SAFETY TIPS

SAFETY AND SECURITY

TERRORISM

The Embassy of the United States in Kenya has issued the following security alert: Terrorist groups may be plotting an attack against a major hotel in Nairobi. The exact hotel has not been identified, but it is believed to be a hotel popular with tourists and business travelers.

Security Alert – Embassy of the United States in Kenya

There is a threat of terrorism. Credible information indicates that westerners may be targeted by extremists in Nairobi, Naivasha, Nanyuki, Meru, Narok and the coastal areas of Kenya.

Terrorist attacks have occurred:

  • in Nairobi
  • in the coastal region, including in Mombasa and Malindi
  • in the Mandera, Wajir and Garissa counties, near the border with Somalia

Foreigners have been targeted in some attacks. Further attacks cannot be ruled out.

Targets could include:

  • government buildings, including schools
  • places of worship
  • airports and other transportation hubs and networks
  • public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners

On January 15, 2019, a terrorist attack causing many casualties took place at the Dusit Hotel complex in the Westland district of Nairobi.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places
  • Stay at hotels that have robust security measures, but keep in mind that even the most secure locations cannot be considered completely free of risk

AREAS BORDERING SOMALIA AND PORTION OF THE COAST REGION

Kenya’s border with Somalia is closed, but it is porous and Somali militias and bandit groups have carried out cross-border attacks against foreigners and humanitarian workers in this region. Some incidents involved the use of improvised explosive devices and have resulted in injuries and deaths, including at the Dadaab refugee camp, 80 km from the Somali border. The risk of such attacks in the region remains high.

Disputes between Somali clans also make the region unstable and dangerous. There is an increased military and police presence and frequent roadblocks due to the Government of Kenya’s efforts to limit Somali incursions and gun-running in the border area.

There is also a risk of kidnapping in the northeastern Kenyan counties of Mandera, Wajir and Garissa bordering Somalia and the coastal areas of Lamu County. Groups based in Somalia and northeastern Kenya have targeted humanitarian workers, tourists and residents in the past and deaths have occurred.

Beachfront accommodations on the coastal area are vulnerable to criminal activity, such as armed robbery, break-ins and carjacking.

Risk level(s)

AREAS BORDERING SOUTH SUDAN AND ETHIOPIA – AVOID ALL TRAVEL

There is an extreme threat of kidnapping, terrorism and cross-border violence in the northern counties of Marsabit and Turkana within 110 km of Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Risk level(s)

NEIGHBOURHOODS OF NAIROBI

Criminal activity remains high in several neighbourhoods and areas of Nairobi. Police capacity to respond to crime and other incidents is very limited.

Risk level(s)

NORTHERN AND WESTERN KENYA

Some areas located in Turkana, Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir and Mandera counties are considered unsafe. The ongoing threat posed by terrorism is joined by various regional, tribal or clan-based conflicts involving land, cattle and water. Consider using armed escorts when travelling within these counties; escorts can often be arranged through local police stations.

  • Avoid venturing away from tourist areas
  • Do not travel after dark

Tribal conflicts have occurred in the Mount Elgon area in the western counties of Trans-Nzoia and Bungoma. If you decide to travel to that region:

  • remain vigilant at all times
  • monitor local media

CRIME

There is a high crime rate in most regions of Kenya, particularly in major cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, and at coastal beach resorts. Traditionally, crimes increase in the weeks before Christmas.

Be aware that there have been incidents of “mob justice” in which a crowd lynches suspected criminals prior to the arrival of police.

VIOLENT CRIME

Carjacking, home invasions, kidnappings and robberies occur, including during daylight hours and in neighbourhoods normally considered safe.

Tourists have been the target of carjacking, robberies and kidnappings while travelling to or from the international airports in Nairobi and Mombasa.

  • Only use transportation organized by reputable tour companies or well-marked taxis
  • Be particularly vigilant if you are commuting alone

In Nairobi, exercise extreme caution in informal settlement communities, such as Kasarani, Kibera and Mathare, due to the high level of crime and limited capacity of police to respond to incidents.

The Old Town of Fort Jesus in Mombasa has a similar crime rate to other areas of the city during the day. However, there is a greatly increased risk of criminal activity at night, including robberies, attacks and other street crimes. Crime rates are also high on and around the Likoni Ferry (which links Mombasa and the southern resorts).

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times, particularly on roads linking a city centre to residential areas
  • Do not walk outdoors at night, particularly in isolated areas
  • Exercise caution while walking during daylight hours and if travelling after dark
  • When confronted by robbers, comply and do not offer resistance

PETTY CRIME

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs.

  • Ensure that your belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
  • Avoid showing signs of affluence or carrying large sums of money
  • Ensure that your credit and debit cards, cash and any other financial resources are not all kept in the same place
  • Store your belongings in safekeeping facilities
  • Never leave your bags unsupervised at a ticket office or a registration desk
  • When you leave your hotel room, ensure that the door is locked and the “do not disturb” sign is displayed

Thieves travelling on scooters or on foot have targeted the bags of car or scooter passengers.

  • Keep your windows closed, doors locked and valuables out of reach and sight
  • Be especially vigilant when stopped at traffic lights

Incidents of passport theft have occurred in the departure area of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. There have also been cases where checked luggage has been pilfered.

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all airports
  • Store your valuables in locked hand-luggage
  • Do not exchange currency in the public areas of the airport

SPIKED FOOD AND DRINKS

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

SCAMS

Criminals have been known to impersonate hotel employees, police officers or government officials in attempts to get money from tourists.

If you are approached by someone claiming to be a government official or police officer and they fine you for an alleged offence, ask for an official government receipt.

Police officers are required to identify themselves. There is a complaint process through the Kenyan Police Service to investigate allegations of corruption and abuse.

Exercise caution if you are travelling to Kenya to meet someone with whom you have developed a relationship on the Internet (friendship, business or romance). Foreigners are often lured to Kenya, especially during the holiday season (Christmas and New Year), to meet their online contact in person. Once there, they become victims of crime. Some have lost thousands of dollars and some have been arrested for failing to pay debts accrued locally or exorbitant bills racked up as a result of scams.

More about overseas fraud

NATIONAL PARKS, SAFARIS AND RESERVES

Tourists have been victims of crime, sometimes involving violence, in national parks and reserves, as well as on safaris.

  • Remain aware of your surroundings at all times
  • Avoid camping alone or without expert local assistance

OVERLAND TRAVEL

Visitors travelling overland to certain game parks and reserves have been attacked by armed bandits. Exercise caution on the roads between the following regions due to attacks, robberies and vehicle hijackings:

  • Malindi to Lamu
  • Nairobi and the Amboseli, Masai Mara, Nakuru and Tsavo game parks/reserves
  • Nairobi and the Mount Kenya/Aberdare area

WILDLIFE VIEWING

Wildlife viewing poses risks, particularly on foot or at close range.

  • Always maintain a safe distance when observing wildlife
  • Only exit a vehicle when a professional guide or warden says it’s safe to do so
  • Only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators
  • Closely follow park regulations and wardens’ advice

LOCAL ASSISTANCE

The Kenya Tourism Federation operates a 24-hour Safety and Communication Centre, which provides information on tourism and road conditions, and has information about regional assistance in an emergency.

Contact information for the Kenya Tourism Centre

NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS

Foreigners volunteering with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have sometimes reported incidents of fraud, threats and mistreatment by local personnel.

If you are contemplating volunteering with NGOs in Kenya, you should contact the National Council of NGOs before making any commitment and before departing Canada, to confirm that the organization you wish to work with is legitimate. All NGOs in Kenya are required by law to be registered with the National Council of NGOs, a self-regulating, non-partisan body.

Learn about entry/exit requirements specific to working for an NGO or to do volunteer work.

DEMONSTRATIONS

Demonstrations take place regularly. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)

WOMEN’S SAFETY

Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Attacks involving sexual assault have occurred.

Safe-travel guide for women

FORCED MARRIAGES

Forced marriage affecting foreigners occur. It sometimes occurs without the affected person’s prior knowledge or consent.

  • General information and advice about forced marriage
  • Safe travel guide for women

ROAD TRAVEL

Road conditions and road safety can vary greatly throughout the country.

Major highways are generally in good condition but minor roads are poorly maintained. Drivers do not respect traffic laws, and drinking and driving is prevalent, especially at night.

Keep this in mind when planning travel by road, as driving at night can be risky. Excessive speeds, poorly maintained vehicles, poor lighting and inadequate signage pose hazards.

During the rainy season, some unpaved roads become impassable, even with four-wheel drive vehicles. You should drive defensively and always be aware of your surroundings.

Serious traffic delays are common. The road from Nairobi to Mombasa is particularly congested and can be dangerous for tourists unfamiliar with local driving conditions. You should travel by air or train if possible.

Use authorized border crossings when travelling by vehicle between Kenya and Tanzania.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Public transportation is unsafe.

INTER CITY BUSES

Long-distance buses have been involved in serious accidents.

INTRA CITY TRAVEL

Local mini buses (matatus) and motorbike taxis (boda-bodas) are generally poorly maintained, recklessly driven and not adequately insured. Matatu hijackings and incidents of passengers being robbed have occurred.

TAXIS

Use reliable taxi companies, and confirm the fare in advance.

RAIL

The Madaraka Express Railway line between Nairobi and Mombasa is reliable and safe. Other passenger train lines are not safe and are routinely late.

MARITIME TRANSPORTATION

The Likoni Ferry (from Mombasa to Likoni) is unsafe due to a combination of high crime rates, uncontrolled crowds, limited safety training, frequent breakdowns and inconsistent maintenance. Stampedes and overcrowding on the ferry have resulted in multiple injuries.

AIR TRAVEL

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

General information about foreign domestic airlines

PIRACY

Pirate attacks and armed robbery against ships occur in coastal waters. Mariners should take appropriate precautions.

Live piracy report – International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre

CURFEW

Kenyan authorities may impose curfews in response to changes in the security situation. Monitor local media for the latest information.