Is Kenya Safe for Travelers? 11 Things to Know as you are traveling to Kenya for a safari
Is Kenya Safe for Travelers? When compared to most of the surrounding African countries, Kenya is a very safe safari destination. However like in other countries crimes do happen in major cities which are a threat to travelers thus raising a question about the travelers’ safety.
This article answers most of the commonly asked questions by travelers and ones you should know be and as you travel in Kenya such as Food hygiene in Kenya, Is tap water safe to drink in Kenya?, Malaria and travel health tips, Beware of insects, Politics and civil unrest in Kenya, How bad is crime in Kenya?, Bandits in Kenya, Terrorism in Kenya, LGBTQ+ travel safety tips, Safety tips for solo women travelers and Safety tips for travelers
1. Question food quality before you eat in Kenya
As a traveler in Kenya, you should be careful about what you eat and where you eat from. Meat should be on the list of dishes you should be careful about, sometimes the quality of meat does not agree with the stomach of the visitors/ travelers and so is the ingredients used in preparing the local dishes.
Other dishes you should be careful about and not eat at all if possible are the raw foods such as salads and fruits which cannot be peeled, during your Kenya safari or travels make sure you always opt for well cooked meals, there are plenty of delicious cooked meals to feast on in Kenya ranging from rice dishes to bean stews and samosas which will leave your mouth watering.
Travelers have a high risk of contracting diarrhea “travelers’ diarrhea” in places with poor standards of sanitation and hygiene, in case you feel anything more serious than the normal runs and uneasy stomach you are advised to find a local doctors to get treatment.
Note: while eating in Kenya always eat with your right hand, touching food with your left hand is forbidden in Kenya.
2. Is tap water safe to drink in Kenya?
Tap water is unsafe for drinking, during your travels in Kenya do not drink water unless it has been boiled or purified, always make it a point to carry a reusable water bottle and purification tablets or a water filter bottle such as the Grayl water bottle and keep it topped up with purified water. In this way you will avoid buying bottled water which may be unsafe for you.
3. Malaria and travel health tips for Kenya
Since Kenya is a tropical country, malaria has been an issue in Kenya and the risk is high. That is why as a traveler, you are advised to make sure all your route vaccinations are up to date before travelling to Kenya. Talk to your doctor about using malaria pills, also research also research about the pros and cons of talking malaria pills.
While in Kenya stay covered up at dawn to dusk as it is when the mosquitoes are most active, carry any form of medications you might need from your home, if you are to buy medication while in Kenya buy it from a registered clinic, pharmacy or hospital. Avoid buying medication from the streets or just any clinic as there are many fake and poor – quality medications being sold not only in Kenya but around the world.
4. Insects in Kenya
Kenya if filled with insects such as mosquitoes, biting wasps, scorpions, flies among others which are often more dangerous than most wild animals such as the big5. As a traveler you should watch out for these insects, to save yourself from the bites of these insects bring long-sleeved clothing and insect repellents. If you are planning on doing bike riding, bring a tire repair kit with you incase acacia thorns tear through the rubber.
5. Politics, protests, and civil unrest in Kenya
Political protests and civil unrests are only common in Kenya during times of elections, as a traveler in Kenya you should avoid participating and getting in the middle of public demonstrations. In case you see a crowd gathering just walk way, during your Kenya trip stay informed. Check the news on a daily and ask the locals, your guide and accommodation staff about any rising tensions in Kenya most especially during election periods.
6. Crime in Kenya
Like other countries, crimes are very common most especially petty crimes such as pick pocketing, kidnapping, stealing of valuables and others. The occurrence of crimes in Kenya is very common in major cities, coastal beach resorts, coastal and Rift Valley provinces, northern areas of the Eastern region, north areas of Malindi and northern Kenya including the North Eastern Province.
Those these crimes rarely happen so there is no need to get paranoid or change your travel plans to Kenya, during your travel / Kenya Safari, it is important to follow the guidelines and safety advice given to you by your safari guide or government officials.
While in Kenya some of the precautions to take include
- Keep your valuables out of sight
- Do not walk alone most especially in dark hours of the night
- Only carry cash you will need for that day of your travel
Nairobi city the capital of Kenya is a hot spot for travelers as it where most Kenya safaris begin from to various Kenya destinations, as a traveler there are some crime spots you should avoid and these include
- Kibera- the largest urban slum in Africa
- Eastleigh situated in Nairobi’s East, this area is considered to be a high risk area due to the numerous terror-related incidents that have occurred in this area since 2012.
- Areas such as Buruburu, Kasarani, Mathare, Pangan, South B and South C have known to be prone to violent crimes.
Some of the common petty crimes happening in Nairobi city include bag snatching in the city center and in transport hubs, violent crimes in the suburbs of Nairobi include armed carjackings, kidnapping and home invasions.
Crime rate in Mombasa city is lower if compared to Nairobi the capital of Kenya, however as a traveler you need to be cautious when out and about in Mombasa. Some of the areas a traveler should be more cautious are in the Old Town of Mombasa and Likoni Ferry, travelers are advised to avoid hanging out at the beach at night and instead of walking to your destination it is better to take a taxi.
7. Bandits in Kenya
Bandits also known as shiftas are common problem in Kenya and it is still on a wide spread, the bandits originate from Somalia a neighboring country to Kenya. These bandits operate in the city suburbs and if you are planning on traveling beyond the urban centers avoid traveling at night.
Bandits in Kenya’s national parks
The major targets for bandits in Kenya are travelers/ tourists traveling on a Kenya safari game reserves and national parks in Kenya, the bandit incidences in Kenya have been witnessed in popular Kenya safari destinations such as Maasai Mara national reserve, Samburu national reserve among others.
To put a stop to occurrence of the bandit incidents, police and security forces have been recruited in the national parks and reserves. As a travelers you are advised to be careful while in the parks and reserves and when your safari guide tells you to put your windows up, kindly do so. While traveling through the villages, park your valuables such as cameras, mobiles and others away as they are occasionally snatched if you are not careful.
North and West Kenya
Areas in the northern and western region of Kenya have experienced sporadic violence as a result of banditry, castle rustling and ethnic clashes, fortunately travelers are not a target but you never know you could be caught in such a situation so you should be careful.
Borders with Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia
Due to warnings from several Travel advisories, travelers are warned against traveling to areas near the borders of Kenya with Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia. These 3 countries experience localized conflicts and violence such as armed banditry, violent cattle rustling, counter raid and tribal warfare which are more common along the Kenya-Ethiopia border.
Kidnapping, armed banditry and clan warfare is common along the borders of Kenya with Sudan and Somalia.
The most alarming bandit action occurred in November 2018 where 2008 visitors were kidnapped from Kenya close to the borders of Kenya with Sudan and Somalia and they were taken into Somalia. Somalia’s border with Kenya has been declared a no – go zone for travelers and this is due to its ever present internal conflicts and terrorism issues.
8. Terrorism in Kenya
For a long time, Kenya has been under threat from Anti-Somali government extremist group who have launched attacks on shopping centers, foreign embassies and other tourism areas in recent years. Travelers are advised by most of the Kenya government travel advisories to exercise a higher level of caution while traveling in Kenya.
Kenya has been targeted by the Al Shaabab due to its military intervention in Somalia and highly developed tourism, some of the latest terrorism incidents in Kenya have occurred near the border with Somalia include
- The 2015 Garissa University attack which resulted into death of 150 people and many sustained injuries.
- The 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Centre, this attack/shooting was carried out by the Al Shaabab militants and resulted into death of 67 people including visitors.
- Petrol bomb attack and stabbing in the coastal town of Mombasa were a police station was targeted, the attack was carried out by 3 assailants leaving 2 police officers wounded.
9. Is Kenya safe for LGBTQ+ travelers?
In Kenya any relation of same-sex is highly prohibited as high lightened in the Kenyan penal code which criminalizes homosexual activity, this law is highly practiced and earns you a punishment of 14 years in prison for offenders.
However, plenty of gay and lesbian travelers are allowed to visit Kenya as long as they limit themselves from displaying their affection in public as they are not tolerated in Kenya.
Kenya is a conservative and traditional country thus a modest code of conduct and dressing is highly recommended to all tourists including heterosexual couples
10. Is Kenya safe for women travelers?
Generally, Kenya is safe for female travelers. Kenyan locals are very friendly, hospitable and respectful people which means you are guaranteed as a trouble free Kenya trip as a woman. Most of the local Kenyans are English speakers which eases communication.
However, there have been reports of women experiencing harassment from men. As a female traveler you are advised to avoid hanging out at the beach or walking alone at night, if you are heading to a certain destination take a taxi rather than walking most especially at night. Even if you in company of people, avoid getting intoxicated.
11. Basic travel safety tips for Kenya
Here are our top suggested safety tips to keep in mind while traveling around Kenya
- Keep your passport in your language bags and make a copy of it
- Avoid walking alone at night most especially in isolated areas
- While traveling in Kenya make it about to get informed about unsafe areas in Kenya, you can get the information from Kenyans as they are friendly people and they will be happy to give you information.
- Always be vigilant
- Leave your flash jewelry at home or in your room at the lodge or hotel you are staying at
- Snatching and grabbing of valuables is common in busy places of Kenya, if you feel like someone is too close to you, duck into a building or shop for some extra space.
- Always keep your valuables such as cameras and phone concealed as muggings are very common most especially in city centers.
- Avoid walking or traveling on isolated roads during dark hours of the night most especially in urban areas or public parks
- In case you need to go to downtown areas at night, always take a taxi
- Avoid traveling to rural locations at night as they are prone to dangers of bandits, trucks and the journey is riskier in the dark most especially for trucks and vehicles without headlights.
- Always stink to your itinerary and do not trust strangers
While travelling in Kenya the above tips if put in practice will result into a safe trip in Kenya.