All you need to know about the infrastructure when travelling

All you need to know about the infrastructure when travelling

Here are some hints on transport, logistics, phone and internet (not only in Kenya) you should consider when travelling.

Transport

Once you know where you want to travel, you may wonder how to do so. Most likely you’ll be flying, but how do you continue afterwards? Guidebooks can be a good option to check different possibilities for different routes within one country and how to get from one country to the next. The guidebook for Kenya by Lonely Planet, for instance, often describes the exact routes of public transport or which line to use to get to a specific sight.

Much better, though, are people who are or have recently been there, and those who live there.

Often it is sufficient to make bookings one day prior to your tour or day trip, if at all.

Try to settle first, for a day or two, in the town where you land. Then you can get helpful information on how to continue. Hotels, organisations and hosts often have contacts and can help you organise the continuation of your journey.

In Kenya, a common means of transport are matatus, small vans with 10 to 30 seats. Depending on their route and whether they operate within Nairobi or carry passengers from town to town, they are pimped and tuned, play the latest Kenyan or Nigerian music very loudly and they may or may not carry excess passengers.

The German embassy warns of using these vehicles for transportation, but for me there is no other way, since I don’t own a car. Here the best advice is to stick to what your hosts or friends say who use these vehicles daily. There are certain times or places that you shouldn’t use them. You shouldn’t expose your phone close to the window or door. And it is advisable to carry the exact amount of money for the fare with you.

At the Kenyan coast and also in some places in Tanzania there are routine methods for indicating that you want to alight. You may knock on the inner roof of the van or answer in a certain way, when the conductor announces your stage. You will learn these with time.

Transport in the global South is often stereotyped as being chaotic and if you have these expectations, they will fulfil themselves. Try to be open, flexible and not judge or compare everything with your home country. Be careful with describing everything as extreme if it appears to you like that. A ride on a matatu won’t make you a hero. People use it every day because they must.

General logistics and infrastructure

  • People who stay longer can consider to open a P.O. Box.
  • You may not be able to get free Wi-Fi everywhere. Instead, cyber cafes or co-working spaces and hubs are becoming more popular in certain areas in the global South.
  • Find out about the requirements for driving. Left or right? What type of driving licence is accepted? How can you get one?

Contacts

We have made the experience that people sometimes don’t read their emails as regularly as we expected – if at all. Mobile phone numbers are expensive to call, but often a good way to confirm things from abroad.

Not every organisation has an address that may make sense to you. Not all houses have numbers, not all streets have names and not all places have streets. Often, there is the postal address with the code for the P.O. Box, and then there is a description of where the office is.

You may need all these information upon arrival for visa application and general information at the entrance.

Officers want to make sure that you have someone who is responsible for you, or at least that you know where you are going. Carry these contacts with your other travelling documents.

Phone / Internet

You may have seen the stereotypical photo of a Maasai using a mobile phone. In Kenya, almost everyone has a mobile phone, because landlines never really made it.

The idea – and the practical execution of it – to send money through the phone came from Kenya.

You don’t need to come with an extra, “Africa compatible”, robust, old Nokia phone. People also use smartphones there and may ridicule you for thinking that “modern” phones are not suitable.

In most cases, the easiest option is to get a national sim-card. You can easily buy credit for calls and bundles for internet. Ask other travellers how they communicated with the people at home and which one is the cheapest or best connection. Maybe Skype or other services are better.

As I said before: The Wi-Fi coverage may not be as broad as you are used to. But with bundles on your phone, in more urban places and in hubs, cafes and hot spots with many expats you will find connection.

What are your tips and experiences with logistics, phone and internet while travelling? Share them in the comments below.

Choose the format for your travel blog

How and why to blog about your travel through email, on blogs, social media or WhatsApp

My first travel blogs fulfilled the sole purpose of keeping my family and friends updated. I just wrote, added some pictures and then published without editing. The posts were long, because I wrote twice a month and a lot had happened within two weeks. The response was scarce, but friends and acquaintances generally were interested in my journey and I was sure they were reading.

If you are thinking of opening a travel blog, these are the first two questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Why are you writing?
  2. Who is your audience?

These questions go hand in hand. If you are writing to keep your family and friends updated, they are your audience. But don’t underestimate the bragging power of parents: My dad started sending the links of the blog posts to his colleagues and friends, because he liked them so much. So the private audience quickly became a bunch of people I didn’t even know.

Ask yourself why, how and when they are reading or following you. Are they going to read long texts? Or are short videos better (Periscope)? What about daily quick thoughts and photos (Twitter / Instagram)?

Maybe you are a professional travel blogger, or want to become one. Or you want to journal for your own benefit.

Whatever your reason to publish and whoever your audience is – they determine your platform and format for travel blogging.

Here are some options. You can combine them, and there are more. But this should give you a quick overview.

Blog

Publish on a blog for friends and family with the possibility of expanding the readership. Blogs are also great if you want to reach a bigger audience, publish journalistically, inspire others whom you don’t know personally or even want to raise money or make some political, social or cultural phenomena public.

If you want to journal just for yourself, lock it with a password, so that you are the only one who has access.

Video

I kept getting similar questions about how I was doing in Kenya. But I personally find emails to many people not very personal and sometimes even boring. So I record a video every month, upload it and send the link and password to a growing number of people.

I don’t have special equipment. Neither do I have a script. I just start talking in front of the camera, insert some photos or scenes I recorded previously and sometimes add some music. I always keep them around six to maximum ten minutes.

Watching a video is less effort to many people than reading a long email. And I feel more authentic towards the people who are genuinely interested in what I am up to.

There are plenty of options for platforms, tech equipment, professionality and formats. Some audiences may be satisfied with only seeing you talking. However, travel vloggers often have great cameras and microphones and their videos are full of action.

Shooting the video is only one quarter of the work. Vloggers usually have thought about a story before, and edited it later. And then there are data volume requirements and not everybody has internet everywhere.

If you want to do videos, you can also just record short clips, a bit like taking moving photos, and upload them on Periscope, in your WhatsApp or Facebook group or on Instagram.

Email

Emails will definitely be found in someone’s inbox. There is no escape and people can’t miss it. And you know exactly whom you are sending it to.

Consider your audience here: Hardly anybody, apart from your biggest fans, take their precious time to sit down and read 3 000 words of continuous text about their friend or niece, who is currently travelling through a country they can hardly imagine.

If you want feedback, a WhatsApp or Facebook group is more attractive than email, simply because people can quickly like something or leave a short comment with one single click. Also, your messages might be shorter, more regular and not these big bites that nobody in the boring non-traveller’s daily life has time for and enthusiasm to read.

WhatsApp

On WhatsApp or other messenger services you have more control over who gets to read what you are writing, and you will more likely get feedback, because it’s easier and quicker to answer.

Social Media

Social media is usually more public. You can change the settings for who will be able to read and share though, or open a separate, closed group.

Photos, videos and voice messages will be easier to handle on social media, like Periscope, or a messenger service like WhatsApp.

Podcast

Voice messages or podcasts are only suitable for people who know you personally, because they can imagine your face with the voice. Describing a different culture in a ramble for a podcast is a real challenge, and I would like to dare you here to be the next best travel-caster! However, most of it works better visually or when you have written it well.

If you are thinking of establishing a professional blog or brand, or you have already started out: There is a great blogpost by Regina of byregina.com  where you can find out whether blogging, Youtube, Periscope and other platforms are right for you.

Some general hints

  • Short is always good, especially online. People don’t have time anymore – unfortunately. Unless you are a predestined travel writer, keep your posts around 800 words, your videos under ten minutes and sort your photos before publicly uploading them all.
  • Regular works better than long. If you can write once a week or three times a month, do it. This automatically helps keeping things short. It also “teaches” your audience when to check for news about you. You can announce new posts via email or social media. Or blog on a specific day so that people know, every Tuesday or every 10th, 20th and 30th of the month they can check back in with you.
  • Different platforms give you different ways of control. Do you want control over who is reading or is it okay if it spreads? (Consider password protection, groups with invitation vs. Facebook pages, for example.)
  • Maybe you are already familiar with one or several of these outlets – and you don’t have much time to start learning how to use a new one. Then the best is to go with what you are comfortable with. Register a blog, open a group or set up a profile. If you need to practice, start talking about your preparation, announce your flight, or answer questions you are already getting about your trip.

Do you have any favourites of formats for travel blogging? What did we forget? Let us know in the comments below.

 

How I travel on a low budget in Kenya

travel on a low budget in Kenya

and why a change in perspective is the key to all richness

Just to warn you: This is much more a blog post on your own attitude and how it can help you deal with the money issue while travelling. It’s not a guide to travel on a low budget in Kenya. BUT: With the right perspective, money issues become much easier to handle.

I went to Kenya as a volunteer because I didn’t have money. Or at least, that was one of the many reasons. The African continent fascinated me and I wanted to get in touch with people instead of visiting the place as a tourist.

In fact, travelling as a volunteer may not be as money-saving as you think.

I paid for my flight tickets, the German organisation that connected me to the Kenyan one, and for them I paid again, for hosting and food. Regardless for me, after finishing school, volunteering was a cheaper option to travel.

It is always good to have a bit of a buffer on your account when going abroad. Many people work extra and save money for their big trip. Tara wrote a non BS guide on how she earns money for travelling.

It’s hard earned money. And it’s precious, so you don’t want to waste it.

I lived very modest in Kenya, never bought sweets or anything that appeared luxury to me. I hadn’t done that in Germany either, in order to keep my bucks together and make this trip happen.

It took me many years to realise two things:

  1. The fact that I am in a position to work extra, earn and save money for a flight ticket, is a privilege that not many people have.
  2. And: Some people in Kenya would have preferred me to send them the money instead of coming.

Some people see me as a walking wallet. Because I do own more money than them.

The most important thing to keep in mind when travelling to the global South is that you as a traveller from the global North will always have more money, better ways to get money and higher financial security than many people you will encounter. Think health insurance, visa card, student loans, help from your family, etc.

Many of my Kenyan friends don’t have a bank account. It’s not necessary for them.

Keeping my privilege in mind makes it a bit easier to decide on what to spend on and it helps to understand certain situations.

Volunteers invited my husband to a fancy restaurant once. To get there, he spent half of the money he had that day on transport and remained with another 80 Kenya Shillings, just enough to get back home. After the meal, where he only took tea which was already expensive enough, the inviting volunteer left a tip of 400 Kenya Shillings on the table. Tipping is generally not very common in Kenya, and there was my husband, spending his last bucks on transport, leaving 400 Shillings on the table of a noble restaurant.

I still don’t spend a lot of money when travelling, mostly because I don’t have it anyway.

  • I don’t need much anymore, as my life has become more minimalistic.
  • I personally don’t give money to people begging in the streets, whether it is in Kenya or in Germany. Even though I could. I may write about my reasons for that another time.
  • I developed a feeling for when something is expensive. I buy local food on the market. I use public transport and don’t join all-inclusive safari packages. Goods and services are cheaper compared to what I would have to pay in Germany. But that is not reason enough for me to abandon my modest lifestyle in Kenya.
  • I don’t invite everyone all the time and pay for everything, just because I feel guilty about having more money than many of my Kenyan friends. But I sometimes cook for them, I help them when they have funerals or hospital bills. Not because I have money, but because it is very common to do that in Kenya.

To me it is important to add value to people’s lives and make them know that they are adding value to mine. Money discussions are still uncomfortable, but I know my privilege and that makes me more open towards the Kenyan culture of dealing with money. I have learned to develop my standing point when it comes to what to pay for and what not.

How do you deal with “the money issue” while travelling? Do you have any good tips or tools you use? Let us know in the comments below!

Should I pay for volunteering?

Should I pay for vlunteering?

Yes and no. First you need to evaluate your attitude.

When travelling to Kenya for the first time, I did pay for volunteering. I used two organisations to get there. One German and one Kenyan one. The German organisation prepared me with two seminars and connected me to the Kenyan organisation. The Kenyan organisation connected me to an orphanage and two other projects where I could stay and volunteer.

The opening ceremony for one of the projects was a fundraising campaign. Local officials gave speeches and some women donned them with glittering chains that I just know as Christmas tree decoration. The volunteers, a bunch of slightly overwhelmed graduates from Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Finland had to introduce themselves, and everybody said how happy and grateful they were to be here and motivated to work together.

The campaign followed the common structure: Somebody announced that they were collecting money to support the project we were all going to work in. Then people went in front and gave out money which they collected in a pot or on a plate. Often, politicians use such fundraisings to become known as supporters of certain causes, as they are also the guests of honour of such occasions and draw attention to the project.

When the officials and the project hosts had contributed, something awkward happened:

Everybody was waiting for the volunteers to contribute, but we hadn’t brought cash, because we hadn’t known that there would be a fundraising campaign and that people expected us to contribute. Also, we thought, we paid for our flights and our organisations, so why add expenditures on top?

I didn’t understand the cultural value of a fundraising ceremony by then. And many Kenyans thought that if I had the money to come all the way to Kenya, I would certainly have money to contribute to their cause.

I expected that with the fee I had paid to the German and the Kenyan organisation, they had taken care of everything.

I didn’t understand that NGOs or community organisations that are sending international volunteers to local projects are, at least in Kenya, mostly commercial undertakings. And there is nothing bad about that. Just as my German organisation gets funding from the government and the German participating volunteers to pay their staff, the Kenyan organisations need to cover their costs and generate income as well. They work in offices, they have transport costs and internet fees, and that’s where the volunteers’ money goes.

One of the biggest complaints I heard from many volunteers…

… was that they were disappointed and angry, because they felt that the money they had paid the organisation didn’t reach the project where they were staying. This is very common. But neither are we police nor do we have the authority as volunteers to ask for a total breakdown of the organisation’s cost. None of the volunteers I ever met demanded that from their sending organisation. The tension usually arose on the ground, when expectations were not being met and communication was not clear. Money is only a scape goat for these issues.

Erick Hartmann knows the numbers:

Intermediary organizations may be for-profit or non-profit, but they’re all part of the $173 billion global travel and tourism sector. Within that sector, industry leaders have identified international volunteering as a high growth market. There is also typically a community-based organization (CBO), or a local school or other social-serving initiative, where the volunteering actually occurs.

Depending on the financial model, the CBO may receive a donation with each volunteer, may receive room-and-board revenues, or may experience no clear financial benefit. The CBO, like the intermediary, is part of the financial puzzle that is the rapidly growing $2.8 billion global voluntourism sector.

It’s business – which doesn’t mean it is bad. But knowing that fact can avoid that you have wrong expectations.

But let’s get back to the burning question: Should you pay for volunteering?

You are offering your time and labour for free for people to improve their living conditions. Then why should you add them money on top?

When should you not you pay for volunteering?

  • when you are actually scared or not sure about what you are doing and you want an agency to handle everything – In that case, rethink again whether volunteering is for you.
  • when you want to make claims, get back the exact value for your money or implement your idea on the ground – Volunteering cannot be broken down into monetary value only. Exchange, connection and experiences count much more.
  • when you want to donate for charity – You can do that differently. If you see a situation on the ground that needs support, you can start thinking about how you can assist. (We once got support by the great people of The Wandering Samaritan to do so.)
  • when you want the certificate for your CV – Volunteering is so much more than that. That’s why you will have to pay for much more than only a certificate.
  • when you already know a local project and have contacts so you can organise it yourself – Then it depends on whether you can stay there as a visitor or whether you will contribute to your stay financially. The beauty of this situation is that you can discuss it with the people directly without having to pay an agency for connecting you.
  • when you will be in the country for a while – Get to know people first. They will be able to direct you to projects where you can become involved.

Would you pay for volunteering? Have you volunteered before without paying? Let us know in the comments below!

We are not affiliates with any of the linked organisations or websites – but we think they are great, that’s why we share them.