The road is life

Pieces from my travels

What to expect

In Kenya you’ll have two names. They will either call you Sister (or Brother) if they want to sell you something or Mzungu on any other occasion.

The exact translation of Mzungu is ‘aimless wanderer’ but seriously I think it means ‘person with money’ or something of that sort. You probably won’t be able to walk on a street without people calling “Mzungu, mzungu” at all. If you have a good day, kids will accompany that with chanting “How are you, how are you..” or “I love you America” (where they got the notion that I’m American is still a mystery to me), if not you’ll hear things like “gimme food” or  “gimme money”. The later can be quite annoying so the best thing is to put on black sunglasses and just march through the crowds or as my friend did, tell them: “You give me money”. They usually don’t know what to say to that.

 Haggling. Don’t be afraid to haggle as you’re expected to do it. Of course, if you go to a proper shop with set prices don’t haggle but anywhere else, go for it. The first number you hear is, if not triple, at least double the price you’re expected to pay so don’t worry about pushing the price down as there’re high chances they’ll rip you off anyway. However, always think about how much it’s in your currency because what might happen is that you’ll be wasting your time haggling over few dollars. Think first how much you want to pay for it and say smaller number because at the end, you’ll end up somewhere between what you first said and want the seller first said. I’m not really good at haggling but my friends were able to haggle the price so low that they would often pay even less than Kenyans do.

Matatu. Matatu and buses are the way to travel in Kenya. Matatu is something between a van and a minibus and there are many types of matatus. You can find quiet or loud matatu, crowded, jumpy or how-the-hell-do-they-manage-to-make-this-work matatu or sometimes all of this mixed together. The price depends on what time it is (state of traffic, etc) and how far you go but usually it’s between 30-60 shillings. When you get to a matatu station you’ll immediately be surrounded by dozen of men trying to get you into their matatu so just keep repeating where you want to go and they’ll try to give you better price than the others, so just wait. Sometimes it happens that the ‘cash guy’ doesn’t have change to give you back straight away but don’t panic, Kenyans have brilliant memory on how much who paid them and they’ll eventually pay you back. Be aware of thieves specially in crowded matatus so don’t put anything into your pockets as that’s the easiest place to steal from.

  1. travel-0n posted this