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ATM machines in kenya and Tanzania

We are planning a safari in Kenya and Tanzania and wonder if we should buy our foreign currency for the two countries once we arrive or before we depart?

Are there ATM machines in the cities. I doubt if we will find them on safari.

How much cash will we need for a two week safari?

Posted by
5116 posts

I suppose one would need to know what was included (prepaid) in your Safari in order to begin to know what other expenses you might incur. If you can determine what costs you will be responsible for in addition to prepaid costs, that would be the starting point for that question.

I've only been to Rwanda, so I can't speak specifically to your countries. We ended up using an exchange office there.

Posted by
2065 posts

In 2010 it wasn't possible to buy Tanzanian Shillings outside Tanzania. In the Dar-es-Salaam airport there was an exchange bureau or a free-standing atm neither of which we wanted to use but didn't have any other choice. My daughter's debit card was swallowed by the atm so I used mine at the exchange bureau for just over enough to get into town.

Also at the time US$200 in crisp new dollars bills were required to purchase a visa for Tanzania.
For Kenyan Shilling I used the bank atm at my daughter's apartment building so can't help you there. I believe there's one at the airport. She had her driver pick me up at the airport.

Please note that this information is from 2010!

Posted by
5457 posts

Nearly all the safaris that I have reviewed provide everything for the trip. Tips are not included. For some, alcohol at the lodges is not, but you can charge that on a credit card.

I suppose it would be best to buy some Kenyan currency in advance and take some US dollars as well.

Posted by
8293 posts

I think you will find that some of the hotels you will stay at have excellent gift shops. That’s where you will want to spend some money but your credit cards will be useful for that. If you are bringing US dollars to exchange there, make sure the bills are new and crisp. Seriously. Old tatty one’s are looked at with suspicion.

Posted by
1386 posts

I was just in those countries in Aug and had no problems withdrawing money from ATMs though on this trip I was crossing land borders (went from Uganda to Rwanda, then to Tanzania and onto Kenya) and only used one airport ATM at Entebbe - rest were in various towns/cities.

If crossing land borders, there are tons of folks exchanging money where you can get rid of any left over currency and get some for the next country. It is all pretty straightforward.

As said before, you should need very little spending money on the safaris since you will have most likely prepaid for most of it. You also won't have any issues using USD to pay for any incidentals such as alcoholic drinks or gift shop items.

Not widely known is that Tanzania also issues a transit visa that only costs $30 but you have to ask for it. I believe it is normally issued for 15 days but I only got it for 7 days which was sufficient for me.

You are probably already aware of this but thought I'd mention:
- you will most likely need a yellow fever cert
- invest in a good (not cheap) pair of binoculars and make sure you are comfortable with it ahead of your trip

Posted by
4684 posts

Come on folks. ATMs have been in Africa for decades! No need to use an exchange bureau.

Posted by
4684 posts

As someone who lived in Africa for 7 years and has served refugees from that continent for decades, it just riles me up when folks assume that Africa is in the dark ages. Africa is not all huts and jungles. It is amazingly modern.

Posted by
5457 posts

I hope no one interpreted my inquiry about ATMs in Africa the wrong way. I have visited 72 countries, including some developing countries.

In countries more developed than Kenya, I have sometimes found finding a cash or ATM machine to harder to find than I anticipated. Most international airports have ATMs, but sometimes those machines are not bank machines, but controlled by the exchange companies with lousy rates.

From the posts that I received, thanks for your help, I appears that ATMs are available, however, no one has articulated the ease of finding one. Can I assume that in cities like Nairobi that ATMs will be available at banks? If ATMs are at the airport, should I use one there or wait until we are at our hotel and look for a bank ATM?

Posted by
1386 posts

The ATMs are quite common in all the major towns/cities. I had no issues finding them at Entebbe airport, at banks in the cities (Kampala, Mwanza, Tanzania-Kenya border crossing (Namanga border though I had to walk about 50 meters) and also in our hotel in Nairobi).

What airport are you flying into? If Jomo Kenyatta at Nairobi, I'm pretty sure there is an ATM - just google it. You can also google DAR, JRO depending on where you are landing.