Africa & The Middle East | Travel Tips & News

What to pack and how to dress appropriately in Kenya

Recently updated on August 14th, 2023 at 03:32 pm

From the savannah to the sea to the mountains, Kenya is an incredible country with all kinds of landscapes, weather and colourful cultures. With everything from the local customs to the climate and your trip activities to consider, it can be tough to know what to pack and how to dress in Kenya. To help you prepare for your trip, we’ve put together a guide on what to pack for Kenya and how to dress appropriately to respect the local culture and get the most out of your dream trip to Kenya.

What to wear in Kenya

When visiting Kenya, it’s important to respect the culture and follow the local customs and dress codes. The general rule on how to dress in Kenya is to wear conservative clothing. That means long, loose-fitting clothing that covers your shoulders, knees, midriff, chest and back. This dress code should be followed everywhere including cities like Nairobi, however, you should aim to dress more modestly and wear longer clothing in more conservative rural areas. 

While long clothing might sound extra hot, it’s actually more comfortable as it protects you from the sun and insects like mosquitoes. You’ll also feel more comfortable when you blend in with the locals and they’ll appreciate your efforts to respect their culture.

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African couple linking arms

You also need to consider the weather and your activities when thinking about what to wear in Kenya. It’ll likely be hot, although it can get quite chilly in the early mornings and evenings on safari game drives and in the mountains, so bring versatile layers that you can peel on and off. Go for t-shirts, long-sleeved tops, long skirts and dresses, light trousers, sweaters and jackets. 

A scarf is a handy item, as you can use it to stay warm or for extra modesty. You can also dip it in water and wrap around your neck to cool down in the heat. A rain poncho or a waterproof jacket is also an essential item.

What shoes to pack for Kenya

You’ll need a comfortable pair of walking shoes or runners. If you plan to go hiking in Kenya’s beautiful mountains, bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots and thick socks. You should also pack some sandals or flip-flops for days by the pool or beach.

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Kenyan woman holding her baby

Women – How to dress in Kenya

Women should wear long, loose shirts that cover the shoulders, chest, midriff and back, and long-loose skirts, dresses or trousers that cover the knees. Avoid wearing tank tops, shorts, crop tops, short skirts or anything too form-fitting. You should also dress even more modestly if you want to visit religious sites like churches, mosques and temples.

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Men – How to dress in Kenya

Men should wear long trousers and t-shirts or button-down shirts with long sleeves that cover at least your shoulders. You should also aim to dress more modestly at religious sites, including long trousers and shirts. Shorts aren’t commonly worn by men, but if you do want to bring a pair of shorts for long coach rides or game drives, make sure they cover the knee.

Kenyan man wearing floral button up shirt

What to pack for a Kenya safari

If you’re going on safari in Kenya, forget the clichés like safari helmets and full-on khaki. it’s recommended to wear lightweight layers in neutral colours to blend in with the bush and improve your chances of wildlife sightings.

Avoid bright colours like white and red and dark colours like black and blue as this can attract Tsetse flies. Keep it simple with layered clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty and bring a woolly hat and gloves for those chilly morning game drives.

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Dedan Masaai safari guide with travellers

What to wear at the beach in Kenya

Kenya has some gorgeous beaches that are perfect for swimming, snorkelling or simply lounging on the sand. While it’s fine to wear your swimsuit at the beach, you should always cover up before you leave the beach and never walk around in swimwear. Remember, topless bathing is not allowed anywhere. 

You might also like to bring a nicer outfit for dinners at your beachside resorts or nights out in Nairobi, such as long dresses and trousers and polo shirts.

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Kenyan children dancing

Other essentials to pack for Kenya

  • Waterproof day bag – with lots of secure pockets.
  • Sun protection – hat, sunglasses and lots of high SPF sunscreen.
  • Reusable water bottle – you can refill it with filtered water at most hotels and lodges.
  • Toiletries – at your discretion, but aim to use reusable travel bottles or solid toiletries like bar shampoos and soaps. Remember to bring lip balm and moisturiser to protect against that dry Kenyan heat.
  • Small medical kit – strong insect repellent, hand sanitiser, painkillers, electrolytes, antiseptic ointment and bandaids, travel sickness tablets, eye drops, personal medications. Be sure to consult your doctor before your trip for Kenya health advice on vaccinations and taking malaria prophylaxis.

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  • Head torch – handy for getting around camps at night.
  • Binoculars – for better wildlife viewing.
  • Eye mask and ear plugs – for the light sleepers.
  • Electronics – smartphone, camera, extra memory cards, batteries and chargers. You might also like to bring an e-reader or headphones, portable charger and a power strip. You’ll also need waterproof cases for all your valuables.
  • Travel adaptor – for Kenya, you’ll need plug type G, which has three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern.
  • Swahili phrasebook – learn a few local phrases and enrich your Kenyan adventure.
  • Cash and cards – it’s handy to have some local cash (Kenyan shilling) , along with US dollars or UK pounds. You can also bring debit and credit cards to use at ATMs and some hotels and restaurants.

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Samburu tribe boys dressed in traditional clothing Kenya

What not to pack for Kenya

Plastic bags

All kinds of plastic bags are banned in Kenya. Do not bring them into Kenya or purchase them while in the country as there are heavy fines. These include plastic grocery bags, plastic packaging and plastic ziploc bags. When going through the airport, you can put your toiletries in any clear bag (like a clear, waterproof toiletry bag). 

Military-style clothes

You should avoid wearing camo or military-style clothing anywhere in Africa, as you may be questioned about your intentions and why you look like you’re posing as a military officer. The police may go as far as arresting anyone dressed in this type of clothing, so it’s best to leave it at home.

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Kenyan woman carrying bunch of bananas on her head

Expensive items

Don’t bring anything you couldn’t bear to lose! It’s also not advisable to wear flashy jewellery or branded clothing, as this makes you stand out to pickpockets.

Large amounts of cash

While it’s handy to bring some local cash, you don’t need to bring enough for your whole trip and risk losing it. There are plenty of ATMs around the country where you can withdraw the local currency using Visa and Mastercard. 

Are you dreaming of a trip to Kenya? What will you pack for your Kenya trip? Let us know in the comments below!

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