So, can I use US dollars in Kenya and Tanzania? The simple answer is yes. In fact, besides Kenyan Tanzanian money – are called Kenya / Tanzania Shilling -the dollar is the second most used currency. It is followed by the Pound and the Euro respectively. US dollars have to be the latest series and undamaged (torn or marked) same to any other foreign currency.
The US dollar is the preferred means of payment for fun activities such as Hot Air Balloon Safaris and park entrance fees. Local safari guides, souvenir sellers, and high-end malls and businesses readily accept the USD, Pounds and Euros for services rendered. You will be able to use US dollars, pounds or Euros at Airports and park entry points throughout Kenya and Tanzania.
However, we advise our clients to convert some US dollars to local Shillings to foot small bills such as bar bills, meals not included in your holiday itinerary and so on. On the same point, SMEs, especially those located away from tourist destinations, do not accept US dollars. You will have to pay them in local money.
What Is the Best Currency to Take to use – USD vs Pound
The US dollar is the best currency to carry when traveling to East Africa. It’s more stable against the local shilling compared to the Pound and the Euro and the easiest to convert into local money via local Forex bureaus or banks. The prevailing local Money to US dollar exchange rate is approximately 1$ for Ksh. 100 and 1$ for Tsh 2280
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 local shillings exchange rate is not as consistent as the US dollar to local Shillings exchange rate.
Also, the locals prefer USDs over the pounds. They often quote a less favorable rate for the pound and Euro. The forex bureaus that exchange pounds are fewer compared to those that deal with the dollar. We recommend converting Euros to local shillings or USD.
When Will You Need to have local Currency?
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 must have local Money to pay your bills:
1. When Buying Food at the Local Eateries
Most local restaurants will prefer payments in local shilling. Some will accept credit or debit card, but will hardly accept dollars. If you want to explore local cuisines, carry local shillings in small denominations.
2. When Buying Drinks at Local Bars
If you want to experience the local nightlife, exchange your foreign currency into local Shillings and join Kenyans in a nightclub.
We Kenyans don’t turn down legit business. No one will turn you back for not having local 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.
3. When traveling Using the Local Transport
When using matatus or daladala (public transport) and trains, you will need to use the local shillings. This sector is informal so the need to use the local currency.
Taxi drivers are flexible, you can pay them using your card, local shillings or US dollars. And yes, you can use Uber to get around major cities in Kenya.
4. When Shopping
When shopping at the Maasai Market in Nairobi, Arusha or Old Town in Mombasa or Zanzibar, you can use both local shillings or US dollars. These open-air markets sell genuine souvenirs.
Believe me, a trip to East Africa is not complete until you have purchased a few (or several) beaded necklaces, bracelets, sculptures of the Big Five, and some beautiful paintings. These are the items that will remind you of the adventure you had in our beautiful country.
The prices of items at the market vary from as little as $1 to $200 depending on what you buy. Most of the traders will insist on cash(shilling or dollars) or mobile money transactions so be sure to carry shillings with you. If you go shopping in the supermarkets and local stores. cards and local money are what you will use to clear the bill.