Backpackers lodges, hostels and cheap hotels in Kenya are everywhere, and are not necessarily governed by the same rules of propriety as the mainstream hotel and lodge industry, which trades on high standards of integrity in order to maintain a reputation for international respectability. You need to be quite careful in selecting your choice of hostels in Kenya, for, although there are many that forswear any suspect behaviour, there are many others that trade off it.
Bottom feeding tour operators compete with bored cruisers and local tricksters for opportunities to fleece, mate with or marry anyone travelling without their wits about them. These types of encounters usually result in a one way flow of capital which is rarely in your direction. Such people flock to backpackers lodges if they can get through the gate, and a bad choice, particularly if you are a woman travelling alone, can drop you in a shark pool.
Why You Should Book Prior to Arrival
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While it is not always possible to book your hostels in Kenya in advance, since itineraries are quite often fluid and conditions on the ground unpredictable, as a rule it is advisable to book at least your preliminary accommodation online before you leave. Since online services act as a filter it stands to reason that those establishments listed on online portals tend to be careful about their reputation.
Thereafter it is important and relatively easy to use the local network of travellers to determine which among the many hostels in Kenya, and other cheap accommodation options, are genuine, safe and reliable. A good backpackers lodge proprietor will always direct you to another. Furthermore, if you are robbed or mishandled in any way at or by a backpackers lodge or hostel in Kenya, spread the word, and that way suspect establishments are rarely able to stand the test of time.
The cheapest accommodation in Kenya is camping, and all backpackers lodges and hostels do, or at least should, offer space in the yard to pitch a tent. It is never advisable to freecamp. You are just too out there, and Kenyans as a rule have enough experience of tourism to know that you will have some hard currency on you somewhere, so avoid it.
There are only four hostels in Kenya affiliated with the Youth Hostel Association, so your card will probably be dead weight most of the time.