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MONEY TALKS: How to travel locally on a budget

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By FLORENCE BETT-KINYATTI
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Last May, GB and some pals of ours travelled down to Mtwapa in the Coast for our pal’s ruracio. Si you know how these things go? We were three couples and two loose single guys. We travelled down on Friday, had the ruracio on Saturday and returned on Sunday.

It was a short stay but it’s from this trip that I picked up a few tips on how to travel locally on a budget:

Rent a villa instead of staying in a hotel

Hotels are a luxury you can do away with over the holiday season. And to be quite honest, what does a hotel offer which you can’t find in a well-maintained and hygienic villa? Comfort is what holiday makers want, I believe, not luxury. Comfort costs less than luxury. Comfort fits almost any traveller’s budget. Seek comfort.

We rented a five-bedroom villa in the outskirts of Mtwapa, one of those Moi-era bungalows with an expansive backyard, a pool, spacious living room and high ceilings. The master ensuite was the size of the average Nairobi’s high-rise one-bedroom.

Mostly, it was private and felt like home. Hostels are also another option.

Renting is an even sweeter package if you rent it as a family group with your siblings and their kids and the grandparents.

Hire a chef, avoid eating out

Our Mtwapa villa package included a chef. This one I insisted on, there was no way I would spend my getaway weekend stressing about what we’d eat and what time I’d cook. You shouldn’t either. Let someone else do the heavy lifting in the kitchen for you.

I use the word ‘chef’ here loosely, by the way. He was a local guy who knew how to cook well. He looked like Ronaldo (the footballer) in his early 20s. It didn’t help that he only had a patch of dreadlocks which he tied in loose high bun on the top of his head. And he rocked nothing but a t-shirt and shorts all weekend.

Anyway, we bought all the dry supermarket ingredients and sent him to the local butcheries for fresh meats. He fixed all our meals for the day.

He told us to give him a heads-up next time we’re travelling down so he can prep his condiments cupboard. Because what’s a trip down to the Coast without tasting his famed chicken biryani?

Use a local as your tour guide

Our chef doubled up as our tour guide. He didn’t walk around with us but he advised us on the night clubs to visit and shared contacts for taxi drivers.
We were there for only a weekend so we didn’t have the time to tour as tourists do.

You could buy some in Nairobi to travel down with it. Flights and trains will let you check in with it as long as it’s sealed and isn’t in your hand luggage.

The moment you crack the seal open, then you must surrender it at the security check. (Or drink it all down, your choice.)

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The other option would be to get some in the local liquor stores. Which is what we did.

We drank our own booze in our villa, so when we went out, we drank just enough to maintain the buzz for the rest of the night.

Oh, and now that we’re here, don’t go to clubs and other public spots that charge entrance.

Keep time
On the Friday we were to travel down to Mtwapa, GB and I slept in and ended up missing the train. (I know, I know.) Flights may sometimes delay, you can take this tardiness risk with a flight, but don’t even try it with the SGR – trains always keep time.

You must also factor in the time required to check in and other mandatory security checks, some take about as long as getting a root canal done.

Because GB and I didn’t keep time and the next available train wasn’t until the following day, we opted to fly down with Jambo Jet.

We bought our tickets at the airport’s ticketing office. This decision upset our budget. Granted, the flight was only 45 minutes long, compared to two hours for the train – we got there before our pals did and had time to take a dip in the pool and fool around.

That’s no excuse though, keep time so you work within your tight budget.

There’s choice in flying with a local budget airlines: Jambo Jet, Silverstone, Air Kenya. It’s a growing list.

Budget airlines are easy on their ticket rates, but they’re ruthless with charging extra for, well, the extras: you’re charged for the luggage you check in, for the beverages and snacks they serve on board, I wouldn’t be surprised if they charged for wet wipes and tissue paper. Squeeze everything into your carry-on.

Don’t splash on souvenirs
Fridge magnets, lesos, t-shirts branded ‘I Love Watamu’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’, handmade curios and whatnot are on the most part costly and tighten your tight budget the more.

If you must buy a souvenir – if you must – make sure you’ve budgeted for it and it’s a piece that truly captures the spirit of the locality and of your adventure.

Don’t buy anything in the hotel shop. Or on the side of the road. Or some place that you stumble upon on a whim. Have your local tour guide point you to these hidden gems in the local markets.

We had a travel agent make the weekend bookings for us. But there are several free apps that undoubtedly make your budget travel easier: an app to book your cottage or villa, an app to point you to the pocket-friendly hangouts, an app to remind you about travel dates and packing lists, an app to help you track your money and warn you when you’ve spent above your budget.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153

With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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