WARNING: more ranting about Africa. Clearly my time on the continent last year was much, much better than the last couple of months have been. I like to keep a positive tone in my travel stories, but don’t worry, this is my last African post for a while, and I am writing it from Asia. Kenya is having a hard time these last couple of months, and I had a hard time there too. I am sure my opinion is biased and misinformed but, I don’t care.
I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but I am currently traveling on a 5 months long, round-the-world ticket. It has only 2 stops, which is as many as I could get, as this is a reward flight I got with frequent flyer points. I had to pick an African and an Asian hub, so I went for Nairobi and Beijing, with the intent to travel around the two regions with flights I would later purchase. Nairobi proved to be a very bad choice. If I had researched it a little, I would have known that it has the following disadvantages:
– No decent means of transit between the airport and downtown. Taxis are not particularly expensive at $20, but close to the lengthy and frequent rush hours, they will take well over an hour to complete the journey. Their driving habits, and those of all locals, are extremely aggressive and completely unsafe. In my top 5 of the worst drivers in the world.
– There are no airport hotels at all. The closest one is halfway to downtown, in the middle of nowhere in a commercial zone, but it costs hundreds of dollars a night. Downtown hotels are also expensive.
– Visas are expensive and you can’t get multiple entry visas at the airport.
– Nairobi is a crime-ridden dump (I sort of knew that).
What I would have failed to discover because it hadn’t happened yet is that:
– My credit card would be cloned in Nairobi, used fraudulently and cancelled by MasterCard.
– The international airport was about to burn down.
– Somali terrorists were about to attack an expat shopping mall and kill dozens of people.
So I went to Kenya, and discovered that even if it is a painted on joke, I really don’t like seeing popped rivets and rust on an aircraft I am about to board. The most annoying thing is that I didn’t even visit the country. Kenya has been an established tourist destination for many decades, and the prices reflect this reality. The average tourist flies in, hides in fear in a Nairobi hotel for one night, and then proceeds on a guided safari tour in luxury lodges around the countryside. While the nature seemed to have lots to offer, in researching the things to do and see, I found nothing that I couldn’t do in the neighbouring countries for a fraction of the cost. A three day camping trip in the Masai-Mara for $650? No thanks, I will go to Uganda’s beautiful and less busy Murchison Falls National Park instead, where the animals seem surprised to see you. Two giraffes even stopped eating to stare at us! So I ended up transiting through Nairobi, 3 times! Continue reading