Elective Africa

Frequently Asked Questions


1. What Medical Advice do I Need?

Students should get the latest medical advice on inoculations and malaria prevention before coming to Kenya from their physician. Malaria risk exists all year round. Immunisation against yellow fever, polio and typhoid are usually recommended, but please consult your physician prior to travel.

2. Is it safe to volunteer in Kenya?

One of the key reasons for using Elective Africa to facilitate and organize your elective or volunteering in Africa is that we will do everything we can to ensure you are safe during your time abroad. Kenya is one of the safest countries in Africa. We ensure you are placed in safe environment and you will be very well looked after while volunteering in Kenya. The Kenyan people are very warm and friendly towards visitors.

3. Do you cater for groups or other specialist volunteers such as professionals?

Yes we do. All of our programs are suitable for any type of volunteer and even those who are traveling as a group. However we also tailor programs for groups and individuals seeking to volunteer in specialized programs that may not be part of our standard projects. So whether you are a group, a researcher or a student seeking to volunteer in a specific area, we will design a program for you. For these volunteers, we ask you to contact us so that we may get in touch with you and begin working with you to develop a program that will meet your specific requirements.

4. Can I do more than one placement?

Yes you can. This is especially so for those in their Gap Year and Internship program or those who will be volunteering for more than 3 months. Working in multiple placements can give you a chance to experience different aspects of Kenya and thus enhance your overall volunteer experience.

5. What happens when we first arrive?

This depends on your arrival airport. If you arrive in Mombasa’s Moi International Airport, we meet you at the airport and take you directly to our safe student housing. However, flying to Mombasa can be expensive compared to flying to Nairobi, so some of our participants choose to fly to Nairobi and then take a 6 to 7 hour bus ride to Mombasa. If you fly to Nairobi, we pick you up at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport and drive you Park Side Hotel in the city centre or any other hotel of your choice where you stay and relax overnight. You depart the following day for your project. Students are required to send flight details prior to their traveling dates. Please note that if you arrive in Nairobi, you will be paying the cost of overnight stay at a hotel in the city and the cost of bus ride down to Mombasa. We cover the cost of airport pick and transfer for both Nairobi and Mombasa airports.

6. Where will I stay?

Our participants live in student housing, by default, but upon request we do arrange a Kenyan host family. For student housing, you get to spend time with like minded people, and you have a house that you can call home for your duration in the program. You have a place that has the peer environment to unwind and get to spend time with colleagues. For those who prefer host family, we believe that goes a long way in giving volunteers greater insight into the lives and culture of the Kenyan people thus enriching the volunteer experience. We make efforts whenever possible to accommodate specific requests that a volunteer may have with regards to their preferred accommodation.

7. Do I have to speak Swahili?

No you do not. You will get a long extremely well with just English. However, it is helpful to learn some basic words and phrases of Swahili and this is covered during our training and orientation program.

8. How is the Kenyan food?

Foods served during your volunteer period include traditional Kenya foods like ugali and sukuma wiki (corn meal and greens), githeri (maize and beans), irio as well as chapatis. Kenyan meals also consist of other universal dishes such as beef, chicken, fish, rice and pasta. French fries, burgers, pizza etc are available in restaurants and hotels. Breakfast usually consists of bread, eggs and tea. Fruits and vegetables are plenty in Kenya and feature frequently in menu preparations. Kenyan-grown coffee and tea are common beverages.

9. Is it safe to drink the tap water in Kenya?

It is generally recommended that you drink bottled water during your volunteer stay in Kenya both in Nairobi and whilst upcountry or on a safari. You can buy bottled water from any supermarket and most shops in Kenya. The most common water-borne diseases in Kenya are typhoid, cholera and dysentery. Other less common ones include gastroenteritis and amoebiasis. We have a constant supply of clean water in the water cooler in our student housing.

10. How can I communicate with home from abroad?

When you arrive we can show you where to get local Sim cards for your mobile phones. Its cheap to text Europe and America using these. Alternatively, we will show you where the nearest internet cafe is so you can send email.

11. Is it possible to stay longer?

Yes. We can normally increase time at a project, and accommodation, with a little notice. You must, however, be aware that a longer stay may necessitate a visa extension and extra cost.

12. What's not included in the price?

Flights, insurance and cost of getting your visa is not included in the price. Additionally, if you choose the Safari supplement, the cost of park entrance fee, meals to and from the safari and any overnight stays before or after the safari are NOT included in your trip. The safari supplement includes ONLY the following:

  •     Full cost of transportation to and from the game reserve
  •     Two nights accommodation while on the actual safari in a camp
  •     A drive guide and van
  •     Any other costs while on Safari are the students costs

13. What's the food like?

Kenya is a real mixture. In the cities you can get pretty much everything you can in Europe and America. Most families eat a combination of fish, chicken and beef with mostly beans and rice. Food for vegetarians is often limited.

14. How do I get a Visa?

Visa can be obtained on arrival at the Airport. Pretty much all foreigners require a passport and a visa to enter the country.

Passport/Visa Note: Visas can be obtained by most nationalities on arrival for a fee of US$50.00 which is valid for a period of three months and must be paid in a convertible currency. We however strongly encourage our volunteers to obtain their visas before they depart from their country as it is more convenient and saves on time.

15. When is my placement fully confirmed?

Once you have paid a reservation deposit of $300, which is non-refundable, but can always be credited to your placement account whenever you decide to come for any of our programs. As places are limited it is only fair to give them to those serious about going. When possible, payment should be made in full at least 3 months prior to your arrival for your program to enable us to fully set your program before your arrival. A lot of work is done prior to your arrival – arranging airport pick up, securing your accommodation, getting any require hospital, regulatory or government permits.

16. What clothes will i use in the Hospital?

Medical Or Pre Medical Students are required to come with their Lab Coats or Scrubs.

17. Can I use my Visa Card On Arrival?

They are several bank ATM facilities that accept all major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard.) This may be found at the Airport or across Town.

18. What if am a Vegeterian?

We have enough food variety even for vegetarians. We just need to know your special needs in advance.

19. Is it safe to go shopping in Nairobi/Mombasa?

Nairobi & Mombasa are major metropolitan areas and the largest cities in Kenya. It has a selection of shopping malls and large supermarkets that will cater for most of your shopping needs. However, like any big city, it has criminal elements and we ask all our volunteers to apply common sense. While out, do not wear any expensive clothing and excessive jewellery. Avoid dark or isolated alleys and always take a taxi after dark. Common criminal incidents involve snatching of purses, watches and jewellery. It is safe to shop in most sections of the city. We shall recommend and guide you regarding appropriate areas to shop and visit during your volunteer orientation and training.

20. What other safety issues should I be aware of?

There is real poverty in the developing world and you are likely to be more fortunate than most local people you meet. You will probably attract souvenir hawkers as well as street children and beggars in smaller towns. Be sure to take some precautions such as:

  •     Have a copy of your passport and keep it in your luggage.
  •     Do not walk on your own at night in the major cities.
  •     Do not wear excessive or expensive jewelry.
  •     Do not carry a lot of cash with you.
  •     Do not carry a lot of camera equipment..
  •     Wear a money belt that fits under your clothes.
  •     More safety issues will be discussed at your orientation.

21. What clothing is appropriate?

Bring along some comfortable, casual and semi-casual clothing such as sweat shirts, shorts, jeans, skirts and any other clothing that you would ordinarily wear. Include warm clothing for nights, especially if you volunteer in the rainy season (April to May) or the cold season (June and July).

When out in the community, it is good to follow local etiquette. Dressing in Nairobi is quite liberal. However, approach it with cultural sensitivity in mind and you will be fine. Avoid excessively flashy or revealing items. Please ask when you are not sure what is and is not appropriate.

Footwear can be any comfortable walking shoes such as sports shoes. It is also advised to carry a pair of open-toed sandals, especially for those who will be volunteering in the hot season (December to February; August to September). Carry a few smart outfits for special occasions that you might be part of e.g. dinners or parties.

22. What do I need to pack?

Volunteers need to bring their own towels, toiletries and other personal effects. Please note that volunteers are responsible for their own laundry. It is safe to bring your hair dryers, shavers and other electrical products. Other suggested items:

  •     Malaria tablets; consult your doctor
  •     Adapter plugs and converters for electrical appliances
  •     Moisturizing cream and suntan lotion
  •     Insect repellent (e.g. Tabard, Rid, Jungle Juice, OFF, etc.)
  •     Basic medical kit (e.g. aspirins, plasters, Immodium, antiseptic cream, and anti-histamine cream, etc.)
  •     A journal to document your experience

23. What about the electricity supply for laptops, hairdryers etc?

The electricity supply in Kenya is 220/240 volts/50 Hz (240V 50 Hz D & G). The electric sockets are three-pin square. Countries with different voltages and frequencies will need a power converter. It is important to check this as incorrect use may damage your equipment. Check your electrical equipment to see if you will need a power converter and/or a plug adapter. Volunteers may purchase power converters in their home countries or here in Kenya. For plug adapters, these are widely available in shops and supermarkets all over the country. We advise volunteers to purchase them after arrival in the country and after confirming what type of sockets they have in their accommodation.