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JKIA (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport): How to Get Around
iVisa
8 min read
Updated on May 23, 2024

Navigating Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi, Kenya, might seem daunting, but it's simpler than you think. This gateway to East Africa's vast landscapes and vibrant cultures is the first step for many adventurers.

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But if you’re still unsure how to get around this airport, don’t worry; we’ve got your back.

Whether you're catching a connecting flight, heading out to explore Nairobi, or transferring to a domestic flight to see the wonders of Kenya, understanding the layout and services of JKIA is key.

From arrival tips to information on shuttles and taxis, we've got everything covered in this guide, so read on for more!

What is the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport?

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) is the busiest airport in East Africa. It’s located in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

The airport's modern terminal came to life on March 14, 1978, and former President Jomo Kenyatta, a revered independence leader in the country, inaugurated it.

Following his passing on August 22, 1978, the airport, initially named Nairobi International Airport, was rechristened Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in his memory.

Home to more than 40 passenger airlines and 25 cargo carriers, JKIA connects Kenya to over 50 countries with its regular flights. In 2015, it welcomed close to 7 million travelers, ranking as the ninth busiest in Africa and leading East Africa for passenger volume.

With a yearly growth rate of 12%, projections indicate that by 2025, the airport will accommodate 25 million visitors, underscoring its status as Kenya's premier air transport hub.

Airport layout and terminals

JKIA features many terminals and special areas designed to handle passenger and cargo traffic.

Terminals

  • Terminal 1 (T1) is divided into several sections (T1A to T1E), each dedicated to handling international flights. T1A, for example, is primarily for departures of major international carriers, offering a range of facilities from check-in desks to lounges. T1E serves both departures and arrivals but is primarily used during peak travel to ease congestion.

  • Terminal 2 (T2) focuses on domestic flights, connecting passengers to Kenya's numerous destinations. It's a hub for regional airlines, facilitating quick transitions between international and domestic connections.

Key Areas

  • Arrival and departure areas: Separate zones for arrivals and departures streamline the flow, reducing congestion and making it easier to navigate through the airport.

  • Shopping and dining: Various shops and restaurants are available across the terminals, offering everything from souvenirs to local and international cuisine.

  • Lounges: Various lounges provide comfortable spaces for passengers to relax before their flights, with amenities ranging from Wi-Fi to refreshments.

  • Transport services: Taxis, car rentals, and shuttle services are always available to take you to your next destination.

Connectivity

JKIA's terminals are interconnected, allowing you to move between international and domestic flights with relative ease. Signage and airport staff are always ready to guide you through the airport, ensuring you find your way comfortably.

Flight check-in procedures at JKIA

Ensuring a smooth and timely check-in process at this airport is crucial for anyone. The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) advises passengers to arrive at the airport at least three hours before their scheduled departure time for international flights, considering the longer processing times and potential queues, especially during peak hours from 8 pm to 11 pm.

For domestic flights, arriving at the airport at least two hours before your scheduled departure is recommended. These guidelines help accommodate security checks and additional procedures required before boarding your flight​​.

Be aware that most companies close their check-in counters 30 minutes before departure time. Once registered, we recommend going immediately to the boarding lounge for police formalities, which can take a long time if several departures are planned.

Moreover, various transportation options are available to get to JKIA, including taxis, airport shuttles, and private cars, ensuring you can choose the best method for your needs and budget.

Detailed airport maps and additional services like dining and shopping options are readily available to help you navigate the airport efficiently and enjoy your wait time before departure​​.

By following these recommendations, you can look forward to a more relaxed and hassle-free start to your journey.

Security procedures and customs at JKIA

Upon arriving at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, passengers must undergo standard security screenings. This includes passing through metal detectors, having carry-on luggage scanned by x-ray machines, and potentially undergoing a physical check if necessary.

To avoid delays, it’s highly recommended that you arrive at the airport early (as we mentioned before) and ensure you have all the necessary documentation. Remember to also adhere to the guidelines regarding carry-on luggage, such as the restriction on liquids over 3.4 ounces and sharp objects.

Terminal 1 is used by major airlines and Terminal 2 by low-cost carriers, with security checkpoints at the entrance to the departures area of each terminal. Once past security, you can access gates, dining, shopping, and other services.

As for the customs procedures, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) mandates the declaration of certain items upon entry into Kenya. You might be required to declare purchases made abroad, inherited items, and goods obtained in duty-free shops that exceed prescribed limits.

This regulation also includes items intended for sale or business use and any personal or business merchandise brought back into the country. Any currency exceeding $10,000 or its equivalent must be declared at customs.

It's essential to accurately declare the value of each item, including taxes paid, to avoid any potential issues.

For items received as gifts or not personally purchased, you should estimate their fair retail value in the country where they were obtained​​.

If you want more detailed information regarding the items you’re carrying on your trip, feel free to read Nairobi airport website

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Transportation options to and from JKIA

Getting to and from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Kenya is relatively easy thanks to its several transportation options available that suit different needs and budgets:

Taxis

The Kenya Airports Authority ensures your safety by licensing only trustworthy and insured taxi and transfer companies to serve at the airports. While they've mandated that taxis be painted yellow for easy recognition, not all authorized taxis are this color. You'll find these taxis waiting for you at specific taxi stands.

Various companies have set up desks inside the domestic and international arrivals halls for your convenience. To ensure your safety, opting for these official taxi services is recommended.

Should you have a pre-booked transfer, your driver will meet you outside the arrivals hall gate, as they're not permitted to enter the arrivals area. This setup is designed to keep your travel smooth and safe from the moment you land.

Airport shuttles and hotel transfers

Many hotels in Nairobi provide their guests with shuttle services to and from JKIA. These shuttles are often complimentary or available at a nominal fee.

Additionally, shuttle services connect JKIA to significant points in the city and surrounding areas, offering a cost-effective and reliable mode of transportation.

Car rental services

Many international and local car rental agencies operate from JKIA for those who prefer the flexibility of driving themselves. You can book a vehicle in advance or upon arrival, allowing you to explore Nairobi and beyond at your own pace.

Public transportation

If you’re more adventurous, you can opt for public transportation, including buses and matatus (local minibusses) that connect JKIA to the city center and other destinations.

While this is the most economical option, it's vital to be mindful of your luggage and personal belongings, as these means of transportation can get crowded.

Ride-hailing services

Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Bolt are operational in Nairobi, offering a convenient and often cost-effective way to travel to and from the airport. These services allow for easy booking through your smartphone and provide clear information about the cost of your trip in advance.

When choosing your transportation, consider convenience, cost, travel time, and the amount of luggage you have.

Currency exchange and banking facilities

At Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), you can access different banking and currency exchange services to cater to your financial needs.

Here's a summary of the facilities available:

ATMs and cash machines

KCB ATM and Standard Chartered Bank ATM have different convenient locations in the airport. These ATMs allow for quick cash withdrawals, making it easy to access Kenyan Shillings or other currencies as needed.

Banks and credit unions

Several banking institutions offer essential services at JKIA, including Barclays Bank of Kenya, Jodeci Bureau, National Bank of Kenya Ltd, and Transnational Bank.

These banks provide services from basic banking transactions to more specific financial needs.

Please remember that some banks, like Transnational Bank, operate Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 6 PM and are closed on weekends.

Currency exchange services

For currency exchange, you can visit Giant Forex Bureau, Metropolitan Forex Bureau, Nairobi Forex Bureau, and Solid Exchange Forex Bureau, among others located within the airport.

These bureaus offer exchange services for various currencies, ensuring travelers can easily convert their money into the local currency or vice versa.

Here’s a map with all the essential points you can find at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport:

Local culture and etiquette tips

Understanding and respecting local customs and etiquette is crucial for a smooth experience at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and throughout Kenya.

Greetings are important in the country, so handshakes are common. Showing respect, especially to elders or those of higher status, is valued.

The Kenyan community strongly emphasizes group orientation, underpinned by the concept of "Harambee," which means pulling together.

When interacting with people, engaging in small talk about health, family, and general well-being is polite before diving into business or specific inquiries.

Here are other basic etiquette tips to remember:

  • Using the right or both hands to give or receive items is recommended. Using just the left hand is considered rude.

  • Asking before taking photos of people, especially in rural areas, is recommended as it can be considered rude otherwise.

  • The Kenyan attitude towards time is mostly patient and relaxed. Delays or late arrivals are common due to the blend of global time and 'Swahili Time', which measures days from dawn to dusk, creating a more relaxed approach to scheduling.

Weather and packing tips for Nairobi

Nairobi has a moderate climate due to its elevation. It has an average temperature that ranges from 10°C (50°F) to 26°C (79°F), and rainy seasons occur from March to May and October to December.

Packing should include layers for cooler mornings and evenings, waterproof gear for rainy days, and comfortable, breathable clothing for warmer afternoons. Sun protection is also necessary year-round.

If you’re planning a safari trip, remember to pack neutral colors to blend in with the natural environment.

Emergency contacts and important numbers

We highly recommend keeping these important contacts on hand in case there’s any emergency:

  • Kenya Police: 999 or 112

  • Ambulance Services: 999 or 112

  • Fire Brigade: 999 or 112

Don’t forget to also save your country's embassy or consulate in Nairobi for any consular assistance.

Need more info about traveling to Kenya?

If you have any questions or doubts about traveling to the JKIA or Kenya. In that case, our customer service team is ready to help! Contact us any time via WhatsApp or iVisa chat.

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