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African Safari 2007



Note: Many of these comments contradict each other, so use your own judgement.

Bring as much U.S. dollars in cash as you feel comfortable carrying, and travelers checks.  There is only one ATM in Arusha and it’s often out of order. Prices for everything are negotiable. Try to find out what the fair price is for something and bargain hard. Also, while food is cheap, any sort of western goods are expensive – shampoo, sunscreen, toothbrush, etc are sometimes hard to come by. Books are available, but not a wide variety -– I’d recommend bringing whatever you need to read with you & trading with people on the road. Mosquito coils are about 1/10th of the price they cost here.

Typical costs in Tanzania (900tsh = $1, prices are for two people): water 600tsh, dinner 4000tsh, load of laundry 5000tsh.Tips are expected for each staff person on your trip. Expect to spend up to 10% of the total cost of your trip on this."I carried a visa card for backup and was able to easily get cash from ATM’s in Nairobi."

. Kenya only accepts US dollars and their Kenya Shillings. If taking US Dollars, the bigger the bill, the better the exchange rate. Apparently Kenya suspects counterfeiting on older bills so only take US bills 2000 or newer and they must be in excellent condition, no tears, rips, etc. I also took large denominations ($50's and$100's) in Traveler's Checks to cash at an exchange in Nairobi on the way through. The same thing applies here, the bigger the denomination the better the exchange rate. I took over 50 $1 bills for tipping and Internet fees and they came in really handy. If you pay Internet fees in local currency it's about 1/2 than if you paid in US Dollars. Needless to say I had my money belt on day and night that also held my passport and International Health card. I'm sure you can pay the kitty in local currency but if you have US Dollars why exchange? Tips can be paid in local currency or US Dollars. I would suggest stopping at the airport exchange on arrival to convert some of your cash to local currency. Most banks and some exchanges have strange operating hours." 

8/16- I just came back from Kenya. We tipped our guide a lot more than we planned to, he EARNED it. We took out Ksh at the airport, and wish we brought less US dollars and more Ksh. The exchange rate is not as good in US dollars if you're buying anything. At the ATM it's about 72 Ksh to the dollar and in the camps or places you might want to purchase souvenirs, it can be 65 to the dollar. At some places, like the East African Heritage shop at the Carnivore (pricey, but they are having a 50% sale on some things and I have to say they hadn't some of the nicest items I saw in Kenya) they take Visa and Mastercard for no fee. Also, I wish I brought more 50s and left the 1's at home (we had 100 1's and brought them ALL home).

I think I mentioned in an earlier thread that the ATM’s dispensed various size notes - wrong, sorry. We were only able to get 1000 shilling notes which turned out to be OK as it was small enough to get change when necessary, and since we mostly gave pooled tips to camp staff, 1000 shilling increments seemed to work well for that anyway. Exchanges rates were about 74 KES=$1 for ATM withdrawals, 72 KES=$1 at the airport exchange bureau, and 71-72 KES=$1 for credit card transactions depending on the card used. I didn’t check the camp exchange rates this time, but they’re generally less favorable than the above.

It is not possible to obtain Tanzanian Shillings outside the country, and it is illegal to export more than a small amount. Many items or services are priced and paid for in U.S.$, so do not convert more funds into the local currency than you need for incidental expenses.

Credit cards are accepted at an increasing number of establishments in Tanzania but by no means everywhere. It is not generally possible to obtain cash on a credit card in Tanzania, so it is recommended that visitors carry sufficient funds in the form of traveler’s checks.

7/28  For Kenya, most lodges and camps except for the smallest ones accept credit cards for payment of incidentals. I usually find that to be most convenient.

Otherwise, if paying in currency, bills are generally presented in Kenyan shillings. If you pay in USD, they'll convert the bill at a rate of their choosing so paying in USD is usually least favorable in terms of exchange rates. However, if the amounts are small and you don't care, don't worry about it.

You can obtain Kenyan shillings at Nairobi airport at one of the exchange bureaus or ATM or at an exchange bureau or ATM in town.

I tip lodge/camp staff in shillings and use shillings for small souvenir purchases but no one will refuse your USD. In Nairobi, use shillings or credit cards.

I think travelers checks may be more of a pain than they're worth. I've only used TCs to pay for my safari balance on arrival but not for anything else. But you can certainly bring TCs as an emergency back up if you feel more comfortable doing so.
Even if bills presented in KSh, the rate of exchange amounts to very little unless, of course, you have a very very large bill, or bending those elbows till very late in the evening. Current exchange is approx. USd$1/70Ksh.What always got me in Tanzania was that if I tried to pay with dollars and prices were in Shillings, they would tell me the conversion rate was 1000 Tsh to the dollar. If they listed prices in dollars, and I tried to pay with Shillings, they would say their conversion rate was 1200 Tsh to the dollar.

In retrospect, I would have picked up more shillings than I did so that I could pay in either currency depending on the exchange rate being used.

Btw, only used my credit card a few times where there was no surcharge. Didn't find anyplace to cash travelers checks except in Arusha. Did everything by cash, basically.

"I just returned from 17 days in Kenya and Tanzania and in Kenya the only reliable place to get money from an ATM was Nairobi".

You will find a Bureau de Change in Nairobi (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) - International DEPARTURE Hall.

"We spent 9 weeks travelling around Kenya and Tanzania from August-October this year and found that ATMs for Visa really only worked in major places e.g. Nairobi, Zanzibar. There were no ATM facilities in smaller towns .

"ATM are everywhere in Kenya you can see the ATM locator on

We used the ATM at the Barclays’ bank in Arusha, kENYA. Very easy to use and received good exchange rates.

Please be advised that there may be a surcharge for credit card use. In addition, keep in mind that when using a credit card, the charge appearing on your monthly statement is not necessarily calculated at the exchange rate that was in effect on the day that you actually made the purchase. Only authorized dealers are allowed to exchange currency but most city hotels have foreign exchange desks or banks where money can be changed.

Some banks have ATM machines where visitors can use their International Credit Cards to obtain local currency. There is normally no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that may be imported. Please retain about USD 150.00 (cash) per person for visas and airport departure taxes. US$10 and US$20 bills are recommended for this purpose. Changing bills of higher denominations may not be possible. Tips may be paid in US dollars or local currency "

Many establishments accept international credit cards and we recommend using credit cards as a method of payment wherever possible as the exchange rate is often favorable; however, do not rely on this method of payment outside of the cities. Please be advised that there may be a surcharge for credit card use. In addition, keep in mind that when using a credit card, the charge appearing on your monthly statement is not necessarily calculated at the exchange rate that was in effect on the day that you actually made the purchase. Only authorized dealers are allowed to exchange currency but most city hotels have foreign exchange desks or banks where money can be changed.

Also forgot to mention that we didn't start out with a large amount of small USD bills but rather used ATM's to retrieve KES and tipped in KES. Whenever we checked in at a lodge or camp, we would ask reception to break a larger bill into smaller notes for us for tipping. Except for the tip to our driver/guide and paying for our visas, we almost never used USD, never converted any, and came home with the rest of what we took. It just seemed easier to us to do it this way.


We took TC's both in 100 and 500 nominations. It was always an issue cashing even the smaller TC. Constant querying the receipts, constant double-checking and multiple countersigning as they were never happy with the signatures.

"Take u.s. dollars...take lots of 1's...I just got back, didn’t use anything but u.s. currency...didn’t take checks of any problems at all...I bought a few $3 each...blankets around $8-10...

"Take $1000 US in bills in a money belt. Take out what you need each day before going out. Credit card yes (2) although I’ve never had one break on me.

Drinks are NOT INCLUDED!!!! You may get two bottles of water in each room (in hotels), but by the time you brush your teeth, and wash down that malaria pill, you still buy more @ 1.50 small (usually warm), or @ 3.00 large (usually cold). Keep this in mind.

The date thing has more to do with the fact that currencies in many African countries loose value rather quickly... locals, therefore, feel this is the case with USD. We know that isn't so... though we are quite aware the purchase value at home has decreased.
So the recommendation that the bills be dated within the past few years. Also, these bills should be with the newer faces (except the $1s) and the tri-color ($20s). Should be relatively new (not necessarily freshly printed); no tears, creases, scotch tape, washed in your jeans.Easy enough to have your bank replace the older bills for more current dates. The bills should not have rips OR folds in them.

You will need cash for tips. We tipped our guide $15 per person per day, plus a bonus of all our left over African money (about another $50) because he was great. Also used cash for the camp staff tip boxes. Everywhere we stayed accepted VISA. Two of our camps included everything including all drinks and laundry. The others accepted VISA for bar bill, laundry, souvenirs, etc. We also used the VISA at the larger shops and airport. Only place we needed cash was at small shops and for minor tips here and there.

Typical costs in Tanzania 900tsh = $1.

Prices are for two people: water 600tsh, dinner 4000tsh, load of laundry 5000tsh.

Tips are expected for each staff person on your trip. Expect to spend up to 10% of the total cost of your trip on this.

The information I have used suggests a guide tip of $10 to $20 per person per day for a private safari and a $5 guide tip per person per day for a group safari, when sharing your vehicle with others.

Traveler's checks:

Some banks do have a limit on how much you can change in 24 hours, the bureau de change give a poorer rate for travelers checks and some companies also change a % when accepting them as payment because the banks here change when we put them into our accounts.

Traveler’s checks--I had my problems in changing them in Tanzania and Zanzibar, only few banks accepted them and saw the same in Madagascar. The point is that you have to lose time looking for the right bank each time... While taking cash in advance from the credit card was always easy... ...even if not cheap.

If I were you, don't bring TCs; they're a pain in the butt to find someone to change them.

I used my traveler’s checks in Arusha to pay for a safari and it wasn't a problem and I wasn't even charged a fee. (I.e. my $100 check was accepted as $100 payment; whereas when exchanging them at a bank, you get something like $97 worth of local money).

If you're exchanging USD, the camps and lodges give horrible exchange rates. Probably better to use one of the exchange bureaus at the airport or elsewhere