Kenya

40 M
Population
Shilling
Currency
When is the best time to visit Kenya?
  • The very best time to go is from January to February and in September (neither hot nor cold)
  • A good time to go is the whole year (if you pack the right clothes)
  • This is purely from a climate point of view of course.
Safety and security

Crime

Bag snatching is common in transport hubs like bus stations, railway stations and airports. Mugging, kidnapping, car-jacking and armed robbery occur regularly, particularly in Nairobi, Mombasa and other large cities. Foreigners are not generally targeted, but incidents of violent crime have resulted in the death of several British nationals in recent years. Crime rates are higher in slum areas of Nairobi, the Old Town of Mombasa and on and around the Likoni Ferry (which links Mombasa and the southern resorts).

You should be vigilant at all times and follow any security advice given by your employer or your hosts. If you’re attacked, don’t resist. Avoid walking around after dark, especially in isolated areas like empty beaches. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and don’t wear expensive watches, jewellery or items of sentimental value. You must carry a form of ID with you at all times. A copy of your passport is normally acceptable, but recently some police officers have been insisting on the original document.

Beware of thieves posing as police officers or private Security Guards. Always ask to see identification. Don’t accept food or drink from strangers as it may be drugged.

Only stay in tourist camps with good perimeter security. If in any doubt, seek advice from your tour operator or the Kenya Tourism Federation (telephone: + 254 20 800100).

If you’re involved in any security incident, insist that the British High Commission is informed straight away.

Local travel

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border; to Garissa County; to the Eastleigh area of Nairobi; to Lamu County (excluding Lamu Island and Manda Island); to areas of Tana River County north of the Tana river itself and to within 15km of the coast from the Tana river down to the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) river.

The following areas aren’t covered by the FCO’s advice against all but essential travel: national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies; including the Aberdare National Park, Amboseli, Laikipia, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Meru, Mount Kenya, Samburu, Shimba Hills, Tsavo, as well as the beach resorts of Mombasa, Malindi, Kilifi, Watamu, Diani, Lamu Island and Manda Island. Mombasa airport (Moi International Airport), Malindi airport and Manda airport aren’t included in the area to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel.

For travel between Jomo Kenyatta Airport (JKIA) and Nairobi city you should use the Mombasa road. There is a higher risk of car-jacking on the old airport road (Airport South Road) and Jogoo Road.

If you travel to Lamu Island or Manda Island, you should do so by air to Manda airport and not by road.

The Mombasa road to JKIA can get very busy during rush hours, and check in can take several hours; you should allow plenty of time to get to the airport. A new vehicle security check outside JKIA has also added to journey times.

There were a number of violent incidents that resulted in fatalities in Coast Province in 2013. Although these were mainly against Kenyan police targets, you should take extra care in the coast area and be vigilant, particularly in public places.

Most visits to game reserves and other tourist areas are trouble-free. If you visit reserves, use reputable tour operators and arrive at your destination in daylight hours. Don’t buy safari tours from touts. Always follow park regulations and wardens’ advice.

There are risks associated with viewing wildlife, particularly on foot or at close range. Bathing in rivers and lakes is forbidden in National Parks and is best avoided elsewhere due to the dangers from both wildlife and water-borne disease.

Rural areas, particularly in the north and north eastern parts of Kenya, experience cattle rustling, banditry and ethnic clashes. Foreigners are not usually the target of localised violence and banditry, but you should take great care in the north and north east. Following an extended period of drought, there’s been an increase in armed incursions by herders on to private farms and wildlife conservation areas in the county of Laikipia in central Kenya. Lodges in some conservation areas have been cancelling bookings made by clients. On 5 March a British national was murdered on his Laikipia ranch as he went to investigate damage caused by invaders. On 7 March 2017 the government of Kenya declared that parts of Laikipia county were ‘dangerous and disturbed’. Monitor local media and take care in all remote areas. Seek local police advice before you set off and travel in convoy of at least 2 vehicles.

Although the border with Somalia has officially been closed since 2007, crossings take place frequently. Landmines have been used in attacks around Moyale, close to the main A2 road south. Vehicles crossing the Kenya-Ethiopia border at this point should stay on the A2. Avoid staying at the rest house at Sololo - travel directly to Marsabit Town before breaking the journey.

As a result of previous armed clashes in the area of Mount Elgon in western Kenya next to the Ugandan border, a large security presence remains and further incidents are possible. Seek local advice before you set off.

A Safety and Communication Centre operated by the Kenya Tourism Federation gives up to the minute tourist advice as well as providing help in an emergency. You can contact the Centre on +254 20 800100 or by e-mail to: operations@ktf.co.ke

Road travel

You can drive for up to 3 months using a UK driving licence. For longer stays, you’ll need to get a Kenyan driving licence.

Only hire vehicles from reputable companies.

Road conditions and driving standards are often poor. Drive with windows closed and doors locked. When driving outside cities and in remote areas consider driving in convoy. Avoid driving at night wherever possible.

There have been a number of serious accidents involving long-distance buses. Vehicles are often poorly maintained and driven at excessive speed. Check the bus operator’s safety standards.

Though very cheap to use, matatus (minibuses) are notorious for being poorly maintained, badly driven and uninsured. There are frequent reports of matatus being hijacked and passengers being robbed.

On the spot fines are common, but not legal. If stopped by a police officer you should ask for the due process to be followed. The officer should issue you with a ‘receipt for cash bond’, a piece of paper telling you when and where you need to attend court to answer the charge against you.

Rail travel

Passenger trains run between Nairobi and Kisumu and between Nairobi and Mombasa. Doors can only be locked from the inside. Take care of your belongings while on the train and at railway stations. If you leave your compartment, take your valuables with you.

Air travel

There are some concerns about the lack of security arrangements in place at Wilson airport in Nairobi. The airport is mainly used for domestic flights, including charters. Be vigilant at all times when transiting airports.

If you plan to charter a private aircraft, check with the company’s Safety Pilot about the condition of the aircraft and runways to be used. If the company has no Safety Pilot, find another company that does.

Local rules and regulations prohibit photography at airports. You could be fined or imprisoned.

Sea travel

While there have been no successful piracy attacks since May 2012 off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains significant. Reports of attacks on local fishing dhows in the area around the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa continue. The combined threat assessment of the international Naval Counter Piracy Forces remains that all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the designated High Risk Area or face the risk of being hijacked and held hostage for ransom. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.

Registration with the British High Commission

The LOCATE system is no longer used for registering details of British nationals. You can keep up to date with this travel advice by subscribing to email alerts.

You can also subscribe to a new SMS alert system which the British High Commission use to alert British nationals to real-time incidents relating to safety and security. To subscribe for SMS alerts text ‘regv’ (for visitors) or ‘regp’ (for permanent residents) to +44 7537 404 755.

Read the FCO’s How to deal with a crisis overseas page for further information and advice.

Terrorism

There is a high threat from terrorism in Kenya. The main threat is from extremists linked to Al Shabaab, a militant group in Somalia opposed to the Somali government. Al Shabaab has issued public threats against Kenya because of its military intervention in Somalia. The Kenyan authorities have increased security to counter potential reprisal attacks by Al Shabaab.

There have been a number of attacks in Kenya in recent years, particularly in Mandera County and other areas close to the Somali border. Further attacks are likely. Methods of attack have included grenades, shootings and bombings, including car bombings. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to within 60 km of the Kenya-Somali border.

Several terrorist attacks took place in Garissa County in 2015, including an attack on Garissa University College on 2 April 2015 in which at least 148 people were killed. Attacks also took place on police vehicles on the road between Garissa and Dadaab. In June and July 2014 attacks in Lamu and Tana River counties on the Kenyan coast are reported to have killed at least 85 people. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In 2016 there were a significant number of small scale attacks in Lamu and Mandera counties, close to the Somali border, all of which were attributed to Al-Shabaab.

Six British nationals were killed in the September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.

Attacks could be indiscriminate in places frequented by foreigners including hotels, bars, restaurants, sports bars and nightclubs, sporting events, supermarkets, shopping centres, coastal areas including beaches, airports, buses, trains and other transport hubs. Places of worship including churches and mosques have also been targeted. Be particularly vigilant in these areas.

Kenyan official buildings like government offices and law enforcement personnel or facilities have been targeted, and Somali government interests in Kenya may also be targeted. Take extra security precautions if you’re travelling to any of these places.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Kidnapping

There is a high threat of kidnapping in the areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somalia border, in Garissa County and in coastal areas north of Pate Island. Westerners have been the target of kidnaps and further attacks in these areas are likely. Along these border areas there are also frequent incursions by Somali militants operating against Kenyan defence forces.

A number of kidnaps have occurred in Dadaab refugee camp in north east Kenya. British aid workers and others working at or visiting Dadaab refugee camp should satisfy themselves that those arranging their stay at the camp have sufficient security arrangements in place.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

The coastal areas are predominantly Muslim. Although there are no strict dress codes, you should dress conservatively away from the tourist resorts and hotels, especially in Mombasa town, during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June. See Travelling during Ramadan

Smoking in all public places (except designated areas) is prohibited throughout Kenya. This applies to areas like hotel grounds, lounge areas and entrances. Smoking outdoors in any public street or on the beach is not banned, but check first and if in doubt don’t light up. Offenders can be fined up to 3 million Kenya shillings or imprisoned for up to 3 years.

The use and trafficking of illegal Class A drugs in Kenya carries heavy fines and jail sentences. The penalty for possession is 10 years in prison.

Taking photographs of official buildings, including Embassies, can lead to detention. If in any doubt, don’t photograph or film around them. Photography is also prohibited at airports.

You must get permission to carry any kind of firearm before you enter the country.

It is illegal to destroy Kenyan currency.

Homosexual activity is illegal. Public displays of homosexuality like holding hands or kissing in public places could lead to arrest and imprisonment.

You must carry a form of ID with you at all times. A copy of your passport is normally acceptable, but recently some police officers have been insisting on the original document.

It is illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade any of its parts without a licence. Kenya is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) under which there’s a ban on the international commercial trade in ivory. Those caught purchasing or trafficking banned goods will be prosecuted and receive prison sentences and/or fines.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

You need a visa to enter Kenya. You can either get a visa on arrival at the airport, or before you travel. To minimise time spent queuing at the airport, get a visa before you travel. You can apply for single entry and transit visas on the evisas website. For other types of visa, apply at the nearest Kenyan High Commission or Embassy. For more information on different types of visas see the website of the Kenya High Commission.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Kenya. Make sure you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Kenya. ETDs must be valid for 6 months.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Work permits

If you are coming to live and work in Kenya, you should be aware that there can be delays in obtaining work permits. It’s illegal to work without a permit. This also applies to voluntary work and the self-employed.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Cholera, malaria and dengue fever occur in Kenya.

You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Don’t eat food prepared by unlicensed vendors.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Natural disasters

Kenya lies on an active fault line and tremors occur from time to time. The last significant earth tremor to affect the region was of magnitude 5.2 in 2007.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after and earthquake

Money

ATMs are widely available in Nairobi and the main towns and credit cards are widely accepted. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to exchange Scottish or Northern Irish banknotes in Kenya.