So lets take it back to the end of 2017, I had just completed my academic articles at the University of Witwatersrand and finally submitted my final thesis for editing. So I decided to take embark on a journey to explore Kenya for two weeks. This lead me to Moi International at four O’clock on 17th of December with no idea as to how I was going to get to my hotel but all I can remember was the huge moist breeze as I got off the plane. I had little over a dollar left with me and so the next thing was to search for the nearest Barclays ATM to withdraw some cash so I can get to my hotel room.
After that the next thing I remember is a whole bunch of people outside the airport advertising various products and amongst others was my ride to the hotel. My cab driver was an older man with this distingusing smile that I still can’t forget till this day. He then took my across town and then all the way to Bamburi beach which is where my hotel was at. I stayed at the Severin sea lodge hotel. As we were driving all my memories from when I was here as a child started creeping back slowly, as you can see I was feeling a bit nostalgic.
This brings me to Tip #1 , when travelling around kenya (specifically Mombasa) there are various modes of transport: Cab(Car); Uber/Taxify;Tuk Tuk; a Matatu and a motorcycle.
1.) A cab ride is the most expensive, I think for my trip from the airport to the hotel was about 2000 shillings, my hotel was about 30 mins away from the airport at bamburi beach, this is a much more safer option.
2.) Then there is a cheaper alternative, I suggest downloading the Uber App or even taxify if you have one. This will save you money. This is because for an Uber ride it will cost you approximately 1300 shillings.
3.) Then there is the Tuk-Tuk and Motorcycle (same whatsapp group) and the moral of the story is that for long distance travelling, this isn’t safe so I wouldn’t recommend this option. I actually missed my flight because of a Tuk-Tuk, it’s a long story. They cost you about 800-1000 shillings from my hotel which is about 30 mins away, without traffic.
4.) A Matatu is the equivalent of a taxi here in SA (mini-tourbus), it’s also an option but they are not at the airport so you will have to go to town fisrt to get one.
Tip #2: Is something that seems insignificant but will save you so much energy during your trip. Please make sure you route your network so that you still have service overseas. Thank goodness I was on Vodacom, because the equivalent there is Safaricom so I still had network when I was in Kenya. Also just notify your network provider. I think your network provider will charge you a small fee, but just know that the SMS rates and call rates are excessive. I think for the Vodacom Travel saver(South Africa) its R2.50 per minute and if you use data its: R2/MB.
Myself I chose to use wifi, as that is readily available as there is wifi hotspots across mombasa aswell as the hotel. So what I did was make whatsapp calls rather then calling with my network because it was expensive.
If you are not up for that there is a third option. Which is getting a local sim/network once you arrive and it should cost you about 100 shillings. I think this is something that I would have done immediately when I landed in Kenya as well as getting an MPESA account. Its absolutely paramount. The three networks that are popular is :
1.) Airtel (cheapest option): www.africa.airtel.com/kenya/
2.) Safaricom: www.safaricom.co.ke
3.) Orange: www.orange.co.ke
Tip#3: Get an Mpesa Account
This is also something that seems really small until you are stuck in town and the only way you can pay for your flight is through MPESA because the company doesn’t accept online payments. The thing that I found about Mombasa in particular, was that the people there mostly transact with cash or through MPESA. Except for hotels, they will usually have card readers. This is something that I struggled with and it cost me alot of money during my trip in bank charges. As most shops only accepted cash or MPESA so I had to withdraw everytime and there were international banck charges which really hurt my pocket. It is also very risky carrying cash around with you. So my suggestion is first get a kenyan line(as mention above) and then register with Mpesa after that you just withdraw the amount that you want and go to an Mpesa dealer to load the cash onto your account.
How does Mpesa work? It works the same as cellphone banking
Just note that you can only use a Safaricom sim to be able to use the MPESA service. The costs anywhere from $0.50 to $2. If you are a tourist, you are likely to be charged $5 or more especially if you are buying the SIM card at the airport. You will then register for an MPESA account and you can ask anyone to help you with the registration process, but its really simple and you just need your passport.
After that you will need to top-up your account, which can be done at any MPESA agent. You simple go with the amount you want to top-up your account with, and please go with your passport and then they will do everything and load your amount on your phone. Once that is done to pay for goods you simply send money from one phone to the other.
Once I arrived at my hotel, everything was so organised. I was given a cocktail whilst reception prepared my room for me. I remember hearing the waves of the beach. I became so excited and more anxious to explore the place. I was then escorted to my hotel room where I relaxed a little bit before heading of to the beach.
After an hour or so upon arrival I then headed over to the beach, where I was in awe at the sheer beauty of it all. There were various vendors across the beach selling beautiful curio products. Many people offering boat rides, camel rides… I was at the beach for about 30 mins when I stumbled across 3 very welcoming gentlment having a time of their lives.
We chatted for a while and before long I was sipping on some gin whilst realising that they too are also accountants that are here on vacation. We laughed and shared our experiences during the year as well as some travel tips. Then everything after that as they say is history…