An insiders guide to the local currencies
A question that we are frequently asked by our safari clients is, considering the costs involved, what form of payment is accepted out in East Africa and how best to cater for this. In all honesty, while East Africa is certainly getting better with accepting credit card payments, cash is still very much king out here. Below is a brief overview for the different methods:
All major forms of credit card are accepted in East Africa, although it is best to travel with either Mastercard or Visa as these accepted most widely. (Amex can be useful to withdraw dollars from banks). It is only in the major towns (such as Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Arusha, Kigali etc.) that you will be able to withdraw money from an ATM machine, and it will be dispensed in the local currency rather than dollars. (see section below on Local Currency). We recommend travelling with a credit card only as a backup (for buying things like diving or paying bar bills) as, due to the poor infrastructure, you will find that you can incur surcharges of anything up to 10% for using them.
Tanzania’s local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling, Kenya’s local currency is the Kenyan Shilling and Rwanda use the Rwandan franc. Whilst each of these are the currency of choice for the entire country, the currencies are all practically worthless once outside of the country. On a safari in East Africa, you will find little use for the local shillings as most lodges price in US dollars. We tend to use our shillings for tipping our guides and for buying the curios and carvings that are on sale across the country.
Without doubt the most widely used form of currency within the tourism industry. As a rough guide, we suggest that you look to budget around $15 per day in tips and around the same for drinks while on safari. While on the beach then around $10 a day is ample for tips and maybe slightly more for drinks. For more information on tipping, please click here.
We also recommend bringing smaller notes with you, and please note that dollars must be issued after 2006 otherwise they will not be accepted.
To be honest, the restrictions on cashing them, and the fact that there is a conversion charge to change them into dollars (even if they are Amex cheques) outweighs the safety element of buying them in the first place in our view. As mentioned above, as there are safes in all of the rooms, there is very little risk in taking cash with you.
For up-to-date exchange rates please follow this link: www.xe.com
*Please note that everywhere you stay has its own safe in the rooms and so your money will be safe*