FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Kenya is in East Africa and its neighbours include Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Uganda and Tanzania.  Nairobi is the capital and stands at an altitude of 1,700 metres (5,500 feet).  Its population is about 40 million.  The languages spoken here are English Kiswahili and about 42 indigenous languages.  About 85% of the population are Christian.  The remainder comprises of indigenous religions and Muslim. The currency is Kenyan shilling.

Kenya lies directly on the equator and elevations vary from sea level at the coast to 7,000+ ft.  Generally, the days are warm and pleasant and the nights are cool.  Summer clothes are worn throughout the year.  In some areas, nights can be chilly.  In the northern region, days are quite hot. The coast is hot and humid while Western Kenya is average.

There are two rainy seasons; the long rains in April and May and the short rains in November and December.  The hottest periods are from January to March and August to November.  The coldest months are in July and the beginning of August.  Average temperature in Kenya rage from 10 Celsius to 35 Celsius. 

No immunisations are required by law to enter Kenya.  If you are travelling from a country where yellow fever is present you will need to take a yellow fever vaccination.  Several vaccinations are highly recommended, they include: Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A & B, Polio, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Tuberculosis.  Contact your doctor before you travel and seek advice regarding the vaccinations to take.

Make sure that your doctor knows you are travelling to Kenya (don’t just say Africa) so she can prescribe the right anti-malaria medication. Malaria prevention medication should be taken according to your doctor’s instructions before, during and after a visit to affected areas.  Malaria is a serious tropical disease, which is spread by night-biting mosquitoes which transmit a parasite.  Avoiding getting bitten is important and the most effective means to prevent the disease.

Long sleeved shirts and trousers should be worn in the evenings and insect repellent can be used in areas with mosquitoes.

It is important to treat malaria as soon as symptoms arise.  Its symptoms include chills, fevers, headache, nausea and vomiting.  If you suspect you have malaria, see a doctor as soon as possible even if you have the treatment for malaria with you so that a correct diagnosis can be made.

We recommend that you be adequately insured both with medical and travel insurance. Health care services in Nairobi, Kisumu and other major towns are good and up to date.

You will fly to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) in Nairobi. The airport is 17km (10.5 miles) from the city centre.  If you want some cash upon arrival, banking services, automatic teller machines (ATMs) and 24hr foreign exchange (forex) bureaus are available at the airport and other major cities such as Kisumu, Nakuru, Kisii, Mombasa etc.

You will be collected from the airport by BCHF staff and will travel by road to Nyamira.  This is a six hour drive.

Accommodation is available and is adjacent to the Project Site. Volunteers will sleep in spacious rooms with mosquito nets provided for each bed. Volunteers bathe from a hot shower and flushing toilets are also available.

How is the Kenyan food?

Foods served by the host family during your visit include traditional Kenya foods like ugali, fish, meat, greens, githeri (maize & beans), pasta, rice, chapattis and others.

If you have specific dietary requirements, you can discuss this with the Director at the time of volunteering.

It is generally recommended that you drink bottled water during your stay in Kenya both in urban or rural settings. You can buy bottled water from any supermarket and most shops in Kenya rural areas. The most common water-borne diseases in Kenya are Typhoid, Cholera and Dysentery. Other less common ones include Gastroenteritis and Amoebiasis.

Kenya is one of the safest countries in Africa. The Kenyan people are very warm and friendly towards foreigners. However, it is essential to take simple precautions. Do not carry your valuables around. Take a copy of your passport and visas to carry with you. Leave your passport, credit cards, debit cards and other valuables such as laptops at home.

Like any other big cities, Kenya’s major cities have criminal elements. Common criminal incidents involve snatching of your purse or jewellery. It is safe to shop in most sections of the cities. We will guide you regarding appropriate areas to shop. While out, do not wear expensive jewellery, leave all your jewellery at home. Avoid dark alleys and take a taxi at night.

Bring along some comfortable, casual and semi-casual clothing: sweat shirts, shorts, jeans, skirts and any other clothing that you would ordinarily wear.  Include warm clothing for nights, especially if you come in July and August.

When out in the community, it is good to follow local etiquette.  Females need to wear pants and/or long skirts.  Dressing in Kenya is quite liberal.  However, approach it with cultural sensitivity in mind and you will be fine.  Please ask when you are not sure what is appropriate.  Footwear can be hiking boots, joggers or open-toed sandals.

You will need to bring your own towel, face cloth, soap, shampoo & conditioner, toothbrush & toothpaste and other personal effects.  It is safe to bring your laptop, cameras, video cameras hair dryers, shavers and other electrical products.  

Other suggested items are:

 

  • Malaria tablets (consult your doctor for suggestions)
  • Adapter plugs and converters for electrical appliances
  • Good walking shoes and sandals
  • Moisturising cream and sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Basic Medical Kit (paracetamol, plasters, antiseptic cream, anti-histamines)
  • Torch
  • Hat
  • Nail Clippers 

 

Remember your visas, tickets, passport etc.

Before travelling to Kenya, you need to know the type of electric plug and socket in your destination and also the voltage of the electric power. The frequency (Hertz) and any special requirements like fuses or earth connections that may interfere with the use of your equipment. The electricity supply in Kenya is 220/240 volts / 50 Hz (240V 50 Hz D & G). The electric sockets are three-pin square (British type). Remember that simple adapters do not convert voltage or frequency. Incorrect use may keep you from using your equipment, damage it and even cause personal injuries. Using a plug adapter just changes the shape of the prongs. Countries with different voltages and frequencies may use similar plugs. Check to see if you need a power converter and not simply a plug adapter. Visit https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/kenya/ for more information.

Yes, you will need a visa.  You can discuss the correct one with the Director of BCHF.  Visas are valid for three months from the date of entry and can be purchased upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi or you can obtain an eVisa online at www.evisa.go.ke  An eVisa will expedite your entrance at the airport.  You can create an account and pay with your credit card.  

Major credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa are accepted. Western Union Money transfer is always accepted. American Express, Discover, Solo, Switch and Diners Club are often not accepted. ATMs will mostly accept MasterCard, Visa and Visa Electron cards. Major credit cards are accepted at supermarkets and expensive restaurants and hotels. However, it is advisable to carry some cash. Remember to contact your local bank to arrange for international card transfer arrangements before you travel. This will enable you to operate and transact through your bank account while you are in Kenya.

The currency in Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling. The shilling comprises 100 cents. Coins are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 40 shillings. Bank notes are in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 shillings. Check the value of the shilling with a currency converter just before you travel. Do not change too much money at one time and use the banks not the money changers.

It is not mandatory that you bring gifts.  However, the children at the school see a visitor as someone very special and they do usually come bringing gifts.  These do not have to be expensive.  Children appreciate the gesture as much as anything.  Some visitors bring stationery, books or sports equipment to donate to the school.  If you are in doubt, you can discuss this with the Director of BCHF.