Budget for the trip
One big part of the budget is the Safari tour cost and hence I'll cover it in detail, followed by other costs which you may take up as per your interests.
Safari tour costs
The budget depends primarily on 3 things:
1. Number of Days
2. Private vs Group travel
3. Budget vs Premium Stays
Planning for number of days, I’ve already discussed, so let me spend some time on the others.
In a group travel, you may have 4-8 member group travelling in the same vehicle whereas, in the private travel, you get the same vehicle for just yourself. Benefits of private travel is that you can plan whole trip around you - no worry about changing plans (not doing early morning and starting late, or coming back for lunch on a game drive day vs eating packed lunch), while the cons being that it’ll be expensive.
In budget stays, you generally get small camps or rooms in hotels outside the parks, which means that you’ll have to travel to enter the park, which means starting your days even earlier (and remember that the days anyway start early) and leave the park earlier (chances of missing sunsets or lesser time in park). In premium stays, you mostly get to stay within the park or (right outside the park in some cases) and the properties and rooms are amazing. But, of course, the cost is higher.
We went for the private tour and the premium stays and our cost was around $4,000 or 3.2 lakh INR for the 2 of us (flights, tips, Nairobi stay and additional activities not included).
A budget Safari with group travel can cost as low as $1,600-$2,000 (1.3-1.6 lakh INR) for a similar itinerary.
1. Visa - Kenya visa cost us $55/person
2. Flight tickets - ~$630/person for Ethiopian Airlines (layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
3. Nairobi hotel stay - Depends on your choice. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn which cost us around $130. Meals costs were on top of this.
1. Masai village visit- $20/person
2. River side walk in Masai Mara - $5 (as tip)
3. Naivasha Boat ride charges - $100 for a boat ride (1-6 pax).
4. Jungle walk in Naivasha - $10
5. Bike ride in Naivasha - $15/person with an additional $10 for the guide (recommended)
6. Hot air balloon ride - You can do a 1-hr hot air balloon ride in Masai Mara / Amboseli. Costs around $400/person. We found it quite expensive and hence, skipped it.
7. Souvenirs - The local shops have a huge scope for bargain (they quote obnoxious initial rates). We purchased from 2 different shops and got the items at 65% less price than the initial quotations! So, get your bargaining expert in front.🙂
8. Drinks in the lodges - Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are not included in the tour package.
9. Tips - This is one area where we were really confused. Multiple blogs say that you may tip everyone (hotel staffs, all guides, boat drivers, etc.) Since, we anyway found all experiences to be expensive (compared to Indian costs and with a wrong assumption that it’ll all be cheaper in Kenya), we didn’t give tips everywhere, but did end up giving a tip to our Safari guide, who was with us for all the days. We gave him $10/day (which we believe in was good enough ). Still unsure though 🙈.
A private tour (semi-luxury) for a couple, would cost ~$6,000 (INR 5 lakh). A budget trip can be wrapped up within $3,600 (INR 3 lakhs) as well.
This excludes hot air balloon ride, which will cost additional ~$800 (INR 65K).
What to pack for the trip?
In addition to the standard travel packing, do ensure to pack the following:
1. A good camera - It’s not everyday that you get to see these beautiful wild animals in large numbers and you would definitely want to capture those moments. Also, your phone cameras will not always work, as the animals maybe far away.
I carried my old DSLR which had a zoom lens up to 200mm. Recommended is at least 300mm lens.
2. A pair of binoculars - Some tour companies will keep a pair in the vehicle (do remember to check with them). If not, you should definitely get a pair. We carried our Nikon’s Aculon 10x50 binoculars. I’d recommend a 8x42, which will have lesser zoom (but good enough for this purpose), but a better stability (lighter in weight).
3. Good pair of shoes - Recommended to keep a good pair of hiking shoes.
4. Light and comfortable clothes - Will recommend wearing lightweight track pants/shorts and T-shirts (neutral colours)
5. Sunscreen - It can get hot during the drives, unless you want a bad tan or sunburns, do keep applying sunscreen every 2 hours.
Some frequently asked questions
Q. Is it easy to get Kenya Visa?
A. It is very easy to get a Kenyan Visa for Indians. You need to apply for an eVisa which requires very basic documents. Once applied, you will receive your eVisa within 24-48 hours.
Q. Do you need a yellow fever vaccination to enter Kenya?
A. You do not need a yellow fever vaccination if you are flying from India. There are however, few countries, from where if you are flying, you’ll require to present the vaccination certificate.
Q. Do you need RT-PCR / COVID Vaccination certificate?
A. Yes, you are required to carry both. Also, while flying back from Kenya, do remember to fill the Air Suvidha form online, which is a mandatory requirement since Covid-19 for all Indians flying back from another country.
Q. Is Kenya safe?
A. Many people have a misconception that Kenya is not a safe country. We however, never felt this. We found the people to be extremely polite and helpful and all the places we visited were very hygienic. There were also surprisingly a lot of Indians doing Safari when we visited there. Majority of the locals speak English and we didn’t face challenges in communication too.
Q. Do you get vegetarian food in Kenya?
A. Even though the Kenyan diet involves beef and chicken, you will easily find vegetarian food almost everywhere. The taste, however, may not match the Indian taste, but it works. All the stays that we had, had proper Indian food options every day and we never struggled with food. They also eat samosas! :D
Q. Can't I just do 7 days in Masai Mara, and skip other places?
A. You can, of course. However, remember that you start getting tired after seeing similar things again and again. The only thing that can keep you up is to get interesting encounters every day (e.g. see a lion hunt), but they are rare. I would recommend keeping max 4-5 days for Masai Mara, that too split between 2 different areas (and hence, stays).
1. All the images used are clicked by me
2. I am not representing any travel organisation or sponsoring anyone
3. I don't aspire to become a travel influencer and just want to help out people like me, who tend to do a lot of research before planning a trip, across different parameters. So, if there's anything you feel I've missed or would want to know, please drop a question and I'll try my best to answer.