Can I Use US Dollars in Kenya? - Kenya Travel Advice, Dollar to Ksh, and More

Can I use US dollars in Kenya? -

Can I use US dollars in Kenya? Can I use American dollars in Kenya? The simple answer is yes. In fact, besides Kenya Shilling, Kenya money, the dollar is the most used currency in Kenya. It is followed by the Pound and the Euro, respectively.

The US dollar is the preferred means of payment for services and activities such as Hot Air Balloon Safaris, park entrance fees, and Kenyan hotels. Local safari guides, souvenir sellers, and high-end malls and businesses accept the USD for services rendered.

You can use US dollars at Airports and park entry points throughout Kenya. However, our Kenya travel experts advise you to convert some USD to Kenya Shillings to foot small bills such as bar bills, meals not included in your Kenya holiday itinerary, etc.

On the same point, SMEs, especially those located away from tourist destinations, do not accept US dollars. You will have to pay them in Kenyan money.

Kenya Travel Advice - How to Book Your Safari with Us

It is easy to book your safari with us. You only need to reach us through WhatsApp or phone at +254-748-258-880 to book your package.  We are also available through email at or

Our Most Booked Kenya Safari Packages in US Dollars

Our Most Booked Kenya Safari Packages 2023Price Per Adult SharingThe Detailed Itinerary
1-Day Nairobi National Park & Giraffe Center TourFrom USD 119See the Itinerary
1-Day Nairobi National Park & Nairobi Animal Orphanage TourFrom USD 34See the Itinerary
3-Day Masai Mara Camp PackagesFrom USD 1015See the Itinerary
3-Day Masai Mara Christmas PackagesFrom USD 1010See the Itinerary
3-Day Masai Mara Easter PackagesFrom USD 985See the Itinerary
3-Day Masai Mara Festive PackagesFrom USD 1315See the Itinerary
3-Day Masai Mara Lodge SafariFrom USD 995See the Itinerary
3-Day Masai Mara PackagesFrom USD 955See the Itinerary
3-Day Masai Mara Packages from NairobiFrom USD 995See the Itinerary
3-Day Ol Pejeta Easter SafariFrom USD 1175See the Itinerary
4-Day Africa Migration Masai Mara PackagesFrom USD 1360See the Itinerary
4-Day L. Naivasha & Masai Mara Easter SafariFrom USD 1249See the Itinerary
4-Day L. Naivasha & Masai Mara SafariFrom USD 1174See the Itinerary
4-Day L. Nakuru & Masai Mara SafariFrom USD 1162See the Itinerary
4-Day Masai Mara Camp PackagesFrom USD 1195See the Itinerary
4-Day Masai Mara Easter PackagesFrom USD 1235See the Itinerary
4-Day Masai Mara Migration PackagesFrom USD 1360See the Itinerary
4-Day Mombasa & Diani SafariFrom USD 937See the Itinerary
4-Day Mombasa & Diani Valentine SafariFrom USD 1405See the Itinerary
5-Day Flying Safari to Masai Mara & Ol Pejeta ConservancyFrom USD 3777See the Itinerary
6-Day Kenya Wildlife Safari from IndiaFrom USD 1730See the Itinerary
7-Day Kenya Christmas SafariFrom USD 3093See the Itinerary
7-Day Kenya Wildlife SafariFrom USD 1884See the Itinerary
8-Day Kenya Wildlife SafariFrom USD 4413See the Itinerary
8-Day Wildlife & Beach SafariFrom USD 1585See the Itinerary
12-Day Kenya Wildlife & Beach SafariFrom USD 4216See the Itinerary
18-Day Kenya Family SafariFrom USD 5849See the Itinerary

What Currency Does Kenya Use? What is the Currency in Kenya?

The official Kenya money is the Kenya shillings, not to be confused with Tanzania or Uganda shillings which are different currencies. And the currency of Kenya is abbreviated as Ksh or KES, with the viable notes being 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000.

Coins are available in denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 40, while the largest denomination is Ksh. 1000 which is equivalent to approximately USD 8.59 – USD10, depending on the Dollar exchange rate in Kenya.

Most establishments in cities and big towns such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Masai Mara, Nakuru, and Kisumu have POS systems that support debit and credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and more. 

The same applies to most entry points into game reserves and airports. This makes it possible to pay for your Kenya safari in different currencies, from the Dollar to Ksh and the Euro to Pound. 

Note that these POS occasionally break down due to extended power outages or internet connectivity issues and ATMs often run out of cash. So, do not depend entirely on your debit or credit card as a payment method for your Masai Mara, Nairobi, or Lake Nakuru Safari

We advise you to carry some USD to Kenya that you can use to cover such instances; about USD 150 is okay. Also, remember to call your card company and bank and let them know you are traveling to Kenya.

Sometimes, e-Wallets and Banks will decline foreign withdrawals and payments to safeguard your bankroll. Inform them before you travel comes in handy to ensure you don’t run into trouble while trying in a foreign land.

What is the Best Currency to Take to Kenya?

The US dollar is the best currency to carry when traveling to Kenya. It’s more stable against the Kenya shilling than the Pound and the Euro and the easiest to convert into the Dollar to shilling via local Forex bureaus or banks.

The prevailing Kenya currency to USD exchange rate is approximately USD 1 for Ksh. 100 – Ksh 116. The Pound and Euro are not exactly unattractive.

Even where service charges are quoted in USD, Pounds and Euros are still accepted. But the pound to Kenya shillings exchange rate is not as consistent as the US dollar to Kenya Shillings exchange rate.

The locals prefer USDs over pounds. They often quote a less favorable rate for the pound and Euro. We recommend converting Euros to Kenya shillings or USD, and you can check the rate using an online currency converter.

When Can I Use American Dollars in Kenya? - Best Currency to Take to Kenya

It’s important to note that when you travel out of town or away from major tourist destinations, most establishments won’t accept cards or USDs. Below we share a list of instances when you can’t use US Dollars in Kenya.

When Buying Food from Local Eateries

Most local restaurants will prefer payments in Kenyan shillings. Some will accept credit or debit cards but will hardly take dollars. If you want to explore local Kenyan cuisines, carry Kenyan shillings in small denominations.

Notes of 50, 100, 200, and 500 are mainly ideal because the food is cheap.

When Buying Drinks at Local Bars

If you want to experience the local nightlife, exchange your foreign currency for Kenya Shillings and join Kenyans in a nightclub. I recommend trying Tusker, Kenya’s flagship beer, and Nyama Choma (charcoal-grilled meat).

We Kenyans don’t turn down legit business. No one will turn you back for not having Kenya Shillings, but it’s best to pay the local currency to avoid inflated prices. Drinking at the local bars is much cheaper than the high-end clubs.

When Traveling Using the Local Transport

When using matatus (public transport) and trains, you need to use the Kenya shillings. This sector is informal, so the need to use the local currency. Taxi drivers are flexible, and you can pay them using your card, Kenya shillings, or US dollars. 

And yes, you can use Uber to get around major cities in Kenya.

When Shopping

When shopping at the Maasai Market in Nairobi, Marikiti, or Old Town in Mombasa, you can use Kenya shillings or US  dollars. These open-air markets sell genuine souvenirs. A trip to Kenya is not complete until you have purchased a few (or several) beaded necklaces, bracelets, sculptures of the Big Five, and some beautiful paintings. 

These items will remind you of the adventure you had in our beautiful country. The prices of things at the market vary from as little as USD 1 to USD 200, depending on what you buy. Most traders will insist on cash (Kenyan or dollars) or mobile money transactions, so be sure to convert some USD to Kenyan shilling.

If you go shopping in the supermarkets and local stores, you will use cards and Kenyan money to clear the bill. - Can I Use US Dollars in Kenya?
You Can Buy Sculptures of the Big Five Using Dollars or Kenya Money

Preferred Payment Methods in Kenya - Accepted Payment Methods

From Ksh to USD, you can use different currencies when paying for items or Kenya family, solo, group, or corporate safari. This is also true regarding the accepted payment methods you can use in Kenya.

Mobile Payments – MPesa and Airtel Money

Mobile money outlets (Mpesa and Airtel) are prevalent in Kenya, but they only support the local currency. We suggest you use MPESA to carry your Kenya money around rather than putting a lot of cash in your pocket.

It’s safer and accepted as cash in hand.

Important Notes about Using Mpesa in Kenya

  • You can only load Mpesa using Kenya Shillings. So, you will first need to convert US Dollars to Kenyan money. Luckily, there are many Mpesa stores in major towns and rural areas.
  • You must have a Safaricom phone number to use Mpesa services.
  • You will be required to produce your ID or Passport when depositing and withdrawing money using MPesa.
  • MPesa recently integrated with Paypal to allow you to transfer funds from your PayPal wallet to Mpesa.

Card Payment Method – Debit and Credit Cards

When traveling, you pay most bills using your debit or credit card. So, pre-load your prepaid card with enough cash. This article breaks down the total Masai Mara Safari cost to point you in the right direction. And this one will give you an estimate of the much you should expect to spend on a cheap safari in Kenya. 

Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are accepted in Kenya, and big hotels in Kenya readily accept debit and credit cards. However, we recommend that you don’t rely on your card all the time. Park entrances usually have a POS system where you can pay the entrance fees via your card.

The POS system often fails, and we suggest you carry some cash on you to cover such incidents. Other modes of payments are eWallets such as Paypal, Skrill, Neteller, and WebMoney, which have edged their roots in Kenya, and money businesses accept them.

The Best Currency to Take to Kenya – Dollars and Kenyan Shillings

Cash is widely used in the country when paying bills. You can pay for services and goods in dollars in areas tourists and foreigners frequent. Some services are often quoted in dollars and shilling, like park fees and high-end hotels, restaurants, and clubs.

Which Dollar Series is Accepted in Kenya?

Can old dollars still be used? The USD is widely accepted in Kenya and easy to convert to Kenya shillings. However, the dollars are only accepted if they are in good condition and less than 10 years old.

That means banks in Kenya will not accept any dollar that is more than 10-year old, is torn, or has some writing. However, some exchange bureaus might take them. Smaller denominations might also not be accepted by the locals due to unfavorable exchange rates.

Kenya Travel Advice - Where Can I Exchange Foreign Currency in Kenya

You can use these two options when exchanging your US dollars for the Kenyan shillings.

Forex Bureaus

You will be able to exchange your dollars for the Kenyan shillings in forex bureaus found in the major towns such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, and Kisumu. Walk down the streets of Nairobi, and you will spot a large number of exchange bureaus in the CBD. 

Most of them operate from 9 am to 7 pm, but we have a few operating 24 hours. As a general rule, you will get a better deal from Forex Bureaus if you want to exchange a small amount. Customers who want to exchange large sums are better off transacting with a bank as they offer the best Kenya currency rate.

The three international airports (Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu) have forex bureaus open 24 hours. You can exchange your cash immediately after arrival.


Banks are ideal for exchanging currency, but their rates are not as favorable as those of bureaus. Kenya has over 40 licensed banks with branches all over the country, so exchanging your dollars shouldn’t be a problem even in the small towns in the country.

Try and carry newer bills as banks are likely to reject older dollar bills.  Banking hours are from 9 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday, and 9 am to 12 pm on Saturday.  Do not change your money in the black market even with attractive rates. It’s illegal and the risk of being defrauded or going to jail is very high.

What We Can Do with 100 USD in Kenya - What Can 10,000 Kenyan Shillings Buy?

How much is a dollar in Kenya? One dollar in Kenya shillings is about Ksh 100, 50 Dollars in Kenyan shillings is about Ksh. 50,000 and 100 Dollars are about Ksh. 10,000. 10,000 Kenyan money is enough to buy food and clothes and even book a 3-start hotel in Nairobi on a bed & breakfast basis.

For a person on a safari to Masai Mara National Park or any other destination in Kenya, you should consider buying souvenirs with your USD 100. You can purchase Maasai beads, shukas, bracelets, necklaces, etc.

How Much Does a Kenya Safari Cost?

The total cost of a Kenya safari depends on several factors, including your comfort level, mode of transport, and what you want to do and see while in Kenya. I would advise you to have a budget of USD 150-  USD 200 a day to cover your daily needs.

This will be money for food, transport and light shopping, exclusive of safaris.  Cheap Kenya Safari goes for as low as USD 350 per person sharing, Kenya family holidays for as low as USD 500 per day, and Luxury Kenya holidays for over USD 1,000 per person per day.

At, we always advise our clients that budget travel does not mean cheap, and cheap can be expensive in the long run. Yes, you can get affordable services, but they can be poor quality and unsafe. Let’s break down the cost of a Kenya safari package for you.

Cost of Accommodation in Kenya

There are several accommodations for you to choose from when on holiday in Kenya. And yes, you don’t need to ask, “can I use US dollars in Kenya?” for paying for hotels since you can use them. 

Budget Hotels

Budget hotels are sometimes not the best choice for luxury-oriented travelers, but they will do if you are on a budget. You can find a clean room with hot showers for USD 30 – USD 60 a night in towns like Mombasa and Nairobi.

Contact us, and we will be happy to share a list of the best budget hotels in Kenya that offer premium services.


Hostels are few and not always available. They are cheap and offer decent accommodation for those backpackers. In Nairobi, Manyatta Backpackers is a great place to stay. It is near the city and a few minutes’ cab ride to the Nairobi National Park and the Giraffe Centre. 

In Mombasa, Tulia Backpackers is an ideal location to stay. Expect to pay USD 20 –  USD 40 per night.

Serviced Apartments

The cost of a serviced apartment can range from USD 35 to USD 250 depending on the location of the house, size, and season. You will pay more during the peak season. A three-bedroom serviced apartment a few meters from Diani

Beach goes for USD 100- USD 250 in the peak season, while the same sized apartment in Mombasa town costs USD 70- USD 150 during the off-peak season.

High-End Hotels

Kenya has many 4-star and 5-star hotels scattered across all the major tourist destinations in the county. You will receive excellent services but at a premium price. Expect to pay over USD 100 a night should you choose that comfort level. 

In the Masai Mara, the Cottars Safari Camp, Entim Mara, Basecamp Masai Mara, Salas Camp, and Mara River Crossing are some places to stay if you want a luxurious experience of your safari.

Can I Use US Dollars in Kenya - Tented Camp
Luxurious Tented Camp will Provide You with Great Views

Cost of Transport in Kenya

You have a lot of choices when traveling around the country. You can use either public transport or taxis to get to various destinations, although these are not the way for a tourist


Traveling around Nairobi and Mombasa is relatively easy thanks to mobile apps like Uber, Taxify, and Little Cab, all of which can be paid using cards, in shillings, and dollars. Taxify and Little Cabs are local cab-hailing apps that you can download on Android and IOS phones.

In some areas, only local taxis operate. They are not metered; the driver will determine the fee, and they can be pretty expensive, especially on long rides. The drivers are paid using the local currency, so you need to convert some USD to Kenyan shilling. 

A ride can cost anywhere from USD 5 and above, depending on the distance traveled.

Matatus (Public Transport)

Save your money and use public transport (matatu) during the day and take cabs at night. If you want to experience the local transportation (the ultimate Kenyan experience), take a matatu from one location to the other.

City Hoppa and Kenya Bus Service buses ply all routes in the capital Nairobi and are reliable. Matatus cover every part of the country, and for this, you will need local currency. Depending on the distance, a ride can cost as little as one dollar to USD 20.

Car Rental

If you plan on renting a car for the duration of your stay, a car rental will cost you anywhere from USD 40 to USD 100 per day, depending on the size and type of vehicle. An independent safari for two people with a rental car and a driver will cost you USD 80 to USD 120.

If you are traveling as a group or family, opt for a minibus, it will save you money by sharing game drives with other travelers.

Using the SGR train

A trip from Nairobi to Mombasa will set you back USD 10 to USD 30, and it takes only four hours. Book the train in advance as it fills up very quickly.


Flights are expensive but will save you time on the road. They can cost USD 100 for a short flight from Nairobi to Masai Mara and USD 50 from Nairobi to Diani. The important thing is to book your flight in advance.

Cost of Food in Kenya

Local restaurants may or may not accept credit and debit cards, so have Kenya money with you all the time. A two-course meal will be charged at USD 5 in a local joint and USD 50 in a top-end restaurant.

A plate of ugali (cornmeal staple) and nyama choma (barbeque beef) will set you back USD 5. If you are traveling as a group, order your name choma in Kilos. For 1Kg of nyama choma and ugali you will pay USD 5 to USD 15. A one-liter bottle of drinking water goes for USD 0.5.

Street food is typical in the towns but is careful where you eat. It’s cheap, so with a budget of USD 2, that is a complete meal. A large pizza at Pizza Inn (a local pizza chain) will average $20.

If you choose to stay in a  serviced apartment, groceries worth $50 will feed a family of 4 for five days. Fruits, vegetables, meats, and drinking water are affordably priced and can be found in the local stores.

The Cost of Nightlife in Kenya

Kenya has a vibrant nightlife which you should discover. Tusker (beer) is Kenya’s most famous local beer, and a bottle goes for between USD 1.70 and USD 5, depending on the hotel or lodge of your choice.

Kenyans love a good party so join in the fun in the local bars and taste the local brews. A glass of Kenyan wine goes for about USD 4. High-end bars and clubs stock a melange of other beers (local and international) and whiskey, rum, and a host of alcoholic drinks that you will not find anywhere. 

Expect to pay entrance fees that can go as high as USD 20, especially if the co-hosting a local performer, musician or band for the night. You will find the same tusker being sold for USD 6 and wine going for USD 8 a glass in these establishments.

We hope we have answered your question. Yes, you can use your US dollars in Kenya when on a camping safari to pay for services and goods, but at some point, you will need the local shilling to get the basic services afforded to you.