Flying is the only straightforward way of getting to Kenya, unless you’re travelling overland from southern Africa. Flights to Kenya are generally most expensive from late June to mid-August, and from mid-December to mid-January.
Cheaper tickets generally have fixed dates that you won’t be able to change without paying an extra fee. Some airlines offer various restricted eligibility fares for students and under-26s which may be cheaper and more flexible than ordinary adult fares.
Charter flights to Mombasa, available from Britain and Europe, are often cheaper than scheduled flights, but there’s usually a maximum stay in Kenya of two to four weeks.
Make reservations as far in advance as possible, especially if you want to travel in high season, as flights frequently fill up.
An inclusive package trip can make a lot of sense. Some packages, based around Mombasa charter flights and mid-range coast hotels, are relatively inexpensive and, if you choose carefully, you shouldn’t feel too constrained. Based on your flight, plus a week of half-board accommodation (dinner, bed and breakfast) they cost from around £800 from the UK. Beach hotels vary greatly in price, atmosphere and amenities, so choose carefully. It’s worth remembering that you aren’t obliged to stay at your hotel all the time: you could use it as a base to make independent trips around the country.
Adding some safari travel to a beach package holiday will increase the price by at least £200 per person per day of safari. If you have more time and flexibility, book a safari in Kenya.
Flights from the UK and Ireland
London Heathrow is the only British airport with direct flights to Nairobi, operated by Kenya Airways (wkenya-airways.com) and British Airways (wba.com), and taking around nine hours. Fares for flights on fixed dates start from under £500 return in low season and rise to above £1000 on key dates in high season. It may well be cheaper to take an indirect flight, changing planes in the airline’s hub city in Europe or the Middle East.
There are also several charter operators with whom you can sometimes get “seat-only” deals to Mombasa, out of London (and sometimes one or two UK regional airports) from around £500. Any online or high-street agent can give you a quote.
Flying from Ireland, your easiest bet is to fly to Heathrow, connecting there for a BA or Kenya Airways flight. Flights should cost between €650 and €1300, depending on the season.
Flights from the US and Canada
There are still no direct flights from the US or Canada to East Africa. The fastest routes to Nairobi are usually two non-stop legs via London on British Airways (wba.com), or Amsterdam on KLM (wklm.com) and Kenya Airways (wkenya-airways.com). Other possible connections are available with European and Middle Eastern airlines. Fares start from around $1300 for a low-season round-trip ticket out of New York, and from $2000 in high season.
West-coast travellers might want to consider Korean Air’s new route to Nairobi (wkoreanair.com), though there’s an all-day layover in Seoul between flights. It’s the only via-Asia option.
Flights via Europe, Africa and the Middle East
Airlines that fly from New York and London and connect to Nairobi – though layovers may be inconvenient – include Brussels Airlines (wbrusselsairlines.com), Egyptair (wegyptair.com.eg), Emirates (wemirates.com), Ethiopian Airlines (wethiopianairlines.com), Etihad (wetihadairways.com), KLM (wklm.com), Saudia (wsaudiairlines.com), Lufthansa (wlufthansa.com), Qatar Airways (wqatarairways.com), Swiss (wswiss.com) and Turkish Airlines (wturkishairlines.com).
Scheduled flights to Mombasa include Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines (wethiopianairlines.com), Brussels Airlines and Qatar Airways, connecting in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Brussels and Doha respectively.
Flights from Australia and New Zealand
There are no direct flights to Kenya from Australia or New Zealand. From Australia, South African Airways (wflysaa.com) has some good connections to Nairobi via Johannesburg, while Emirates (wemirates.com) also offers decent connections and fares. From New Zealand, Emirates via Dubai is your most obvious bet, but Air New Zealand (wairnewzealand.co.nz) and Qantas (wqantas.com) can get you to Kenya in combination with other airlines, such as South African from Johannesburg. Another option, with a potential bonus stopover, is Australia or New Zealand to Mauritius, followed by a direct flight to Nairobi, all on Air Mauritius (wairmauritius.com).
Except for the Christmas period, when you will have to pay more, fares to Kenya from Australia and New Zealand are generally not seasonal. The lowest-priced return tickets bought from a discount agent or direct from the airline cost around Aus$2000–3500 from Australia or NZ$2400–4000 from New Zealand.
Flights from South Africa
Overlanding to Kenya
With plenty of time and a sense of adventure, travelling overland can be a rewarding way of getting to Kenya. Central African conflicts have effectively closed routes from West Africa for the time being, and while adventurous self-drive overlanders are heading to Kenya from Egypt, taking a boat from Aswan to Wadi Halfa in Sudan, crossing into Ethiopia at Metema and entering Kenya at Moyale or at the northern end of Lake Turkana, this route is not an easy one.
Currently the only advisable route is from southern Africa. You can drive by various routes, take the train up through Zambia and Tanzania, go overland by local transport, or hook up with any number of overland operators from Cape Town to Nairobi. Scrutinizing their websites gives an indication of their preparedness and know-how; if the blurb looks cheap or hasty, you should probably give them a wide berth.
Most of the recommended operators offer five- to ten-week Nairobi–Cape Town trips, which are usually possible in the other direction too. Prices vary widely: for a six- to ten-week Cape Town–Nairobi trip, taking in Namibia, Victoria Falls, Uganda and other highlights, you’re looking at anything from $50–100/day, including the local kitty. As usual, you tend to get what you pay for.