Foreign travel advice

Kenya

Important COVID-19 travel guidance

Travel in your area, including international travel, may be restricted because of domestic regulations. Different rules apply in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Follow all the rules that apply to you.

Other countries may close borders, restrict movement or bring in new quarantine rules with little warning. Check our advice on things to consider, and be prepared to stay overseas longer than planned.

Before you return to the UK you must provide your journey and contact details. Also check if you need to self isolate.

Safety and security

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.

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. Although uncommon, incidents of violent crime have resulted in the death of several British nationals. 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). Gun attacks in Kwale County on the south coast resulted in fatalities in September and October 2017.

You should be vigilant at all times and take into account any security advice given by your hotel, 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.

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.

If you are in Kenya and you need urgent help (for example, you have been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +44 (0) 20 7008 5000. If you are in the UK and worried about a British national in Kenya, call 020 7008 5000.

Demonstrations

You should exercise caution, monitor local media and avoid all demonstrations and political gatherings and, where possible, avoid travelling around areas where demonstrations may take place. This may include large gatherings, universities, political party headquarters, and offices of the electoral commission.

Local travel

The FCDO advise against all but essential travel to within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border; to Garissa county; 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.

If you travel to Lamu Island or Manda Island, you should do so by air to Lamu Airport (a civilian airport on Manda Island) and not by road. The only commercial option for air travel to or from Lamu Island and Manda Island is through Lamu Airport.

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. 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.

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. Do not 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 northeastern 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 northeast.

The central Kenyan county of Laikipia has, in the past, seen incursions by pastoralist cattle herders onto privately held ranches and conservancies, in some cases leading to violence and arson. In March 2017, a British national was murdered on his ranch as he went to investigate damage caused by invaders. You should check the latest situation at your destination before travelling to the region.

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.

Monitor local media and take care in all remote areas. 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 in Kenya with a valid UK driving licence for up to 3 months, or on a valid International Driving Permit. If you’re staying longer or living in Kenya, you’ll need to get a Kenyan driving licence.

If you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel. 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 from traffic police 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 Mombasa. 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

Internal domestic air travel resumed on 15 July.

The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation has carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Kenya.

A list of incidents and accidents in Kenya can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

Silverstone Air Services have temporarily suspended all scheduled services, effective 12 November 2019. In case of any queries, you should contact the airline directly at reservations@silverstoneair.co.ke or by telephone on +254 709 685 000, +254 740 100 100 or +254 740 300 300.

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.

If you plan to charter a private aircraft, check with the company 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.

Be vigilant at all times when transiting airports.

Sea travel

The threat of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, 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.

Read the Piracy and armed robbery at sea page for more information and advice.