Preparing to Depart


For those coming through Samaritan's Purse or World Medical Mission, you will fly by commercial airline into Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. The Samaritan's Purse (SP) office in Nairobi handles all ground transportation for volunteers in Kenya. The office has a van for this purpose, and the driver will either be an SP employee or a driver hired by the SP office. The driver will pick you up at the airport. He will be holding a sign with your name for identification purposes, and transport you to lodging for the evening. Travel to Kapsowar Hospital will be arranged by your WMM logistics coordinator and will be by air or ground, depending on your preferences and availability. Ground and air transportation both require an overnight in Nairobi. The hospital is approximately seven hours from Nairobi by ground. Most main roads to the hospital are paved, although some sections are in the process of repair. The last hour and a half of the trip is on a rough dirt road. For large groups, additional vehicles may be necessary at increased cost.

An airport in Eldoret, Kenya, located approximately two hours away from the hospital, makes it convenient for visiting staff to travel to and from Nairobi by air. The flight will take about 50 minutes and is a cheaper and faster option than ground transportation. If you choose to fly, you will overnight in Nairobi, be picked up from your lodging by SP, and transported to the airport for your flight to Eldoret. You will be driven from the Eldoret airport to Kapsowar by hospital staff.

Overnight accommodations will be made for you at either a guesthouse or hotel, depending on your preferences and availability. Your logistics coordinator will assist you with these details. Pricing for all in-country travel and lodging is listed on the hospital budget worksheet. Oftentimes flights leave Kenya late in the evening. As a result, you may be interested in booking a dayroom at a guesthouse in Nairobi in order to rest before being driven to the airport. Please make this request to your logistics coordinator prior to your departure for Kenya.

You will receive confirmation of all in-country arrangements from your logistics coordinator. Please refer to the contact sheet provided to you by your logistics coordinator if you encounter any difficulties with any portion of your travel arrangements.


Each person, including children of all ages, must have a passport that has at least two empty pages left and is valid for six months after the return. You will want to take several extra passport photos and make a couple copies of the identification page of your passport – one to leave with someone at home, and one to carry apart from your passport. You might also consider scanning the front page of your passport and emailing it to yourself so that you will always have a copy.


Visas are required for anyone traveling to Kenya, including children. Visas may be easily obtained at the airport in Nairobi upon arrival. The cost is $50 per person, to be paid in cash in US Dollars.

Medical License

Physicians and dentists must obtain a Kenyan Medical License in order to volunteer in Kenya. Upon confirmation of your assignment, you will be sent the application form and list of credentials required for this license. All of the license paperwork should be returned promptly to World Medical Mission by some form of traceable mail, such as DHL or UPS. Our office will forward the documents to the field for processing.

Special Passes/Permits

Everyone serving six months or more must obtain a Class E work permit. Upon confirmation of your assignment, you will be sent the application for this permit. It should be returned to World Medical Mission. Our office will send your completed application to Nairobi to begin the application process. Work permit applications are processed in Nairobi and require three to six months for approval. The fee is to be paid on the field prior to leaving the hospital.


Required: None


For the most current information visit


Malaria Prophylaxis:

Please consult with your doctor or travel clinic about which malaria prophylaxis would be most appropriate for you to take. Please note that Kenya is a chloroquine-resistant area; therefore, chloroquine should not be used as a malaria prophylaxis.

Other Medications

If you are on regular medication, it is best for you to bring a supply for your entire trip in your carry-on luggage. You may want to bring a signed and dated statement from your physician indicating your health problem and the prescribed dosage of the medication.


Travel health insurance coverage that provides for emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of remains is required for your trip. Check with your current insurance provider to see if you will be covered overseas. World Medical Mission offers an insurance program specifically designed for their volunteers. This comprehensive policy is provided by LifeStore Insurance for a nominal fee and includes coverage for medical treatment, war risk, accidental death, and emergency evacuation from the date you leave your home to the date you return. You can visit for more information. If your current plan lacks coverage in any of these areas you will want to consider this option or another program that provides similar coverage.

Currency and Finances

The official currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KSH). The exchange rate is around 80 - 110 KSH to 1 USD. Click here to check google for the latest rates.

In addition to your international travel money, you will need sufficient funds for transportation, housing, meals, and other incidentals within Kenya. Expenses incurred at the hospital, including your medical license, can be paid for in Kenyan Shillings, US Dollars, or by US or Canadian personal check. If you choose to pay by check there will be an additional $20 service fee and we ask that you please notify your bank in advance so there are no security holds. You will be given a receipt from the bank which you should keep with you. Do not exchange money on the street, it is illegal. Only exchange money at banks, FOREX, ATM's or at Kapsowar Hospital. A bank and FOREX will only allow you to exchange US currency for Kenyan Shillings. Damaging Kenyan currency in any way is a serious offense. You can exchange it for other currencies (dollars, etc.) at the airport before your departure. Your driver will know where to exchange money. Please let him know before you begin your trip if you need to exchange money. Please be advised that when using US currency in Kenya, all bills need to be issued within the past three years. Bills older than three years or in poor condition will not be accepted or allowed to be exchanged for Kenyan Shillings. $100 dollar bills offer higher exchange rates than lower denominations.

There are also 2 ATM's here in Kapsowar. ATM cards that have the security chip built into them seem to work the best, but cards without the security chips seem to work at one of the local ATM's.



Overall, Kenyans dress more conservatively and formally than typical westerners. Warm clothing is essential for cold night temperatures, for hiking, and for trips up into the hills when making dispensary visits. If you plan to climb Mount Kenya, bring walking boots and warm clothing. Waterproof gear is usually necessary during the rainy seasons (April –May and September – November). Overall, dress should be conservative, and natural fibers such as cotton are recommended for coolness and comfort. Professional appearance is expected during normal daytime duty hours at the hospital.


Men wear business casual in the hospital which is usually khakis and a collared shirt. Sport shirts are quite acceptable. Shorts and jeans are acceptable to wear away from the hospital. You are advised to take a white lab coat (and stethoscope) and scrubs for work. Shoes should be semi-formal or formal dress shoes which need to be kept clean for wearing in the hospital. Sandals are not appropriate in a professional work environment.


Though the culture is changing, most women still wear loose-fitting skirts below the knee and shirts that cover their shoulders. Short-sleeve shirts are fine but women should not wear sleeveless tops. Short skirts or dresses should not be worn. Young women may wear loose fitting pants or trousers but shorts should not be worn in the company of Kenyans. You may, however, wear them in the privacy of your own home, in the homes of other missionaries, and at holiday resorts. Shoes should be appropriate for a work environment and should be kept clean. Women do wear scrubs in the operating room, and while these are available in the theatre area, we advise that you bring these with you along with a cloth surgical cap to wear in theatre.


Those under the age of 12 may wear whatever they find most comfortable. Those 12 and older should dress as adults.


You may also want to pack a sweater, a light raincoat, umbrella and boots (if you will be here during the rainy season), a hat or cap, and conservative bathing suits (there is a pool at the Safari Lodge). Also, take warm pajamas because the nights can be cool, especially during the months of June through August. Sandals are strongly recommended. Also, take a pair of comfortable walking shoes or boots. Most of the national women and children do not wear shoes.

(Note: All clothing should be in decent condition)

Suggested Items To Take

Long-term volunteers (six months or longer) may want to bring various household items such as sheets, pillows, pots, pans, dishes, and flatware. These items are available at Kapsowar but may be in poor condition. They may also be purchased in Nairobi or Eldoret. Please inquire with the hospital to see if these items will be necessary for you to bring.

The hospital may ask you to bring needed medical equipment and supplies. If you are interested in a list of needed items, please ask your logistics coordinator and they can send you a list by e-mail. We suggest that you contact World Medical Mission before obtaining any equipment. The hospital medical director can assist you in determining what items are appropriate. Do not attempt to collect or offer to take more items than you are comfortable carrying with you. You will also need to consider your baggage allowance. World Medical Mission does not shop to this hospital on a regular basis and will not refund any cost associated with excess baggage charges unless they have specifically asked for items to be taken.

Miscellaneous Preparation Items

Reading a good basic tropical medicine text, such as Don Bell's Lecture Notes on Tropical Medicine, before your departure would be beneficial to your learning process in Kapsowar. Any of your favorite medical books which will provide reference information may be useful to take. Standard reference texts are available here but are not necessarily the most recent editions. You may also want to read something specifically about Kenya.

Mission Organization

Africa Inland Mission (AIM)

Time Difference

GMT/UTC +3. Kenya doesn't have Daylight savings time, so the time change with the USA isn't always constant.


Kenya runs off 240V main electricity supply with the UK style 3-prong plugs; therefore, for some US appliances which run off 110V you will need to bring a small transformer as well as a plug converter to avoid damage to your electrical goods. You should check to see if the appliance rating on the power adaptor or supply is marked as "100-240V" or something similar, in which case you do not need a transformer. The hospital itself has a generator which powers the hospital in the event of a power cut, which can still be fairly frequent during the rainy season or for scheduled downtime for the odd day during the week. The generator, however, does not supply electricity to the accommodation part of the hospital which may experience small outages from time to time, usually weather-related.


Meals are not provided by the hospital, so food shopping and meal preparation is an individual responsibility. Most of the cooking here is "from scratch." Two cookbooks that may help are "The Joy of Cooking" and "More With Less." Food availability is limited but adequate, with most basics being obtainable. Most any item can be found in Eldoret and definitely in Nairobi. There is a varied selection of fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables to be found in Kenya year-round. The following foods can be found in abundance (especially in Nairobi): cashews, dairy products, cheese, luncheon meats, various other processed meats, soft drinks, and bakery goods. Bread, oleo (Blue Band margarine), sugar, salt, rice, tea, eggs, milk, flour, fruits and some vegetables as well as soap and toothpaste can be found locally in Kapsowar center. Plan to bring any western-type foods that you have a particular craving for, as they may not be available in Kenya.

Food items that are not easily available here are Jell-O, seasoning mixes, coconut, puddings, chocolate chips, instant soups, Kool-Aid, western candy such as M&M's, and vanilla. Visitors may also want to take some of these items as gifts to leave with the missionaries on the field.

Sample Shopping List - for items that can be found in Eldoret and/or Nairobi:

Kapsowar has all the staples: flour, sugar, milk, etc. And there are butcheries (mostly serving goat or mutton (sheep). There aren't a lot of different vegetables, so the average trip to Eldoret's grocery is focused on frozen meat and cheese, and specialty staples (like pasta, oatmeal, and fruits and vegetables).

Dry Goods Section

  • Canned Goods: soups, veggies, etc.
  • Boxed Juice
  • Brown Sugar
  • Olive Oil
  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Vinegar
  • Pudding/Jello
  • Cake/Brownie Mixes
  • Fruits: Raisins, Apples, etc.
  • Veggies: Cucumbers, Squash, Red Peppers
  • Pickles
  • Candy
  • Chips/Crisps ("Ola" is most like American Doritos)
  • Crackers
  • Jelly
  • Condiments: Ketchup, Mayo, Mustard, BBQ Sauce
  • Spices
  • Peanut Butter (American Garden)
  • Popcorn Kernels
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Frozen/Refrigerator Section

  • Cheese: Cheddar, Mozzarella
  • Chicken Breasts
  • Chicken Cubes (chunks)
  • Butter
  • Frozen Vegetables
  • Bacon
  • Beef Mince (ground)
  • Hot Dogs
  • Ice Cream
  • Pork Filets
  • Salami
  • Sandwich Ham
  • Sandwich Slice Cheese (Happy Cow)
  • Whole Chicken
  • Yogurt (all kinds, but make sure to get plain for cooking and as a sour cream substitute)
  • Household Goods

  • Aluminum Foil
  • Baby Wipes
  • Candles
  • Diapers
  • Dish Soap
  • Hand Soap
  • Bleach (Jik brand)
  • Laundry Soap (Omo brand)
  • Napkins
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Sponges
  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner
  • Paper Towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Water

    Kapsowar does have running water. A fresh water system brings gravity-fed water from a dam in the mountains four miles away. Water is not used for drinking or brushing teeth straight from the tap, however the water is fine for bathing in the shower and washing dishes. Dishes should be completely dry before using them again. Local missionaries sun their water and then filter their water in their homes before drinking it. Fruits and Vegetables that are not peeled, should be washed in a water/bleach solution before consuming.



    Mobile phones are available for as little as about $30 and there are competitive rates to call the US. Calls from these phones to the US are .03 to .10 cents per minute (as opposed to $4.99 per minute from a US cell phone). Medical staff are strongly encouraged to have a cell phone with a local mobile number and texting capability while serving at Kapsowar Hospital. Phones obtained outside of Kenya must be "unlocked" (non-carrier specific) and be able to accept standard SIM cards to be compatible with Kenyan carriers. To obtain a local mobile number, purchase a SIM card from a mobile phone dealer in Kenya. It is strongly suggested to take care of this in Nairobi or Eldoret if you bring your phone from home and need a SIM card. If you need to obtain a phone in country, we can help provide that for you at the Kapsowar Mission Station. There is a $30 dollar deposit for the use of the phone. Upon return of the phone, $25 dollars will be refunded. We can help you add calling time to your phone once in Kapsowar, but users are responsible for the cost of their calling time. Providers with the best coverage in Kapsowar are Orange and Safaricom.

    E-mail and Internet

    Internet is available here in Kapsowar by using either a USB broadband modem or by connecting your computer to your 3G/EDGE mobile phone or iPad to use it as a modem. Orange and Safaricom are the two most used internet providers here in Kapsowar. While you will not be able to achieve 3G, you will still be able to do basic web surfing, e-mail, skype, and FaceTime. We can provide you with access to the internet for a deposit of $50 dollars for the use of the modem. Upon return of the modem, $40 dollars will be refunded. All internet is pre-paid and users can purchase unlimited monthly access for approximately $30 dollars.

    Postal Mail

    Outgoing mail form Kapsowar is generally pretty secure. Letters and/or packages from the US will generally take 3 – 6 weeks to arrive in Kapsowar. There is generally a customs tax that must be paid by the local missionary receiving the package. The amount of the customs tax will vary depending on the value of the contents in the package. Sending checks or other financial instruments through the mail is not recommended.


    While English is the official language of Kenya, Swahili and other tribal dialects are used throughout the country. Kalenjin (Marakwet) is a local dialect used primarily by older women. The hospital staff speaks English, and translators are available for visiting physicians, so the language barrier is not a major problem. Medical records are also written in English.


    There is a high percentage of Christians in the immediate area around Kapsowar. Other native religions are not as openly practiced. Christianity was first brought to Kenya in the fifteenth century by the Portuguese, and spread rapidly during the nineteenth century, when it experienced a revival. Today, the main Christian denominations in Kenya are Protestant, which makes up 45% of the country's religious composition. The Roman Catholic Church represents 28% of the population. The Sunni path of Islam is the religion of approximately 10% of the Kenyan population. The North East Province is predominantly ethnic Somali and Muslim. The Coast Province also has a significant Muslim population.

    Helpful Hints

    For more information about international travel, please visit the following links: