows? It is almost possible to like the place. Stranger things have happened. Close
Written by actonsteve on 03 Nov, 2008
IntroNairobi’s reputation precedes it.I found it to be OK, although many tourists pass through – it’s not really a tourist city. It’s one of Africa’s powerhouse cities. A city of skyscrapers, crowds and shantytowns where money passes through the country. But the truth be told…Read More
IntroNairobi’s reputation precedes it.I found it to be OK, although many tourists pass through – it’s not really a tourist city. It’s one of Africa’s powerhouse cities. A city of skyscrapers, crowds and shantytowns where money passes through the country. But the truth be told you won’t spend much time here. It’s more than likely that you will be here at the start and end of your safari. Which is a shame because it is a city with uniquely African attractions and it has a buzz and life to it that is worth experiencing?You may not think so at first. Nairobi is exceptionally busy – traffic is at a standstill, people rush along the battered pavements and many of the buildings in the centre look as if they have decayed from their sixties heyday. But there is a sense of occasion here – a sense of being caught up in humanity. There are some bad areas and you must take the same precautions you take in any big city but at the same time there are some charming areas. The suburbs in the west are like green Elysian fields with mansions overlooking wooded canyons. Nairobi is a strange mix of have-seen-better days seventies architecture, modern skyscrapers, green parks, shanty towns and very heavy traffic.But occasionally you get a flash of the exotic – a Maasai walking down the street wearing his red robes, marabou storks perching in the trees, safari vans roaming the streets and an African street market to end all street markets. Also, can you think of a capital city in the world which has a game park within its city limits? A stone’s throw from skyscrapers - zebras graze, giraffes browse and lions patiently wait for game.Quick TipsNairobi entered my consciousness as a child. For me it was a place of landrovers, khaki decked rangers and bungalows where animals are hand reared (usually in films with Virginia McKenna). The reality is something different. It’s a big crushed city with the centre consisting of seven griddled roads in a square block. University Road is to the north. Uhuru Park to the west, the mighty Kenyatta Avenue to the south and infamous Moi Avenue to the east.Everything you will need for your safari will be between these streets – Foreign Exchanges, safari operators, petrol garages, banks, clothing stores, supermarkets, Curio shops and government offices. Your hotel may be in this area (one of mine was) but more likely it will be in the surrounding green streets. Kenyatta Avenue is the main attraction and is lined with skyscrapers and impressive buildings. East of Moi Avenue is a supposedly dodgy area but you are unlikely to need to go there.Nairobi has a reputation for crime. Nothing happened to me but it does help to take precautions such as leave all valuables back in the hotel like any other city. The worst thing you can do is let paranoia ruin your stay. The centre is perfectly safe in the daytime – in fact you will be ignored as another wuzungu (foreigner) as people move about their business. But if you take care to talk to Nairobi residents you will learn they are actually very charming and, occasionally, big fans of their city.How to get aboutNairobi is most people’s first stop when arriving in East Africa.Even if you are whisked off on safari immediately on touchdown you may need the city for those little essentials such as camera batteries and changing up money. Taxis are the best way of getting around and two good taxi ranks are Kimathi Street and the Muranga Road. The rates are reasonable costing about 1000 shillings out to the airport.Most people get out to the suburbs in Matutus which are small buses which set off when there enough people in them. They are mostly used by Kenyans and are perhaps not the best way for visitors to get around. Intercity buses are in the notorious "River Road" area east of Moi Avenue and I would ask your hotel to purchase tickets for you rather then go to the agencies in River Road itself and also take a taxi to and from the station.Interestingly there is a railway service from Nairobi down to the Swahili Coast. The train does a night service to Mombasa for about £60. It departs every two days and takes 14 hours, a slow but classy service which travels through Tsavo National Park just as dawn breaks. The airport is five miles out and is a pretty modern effort with tight security. Arriving is not much of a culture shock as it has all mod cons and a taxi to the centre costs about £11. If you are flying down to Kilimanjaro and the Tanzanian "northern circuit" then you have to go via Wilson airport. The road into Nairobi skirts the national park and early in the morning giraffes or zebra can be seen from the road. Close
Written by byuistheshiz on 13 Nov, 2006
I recently had the opportunity to visit Kenya. While I was there, I took a 5- day safari on the Masai Mara with my mom and grandma. The experiences were unforgettable. In Nairobi, we stayed at the Norfolk hotel. This is…Read More
I recently had the opportunity to visit Kenya. While I was there, I took a 5- day safari on the Masai Mara with my mom and grandma. The experiences were unforgettable. In Nairobi, we stayed at the Norfolk hotel. This is where we met our safari guides and had a briefing the night before we flew out to the national park. The Norfolk is an amazing hotel. The service is amazing, the staff is friendly, the rooms were great and it was reasonably priced.We flew to the Masai Mara and stayed at the Mara Simba lodge. Each day we had two safaris, one in the morning on in the evening. We were with the company African Spice Safaris. This is an upper end safari company and was really great. You have the option of getting a safari vehicle fit for 6 passengers or 4. The drivers were extremely knowledgeable and managed to show us the big 5 animals of Kenya, the elephant, cape buffalo, lion, leopard and the rhino. The Mara Simba lodge was great. It feels like you're in the middle of the wilderness. There is a lot of forestation between each lodge and the dining hall, gift shop etc. We took the opportunity to do an air safari on a hot air balloon ride. This was remarkable and provided an excellent new perspective of the Mara. The balloon landed at the site of a champagne breakfast in the middle of the wilderness. Although there were hyenas off in the distance, we had guards with loaded weapons that kept an eye on any approaching animals and we felt quite safe. During our safari, we visited a real Masai village. We got to see the huts they live in, visit with the village elders and buy many of the handmade things the women offered us. We were forewarned that if we wanted, we could bring gifts for the children. We brought them American candy, toys, crayons, markers and other such things. We also had a dinner under the stars. The lodge offered our party (which total was 15 people) the chance to drive out on to the Mara at night and have an excellent dinner served to us. The staff really was amazing, the dinner site which was lit up by torches all around was magnificent with the background noise of birds, monkeys and lions roaring. It really was an amazing experience. The safari ended with a return trip to Nairobi. Spice safaris arranged for a few excellent stores to stay open for our party on Sunday to allow us to do some shopping. It was really a great trip. Close
Written by mooncross on 15 Jun, 2002
The words of the song in the Maa language of the Maasai are incomprehensible to my ears. I look down the long line of young men and women who are welcoming us and am somewhat relieved to see my mild embarrassment at this (paid) visit…Read More
The words of the song in the Maa language of the Maasai are incomprehensible to my ears. I look down the long line of young men and women who are welcoming us and am somewhat relieved to see my mild embarrassment at this (paid) visit mirrored on a few of the faces.
It is the middle of the day; the sun is high and hot in a clear blue sky and in the distance the peaks of the Kilimanjaro are still visible through the haze of dust and heat. Mohamed has taken us to visit a Maasai homestead, or inkangitie, in the vicinity of the Amboseli lodge (a few hours from Nairobi). The Maasai strive to retain as much of their culture as they possibly can in this modern day and age. Yet, at the same time, sharing that culture and demonstrating it to eager tourists is a source of much-needed income. The combination makes a visit with the Maasai a strange mixture of hospitality, intercultural exchange, mutual curiosity and economic pay-offs.
A part of me is very interested to see a little bit of a lifestyle that is so alien to my western mind. Another part is anxious about doing or saying something that might be considered offensive. I wish I had learned more before coming here.
Our guide and translator will be Nicholas Karaine. He learned English in a missionary school. Before we enter the village, he says, the song welcomes us, and a prayer will be offered.
Once the rituals are over, we follow Nicholas through the long-thorned acacia fence into the village grounds. It is basically a circle of small cabins, surrounded by the fence and enclosing a couple of small trees that provide shade. Nicholas explains the program of our visit: we will be allowed inside one of the houses, and will be shown how the Maasai make fire. Because we paid the fee, we can take as many pictures as we like - doesn't mean I didn't usually ask first.
While the men and women of the welcoming committee go about their business -until the next vanload of tourists arrives- Nicholas shows us around and leads us toward a small hut, an inkajijik. It is build of tree branches and cemented with a mixture of cowdung, dirt and urine. Seen up close, it actually looks pretty sturdy.
The Maasai are a nomadic people. They herd their cattle where there is food and water. If it rains twenty kilometers further on, they will relocate their village and abandon their houses to simply build a new one. House building is a woman's work and it depends on the skill of the woman how long it takes to finish. "Could take a month, could be much faster," Nicholas says.
We crouch and follow him inside. It is gloomy; the only light filters in through the doorway and a small hole in the roof, which acts as a chimney. While our eyes grow used to the darkness, Nicholas explains that the Maasai are polygamous: a man can have more than one wife. But, he says, every wife builds her own house, and the husband will move from one home to another.
We chat some more about the differences in our marital cultures. "What if husband and wife don't get along?" D. asks. "Do they divorce?" Nicholas looks shocked. Divorces, it turns out, are very rare. The couple will just have to learn to get along as best as they can.
Back outside, Nicholas collects a couple of the men. It is time to show us how to make fire when you have no matches or a lighter. Tools are used; a flat piece made of a soft wood with holes in it, and a hard-wooded stick. A little clod of dried dung is broken apart and some straw is placed nearby. One of the men sets to work, twirling the stick between his hands and causing friction with the plank. When he tires, another man is ready to take over. In a few minutes smoke is drifting up. The fire maker kneels close and blows gently upon the dung, adds some straw and blows again. The smoke thickens and billows white. Then, although expected, a sudden yellow flame leaps up.
"Is it difficult to do?" we want to know. Nicholas grins and says, "For us, it's not difficult." We laugh. We would be so lost without our electricity and central heating and gas stove.
Nicholas points to a young man. "He is a doctor," he says. "He learned medicine from his father, who was also a doctor but who is now retired." Nicholas continues to explain how the Maasai treat malaria. The cure sounds as unpleasant as the disease itself and I make a firm resolution to not forget my prophylaxis.
Nicholas introduces his wife and child. We ask where the other children are, having noticed that there are only young men and women in sight. "They are in school," he says and points to a wood shed some hundred meters away from the village. "Would you like to see the school?"
Of course we would.
Nicholas precedes us to the small building and waves us inside. Two dozen small faces curiously look back at us. We have interrupted their English lesson and on the blackboard are exercises: words preceded by 'an' or 'a'?
Their teacher (whose name I sadly forgot) asks the children, ranging in age from 2.5 to 6 years old, to sing a welcoming song. A girl stands up and begins a tune. The other children fall in.
The children demonstrate their knowledge of mathematics, science and English as their teacher asks the class some questions. The days of the week, the months of the year, the sources of light. The pupils, like children everywhere in the world, are eager to show off what they have learned. They raise their hands as high in the air as possible, before the question is even finished.
Their teacher explains that up until several months ago, the school was located in the shade of an acacia tree. With the help of donations, they built this small, one-room building that will protect the children from the elements. Now that they mention it, I realize that the school building does look brand new.
Books and pens are another matter that is hard to obtain, Nicholas explains. Lesson plans are difficult to find and have to be bought in Nairobi (a three-hour drive away) whenever there is a donation. H. had the foresight to put several spare pens in her purse that morning and digs them out to hand them over to the school's teacher.
The children sing a goodbye song before we depart and we thank them.
Walking? On foot? Two girls, alone? In Nairobi? Shocked, the receptionist's eyes flick from me to D. and back. We have just asked her if she knows about walking tours in the city of Nairobi, and she is appalled. Apparently, walking is for the poor…Read More
Walking? On foot? Two girls, alone? In Nairobi? Shocked, the receptionist's eyes flick from me to D. and back. We have just asked her if she knows about walking tours in the city of Nairobi, and she is appalled. Apparently, walking is for the poor in Africa, and certainly not an activity fit for a couple of white, female tourists. A bit shyly, not wanting to alarm us, she warns us to be careful about wearing watches and earrings.
We explain that that is the precise reason why we want to have a guide along on our intended walk. We point to the rest of our group: my parents and brother. The nice lady at the reception breathes a little easier when she realizes D. and I did not intend to go walking by ourselves but with a whole group, including two men. Still, it is a daunting prospect.
She promises to make some phonecalls and see what she can arrange for us. Some ten minutes later she waves us over. For US$40 each, she can offer us a city tour, a trip to the National Museum and to the Snake Farm. Dana and I exchange a look. This is exactly what we hoped to avoid: another tourist excursion. To make matters worse, the exact same trip was offered upon our arrival for US$20. Kenya must suffer from heavy inflation.
We shake our heads and again try to explain to the receptionist that we want to experience some of the city, and not the museums; we have plenty of museums at home. She blinks when we inform her of last night's 20-dollar offer and goes back to the phones.
In the end it takes a direct conversation between D. and the tour operator on the other end of the line, but then we have an offer that suits our purpose and budget. For 70 US$ we'll have a driver-guide plus van that will take us to see some of Nairobi's lesser known sights and will guide us for a short walk through the center. We agree, and a short while later the van comes to pick us up.
Our driver's name is Peter, and it's obvious he does not quite know what exactly to do with this bunch of odd tourists. However, he does a good job of pointing out the main sights, passing by the Jomo Kenyatta Memorial several times.
The first stop Peter takes us is the colorful City Market on Muindi Mbingu Street. As soon as we disembark from the van, chaos ensues. People trying to convince us to visit their shops surround us and clamor for attention. According to Peter, most of them are (unpaid) helpers that will ask the shop's owner for a percentage when they convince you to buy something from that particular shop.
A woman pushes a tattered notebook in front of me. "Money for school," she explains, and I see a long list of foreign names and places, with amounts of 100 Kshs or 200 Kshs beside them. I doubt the money will actually be used for education, but it's a clever scheme and I do have a couple of small bills in my possession. I sign her notebook, musing that at the very least she'll have an interesting list of foreigners that visited, and hand her a bill.
A young man tells me his name is Aisak - and I probably misspelled that. He owns a shop, he says, and will give me a good price for whatever I desire. "Do you have a writing pen?" he asks. "A pen?" My eyebrows raise in confusion. "Yes, I have a pen." "Good, you give me a pen and I'll give you a good price," he tells me.
I have a vague and blurred memory of ascending stairs before going inside a building where the City Market is located. Everyone in my group has been 'adopted' by a couple of Kenyans and is shown the wares of the various stores. Aisak leads me to his store, a small alcove somewhere in the City Market. He points at the merchandise. Soapstone sculptures and woodcarvings stare down at me from shelves lining the walls. "All made by hand," the owner tells me proudly, "no machines." He asks what I want. Candles? Or animals? The choice is widely varied. Lions, leopards, giraffes. "I'd like an elephant," I tell Aisak, remembering that I planned to bring home another for my collection.
A dozen helpful hands fill mine with elephants in all shapes and sizes. Made of ebony, rosewood, or other materials. A foot-high elephant of a deep-red wood catches my attention. I only have to glance at it or someone grabs it and sets it on the floor at my feet. "Rosewood," I'm told, and someone else demonstrates that the tusks can be removed for securer transport home. Aisak pulls over a low stool and I sit down. Negotiations can begin.
Aisak writes a number on a piece of paper. 15.500 Kshs. I glance at the Shilling-to-Euro conversion table I brought along and swallow. I make a counter offer that in retrospect is way too low. But hey, I just got here! I have no idea what I'm doing, no idea how much money I want to spend on a souvenir, and hardly any clue how much a Kenyan Shilling is worth. Realizing this, Aisak changes the bidding process to US dollars. At least a currency I can understand without too much mathematics.
M. wanders past. "Are you negotiating?" my brother asks and grins when he sees me sitting on the low stool with the elephant at my feet. "I think so," I reply. I ask Dana how much she thinks I should pay for the elephant. She has no clue. H. drops by. "Fifty guilders," she ventures when I ask her advice. I know that's too little; the gap with Aisak's offer is too wide. In the meantime, three or four Kenyans have gotten involved in trying to convince me how much the carving is worth. I do believe them when they tell me that rosewood, like ebony, is a valuable wood. The sheer weight of the elephant proves the validity of their statement.
Their arguments are hard to resist. Am I buying this souvenir for someone else? In that case, why not get a crude, orangy elephant, two inches high? Or am I buying for myself? Then I should spend a little money. Am I not worth it? "Remember," a young man tells me, "someday you may get married, and you show your children the elephant." I'm not even surprised he's already noticed I don't wear a ring.
In the end, we agree on a price of 75 US$. Time to pay, and a new problem arises. Slight consternation when I inform Aisak I'm not carrying that much money around on my person, but that I need a bank first. It's Sunday, and the market is about to close. "ATM?" he asks hopefully, and relieved I nod. Yes, an ATM would help.
"Come," he waves, while other eager hands start wrapping the elephant in a newspaper. I follow him, outside the market building, along a Nairobi street, to a Visa ATM machine. I withdraw the money, pay him on the spot and he takes me back to the market. The rest of the group, surrounded by happy merchants, comes to meet us. I receive a heavy package, wrapped in paper and plastic, and two thin wood tusks. Realizing I have lost sight of my purchase for a while, and with the suspicious part of my brain telling me that this is an easy way to con an unsuspecting tourist, I try to ascertain that it is the rosewood elephant that's inside all the paper and tape. It does have an elephantine shape and I shrug. In any case, it was fun!
My suspicions were unfounded; it was indeed my elephant in the package. It survived the ten-day safari without sustaining damage and is now proudly decorating my living room. The 'writing pen' never got mentioned again.
Written by Harv_y on 24 Jun, 2008
The future?The Airlines to MombasaThe following airlines I have used for my 3 trips using MBA Airport which I always strive to avoid. I will also now strive to avoid First Choice airlines and anything to do with Thomson Holidays when travelling to Kenya, though…Read More
The future?The Airlines to MombasaThe following airlines I have used for my 3 trips using MBA Airport which I always strive to avoid. I will also now strive to avoid First Choice airlines and anything to do with Thomson Holidays when travelling to Kenya, though I suspect we will have to use them at some time in the future.1 & 2] First Choice Airlines (FCA)I have flown with them from to Kenya twice now both times on the same on the LGW-MBA route. One was excellent and the other was atrocious. If their ethics, morals and business practices were better they would have been in 3rd place and that would only be because I don’t like MBA Airport (read the other parts of the review and you will see why)Overall – Just Below AverageUse Again – Would Rather Not But Suspect I Will Have To So Yes Unfortunately3] Britannia Airways (BY)I used them for my first flight from LGW-MBA & the service was atrocious. There was a lack of communication on all levels and looking back I think it was deliberate. The food was ok. Perhaps it’s a good job that you can’t get this airline now. It’s successor is Thomfly and has just merged with First Choice under the TUI BannerOverall – AtrociousUse Again – Fortunately Never! There are many other airlines which fly to Mombasa from all round Europe. They appear to fly mainly from Germany and Italy (not really surprising with the amount of Ex-Pats from Italy living in (mainly though not exclusively) Malindi. I know of a few German Ex-pats (though not many) who appear to live in Diani (the south coast of Mombasa)Of these airlines I have mentioned the following airlines are quite likely to be used over the next few years when my wife or I have awkward work dates for our holidays.The two companies flying to Germany have been put at the top of the possibilities as Germany is easy to get to from Britain. I’ve put LTU ahead of Condor as they fly from more Airports and I know someone who has flown with them and he said they were OK.The preferred order would be roughly as follows1] LTU InternationalLTU are part of the AirBerlin family which is pretty good and has its London Hub at Stansted and a friend of mine who worked there rates them pretty highlyI found several reviews on them of which several were bad most were ok and only a couple of good ones but when you look at the airports they fly from the options for Brits are pretty good and if you want to turn your trip into a big adventure if you wanted you could even catch the ferry with I believe DFDS from Harwich to HamburgBerlin Tegel - MombasaDusseldorf - MombasaHamburg - MombasaMunich - Mombasa2] CONDORI found several good review on Condor and wouldn’t hesitate to usethem if I had to, the only disadvantage I can find with using them is that they are rather expensive for a no frills airlineFrankfurt - Mombasa3] EDELWEISS AIRI put Edelweiss next as they were until recently owned by Kuoni and I had found a couple of good reviewsZurich - MombasaThe Italian airlines was a different story and I’ve done pretty much for the following reasons Neos fly from more airports than Blue Panorama and have managed to get a good review. Blue Panorama I think is a better bet than Livingstone as they have 1 good review compared to none. Livingstone in their defence do fly from two easily reached Italian Airports and appear to be owned by Lauda Air. Meridiana fly from 2 Airports and have been around for years. Unfortunately their standards have been dropping for a little while and whilst I will bear them in mind I’m more likely to try to avoid them4] Neos Air Milan Malpensa-Mombasa&Verona - Mombasa 5] BLUE PANORAMA Rome Fiumicino - Mombasa 6] Livingstone Energy FlightRome Fiumicino - Mombasa&Milan Malpensa - Mombasa 7] Meridiana Milan Malpensa - Mombasa The next airline considered is Air Italy who flew to both Nairobi and Mombasa from many airports and appear to be part of the Alitalia family. The only problem with them is they haven’t yet decided if they will resume an operation to Kenya. With the amount of Italian Ex-pats living in Kenya my guess is that they will but with a reduced service. If they do return to flying to Kenya I’m sure we will use them due to sheer choice of Airports they allow making it easier to find suitable dates for us. I suspect and hope to be wrong that when they return to flying to Kenya it will be with a reduced service and only to Mombasa With that many flights and only one bad review I’d risk it. 8] AIR ITALY Bari – Mombasa, Bergamo - Mombasa, Rome Fiumicino - Mombasa, Milan Malpensa - Mombasa, Verona - Mombasa 9] Iberworld Although they appear to no longer fly to Kenya and although I have only really found poor reviews on them would risk it purely because it’s so easy to get to Madrid from Britain.Madrid–Mombasa10] My Travel I found out about this company in November or December due to a wonderful couple who offered this information to me when I was searching for a last minute flight to Kenya with awkward dates. They would have been able to help but the cost was prohibitive and a better option turned up for me. So although it may appear to be a little daft to go north to fly so far south I will have to bear it in mind as twice now their dates have worked for me. The website address is http://www.ving.se/flyg Stockholm-Mombasa Deceased Airlines that may be represented by others or may yet be resurrected on their previous routes11] Corseair – Which is now part of the very large TUI Travel Company and had several good reviews to several long haul destinations is still flying or so it appears just not to Kenya. It’s another one to be aware of as Paris is easily reached from London and all options that we can think of will have to be considered.Paris (Charles De Gaulle) - Mombasa Finally – as we travel between our two homelands we will use many different airlines and airports over the coming years and will update every time we travel so keep an eye on this journal as it will change and we will tell you where the bargains are to be had, so for the time being Adieu and will write for you soonBe safe in your travels. Close
Written by Harv_y on 19 Jun, 2008
The AirlinesLONDON-NAIROBIThe first 7 airlines mentioned are the ones I’ve travelled with to Kenya. One has now changed names and has since merged with another one and they now use the others airline. I will put them in the order of preference as before with…Read More
The AirlinesLONDON-NAIROBIThe first 7 airlines mentioned are the ones I’ve travelled with to Kenya. One has now changed names and has since merged with another one and they now use the others airline. I will put them in the order of preference as before with a very quick summary. The ones further down with no numbering are airlines that I/we might well use in the future in getting to Kenya.1] Kenya Airways (KQ)The more I think about this the more I come to the conclusion that of those used so far despite the ignorant chauvinistic male steward and that they should come in first, Only just though due to excellent food and service on board with the noted exception. The films were very good too and watched 3 from NBO-AMS Overall - Just Below Excellent.Use Again - Yes 2] Swiss International Airlines (LX) I flew with Swiss on the LHR-ZRH leg on the outward trip and on both legs for the return journey NBO-ZRH and ZRH-LHR. At all times we were well fed and watered, though I don’t remember any of the films standing out, but the general customer service was very good. The reason not in 1st place is the intentional lack of information regarding ZRH-NBO being on Hapag Lloyd.Overall – Very Good.Use Again – Yes.3] British Airways (BA) I used BA for my 1st flight to Kenya (LHR–NBO) and also the return of (NBO-LHR). Very helpful Check-In and although I don’t remember any outstanding films I do remember that the radio stations offered kept me entertained and that I like the map to keep you informed where you were on your journey, what height you were at and how long before arrival and the weather at both where we were going and coming from. The food was excellent. Only just below Swiss because of their (Swiss’) superior customer service.Overall – Very Good.Use Again – Yes.4] Hapag Lloyd (HF)Despite the late departure and the fact that there was NO in-flight entertainment or map to inform us how the flight was progressing, the food and customer care was second to none. The food was excellent, even the wine was better than average and a second bottle of wine was no extra charge and this from a Charter Company who had been hired by the company who owned the airline that were doing this leg of the outward journey to Kenya. (ZRH-NBO) Overall – Just and ONLY Just Below Very Good.Use Again – Yes. Words 4305] KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL) I used KLM to get to my wedding and flew with them on 3 of the 4 legs (LHR-AMS, AMS-NBO & AMS-LHR). For the short haul legs they were very good but as for the important bit (AMS-NBO) the films were average, the customer care was average as was the food. In fact the whole flight was average even the descent into NBO Airport which is usually quite exciting at night was average and rather boring.Overall – Distinctly Average Use Again – Would Rather Not But Suspect I Will Have To So Yes The following airlines I haven’t used yet but am sure at some time in the future we will use most of them as the family will go back and forward between our family’s two home countries A] Virgin Atlantic Airways & B] Kenya Airways Although I have flown with KQ from AMS-NBO I understand that the LHR-NBO is a better different experience and I know we will use Virgin although they have a tendency to cancel a flight on alternate days at the moment (allegedly), OVERALL-BOTH USUALLY HAVE GOOD REVIEWS BUT OCCASIONALLY VIRGIN GET A POOR ONEUSE-DEFINATELYC] Ethiopian Airlines (ET) Have an improved reputation and a new terminal @ Addis Ababa which is apparently very good and the customer service apparently is excellent unless you are Ethiopian (in which case (allegedly) you are treated like dirt). The upside is the weight allowance which is more than most other airlines which I feel is why we are likely to use them at sometime in the future as well as very occasionally they turn up the cheapest fare. Overall-Usually pretty good, Occasionally awfulUSE-ALMOST CERTAINLYUNLIKELY POSSIBITIESD] Qatar Airways (QR) I feel disinclined to use this airline as QR appear have a tendency to lose luggage and the saving you might make will be lost in time at Doha would be lost in time and trouble to getting a transit visa.E] Emirates (EK) I have a similar problem with EK and although they have a good reputation for their service on the airline their security at Dubai apparently takes itself too seriously and arrests people on really spurious details like a poppy seed from a roll on someone’s jumper.NOT A CHANCE IN HELLSUDAN AIRWAYSF] Recently a palne crashed on their runway and at Khartoum and it was suggested itn was down to the pilots. It has since been suggested that it might have been the traffic controls fault. So despite it being on one of the more direct routes for us to get to Nairobi,We wont be risking this route just yet.ANOTHER OUTSIDE POSSIBILITYG] AIR ITALY [I9]This company, it appears are part of the Alitalia Family(I'm still not sure whether this is good or not. Although at the moment they don't appear to fly to Kenya I have been in contact with them recently and they will be probably be flying to Nairobi from Rome Fiumcino and Milan Malpensa but not till October. As both of these airports are easy for most Brits to get to it makes sense that at some point we are most likely to use them even though the ONLY review I could find on them was a bad one, fortunately it wasn't on any of the routes they fly from for ITALY TO KENYA, either Nairobi or Mombasa Close
Written by Harv_y on 11 Jun, 2008
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.…Read More
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. Overall-Good! 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! Overall-Poor! 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)! Close
Written by Harv_y on 10 Jun, 2008
After getting through Immigration I get to the customs man who surprise, surprise stops me and says he has to search my bags as well as asking If I had any presents for anybody, said no I was returning things to my wife. He asks…Read More
After getting through Immigration I get to the customs man who surprise, surprise stops me and says he has to search my bags as well as asking If I had any presents for anybody, said no I was returning things to my wife. He asks me to remove things from my bag–I’m afraid I got a little angry and said “you’re the one paid to search people and discourage them from coming back, I’m not paid to search my bag–you are! When he realized that I was going to give no help to the search he let me through without searching my bags! (I paid for this good luck on the return journey) Once past what I thought would be my last obstacle, (I had forgotten about the need to speak to the First Choice Rep to say I wouldn’t need the room for the night as I had a booking at another hotel) I looked for my wife and saw she wasn’t there. As soon as I started looking for her the taxi drivers took it as an invitation to harass me for business (if you appear to have no ride they will keep coming). Eventually I find a phone box and call her, she is at the airport but not feeling well and the taxi driver is looking for me. After another 20 minutes I find the man holding up a card with my name on it-I was amazed to find that he was one of those who had harassed me for a fare to town although he already had a booking! Two Weeks later it’s time to return after an “interesting” trip (Review “Riotious Relaxation”) as Kenya had just had Its “Elections”. As I did the same flight the year before I remembered how long the queue was and how long it took despite arriving early and so we made the necessary arrangements especially since the reps at First Choice weren’t answering the phone when people should’ve been phoning to confirm they would be on the return flight (I should’ve guessed!) As usual for the return journey we got up early and the knock on the door was given before we were ready, so once again I didn’t get my cup of tea before leaving for home, (but that wasn’t down to the driver or ourselves-see review-Grim Gupta’s in Nice Nyali). Unusually there was hardly any traffic on the road and so we were at the airport in no time and to my delight there was no horrendous queue (I should’ve guessed!). Once I got to the doors of which only one was open (I should’ve guessed!) I saw there was absolutely NO queue (I should’ve guessed!), remembering this was one of the few places I could get a decent cup of tea In Kenya I used a few of my remaining shillings to purchase a cup of tea. Whilst I’m technically still “outside” the airport drinking the tea as I can only see one bin to throw the cup in when I’d finished people started to arriving at the airport and in enough numbers for me to hurry up but not enough to fill a coach (I should’ve guessed!). After I’d finished my tea I went through the 1st check (count them) with the X-Ray machine for all my belongings made my way across to the Last Choice-Oops I mean First Choice Check-In desk-before I get there a man had approached me to see if I was taking anything out “no” I said then he told me to put the suitcase on the side and to unlock it which I did and then open it which I did, he rummaged around and found nothing of consequence (what a surprise!) he did say I was just unlucky that I was getting searched. Looking around proved the lie to his statement, I was the only tourist there (I should’ve guessed!). After my suitcase and hand luggage had been searched less than 5 minutes after they’d been through an X-Ray machine and I’d been frisked I was able to check in my baggage without any problems, they didn’t even look at the weight of my suitcase as it was checked In. (I should’ve guessed!). I got my departure card and filled it in for the next piece of bureaucracy to be passed. Just out of curiosity, I looked back to see just 2 people approach the 1st choice desk to be moved aside and get searched (I should’ve guessed!). The area where we had to had in our departure cards was where there was a minor queue as there were only 2 people manning the 4 booths despite the amount of planes to be flying out shortly (I should’ve guessed!). Once through the disembarkation phase I discovered why there was a lack of people, (I should’ve guessed!). There was a delay of 2Hrs and despite insisting on a contact number at the beginning of the holiday “just in case” there had been no attempt to contact us. No problem I thought–for once I’ve got a few dollars left in my wallet and I’ve not bought myself a present yet. I should’ve guessed! The shops weren’t open yet as they were aware of the planes late departures. After the shops opened I discovered that the café area took dollars but not at an exchange rate to afford breakfast, so I bought my nieces a present each to match the presents from the previous year and with the change was able to phone my wife to get her to text by brother about the late departure of the plane. With my last few dollars I was able to buy a breakfast of a bottle of Fanta Orange and a carton of Pringles crisps More irritated people come through having just discovered about the late departure of the plane and had paid extra to get special arrangements to the airport and Last Choice-Oops I mean First Choice hadn’t told them either! Eventually we are called to queue up to go to the boarding gate whilst we’re queuing we get a taste of the previous year and change their mind and call another airline’s customers through in preference to us. Once that was done it was our turn to go through to be frisked yet again and a quick check that our passports and boarding cards were in order, then we had to queue up for our hand luggage to be searched again by the same people that had searched it already downstairs and actually thought it was funny and still expected to get tipped. As it was the same man that had searched my bags downstairs I did give him a tip but not how he was expecting I pointed out it might be a better idea to tell the truth next time.Finally we get to board the plane after walking across the tarmac and up some old steps onto the plane. Once settled in (I got my aisle seat as usual) and plenty of space to put my hand luggage and wow! What a result only 2 of us to share the 3 seats in the middle of the plane. Although not particularly hungry and I suspect nor were many other people by the amount of people I saw in the airport “café” Last Choice-Oops I mean First Choice were quick off the mark to hand out the breakfasts, it must have been pretty bland as all I can recall about it was the scrambled eggs that weren’t rubbery and cold baked beans! Oh yes! And the obligatory orange juice and cup of tea! The films that were an upgrade on the outbound flight were all available on the return with the exception of Harry Potter (which most people would’ve seen by that time). The children’s section of films was far superior to the adults and I watched Shrek 3, Bratz and some fantasy thing that was quite entertaining had some sleep and an afternoon snack shortly before landing. Of course Last Choice-Oops I mean First Choice did hand out the survey forms and on this occasion MOST people filled them in. I suspect the staff had a quick read of them along and the general surliness of the “happy” customers may have given them a clue because while we were waiting for the order to taxi to a disembarking point the Captain asked for a show of hands who knew about the two hour delay of the plane. The only hands that were raised? (You should be able to guess) THE CREWS! To the bottom of the pile with you Last Choice-Oops I mean First Choice though you really are now my last choice with what has happened since these two flights and your….erm “helpful” follow up customer care service. Two better words spring to mind-“unhelpful” & “intriguing”! Close
Written by Harv_y on 04 Jun, 2008
We’ve got to November 2008 and still no further with the “wonderful” visa people for all sorts of reasons. Having had a stressful year and not having seen my wife for almost a year I started looking for flights to Kenya, hoping to find a…Read More
We’ve got to November 2008 and still no further with the “wonderful” visa people for all sorts of reasons. Having had a stressful year and not having seen my wife for almost a year I started looking for flights to Kenya, hoping to find a deal around the time of their General Election–27th December. Everyone thought I was mad! Unusually there were no deals to be had around the Boxing Day time which is when the flights to Kenya suddenly drop in price and this was consistent with dates through to the New Year. The best deal were with African Safari Club~(more on them in the summary). Unfortunately due to work constraints I wasn’t able to book them as I would get back to Britain a week too late so had to keep looking. I tried my usual trusted online travel agents 1]www.expedia.co.uk 2]www.lastminute.com 3]www.dialaflight.com 4]www.firstchoice.co.uk 5]www.somak.com 6]www.mytravel.co.uk & finally 7)www.thomascook.co.uk before their merger.] None of them could come up with suitable dates that worked for me so I emailed African Safari Club & Thomas Cook as they both fly to Mombasa from airports abroad both replied but were unhelpful–African Safari Club sent me the dates of flights from Britain coming back after the date I needed to be back and completely ignored the fact that I needed to fly from abroad as their British dates didn’t suit my needs. Thomas Cook part of the TUI group that owns Condor that DOES fly from a couple of Airports in Germany (easy to get to from London) said they couldn’t book me on anything from abroad but they could do from London (oddly enough Via) Germany using Condor and taking it past the £1,000 mark). I looked into it a bit further and found that I could actually do 2 sets of flights 1 from London–Germany and then with Condor direct from Germany–Kenya (Mombasa) for about £200 less! Having discovered this and not having enough knowledge I went on several travel review sites I belong to and was inundated with information on who flew from various cities around Europe(Mainly Germany) to Kenya(Mainly Mombasa). Eventually the choice became no choice and it looked like I would be flying to Germany with Air Berlin and then onto Mombasa with LTU International Airlines (I’d never heard of them before either but the reviews said they were ok).] However, as we were so close to the dates I was hoping for and it was a great deal more money than we could really afford I decided to check with on the First Choice Website just one more time and there it was hidden among the last minute long haul holidays-A flight from Gatwick-Mombasa on the perfect dates for me and work at a Grand Total of £258.67 so it was booked and I was able to see my family over Xmas as well as go to join the wife and see the other half of the family for the New Year. This was has been the cheapest I’ve managed to fly to Kenya for so far. So after Christmas with immediate family minus the wife has passed on the morning of the 27th December I rush up to Nomad Pharmacy to arrange my malaria prescription as I had to start them immediately as I would be landing in Kenya on the morning of the 29th December. After receiving my prescription and collecting the tablets I then had to change some money into dollars (you get a cheaper visa this way). The plan to have everything packed, sorted and travel on a late night train to Gatwick went awry as God hasn’t got round to granting my demand for 25Hours in a day as I ran out of time and ended travelling on the Gatwick Virgin Express Train, cost-£15.90 compared to £8.90 as I realized that the Southern Train leaving at the same time might just make the check-in time a little too tight if there were any delays. I arrived at Gatwick with plenty of time to Check-In to discover that I was way over the weight limit (I wasn’t when I left home and the bags had been with me at all times-no-one could have added anything). So I went off removed a few items and rather than pay an extortionate charge threw them in the bin-this way a member of the public can save them if they want and the airport don’t thrive on misery caused by themselves. I went back to the weighing machine and was still over weight, after removing still more things I weighed in at the baggage reclaim people, the machine between them and the Airline Check-In. Would you believe it three different weights, all within 4/5 minutes of each other-I think the First Choice may have had an inkling their scales weren’t working wholly correctly as when it was clear I just might argue about the discrepancy they checked it through without any fuss although I was apparently 5Kgs over with the Suitcase and 4Kgs over with the hand luggage.Now, with bags checked in I finally get to make my way upstairs and-Oh joy, there’s virtually no queue for the security check and getting airside for a nice cup of tea, buying some water for the plane (the planes really appreciate it–honest!) and a newspaper to read on the plane. As we get to the front it becomes clear why there’s apparently no real queue for security, there’s almost all the machines being used and an awful lot of staff working hard to get us tall through quickly. I think this may have had something to do with the threat of a strike and not wanting to upset too many customers! As I approach I asked one of the many security milling around if I needed to remove my boots “No, no need I was assured and going through the 1st check this was indeed true and I didn’t need to remove the boots and was again assured this was not necessary, same at the 2nd check but not at the 3rd check where I was asked to remove the damn boots which obviously I do although it’s a bit of a nuisance and as most of the machines are being used there’s not much space to put your shoes back on and we were hurried along at this point so I wasn’t actually able to replace my belt and shoes till I was airside and had found a seat to do this at 10 minutes later. Finally through I sat down for a few minutes to realize that I had a fair bit of time to kill before we would be called for boarding. So I wandered in to a well known bookshop to purchase water and a paper to read on the plane and decided that I might just get the wife some perfume that she’d requested if it was affordable (surely it should be at these tax free shops). As it turned out this was not the case and the prices were considerably more than I would pay locally, this was at all of the “Duty Free” shops, not just one or two. Whilst searching for a suitable perfume I did hear the boarding call for my flight but after last year’s performance I knew that I was definitely on their computer database as I had received information from them all year and that there was no rush to get to the boarding gate. On getting to the boarding gate I discover that this year there was a need to get to the boarding gate as it’s not it’s usual place and there are not enough seats to go round, on this occasion luck is with me and I find a seat at a far end where no one wants to go. I’m finally called on to the plane among the last few but not worried as I’ve worked out that I’ve got my preferred aisle seat, but that the area for hand luggage is full so I stuff my bag under the seat in front and settle in for my flight. I’m sorry to report that the decent films were all on the upgrade on the flight out but were by no means new. Due to the limited amount of space and the man in front leaning right back I wasn’t able to get much sleep so I spent most of the night playing solitaire as “Who wants to be a Millionaire” is now an upgrade quiz. The food was rather bland on the flight out as I don’t actually remember what it was but do remember it wasn’t enough! (1450words) We arrived on time to find that there were planes from Italy and Britain already there and another one arrived while we were waiting for visas and immigration staff which took about 30minutes, once through that, it was on to the search the white tourist. Close