Hear the word shilling and if you are of a certain age you will probably think of the part of the old pound sterling currency that was in use up until 1971 – pounds, shillings and pence. But the shilling is also the official currency used in Kenya, so if you’re going there at any point you’ll find out some interesting information by reading on.

What coins and notes are available for this currency?

As you would probably guess this is a decimal currency and it is divided into 100 cents. The official ISO code is KES and there are a number of coins and notes available for this currency.

There is only one coin available now in the cent denomination but that isn’t often seen anymore. This is the 50 cent coin. There are five other coins which are the 1, 5, 10 and 20 and unusually the 40 shilling coins.

As for banknotes these can be found in denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 shillings. You can also get 10 and 20 shilling notes but they are rarely seen today.

From past to present – the history of the Kenyan shilling

The Kenyan shilling came into being in 1966. Before this point the country used the East African shilling. The Kenyan shilling was created and issued at the same value as the old currency, so there was no change to get used to there.

How to get hold of the Kenyan shilling

You can buy some Kenyan shillings before you leave home. If you decide to do this you should think about ordering it in advance. It isn’t one of the more popular and frequently asked for currencies and this can make it more challenging to get hold of.

You’ll find a network of cash machines across Kenya but do make sure you are aware of the charges before you use them. It might also be worth alerting your bank and card holders to your trip to Kenya, in case they think your card has been stolen and used fraudulently.

You can exchange cash at a bank but be aware this can take time. You may well be asked to produce your passport when you do try to make an exchange. Finally you can use a credit card to pay for things but don’t let the card out of your sight (not something you should do anywhere anyway).

How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Kenyan shilling

All you need is to use a currency converter. Make sure you type in your own currency first and then use the ISO quick code to find the Kenyan shilling. You can get a basic conversion from this, or else you can get some comparisons from sites that offer to sell the currency to you. This will provide a more accurate idea of the amount it will cost you to buy a certain amount of Kenyan shillings.

In London you’ll find the Kenyan High Commission, but you don’t have to travel there to find out more about tourism and travelling to the country. You can visit in seconds by going to http://kenyahighcom.org.uk/.

Travelling safely with the Kenyan shilling

Many people travel to Kenya to go on a safari or to visit other parts of the country that are popular with tourists. It is well worth visiting the official government website to find the latest information concerning areas that are safe to visit and those that are not. This is regularly updated as information changes.

Kenya is not the safest place in the world to visit but providing you are alert to the dangers and you stay in safer areas you should be fine. Crime is of course present but it is particularly rife in the cities. Street crime is of particular concern, but there are ways you can minimise the odds of being affected. Make sure you are particularly careful when using cash machines and never carry more cash than you have to.

For the most part this is common sense but make sure you don’t flaunt your wealth when you are out and about. Street crime is largely opportunistic in nature and that means you will present a bigger and more noticeable target if you have lots of cash visible or you wear pricey jewellery. Watch out for cameras too and make sure you don’t leave a bag unattended or hang it on the back of your chair or seat.

Where to spend your shillings in Kenya – and what to spend them on

Kenya is part of East Africa. It shares a border with Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Tanzania to the south-west and Uganda and South Sudan to the west and north-west. It also faces part of the Indian Ocean in its south-eastern corner. The capital of the country is Nairobi and while you can visit the city it is advisable to avoid the slum areas and the Eastleigh area, according to information from the government. You should check this before you travel.

The main reason many people come to Kenya – quite understandably – is to go on a safari in one of the major national parks here. There are several well-known wildlife reserves that feature the so-called Big Five animals. These are the African lion, the Cape buffalo, the rhino, the African leopard and the African elephant. Being able to see even one of these animals up close is an amazing experience. Being able to see all five is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it may well happen for you when you visit Kenya.

One of the most famous and familiar reserve is the Masai Mara. This can be found close to the south-western border of the country. There are many other animals here apart from the Big Five, including big cats, zebra and wildebeest. Some people time their trip to the Masai Mara to see the migration of some of these animals from the Serengeti, which occurs between July and October every year.

For some the only reason to come to Kenya is to take part in a safari and see these animals up close. But does the country have more to offer than this? Indeed it does, although to begin with we shall take a closer look at Nairobi National Park. It stands out from the other national parks and reserves the country has to offer because you have the chance to see animals such as giraffes set against a backdrop of… a city. While the animals are not that close to the city they are within a few short kilometres of it. This provides a sharp contrast to the wildlife and indeed this is the only area of its kind that is fully protected that is within such a short distance of a major city.

Elsewhere you can go back into the past if you wish, by visiting the Ruins of Gedi. These are the centuries-old ruins of a town that once thrived near Malindi. You’ll find Malindi on the coastal part of the Kenyan border. The remains of buildings including the mosque are here to be seen, and some are in quite good condition given the passage of years.

If you’d rather go hiking than see wildlife or witness the way life was lived in centuries gone by, why not head to the Ngong Hills? These are a lush green series of hills aren’t that far outside of Nairobi and yet they will make you feel as though you are in the middle of nowhere. The highest point here is 2,460 metres above sea level, so it is more than challenging enough for those willing to have a go. Some people jog or run here, while others are content to take their time wandering along the paths and appreciating the scenery around them. There are some spectacular views to be had here as well, so you can imagine just how appealing the place is.

Of course since part of Kenya has a coastline you can expect the odd beach or two to crop up as well. If you fancy the idea of a Kenyan beach holiday why not try Diani Beach? You could even plan to use this as a base from which to explore some of the other areas of the country. There are day trips and safaris that can be booked from here, so it provides the perfect solution if you want to taste something of both worlds.


As you can see Kenya has plenty to offer if you are looking for a different type of holiday. If you have the ability to spend a few shillings you have plenty of activities and attractions to choose from.

It would be a shame to come here and never take the chance to go on a safari, since that will probably be your main focus. But you can see there are other delights to look forward to as well, each of which is well worth trying out.


Kenya Shilling – KES

3 thoughts on “Kenya Shilling – KES

  • January 27, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    I know this is a country that offers some superb safaris and so on, but I must admit I’m not sure I would want to visit it myself. I’m sure it offers a superb break if you like that kind of thing, but I think I would prefer the big cities as opposed to being out in the wild with all the animals.

    I know the safaris are quite safe but I don’t think I have ever been a nature person. Has anyone actually been on safari out here and enjoyed the whole experience? I’d be interested to know.

  • November 30, 2010 at 11:56 am

    If I remember rightly I have focused on the Kenyan shilling on some occasions during my attempts to make money in the Forex markets. However I have never been to the country myself. I know people who have tried safaris and really enjoyed them but I am in two minds about being so close to nature to that extent. I think perhaps it wouldn’t be for me, although it is nice to read about it.

  • October 29, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Do you think this is a good currency to focus on if you’re involved in forex then? I’m not really a fan of forex but I don’t know enough about it to really form an opinion either way. I’ve never understood how you can make money from money in this way. Is it all speculation?


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