Kenya Pack List with Notes
Clothing: Will wear business casual each day. So pack at least three sets, but plan to handwash. Do not pack 14 sets -- your luggage will be too large!
Women dress guidelines: Preferred attire for schools, clinics, orphanages, universities: below knee skirts, tops with short sleeves (either blouses or tees), no cleavage. Slacks are also ok, as long as they are not too tight. Floaty, gathered skirts as found at Old Navy and lots of other places are practical and modest. Swimsuit for Thiiri pool should be one piece. For Thiiri, there are often community meetings and people around, so relatively modest shorts are preferred, even when you're "off duty" -- mid-thigh length or longer.
Men dress guidelines: Preferred attire for schools, clinics, orphanages, universities: khaki style pants or slacks and short sleeved, collared shirts. Polo or golf type shirts are fine. Closed toed shoes. Tennis shoes are ok, especially if that's what you have. Don't need to buy dress shoes just for Kenya. Tshirts and shorts fine for Thiiri. Shorts-style swimsuits, no Speedos.
Laundry: Kenyan staff and village ladies will do laundry for approximately 80 Kenyan shillings per item (slightly less than $1 per item). Using the local laundresses is a service to you and an income opportunity for them. The clothes are handwashed, line-dried, and folded, so they may appear a little wrinkled after washing. Or you can handwash your clothes in your room sink, and hang dry. You will need to wash your own underwear -- not culturally acceptable to have others wash underwear.
Kenyan Visa: All US Travelers to Kenya must obtain a visa. This must be done in advance of departure to Kenya. The cost is $50, and here is the link to apply online at the Kenyan Embassy. Our experience is that online visas are approved in less than a week, but we suggest you allow more time just to be safe.
Light jacket or fleece: Evenings are cool. Raingear recommended if traveling during rainy seasons of Oct - Dec or April - June
Cash for miscellaneous purchases: ATMs are available in Meru and Nairobi to dispense Kenya shillings using a credit card. The currency exchange rate is usually best through the ATMS, rather than the airport exchange counters. There is no need to get Kenya shillings in advance of the trip. You may want to bring some US dollars (less than $100) for travel purposes. Amsterdam and Nairobi airport vendors accept credit cards also.
Camera: Do not take pictures of Kenyan people without permission. BLISS and elementary students are fine with having their pictures taken. Do not take pictures of people in markets, towns, or on the road without permission.
Contact solutions and case(s): If you use contacts, you must bring all supplies. None are available for purchase in Meru.
Sunscreen: Bring some. The Meru area is right on the equator. The sun beats straight down at mid-day. Be careful.
Mosquito repellant: There are more mosquitos in Michigan than Meru. Malaria-bearing mosquitos at the 5000 foot elevation of Meru are rare. Mosquito repellant is recommended while on safari.
Prescription medications: Keep them in the original packaging with your name on the prescription label. Bring them in your carry-on luggage.
Over the counter medications or first aid supplies: Most products are available in Meru, though we have not found Benadryl (dipenhydramine). Consider bringing immodium, pepto-bismol tablets, and gatorade packets for gastrointestinal care.
Hat for sun: If you prefer to use hat, you do not need to look like a safari traveler. Take a few University of Michigan caps, then give them to people as presents when you leave.
Travel alarm: Cell phones usually work as alarms
Small flashlight and batteries
Large garbage bagsFor dirty clothes, shoes, etc.
Large ziplog bags: Useful for carrying items such as a camera in dusty conditions
Liquid travel soap (eg. Campsuds) or small laundry detergent packets
Flipflop style shower sandals
Voltage and plug adapters: Voltage in Kenya is 240 volts compared to 120 volts in the US. Most current electronic equipment chargers for cell phones, tablets, laptops, and projectors handle both voltages. Check the charger’s fine print for: “Input: AC 100-240V” – if it just says “120V”, it will not work in Kenya, and in fact it will burn out if you plug it in there. Kenya uses type G plugs. You can buy simple Type G plug adapters on Amazon for <$10 that do not change the voltage but just the prong locations so US-style plugs can be plugged in.
Hair dryer, electric shavers: Buy them at the Nakumatt (department store) in Meru. For appliances like hair dryers, electric shavers, or older electronics, we recommend purchasing the 240V equivalent in Meru. Otherwise, to use a 120V US appliance, you'll need a voltage converter which are expensive, heavy, and prone to failure if the device uses too much current.
Passport and a photocopy of your passport: Keep your passport and the copy of your passport in separate baggage/bags in case one is lost.
Yellow immunization card: Provided by your travel clinic to record vaccinations. Not usually requested at the Nairobi airport, but bring it anyway.
Snacks: Sweet and salty snacks are available for purchase at Nakumatt in Meru. Pack a few snacks for the travel times.
Empty water bottle: Will refill from large bottled water containers at Thiiri. If you're particular about water taste, there are water bottles with built-in charcoal filters available at camping/outdoors stores in US.
Bath towel: Thiiri towels are smallish and thin. May want to pack a larger one.
Hand towel: Thiiri provides one towel per person to serve as hand and bath towel. So bring extra if you like.
Swimsuit and large tshirt or coverup: One piece for women. Shorts style for men, not speedos.
Closed toe, sturdy shoes: Walking to schools involves dusty, rocky paths. Not wilderness hiking, but sturdy shoes will be useful.
Sandals or flip flops: To wear around Thiiri during relaxation time.
Small backpack, drawstring bag or tote: For carrying water bottle, notebook, other misc stuff on day trips to schools
Toiletries: Nakumatt in Meru has shampoo, lotions, etc. so you don't have to pack large bottles unless you really want particular brands
Gifts for our hosts and schools: The team brings several bins of school supplies, sporting equipment, tshirts, hats and other gifts.