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Although I have experience with planning trips in the past to India, Thailand, and several parts of the Caribbean and Europe, planning a trip to Kenya was my biggest challenge yet. Not only did I have to curate a trip to a destination that I have never been to before, but it was also my boyfriend’s birthday. Thankfully, it was a major success. If you’re traveling to Kenya, here’s my guide to planning a successful birthday vacation to Kenya on a budget.
At the time of my visit (2019), there was no panorama, but all passengers arriving in or transiting through Kenya must have a negative PCR COVID-19 certificate for a test conducted within 96 hours prior to arrival and uploaded on the Trusted Travel website. A QR code is provided and you must show it, along with your negative COVID test upon arrival. Visitors also have to complete an online International Travelers Health Surveillance Form where you’ll get another QR code that must be printed and shown on arrival.
US visitors also need to have a Visa You can apply and obtain an e-visa here. It is recommended by health authorities, but you do not need the Yellow Fever vaccination and certificate if you enter Kenya from the UK, Europe, or North America. Depending on the area you’re visiting, medications for Malaria and Typhoid are recommended. You can get more information on health requirements here.
Traveling to Nairobi from NYC
The first step in planning the trip to Kenya was choosing a flight. I purchased flights from NYC to Kenya for $548 per person on Swiss Air with a stopover in Zurich, Switzerland, and had a stopover in Frankfurt, Germany coming back home via Lufthansa. If you’re planning a trip to Kenya, I highly suggest flying with a limited stopover on Emirates. Kenya Airways is the only airline flying nonstop from New York City to Nairobi.
If you take the same route we did, avoid spending no more than 5 hours in Zurich. In Zurich, we easily overspent from our trip budget and found out quickly that this is one of the most expensive places to visit in Europe. If you are a budget traveler, avoid a Zurich layover and save your money for excursions in Kenya. If you want to do a layover in Switzerland, take the bus from the airport to the city center and enjoy a boat ride on Lucerne Lake where you can see all the sites. Avoid overpriced excursions, hotels, taxis, food…avoid leaving the Zurich airport if your money is funny honey.
Where to Stay in Nairobi
The next step for planning a trip to Kenya on a budget was picking a hotel. I chose the Best Western Plus Meridian Hotel because it was in the heart of the city center. In addition to providing airport shuttle service, the Best Western Plus Meridian upgraded us to a suite, provided welcome drinks, a birthday cake, and sang happy birthday to the birthday boy at dinner. Although we were close to the city, shopping, clubs, and in the heart of Kenyan culture, we did not feel safe with the surroundings as we had to go through security and metal detectors every time we came in and out of the hotel. Cars were also thoroughly searched by officials. Thank God I booked a second luxury hotel away from the city.
For the second part of the trip, we stayed at Tribe Hotel in Gigiri. Tribe Hotel was a getaway from the city and
a great way to recharge in luxury before going back home. The service was superb, beyond my expectations and the food was delicious! I am telling everyone to go here and most definitely get a spa treatment. The spa treatment came with champagne, tea, chocolate, a 90-minute massage, and a jacuzzi option. Tribe Hotel is right next to the Village Market, Maasai Market, Two Rivers Mall, United Nations, and 30 minutes to the airport.
What to Do in Kenya
The third step in my planning a trip to Kenya was picking excursions. Kenya is well known for its Safaris, so this is a must-do. We also booked this excursion through Expedia which included a day tour to the Giraffe Center, Elephant Orphanage, and a cultural show at the Bomas of Kenya. I loved the Giraffe Center and the view of the National Park from the Elephant Orphanage. It was also super fun to dance with our sisters and brothers at Bomas. If you’re comfortable, book these excursions separately on your own to avoid stopping to shop in between locations. I highly suggest shopping in Maasai Market instead.
|Nairobi National Park Giraffe Centre and Bomas of Kenya Safari – $70.62|
Enjoy full day tour organized by a reputable company with trained guides. This tour is budget friendly and the best way to spend a day out from your city hotel. In this tour, You will be able to taste both wildlife and culture. The tour is best booked before or after visiting the other national parks in Kenya. For travellers on business or conference trips, this is the best tour to refresh and relax your body.
Where to Eat in Nairobi
Food is a very important factor for me when it comes to travel. Here are some of my favorite places to eat in Nairobi and others worth visiting. These restaurants are pretty solid if you have special dietary restrictions such as mine.
Brew Bistro and Lounge at Piedmont Plaza
Piedmont Plaza 671 Ngong Road, Nairobi Kenya
Located on a rooftop, we were given the white glove tour of Brew Bistro and Lounge and sampled the best beer I ever had in my entire life. This place reminded me of Urban London or a Brewery in Brooklyn. This destination is great for hanging out.
Honey & Dough
Waiyaki Way 7th Floor One Africa Place, Next to Delta Towers, Nairobi 00621 Kenya
Honey & Dough is a modern gourmet café that offers a variety of healthy food and drinks throughout the day. If you’re looking for a restaurant with great food and great decor, this is the place to be.
Limuru Road Tribe Hotel The Village Market, Gigiri, Nairobi 00621 Kenya
Tribe hotel also has a full restaurant and lounge called Jiko. Everything was made fresh and they gave us a traditional Kenyan birthday song and dance.
20th Floor, One Africa Place, Nairobi 00100 Kenya
INTI provides a fusion of Japanese & Peruvian (Nikkei cuisine) with an urban environment. It’s a whole experience that you would absolutely enjoy and priced affordably.
Although planning for this trip was intense and challenging, we still had an amazing time. This trip made me want to explore more of Africa and I think either South Africa or Tanzania will be next.
|Giraffe Centre, Elephant Orphanage, and Bomas of Kenya Day Tour from Nairobi – $110.00|
A day well spent visiting Giraffe Center, David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, Kazuri Beads and Bomas of Kenya. A memorable experience to see Rothschild giraffes from a raised observation platform, baby elephants at elephant orphanage, the most successful elephant and rhino rescue program in the world. Then enjoy a whistle-stop tour of Kenyan culture on a colorful journey through Kenyan tribes, cultures and traditions at Bomas of Kenya.
|Safari In Nairobi Kenya National Park Half day Tour – $98.00|
When your in Nairobi and you have 3 to 4 Hours. that is enough of a great safari Experience 7Km away from the city of Nairobi, No need of accommodation or long drives. Giving you 4 Hours of Safari. Remarkable view of lions, endangered black rhino, cheetahs, hyenas, buffaloes, giraffes and basically you have chance to see 4 of the Big 5 (expect the elephant) and diverse bird life with over 400 species recorded.