Written by Harv_y on 23 Apr, 2008
So we've had our fun from being in Kenya for a month and it's still looking like it's too expensive to get the wife to Tenerife for Xmas and I still haven't booked my flight there either so it's time to start looking for the…Read More
So we've had our fun from being in Kenya for a month and it's still looking like it's too expensive to get the wife to Tenerife for Xmas and I still haven't booked my flight there either so it's time to start looking for the Xmas flights to Mombasa ( I hate that duck-oops I mean I hate that airport or rather it doesn't seem to like me) because the costs to Nairobi are already too high. After a long search I find a possibility in the Mytravel site, unfortunately a couple of days later when my cheque clears it transpires the flight is sold out - fortunately I had a back up plan in using First Choice which is what I did. With a week to go I paid just under £300 for a flight to Mombasa (I hate that duck-oops sorry I mean airport). So with only a week to go and it being Christmas I'd have to collect the tickets at the Airport. A week later I made my my way to Gatwick, paying for the train and discovering that the last few miles are actually by bus ( I personally think that tis is a form of theft because they don't generally tell you till it's too late to do anything about it!). We finally get to the airport in the early morning and I get some rest. After having done a little repacking because of the security rules and needing to take a few things out of their packaging to make things work out easier in the suitcase and hand luggage I make my way up to the check-in point to collect my tickets and check-in. I wish the tour operators would make things clearer and use English the way we us it rather than use the obscure meanings of words. When I attempted to check-in I was told I had to collect the tickets from another point in the Airport which I did, then had to return to show my tickets and check-in the luggage. After check-in I made my way to the security line & my heart sunk(the queue was longer than the one at Heathrow just a month before) As we qeueued I realised we were moving faster than when we were at the other "London" Airport ( I find it rather amusing that out of the various Airports that are referred to as London Airports-only 1 is really in London). We were through fairly quickly and I decided it would probably be a good idea to let my wife know I would be on the flight to her soon and to the rest of my family that I had managed to find a flight to see the wife! Yopu try to find a public text phone in Gatwick Airport North Terminal it took just ove 40 minutes.After sending the text the boarding gate has still not appeared on screen so I wandered into the smoking area and sparked up ahd my pre flight smoke. After what seemed like hardly any time at all the information screen sprang into life and showed us the boarding gate for my flight to Mombasa ( I hate that duck-oops sorry I mean that airport ). I looked at the time of the flight and how long it would take to get to the gate. Deciding I still had plenty of time I took a leisurely stroll into the well known book store at Gatwick to get newspaper and some water for the journey, having got the paper and refused to pay that much for water I took my time in going on towards the boarding gate. Before I'm halfway there and there is still over an hour to take off I hear my name being called over the tannoy along with 3 others to effectively hurry up, I do so but lose my money in the machine for the Water (thanks First Choice!). When I get to the boarding Gate it is just to put my name in their Computer for future sales-I was furious-I'd booked my flight through the website so I was already on their computer. I would've preferred it if they'd just said "Hurry up, we want you here so you spend more money with us than at the airport." After making us hurry up we waited a furthe 45 minutes before they started putting people on the plane and even then I was one of the last on-probably because I'd only booked the flight with them. However once on board and on our way to Mombasa,(I hate that duck-oops sorry I mean airport) First Choice managed to redeem themselves. Shortly after take off they spoke to a gentleman in the row behind me and asked if he would like to move in to the row I was in (wasn't impressed at this point because the row was now full). After a quick discussion with the other passenger in the row behind and discovering they were all of the same family they asked if I wanted to move to the seat behind, while I was thinking about it, they offered me that whole row behind to myself-at this point it became a no brainer, (of course I took It). We were offered the upgrade for the films which I opted out of as I didn't think they were worth It. However the games and the general TV were excellent. I also manged to finally complete Who wants to be a millionaire Game. The food was served about 2 hours into the journey and was excellent and fairly good value though If you do use First Choice on a long haul flight, take some snacks and other drinks with you as their prices aren't just expensive they're extortionate and the food you are given as a main meal is not enough, however breakfast which is served about 3 hours before landing at Mombasa ( I hate that duck-oops sorry I mean airport ) is the opposite and is probably too much for most people. Of course having a row of three seats to myself meant I got a good sleep too!We actually arrived early at Mombasa ( I hate that duck-oops sorry I mean airport ) which I thought was good because I still had to get my visa and being at the front of the plane thought I would be one of the first off and therefore able to get my visa and be one of the first through Immigration and be with the wife for New Year's Eve on the train (see The Train Trip That Never Was). I wasn't one of the first off the plane as we exited from the rear of the plane and crossed the tarmac at Mombasa ( I hate that duck-oops sorry I mean airport ). but I was one of the first to the visa section-to fill in the form and pay my $50 (at the moment it's quite a bit cheaper) and on to the immigration queue which was astonsihingly long-in my rush I had totally missed the African Safari Airways plane that had arrived before us. We now waited about 45 minutes for anybody to appear to let us through and then they only let the 2 flight crews through & that was reluctantly. Another 15 minutes and they started to let us through to find that the baggage carousel wasn't workingFinally having found my luggage I had to brave the Customs office hazard of Mombasa Airport (I hate that duck-oops sorry I mean I don't like airport ). As soon as he saw me wheeling towards him and before I had even reached the customs area he asked if I had anything to declare "Yes, I just got off a charter flight and am very tired" (trying to look very sleepy). He rephrased the question to do you have any presents for Kenyan friends ( this, if you say yes has 2 possibilities a request for import duty, more likely a hint at being bribed and definately a thorough search of your luggage-I chose to be stupid on this occasion-"I've come for a holiday-Christmas has passed-why would I bring presents for people I don't know" whilst fervently hoping I wouldn't be searched- uccess I didn't get searched though my wife had seen the questioning and was a bit worried I might be rude to him. At this point I had been through Mombasa 3 times and quizzed 4times (now you know why I hate that duck-oops sorry I mean airport ). Of my,at this point 5 trips to Kenya First Choice Airlines jump to the top for me at this point. Gatwick is still at the 2nd from bottom of the various Airports with Mombasa a distant last place of all those I've used on the way to and from Kenya Close
Written by Harv_y on 09 Oct, 2007
It's the 27th November and somethng like 5 O'clock in the morning. I've spent almost a month with my wife and due to the heavy rains have only managed to get to see Mother and Father-In-Law and those relatives that still live with him on…Read More
It's the 27th November and somethng like 5 O'clock in the morning. I've spent almost a month with my wife and due to the heavy rains have only managed to get to see Mother and Father-In-Law and those relatives that still live with him on the compound called Uholo (near a town called Ugunja). Its still raining and the taxi is a little late and Hooray! Hooray! It's a Holi, Holiday! is finally over and I have to return home to resume working to keep both of us in the style we have becme accustomed to! Due to the understandably strict security rules at Kenyan Airports my wife can't even come into the building with me so a little while back we reluctantly agreed there was no point in coming to the airport to see me off. Double checking I've got everything suitcase, holdall (no liquids) and all presents we have a last quick cuddle and kiss till we believe, February and I reluctantly climb into the cab. We get to the airport and the driver tries his luck at increasing the fare that had been agreed between my wife and him - I dont think he rememebered that we were married, he shoud have done as it will cost him a regular family of customers!Having paid the driver and refused to pay a tip and explained why - he tried to pass it off as a joke. Having tried to overcharge on the 1st part of the trip (my wife persuaded me to give him another try), which was picking us up from the airport with a wait as the plane was late. I joined the queue to actually enter the airport building. Whilst queuing I realised I had to swap a few things around otherwise presents would get broken somewhere in transportation. By the time I had done this we were almost at the door to enter the building, as i do up the final padlock we enter the doors and have to put our bags on the x-ray machine - suitcases as well - unlike in Great Britain where you get right up to the check-in before your suitcase is checked. With hindsight I think the Kenyans at Nairobi have just about got it right, certainly better than here or at Mombasa Airport but more about that later! Once through you have to go through another check this time for your hand luggage where they actually open your bag and check the contents (having said that, sometimes they let people through with a bottle of water). Overall entering and leaving Kenya through Jomo Kenyatta Airportr is quite a pleasant experience. After you've had your hand luggage checked and returned you can usually check your luggage in pretty much immediately. Before you depart you have to fill in a departure visa and then they security officer might ask you a couple of questions and then let you through to the departures area where if you have enough time you may be able to find a cup of tea at reasonable prices for us-outrageous for most Kenyans. Here though you are told the shops wont take anything except Sterling or Dollars and wont take Kenyan Shillings - this is absolutely not true they will take all of thes and Swiss Francs too. The preferred order is Dollars, Sterling, Euros, Swiss Francs and then Kenya Shillings.Shortly after I had found myself a place to get a decent cup of tea, I realised I hadn't phoned my wife to say I was at the airport safely so finshing my tea I eventually found 2 call boxes neither of which could make outgoing calls. Eventually I found my way back to where I had my tea and was bemoanng my luck about not being able to phone my wife - the man behind the counter gave me his phone as soon as he realised it was a local call and then wouldn't take any money for the call- what a star! Shortly after this and a couple of cigarettes to calm my nerves before flying we were called to the boarding gate for our SWISS flight and I'm now wondering if we are actually going on Swiss or Hapag Lloyd again - I needn't have worried, on looking through the windows we see the livery of SWISS. The only real delay we had was with getting on because they changed the boarding gates and the order of people boarding the plane which slowed us down somewhat and we took off from Nairobi about 15-20minutes behind schedule but this was made up on the flight to Zurich where we just about landed on time. The flight was excellent as was the service from the Flight Attendants and the food though the In Flight Entertainment was I'm afraid only average. We make our way down to the train to take us back to the other terminal where we will hopefully board our planes to our final destination. On leaving the train I make my way up to the security gates are to fingd the queues even longer than I remembered them being and the scrummage -oops , I mean the orderly queues were almost battlezones as people pushed and jumped from queue to queue to get to the front as quickly as possible, I had no option but to join in. When I finaly reached the gates and was seen through I had barely 3minutes to get to the appropriate gate and was contemplating the possibilities of missing the flight as it would not have been my fault -I was on the correct plane to connect, as it happens I was extremely lucky that once I had got my bearings I realised that I could see my boarding gate all of 50 feet away from me and quite an impressive queue. Relieved that I wouldn't be missing the last leg of my journey I strolled over and was on board in a matter of moments. We took off without any impediment like turbulence or idiotic latecomers and had a smooth flight to Heathrow. We arrived on time and off the plane in a matter of minutes, even tha luggage appeared fairly quickly. the only really irritating thing about Heathrow when you return is that as a British citizen you have to choose the lane with the EEC citizens and those from Switzerland -we're coming home from various countries in the world we should be given the priority! Once through all that is left is the nominal pasing of Customs since I first went through in June 2004 -its now been 4 times through the customs at all various times of day and though I've never had any reason to be stopped I've yet to see a Customs Oficer - so much for our greater security. Once through I'm home in about an hour and a half - thank you Picadilly and Victoria Lines, the only downside is that "Hooray, Hooray, It's a Holi-Holiday" is finally over and I've got to be at work the following morning. Damn - Back to Reality! Close
Written by Harv_y on 19 Sep, 2007
So now we are waiting at a terminal the other side of Zurich Airport for a plane to arrive to take us to Nairobi and ooh look some people are going on To Dar-Es-Salaam. Now that I know I've got an hour's wait I decide…Read More
So now we are waiting at a terminal the other side of Zurich Airport for a plane to arrive to take us to Nairobi and ooh look some people are going on To Dar-Es-Salaam. Now that I know I've got an hour's wait I decide I'd better text my wife and let her know the plane will be late. Unfortunately for me there is no signal for my phone where we are and after moving around to get a signal I decide it is a futile task and decide that I'll do this from a public phone that you can text from just like you would in Britain. Wonderful idea, not thought through properly -no Swiss Francs and no sign of an Exchange Bureau. No Problem - I know I'm going to get nervous whilst waiting for the plane so am bond to have a cigarette before boarding so lets get a coffee to do just that. I found a nice place to get coffee and paid in Sterling and got Swiss Francs for my change. After said ciggie and coffee in a box room right in the middle of the area for boarding gates I set off to find a phone with the ability to let me text the wife - No such luck, I found several wonderful phones but none enabling me to send this information and what I have left in Swiss Francs is not enough to phone a mobile in Kenya!
So we are at Zurich Airport waiting for a Charter Airline to Arrive, to represent a Scheduled Airline which in turn is owned by another Airline and the Charter Airline we are waiting for is also owned by another Company and it's going to be late and no way to let the wife know I'm going to be at least 1hour late, so it has to be "Hooray, Hooray, It's a Holi, Holiday"After getting some Swiss Chocolate for my wife and another ciggie in the box in the middle of the waiting area, I espy the queue at our boarding gate is beginning to grow quite rapidly, so quickly I stub out the ciggie and give away the last few ciggies knowing I am not going to be smoking for at least three weeks! I come out of the box and join the queue to find that actually nothing is happening just yet and people are just getting ready to get on the plane. Finally when we start to move it appears the same queuing rules apply as those that you use as you come through security (e.g. - none, the orderly queueing before was actually people positioning themselves for the scrum - Oops I mean boarding of the plane for the final leg of LHR-NBO. We board the plane which is surprisingly clean for a charter airline and seems to be a bit on the small side but we'll see how things go. I get my usual aisle seat without any problem and on sitting down I realise that there is no screen on the back of the chair in front of me. Looking over the seat in front of me I now notice that no seat has a screen on the back of it, which I think is atrocious considering the time about to be flown from Zurich to Nairobi (approx 8/9hrs).Fortunately for me as I knew I was away for almost the full month I had bought a couple of large books to read over the holiday. I was able to ignore the fact there was no In-Flight Entertainment as I am just as happy with a book as I am with a TV in front of me. What I didn't like was the fact there was no screen anywhere, not even overhead to show us where we were in relation to our destination.Just about an hour into the flight (maybe an hour and a half), lunch was served and even though I was expecting it there was no charge for the food. It was the ubiquitous choice of chicken or beef and for some reason I chose chicken (I still have no idea why, I'm not particularly fond of chicken at the best of times). However, it was well cooked and then moistness still inside and the half bottle of wine was served chilled too. The sweet was marvellous as well, a nice tart cheesecake followed by a decent cup of tea! I asked for another glass of wine and asked what the charge was, "None, Sir" -result. As we fly past Mount Kenya it is announced over the Tannoy so everyone can have a look and the pl
Written by Wasatch on 19 Mar, 2007
We left Nairobi on our second safari on a highway running along the fenced boundary of Nairobi National Park. A few miles down the road, I said to the guide, "12 ostrich on the right." He said, "15. You missed three in that bush." The…Read More
We left Nairobi on our second safari on a highway running along the fenced boundary of Nairobi National Park. A few miles down the road, I said to the guide, "12 ostrich on the right." He said, "15. You missed three in that bush." The four people in the van setting out on their first safari said, "Where? Where? I don’t see anything. Shouldn’t we stop?"There are several lessons about safari here. (1) At first, the animals are hard to see. Mother Nature made them that way, camouflaged in their native habitat. Our first stop on our first safari, the driver pulled over to the side of the road and said, "There are 22 giraffes eating trees in that woods," and we all said, "Where? Where?" We stared and stared, and gradually, some of the trees turned into 20 ft tall animals. It takes some practice to learn how to see the wildlife at home. Luckily, humans learn fast.(2) 15 ostrich in the wild is not worth bothering with. This is a clue about the numbers of animals to be seen later on. One evening after dinner at the Voi Safari Lodge in Tsavo East National Park, we sat on the veranda and counted 62 elephant that came to drink at the water hole just below the lodge. That was worth a stop.(3) Your guide sees things you won’t, even with practice. That is his job. One of our guides seemed to specialize in birds. Diving down the road, he would reach down to the seat, picked up his book on East African birds, hand it to one of us, and say, "Under the baobab tree on the left, a Crowned Crane. Page 248." We would look at the picture on p.248, and then, sometimes, spot the critter pictured where he said.At the Masai Mara Serena Lodge, the veranda was 8-10 ft. above the ground, supported by a brick wall. After diner, we were sitting there with a tembo when a tembo came right up alongside the wall, eating the shrubs below, it’s back and shoulders sticking up 2-3 feet above the top of the wall. We asked the staff, "Can we touch it?" With a few cautions, the answer was yes, and we took turns gingerly patting a wild elephant on the back. One day we had a flat tire out on the Serengeti Plains, no sign of humanity as far as the eye could see. No towns, no farms, no other vehicles in sight. The driver said, "Get out and stretch." We did. He read a book. In a few minutes, another safari van pulled up, the driver got out, and changed our flat tire. Questioning our driver, we learned that the vans out in a park each day go off in different directions, but follow routes that cross paths. At these rendezvous, the drivers exchange reports on where the animals are, adjusting their course accordingly. When a van misses a meeting point, the other drivers double back on the missing van’s route until they locate the laggard. Etiquette requires the driver of the first van to arrive on the scene change the flat tire. I asked, "What happens if nobody comes by and you have a mechanical breakdown?" Our guide said, "Then I leave you here and I walk back to the Lodge". Someone asked, "Aren’t you afraid of lions?" He said, "No. Lions don’t like the smell of humans. They stay away from us." Then he explained why the rare man eater would not be out in the plains.The dangerous animals in the wild are, #1, hippos. Hippos have very bad eyesight when they are on land. If they are out of the water, water being safe at home, they will immediately charge and run over any creature great or small that gets between them and their water because their eyesight is so bad they can’t tell the difference between friend or foe. #2. Cape Buffalo are just plain mean. #3 Rhinos. Not as blind as hippos, not as mean as Buffalo, but a touch of both. #4 Water borne parasites. Never let your skin touch a lake, stream, or river. Nasty things live there, and crocodiles are the least of the problems. How would you like a three foot long worm crawling out of your kneecap? From time to time, we encountered elephant herds on the road. The driver would pull into the herd and shut off the engine, so as not to startle them, while we watched the elephants eat. One day, we drove up to the edge of a herd and stopped, but he kept the engine running because there four babies with the group. He explained that while the adults were normally peaceful, mother elephants can be set off by anything and to protect their child, intruders get trampled. If one of them raised her head and extended her ears, we were out of there as fast as we could get out. The Masai, with their long red robes and colorful necklaces, are most photogenic of the native tribes. However, their religion teaches that the camera sucks their soul out of their body. So strongly is this belief that photographing Masai is illegal. However, a proffered dollar or two produces instant conversion to some other religion and full approval to take pictures of them and their kindred. We still haven’t decided if our visit to a Masai village was the high point or the low point of one safari. The Masai measure their wealth by the number of cattle they own. The Big Cats like to eat cattle. During the day, when the cattle are out grazing on the plains, the Masai protect their wealth by sending nine year old kids out to keep the lions away with a stick. It works– people smell bad. At night, the cattle are brought into the village compound, which is encircled by a fence made of brush and branches to keep the lions out. That too apparently works, but what you have in the village is several herd of cattle and the Masai both living in small area. Cattle poop a lot. Poop draws flies, so many flies that the Masai don’t even notice them, as was demonstrated by the infant we saw nursing at its mother’s breast and not even twitching as a fly crawled up inside its nose and disappeared. I don’t know where the Garden of Eden was, but I do know where God lives. We saw God’s place across the plains of East Africa, the cloud shrouded peak of Odengolengi, known to the locals as ‘The Mountain of God’, the home of the Creator in their religion.The Safari Lodges in the Game Reserves were a big surprise. This are near luxury level resorts. Each was a self contained little city with its own electric generating plant and water treatment system... The lodges use a lot of local stone and wood and weer almost all very attractive buildings. Rooms were mostly large, comfortable, and very quiet– there is no traffic noise, but one night were awakened by the sounds of large heard of Zebras, illuminated by moonlight, grazing in the field behind the hotel.Meal time was a surprise and another treat. Kenya was a British colony, and well done British food is very good, contrary to the popular stereotype. The Lodges do meals very well in a surreal atmosphere. Van loads of scruffy looking tourists, dusty from a few hours of bouncing across the plains on dirt roads, arrive for lunch and are met my a serving staff deck out in tuxedos and white gloves. Lunch was generally a buffet, with a central table covered in white linen and bowls and platters heaped high with attractively presented choices. And the food was good, too.Dinner was even more spectacular. Crystal water goblets, wine glasses, beer mugs, the full spread of silverware, and polished full scale Russian service. And then one evening, walking back to our bungalow, we passed through the staff housing are, and there were the waiters shirtless and wearing scruffy shorts, cooking their diner in a pot over an open wood fire. Close
Written by Tania Riddell on 30 Mar, 2004
Would you believe that Nairobi was once a boggy watering hole for the Maasai? In the 19th century, it became a town of substantial buildings and then five years later succeeded Mombasa as the capital.
Nairobi is a city of contrasts - smart office workers,…Read More
Would you believe that Nairobi was once a boggy watering hole for the Maasai? In the 19th century, it became a town of substantial buildings and then five years later succeeded Mombasa as the capital.
Nairobi is a city of contrasts - smart office workers, huge mansions, expensive shopping centres as well as overcrowded slums.
There is plenty to see and do around Nairobi. It is suggested you hire a driver to take you to these places. A word of warning: make sure that the vehicle is roadworthy.
The first stop of the day is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which was established after the death of David Sheldrick in 1977. David and Daphne, his wife, pioneered techniques of raising orphaned black rhino and elephants and then reintroducing them to the wild. Admission is free but it is reasonable to make a donation at least KSh200. This was one of the highlights of my trip. We not only saw a baby rhino but three or four very hungry baby elephants. It was very funny sight to see these elephants going at full speed behind their keepers who were about to feed them lunch. After lunch one of the baby elephants came over to where we were standing and proceeded to run his/her trunk up my leg. We were allowed to touch the trunk and blow in it so that the elephant could get my scent. I don't think this will be something I will ever forget. It has to be noted often when they have raised an orphaned rhino or elephant and released it back into the wild that often when they are injured they will find their way back to the Wildlife Trust to be looked after and then return to the wild when well.
Next stop was the Langata Giraffe Centre, which is 18km from the centre of Nairobi. You can observe and hand-feed the Rothschild giraffes from a raised circular wooden structure. They also have a display about giraffes. I never knew a giraffe's tongue was so long or sloppy. Giraffes are certainly one of my favourite animals, and the Giraffe Centre is well worth a visit because you get so close.
Off to our next stop the Karen Blixen Museum. Situated in beautiful gardens, this is the farmhouse where Karen Blixen, the author of 'Out of Africa,' lived between 1914 and 1931. You can see the props from the movie that featured Meryl Steep and Robert Redford.
And last but not least, Nairobi National Park and the Nairobi Animal Orphanage. This is situated only a few kilometers from the city centre. Nairobi National Park was created in 1946 and is the oldest park. Nairobi National Park is not fenced and wildlife is still able to migrate along a narrow wildlife corridor to the Rift Valley. As we were on the way out the Nairobi Animal Orphanage, one of the staff asked if we would like to pat the cheetahs. Of course, I couldn't see my partner for dust, as he was already at the cheetah enclosure. Both cheetahs were having their lunch, but off we went in and sat there patting the cheetahs. Truly a memory I will never forget.
We did visit one more place this day, but you will have to read the restaurant review to find out where we visited.
Nairobi is certainly an experience, I have never seen so many people, and your eyes are opened, especially when you the visit slum areas and you feel like you want to do something but you know whatever you do will not make a difference.
Written by chloe_day on 16 Sep, 2003
Nairobi is obviously very easy to get to from other parts of the country and neighbouring nations. Akamba buses are the best and the only company that runs to a timetable and allows you to reserve seats. They run twice daily services from Western Kenya.…Read More
Nairobi is obviously very easy to get to from other parts of the country and neighbouring nations. Akamba buses are the best and the only company that runs to a timetable and allows you to reserve seats. They run twice daily services from Western Kenya. I'm not sure if this actually starts in Kampala and then goes from Eldoret in Western (via Jinga, Uganda), or if it just starts in Eldoret. Anyway, from there it takes about five hours to bounce down the potholed road to Nairobi, stopping at Nakuru and Naivasha for you to refocus your eyes and pray your soapstone carvings below haven't been making the jingling, smashing sound you've been listening to for the last couple of hours.
Eldoret Express buses are probably the next best and these run all the way from Kitale to Nairobi (via the same stops). Unlike the Akamba buses, which have their own office in each town, these can be found in the local bus park and set off whenever they're full. There are also matatus and share taxis that run from all large towns which are faster but not really as comfortable because you never get a full seat to yourself.
There is only one passenger train service running in the whole of Kenya. This is the overnight train (leaving at around 2000hrs) between Nairobi and Mombasa. The price of a second class bunk in a four bed cabin is KSh2100 (about £19/$29) and the only difference between first and second class is that first class cabins only sleep two.
In a lot of areas it's perfectly safe to walk around in Central Nairobi during the day. Perhaps walking on your own isn't a great idea, but in a pair or a small group it's fine.
After dark you tend not to feel so safe and taking a taxi is advisable. There are always plenty of taxis around, just make sure you agree on a price before setting off. I think there is a KSh200 minimum fare in Nairobi (£2/$3).
There are city buses and matatus that run routes, but I found these a bit more intimidating than in the rural areas I used them, mainly because they use a numbering system rather than just having a piece of plywood in the window with the destination painted on and I didn't want to get on the wrong one (I'm a wimp). There are also quite a lot of motorised rickshaws, especially outside Pizza Inn on the corner of Moi Avenue and Mama Ngina Street (there are plenty of taxis here too). You can fit about three people in these, although they're no cheaper than taxis and probably not as safe.
I definitely wouldn't want to drive in central Nairobi as it's very congested, people tend to walk out in front of cars all the time and matatus are driven by madmen.
Written by chloe_day on 17 Sep, 2003
Nairobi offers some great craft shopping opportunities, and whilst things might cost more here than in other parts of the country, you can still pick up some real bargains.
As you would expect, stall owners at the markets tend to be more willing to haggle with…Read More
Nairobi offers some great craft shopping opportunities, and whilst things might cost more here than in other parts of the country, you can still pick up some real bargains.
As you would expect, stall owners at the markets tend to be more willing to haggle with you over prices, but there are a couple of good craft shops too. We stumbled across one near the Dove Cage Restaurant on Moktar Daddah Street. I think it's on the corner of Muindi Mbingu Street. This place sells all sorts of wooden carvings, the usual Maasai knives and spears, some jewellery, and also a lot of very beautiful batiks. The walls of the shop are covered entirely with these batik pictures and they are also piled on a long table on the right as you walk in. The men who work here will haggle, but you have to work hard at it and it's easier if there's a group of you wanting to buy a few things.
The City Market is held in a big market hall and I think it's open every day. You'll find it on the corner of Muindi Mbingu Street and Market Street. Inside there are two levels. The ground floor holds some permanent craft shops and also quite a lot of flower, fruit and vegetable stalls. There is also a butcher's in a corner somewhere. Upstairs there is a balcony that runs all the way around, and there are permanent shops up here. You can find almost any type of craft at this market that you might want, like wooden and soapstone carvings, kangas and kikois (types of wrap-around skirts), jewellery, spears, knives, shields, and masks. There are also some nice batiks here, as well as pictures made from banana leaves. As you enter the market, a load of guys will probably start following you round trying to get you to visit their shops. Sometimes this can be fun and you can have very pleasant conversations with people. At other times it's very annoying, especially if there are a lot of them, but just be firm and go where you want to go. Outside, at the Koinange Street end (which runs parallel to Muindi Mbingu), there is an area with some covered and some uncovered stalls. I wouldn't linger at the Market Street side as there tend to be a lot of street kids hanging around.
The Maasai Market takes place on a Tuesday on the grassy piece of land by the roundabout that Muranga'a Road and Slip Road feed into. A taxi here won't cost you very much at all. There are a lot of wares on offer and much of it is different to what you might find at the City Market. I would visit both, but if you go straight from one to the other, you might get really sick of the hassle that goes with market shopping here. Give yourself a break in between. There are quite a lot of street kids that hang around by the roadside here, including girls with babies. I gave some excess clothes and things I didn't want to take home to them. If you give them money, they tend to spend it on glue.
Written by Harv_y on 10 May, 2008
January 2007-After 2 weeks the wife decided she’d had enough of me and that it was time to send me home to Britain to earn her spending Money! (lol). We decided to stay at The Manson Hotel again as overall it had provided a reasonable…Read More
January 2007-After 2 weeks the wife decided she’d had enough of me and that it was time to send me home to Britain to earn her spending Money! (lol). We decided to stay at The Manson Hotel again as overall it had provided a reasonable service when I arrived. Due to the early check-in and having booked a taxi for some unearthly time in the morning we decided to book an early breakfast which we didn’t receive (see Journal Two 1 Night Stands).We arrived at Mombasa Airport (Boo, Hiss, Hiss!) with 3 and a half hours to check-in but in plenty of time to miss the horrendous queue that was sure to evolve a little later. WRONG! After the obligatory kiss goodbye I turned the corner to see the horrendous queue had already appeared–The African Safari Club had a flight leaving earlier than First Choice. Seeing as the queue wasn’t moving and I would be able to see my suitcases all the time I was able to get that cup of tea the hotel had kindly helped me miss. Result! Ksh60 not even 50p so a reasonable cuppa at a reasonable price. 40 minutes later the queue has hardly moved and people are arriving from everywhere in Mombasa for flights back to Europe–People returning to Russia, Italy, Germany, Austria and of Course Britain and most trying to push in as they’d been caught in traffic and were now worried about missing their planes home. Of course it didn’t help that the airport staff had only got 1 X-Ray machine operating despite the amount of people arriving at the airport and 1 machine not being used as well as a set of doors unopened by the machine causing aggravation and untold amounts of people with rather frayed tempers!. As my time started to disappear fast, people were still arriving at the airport and someone finally took a decision to came to the entrance with a sign calling people forward to a particular flight. Several people tried their luck but were found out when tickets were checked to stop the queue jumping. One White Kenyan “Lady” [& I use the term extremely loosely on this occasion) was able to queue jump as when challenged who said she could do this by several Brits said “he did” pointing at the big policeman with a MACHINE GUN. Discretion being the better part of valour this time we all backed down, but when she got to the front of the Queue, this Kenyan “cowgirl” got a shock as someone shouted out “Weren’t you the woman that bought a load of Ivory on Safari”-she got pulled from the queue! Poetic Justice I thought at the time or as some people say what goes around–comes around. Finally they called my flight number to come forward but still wasted precious moments sorting the queue order so that people can be searched and their luggage through the X-Ray machine. Still no-one has thought to start one of the other X-Ray Machines to help bring some order to this chaos. Finally through the X-Ray machine with about half an hour to go through the next couple of searches (I thought) but as I approached the check-in, one of the First Choice staff called me aside, asked if I had packed my bags myself. “Yes, with the wife’s help.” I replied, so they decided to search me-this has happened almost every time I’ve gone through Mombasa Airport (Boo, Hiss, Hiss!). This took 10 minutes! Just to look through a virtually empty suitcase. After accepting there was nothing dodgy there they let me move to the next point where I had to hand in my disembarking form to leave Kenya & get searched again. After getting through and feeling rather stressed I didn’t have enough time to go looking for duty-free presents due to Mombasa Airport’s [Boo, Hiss, Hiss!] efficiency! I managed to cadge a cigarette of some poor man who listened to my bemoaning of Mombasa Airport (Boo, Hiss, Hiss!) and it’s “wonderful ways” (lol). Just as I finished the cigarette the flight was called and we all lined up to enter the boarding lounge but before we entered we got searched again! Once through what I thought was the last search and a chance to finally sit down after about 3hrs I discovered that the next queue was to have my hand luggage searched AGAIN and another quick frisk of the body to check we’ve not hidden anything since the last check less than 5minutes before and no time to go anywhere to do so anyway! Fortunately this queue moved faster than the others and in fairly short order we were through. Just as I finally got to sit down boarding of my flight home from Mombasa Airport [Boo, Hiss, Hiss!] was called. This queue was done in orderly fashion no queue jumping but what was interesting almost every person who on getting to the front of the queue to discover they were about to be searched again appeared to have the same attitude and answer for the poor man standing before the double doors that led to the plane. The said attitude and answer amounted to “What? Again–you’re taking the mick!” said in many various tones and nuances of the English language, as most (including myself) walked around him. To get to the plane we had to walk along a verandah and then (900) down some solid old steps and then across the tarmac to the plane where the same staff who’ve just wasted most of your time at the airport searching you every chance they’ve had are now smiling at you saying “Kwaheri” (goodbye) and hoping for a tip after generally managing to spoil the end of a holiday in a wonderful country. Once on the plane, everything began to run smoothly again and very shortly after take-off we were brought cups of tea for no extra cost. Unfortunately on this leg I didn’t have the whole row of seats to myself but did have an aisle seat-always my preferred seat and 1 seat in between myself and the other person who had an aisle seat. Entertainment filmwise was good but seeing as I had lost the earphones to the wife and wasn’t prepared to pay an extortionate amount of money for a new set I played the games all the way home and was thoroughly entertained. The food was good and the duty free wasn’t shoveled at us like it usually is and the flight overall was extremely enjoyable as was the flight to Kenya .We landed on time and were through customs in very short order (about 40minutes). Once through I waited at the appointed spot for my kind brother who had agreed to collect me from Gatwick Airport (Boo, Hiss, Hiss!) and return me home–he was nowhere to be seen. After about another 20 minutes he strolls through and tells me that the airport had given him the wrong terminal details and he was cursing me for 15 minutes before realizing what had probably occurred so he’d had to park up and use the train within the airport to come and get me as I had no mobile with me at the time. Despite all the problems with both airports on this trip I found this was the best flight to Kenya so far and put FIRST Choice Airlines at the top of the tree for flights to Kenya in my mind. The only glitch was hurrying me up in the first place just to get me “on the Computer”! Close
Written by Harv_y on 31 May, 2007
In June 2005, I flew to Kenya once more, this time from Heathrow (T4) to Nairobi via Amsterdam on KLM. The price was £398 and a few pennies, as usual. I had chosen the cheapest flight offered booked through Expedia.co.uk who, on this occasion, weren't…Read More
In June 2005, I flew to Kenya once more, this time from Heathrow (T4) to Nairobi via Amsterdam on KLM. The price was £398 and a few pennies, as usual. I had chosen the cheapest flight offered booked through Expedia.co.uk who, on this occasion, weren't using Etickets—wonderful idea. The only downside to flying with this early flight was that I had to make my own way to the airport as my brother was away on business, mother was looking after Grandmother, leaving my father to run the family business. Not much of an inconvenience, you would have thought, but I don't drive and, for my friends who do, Heathrow is the wrong direction for work, especially when your passenger needs to be there at 4:15am. So I traveled to terminal 4 the night before. Oddly enough, if I'd thought it through and paid an extra £10, I could have gotten a lift to Stansted on the last night flight from there to AMS, and caught the same connection onto Nairobi. Not having seen my fiancée for almost five months, I didn't sleep or nap much that night due to anticipation and maybe a little amount of nervousness and also my cynical point of view of life in general. However, come 4:15am, I'm wide awake and, as the saying goes, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Despite the long queue, we were checked in exceedingly quickly and had plenty of time to wander around before we were called to our Boarding Gate which turned out to be a fair walk. Unfortunately, due to the early hour, nothing was really open until about 6am (W.H.Smith), so I was at least able to get a paper. The only other shop that deigned to open this early was Boots but just a little too late to be able to do anything. Not having flown any short haul routes since I was a young child, I was surprised to find no form of entertainment and even now I think it's a little odd for an hour's journey. We took off on time and were given a cheese roll and tea or coffee and a glass of orange juice. When we were no more than 20 minutes away from Amsterdam, we were offered another tea or coffee if we wished, and a chocolate bar. We landed on time, maybe a few minutes early so, after having got off the plane, I found an airport map and then had to make my way to a gate they said was about a 15-minute walk away. Maybe so, but only if you're a soldier on a forced march. I walk quickly most of the time and, among my friends are several who are over six-feet-tall and at least two soldiers who all tell me I walk too fast. I would say for most people walking from the arrival terminal for KLM to their boarding gate for Nairobi is going to be approximately 25 minutes. For the first part of this trip, the LHR-AMS leg, KLM were very good and I would give them 4 out of 5 on the service they gave.We waited for just about 45 minutes and, only when there was about 15 minutes left for take-off, did anyone appear to deal with boarding.As with Brittania, there was no explanation. The lady that checked us on to the plane just got on with it; no hello, nothing. Once we were on the plane, there was a short delay and then, suddenly, we were on the runway and on the take-off run. Shortly after take-off, and quicker than expected (less than an hour) lunch was served. This would have been about 11am and, yes, I have included the extra hour. I also remember the choice I had for for my lunch. I'm not a big lover of chicken at the best of times, but when it's overcooked to the point of being dry, I'm even less keen on it. The wine was just a cheap, standard bottle of plonk, nearer the standard of a bottle of Thunderbird which I hadn't drunk for more than 15 years and suddenly remembered why! I do remember watching a film on the flight and do remember laughing all the way through it but for the life of me I can't remember what it was. I spent a fair while jumping about the channels to find something interesting or compelling to watch. There was the map that showed us where we were, how many miles to go, etc., that was the most exciting station on the in-flight Entertainment which was unfortunately atrocious. Again, about an hour out of Nairobi, the flight attendants rushed around with orange juice and a bottle of water, a packet of crisps, a roll of some kind, and that bar of chocolate again; not thrown at you but so rushed it might as well have been. The service throughout this long haul journey was atrocious, if you asked for something as simple as a bottle of water, you were treated as if you were asking for a bottle of champagne for free, for no reason whatsoever. My conclusion with KLM and going long haul is that they don't go together. Fortunately, my return from Nairobi to Amsterdam turned out to be on Kenya Airways which had a rather chaotic start. Unlike most British Airports, only the passenger can actually get inside the building which is actually understandable once you've been informed about the terrorist problems Kenya has suffered in the past, so only I traveled with the taxi driver to the airport. Once there, you queue up for a little while. We waited for what seemed to be an awfully long time to check in as we had been told to check in at least two hours before departure. Although I was booked on to KQ, we had to check in at the KLM desk; odd, but that's the way it was and so we waited, and waited, then we waited some more and finally we waited even longer. Eventually, some KQ staff appeared and were telling some people to effectively queue-jump. Several of us who had been waiting approximately an hour and a half complained quite loudly but politely about the fairness of the system that allows you to arrive five minutes before the staff and be at the front of the queue, and would they please explain the system so that we could use it when next in Kenya. We got moved to the KQ desk and checked in immediately! Unfortunately, we were not upgraded though maybe I should try harder next time. We were checked through the Kenyan Airline control quickly and were in departures in no time. Due to the late arrival of the check-in staff, we had no time to get any duty-free, which didn't matter in my case, as I was broke and had just got married. Once on the plane, I was luckily awarded a seat with loads of leg room though I don't know why am really a shorty and other people would need it more than me; I still took it though! Due to everyone taking back lots of touristy stuff there wasn't any room for my hand luggage to go above so I put it in front of me. Mr. Officious said I couldn't and should put it all out of sight where I couldn't see it and had no control over it. I refused, another customer then offered to swap places with me which we did. With no space above in the cupboards, I put a seat belt on it and that was alright for him! Cups of tea or coffee and a snack were offered after about an hour and shortly after lunch was served efficiently and at a sensible hour with a well-cooked meal, you had a choice of chicken or beef. I chose the beef, and was given a decent bottle of chilled white wine to go with it. When I asked for a beer, it was served up cheerfully. I had expected to pay for it but was told it was part of the service and the stewardess had a smile on her face. Even the evening snack that was served was of a high quality, and the in-flight entertainment was excellent. Although I can't remember the names of the films I watched (this was June 2005) I do know that at the time' I enjoyed all three that I watched. Yes, I would use Kenya Airways again. I would go as far as recommending them but would say check around the websites and you will probably get a better price than that offered on the Kenya Airways website. Close
I first visited Kenya in June 2004 to meet my then-girlfriend's family and have made a few trips since then using different airlines, airports, and travel agents/websites. Having done a few trips I thought it might be useful to do a review of those that…Read More
I first visited Kenya in June 2004 to meet my then-girlfriend's family and have made a few trips since then using different airlines, airports, and travel agents/websites. Having done a few trips I thought it might be useful to do a review of those that I have used.BRITISH AIRWAYSThe very first trip back in June 2004 was booked on April 29th on British Airways flying from Heathrow(LHR) T4 direct to Nairobi(NBO). The take-off time is a nice, sensible 10:20am with check-in from 7:20am. I had allowed time for the train (Piccadilly Line) to go wrong so, of course nothing untoward happened, and I arrived too early to check in so had a coffee at Costa, a cigarette or two—I've now quit—and then proceeded to check in. If you are a smoker and want to have a cigarette before you check in, you will now have to leave the building, I couldn't find a smoking section for a friend recently. After checking in, I had plenty of time to kill so had a breakfast and paid £5 for what I would have normally expected to pay about £3.50; this was 2004, remember. When we were called to our boarding gate, it seemed to be miles away from where we entered but wasn't actually that far. Boarding was orderly and well-organized and the staff was courteous. Once on board, we settled in quite quickly and the take-off was reasonably smooth. I had been given the aisle seat I requested. I hadn't expected this because I had booked through a website travel agent. The food was piping hot and of a good standard, even the wine was chilled and of a reasonable quality. The food was excellent, though the sweets and cheeseboard leave a little to be desired, but it's not much of a hardship to go without these things. I watched a film on the way out and can't remember what it was but do remember it was quite new at the time. I jumped about the radio stations and found the options fairly reasonable and liked the map showing me where I was in the world at any given time. The return was an overnight flight NBO 10:30pm to LHR 5:45am which served two good meals, an acceptable film, and an early arrival into Heathrow. BRITTANIA AIRLWAYSWith the rest of the family having made their plans for Christmas, parents off to Tenerife and brother entertaining his in-laws, I realized I could take the opportunity to go to Kenya and bring the girlfriend the "hands off, fellas"... I mean, the engagement ring. On the 29th of September, I booked Brittania Airways for traveling out on the 26th of December, 2004 bound for Mombasa (MBA) from Gatwick (LGW). The itinerary was something like this: LGW 11:55pm and MBA 12:55pm. As I live some way from Gatwick, I bought my train ticket a few days ahead and, on the day, discovered that I would actually be traveling by coach. I had to set off some time earlier than I had intended and arrived at LGW at about 7:30pm. I had to stand around for about an hour or so and got talking to someone who did this flight regularly and said it was usually OK. After an easy check-in, we were left to our own devices, however just before we were due to go to a Boarding Gate, the times of our flight mysteriously changed from 11:55pm to 1:15am, with no announcement for an explanation and no Brittania or Thomson Holiday Staff to explain the sudden change of details. This would not normally be troubling with a charter airline but it was Tsunami Day and we were traveling to Mombasa on the Indian Ocean. Now there were several of us traveling to visit partners and were now wondering if the ripple had finally hit Kenya, leading to other thoughts like were the family OK and it was it too late to phone to check! Also, of course, there was the possibility this was heading to a cancellation and, as a tsunami is an act of god, the insurance policies are invalid. As it turned out, it was none of these problems, the truth was there was a problem with the aircraft from Mombasa so they had to acquire one from somewhere else. Ironically enough, it flew in from Tenerife, but the staff on this plane had now used up all their time in the air and had to be replaced with other crew members. If they had communicated a little better, there wouldn't have been as many upset or aggravated people around as there were. After going through the boarding gate we waited for what seemed an awfully long time but was actually only about half an hour. We were rushed on fairly quickly but that was understandable. I found myself at the back of the plane as I had refused to part with £5 each way for a charter airline standard breakfast, which is normal procedure, I understand, for those of us more independent than the holiday companies would like us to be. The plane took off without any problems and they then tried to sell earphones for the film. Most people refused as it was a film most of us would have watched several times in the course of our lives. Once the breakfast was served, I thought it was probably a good idea to have the pasta salad I'd bought, but as it happened, Brittania had made a couple of unfortunate errors. They served up beef sausages to the Hindu couple near me and also to the vegan vegetarian. A quick chat between the three parties and some swapping around, I had a piping hot breakfast and the other people had breakfasts more suitable to their needs. So I still got a solid breakfast but if I had paid for it, I would have been demanding my money back because the same thing on the ground would have been approximately £1.50, so I would have expected it to be around £3-3.50. The flight attendants turned the lights off as quickly as they possibly could and went back to the galley. Just before landing, they woke you up to sell the usual duty-free and were quite brusque if you didn't buy anything. "Are you sure sir?". The one good thing on this flight was while we had been sleeping, somehow we had caught up on the lost hour and a half and landed in MBA airport on the originally scheduled time. Well done, Brittania Airways, for that, but they had got a lot to make up for! After fighting your way off the plane at MBA, you find yourself walking across the concrete towards the building itself where we encountered the non-working carousel, with luggage thrown in the good old fashioned any-old-how method! After retrieving my luggage, I got Mr.Officious who opened everything and then tried charging an outrageous amount of duty. I said I couldn't afford that much as it was more than I paid for them and that he already knew that, there was a suggestion of confiscating them, I suggested I burn them, then nobody would get them, and duty tax came down by about 50%. We then had an attempt at confiscating a bottle of wine which was "inadvertantly" dropped with the unfortunate "accidental breakage". After that, Mr.Officious let us through to my awaiting lady. I'm just glad he didn't search my pockets goodness knows how much he would have tried to charge for the engagement ring! On the return journey a fortnight later, you go through a search before you get to check-in. While you are checking-in, there is another search, just after you fill out your departure form, in you go through another check and, of course, the before-you-board-the-aircraft check. They say to allow two hours to check-in for international flights. At Mombasa, if you want time to go shopping, allow at least three hours. Fortunately, the return flight had no delays, a little bit of turbulence, and reasonably cheerful crew. Overall £450 for flight to Kenya at Christmas sounds like a good deal but, with the lack of communication on the part of Thomson's, I'd have to say this was probably the worst of the companies I've flown with to Kenya so far. On the other hand I did find out about Dial-A-Flight, one of, it seems, just a few companies that used both charter and scheduled flights at the time; several now do. Having traveled with several different airlines now, I'm afraid it's exceedingly unlikely that I will use them again although they are now known as Thomfly. The only exception to this statement is that they are the only airline flying to Kenya or the other option is called Monarch, but the amount of bad comments I have heard about them precludes them being used. Overall, below average Thomsons. Best avoided if this is possible. Close