Sleeping

There is a wide range of accommodation on offer. At the top end are game lodges and tented camps that charge US$300-1000 per couple per day; mid-range safari lodges and beach resorts with self-contained double rooms with air conditioning charge around US$150-250 per room; standard and faded small town hotels used by local business people cost around US$50-100 per room; and basic board and lodgings used by local travellers are under US$10 a day. At the top end, Kenya now boasts some accommodation options that rival the luxurious camps in southern Africa - intimate safari camps with an amazing standard of comfort and service in stunning settings. The beach resorts too have improved considerably in recent years, and there are some luxurious and romantic beach lodges and hotels in commanding positions. At the budget end there's a fairly wide choice of cheap accommodation. A room often comprises a simple bed, shared toilet and washing facilities, and may have an irregular water supply; it is always a good idea to look at a room first, to ensure it's clean and everything works. It is also imperative to ensure that your luggage will be locked away securely for protection against petty theft especially in shared accommodation. For more expensive hotels, airlines, game park entrance and camping fees, a system operates whereby tourists are charged approximately double the rate locals are charged - resident and non-resident rates - although these can be paid in foreign currency as well as Kenyan Shillings. The word hotel (or in Kiswahili,
hoteli
) means food and drink, rather than lodging. It is better to use the word guesthouse (in Kiswahili,
guesti
).

Generally accommodation booked through a European agent will be more expensive than if you contact the hotel or lodge directly. Kenya's hoteliers are embracing the age of the internet, and an ever-increasing number can take a reservation by email or through their websites. Low season in East Africa is generally around the long rainy season from the beginning of April to the end of June, when most room rates drop considerably. Some establishments even close during this period.

Hotels

There are roughly 75,000 hotel beds in over 2000 licensed hotels within the country. A large majority of these are found in the coastal region, thanks to the rapid development of tourism infrastructure and beach resorts in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some of the beach hotels are resorts with a range of watersports and activities where guests stay for their entire holiday, and while they will appeal to those who enjoy the all-inclusive package holiday experience; they may not appeal to more independent travellers. However, also on the coast are some small, simple beach cottage type of accommodation, which are mostly in good locations and are excellent value. A few international hotel chains, such as
Hilton International
and
Intercontinental Hotels
among others, have hotels in Nairobi. Most local town and city hotels tend to be bland with poor service, although there are a number of characterful hotels that have been around since the colonial days, such as Nairobi's
The Norfolk
or the
Country Club
in Naivasha. Prices of hotels are not always a good indication of their quality, and it is sensible to check what you will get before committing yourself, though prices are often negotiable, even in large hotels. On the coast and in the game parks, you can expect to pay more in the high season, particularly mid-December to mid-February. Low season in Kenya is generally 1 April-30 June (excluding Easter weekend). The town and city hotels tend to keep their rates the same year round.

Self-catering and homestays

Renting a private property is a good way to gain a new perspective on Kenya and relax on your own. The real advantage of a Kenyan homestay is the opportunity to spend time with Kenyans and their families, and to share the benefit of their many years of local experience. These are often surprisingly good value if you intend to stay for a while. They vary from rustic cottages in the bush or historic Swahili mansions on the coast, to serviced city apartments. Many of the homes used as homestays are in the highland areas of Kenya, legacies of the pre-Independence settlers, and the coastal belt; very few are near the game parks. Homestays tend to be more expensive than hotels and are often built into the more expensive, individually tailored itineraries. Such properties can either be booked privately or through a travel agent or safari operator. There is also an increasing number of self-catering apartments for rental especially at the coast. Often assistance with cleaning and cooking is available. Whilst some of these facilities are custom built, many are holiday homes leased out when not in use by the owners. These range from quite simple and basic beach cottages to sophisticated villas.

Hostels

There are only a handful of hostels around the country, affiliated with the Youth Hostelling Association, YMCA and YWCA, and most are clean and safe and very cheap. Nevertheless they tend to be very spartan and generally cater for long-term residents such as students or church groups.

Camping

There are many campsites all over Kenya. They are usually very cheap with basic amenities and some are very good. Camping is essential if you are on a tight budget but want to explore the national parks. You should always have your own tent and basic equipment as these cannot always be hired at the sites. You should also carry adequate supplies of fresh water, food, fuel and emergency supplies. Do not rely on local water supplies or rivers and streams for potable water. Any water taken from a stream should be filtered or boiled for several minutes before drinking. If you are trekking and planning to wild camp outside of official or designated campsites, seek local advice in advance. The land on which you are planning to camp may be privately owned or be traditional lands under the control of a nearby village. In some instances, advance permission and/or payment is required. If camping near a village, as you may be asked to do, remember to be culturally sensitive.

Safari options

All safari companies offer basically the same safari but at different prices, which is reflective of what accommodation is booked. For example, you could choose a two-day safari of the Masai Mara and the options would be camping (the companies provide the equipment) or a lodge safari, making it considerably more expensive. For those that want to spend more, there is the option of adding flights between destinations or staying at one of the luxury private tented camps in the private concession areas on the edges of the parks. Everyone is likely to have the same sort of game-viewing experiences, but the level of comfort you want on safari depends on where you stay and how much you spend.

Hotels and lodges

These vary and may be either typical hotels with rooms and facilities in one building or individual
bandas
or
rondavels
(small huts) with a central dining area. Standards vary from the rustic to the modern, from the simply appointed to the last word in luxury. Efforts are usually made to design lodges that blend into their environment, with an emphasis on natural local building materials and use of traditional art and decoration. Most lodges serve meals and have lounges and bars, often with excellent views or overlooking waterholes or salt licks that attract game. Many have resident naturalists, as well as guides for organized walks or game drives.

Tented camps

A luxury tented camp is really the best of both worlds. They are usually built with a central dining area. Each tent will have a thatched roof to keep it cool inside, proper beds and a veranda and they will often have a small bathroom at the back with solar-heated hot water. But at the same time you will have the feeling of being in the heart of Africa and at night you will hear animals surprisingly close by. Tented camps can be found in many of Kenya's national parks and game reserves, as well as on private game ranches and sanctuaries.

Campsites

There are campsites in most national parks. They are extensively used by camping safari companies. Vehicles, guides, tents and equipment, as well as food and a cook, are all provided. They are often most attractively sited, perhaps in the elbow of a river course but always with plenty of shade. Birds are plentiful and several hours can be whiled away birdwatching. Some campsites have attached to them a few
bandas
or huts run by the park where you may be able to shower. Toilet facilities can be primitive - the 'long drop', a basic hole in a concrete slab, being very common. Most camps are guarded but despite this you should be careful to ensure that valuables are not left unattended. If you are camping on your own, you will almost always need to be totally self-sufficient with all your own equipment. The campsites usually provide running water and firewood. Camping should always have minimal impact on the environment. All rubbish and waste matter should be buried, burnt, or taken away with you. Do not leave food scraps or containers where they may attract and harm animals. Campers should also take care of wildlife. Do not leave fruit or other food inside tents, it can attract monkeys, baboons, and even in some areas elephants, resulting in destruction.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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