Safety and security

Crime

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. You should be vigilant at all times and follow any security advice given by your employer or your hosts.

Be aware of the risk of street crime. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and don’t wear expensive watches, jewellery or items of sentimental value. Leave your passport in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy for ID. Don’t accept food or drink from strangers as it may be drugged. Avoid walking around after dark, especially in isolated areas like empty beaches. If you’re attacked, don’t resist.

Crime rates are higher in slum areas of Nairobi and other major cities. Be alert, particularly after dark, and make sure you’re aware of local conditions at all times.

Bag snatching and passport theft are common in transport hubs like bus stations, railway stations and airports. Be particularly vigilant in these areas.

Beware of thieves posing as police officers or private Security Guards. Always ask to see identification.

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 and those areas of Tana River County north of the Tana river itself.

The FCO also advise against all but essential travel within 15km of the coast from the Tana River down to and including Tiwi. This area includes Mombasa Island, Moi International Airport (including transit through the airport), Malindi, Kilifi and Watamu.

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.

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.

The FCO do not advise against travel to Kenya’s popular safari destinations in the national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies including the Aberdare National Park, Amboseli, Laikipia, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Meru, Mount Kenya, Samburu, Shimba Hills, Tsavo.

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. Entrance fees to the national parks and reserves were increased on 1 January 2014.

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. Tribal clashes in the Marsabit county in December 2013 left a number of people dead. There were also a number of deaths following clashes in Mandera County and on the Marsabit-Wajir border in May 2014. 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.

New traffic regulations were introduced in July 2013 increasing the fines and punishments for traffic violations. 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.

Sea travel

Piracy is a significant threat in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean and has occurred as far as 1,000 nautical miles from the coast of Somalia. Attacks of piracy and armed robbery are successful almost exclusively against shipping which has not complied with agreed shipping industry best practice on self-defence measures, including routing. Sailing vessels are particularly vulnerable to attack due to their low speed and low freeboard. All mariners intending to sail through high risk areas should consider alternatives like transporting the vessel by yacht carrier.

See our Piracy in the Indian Ocean 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.