Flights & getting there
Nairobi is a major African hub with numerous African and international airlines connecting Kenya to the world. By African standards, flights between Kenya and the rest of Africa or further afield are common and relatively cheap, and flying is by far the most convenient way to get to Kenya.
Kenya is also a popular and relatively easy waystation for those travelling overland between southern Africa and Egypt. Finding your way here can be tricky – with several war zones in the vicinity – and such journeys should only be considered after serious planning and preparation. But they’re certainly possible, and it’s rarely Kenya that causes problems.
Flights, cars and tours can be booked online at lonelyplanet.com/bookings.
Airports & Airlines
Kenya has three international airports; check out the website www.kaa.go.ke for further information.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Most international flights to and from Nairobi arrive at this airport, 15km southeast of the city. There are two international terminals and a smaller domestic terminal; you can easily walk between the terminals.
Moi International Airport In Mombasa, 9km west of the city centre, and Kenya’s second-busiest international airport. Apart from flights to Zanzibar, this is mainly used by charter airlines and domestic flights.
Wilson Airport Located 6km south of Nairobi’s city centre on Langata Rd. Has some flights between Nairobi and Kilimanjaro International Airport or Mwanza in Tanzania, as well as scheduled and charter domestic flights.
The main national airline carrier is Kenya Airways. It has a generally good safety record, with just one fatal incident since 1977.
Other international airlines flying to Nairobi include the following:
Seasons It’s important to note that flight availability and prices are highly seasonal. Conveniently for Europeans, the cheapest fares usually coincide with the European summer holidays, from June to September.
Charter flights It’s also worth checking out cheap charter flights to Mombasa from Europe, although these will probably be part of a package deal to a hotel resort on the coast. Prices are often absurdly cheap and there’s no obligation to stay at the resort you’re booked into.
Onward tickets If you enter Nairobi with no onward or return ticket you may incur the wrath of immigration, and be forced to buy one on the spot – an uncommon but expensive exercise.
Departure tax is included in the price of a ticket.
Security With ongoing problems in South Sudan and Somalia, Ethiopia offers the only viable overland route into Kenya from the north. The security situation around the main entry point at Moyale is changeable – the border is usually open, but security problems often force its closure. Most foreign governments warn against travel to areas of Kenya bordering Ethiopia and, sometimes, along the highway between Isiolo and Moyale. Even so, cattle- and goat-rustling are rife, triggering frequent cross-border tribal wars, so check the security situation carefully before attempting this crossing.
Visas Theoretically, Ethiopian visas can be issued at the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi, but expect a number of hurdles, including having to provide a letter of introduction from your own embassy in Nairobi, which is likely to be hard to get. Persistence generally pays off, however, so if you have plenty of time, it should be possible to get an Ethiopian visa eventually.
Car & Motorcycle
Those coming to Kenya with their own vehicle could also enter at Fort Banya, on the northeastern tip of Lake Turkana, but it’s a risky route with few fuel stops. There’s no border post; you must already possess a Kenyan visa and get it stamped on arrival in Nairobi. Immigration are quite used to this, but not having an Ethiopian exit stamp can be a problem if you want to re-enter Ethiopia.
There were no cross-border bus services at the time of writing. If you don’t have your own transport from Moyale, there's a daily bus between Moyale and Marsabit (KSh800), while lifts can be arranged with the trucks (KSh500).
From immigration on the Ethiopian side of town it’s a 2km walk to the Ethiopian and Kenyan customs posts. A yellow-fever vaccination is required to cross either border at Moyale. Unless you fancy being vaccinated at the border, get your jabs in advance and keep the certificate with your passport. A cholera vaccination may also be required.
There’s no way you can pass overland between Kenya and war-ravaged Somalia at present, as the Kenyan government has closed the border to try to stop the flow of poachers, bandits and weapons into Kenya. Kidnappings, armed conflict and banditry are rife in the area close to the border. If you ignore the warnings and somehow survive, don't expect your travel insurance to help if you need assistance.
Kenya's border with South Sudan is one of East Africa's more remote border crossings – check with the South Sudanese embassy in Nairobi to see whether it's open to foreign travellers. Most visitors travelling between the two countries fly from Nairobi to Juba, although with continued unrest and the growing threat of famine and war, very few are currently making the journey.
The main land borders between Kenya and Tanzania are at Namanga, Loitokitok, Taveta, Isebania and Lunga Lunga, and can be reached by public transport. There are no train services between the two countries.
There are also no border crossings open between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara – the closest crossings are at Sirari to the west and (much further away) Namanga to the east. Reports suggest that Kenya would like to open the crossing, but Tanzania remains resolutely opposed. With that being the case, it is highly unlikely that any of the direct Serengeti–Mara border crossings will open in the foreseeable future.
Although all of the routes may be done in stages using a combination of buses and local matatus (minibuses), there are six main routes to/from Tanzania:
- Mombasa–Tanga/Dar es Salaam
- Nairobi–Arusha/Moshi (via Namanga)
- Nairobi–Moshi (via Loitokitok)
- Nairobi–Dar es Salaam
The main border posts between Kenya and Uganda are at Busia and Malaba; the latter is an alternative if you’re travelling via Kisumu. There's plenty of cross-border transport, including long-haul bus services between Nairobi and Kampala.
Trekkers in either the Ugandan or Kenyan national parks on Mt Elgon also have the option of walking over the border.
At the time of writing there were no international ferries operating on the coast or Lake Victoria, although there’s been talk for years of a cross-lake ferry service between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
It’s theoretically possible to travel by dhow between Mombasa and the Tanzanian islands of Pemba and Zanzibar, but first of all you’ll have to find a captain who’s making the journey and then you’ll have to bargain hard to pay a reasonable amount for the trip. The best place to ask about sailings is at Shimoni. There’s a tiny immigration post there, but there’s no guarantee they’ll stamp your passport so you might have to go back to Mombasa for an exit stamp.
Most people come to Kenya on safari but it’s also possible to reach the country as part of an overland truck tour originating in Europe or other parts of Africa – many also start in Nairobi bound for other places in Africa. Most companies are based in the UK or South Africa.
Because most people prefer to travel north to south, overland truck companies sometimes drive empty trucks back from South Africa's Cape Town, Victoria Falls and Harare, and will sometimes transport travellers back up to Arusha (Tanzania) or Nairobi (Kenya) for negotiable knock-down prices. Ask around in backpacker hang-outs in the departure towns for tips on when these trucks may be leaving.
Acacia Expeditions (www.acacia-africa.com) Covers East and southern Africa with some small-group options.
Africa Travel Co (www.africatravelco.com) Focuses on East and southern Africa.
Dragoman (www.dragoman.co.uk) There are few places in Africa it doesn't go, with good links to trips across the continent.
Oasis Overland (www.oasisoverland.co.uk) A range of East and southern African overland trips, as well as some more conventional tours.