Traveling the world with little to no money sounds like an impossible dream. But it is possible, and you can do it responsibly without breaking the bank. Some expenses you shouldn’t compromise on, but there are tons of ways you can travel on a budget.
When it comes to African countries it always seems like your money can go further as it is cheaper to travel there. For Kenya, that could be a misleading fact a lot of people have. Kenya is an expensive country to visit as a tourist. The gap between what locals earn and what you spend as a tourist is also very large.
Having said that, it is certainly possible to travel through Kenya on a small budget. Public transport is cheap, food and especially fresh fruit are affordable and accommodations do not have to be expensive.
For us…Kenya turned out be more on the expensive side. Partly because we planned our entire trip in 4 days, partly because we used an agency to relief us of the stress and partly because we wanted specific experiences.
We booked our Kenya tour with Msanii Africa Safari, Kenya’s leading tour group. We spoke to Titus, the tour agent, during the 4 days of planning and he also ended up being our driver for the Nairobi parts of our trip.
We stayed in Kenya for 11 Days and 10 Nights and we paid around $3056 for two people. This included our accommodation which offered breakfast, lunch and dinner for most days (i think only 1 or 2 days did not have dinner included). It also included all our entrance fees at the various places we went – Masai Mara Reserve, Karen Blixen Museum, Nairobi National Museum, Giraffe Center and Masai Village tour. The price also included our train ride from Nairobi to Mombasa and our flight back from Mombasa to Nairobi, having a personal driver for our entire trip, guides in Nairobi and Massai Mara.
This didn’t, however, include our flights from the USA or our COVID tests.
You are able to travel for less of course, but then again, you can also travel for more – it all depends on your budget, what you are willing to pay for and what you want to do yourself.
Surrounded by the breathtaking Indian Ocean, soft white sands, lush greenery and the striking shades of turquoise blue that emerges from its clear warm waters, Diani is one of Kenya’s most relaxing beaches. It is the perfect place to get away from the stress of everyday life or to relax before and after an exhilarating safari. With its 17 kilometers of beautiful, flawless, soft white sand, Diani Beach has been awarded the best beach destination in Africa for 5 years running. Diani also boasts some amazing resorts right on the beaches. We stayed at the all-inclusive Diani Sea Resort which is located in Mombasa Beach surround by crystal clear waters and sprawling coconut trees.
When we arrived we were welcomed with a nice refreshing non-alcoholic drink and cold towels. We got to sit back and relax while a staff member initiated the incredibly smooth check-in process for us. Once we were checked in, we were escorted to our room by another staff member who took our luggage to our room. As we walked to the room, we passed the pool area and restaurants, towards the ocean, which is a spectacular view in itself.
After arriving in our room we are shown where everything was located and how it worked before being left to unwind and enjoy the beautiful scenery from our balcony. As we traveled during a pandemic, the thing that we liked a lot about our first introduction to this amazing resort is the fact that they gave each of their guests a face mask. We absolutely loved this and used it often during our stay there.
The resort is also all inclusive, which takes a lot of stress out of your stay. You don’t have to calculate how much things cost, worry what your bill would be at the end of your stay, make financial choices when you are having dinner and can order any cocktail while relaxing next to the pool or beach. We were often greeted by waiters who would take our orders and bring our drinks or food right to us as we enjoyed the African sun and calm refreshing waters. It’s a lifestyle we have become accustomed to during many of our travels.
Each night there is a small buffet dinner with some good choices and they would also have some kind of traditional show for us to enjoy and even offer some activities during the day for the whole family. Their pool was as amazing as the beach, with 3 parts and its own little water slide. We got to look at the monkeys jumping from tree to tree as we were enjoying the pool. Of course, there are staff members with sling shots to make sure the monkeys don’t disturb your relaxation or steal your things.
If walking around or getting out of the resort is more the speed you are looking for, there is a small local market with food and souvenirs within walking distance from the hotel. You can also get a mini tukt-tuk taxi to take you further into town – but be sure to negotiate a price before getting in. With an all inclusive resort, after doing some great safaris and being on some difficult gravel roads, you probably would just want to relax and soak up all the goodness this resort has to offer.
If you’re looking for an authentic African experience, Kenya is an incredible destination. Whether you’re looking to go on a safari or the ultimate beach holiday it’s a country full of diverse landscapes and cultures. There are, however, a few things you need to keep in mind when you visit this East African country.
- If you are going to take the train from Nairobi to anywhere in Kenya, it is highly advised to book your tickets in advance as they sell out quickly.
We took the train from Nairobi to Mombasa and we almost did not get a ticket as we planned our trip in a vey short time. The train is a vey popular mode of transportation to locals between cities, so it is only natural that it would be busy. The trains are well maintained and comfortable to ride, but don’t wait till the last minute to get a ticket.
- If you are going during the pandemic, you can have your COVID test done in your hotel room before heading to your next destination
This was something that Titus from Msanii Africa Safaris helped organize for us. The nurses will come to you which is extremely convenient. What makes this even more convenient is that your results are being expedited and you can get it in less that 12 hours. (not guaranteed but we did) Of course, the charges (about $100USD per person) are a bit more than going to the hospital but the convenience of not having to sit in line at a hospital and getting fast results is worth it.
- For Massi Mara definitely bring a scarf or something to protect you from the flies.
There are thousands of annoying pestering flies on the game drive. They will not leave you alone and it can sometimes become quite infuriating, especially as they keep buzzing around your head and ears. Make sure you have a good fly repellent you can use on your face and ears, or alternatively wrap a scarf around your head to cover your ears, in particular if you should stop and get out of the car at the Mara River to see the Hippos and crocodiles.
- We weren’t big fans of Karen Blixen, so we’d say skip that!
As part of our tour we made a stop at the Karen Blixen. We found the tour a bit overpriced and disappointing. It pretty much just shows the house and a little about the life of Karen Blixen, and that’s pretty much it. The house is quite small and the tour can last around 15-20min. We didn’t love this Museum, but the grounds are beautiful.
We had a short intro talk from your guide before entering the house for the tour. Essentially it is some more background and information from the guide. We had a bit of a hard time understanding why she (Karen) is such an important figure in Kenya as she did not do much for Kenya as a whole, (unlike Joy Adamson) but only focussed on the people who used to work for her. (Just our personal opinion)
Some people might recommend that you see the movie “Out of Africa” before visiting then you might find it interesting, Anlia saw the movie and Dana did not, but our individual feelings surrounding this museum was no different from each other. We wouldn’t waste time or money on it if we had the choice to do it again.
- Also beware that people will try to sell you things while on the beach- Just say “no thank you” and keep it moving.
While enjoying some relaxing time at the beach is a must for Kenya and their beaches are beautiful with white sands and lovely waters, it can get a bit unnerving being approached by locals constantly trying to sell you something – from a boat trip, to a souvenir or a fish to an octopus they will slam on the ground till it is dead to fry it up for you right there. (We saw a lady buy one and watched in horror)
Of course staying at the resort and just staying off the beach is one way to avoid this, but if you’re there getting into the water at least once is a must, so don’t let that deter you from enjoying your beach holiday.
There’s nothing we love more than a self-care during our travels. Self-care is our opportunity to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. We are big on making sure we don’t forget about ourselves, no matter how long or short our trip maybe.
We enjoy the usual Spa day or even booking into a nice hotel ever so often. Self-care while traveling can be difficult sometimes, but even a small thing can help sooth the soul. Sunrises and Sunsets are always a good way for us to take a moment of a busy travel day to take a deep breath and unwind.
But there are also other ways to self-care and destress your life. In Kenya, we decided to use a travel agency and hire a driver to show us around which definitely took the stress out of the trip. We didn’t have to remember which side of the road to drive on, or what the road rules are or even sit and be stressed in the time we got stuck in traffic. We were able to enjoy the scenery, take a lot of pictures, even in the midst of something that would otherwise drive your stress levels through the roof.
For Kenya we would definitely recommend paying that little extra and take the stress of driving out of your travels. Even on the long road to and from Massai Mara Reserve it made a huge difference. There are so many beautiful sights to see and you sure don’t want to miss anything on your visit there.
Contact Masaii Africa Safaris to help you plan your stress free travels through Kenya. firstname.lastname@example.org
Kenya was not on our list of countries to visit originally. But we are sure glad that life (and COVID) took us there. So how did we end up in Kenya, you ask?
After finishing in China and deciding to take a year and half off to travel, things got a bit difficult as the world started shutting down because of a global pandemic. We were able to head to the USA, because Dana is American and we are married. (Unfortunately, South Africa did not offer the same courtesy to non South African spouses). We did, however, have a deep need to head to South Africa at the time as Anlia needed to be home after her dad passed away in March.
As South Africa did not allow anyone to travel straight from the USA at the time, but did allow Americans who have been in a low risk country for 10 days or more to enter. On top of that, Anlia only had 1 page left in her passport, which meant we had our work cut out for us.
We had to find a country that would allow Americans to enter; a country where South Africans wouldn’t need a visa and a country that is low risk enough that things wouldn’t change in the time we were there. I got to say, a lot of research was done and a lot of lists were made. That is how Kenya made it onto our radar – and so we went.
As soon as we decided to go, we got our flights, planned with an amazing tour company, Msanii Africa Safaris, got our COVID tests. packed our bags and left – all in a span of 4 days!
We had an incredible time in Kenya, everything from the game drive in the Massai Mara to kissing the giraffes at the Giraffe Centre to relaxing at the all-inclusive Diani Sea resort in Mombasa Beach.
We also felt lucky to have found Msanii Africa Safaris. Titus, our main contact, was extremely patient with all our questions and concerns and took the time make sure everything was organized and ready for our arrival in such a short time. I would recommend him and his team to anyone who wants to take some of the stress and struggle out of an African trip. He even organized private hotel COVID tests for us by having two nurses come to our hotel rather than us sitting in a line at a hospital. We also ended up making a friend in him!
As we departed the capital heading to Masa Mara for our safari, we had a stopover if the magical “Great Rift Valley.” The view was absolutely spectacular, with some locals pointing out what we were looking at and where we were headed. We were also lucky to see some monkeys and dassies (rock hyrax) roaming around and playing in the trees.
We explored the famous Massai Mara Reserve and saw some incredible animals, including millions of Zebras, buffalos, warthogs, giraffes and hyenas. We also saw a lot of lions and elephants, where we had an interesting encounter with both.
We got stuck between two packs of lions as they were resting and we had to have our van pulled out of the ditch. This was especially nerve wrecking as our driver had to get out of the van to hook the rope on the 4×4 who had to help pull us out. We had to be on the lookout and notify him every time a lion moved. He had to get out twice as the rope broke on the first try.
During the elephant spotting, our driver drove to help another van that got stuck (without much success), and there we were surrounded by a ton of elephants, one who wanted us to know we were in his territory, so he started charging in our direction. Luckily he stopped well before he got to us – but we eventually left when 4 big 4×4 trucks came to help out.
Additionally, we visited the Massai Village and experienced their way of life. We were taken around by the chief and Dana got to wear the lion head that he killed to become the chief. (Yes, the head of a dead lion on Dana’s head). We were also welcomed with some traditional dancing and as it’s usually done by men, Dana got to join in their dance and also learned how to make a fire with sticks. Anlia was pretty much just the photographer at this village.
We were also welcomed into the chief’s hut to see how they live. One thing that we did notice about this village is they have become quite commercialized and they will try to sell things at crazy high prices. Afterwards, we heard about stories where the driver of your van would take you to very specific villages where he would get a cut out of whatever they sell – something to be aware of when going. At least they are not pushy when you tell them no – so we ended up not buying anything there.
Getting to and from the Massai Mara Reserve calls for a long gravel road which makes you work extra hard to stay on your seat – in Kenya they call it the “African massage”. Although, you might not be as relaxed after this trip as you would be after spending some time at a spa.
Back in the capital we got to experience some Kenyan city life while being stuck in traffic for a while with lots of honking. This kept us occupied on our trip to the Nairobi National Museum. Even though neither of us are big museum people, we actually enjoyed this guided tour of the rich and fascinating history of Kenya. The centerpiece in the Hall of Kenya consists of hundreds of calabashes, celebrating the rich heritage of all communities in Kenya. It also showcases a lot of old traditional instruments and weapons.
The Museum also has the Joy Adamson gallery. She was an illustrator, conservationist and author. She is known for her contribution to the conservation of Kenya’s natural and cultural heritage. Much of her work is immortalized in the museum, which has been pivotal in preserving the diversity and richness of Kenya’s people and nature. This was an amazing part of the museum and give you a rich understanding of the different tribes in Kenya.
And then, probably our favorite part, we had a fantastic time feeding the giraffes at the Giraffe Centre. This was such a great experience where you can see the gentle souls of giraffes. We even got to kiss these gentle giants.
The final leg of our trip took us to Diani beach and the Kenyan beaches are amazing. We decided to take a train down to experience some local life. The train took about 5 hours and we got to see some amazing scenery and more animals. It was like being on another game drive. We saw some cute kids, got to listen to some locals belt out there favorite songs and we played a lot of card games. Luckily we decided to take the train one way and fly back, I don’t think either one of us would have made 10 hours total on that train.
When in Diani we stayed at the Diani Sea Resort, which is a post for another day. (wink wink)
The flight back was a whole new and fun experience. The hotel took us to the airport which was about 10 minutes away, and the airport consisted of a building small enough to be a two bedroom apartment and a tiny runway. What made things even more interesting is the fact that there was a soccer or rugby game going on right next to the runway with a lot of spectators. We wonder if there has been situations where the ball got kicked into the plane.
Who knew that a spur of the moment trip could be one of the best and most exciting trips you can make and establish some great friends on the way.
Taking care of yourself is such an important activity. And staying well during your travels is also very important. We always try to take some time out of our busy travel schedule to focus on our wellness. This can range from an extensive spa day to just enjoying a sunset on the beach.
Myanmar was no different. Even with our jam-packed itinerary, we still took the time to take care of ourselves and focus on our own well-being.
We really enjoyed sitting on the restaurant’s deck and watching the boats ride by at sundown with a refreshing drink. This is not only an inexpensive activity, but also put our souls at rest. This is the part of the trip that made Anlia fall completely in love with Myanmar and as she puts it ‘soothed her soul’. Make sure to wear insect repellant if this is something you would also enjoy doing.
Another self-care option, is to try the tradition thanaka. Today in Myanmar, this ancient human impulse for self-beautification remains on bold display everywhere. People of all backgrounds wear a pale yellow paste made from pulverized tree bark that is painted onto their faces, which is called thanaka. Even though it is mostly used by the woman, it can also be used by men and children.
Never forget to take care of yourself, even during your travels.
Accommodation can play a very important part in the enjoyment of your trip. We always try to find gems that are budget to mid prices with a luxury feel. There are times that we will splurge a bit and then try to make the most out of our stay.
When we were in Yangon we decided to do the splurge as it was Dana’s birthday trip so we stayed at The Strand Yangon.
The Strand Yangon is an exceptional hotel. They truly live up to their motto: “ Past meets Present”. We were greeted by our personal butler and escorted to our room where everything was explained to us. Each room comes with a butler and the al a carte breakfast is superb. You can order whatever you want off the menu and it is freshly prepared. The wait staff is extremely kind and professional. We highly recommend staying here if you can swing it.
When traveling to a new country there is always things to take into consideration. Sometimes we expect things to be the same as it would be in our own country, but more often than not we’ve found that there are unplanned surprises and hiccups. We are always keen on asking people for tips and tricks of countries we want to travel to, and even then we still learn some things on the way. Here are some travel tips to take in mind when heading off to Myanmar:
- Make sure to bring cash as ATMs and card machines are limited.
Using cash is the ideal way to pay for things in Myanmar. We found some places would not accept cards at all, or the internet connection is very weak which makes the machines not work properly. We found the latter to be especially true in Inle Lake.
- Make sure to bring sunscreen when going to Inle Lake. You take a motorboat to your hotel and it can be very hot.
To get to Inle Lake you have to take a small boat. These boats are simple motorboats with no shading. It can take up to an hour to get to the area you’re staying at with some spectacular views on the way. The sun could get really hot and could take its toll on you. Make sure you have some covering that would not blow away, but most importantly put on some sunscreen to protect yourself and enjoy the journey fully.
- Boats will stop running at dusk so make sure you organize your trip accordingly.
At Inle Lake there is a curfew for boats, as they are not allowed to be out and about after dark. So if you’re planning to head there (which is highly recommended) make sure you plan your trip to or from your accommodation during daylight times.
- Hot air balloons in Bagan are from October to April.
Unfortunately, we missed the hot air balloon rides in Bagan because of being there ‘out of season’. We actually left Bagan the day before they started back with the Hot Air Balloons. So if this is something that is a must for your travels, make sure to go between October and April, so you don’t run into disappointment.
These are just a few things we learned on our travels there. Do leave a comment if you have more tips on traveling to this amazing country.