The Kenyan coast is one of the country’s prime holiday destinations both for locals and foreigners. In fact, that is an understatement. The Kenyan coast is Kenya’s leading tourist destination. Diani Beach on Kenya’s south coast has won Best Beach Destination in Africa 3 years in a row since 2015. Countless other resorts at the coast have won various awards for their sheer luxurious amenities and world-class services. With that in mind, it is no wonder that local tour agents are aggressively marketing so-called Mombasa packages. What exactly is meant by Mombasa packages? What does the package include and what does it not include? Are you getting value for your money with these packages? Well, here is all you need to know about Mombasa packages.
First and foremost, Mombasa packages are simply a packaged experience and stay at a resort on the Kenyan coast. Now, there are various aspects to your stay and experience at any resort. The first item of consideration when looking at a package to the coast is transportation. How exactly are you going to get there?
For those in Nairobi, with the advent of the SGR (Standard Gauge Railway) accessing Mombasa and its environs is now a breeze. Consequently, many tour agents will include SGR tickets in their packages to the coast. This means the first step of the journey is hopping on the Madaraka Express in Nairobi and arriving 6 hours later in Mombasa. Usually, there are three daily departures. One at 8:00 AM, the other at 3:00 PM, and finally a departure at 10:00 PM. Economy class tickets go for KES 1,000 for adults and KES 500 for kids between the ages of 3 and 11. Infants travel free of charge. First-class tickets go for KES 3,000 for adults and KES 1,500 for kids. Ticket prices are usually included in the package cost. We have a more comprehensive breakdown of all matters SGR including details on in-train meals in our article SGR: All You Need to Know.
Once you arrive at the Mombasa SGR terminus there is the second issue of how to get to the resort. Some Mombasa packages include what is called hotel transfer. This is having a chartered vehicle carry you and your traveling party from the SGR terminus to the resort. Usually, resorts have their own hotel transfer services but are quite costly. However, travel agents are a creative bunch. To bring down hotel transfer costs, most travel agencies use what is called shared transfers. Basically, travel agencies will transport various clients going to the same destination in a 7-seater Noah/Voxy type of vehicle or mini-buses and buses such that each client only pays for the seat they will occupy and not the entire vehicle. For example, shared transfers to North Coast hotels are usually KES 550 per person per way and for the South Coast (Diani) from KES 850 per person per way. Private transfers are also available, however, as you have probably surmised, the cost is significantly higher. Private transfers to the North Coast start at KES 2,600 per way and KES 6,100 to the South Coast per way. Private transfers are best when you are traveling with a medium to a large group of friends or family members. However, for individuals, couples, or small families, shared transfers are best as they help keep the cost down. Also worth noting is that traveling at odd hours, for example, using the 10 PM train to arrive in Mombasa at 3:00 AM may necessitate using private transfers as not many travelers use this train to allow for shared transfers.
Therefore, if hotel transfer is not included in the package it is up to you to figure out how to get from the SGR station or the airport to the resort in question. Usually, taxi-hailing apps such as Uber or Bolt may be the best alternative in such a scenario. The point here is to ask whether hotel transfers are included in your desired Mombasa package.
While on the issue of transport, flying packages to Mombasa are also a common selling point. Instead of traveling to the coast using the SGR, options are available to fly there instead. Doubtless, this is more expensive than using the SGR. For example, at the time of writing this article, a one-way ticket to Mombasa from Nairobi averages about KES 5,100 per person. The KES 1,000 for the SGR pales in comparison. It goes without saying that flying packages will be quite expensive but convenient and time-saving nonetheless. Also worth noting is that not many clients use flights to get to the coast, booking a flying package may necessitate also booking private transfers.
Finally, as we conclude on the matter of transportation, the third alternative is using your own means to get to the coast. This will reduce the overall cost of the package but transport is all on you. Undecided on whether to fly or use the train for your Mombasa vacation? Here are all the details you need.
Accommodation simply means, at least in this case, your sleeping arrangement at the resort. There are several types of accommodation options namely, single rooms, double rooms, triple rooms, family rooms, and suites and villas. Single rooms allow for only one person to occupy the room at a time. Double rooms allow for two people to occupy a room at a time, usually, a couple. Triple rooms allow for three beds and hence three people in a room. Family rooms are flexible accommodation tailored for medium to large families. Suites and villas usually involve renting out an entire house instead of just a room.
Worth noting is that kids below 12 years of age are allowed to share any of the rooms listed above with a parent(s) at a discounted rate. More on this later.
Suites and villas are usually the most expensive accommodation option at a resort followed by family rooms, triple rooms, double rooms, and single rooms in that order. However, double and triple rooms may end up being more economical than single rooms and here’s why. Let’s take a hypothetical resort that charges KES 10,000 for a single room per night and KES 15,000 for a double room per night. In the single room, the occupant pays KES 10,000 on their own. On the other hand, occupants of a double room may decide to go dutch and split the cost, i.e, KES 15,000 divided by the two occupants is equal to KES 7,500 per person. You will have heard the phrase KES 7,500 per person sharing. This is what is meant by that.
When going over Mombasa packages more often than not the price quoted is usually the per person sharing one. This should help one interpret the pricing better.
Very Quickly on Kids’ Accommodation
The first thing to note with accommodation for kids is that they are placed in three categories. The categories can be described as infants, kids, and adults. Let me explain. Kids above the age of 12 years are considered adults. Consequently, discounts given to kids are normally not extended to kids above 12 years of age and, therefore, teenagers generally pay the full adult rate. The next category is infants. In most resorts, infants are considered to be children below 2 years of age. That is 0 to 1.99 years. Infants stay free of charge. However, some resorts are more accommodative with their definition of an infant to kids below 5 years of age, i.e., 0 to 4.99 years. And very rarely, the infant discount is extended to all kids below 12 years of age. For example, Diamonds Dream of Africa will let up to two kids sharing with a parent(s) to stay absolutely free of charge.
The last category is for kids between the ages of 3 to 11.99. Children in this age bracket usually pay 50% of the per person sharing rate when sharing with an adult(s). This is simply to say half of what each adult in a double room pays. When in their own rooms these kids will pay between 70% to 80% of the normal rate of the room.
With this information in hand, it is prudent to give the ages of your kids to the tour agent to make sure they tailor whatever packages they have to your needs.
Accommodation goes beyond just being provided with a room to sleep in. Meals are part and parcel of the package. Meal plans are usually categorized as Bed & Breakfast (self-explanatory), Half Board (breakfast and dinner), Full Board (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and All-inclusive (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and a few selected alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks). As you’ve probably guessed, the price goes up the more a resort feeds you.
Most Mombasa packages give their quotes based on the Half Board meal plan. Perhaps due to the assumption that during lunch one will be out and about and may eat somewhere else other than the resort. Also worth noting is that while most resorts offer all of the meal plans mentioned above some resorts only offer limited options. For example, Baobab Beach Resort & Spa is primarily an all-inclusive-only resort. Medina Palms on the other hand only offers the Bed & Breakfast option. However, they do have a restaurant on-site to buy other meals.
On that account, be vigilant and remember to get clarification on what meal plan is offered in a package.
Duration of Your Stay
Interpreting the duration of one’s stay at a resort seems like a non-descript detail that one rarely pays too much attention to. However, what is meant by, say, 3 days in Mombasa? First and foremost, resorts charge on a per night basis. The number of nights one sleeps at a resort is what one needs to pay attention to. 3 days in Mombasa means one will sleep 2 nights.
For example, you may be planning a weekend getaway. You leave for a resort on Friday and check in at noon which is the check-in time most resorts go with. After exploring the resort in the afternoon you have dinner and spend Friday night at the resort. That’s one night spent. Saturday comes and goes and you spend your second night at the resort. For a 3-day (2 nights) package, one is then required to check out by 10:00 AM on Sunday. So you arrive on Friday and check-in at noon. Stay Friday afternoon, sleep Friday night, stay the whole of Saturday, sleep Saturday night, and then check out at 10:00 AM on Sunday.
As a rule of thumb, if a package describes your stay in the number of days, remember to count the number of nights instead. Also, remember the check-in and check-out times to avoid being pressured to leave a room as the resort anticipates the arrival of other guests.
North Coast vs South Coast
Beach destinations in Kenya are primarily categorized as either North Coast or South Coast. The North Coast features beaches such as Bamburi Beach and Nyali Beach. Some resorts on these beaches include Bamburi Beach Hotel, Plaza Beach Hotel, Reef Hotel, and Voyager Beach Resort. Malindi and Watamu are also prime beach destinations categorized as part of the North Coast despite being a little further from Mombasa City.
The South Coast is synonymous with Diani Beach. While other beaches such as Galu Beach feature, Diani Beach is doubtless the most famous and arguably the most prime beach destination on the South Coast. Swahili Beach Resort, Diani Reef Beach Resort, Amani Tiwi Beach Resort, and Baobab Beach Resort are some of the resorts that dot Diani Beach.
On average, resorts on the South Coast are more expensive than those on the North Coast. More often than not they are also more luxurious and spot a higher star rating than their North Coast counterparts. As a result, expect packages to the South Coast to be pricier compared to those in the north. In addition, resorts in the South Coast are further away from the SGR terminus in Mombasa which means the hotel transfer is more expensive. One can fly to Ukunda Airstrip which is on the South Coast to cut on the hotel transfer charges. To help you decide between the North Coast and South Coast, kindly see our article North Coast vs South Cost: Where Should you go on Vacation?
The Best Time to Book Mombasa Packages
Hotel rates in most cases fluctuate throughout the year based on projected demand for accommodation. For instance, demand is usually highest during festive seasons such as during Easter and Christmas, especially Christmas when rates often double and resorts require minimum nights of stay to make one’s reservation. To give you a general feel of how rates fluctuate, rates are highest from around 20th December to the 5th of January. Hotels are medium-priced from the 6th of January to the end of April and again from the 1st of July to the end of August as well as from the 1st of December to the 20th of the same month. The lowest prices are usually recorded during the months of May, June, September, and November.
A lot of special offer packages usually do the rounds during the build-up to Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and school holidays, and half-term breaks. The best time to book a package depends on a myriad of factors. Cost is one of them. Festive periods are another. For those with kids, school holidays become a prominent factor. However, to make sure one gets the best deal, a combination of all those factors should inform one’s vacation period.
Well, there you have it. Pretty much all you need to know about Mombasa packages. If resorts seem a bit too pricy, staying at apartments at the coast might be a more affordable alternative.