Each country has a unique custom for tips and gratuities, so it’s important to read up on tipping while traveling abroad. Before traveling to Kenya, I did lots of research and received input from locals on best practices for tipping while on safari. I’d like to share that knowledge here, so you’ll have one less thing to think about on your trip of a lifetime.
Recounting my safari was too much for one blog post, so I’ve broken it up into multiple articles. Here’s the table of contents and links to other articles in my Kenya Safari series:
Introduction: Planning A Wheelchair Accessible Kenya Safari
Tipping Etiquette: Guide to Tipping on an African Safari
Wheelchair Accessible Things to Do in Nairobi, Kenya
Wheelchair Accessible Places to Stay on a Kenya Safari
Exploring Lake Nakuru National Park in a Wheelchair
Spotting the Big 5 on a Wheelchair Accessible Tour of Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve
Lake Naivasha: The Perfect Pit-stop on a Kenya Safari
Tipping at the Safari Camp or Lodge
Sleeping accommodations on safari are fantastic — you’ll stay at all-inclusive tented camps and lodges, with staff to look after your every need. At a hotel in the United States or Europe, you might only tip the housekeeper and bellman. But staff at the safari camps and lodges in Kenya spend weeks or months away from home, and rely on tips to support their families.
Fortunately, tipping is easy and stress-free, since each camp has a tip box labeled “staff tips” in the lobby. Money deposited in these chests is shared among all staff members — room attendants, cooks, waiters, bartenders, etc. The suggested tip is between $10 and $15 per room/day, depending on how many people are in your party. If you’re traveling solo, $5 to $10 per day is sufficient.
During my safari, I dropped $10 per day in the tip box and gave a little extra directly to staff who I had interacted with frequently. Over a three-night stay at one camp, I gave an extra $10 to my waiter (who served me at every meal), and $5 each to the bartenders. These extra gratuities are not required, but I am naturally inclined to recognize good service with a tip.
How Much Should You Tip a Safari Driver-Guide?
The driver-guide is the most important person in the safari experience, and you’ll spend 8 or more hours per day together. They’re your driver and your guide, getting you as close as possible to the animals you want to see, and answering the hundreds of questions you’re sure to have.
My driver-guide, Rashid, made my trip extremely enjoyable. Together we managed to see all of the Big 5, and his spotting skills were amazing. He, like so many of his colleagues, is a true professional, and it was clear to me how much he enjoys his job.
Recognizing the driver-guide’s work is extremely important, and this is a tip that you cannot forget. Rashid sacrificed a week with his family to show me the time of my life, and that was deserving of my gratitude.
The generally accepted range for a driver-guide’s tip in Kenya is $10 to $20 per person per day. Since your driver-guide will be with you and your group for the entire safari, you should wait to tip until the end in a lump sum. If you’d like to tip more, you’re welcome to do that!
Carrying some extra money in local currency is always a good idea. Tips are appreciated in Kenya, and I made sure to have some Kenyan Shillings on hand to tip when necessary.
One such occasion was my boat ride on Lake Naivasha, where I had to be carried in a loaner wheelchair by the boat’s captain and three other men. I gave the captain 1,000 KSh ($10 USD) for his help.
Here are some other occasions where you might tip, and the suggested amounts:
- Wheelchair assistance at airport — $3 to $5
- Airport transfer (driver) — $10 per vehicle
- Bellman — $1 to $2 per bag
- Housekeeper — $2 per day
- Local restaurants (in the city) — 10% of the bill
- Massage therapist — 10% to 15%
In economies centered on tourism, tips make a big difference in the lives of local workers. Please use your best judgment in deciding when and how much to tip. Where possible, tip in the local currency equivalent.