Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Rift Valley Railways regrets to announce…

It seems the massive recent derailment near Mombasa was the final straw. Rift Valley Railways, which operates the long barely operational Nairobi-Mombasa passenger service, has thrown in the towel. No more passenger trains between Nairobi and the coast. That is until November 2016, they say, when they plan to put twenty refurbished passenger coaches back on the old, narrow-gauge track.

How that is supposed to tie in with the opening of the new Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in 2017 is anyone's guess. The new line, currently being built at breathtaking speed by the China Communications Construction Company between Mombasa and Nairobi, is set eventually to link the Indian Ocean with Uganda once again.

The SGR roughly follows the route of the old, metre-gauge "Lunatic Line", built at the end of the nineteenth century by Gujarati and Punjabi labourers and paid for by the British government.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Rough Guide to Kenya goes into its 4th decade

The latest fully revised and updated new edition of the Rough Guide to Kenya was published in May 2016. This is the 11th edition since I first wrote the guide, which originally came out in 1987. This new edition is in full colour, with 632 pages, dozens of maps of regions, cities and towns, and very detailed coverage not only of Kenya's key safari areas but also the remote parts of the country that other guides don't cover.

Drop me a line if you want to know about the coverage of the areas you're interested in. If you already have the guide (it's available from all the usual bookshops, including the online ones), let me know what you think of its style and coverage and where you feel it can be improved. What have you discovered in the last few months that's not in the book and should be?

Do let me know!

Richard Trillo
Remote suburbia, 28th July, 2016

Sunday, June 02, 2013

New edition of the Rough Guide to Kenya - 10th edition, May 2013

The latest fully revised and updated new edition of the Rough Guide to Kenya was published in May 2013. It's the 10th edition I've done since researching and writing the first, which came out in 1987. This edition is in full colour for the first time, with 640 pages, 73 detailed maps, and very full coverage of all of Kenya's key safari areas, as well as all the off-piste, quirky corners that most other guides don't cover.

I'm pleased with how it's come out, but there's always room for improvement. And always little things I notice too late…

Drop me a line if you want to know about the coverage of the areas you're interested in. Or if you have the guide (it's available from all the usual bookshops, including the online ones), let me know what you think of it and where it can be improved. Which lodges, hotels, camps, restaurants and other facilities have I not done justice to (or been too generous about)? And what have you discovered in the last few months that's not in the book and should be.

Let me know!

Richard Trillo
Remote suburbia, 2nd June, 2013

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

KWS closes bandas for refurbs

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has closed some of its self-service parks accommodation during the current rainy season:

KWS will with effect from March 15, 2012 to May 30, 2012 close a number of guesthouses and bandas in some parks for renovation purposes. They are: All units at Amboseli National Park, The Fishing Lodge and Tusk camp at Aberdares National Park, Naishi Guesthouse at Lake Nakuru National Park.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nanyuki hotel warning - theft from room

Despite terrorism warnings and the decision of government travel advisories to advise against visiting the Lamu archipelago, it is ordinary low-grade crime that is the usual problem for tourists and occasionally ruins a holiday. This December 2011 email from a Belgian reader is typical - though it's only fair to say I don't get this kind of news very often:

Hello, Recently my girlfriend and I went to Kenya for a 3 weeks holiday. We used the Rough guide edition May 2010.

I would like to inform you that on page 167 the Lions Court Lodge is mentioned as an accommodation in Nanyuki. Please be informed or warned that this is an unsafe place to stay although it is a lodge with security guard. We booked a new cottage for 2 nights, but unfortunately we have been robbed and a lot of values have been stolen during dinner while away from our room. We suspect that there was some help from inside the hotel because our door was opened with the master-key because we couldn't find any scratch. After the robbery the door was closed again. When we declared the theft at the reception desk we were very disappointed that we got no support or help from the staff or management. Even the Police was not called.

Although this lodge is situated on the way to Sweetwaters I suggest to remove this lodge from a future release. After insistence to the management, the only thing they did was returning my money I paid for our 2 days stay. Unfortunately our vacation was disturbed very much.

I already visited many countries in Africa but never had problems like these in the past. I'm aware that staying in hotels or lodges in Africa is not always safe but I think it might be a good idea to mention this incident on your Kenya blog to avoid that other tourist may have the same problem.

King regards,
Dany Cuyt

Sunday, January 08, 2012

FCO travel advisory imminent terrorism warning for Kenya

Hard to know what to make of Saturday morning's tweaked travel advice on Kenya. Was it a response to the sudden successes of the Kenyan armed forces in southern Somali against Al-Shabaab and the fear of imminent retaliation? Reportedly, fifty militants were killed in an assault on Friday. Or was it a diplomatic message to Kenya after a Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism team returned from advising their Kenyan counterparts at the beginning of the month and probably found huge gaps in competence and intelligence.

The new advice is a paragraph inserted into the advice page, and the overall level of advice hasn't changed:

The Kenyan authorities have alerted the public to a heightened threat from terrorist attacks in Nairobi. We believe that terrorists may be in the final stages of planning attacks. Attacks could be indiscriminate and target Kenyan institutions as well as places where expatriates and foreign travellers gather, such as hotels, shopping centres and beaches. We strongly advise British Nationals to exercise extra vigilance and caution in public places and at public events.

Meanwhile, travel companies and airlines are continuing operations normally, the Americans haven't altered their advice since 4th November, the Kenyan media has made no mention of an imminent attack in Nairobi or anywhere else**, and the Nairobi police chief has claimed there is in fact "no new, specific threat against Nairobi". Last week on Nairobi's Capital Radio, the talk about tourism was all about how bad the service was for local tourists over the Christmas holiday period compared with the way foreign tourists are treated. That's an interesting and worrying subject on its own, but set in a context that many visitors will be familiar with - increased security due to a genuine threat of terrorism, comparable with the mood in Britain after the 7/7 bombings or at the height of the IRA's mainland campaign.

Kenyans, like Brits and Americans and many other nationalities, have bitter experiences of terrorism and in one sense the threat, while having many sources, is a general global one.  Of course the decision to go or not has to be a personal one, at least as long as the country's "traffic light" travel advisory*, currently orange, doesn't turn red. Travelling into areas where the FCO says "we advise against all travel" or "we advise against all but essential travel" can mean insurance cover is hard to obtain.

The question that needs to be put to the FCO travel advice unit is how far can they advise caution and extra vigilance without saying "we advise against all travel". At the moment  the red warning, advising against "all travel", doesn't apply to any part of Kenya, not even the Lamu archipelago or the Somali borderlands, let alone to the whole country.

For now, the mood on the ground in Kenya is not one of fear and panic but of concern and mild exasperation at the time it takes to get into a hotel or a shopping mall, with the quite elaborate security procedures that are widely in place and invariably conducted with very good humour.

* According the British FCO Travel Advice page.

** The Nation finally covered the story of the enhanced travel advisory on Sunday evening. What took them so long

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Current train timetable Nairobi Mombasa

I photographed this at Nairobi station on 31 October 2011. I can't make any claims for its accuracy - and the landline numbers 2044476 and 2044479 appear to be two digits too short (they are probably actually 020/44476xx and 020/44479xx but almost certainly not working anyway) - but it's all the information that's available. The twice weekly Nairobi Mombasa Nairobi service is definitely running at present, with these prices.

2nd class: Ksh1150
1st class: Ksh2170
Bedding: Ksh320 (automatically included with ticket, not sure if you can avoid paying)
Breakfast: Ksh470 (optional)
Dinner: Ksh700 (optional)

Incidentally, the Nairobi Kisumu Nairobi service is currently suspended once again (they told me on 31 October that the last train from Kisumu was departing that evening).