Kenya is a country in Eastern Africa. Its Indian Ocean coast lies between Somalia to the north east and Tanzania to the south. Its other surrounding countries are Ethiopia and South Sudan to the north and Uganda to the west.
Kenya is the most powerful economy of East Africa and is also a middle income country with a fast growing middle class, however, it is still a developing country, and so certain aspects of the country's society and infrastructure may come as a shock to some visitors from developed countries who are unfamiliar with the quality of life experienced by many Kenyans. Socio - economic inequalities are also observable, with many middle to upper class Kenyans living moderately affluent lifestyles while many other lower income Kenyans live in squalor
Although made up of many diverse ethnic groups and tribes, Kenyans have strong sense of national pride which may be due in part to unity in the struggle for Uhuru (Kiswahili: "freedom") – independence from British colonial rule, achieved in 1963. Most Kenyans seem optimistic about the country's future. Kenyans understandably pursue the business opportunities offered by tourism with a zeal that may be off putting to some visitors, but are usually open, talkative and friendly once business matters have been settled.
Although foreign visitors are now a common sight in many parts of the country, there still exist vast areas off the beaten track where a white or yellow face will attract cries of "Mzungu! Mzungu!" (Kiswahili: "white person") from local children. Visitors to these areas should think especially carefully about the long term effects of their visit on the local community, and should for example avoid giving out sweets or money without restraint – playing with children, or talking to and helping villagers will yield far better results than merely giving out handouts.
Kenya has a tropical climate moderated by altitude. It's hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland, and very dry in the north and northeast parts.
Kenya receives a great deal of sunshine all the year round and summer clothes are worn throughout the year. However, it is usually cool at night and early in the morning. Also, because Nairobi and many highland towns are at a high altitude, it can be quite cold even during the day between June and August with temperatures sometimes dropping into single digit territory (celsius).
The long rain season occurs from April to June. The short rain season occurs from October to December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoons and evenings. The hottest period is from February to March and the coldest from July to August.
It's always a good idea to check the weather forecast, as this can help you plan in advance.
The annual animal migration - especially migration of the wildebeest - occurs between June and September with millions of animals taking part and has been a popular event for film makers to capture.
See also African National Parks
Visas are not required for the following nationalities: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Burundi, Cyprus, Dominica, Ethiopia, Fiji, the Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Nationals of Malaysia and South Africa may enter for 30 days visa-free, all other nations specified may enter for 90 days visa-free. Additionally, nationals of Rwanda and Uganda may enter Kenya using their National Identification Cards in lieu of a passport.
Visas are available for purchase on entry at international airports and at land borders for almost all nationalities. There is a separate line at immigration for those who require tourist visas. No photos are required, just $50 USD, €40 EUR or £30 GBP in cash for payment.
Nationalities from the following countries are not eligible for visa on entry, and must apply beforehand: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cameroon, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mali, North Korea, Palestine, Senegal, Somalia, Syria and Tajikistan.
For citizens of other countries/territories, visas may be obtained through a Kenyan embassy/consulate prior to departure, valid for six months from the date of issue. The current costs for tourist visas are: USD20/€20/GBP10 (transit), USD50/€40/GBP30 (single-entry), and USD100 (multiple entry). Unlike some countries' visas, the application for a Kenyan visa is short (1 page) and not very detailed and will be returned in 10 days, except 12-16 days during the busy May-August season. If paying with US currency, ONLY bills printed AFTER 2006 will be accepted as payment (as of January 2014). Check the dates on your currency before travelling.
All citizens of countries that need a visa for Kenya can also apply for an electronic visa, which can be obtained at .
If you require a visa to enter Kenya, you might be able to apply for one at a British embassy, High Commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no Kenyan foreign mission. For example, the British embassies in Almaty, Belgrade, Budapest, Guatemala City, Jakarta, Prague, Pristina, Rabat, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vienna, Warsaw and Zagreb accept Kenyan visa applications (this list is not exhaustive). British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a Kenyan visa application and an extra £70 if the authorities in Kenya require the visa application to be referred to them. The authorities in Kenya can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.
A single-entry visa allows re-entry from Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Another option is the East African Tourist Visa. This is a multiple entry visa for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda and is valid for 3 months. The cost is $100 and that visa can not be extended. It is available at most borders of each country.
Kenya Airways (KQ) is the national airline. KQ has extensive regional Johannesburg-South Africa, Harare-Zimbabwe, Cairo-Egypt, Entebbe-Uganda, Accra-Ghana, etc) and international connections (Dubai-UAE, London-UK, Amsterdam-Netherlands, Mumbai-India, etc). It is also a SkyTeam associate member.
Kenya has four International airports:
Jomo Kenyatta is the primary arrival point for visitors flying into Kenya. There are excellent flight connections provided by KQ to major tourist destinations such as Mombasa, Kisumu and Malindi.
Major airlines that serve NBO are:
Train services link only Kenya's major cities. There is no passenger train service linking Kenya with neighbouring countries, though there are cargo lines.
Roads are mostly in good condition accessible and paved in all but the most remote regions of the country, especially in the North Eastern Region. All neighbouring countries can be accessed including Ethiopia via the border town of Moyale, Uganda via Busia or Malaba, and Tanzania via Namanga.
The Country is crisscrossed by a wide highway network, this includes:- A104- This links Nairobi to Uganda and Tanzania A109- Mombasa - Nairobi A2-Nairobi to The Northern Ethiopian Border A1-From the Southern Sudanese border, Through western Kenya to Tanzania
Beware of overland routes coming through the northern deserts as these are essentially lawless regions. Most vehicles travelling through the area travel via armed convoy.
Regular bus services operate between:
Nairobi (Kenya) & Arusha (Tanzania); Nairobi (Kenya) & Kampala (Uganda); Mombasa (Kenya) & Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania); Kisumu (Kenya) & Kampala (Uganda);
Reliable bus services on these routes include Kampala Coach, Easy Coach, Crown Buses, Modern Coast, Mash, among others.
From Arusha, Tanzania you can get use many shuttle services. Some of the reliable ones are Riverside Shuttle as well as Impala Shuttle. The shuttles have regular daily trips between Marangu, Moshi, Arusha, Nairobi International Airport and Nairobi City. These are scheduled twice a day. These are more recommended for safety and is the fastest way to get to Nairobi by bus. Bookings can now be made in advance for the two shuttles mentioned online at BusAfrica.
This is limited to Lake Victoria (e.g., Mwanza in Tanzania to Kisumu in Kenya) and the coastal area (e.g., Mombasa-Zanzibar cruises).
Most international visitors will arrive through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi (IATA: NBO). If you are already in Nairobi and need to get to the airport, please make sure that you plan at least two hours to get there as the main road to the airport has heavy traffic jams, and security checks are tedious.
Kenya Airways (KQ) offers the most scheduled connections from JKIA and regular daily flights to the following destinations: Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu and Kisumu. A return flight from Nairobi to Mombasa will cost about KES11,000. Online booking is available. Check in is 45 minutes before departure for local flights and two hours for international. Pay attention to the announcements while in Unit 3 of JKIA as passengers on different flights are put in the same waiting area. If you are flying from another destination to Nairobi and using Kenya Airways in the tourist high season (July-September, December-February), note that KQ flights are frequently delayed and preference is given to international connecting passengers, platinum frequent-flyer card holders, and first-class passengers.
A low-cost, no-frills airline Fly540 also flies from JKIA and offers scheduled connections to Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu, Kisumu and Masaai Mara. Plans are to extend the service to the East African region. A return flight to Mombasa from Nairobi will cost about USD99 (without tax) Online booking is possible.
Another airline Airkenya flies from Wilson Airport Nairobi to Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu, Amboseli, Maasai Mara, Meru, Nanyuki and Samburu. The lounge features a Dormans cafe. Check in can be done up to 15 minutes before departure. Wilson Airport was once the busiest airport in Africa outside South Africa and still remains a major hub for local flights to the nature reserves in Kenya and to cities in neighbouring countries.
Anyone using Air Kenya is advised to lock their checked-in bags.
Most charter tourists fly directly to either of the coastal airports of Mombasa or Malindi.
Kenya has a network of long distance bus lines. Speed is limited to 80km/h, and the highways can be very bumpy and dusty, so be sure you pick a comfortable and reputable coach company for the long journeys. Travelling during the day is preferable to travelling at night due to the threat of carjackings and road traffic accidents.
Nairobi has some frequent and fast bus and matatu services. Local buses in Nairobi are surprisingly more comfortable and may well be more fun than their western counterparts. The interior of the buses are well decorated and resemble that of a night club. Buses usually play music and/or show films and comedy shows to make the daily commute more pleasant in comparison to the dreary commute in many western cities.
Local buses in town are run by private companies, such as the green and yellow Citi Hoppa, the purplish Double M, the bluish-grey Metro Bus, the green Mwi Sacco, which provide transportation for an inexpensive fee (usually around USD0.66). They have regular services in and out of the Nairobi city suburbs. They usually seat 20-35 passengers (no standing passengers are allowed by law) and are a cleaner and less hectic mode of transport than matatus, while still plying many of the same routes.
Matatus are privately operated minibuses, typically for 14 or 33 passengers and operating over short and medium distances. Travel by matatu can be somewhat risky as the vehicles are sometimes extremely badly driven, with matatu drivers swerving in and out of traffic and stopping at a moment's notice by the side of the road for passengers. Some are poorly maintained, and many have fascinating and colourful decor, which is a major feature of Kenyan urban culture. Previously, matatus were usually packed to well over capacity – up to 18 people in a 14-seater vehicle – but in recent years there has been increased government regulation and policing of matatus, especially in the larger cities, and now most matatus provide seatbelts and do not exceed the vehicle's stated capacity. An unfortunate side-effect of better regulation has been a loss of individuality and character of some of the vehicles, and drivers and conductors are now obliged to wear set uniforms. Tourists should be careful to ensure that they are wearing the seatbelts provided, unless they wish to find themselves taken on an inconvenient unscheduled trip from a road checkpoint to the police station.
Matatu routes and schedules can now be found under public transport direction on Google Maps, or alternatively you can ask the conductors. Matatus have route numbers but are often hard to see on the vehicle itself. Drivers like to minimise times spent at stops and you should be warned that the bus may start moving before you have completely boarded, sometimes you can expect to make a running jump. For the same reason, when your stop is coming up, be by the door ready to disembark. If you do not get off the moment the door opens you may find new passengers pushing themselves onboard and pushing you back, remaining stuck on the matatu until you can get to the door again.
Although most matatus ply their trade along set routes, it is often possible outside of major towns to charter a matatu on the spot as a taxi to your your desired destination. Make sure you have categorically confirmed your negotiated price and exact destination before the vehicle goes anywhere, or you may find yourself in the shadier areas of Nairobi at night at the mercy of an indignant matatu driver.
Matatus provide a very cheap and quick method of transport in all the major towns and many rural areas. The name matatu hails from the Kiswahili word for the number three – tatu – because some time ago the standard fare was three ten-cent coins.
The Kenya-Uganda railway starts in Mombasa and travels via Nairobi to Kampala, Uganda. This is the famous "Lunatic Express" and was also featured in the Val Kilmer & Michael Douglas film "The Ghost and the Darkness." This train does not currently travel to Uganda. The train is extremely slow and usually delayed. The speed of the train is due to the old narrow gauge track installed by the colonial authorities which hasn't been improved in 50 years of independence. Currently the train only travels the Nairobi-Mombasa route three times a week.
You can hire a jeep and drive through Kenya, although you need to be careful, since there are few signs along the roads and you can easily get lost. Also, bandits may stop your travel and take your belongings.
By Rental Car
Most worldwide rental agencies have offices in Nairobi and Mombasa, and these offer expensive but reliable cars with a full back-up network. One can also rent cheaper cars from local distributors who are mostly reliable.
Getting around in Kenya, especially for roads out of the city, is difficult. Though Kenya does have a lovely countryside,the roads are often in a dilapidated state due to neglect. Rent a heavy duty car/jeep to get you there. A good map is essential, and if you are self driving to game parks and the like a GPS would be very useful - sign posts are rare and you are never quite sure if you are on the correct road, leading to many wrong turnings and backtracking.
Consider renting your car from major brands like or renown local companies. Carefully read the rental contract to check for rules on insurance liabilities in case of accident / theft of the vehicle.
Kenya has some of the world's best game reserves where you can see some of the finest African flora and fauna. The parks are famous for lions, giraffes, elephants and huge herds of zebras, wildebeests and buffaloes. It's wise to shop around for tour operators before picking one, to see what's currently on offer, who you vibe with, and to get a competitive price.
The annual wildebeest migration (from Maasai Mara to the Serengeti) is an awesome sight and best experienced in a balloon safari. Bookings to watch the migration are best done months in advance due to the high demand and limited lodging available in the Mara. Migration is during August and September.
Kenya also is a great destination for beach holidays, with several located along the coastal regions and the city of Mombasa.
Kenya is also becoming a golf holiday destination, with an abundance of beautiful courses around the major urban areas. Green fees range from USD15-40 per round, plus a USD5-7 caddy fee.
The Northern parts of Kenya are home to some spectacular tribes living very traditional lifestyles - you can start to encounter these remarkable societies near to and around the main road North into Ethiopia (the A2 which runs through Marsabit and into Moyale at the Ethopian border), as well as West of this in places such as Wamba, Maralal, Baragoi, Korr, Kargi, South Horr, etc.
Watch a wildlife migration. Go for a game drive in many parks and reserves found in the country. If you are on a tight schedule take a game drive in the Nairobi National Park found less than 20 minutes drive from the Cental Business District. Major attractions, big cats including lions and leopards, buffaloes, a variety of antelope species, baboons, monkeys amongst others.
Many travellers choose to spend some of their trip volunteering with the local community. This can include teaching, community development, childcare, conservation and environmental work, or healthcare/medical projects.
English and Swahili are the two official languages. Generally, You can get by with English in the larger cities and when dealing with those connected to the tourism industry as well as middle to upper class Kenyans, but, outside of that, Swahili is nearly indispensable as most Kenyans have a nearly fluent comprehension of the language.
Tribal languages, such as Maa spoken by the Maasai, are commonplace in more remote areas. You will still usually be able to find a local who can speak Swahili — although in such areas a guide will be indispensable. Sheng (a slang of English, Kiswahili and local languages) is spoken mostly by urban youths.
The currency is the Kenyan shilling (KES), which can be divided into 100 cents. As of November 2015, USD1 = KES102, €1 = KES111 and GBP1 = KES154.
Most establishments do accept VISA, Mastercard and Amex. Most retailers, both large and small, accept mobile payments via M-Pesa. In fact it is not uncommon for people to pay for goods and services from clothes to curios and even hospital bills using their phones. To get registered, visit any Safaricom store countrywide
Kenya is famous for many handicrafts, which are often the signature of a particular tribe or region. Look for Kisii stone (soap stone) carvings, Maasai jewellery, Mkonde wood carvings, Lamu chairs and batiks. The largest selection of handicrafts can probably be found at the Maasai Market which rotates and can be found at different locations within Nairobi, which include Masai items such as beaded jewellery, decorated gourds and the distinctive red-checked blankets worn by all Masai men make good souvenirs. For example, on Sundays, they are at Yaya Centre near hurlingham, and, on Saturdays, they can be found at the Central business district near the law courts parking space.
Khanga, kitenge and kikoi cloths are ideal to use as sarongs (common in East Africa for both men and women)
Kenyan baskets made from sisal and leather are also popular.
The city and town centres usually have markets that sell curios such as African drums, old brass and copper, batiks, soapstone knick-knacks, carved chess sets, and large wooden carvings of animals or salad bowls carved from a single piece of teak, mninga or ebony.
On Fridays, they are at the Village Market in Gigiri, near the UN headquarters. Gigiri, just like Yaya Centre, is a plush suburb, so vendors price their goods accordingly. There is also a fine selection of stores selling craft goods in Mombasa, where the atmosphere is somewhat more relaxed. However, the best prices can be found by buying direct from the artisans in their villages in the countryside.
Apart from the typical souvenirs such as wood carvings, it may be a good idea to buy one of the large books with photos of wildlife, nature, or culture.
Do listen to and buy some local Kenyan music. Reggae is also quite a frequent feature of matatu journeys.
Exporting souvenirs made from wildlife skins (this includes reptiles) and shells is forbidden.
For a more traditional shopping experience, there are many shopping malls in the country, many being in the capital Nairobi. These include Westgate Shopping Mall, Galleria Mall, The Junction, The Hub, Two Rivers, Garden City Mall, Yaya Centre, Village Market, Thika Road Mall, Prestige Plaza, Buffalo mall and more. There are also local and international supermarket brands that stock many international and local goods, these include Nakumatt, Tuskys, Naivas, GAME, Chandarana and Carrefour. Most malls will have a nearly even mix of international (mostly South African) and local brands such as Mr Price(a clothing line comparable to H&M), Woolworths, Nike, Rado, MAC cosmetics, Converse, Sandstorm, KikoRomeo and Swarovski as well as a handful of authorised Apple and Samsung retailers.
Kenya has some of the finest eating establishments in Africa. Many different cuisines and types of restaurants are available, from Thai to Chinese to Traditional Kenyan Fare, most people will find something to their liking. Most reputable restaurants, however, are in major cities like Nairobi and Mombasa, with the majority being in Nairobi. There are many high end restaurants such as Caramel in Nairobi, some of them attached to Five star hotels,which are expensive but worth it unless you are looking to experience true Kenyan cuisine.Street food is also definitely worth a try and usually safe to eat, however, do avoid most boiled food unless you are sure of the water source. Mandazi are sweet bread-like treats that are often sold on the street, maize grilled with a side of chili to add on is a wonderful snack and very cheap, samosas are awesome and don't be hesitant to try all the other yummy stuff they're selling! Also, fruit stand are everywhere-the mangoes and avocados are to die for and can be bought for about KES10-20. Many restaurants can be found downtown and in the areas of Westlands and Hurlingham but these areas are filled with tourists while places like Ayani, Olympic, Kibera, have more authentic food but are less safe, both hygienically and security wise. Among the many cuisines available are Indian, Brazilian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, German and French restaurants.
Fast food restaurants range from traditional American style restaurants like KFC, Dominos,Subway and Cold Stone Creamery to South African establishments such as Steers and Debonairs.There are also well established Kenyan food chains such as Big Square, McFrys and Kenchic. Most fast food outlets do deliver within Nairobi and Mombasa
Coffee culture is alive and well; with many local establishments available, the most prevalent being Java House, which operates 29 branches in Nairobi and more in major towns and cities across the country. Other establishments include Artcaffe, Vida e Caffe and Dormans. These places are great for a daily fix of coffee, however, they do tend to be on the pricier side, so be prepared.
If you want an unforgettable experience then check out Carnivore Restaurant, which is famous for its exotic meats. You can sample crocodile, ostrich, camel etc. depending on what is brought in. The meat is all-you-can-eat and comes with salad and a variety of dips. Not a great restaurant for vegetarians, although there is an option available. There is also the adjoining Simba Saloon for those who want a more standard restaurant menu.
Kenyan beer is decent. There is one major brewer whose flagship brand is Tusker Lager. Also try the Tusker Malt Lager. Another good lager beer is White Cap Lager. Imported beers are available in supermarkets and better hotels, but the prices are usually high. But imported Tanzanian beer like Kilimanjaro and Safari tend to be cheaper than even Tusker. In local bars, do not expect to pay more than around KES250 for a bottle; anything more is a tourist rip-off.
Imported and local wines and spirits are widely available, and it is advisable to avoid local brews such as "changaa" and "busaa," which are illegal, un-hygenically brewed and whose consumption has led to deaths on many occasions. It may be helpful to remember that "changaa" literally means "kill me quick" before deciding whether or not to drink a proffered glass of the beverage.
There is an excellent selection of soft drinks especially from the Coca Cola stable, but try the Tangawizi brand of ginger ale.
Most hotels do operate in the more touristy regions of the country such as Amboseli, Nairobi, Samburu, Maasai Mara, Nakuru, Elementaita, Kilifi, Mombasa and Diani. Many of them that are in cities that have airports do operate shuttle services while some in hard to reach game parks and reserves have airstrips.
There are a number of other guesthouses that offer private rooms both with shared bathrooms and self-contained rooms for between KES1,000 and KES 4,000 per night. As long as you don't mind basic accommodations, there is no need to spend more than USD100 per night on a hotel or hostel. In less touristy areas, lodging can be found for as cheap as USD5 per night.
More luxury oriented travellers will not be disappointed as there are a wide array of luxury hotels in the country. From traditional international brands like Kempinski, Fairmont, Radisson, Intercontinental and Hilton to smaller local, but just as good chains, such as Serena and Hemingways.
Homestays are increasingly gaining popularity. Part of the reason is that one is able to experience Kenyan culture in a deeper and more meaningful way. Most homes charge about USD20 per night inclusive of meals. Some may include laundry on that price.
People staying longer-term may rent accommodation; prices range from estate-agent 'international style' rentals at USD150+ pw, to privately arranged furnished apartments, from USD50-100 pw, to 'local' style accommodation, usually unfurnished, in a price range from KES5000-7000 per month with windows, water, electricity, down to KES 500 per month with no windows, no electricity, loud neighbours, mosquitoes, shared access to a tap. To arrange privately rented accommodation, you'll need to ask around - cab drivers, shopkeepers, market traders, could all save you the estate agents' fees.
One may also consult Airbnb while in Kenya as there is a growing number of listings on the site, however do take all the necessary precautions as one would when using airbnb in any city around the world.
There are a large number of colleges a wide variety of courses in Nairobi and Mombasa. There are also a large number of universities, both public and private, and some do participate in student exchange programs with international universities.
A high unemployment rate means work permits are required. These can be difficult to obtain unless you have specialized skills that are lacking in the workforce. You are best off being appointed abroad, as local employment opportunities are low-paying and few.
There is a large number of international expatriates who work for non-profit agencies such as the U.N and other affiliated agencies. Their pay is very high in relation to local living standards, and as a result their employees can afford to live in luxury.
There are numerous opportunities for volunteering in Kenya, whatever skills you have. Websites such as Idealist carry details of many of these placements, which could be centred on education, conservation, community development, or a number of similar areas. Kenya's English-speaking history and relative stability (despite recent events following the disputed 2007 elections) make it extremely well suited for this kind of work. In most cases, volunteering can be undertaken with a standard tourist visa, although it is worth checking with your host organization before travelling as the authorities may not always take this view.
If you have specialised skills, there are a number of more focused volunteering programs available. These range from opportunities for medical and engineering placements (for example, with MSF or VSO), to short sabbaticals for people with generic business experience, spent mentoring local businesses, with Skills Venture.
Kenya had an uncharacteristic bout of post-election violence in January 2008 after a disputed presidential election result. Things have now quieted down and the country is considered safe for travelers, but the situation remains somewhat on edge, so follow local news carefully.
The saying "Nairobbery" was invented for a reason. Stay alert when walking or driving through Nairobi. You should be careful always to be aware of your surroundings and, if possible, ensure that you have a guide with you. Even daylight muggings on crowded streets are not uncommon, particularly in the CBD where it is easier for a thief to slip into the crowd. Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including armed carjackings and home invasions/burglaries, can occur at any time and in any location, particularly in Nairobi. Avoid walking after dark. Take a taxi if you can afford it, or a matatu (bus) if you can not. Uber and EasyTaxi are safe taxi options for Nairobi and Google Maps now lists the matatu routes.
Avoid ostentatious displays of wealth and property, particularly tempting objects such as cameras, mobile phones, laptops, MP3 players, etc. The bus from the airport to downtown is a notorious target for pickpockets
If you are unlucky and get mugged, a good tactic is to wave your arms and start screaming at the would-be mugger. Confrontations with armed robbers, however, should be avoided – in this instance, remember that your possessions are far less important than your life. Most criminals in Nairobi are more interested in a quick grab and dash than they are in a prolonged encounter. Since robbery is frequently punished by lengthy prison terms or even death, most muggers can be dissuaded by a good show of force. It is perfectly possible to see much of Nairobi without incident if you take sensible precautions.
If you look Kenyan, then be aware of the bait-and-switch approach used by some muggers, where they loudly insist you have stolen their phone and then take yours. However, this will never be attempted on anyone who looks obviously foreign (i.e. white or asian people), as the police will immediately assume the foreigner is innocent.
A few easy things to do to increase your level of protection:
The north of the country has a reputation for lawlessness, becoming more dangerous the closer you get to the South Sudanese, Ethiopian and Somali borders. Armed robberies and abductions by shiftas (bandits) on the roads in these areas are frequent. Avoid travelling to this part of the country if possible, and take special precautions if travelling by road. Armed convoys are normal for this part of the country. Visitors to Lake Turkana (indicated on the map as Lake Rudolf) in the northwest and Lamu in the northern end of the coast should travel there by air. Lodwar, Lokichokio ('Loki') and Moyale are towns best avoided by the casual traveller, unless you have business with the humanitarian organizations based there.
Due to the high rate of HIV/AIDS and the large number of people that consider themselves strict Christians, prostitution is illegal. Punishments for tourists are severe if caught, especially if it's with a minor. But it is a MAJOR problem, due to the high poverty rate and Kenya is a popular place for sex tourism.
Keep in mind that as Kenya is a developing nation, government remuneration for public services is extremely poor. As such the police are severely underfunded and frequently seek out bribes to earn a more liveable income. Rarely will police harass foreigners in the street or charge them falsely. The most common reasons foreigners end up at the police station are genuine, most often traffic related offences such as seatbelts or wrong turns. In recent years however, officers have also been known to arrest those who are not carrying their original passport - normally a copy of the ID page and your Kenyan visa page along with a government-issued ID should suffice. If you do have your passport, it is common for an officer to take up to 5 minutes meticulously going through each page to find fault or incite paranoia.
If you are pulled aside by an officer for something seemingly petty, there is a high chance they are simply seeking a bribe and do not intend to arrest you. Do not appear anxious but instead remain calm, assertive and speak as few words as possible. Kenyans typically pay police bribes of 200-500 KSh for traffic violations while foreigners have been asked for 5,000 Ksh (about $50 USD) or more. If this does happen and you wish to pay you can attempt to barter to a lower amount (1,000 - 2,000 Ksh). It is not advisable to offer a bribe immediately, instead treat it as a very last resort.
If you need to deal with the police because you are a victim of a crime, understand that the system is in fact somewhat functional, though the process will be slow and tedious. There is generally no justice delivered for minor crimes such as theft, and obtaining a report for insurance purposes can be an arduous process. Some stations may need you to provide them with pen and paper or pay for transport costs for the officers. It is also not unheard of for police officers to seek bribes for helping you or giving you priority in their often overwhelming workload.
Protect yourself from mosquitoes, as they carry numerous diseases such as dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever. Get expert advice on malaria preventatives. Guard against mosquito bites. Wear long sleeves and long trousers and apply an effective insect repellent, for example, one containing DEET. If travelling to other East African countries, you should have a yellow fever vaccination so as to prevent complications and paying bribes at the border. These can be administered at an affordable price at most reliable Nairobi clinics and hospitals. The US "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" also have recommendations for vaccines and staying healthy when travelling in Kenya.
Malaria prophylactics, taken as pills during the trip, can be highly effective. Consult your physician. The prophylactics most commonly used in this region are doxycycline (an antibiotic) and malarone (a combination of atovaquone and proguanil, also sold locally as malanil). (Chloroquine is not as useful because of the high incidence of resistance. Mefloquine, also known as lariam, mefliam, and mephaquin, is associated with various side effects, including a high incidence of mood disturbances and a lower risk of severe neurological disturbance.)
If you get flu-like symptoms, including fever, consult a doctor immediately. If no doctor is available, take a treatment dose of an appropriate anti-malarial and go immediately to a hospital. While the public hospitals are slightly cheaper, long waits and poor conditions and care at these facilities may make it worthwhile to go to a private clinic. Costs will vary, but a typical trip to the hospital for malaria testing, doctor's consultation, and medication will cost USD12-30 depending on the clinic. As malaria can become serious, a trip to the hospital is recommended at the first symptoms of malaria.
If you get such symptoms within twelve months of returning home, seek a doctor's advice very quickly and immediately tell him where you have been in the last year. Delayed treatment, even by just a few hours, can lead to permanent brain and liver damage or death.
Do not have unprotected sex as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are a risk. The country's Adult HIV Prevalence rate (15th in the world) is over 6% or 1 in 16 adults. Voluntary Testing and Counselling (VCT) clinics offer free testing and counselling for HIV/AIDS.
Cholera is another danger. When in affected areas, see a doctor immediately and drink plenty of water.
Areas around Mt Elgon are suspected to be natural reservoirs for the lethal Ebola and Marburg viruses. Tourists should not disturb wildlife and should not enter caves. If you begin to experience flu-like symptoms, proceed to a hospital immediately.
All water should be treated, either by boiling or through purifying tablets or filters. This includes Nairobi as well as rural areas. Typhoid fever is a risk and, like malaria prophylactics, the vaccination is not 100% effective. All fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed. While eating from the roadside kiosks is part of the cultural experience that one should not miss, note that such places do not always have the highest sanitary conditions and stomach illnesses can result.
It's advisable to have travel and accident insurance.
Although Kenya is predominantly Christian and somewhat liberal, there are areas with major Muslim influence, such at the coastal regions, where it's considered indecent to wear short dresses. This is true in rural Christian areas as well.
Beachwear is acceptable on the beach but not while strolling around town. Even though some hotels allow topless or nude sunbathing, these are in restricted areas and not in public areas.
Kissing or heavy petting is frowned upon in public, even though Kenyan youth engage in both liberally in night clubs.
Internet cafés are common throughout Kenya and usually offer decent link quality. Expect prices of KES0.50-1.00/min depending on the locality of the cafe.
Safaricom or Airtel: after purchasing a starter SIM card you may access the net instantly, if you have a Internet-capable handset or a modem. However, when using your account balance to pay for access, the prices are steep. It is much cheaper to purchase a data bundle, and the more expensive ones offer much better price/limit ratio.
2G and 3G coverage is Pretty much guaranteed (at least on the Safaricom network) throughout major towns and cities while 4G is currently only available in Nairobi and Mombasa
You may purchase the bundles by charging your account with scratch top-up cards and then dialling *544#. Be warned that once the data bundle is finished the Internet access will be done by fallback method using you current account balance, which is much more expensive.