The short of it is that Kenya is completely safe as long as you follow the basic precautions of not walking alone in cities at night, not hanging your passport and phone loosely in your pocket in cities, and most importantly, travelling with an established tour operator. Most of the issues, if at all, are likely to happen in cities like Nairobi, in national parks like Masai Mara, or Amboseli or even beaches like Mombasa you are absolutely safe from any thefts or burglaries. For the longer version read on..
Kenya travel advisory map from UK Govt.
We divide Kenya into the following distinct travel zones and share our travel recommendations for each of them.
Somalia border and northern coastline
As of late 2017, most Governments advised against travelling within 60km of Kenya Somali border and the coastline upto Malindi, which is a potentially sensitive area. It is marked as Orange in the above advisory map by UK Government. Thankfully none of the touristic areas fall in that zone, most are actually quite far away.
Wild Voyager tip – Completely stay away from these areas, and we at Wild Voyager do not offer any travels to these areas to our guests, and so do most travel companies.
Borders with Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and Ethopia
These are perfectly safe subject to the same precautions to be exercised as in Nairobi. In fact Masai Mara and Serengeti are divided by the Kenya-Tanzania border. There is no disturbance in the above countries as such and with Tanzania there are even two road borders (Isebania and Namanga), which tourists can use for road travel between the countries and the borders are perfectly safe.
Nairobi is the capital and international air hub of Kenya. All major international airlines land and depart into Nairobi and it has direct flights from cities like New York, London, Paris, Dubai, Mumbai etc and 1/2 stop flight to almost all major cities in the world. Nairobi is a fairly developed city and has its share of 4 star and 5 star hotels. As a tourist you are most likely to land in Nairobi and then travel to one of the tourist places listed below, by car or by domestic flight. Ideally you would use Nairobi as a transit destination, and spend max 1-2 days for few attractions like Sheldrick elephant orphanage, Giraffe centre, Masai market, Nairobi national park and the iconic carnivore restaurant.
It would be completely safe to travel in and around Nairobi with an established tour operator like ourselves as long as you follow the precautions listed below, which are almost same as what you should follow in any city around the world these days –
- Do not alone walk on deserted city streets at night, and with cash, valuables and passport in your pocket. Ideally you should not venture out alone without the driver and car assigned to you.
- Do not try a city backpacking trip and do not use public transport within the city (that can be crowded anyway)
- There are almost never any organised attacks on tourists or any kind of open burglaries on gunpoint are very unlikely. When you are with our driver and vehicle that is next to impossible. However there may be incidents of petty thefts and mobile or wallet picking if windows in your car are not rolled up. Chances are still very less, but nonetheless it is a possibility.
- Just be alert and aware of your surroundings and do not be alone anywhere in the city.
- In your hotel, particularly if it is a 4 star or a 5 star, you are perfectly safe and there are no incidents of room thefts from reputed hotels. The hotels we will curate for you will have no such history.
- Car and driver hired through an established travel company like ourselves is perfectly safe, as we do lot of background checks before hiring someone. However do not just hire any running vehicle by yourself and always book in advance through a tour operator.
The major tourist places are the following and these are in the green zone as per any international travel advisory. Of these Masai Mara is arguably the most famous wildlife park in the planet and the first wildlife safari destination that comes to the mind of most people. It is visited by millions of Americans and Europeans every year
- Masai Mara national reserve
- Lake Nakuru national park
- Lake Naivasha
- Lake bogoria
- Amboseli national park
- Tsavo national park (East and West)
- Samburu national park
- Aberdere national park
- Ol Pajeta conservancy
- Mount Kenya
- Mombasa beach
- Diani beach
Particularly when you are in the national parks, you are far away from civilisation and you and tourists like yourself will be in designated safari vehicles when travelling inside these parks. All the guides drivers that ply inside the national parks are from tourism industry and are perfectly safe to deal with (not that you will need to deal with other guide drivers). Without exception all the hotels inside and on the fringes the national park are completely safe and there has never been a tourist safety incident reported from any of the national parks.
However at the national parks and when staying in and around national parks, you need to follow certain basic safari protocols for your own safety and for safety of the animals, we can talk about that in a separate article. Before you embark on any trip with Wild Voyager, we share a comprehensive list of safari protocols and dos and don’ts.
Similarly beaches like Diani and Mombasa are popular tourist destinations and these have been perfectly safe in the last few decades. However here the same precautions as Nairobi apply that you should not walk alone on deserted areas without your guide/driver.
Interactions with locals
The locals are generally friendly and safe to deal with. However always be accompanied by your driver or guide during such interactions as they understand the local dynamics better, and in the rarest instance that they see any potential trouble, they will alert you in advance and take safety measures. In the markets or malls of Nairobi, it is perfectly safe to interact with the shopkeepers. At places like Masai Mara there are organised tourist visits to local Masai villages for getting a flavour of local culture and for even singing and dancing with the tribes, those experiences are perfectly safe.
As we said, every year millions of westerners travel to Kenya for safari and beach holidays and all of them have a great time and return safely to their homes. Ideally you should never do Kenya (or any African country) alone and plan it through a reputed tour operator, that alone relieves you from 99% of the safety concerns as all the drivers, guides, hotels will be tightly curated and they will never let you in a situation or a place where you can potentially face any kind of danger. Most of the westerners book it through a tour operator for this reason as Africa in general is not a place where you would like to do a backpacking public transport trip like you can do in a London or a Paris. For the remaining 1% you should be alert and agile and just follow the basic guidelines shared in this article. Finally, there is absolutely no reason to be scared and just go with an open mind, as you are about to experience the best of the wildlife on this planet and hospitality par excellence.