Kenya (Masai Mara, Mombasa & Lamu): Dirty Details

TRAVEL VISAS – Visas take time and if you’re going to more than one country you need to take that into consideration.

– Google the consulate in your country for the country you want to visit. Go to their visa page and make sure you follow the exact steps to get your visa in time. It helps to write a list in point form so you don’t make mistakes; sometimes there can be five or six things you need to have the application correctly processed.

– Consulates in Eastern Canada are in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. Some countries have consulates in more than one Canadian city (like Ethiopia does). If you are from Toronto and are visiting countries with Consulates in Ottawa or Montreal you need to take courier time there and back into consideration. If you are going to more than one country with the consulate in Ottawa you’ll need to send you’re application/passport to the first (ex Kenya), get it back and then resend it to the next (ex Tanzania). The entire process could take a month.

– Some visas are only good for a specific amount of time from the date of ISSUE not the arrival date. For example, you pay $29 for a one-month tourist visa to Ethiopia and are going for 3 weeks. You’ll need to get the visa a few days before you leave. Or, pay more so it’s valid for more than one month.

– For some countries you’ll only need a transit visa to pass through on the way to another country but still, you’ll need a visa!

– Ethiopia’s Consulate in Toronto is at 3080 Yonge St #5080 at Lawrence Road. It takes a day to get the visa but I’d recommend allowing yourself several days.

– Kenya’s Consulate in Canada is located in Ottawa. Kenyan High Commission at 613.563.1773/1774/1776.

– Many countries in Africa, and some in Asia (there may be other places in the world as well) enable you to get a visa upon arrival. Take your US cash and passport photos. I always check on for updated information and if possible I always get my visa before I leave. You never know when an office may be closed, you might have to wait for a long time and who knows what else. Imagine going all that way and not being able to enter the country?!


PASSPORT PHOTOS – First, I always carry extra passport photos with me when I travel and have often needed them. When I went hang-gliding in Rio de Janeiro I needed one for my hang-gliding card (even for one ride). In Ethiopia you need two (2) photos if you want to get a 3G SIM card in Addis Ababa for your phone. (3G is only available in Addis, fyi). It’s always good to carry extra photos.

In Toronto I get mine done with John at the address below. He’s super friendly and best of all he does a fantastic job for only $6.99 for 2 photos. It’s cash only and he’s open 7 days a week.

He is located at:

327B Spadina Rd #203



VACCINATIONS – One of your biggest expenses when travelling to Africa and some other countries are vaccinations. They are necessary to protect yourself from getting really ill or worse. Many countries in Africa will not let you in without your Yellow Fever certificate. I recommend not travelling to a destination if you cannot afford them. The best thing is that many are good for 5 years and Yellow Fever, for example, is good for 10 years. Think of it as an investment.

There is no one better in Toronto than Dr. Hii. He doesn’t give you anything that is not necessary. He sits you down and goes over each country your travelling to in detail and gives you tips you may not get elsewhere.

Dr. Hii – 372 Bay Street (Sterling Tower), Suite #401.

416.350.3555 or

An added bonus is that he has a special way of doing Hep B so that he can create immunity to it and will send you in for blood tests as well to make sure you are not wasting money if you already have the antibodies. A class act and I have gone to him for years.

For Ethiopia and Kenya we needed the following (luckily I had them all).

Yellow Fever – 10 years – $130

Typhoid – $40

Hep A – $60

Hep B – $40/dose. Typically only two are needed to create immunity.

Admin fees – range but typically about $80 for filing and consultation

DukOral – For traveller’s diarrhea. Definitely get it. $40/dose, 2 doses.


Malarone – Malaria pills. I had a friend from NYC with me when I was in Kenya in 1994 who almost died from malaria after not taking her pills properly. Definitely bring them if needed.

Dr. Hii goes over your itinerary and tells you how many you need. For example, you’re going to the required area for 5 days. You will take pills two days before arriving, one each day you’re there and a pill/day for the following seven days. A total of 14 pills. Most benefit plans cover them. If not they are expensive, 12 tabs is $75 without a plan.

Levaquin – If you get traveller’s diarrhea, even after taking DukOral you’ll want these pills to stop it. 3 pills is for one bout and is $22 without a plan.



Credit Cards – Forget AMEX in Ethiopia and Kenya. MasterCard doesn’t work here in Ethiopia either. I haven’t tried Visa but I wouldn’t count on something that requires a computer system to work. Also, remember that often you are charged to use your cc, 2.5% of the purchase price. Same with cash withdrawals.

Traveller’s Cheques – Typically I use these when I travel to countries where I’m unsure about credit cards but in Borneo I started to run into issues. Few banks changed them and good luck once you go out of a city. So..

Cash is king. I have never walked around with as much cash as I do here, $1000 USD at a time. I don’t like it but again, Ethiopia is safe, I haven’t had to worry and I am able to leave my bag with my driver when walking around the sites. I’m told my ATM card might work but, at only one bank and again will I find that bank in each town or city? Also, many banks in Africa and Asia require a 6-digit pin with ATM cards so ours do not work when this happens.

I was planning on using a money pouch and having it strapped to me at all times except when sleeping. But, I am on a private tour and I am able to leave my bag in the car with my driver so it’s ok. I also do not take it out in front of other people except my driver and guide) and often when buying a souvenir or paying an entrance fee they’ll pay for me and I pay them once I’m in the car. Keep in mind it is very safe in Ethiopia and in Kenya I will pay closer attention to it.

PHONE/INTERNET – I have had good, free wireless Internet in my room or hotel lobby in all hotels except in the mountains. You can travel with your iPad or laptop no problem.

When I travel I suspend my service with Rogers, take my SIM card out and get one in the country I am visiting. I then have a local # where people from home can reach me, I can make local calls and I can text home if need be.

3G/4G SIM cards – Safaricom. Very useful for GPS capabilities, phone calls and Internet access on my phone. SIMs are very cheap in Kenya.

SKYPE – Download it, use it for calls (normal or video), texts and in fact, use it when at home.

If you download it on your Blackberry/iPhone/Android and put a credit into your account you can make any call on your phone via Skype and escape Rogers’ daytime charges. Unsure about minutes. I HATE ROGERS, btw. Hate them, hate them, hate them.

To get your phone unlocked in Toronto go to:

Ming Wireless – – 416.979.8848

250 Dundas St. West

It’s $20 to unlock it versus $50 at the Eaton Centre. In fact they charged me just $35 for the unlocking, a faux leather cover and scratch guard for my Samsung Galaxy III, which I LOVE by the way.





&BEYOND – We highly recommend &Beyond and enjoyed their attention to detail, excellent service and food quality as well as their incredibly comfortable accommodations.

1) &BEYOND’s Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp  OR

Kichwa Tent - Basic but luxurious

Kichwa Tent – Basic but luxurious

2) Bateleur Camp – The Ultimate in Tented Luxury at Kichwa Tembo

Bateleur Bed - Kichwa Tembo

Bateleur Bed – Kichwa Tembo

Bateleur Washroom - Kichwa Tembo

Bateleur Washroom – Kichwa Tembo



COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT – Get in touch and visit with Africa Foundation who does fantastic work in the Masaai community, empowering communities and enabling conservation.  Contact: Julius Mokita – or at 254.73.462.6068


HOW TO GET THERE? I’d highly recommend not driving as we did. The drive from Nairobi is about 6.5 hours, however, four hours of the drive are on terrible roads and getting a flat tire is not fun!

Fly with Safari Link –

Fly with Air Kenya –



On a budget or are you interested in doing the safari on your own?

  • Ensure your rental car has 4×4 capabilities OR book roundtrip transfers through the hostels.
  • Find budget accommodations/camping and book them separately. A few I found were on Hostelworld or Hostelbookers and begin at about $40 USD/person/night. Approximately $80 USD/person/night with food. 
  • Keep in mind that you’ll need to pay additional park fees which are $80 PER PERSON, per day at most park gates or paid per night at your choice of accommodations.

Rhino Tourist Camp –

Enchoro Wildlife Camp –

African Budget Safaris –

Explorer Kenya –

Capital Safaris –


NOTE: Hire a guide to ensure the best experience. Inquire with your accommodations provider.


COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT – Get in touch and visit with Africa Foundation who does fantastic work in the Masaai community, empowering communities and enabling conservation.

Contact: Julius Mokita – or at 254.73.462.6068



Jundan Hotel –

We arrived late at night in Mombasa and needed something simple and cheap. This hotel is basic but has great value. Centrally located, WIFI and a huge complimentary breakfast. The best thing was that Mohammed, the owner, was very kind and even found us a secure place to park our LandCruiser overnight at a friend’s nearby hotel.

Funzi Keys Resort –

Funzi Keys is an exquisite resort located about an hour and a half’s drive from Mombasa. It is family run and self-sufficient with its own working fun. We had an unforgettable stay and I highly recommend staying here. Plus, Poopa, the family dog will forever have my heart.

Read my account here of our time at Funzi Keys. 

HOW TO GET THERE? Driving is easy from Mombasa if you have a car. The turn off sign to Funzi Key’s jetty could be better marked so look carefully. A private charter, flown by the Swiss owner is also an option and it’s an easy 15-minute flight from Mombasa.


Funzi Lodge

Funzi Lodge


Lamu House – Lamu House is undeniably one of my favourite hotels that I have been to in the world. It’s a big statement but it is gorgeous, quaint, and impeccably designed. Terraced rooms provide cool views over the narrow passageways of Lamu and the Lamu House Beach Club on the neighbouring Manda Island makes it the quintessential vacation. Lamu House arranged for us to assist in baby turtle hatching and the food at the restaurant is delicious.

“Lamu House is made up of two houses which have been restored and adapted for western-style living, while preserving all the charm of traditional Swahili architecture.”

HOW TO GET THERE? The best way is to fly from Malindi to Lamu Airport and Lamu House will pick you up. We chose to drive from Malindi which was an easy three-hour drive but it’s a route that is not always recommended for safety reasons.

Lamu House

Lamu House


Pulau Weh Booking Information – Dirty Details

Read here for our account of Pulau Weh diving Read here for our experience in Pulau Weh NOTE: The PDF guide to Pulau Weh (at the end of this document) is the most recent one we could find on the island, from 2008. Times and prices will have likely changed.   Indonesian Travel Visa – […]