Background Information

The Republic of Kenya lies across the equator in East Africa, on the coast of the Indian Ocean. It is bordered to the south by Tanzania, west by Uganda, north-west by Sudan, north by Ethiopia and the east by Somalia.

Population: The most recent estimate of Kenya's population is 46,050,000 (WHO, 2015). The average life expectancy at birth for males is 61 years and 66 years for females (WHO, 2015). About 43% of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day (UNICEF, 2007-2011). More information about the population of Kenya can be found on the WHO website. The population density of Kenya is approximately 85 people per square kilometer (World Bank, 2016), The population density of the UK is approximately 271 people per square kilometer. 

Currency: The Kenyan Shilling is the official currency of Kenya. This is the preferred currency to have on hand while in Kenya. There are approximately 136 Kenyan Shillings to the pound. Here are the latest up-to-date exchange rates. Cash withdrawal from ATMS are available in most major towns and all major cities in Kenya. Most ATMS allow a max withdrawal of KES 40,000 per day.

Electrical Supply: Kenya uses British BS-1363 socket type. The voltage is 220-240. Electricity is widely available throughout major cities in Kenya. However, on safari, in lodges, and on the mountain, finding an electrical outlet will be a bit of a challenge. Depending on your accommodation there may or may not be any electricity in your room. If so, chances are it is run by a generator or solar power and will not be reliable or only available during certain times of day. It is recommended that you ensure your electronics are charged prior to traveling to rural areas. If you are concerned, back a rechargeable battery pack with you.

Time: Kenya time is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

International Dialling code: +254

Climate: Kenya enjoys a tropical climate and temperatures are fairly constant year-round with an average of 27°C (80°F) at the coast, 21°C to 27°C in the hinterland, while in Nairobi and the highlands over 5,000ft, the daytime temperatures normally range between 19°C and 24°C. It is usually sunny throughout the year, the hottest periods are between  February – March, and the coldest between July-August. The long heavy rains are from March – May, and short rains from October to December.  The highlands of western Kenya have a single rainy season, lasting from March to September. These pages written by Adventure Alternative give a lot of information about the climate in Kenya.

National Parks: Kenya has a number of beautiful National Parks, which you can find out more about on the Adventure Alternative website

Tourism: few countries in the world can boast of such a wide diversity of activities  and attractions as Kenya. Here you will find breath-taking beauty and great environmental contrasts ranging from spectacular palm fringed sandy beaches to the majestic summits of Mount Kenya, from tropical rain forests to searing deserts; from vast open plains and savannah to acacia woodlands; from small farms to rich ranches and estates of tea, coffee, pineapple, banana, wheat and sisal; from small muddy rivers teeming with hippo and crocodiles to Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile river and the largest lake in Africa, not forgetting the Great  Rift Valley- everything you need for adventure, relaxation and discovery.

Here you will find one of the highest concentration and diversity of wildlife, a vibrant array of cultures and encounter every day beauty of African life, from the notorious matatus in Nairobi streets, the hawkers announcing their goods on a street corner, to the warm innocent joyful welcome you receive from the children when you get to the villages, the beginning of a connection and ‘love affair’ that makes you never want to leave.

Language: Swahili and English are the official languages of Kenya. However, more people are fluent in Swahili than English. There are a number of other regional languages spoken throughout Kenya. It is always a good idea to learn a few words of the local language before you arrive at your destination. Even if you can only say hello, it goes a long way in the minds of the local people. Check out this list of helpful Swahili words and phrases.

Healthcare: In Kenya there are approximately 0.2 physicians/1,000 of the population (WHO, 2015) and hospital bed density is 1.4 beds/1,000 of the population (World Factbook, 2010). In the UK there are approximately 2.81 physicians/1,000 of the population (WHO, 2015) and hospital bed density is 2.9 beds/1,000 of the population (World Factbook, 2011). 

Basic primary care is provided at primary healthcare centres and dispensaries and sub-district, district and provincial hospitals provide secondary care. The Kenyan health system consists of three main categories of service providers. Public providers, Private not-for-profit organisations (including faith-based and mission hospitals, local and international NGOs) and Private for-profit health care providers.


For further statistical information about health in Kenya see the WHO statistical profile.

Education: in Kenya the average literacy rate is approximately 78%: 81.1% for males and 74.9% for females. 

With an area of 580,367 square kilometres and a population of over 45 million, Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by land mass and the 30th most populous country. Nairobi is the nation's capital and the country's largest metropolitan city.

Kenya has been called the ‘cradle of mankind’: the place where the first humans appeared. Fossils found in the Great Rift Valley, around Lake Turkana (in the north of Kenya) suggest that hominids (the family of man apes and humans) walked around there over two million years ago. The patchwork of ethnic groups, which today exist side by side in modern Kenya are the result of the waves of migration, some from as early as 2000 BC, from every corner of Africa – Turkanas from Ethiopia; Kikuyu, Akamba and Meru from West Africa; and the Masai, Luo and Samburu from the southern part of Sudan. 

By around the 8th century Arabic, Indian, Persian and even Chinese merchants were trading on the Kenyan coastline. By the 16th century, Europeans realised the potential of the East African coast, and most of the trading towns were occupied by the Portuguese. The Omani Arabs finally ousted the Portuguese in 1720, but it wasn’t long before the coast came into the control of the British in 1895.

The route to independence was marked by the violent struggle of the Mau Mau Rebellion in the 1950s and on 12th December 1963, the British granted full independence to Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta became the first president and after his death in 1978, Daniel Arap Moi took over.  Moi remained in power until the 30th December 2002 when Mwai Kibaki was inaugurated as Kenya’s third president.

Moving Mountains at the University of Bristol

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