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Etiquette in Mombasa

Social conventions in Mombasa and the surrounding areas are basically the same as in Western countries. Handshaking is the common form of greeting and informal dress is the norm. Kenyans are generally considered very friendly and welcoming, so you should be able to get to know a few of the locals during your visit.

While visiting the coast, you will find everything is a bit more relaxed and casual. The sense of casual dress is more open – shorts, dresses, and sarongs are common. Cotton is your best friend on the coast as it keeps you cool and is easy to wash and dry. Leave your synthetic or nylon pieces at home; these fabrics often overheat your body and are uncomfortable to travel in. And don’t forget your sarong – it has a multitude of uses including wrapping it around as a skirt (for both men and women), as a dress, top, scarf, swim wrap, table cloth, bed sheet, or instant shade.

Tipping is not mandatory but it is often expected. Most of the big hotels and restaurants include the gratuity (service charge) in their bills but porters, maids, taxi drivers, and so on should be tipped.

If a service charge is not included at a restaurant, club, or bar, ten percent is the customary gratuity. It is also customary to tip your safari guide, captain, and driver at the end of your trip. You can also give gifts such as t-shirts, shirts, shorts, shoes, hats, and the like. Carry these items with you and give them away as a token of appreciation to your local watchman, guide, house help, and especially people living out in remote villages where access to such items can be difficult.

The dining atmosphere in Mombasa is similar to other Western countries. It is a casual experience meant to be social. You’ll likely be invited to try some of the exotic meats that are part of the normal Kenyan diet. If tasting crocodile doesn’t sound appealing, just politely refuse and your hosts will understand.

Here are a few other tips:

– If you want to photograph the locals, it is polite to get their permission first. There are some instances where the people might expect compensation for taking their picture.
– If you are unsure about anything, ask. Your hotel staff or guide should be able to answer all of your questions so you don’t have to risk making a mistake.
– Do not give money to children or beggars on the streets.