Today I will talk to you about money tips and tricks for traveling to Kenya.
How much money should I bring? What currencies do you accept in Kenya? Are there ATMs? Can I pay by credit card in Kenya? There are many questions that you ask us when we organize your vacations in Kenya.
Only with a good management of currency and money once we are in Kenya, we can save between 5% and 10% of the budgeted amount of our trip.
Official Kenyan currency: Kenyan shilling.
Kenyan Shilling (KES) is the official currency of Kenya. It is colloquially known as “bob” and has a value of 0.0068$ for each Kenyan shilling (exchange rate as of 09/15/2023). This is equivalent to $1 being about 146 Kenyan shillings. The currency is divided into 20 to 1,000 shilling bills and 40 to 1 shilling coins.
The Kenyan shilling is a fairly stable currency in relation to the major currencies € and US dollar.
Other currencies accepted in Kenya
1. U.S. dollar
U.S. dollar are accepted in most places. In fact, as a tourist, when you ask for a price or quote for a transfer, they usually quote you in US dollars.
If the money you bring to Kenya are US $, they must be after 2006, if they are earlier they may not be accepted.
If you exchange euros to U.S. dollars at a bureau de change in Kenya, some travel writers indicate that a better exchange rate is offered if you ask for $1,000 bills instead of $10 bills. I have not been able to verify this information personally, if you have, leave me a message in the post and we will share it among the readers.
2. The Euro
The euro is not a frequent currency. If you have euros in cash, the first thing you should do when you arrive in Kenya is to go to a bank or exchange office and exchange the euros for the local currency, the Kenyan shilling.
In general we will be able to change euros in almost any bank we find. But it is always better to do it in the big cities to be sure and not to have problems with the currency.
How can you save money for your trip to Kenya?
In order to save money on commissions and exchange rates, it is important to follow these tips. Planning well for our money in Kenya can result in considerable savings, as you will see.
Cards that are commission-free for traveling to Kenya
Knowing the terms and conditions of your credit or debit card you are traveling with is vital when leaving your country and paying in other currencies. Making the wrong choice can mean a substantial increase in our travel budget.
1) My favorite debit card: Revolut
Since we first downloaded the Revolut app, which is one of our favorite cards and apps, not only for traveling but also for our daily expenses.
What makes the Revolut card our favorite?
- It has the lowest commissions
- It is very easy to control all your expenses. Payments appear instantly and not after 2-3 days, as is the case with most credit cards.
- The Revolut App is very intuitive and easy to use.
- By creating virtual cards in seconds, you can receive a card number in less than 5 seconds (virtual card).
- In a few minutes you have signed up and in a few days you will receive your Revolut card.
- No maintenance fees
- You choose the plan that best suits your needs
- More transparency than traditional cards
- You can split payments with your friends or send, in seconds, money to your friends who have the Revolut App.
- If you think you have lost the card, you can freeze it. If you find it, thaw it and it is operational again. If you don’t find it, you cancel it definitively and ask for another one.
- And much more…
Here is an example of how you can save money with a card without commissions:
A few weeks ago, two friends went from Barcelona to New York, and bought the same coffee in a coffee shop. They paid with different cards and realized that the bank had charged them 19 cents more for the same coffee. Why? Basically because traditional banks charge hidden fees with transactions in other currencies.
You may think that 19 cents for a coffee is not much, but it is. Specifically, 19 cents on the price of coffee is 4% more expensive for paying with a traditional card instead of a card without commissions.
If we pay $1,000 the cumulative savings amount is $40 for using Revolut instead of the traditional bank card. If you want to save money in Kenya, my recommendation is to use a card without commissions.
That’s why if you want to save up to 4% in bank fees, it is best to use a no-fee card like Revolut.
I share with you the different plans that REVOLUT has in the UK and in the US:
2) N26: the other card without commissions complementary to Revolut
For our trips to Kenya we also use the N26 card to be able to pay without commissions and withdraw money at ATMs.
The ideal and what most travelers do is to combine both cards and take advantage of the fact that there is always a limit per month without any commission.
In order to combine N26 and Revolut, I always suggest carrying a traditional credit card from a traditional bank. This is in case a dataphone does not accept debit cards and you need to use a credit card to pay.
Wise is one of the cards that allow you to withdraw up to 200 euros without commissions. Since there are no maintenance fees, it is worth asking for it and having it as a backup for when we travel.
Other tips to save money on your trip to Kenya
What to do with the exchange rate of ATMs or dataphones?
When we travel outside the US or UK zone and pay with our VISA or Mastercard, it is common that the cashier or the ATM ask us if we accept a certain exchange rate.
For example, we withdraw 100€ at an ATM and it asks us if we want to be charged 100€ or $107.
When an external bank or ATM asks us to accept an exchange rate, we must refuse the proposal, as they will generally offer us worse exchange rate conditions than our financial institution. Especially there will be a lot of difference if we compare it with our Revolut card, and it is very easy to check. When you take out money or pay with your Revolut card, check with the amount they want to exchange, say that you don’t accept to pay in $ with the exchange rate they offer you, and pay in the local currency with your Revolut. After a few seconds, the amount will be charged to the Revolut APP and you will see how with a simple good choice you have saved money that otherwise would have been kept by a bank.
Which ATMs to choose to withdraw money in Kenya?
When we want to go to an ATM to withdraw money abroad, we have to be careful about which ATM we choose.
As a general rule, ATMs belonging to financial institutions offer better conditions than ATMs that only offer ATMs with no financial institution behind them. These ATMs can be found in the street, airports, etc.
ATMs usually charge higher fees for withdrawals than bank ATMs. So, my recommendation is that you always look for a bank to withdraw money and run away from these ATMs that are scattered in some cities.
How to pay in Kenya?
In Kenya you can pay with local currency, the Kenyan shilling, and with U.S. dollars. As a tourist, we will be given many prices in U.S. dollars, but then you can pay for everything in local currency.
Debit card payment is widespread, especially in hotels and tourist sites. As card payments are in local currency, I recommend that you always pay with Revolut or N26 to save on bank fees.
Other money-saving information
Take out a travel insurance policy to Kenya with a 7% discount
If you are going to Kenya, I recommend that you take out travel insurance that can cover you for cancellation insurance or any other medical emergency during the trip.
Other travel guides
- How much does a Kenya Safari Cost?
- How to make a sustainable trip to Kenya: Tips & Tricks
- Sustainable Safari in Tanzania
- Sustainable Travel in Tanzania
- Money in Kenya: tips and tricks
- What is the best time to travel to Kenya?
- Tanzania or Kenya: Which of these is the best safari?
- Our Kenya Safari Experience
- 10 days in Zanzibar: For independent and first time travelers
- 5-day safari in Tanzania
- Getting around in Zanzibar
- Honeymoon trip to Tanzania