Kenya is a great destination for shopping. Its authentic souvenirs range from arts and crafts to high-quality leather goods to hand-made tribal fabrics.
Travelers wondering what to buy in Kenya should read on to discover the best shopping opportunities the country has to offer and where to find them.
Popular Items to Buy in Kenya
There are many things unique to Kenya that make for great souvenirs. Many visitors like to bring back a memento of their trip, be it something cultural, hand-made, or simply high-quality. From handicrafts to traditional jewelry, Kenya has something for everyone.
Nothing quite captures the image of traditional African culture for international visitors like the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Their Massai people’s distinctive dress and kazuri beads are instantly recognizable.
Many Maasai tribes welcome tourists into their villages and share their culture and traditions with them (usually for a fee). Maasai souvenirs are available throughout Kenya, from jewelry to fabrics to the traditional weapons of the tribesmen.
Popular Maasai souvenirs include:
- Bracelets, necklaces, earrings, etc. made from Maasai beads — these are colorful and readily available all over Kenya.
- Traditional Maasai blankets — made from soft cotton (shuka) or wool and usually dyed red in the Maasai tradition.
- Tribal shields — made with cured animal hide and painted in the traditional fashion
- Maasai spears — the weapon of choice of the Maasai tribesmen, hand-crafted spears can be bought in several pieces to make transportation easier.
Important note: Travelers should check that their airline and home country allow items such a spear to be brought back with them before buying one.
- Masks — in Kenya, tribal masks are used more for aesthetic than religious purposes, and as such, they have become popular keepsakes for tourists available in most craft shops.
Hand-crafted ornaments are widely available throughout Kenya. The country is full of talented craftsmen sculpting figurines of animals and tribespeople from natural materials.
Ebony carvings are perhaps the most popular souvenir of all. The black wood is of the highest quality and is carved and treated with the utmost skill for a glossy, flawless finish.
Soapstone carvings are a specialty of areas such as Kisii and Kisumu, near Lake Victoria. Chess sets, ashtrays, and abstract sculptures are highly-prized souvenirs. However, it is advisable to buy these towards the end of the visit as soapstone is heavy and fragile, making carrying them around problematic.
Kenya may be best-known for its connections to nature, with the Maasai Mara Natural Reserve and the shores of Lake Victoria being among its most popular tourist attractions. However, it is also a haven for shoppers looking for quality leather goods.
Handbags, belts, and shoes from Kenya are largely hand-crafted and have a reputation for their durability.
Where to Find the Best Shopping in Kenya
What can you buy from Kenya? Shopping opportunities are widespread throughout the country. The urban centers of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu have all kinds of shops and many highly skilled craftsmen. For visitors who are interested in Maasai souvenirs, the many tribal settlements around the Maasai Mara offer the perfect opportunity to buy local art and jewelry.
What to Buy in Nairobi, Kenya
Most visitors to Kenya travel to Nairobi — the nation’s capital and largest city. As with many important cities, it has a wealth of shopping opportunities.
Shopping malls like the Village Market boast an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, while the Maasai Market gives shoppers the opportunity to haggle over colorful knick-knacks and traditional crafts.
Langata Link is a collection of boutiques build into a house in the suburb of Karen, where shoppers can buy Kenyan candles, cushions made from kanga fabric, and much more.
Shopping in Nairobi encapsulates the best Kenya has to offer.
Shopping in the Maasai Mara
The Maasai Mara is among Kenya’s most famous things — an area of unspoiled natural beauty where herds of wild animals roam free. It may seem like an unusual place for shopping. However, the perfect cultural souvenirs can be found here.
The many friendly and welcoming Maasai tribes in the region are often more than happy to sell beaded bracelets and necklaces, traditional garments, and other local crafts to visiting tourists.
Where to Buy Leather in Kenya
Kenyan leather products are generally high quality and are sold in many places. There are various local leather stores based in Nairobi, such as Rift Valley leathers and Leather Masters.
Hand-made leather handbags, belts, and various other goods can also be found on Maasai markets around Kenya.
What Can I Bring Back from Kenya and What is Prohibited?
While most souvenirs can be brought back from Kenya, certain goods are prohibited, either by national or international law. Most of these are made from protected animal species.
Kenyan law forbids the following:
- Trade in leather made from reptile skin, including bags, belts, shoes, watch straps, and cases
- Harvesting corals
- Ivory trade (to protect elephants)
- Exporting rhinoceros horn
- Products made from sea turtles, such as jewelry, combs, and the shells themselves
Certain wildlife products may be bought and sold legally, but often require a permit.
Travelers should also check that the laws of their own country allow souvenirs made from plants or animals to be brought into the country.
It is advisable to read up on Kenyan local laws and regulations before visiting as a tourist.
When planning a trip to Kenya, it is essential to check that you have the correct documentation in order to enter the country. This may involve acquiring a Kenya eVisa.
There are 141 eligible countries for a Kenya tourist visa. Applying online can save time waiting in line and makes the process more straightforward. Check you meet the requirements to get the Kenyan visa online.