Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.
COVID-19 Requirements for Travel to Kenya
Prior to traveling to Kenya, please review the U.S. Embassy Nairobi COVID-19 guidance, Kenya Government guidelines.
The U.S. maintains a Travel Warning on Kenya due to the threat of terrorism and violent crime. For information on the travel advisory, which keeps most recent advice concerning a country, please visit US Passports & International Travel.
Within the context of Kenya’s political and business culture, which differs in many respects from those of the United States, the two countries have enjoyed a stable relationship for many decades. The principles of customary business courtesy, especially replying promptly to requests for price quotations and orders, are a prerequisite for exporting success. In general, Kenyan business executives are sophisticated, informal, and open. The use of first names at an early stage of a business relationship is acceptable. Friendship and mutual trust are highly valued, and once an American has earned this trust, a productive working relationship can usually be obtained.
Kenyan firms have significant expertise in international business due to the competitive market, an increasing international experience and a growing prevalence of expatriated Kenyans doing business in the United States who then return to Kenya to live and work. Kenyan buyers appreciate quality and service, and, if justified, are willing to pay a premium if they are convinced of a product’s overall superiority. The market, however, remains very price sensitive. It is not common to receive an inquiry to compare prices among suppliers. Care must be taken to ensure that delivery dates are closely adhered to, and that after-sales service is promptly honored. While it is natural to assume the client understands the product well, it is important to communicate any known limitations or variations from similar products in the market to reduce the chances of misunderstandings, or failed business relationship.
As there are numerous factors that may interfere with prompt shipment, U.S. exporters should allow for additional shipping time to Kenya and ensure the Kenyan buyer is continuously updated on changes in shipping schedules and routing. Since Kenyan wholesalers and retailers generally do a lower volume of business than their American counterparts, U.S. firms should be prepared to sell smaller quantities than is normal in the United States. It is recommended to have on your contact list, consolidators who could potentially fulfill shipment of smaller orders by consolidating them with other shipments destined for Kenya. Experience in shipping to Kenya would be necessary when selecting such firms.
U.S. firms should maintain close contact with distributors and customers to exchange information and ideas. Local distributors/representatives can serve as an excellent source of local market information and as appraisers of product market acceptance. In most instances, mail, fax, or telephone communications are sufficient, but the understanding developed through periodic personal visits is the best way to keep distributors apprised of new developments and to resolve problems quickly. Prompt acknowledgment of correspondence by fax or e-mail is expected.
If the market size and demand warrants, U.S. marketers should consider warehousing in Kenya for speedy supply and service of customers. Local assembly of complete knock down kits, especially for electrical and electronic goods has an import duty advantage. As would be the case in most markets, vigorous and sustained promotion is often needed to launch products. Products must be adapted to both technical requirements and to consumer preferences, as well as to meet Government of Kenya (GOK) regulations.
The GOK wants to ensure that all imports conform to the stipulated technical specifications; any flaws detected could result in the withdrawal of the product from the market, prosecution of the manufacturer and the retailer/importer, or both. It is not sufficient to merely label a product in conformity with national requirements to achieve successful market penetration. Consumers must be attracted to the product by the label and packaging as well as ease of use. Where possible, a website detailing product value, features, dimensions, and shipping weight would be an added advantage. It is common for Kenyan buyers to undertake a due diligence or search online for more information on products.
As of 2021, the fee is $51 for single-entry visas, $101 for multiple-entry visas, $210 for 5yr multiple-entry visas, $0 for courtesy/ diplomatic visas, $21 for transit visas, $101 for East Africa Tourist visas and an administrative fee for referred visa of $10. This applies to each applicant regardless of age, and whether obtained in advance or at the airport. Visas are available online via eVisas (http://evisa.go.ke/evisa.html). Multiple-entry visas must be applied for prior to traveling to Kenya. Travelers can now apply for their eVisa online fast and safely - anywhere and anytime and get it within 48 hours.
As of 1 January 2021, travelers are required to obtain an electronic visa prior to arrival in Kenya. No more visas are issued on arrival in Kenya, nor in Kenyan representations. This e-Visa allows entry into the country once for a tourist or business stay or up to 90 days or transit for up to 72 hours.
Evidence of yellow fever immunization may be requested, and some travelers have been turned around at immigration for not having sufficient proof of immunization. Travelers to Kenya and neighboring African countries should ensure that the validity of their passports is at least six months beyond the end of their intended stay. Kenyan immigration authorities require a minimum of two blank (unstamped) visa pages in the passport to enter the country; some travelers have experienced difficulties when they arrive without the requisite blank pages. Travelers should make sure there are sufficient pages for visas and immigration stamps to enter Kenya and other countries to be visited enroute to Kenya or elsewhere in the region.
Travelers may obtain the latest information on visas as well as any additional details regarding entry requirements from the Embassy of Kenya, 2249 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 387-6101, or the Kenyan Consulates General in Los Angeles and New York City. Persons outside the United States should contact the nearest Kenyan embassy or consulate.
If you are going to live in or travel to Kenya, please take the time to tell us about your trip by enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link(s): State Department Visa Website
The Kenyan Shilling is the currency of Kenya. Currency rankings show that the most popular Kenya Shilling exchange rate is the USD to KES rate. The currency code for Kenya Shillings is KES, and the currency symbol is Ksh. The Central Bank of Kenya lists official exchange rates, with the average rate being between $1 USD to Kshs. 101-120.
ATMs are widely available at hotels, major shopping centers and some petrol stations. Travelers Checks are difficult to use. The few banks that will accept them typically do not offer favorable exchange rates. Travelers are instead advised to carry some cash and a major credit card such as a Visa or Mastercard. Depending on the length of stay, many choose to establish an M-Pesa account for mobile payments, a practice accepted by most vendors.
Kenya has a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure that is reliable and affordable. Cell phone penetration is high across the country. The three primary mobile networks in Kenya are Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom Kenya. Roaming and international calling charges in East Africa are generally higher than those in Asia and Europe. Wi-Fi service in the country is readily available with Wi-Fi hotspots available in major shopping malls, restaurants, salons, and even in some public transport vehicles.
The power sockets in Kenya are of type G, and the standard voltage is 240 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
Kenya has two major international airports: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi and Moi in Mombasa. While there are limited direct flights from the U.S., there are multiple daily flights that are routed through Europe, the Middle East and some from other African countries.
Taxis are available at the airport, and we would recommend getting a taxi from the various Taxi companies with an office outside the arrivals. These services are also available for daily hire in most large towns and cities. Ride sharing services such as Uber are available in major cities.
Traffic moves on the left-hand side of the road. For safety reasons, visiting American business executives should not use the informal “matatu” bus system or trains. If possible, taxis should be hired via concierge services at hotels or through reputable travel agents.
The official languages of Kenya are English and Kiswahili. However, many different languages and dialects are spoken throughout the country. The commercial language is English. Language barriers pose few problems, but in legal documents it is important to have lawyers who can interpret distinctions between American English and Kenyan English.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention international travelers hotline at telephone: 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC website.
The U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section can provide visitors with a list of qualified local physicians and pharmacies. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs in particular, do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Physicians and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services. You must pay for your hospital or clinic bill before you leave the facility. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face serious financial difficulties.
Visitors should check with insurance companies to confirm whether their policies apply overseas and include medical evacuation for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization or medical evacuation to the U.S. can cost thousands of dollars. Visitors should ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor, or whether they will be reimbursed later for expenses they incur.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
Most of the year, Kenya is UTC/GMT +3, or three hours ahead of London and eight hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
A 40-hour workweek is the norm for offices and factories. Typical office working hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with lunch break from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Banking hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Most retail stores are open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. There are several supermarkets that are open 24hrs, and most shopping malls will have some shops open till 8:00 p.m.
The following are the official statutory holidays when most commercial offices are closed:
- January 1 - New Year’s Day
- April 15 - Good Friday
- April 18 - Easter Monday
- May 2 - Labor Day
- May 3 - Id-Ul-Fitr
- June 1 - Madaraka Day
- July 11- Eid al-Adha
- August 9 – Kenya General Elections
- October 10- Huduma Day
- October 20 - Mashujaa Day
- December 12 - Jamhuri Day
- December 25 - Christmas Day
- December 26 - Boxing Day
Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings
Kenyan law limits the period of temporary importation to be consistent with the purposes for which goods have been imported. For instance, the temporary importation period for goods imported for exhibition purposes shall be limited to the period of the exhibition. However, the Minister for Finance may extend the period of temporary importation beyond twelve months upon application depending on the merit of each case. Such extensions are best requested before the expiry date to avoid inconvenience.