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Is Kenya Safe to Visit in 2023? | Safety Concerns

Is Kenya Safe to Visit in 2023? | Safety Concerns

Kenya is among the most visited countries in Africa, drawing in thousands of tourists annually. It offers incredible safaris, historical landmarks, and beaches. The country’s reserves, parks, and private sanctuaries are home to some of the most diverse wildlife species worldwide.

Furthermore, Kenya has an excellent tourism infrastructure, including a broad selection of campsites and resorts suitable for all budgets. However, it’s not without its challenges. Here are our top travel safety tips if you seek to visit Kenya.

Is Kenya Safe to Visit?

Land Rover on a safari driving down a dirt path for a piece titled Is Kenya Safe to Visit

Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock

Yes, it’s safe to tour Kenya, especially during the festive seasons. However, be extra vigilant when walking in specific neighborhoods around the capital. Gang violence and muggings are common in Kisumu, Nakuru, and Nairobi cities.

Many government embassies in Kenya always advise their citizens against visiting lonely places like empty beaches. You may be robbed in broad daylight if you aren’t careful.

Be aware of pickpocketing, specifically around Nairobi downtown. In addition, avoid asking strangers about their tribes and taking pictures with residents without their consent. Convert your cash into local currency if possible.

Crime in Kenya

According to 2021 crime reports, there are approximately 170 cases of crime per 100,000 people. Pickpocketing, mugging, carjacking, kidnapping, and armed robbery are the most common crimes in Kenya’s big cities.

The country is subject to sporadic episodes of rapid political upheaval. Crimes and demonstrations typically rise around election season, and travelers may find themselves caught in the crossfire. Kenya faces a problem with bandits, most of whom come from Somalia.

Furthermore, Kenya holds a record of 3 major terrorist acts. The attacks include the United States embassy bombing in August 1998, the Westgate Shopping Mall terrorists attack in September 2013, and the Garissa University attack in 2015.

However, Kenya’s government takes care of the global terrorist threat in the same way that the United States government does.

Travelers can feel at ease with the country’s well-established security infrastructure. That includes airport checkpoints and police presence in public spaces like malls and outdoor marketplaces.

Here are some of the best tips for avoiding crimes while in Kenya:

  • Avoid being flashy. Don’t show off money, expensive gadgets, or jewelry, as pickpocketing is common here.
  • Socialize. If a stranger is staring at you, saying hello is okay. Most people in Kenya are friendly and helpful, but some might be up to no good.
  • Don’t leave valuables unattended. You should never leave your bag, even if it’s just a second. Someone might snatch it up and run away before you know what happened.
  • Board legitimate taxis. It would help if you only used licensed taxis to avoid being robbed and dumped in the street.
  • Carry just enough money to get you through the day. Don’t carry large amounts of cash because this incentivizes criminals to target you.
  • Carry a copy of yourpassport. Make a photocopy of your passport and have it at all times.
  • Learn to recognize typical scams and remember that if anything seems too good to be true, it probably is. Keep to your schedule and avoid giving out personal information to random people.
  • Avoid going for a stroll or a late-night drive on lonely streets or paths, particularly in populated regions or open parks.

Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods

Photo of the street with large sculptures over the road pictured in Mombasa for a piece on whether Kenya is safe to visit

PrzemoleC/Shutterstock

Kenyans have a well-deserved reputation for being warm and inviting. The country’s game reserves and animal parks are generally safe havens for visitors.

Nevertheless, there are still off-limits locations that you should avoid. Northern and eastern parts of the country, including Mandera, Garissa, and Nairobi slums, are risky places.

Nairobi

Any Kenyan will advise you to stay away from River Road at whatever time of the day or night. When deciding on a route, check in with the hotel to get their recommendations first.

Follow your guide’s directions when they advise you to roll up your windows and hide your camera and belongings when passing through a neighborhood.

Mombasa

Mombasa has a lower crime rate than the nation’s capital, Nairobi. However, if you’re visiting Mombasa’s Old Town and the Likoni Ferry, you should be vigilant and exercise caution.

Don’t hang around the beach late at night. Call a taxi instead of walking if you have any errands to run. If you plan to drive through Kenya, you should avoid the danger zones along the road from Mombasa to Lamu and areas around Isiolo.

Western and Northern Kenya

These regions experience intermittent unrest driven by raids, ethnic disputes, and cattle rustling. While tourists rarely become the direct target of criminals, it’s still best to avoid putting oneself in danger. When visiting these regions, it may be wise to hire armed escorts.

Borders With Somalia, Sudan, and Ethiopia

Travel advisories strongly discourage tourists from going anywhere near Somalia, Sudan, and Ethiopia border areas. Each of these three nations is undergoing local conflicts.

The Kenya-Ethiopia border has high rates of retaliatory attacks and civil strife. Along the Somali and Sudanese borders, kidnappings, armed banditry, and tribal conflict are common.

As part of the Kenyan government’s efforts to curb Somali invasions and the flow of weapons across the border, there is a high military and police presence and regular roadblocks.

Health in Kenya

Before a trip to Kenya, you should protect yourself against yellow fever and other diseases. Even though the likelihood of becoming infected is low, it’s still in your best interest to take preventative measures.

In addition, remember to begin taking antimalarial drugs a week before departing for Kenya and buy mosquito and insect sprays. When mosquitoes are most active, it’s best to stay indoors around dawn and dusk.

You can use that time to visit a museum or restaurant you’ve been meaning to check out. You can protect yourself from mosquito bites by dressing in long-sleeved, light-colored clothing and applying a mosquito-repellent body lotion containing at least 50 percent DEET.

Malaria and yellow fever may seem terrifying, but you can avoid them with proper planning. Taking up a travel insurance policy is essential before visiting any foreign nation, and Kenya is no exception.

Read Next: The Best Mosquito Sprays for Travelers in 2023

Food Safety

Kenya is home to many mouthwatering meals, drinks, and sweets, but there are a few pointers to watch out for. Most modern motels and eateries adhere to stringent sanitary practices, including careful selection of ingredients, water purification, and thorough food preparation.

Before visiting a new spot, it’s always a good idea to read online reviews. Avoid consuming uncooked foods like salads and fruits that don’t require peeling. While in Kenya, always go for cooked foods whenever possible.

There’re many tasty options, from rice dishes to samosas and bean stews. You will likely have traveler’s diarrhea if you visit a food market with poor sanitation and hygiene practices.

You should consult a local doctor if you experience more severe symptoms than mild diarrhea and an uneasy stomach. Preferably, seek treatment in hospitals around the city center, including Nairobi and Aga Khan University Hospitals.

Is Kenya Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

Woman in Hilfiger gear jumping with the Masai Mara tribe

MASAI MARA, KENYA – July 29, 2018: Tourist jumps with Masai warriors as cultural ceremony in Masai Mara National Park, Kenya/Padchas/Shutterstock

It’s perfectly safe for a woman to travel to Kenya alone. Your hotel manager will put you under constant guide supervision and private accommodations if you are a solo female traveler.

Nevertheless, solo travelers may find it more challenging to navigate the country, given the rising incidences of terrorism and kidnapping. Several accounts attest that teasing from local males is prevalent but rarely represents a real danger to one’s safety.

You may prevent that from happening by dressing conservatively and not making direct eye contact with anyone. You should also avoid venturing out at night as there are more potential dangers on the road.

Always remain in busy places, avoid flaunting your possessions or phone, and keep your cash hidden in a money belt. And like at home or elsewhere, don’t overindulge in alcohol.

Is Kenya Safe for LGBTQ Travelers?

The Kenyan Penal Code classifies homosexual behavior as an offense punishable by law. But many people in the LGBTQ community visit Kenya for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Popular safari areas in this country are safe havens where the staff welcomes the LGBTQ community with open arms. It would be best if you only remembered to respect Kenyan conservatism and refrain from making public shows of affection.

Is Tap Water Safe To Drink in Kenya?

Kenya’s tap water is deemed unsafe for consumption. It’s advisable to buy bottled water which is affordable and easily accessible.

Most safari lodgings, campsites, and restaurants will supply you with complimentary bottled water. Brushing your teeth with tap water is not advised, especially in urban areas.

Politics, Protests, and Civil Unrest in Kenya

Voter demonstrations and violent crime spike during election seasons. Stay away from mass protests, and if you see a mob forming, turn around and head in the opposite direction. Keep yourself up to date on your travel plans.

If there are any signs of unrest, follow the news or talk to the personnel at your hotel. Your trip will be a lot more fascinating if you have a solid understanding of the current events taking place in the country.

Spiked Food and Drinks

Don’t trust anyone you don’t know with your food or drink. Never accept free food, drink, gum, or cigarettes from strangers. You risk being sexually assaulted or robbed if you use any of these products, as they might contain narcotics.

Scams

To defraud unsuspecting tourists out of their money, crooks sometimes pose as hotel workers, law enforcement officers, or public officials.

If a person claiming to be a government official or a cop welcomes you and they give you a fine for a purported infraction, you should request a hard copy government receipt.

Law enforcement officers are obligated to reveal their identities. The Kenyan Police Service has a system for receiving complaints about alleged wrongdoing.

You should be careful if you travel to Kenya to meet an online friend you’ve been communicating with. Most tourists traveling to have their online date in person become easy targets for criminals soon as they set foot in the country.

Transport

The state of major roadways is often satisfactory, although maintenance standards for secondary roads are often lax. It is common for drivers to be under the influence of alcohol at night and often disregard traffic rules.

Some rural roads become unusable during the wet season, even for four-wheel drive cars. Drive safely and stay alert at all times.

It’s not unusual for there to be long wait times in traffic. If you aren’t familiar with Kenyan traffic patterns, you should avoid the road leading from Nairobi to Mombasa. If feasible, take a plane or train.

Money

The main currency here is the Kenyan shilling (KES). There is a variety of ATMs to choose from. Big hotels typically accept credit cards, although smaller hotels and those in more rural areas may not.

Hotels and banks offer money exchange services. When leaving Kenya, you can exchange your shillings for foreign cash at the airport.

Kenyans use an electronic money transfer method known as M-Pesa. National parks don’t take cash payments and usually accept credit card payments. They will take M-Pesa only when there are technical issues.

Things to Consider

Below are several things you should remember when visiting Kenya:

  • Don’t get out of your van at any time.
  • When walking on safari, wearing shoes or boots with closed toes is best. That protects you from the deadly snakes and scorpions.
  • Don’t go on a jogging spree if you plan on spending the night at a campsite. The residents might perceive you as prey.
  • Carry a sunscreen bottle in your bag and reapply frequently.

Frequently Asked Questions

Downtown streets of Narobi pictured on a sunny day with residents walking about and the busses in the streets

NAIROBI/KENYA – SEPTEMBER 15 2013: Many people on the street of Nairobi in Kenya. Eastern Africa/Authentic Travel/Shutterstock

Here are the most common questions visitors ask before touring Kenya:

Does Kenya have local support for tourists?

The Kenya Tourism Federation maintains a round-the-clock Safety and Communication Center. The center gives information about road conditions and emergency services in the surrounding area.

Where should I avoid traveling in Kenya?

Stay away from the Eastleigh, Kibera, and Pangani areas of Nairobi due to the high crime rate. Also, always travel within fifty kilometers of the Kilifi County coastline because of the increased risk of abduction and thuggery.

Is Kenya dangerous?

Law enforcement agencies classify a few areas as risky, but the country’s most popular tourist destinations, like Watamu, Maasai Mara National Reserve, and Amboseli National Park, are very secure. The organization of safaris is safe and professional, and the quality of the hotels is exceptional.

Is it safe for US citizens to travel to Kenya?

The United States government workers are banned from visiting counties on the Kenyan-Somali border and certain coastal regions because of terrorist fears. The other parts of the country are safe enough to enjoy a cool stay.

Is Kenya safe for solo travelers?

Overall, Kenya is safe for solo travelers. Although renting a car and exploring the animal parks is feasible, lone travelers should avoid these areas. Traveling with a knowledgeable and well-trained guide is your best bet in minimizing the risk of getting lost or attacked by dangerous species.

So, Is Kenya Safe to Visit?

While Kenya has some safety concerns, they aren’t insurmountable, and it’s worth visiting this amazing country. It has fantastic safari parks and beaches. If you take some precautions, your visit should be safe and enjoyable.

Always be follow your embassy’s directions. Avoid visiting crime spots, especially during the election cycles. So what are you waiting for — explore the country’s natural beauty today!