If you are a US citizen you are going to need a visa to enter Kenya and Tanzania. Kenya charges $50 and Tanzania charges $100. Being used to travelling to Europe without a visa this comes as a bit of a shock though nothing of significant concern.
Obtaining a visa for either country on the other hand may appears to be a daunting task. Kenya (according to their website) no longer accepts walk-ins to the embassy or consulates. You must mail your passport to them. So if you are someone who feels uncomfortable doing so, well it can be a problem. Here was my experience for obtaining the Kenyan visa:
- First you need to fill out an online form on their embassy website. When you do so you get a tracking number which you use to track the status of your application (also a link on their embassy website).
- I then sent them my passport with all relevant documents (please see their embassy web site for latest details) via Fedex. In the Fedex package I had to add another empty paid for Fedex package using which the embassy would return my passport. Now here you should be careful. not just for getting your visa but anytime you send a return Fedex package.
- If you do not have an online account with Fedex, go create one. This way you can use your Fedex account number on the air bill for your return package.
- If you do not create a Fedex account you will have to put your credit card number on your return air bill which can then be seen by many people.
- Once I sent my passport via Fedex I knew the day it was delivered to Kenyan Embassy. However for an entire week their website showed no sign that my passport was received by them. This had me concerned. I repeatedly called the Embassy but each time was transferred to voice mail.
- Then one day I found a Fedex package at my door. It was my passport with visa issued. Just for kicks I checked the web site and it finally had a status of received. LOL
The Tanzanian visa experience was similar though not identical. Their web site has no tracking system. But after about 6-7 days of waiting I had my passport and visa. So all in all the process was really not all that bad and quite honestly it saved me the trip of going to the embassy or local consular office.
Alternatively you can fly to Kenya or Tanzania without a visa and get one issued at the port of entry. People on several blog and forums have recommended this option. But then I have also been warned that this is a risk. Do you really want to fly all the way to Tanzania and find someone at the airport who says “NO”?