Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Self Drive Tours and Car Hire in Nairobi & Mombasa

Kenya Self drive tours are a popular option in many vacation destinations here. This type of holiday can be a great value for money when perfectly designed. The beauty of self-drive tours lies in the flexibility. You are able to choose your date of departure and the routing can be tailor-made to suit your needs. You get the freedom to explore your chosen destination at your own pace. It is almost a do-it-yourself type of vacation, save for the fact that you might still need someone reliable to assist, especially if you are first-time traveler to your destination.

Without any doubt, within the Eastern and Southern Africa, the operation of self-drive tours is most advanced in the Republic of South Africa. The country boasts a good network of well-maintained roads and an excellent spread of inns and lodges. Kenya, like other sub saharan countries, enjoys some degree of confidence when it comes to operating self-drive tours, but we have to play catch up game with South Africa.

At the risk of sounding unfair, I dare say that, although it is rated as one of the top safari destinations, Kenya still faces minor challenges with the self-drive alternative. For some reason, this type of tour has not been able to take off in Kenya. In fact, some travel agents and tour operators will advise you the first time visitor - against self-drive tours in the whole of East Africa! But apart for the fact that tour operators have not promoted it as a viable option to the traditional escorted tour, there seems to be a good reason for this cautionary approach.

Top on the list of reasons is the condition of the roads, followed by safety and security concerns. The road network connecting the various attractions is very good. But the condition of most of these road is bad, to say the least. Even the roads connecting some of the major towns are in a bad shape. The traffic on the major roads and highways can be heavy and haphazard. The drivers of public service vehicles, who also share these roads, pose great danger by driving recklessly, without regard to traffic rules.

Does this mean self-drive tour is a no-go zone in Kenya?

No. You will still enjoy a self-drive safari in Kenya, as long as you get to know in advance what to expect, design a good itinerary and prepare well for the tour. For vehicle hire in Nairobi and Mombasa see http://www.explorerkenya.com/car_hire.html. In principle, any itinerary that can be done as an escorted tour can be done on a self-drive basis. For those seeking to drive themselves into the national parks and game reserves, get ready for long driving hours on unpaved, rough roads or muddy, if it is wet. This can be fun as long as you do not get stuck in the middle of the park. The good news is that with the mobile telephone network covering most of Kenya, help will be just a phone call way.

Generally, the wettest months in Kenya will be April, May and part of June. If you must travel during this season, you have no options when choosing the type of vehicle. You are limited to off-road vehicles, sometimes called 4WD. These are better equipped for wet conditions.

You accommodation needs

The major towns in Kenya offer acceptable standards of hotel services, but the farther you move away from the major towns, the lower the standards get. However, as you enter the national parks and game reserves, services gets better. Beach accommodation as an inclusive to a safari package is also on offer. If you want a specific type of accommodation, or would like to stay in a particular lodge within the parks, please book in advance. This way you avoid the possible disappointment that comes with finding that the facility booked up. Keep this in mind especially if you intend to travel to Kenya during the high travel seasons generally between July and October. You can get around this challenge by contacting the lodge directly to secure your accommodation space, or by booking through an established Kenya safari holidays booking agent.

While on your self-drive tours, take general precautions that will ensure a trouble-free vacation. Always keep the vehicle locked when unattended. Lock the doors at all times. Do not leave luggage or valuables visible in the vehicle. Do not give lifts to strangers and hitchhikers.

Get wise and enjoy your self-drive tour in Kenya!

If you intend to visit Kenya for the first time and would like to try the self-drive option, your first task would be to make contact with a Kenya travel specialist, who will listen to your needs and give you practical suggestions to come up with the best itinerary. As you engage your appointed travel specialist, the checklist below will guide you on what to get done:

.Ensure your accommodation arrangements are in place.

.Get the right type of vehicle considering the time of the year and route.

.Choose the unlimited mileage option on your car-rental deal.

.Insist on securing a vehicle that is not older than 12 months.

.Get assurance that you will get a detailed tourist map.