As with many countries in Africa, sometimes things can be done on the cheap, but the quality has a very real correlation to price.
In SE Asia for instance, one can strive to go pretty cheap and have a safe and good time.
In Africa, one must take safety, sanitary conditions and comfort into account when thinking about a budget.
Up until recently, Kenya was a country that focused most of its attention on luxury safari tour packages.
Nowadays, there are more and more facilities that accommodate lower budget backpackers.
Currency in Kenya
In Kenya, the currency is the Kenyan Shilling. As of July 2019, 1 USD is roughly equivalent to 103 KES.
Cost of Accommodation
Note that accommodation can be very cheap, in the $1 – $2 (100-200 KES) range, but the conditions aren't recommendable.
Dorm Beds: In the various hostels, guest houses, and camps that exist in Kenya expect to pay around $6 – $12 (618-1,250 KES) for a dorm bed depending on where you are in the country.
Double or Twin private room: Cheapest double rooms run from about $15 – $30. (1,550 – 3,100 KES)
Nice hotel room: If you take another step up, you'll get a very nice hotel room for $50 – $80 (5,100-8,200 KES).
Cost of Food
If you want to eat Kenyan food in the Kenyan way, eating can be very cheap.
However, most travelers and foreigners will find that they will want to eat at international restaurants or cleaner sit down restaurants.
For a meal on the street that consists of ugali (cornmeal starch), beans, sukuma wiki (vegetables) and maybe a bit of grizzly beef stew, you'll pay around $0.75 – $1 (80 – 100 KES). Just starch and veg might cost around half of this.
Nyama Choma roasted meat on the street should cost $3 – $4 (300 – 400 KES) per kilo of goat or beef.
A cob of roasted maize makes a good snack for around $0.25 (25 KES).
Sit Down Restaurants
Cities like Nairobi and Mombasa have lots of sit down restaurants that serve top-quality international cuisine. Indian food is one of the most popular and delicious. Meals can cost around $4 – $9 (400 – 900 KES).
An outstanding Ethiopian feast at the Smart Village Nairobi cost me $7 (700 KES) last time I was in Nairobi.
For Japanese food, you'll pay around 1,100 – 3,300 KES ($11 – $33).
1 L bottle of water – $0.50 (50 KES)
Cost of Drinking / Going Out
You can buy cheap bottles of local liqueur at supermarkets, kiosks or small stores throughout Kenya. It's cheapest to buy alcohol in little plastic bags called sachets.
500 ml bottle of Kenyan beer at a local bar or club: $1 – $2 (100 – 200 KES)
Drinks at more trendy nightlife destinations: $2 – $4 (200 – 400 KES)
Some clubs do charge cover of a few hundred Shillings per person. If they do, it often will come with a complimentary drink.
Cost of Transportation
Taxis: Taxis aren't too cheap in Nairobi and you need to negotiate the rate prior to getting in. You'll probably need to pay $4 – $11 (400 – 1,100 KES) for a ride.
Matatu: The local way to get around Nairobi is by matatu mini-bus. Rides normally cost $0.25 (25 KES) or more depending on route, time of day and local fuel prices.
Out of Nairobi
Bus: You can ride buses around the country of Kenya for around $1 (100 KES) per hour. Nairobi to Mombasa routes usually cost $8 – $13 (800 – 1,300 KES).
Train: The most traveled train route is from Nairobi to Mombasa which costs $55 – $65 (5,500 – 6,500 KES) in a sleeper car.
Plane: Recently a number of budget airlines have started in Kenya. I took a flight from Nairobi to Mombasa for about $70 (7,000 KES) on Fly 540.
Sample Cost of Attractions in Kenya
- Nairobi National Park: $40 (4,000 KES) per day
- Maasai Mara Game Reserve: $60 (6,000 KES) per day
- Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage: $6 (600 KES)
- Ride an Ostrich: $2 (200 KES)
- Go to the top of the Kenyatta Conference Center: $4 (400 KES)
- Nairobi National Museum: $9 (900 KES)
- Kenya Railway Museum: $4 (400 KES)
Overall Cost of Travel in Kenya
It really depends on what or how many tourist activities you do in a day.
If you avoid most attractions, you can get away with $15 per day, but if you do some of the tourist-oriented activities you'll likely spend $30 – $40.
Add a safari at a national park to the agenda and your budget will go way up from there, possibly in the $80 – $100 per day range.