After planning and booking numerous safaris in Kenya, I’ve learned some lessons the hard way. I’m happy to share those lessons with you so that if you get the chance to go on safari, you’ll have a smooth and affordable trip.
Cash is king.
In the U.S., where credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, I tend to use my credit card to make big purchases. Credit cards are not nearly as accepted in Kenya, which makes safari-purchasing difficult. If you DO find a company that accepts credit cards, you usually have to pay a 3-4 percent fee and jump through several hoops, like going out to the safari provider’s office or meeting a random safari employee in a coffee shop to complete the transaction. Paying with cash is good, except that safaris are expensive, and it’s sometimes difficult to get that much cash on hand. Make sure you plan ahead and know what methods of payments are acceptable for your safari company. We’ve also done money transfers (comes with a hefty fee) and used MPesa (a Kenyan mobile banking system that works through your phone). All of it’s a hassle, so just be prepared.
Everything is negotiable.
The more we do in Kenya, the more we realize that almost everything is negotiable, including safaris. We’ve gotten 20 percent discounts just by asking if it’s possible to get a discount, or by name dropping a friend who has used the company before. That being said, our requests have also been turned down, so if you do ask for a discount and you’re refused, be polite and don’t feel bad. You’re probably not getting ripped off, that’s probably just how much it costs.
You get what you pay for.
We’ve only been on one cheap safari, and it was alright, but it wasn’t awesome. We stayed at a crappy little hotel (the one that came with used flip flops for use in the shower) and ate terrible food. Cheap safaris can be much, much worse though, as a friend discovered. She was brought into an unsafe situation and had to call off the trip before she had even reached the game park because things were getting so dicey. Safaris are expensive, and that’s ok. The really expensive ones tend to be fabulous, and I don’t think it’s worth coming all the way to Kenya and going on a safari if you can only afford to go budget.
Know what’s included.
Different companies include different things in their quotes, so make sure you get all the details from each company before you book. It will make it easier to compare total costs. Here’s a generic inquiry letter that we send to companies when we are looking to book a trip.
I am writing to ask for details on pricing for a 2 day, 1 night safari to Amboseli for the dates of XXXXXXXX. Please include the following in your quote:
- Transport details to and from Amboseli?
- Name of all lodging arrangements?
- Type of vehicle used for game drives?
- Number of persons estimated to be on the trip?
- Do you guarantee window seats?
- What is the experience level of guides that you use?
- How many game drives are included?
- Are food, beverages, and park fees included in your quote?
Look forward to hearing from you.