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Kenya

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Sarova Stanley
Sarova Stanley - dream vacation

Kenyatta Ave Po Box 30680, Nairobi

Keekorok Lodge
Keekorok Lodge - dream vacation

C14 Masai Mara National Reserve, Masai Mara

The Boma Nairobi
The Boma Nairobi - dream vacation

Red Cross Road Off Popo Road Off Mombasa Road, Nairobi

Fairview Hotel
Fairview Hotel - dream vacation

Bishops Road, PO Box 40842, Nairobi

Bordered by the Indian Ocean to the easer, the Eastern African country of Kenya is surrounded by Ethiopia and South Sudan to the north and Uganda to the west, Somalia to the north east and Tanzania to the south

Regions

Cities and major towns

Kenya has 3 major cities:

  • Nairobi — the cosmopolitan capital city and economic centre of Kenya and most vibrant in the East African region.
  • Mombasa — historic port on the Indian Ocean seafront and probably Africa's longest continuously settled town.
  • Kisumu — the major city to the west, on the shore of Lake Victoria.

Major towns based on size and popularity as tourist destination include:

  • Lamu — main town of the Lamu Archipelago, renown internationally for its annual cultural festival.
  • Garissa — a predominantly Muslim town in the east close to Somalia
  • Lodwar — in the north on the main route to South Sudan with access to Lake Turkana
  • Malindi — the landing point of Vasco Da Gama in Kenya with a large Italian population
  • Meru — town near the base of Mount Kenya. It is the cross roads for travel to Nairobi
  • Nakuru — near lake Nakuru National Park and an extinct volcano (Menengai)
  • Mtwapa - the small town near mombasa has become a preferred place of residence for European pensioners and is a centre of night life

Other destinations

  • Aberdare National Park — a cool and cloudy national park with lots of large game, and over 250 species of bird recorded
  • Amboseli National Park — a swampy lowland Maasai park that is one of the best places anywhere in Africa to view large mammals, especially elephants
  • Lake Nakuru National Park — a stunning 400 species of bird have been recorded here including the largest flocks of flamingos anywhere on earth
  • Maasai Mara National Park — probably the most popular reserve in Kenya due to the high concentration of big cats
  • Mount Kenya National Park — challenging trekking on high peaks
  • Nairobi National Park — virtually in Nairobi and a great option to see large game for those on a tight schedule
  • Tsavo East National Park — major game park on the main road from Nairobi to Mombasa
  • Tsavo West National Park —
  • Sibiloi National Park
  • Mount Elgon National Park

See also African National Parks

Understand

Kenya is one of the major economic hubs in Africa, considered to be the power hub of East and Central Africa. Kenya has re-based its economy and achieved the middle income level. From the scenic sandy beaches at the coast, to the Nairobi National Park (the only one in a capital city in the world), to the majestic Rift Valley, the bird life in Lake Naivasha, the hot boiling springs of Lake Baringo, Lake Turkana and Lake Victoria, Kenya is a very beautiful country with lots of wildlife and scenic features. In a nutshell, the country is a pearl in Sub Saharan Africa.

Although made up of many diverse ethnic groups and tribes, Kenyans have a strong sense of national pride. This may be due in part to their 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 although continued corruption at all levels of government creates worry and distrust. 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.

Lake Turkana and the area around is also known as the cradle of mankind as many prehistoric fossils have been discovered. Hominid fossils of significant scientific interest have been found in Rift Valley areas such as Olorgesaille, and it is often believed that this area of Africa is where the human species originated from (although recent discoveries in Ethiopia contest that theory).

Kenya is beautiful. However, it is still a developing country. Therefore, it's advisable to inform yourself about the different life there, compared to that in developed countries. Many things might shock you if you haven't experienced them before. People that live under poverty and people from surfeited countries have a different views on many things in daily life. For a general overview read the Wikivoyage article on travel in developing countries.

Climate

Kenya experiences a wide range of tropical climates. It is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and northeast parts of the country. The country 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 is at high altitude, it can be quite cold even during the day between June and August.

The long rain season occurs from April to June. The short rain season occurs from October to December. Rainfall is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoons and evenings. The hottest period is from February to March and coldest in July to August.

The annual animal migration - especially migration of the wildebeest - occurs between June and September with millions of animals taking part. It has been a popular event for film-makers to capture.

History

Kenya has been inhabited by people since the beginnings of humanity's existence as a species.

Arab traders began frequenting the coast of Kenya around the 1st century. Kenya's proximity to the Arabian peninsula invited colonisation, and Arab and Persian settlements spread along the coast in the 8th century. Throughout the centuries, Kenya has played host to many different merchants and explorers (Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese, et al.)

Kenya became part of the British Empire in the late 19th century. In the 1950s, a brutal war took place between independence fighters called the Mau Mau and the British, with horrendous abuses of human rights on both sides. Kenyan nationalist Jomo Kenyatta was arrested in 1952 and with little evidence, tried and imprisoned for supposed management of the Mau Mau Society, eventually being detained for almost 9 years. Considered a national hero, he led the country after it declared independence on 12 December 1963. Through popularity, moderation and shrewd power politics, the Founding Father turned the country into a de facto dictatorship (whether benevolent or malevolent depends on who you talk to).

When President Kenyatta died in 1978, Daniel arap Moi became president and stayed in power until 2002. While his regime was not democratic and he was often elected unopposed, he did not have absolute power and stepped down more or less voluntarily in 2002 to make way for freely contested elections that were won by Mwai Kibaki, who stayed in office until 2013.

The current president is Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, Jomo Kenyatta's son. Kenya's political struggles have been exacerbated by underlying ethnic factors, and the civil war and utter disintegration of its neighbor Somalia has somewhat spilled over, as the Northern Frontier District of Kenya is mostly ethnically Somali and there are many Somalis living outside that region, too, notably including a large community in Nairobi.

However, compared to many other countries, Kenya has managed to hold several elections, that while not exactly up to international standards have often produced results the majority of the population can live with. While protests of contested election results have at times turned quite violent, with thousands of people killed in at least one instance, Kenya has been spared the military dictatorships and coups d'etat of other African nations. Kenya has even proven to be a regional power broker and part of the African force that tries to bring stability to its north eastern neighbor, Somalia.

Culture

Notable peoples include the Swahili on the coast, pastoralist communities in the north, farmers in central and western and fishermen around the Lake Victoria basin. The Maasai culture is well known to tourists, despite their being a minor percentage of the Kenyan population. They are renowned for their elaborate upper body adornment and jewellery.

People

Kenya has a diverse population that comprises 47 ethnic communities with a combination of Bantus (Kikuyu, Swahili, Kamba, Luhya, Meru, Abagusii) 67% and Nilotes (Maasai, Luo, Samburu, Turkana and Kalenjin) 30%. Another important ethnic group are the Indians who settled around major cities and are predominantly business people.

Holidays

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Easter (Good Friday and Easter Monday)
  • Labour Day (May 1)
  • Madaraka Day (June 1)
  • Eid al-Fitr (variable) Islamic religious observances
  • Mashujaa Day (October 20)
  • Jamhuri Day (December 12)
  • Christmas (December 25)
  • Boxing Day (December 26)

Get in

Visa

Visas are not required for the following nationalities: the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Burundi, Cyprus, Dominica, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, the Gambia, Grenada, Grenadines, Ghana, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia*, Maldives, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa*, Solomon Islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu, Zambia, Zimbabwe. (Countries marked with a '*' are limited to 30 day visa-free stays; longer visits will require a visa.)

For citizens of other countries/territories, visas may be obtained through a Kenyan embassy/consulate or the Kenya Government eVisa portal prior to departure. Tourist visas cost: US$20/€20/UK₤10 (transit), US$50/€40/₤30 (single-entry), and US$100 (multiple entry). Note that currently only single-entry visas are available through the eVisa portal. 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.

  • Visas can now be obtained online beforehand through the Kenya Government eVisa portal.
  • Visas are also available for purchase on entry at international airports and borders for almost all nationalities.
  • Make sure you're in the correct line at the airport to avoid an additional wait. No photos are required, just cash for payment US$50 or £30.
  • 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, Senegal, Somalia, Syria, Palestine, Tajikistan.

If you require a visa to enter Kenya, you may 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 GBP50 to process a Kenyan visa application and an extra GBP70 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. Holders of single-entry visas can actually re-enter Kenya if they have only gone to the Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda and declare it upon re-entry to Kenya with proof of passport stamps.

  • There is now also the East African 90-day (multiple entry) visa which is good for Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and costs US$100.

By plane

Kenya Airways (KQ) is the national airline, and one of the largest and most reputable airlines in Africa. KQ has extensive regional (e.g. to Johannesburg, Harare, Cairo, Entebbe, Accra) and international connections (e.g. to Dubai, London, Amsterdam, Mumbai). It's also a SkyTeam associate member.

Kenya has three international airports:

  • Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) in Nairobi. Approximately twenty minutes from the main business district.
  • Moi International Airport in Mombasa.
  • Eldoret International Airport (local flights and cargo only).

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 MombasaKisumu and Malindi.

Airlines that serve NBO are: Air Arabia, African Express Airways, Air Mauritius, Lufthansa, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, China southern airlines, Condor Airlines, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Fly Sax, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch, LAM Mozambique airlines, Jubba airways, Precision Air Tanzania, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, South African Airways, RwandAir, Swiss International Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Jombo Jet.

An increasing number of airlines are flying to Kenya, and Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has become a hub for East and Central Africa. Kenya Airways (among others) also provides direct flights from Nairobi to several West African countries, e.g., Lagos in Nigeria, Bamako in Mali, as well as direct flights to Bangkok and connections to Hong Kong and China.

By train

It is not currently possible to enter or leave Kenya by train.

By car

Major roads are typically paved with various states of maintenance though secondary roads outside of urban areas are typically unpaved. All neighbouring countries can be accessed by road, including Ethiopia via the border town of Moyale, Uganda via Busia or Malaba, and Tanzania via Namanga or Lungalunga. Turkana, Marsabit, Moyale, Mandera, GarissaIsiolo, and some parts of Ijara are considered insecure and prone to banditry and terrorist attacks from Somalia. Before driving to the northern region, ensure you check whether there are any security advisories or whether you need to prearrange security escort.

By bus

Regular bus services operate between:

Nairobi (Kenya) & Arusha (Tanzania); Nairobi (Kenya) & Kampala (Uganda); Mombasa (Kenya) & Dar es Salaam (Tanzania); Kisumu (Kenya) & Kampala (Uganda);

  • Modern coast express has buses from
  • Nairobi to Dar es Salaam. Ksh3250.
  • Nairobi to Kampala. Ksh2400.
  • Nairobi to Jinja. Ksh2000.
  • Nairobi to Kigali. Ksh3700.
  • Nairobi to Arusha. Ksh1100.
  • Nairobi to Moshi. Ksh1300.
  • Nairobi to Mwanza. Ksh1500.
  • Mombasa to Dar es Salaam. Ksh1200.
  • Mombasa to Tanga. Ksh800.
  • Kisuma to Kampala. Ksh1500.

By boat

This is limited to Lake Victoria (e.g., Mwanza in Tanzania to Bukoba in Tanzania) and the coastal area (e.g., Mombasa-Zanzibar cruises).

Get around

By plane

Most international visitors will arrive through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi (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 is subject to 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: MombasaMalindi, Lamu and Kisumu. 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), 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 Jambojet also flies from JKIA and offers scheduled connections to MombasaMalindi, Lamu, KisumuEldoretUkunda (Diani). Plans to extend the service to the East African region are underway. A one-way flight to Mombasa from Nairobi can cost as little as Ksh 3500 depending on the timing (checked luggage requires an additional fee). Tickets can be booked online and paid for with Visa and Mastercard.

Airkenya flies from Wilson Airport Nairobi to MombasaMalindi, Lamu, Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara, MeruNanyuki 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 neighboring countries. Anyone using Airkenya is advised to lock their checked-in bags. Things have been known to go missing from luggage while in the care of Airkenya.

Jetlink flies from Nairobi to MombasaEldoret and Kisumu.

Most charter tourists fly directly to either of the coastal airports of Mombasa or Malindi.

By bus

Kenya has a network of long distance bus lines. Speed is limited to 80 km/h, and the highways can be very bumpy and dusty, so be sure to pick a comfortable and reputable coach company such as Modern Coast for the long journeys.

Local buses in town are run by private companies, such as the green and yellow Citi Hoppa, which provide transportation along various routes for Ksh 50-100. 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.

  • Guardian Coach

By matatu

Matatus provide a very cheap and quick method of transport in all the major towns and many rural areas. The name matatu comes from the Kiswahili word for the number three – tatu – because some time ago the standard fare was three ten-cent coins.

Matatus are privately operated minibuses, typically for 14 or 25 passengers and operating over short and medium distances. Many are poorly maintained and many are to be found with a fascinating and colourful décor — usually global icons in sports and music, designer brands, et al. — which is a major feature of Kenyan urban culture.

Travel by matatu can be risky as the vehicles are often 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. Matatus used to be usually packed to well over capacity – up to 25 people in a 14-seater vehicle.

Matatus operate along set routes, picking and dropping off passengers at any point along the way. Most rides within cities will range in cost from Ksh 20-40.

It is strongly advised not to take matatus at night, as they are known targets for robberies in addition to the increased risks of reckless night driving.

By train

Passenger train services link only Nairobi and Mombasa. The old colonial train line is being replaced by a new rail line, slated to launch operations in Summer 2017. Until then passenger train travel between Nairobi and Mombasa is suspended.

By rental car

Most worldwide rental agencies have offices in NairobiMombasa and Kisumu, and these offer reliable cars with a full back-up network. One can also rent cheaper cars from local distributors who are mostly reliable. However it is always good to do a background check before sending in a deposit. When you hire a car, no matter the brand name, always take note of the various dents, or states of the car as it may prove contentious especially when a "refundable" deposit was involved.

It is quite convenient to hire a car online and pick it up at the airport once you arrive. The minimum driving age in Kenya is 18 years and for you to hire a vehicle, you may be required to be at least 23 years and have a minimum of 2 years driving experience. Other rules to comply with are: drive on the left side of the road, talking on a hand-held phone is prohibited, seat belts are mandatory and drivers must always carry a valid driver's license. Make sure that the car you are hiring has up-to-date comprehensive and PSV insurance which are normally displayed on the top left side of the windscreen. When hiring a car for cross-border travel you might need to purchase additional insurance and carry the motor vehicle original log book.

The Nairobi CBD is traffic prone and it is difficult to find parking on working hours. If you can, avoid going to the CBD on weekdays. However, roads out of the city are relatively easy to navigate and pleasant. Kenya has a lovely countryside and most of the roads linking the major towns are in good condition. Smaller roads however may be dilapidated and you might need to rent a 4X4 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.

Some car rental companies provide free extras like a mobile phone with a local number. Other extras that are available at a cost are additional GPS, child seats, camping equipment, rooftop tent and a driver.

Most car rental companies offer cars of all sizes with Japanese models being dominant. All reservations can be made in English with some rental companies providing reservations in French, German, Chinese and Spanish. International car rental companies such as Europcar, Sixt, Budget, Avis and Hertz offer car rental in Kenya. Local car rental companies like Hire N' Drive, Elite Car Rental Kenya, Offroad Car Hire, and Davina Cabs are usually very competitive and professional.

See

Kenya has some of the world's best game reserves where you can go for a safari, and 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 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. Other coastal towns worth visiting include Lamu and Malindi.

Kenya is also becoming a golf holiday destination, with an abundance of beautiful courses around the major urban areas. Green fees range from US$15–40 per round, plus a US$5–7 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, MaralalBaragoi, Korr, Kargi, and South Horr.

Do

  • 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 Nairobi's CBD (Central Business District). Major attractions: big cats including lions and leopards, buffaloes, a variety of antelope species, baboons, monkeys among others.
  • If you prefer to spend some time in the urban social scene, you might consider attending music and cultural events such as Blankets and Wine which features various international and local artists performing live in a picnic-like setting for families and friends looking to enjoy African talent. The event happens once a month in Kenya's capital, Nairobi (first Sunday of every month).
  • Rift Valley Festival, which incorporates a camping experience with a sample of cultural and musical tastes from around the country and internationally.
  • Samosa Festival is an event which is set up to significantly integrate the Asian and African culture in the country, A significant percentage of the urban population is of Asian (Indian) ancestry and has existed since before independence. Their immigration was brought on by the construction of the railway.

This event features cuisine from both cultures, poetry and literature (spoken and written), music and games.

  • Maulid festival is a one-week event that can only be enjoyed in the Coastal region specifically in the ageless town of Lamu, which has the majority of the population of Muslim faith. It is the one event which everyone from the region looks forward.
  • The three major cities also have an array of night club that play both local and international music. Though the experience may be thrilling, it would be wise to visit in the company of a guide or a trusted local, as like any other country with a night life, night clubs also attract untrustworthy party-goers and "clubbers", but this shouldn't ruin your experience as night clubs are also great places to meet singles and new friends.

Talk

See also: Swahili phrasebook

English and Swahili are the two official languages. As a diverse country with over 40 ethnic groups and 60 languages between them, most Kenyans are multilingual, speaking their native ethnic language along with Swahili, which is the preferred language for interethnic communication. Most people, particularly in urban areas, also have a working knowledge of English, though this will vary depending on their level of education. Efforts to communicate in Swahili are generally greatly appreciated by Kenyans and can become increasingly useful in more rural areas where English speakers are less prevalent.

Buy

Money

The currency is the Kenyan shilling, denoted "Ksh" or by "/-" following the number (ISO code: KES). It can be divided into 100 cents.

  • Equity Bank ATMs take Visa/MasterCard/American Express/JCB cards.
  • MasterCard/Visa can be used at all Barclays Bank, CFC Stanbic, Kenya Commercial Bank, GT Bank, I & M Bank, Equity Bank and ECO Bank ATMs.

Shopping

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. For example, on Sundays, they are located at Yaya Centre near Hurlingham, and on Saturdays, they can be found at the central business district near the law courts parking space.

On Fridays, they are at the Village Market in Gigiri, near the UN headquarters. Gigiri, 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 directly 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.

Eat

Many different cuisines and types of restaurants are typically available in Kenyan cities, ranging from fast food to upscale western cuisine. Kenyan cuisine is varied among its numerous ethnic groups, though staples include ugali (maize dough), pilau rice, collard greens, chapati (indian flatbread), and grilled meats (typically chicken, beef, or goat). Fresh produce is also readily available in roadside stalls with a diversity of fruits and vegetables depending on the season. Street food is also definitely worth a try and is usually safe to eat. Typical foods include mandazi (sweet bread-like doughnut), grilled maize with a side of chilli, and samosas.

Many restaurants catering to foreigners can be found in downtown Nairobi and in the areas of Westlands, Hurlingham, Kilimiani, and Lavington. Among the many cuisines available are Italian, Brazilian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, German and French restaurants. Westlands also has a large concentration of Indian cuisine owing to the large Kenyan Indian community in the neighborhood.

Drink

Kenya has several local beer brands, the most popular being Tusker. Imported beers are generally available in higher-end establishments.

Imported and local wines and spirits are widely available, though it is advisable to avoid local brews such as "changaa" and "busaa," which are illegal, un-hygienically brewed, and whose consumption has led to deaths on many occasions.

There is an excellent selection of soft drinks especially from the Coca Cola stable, though the strong, locally-produced Stoney "Tangawizi" ginger ale is also fantastic.

It is worth noting that most bars and small shops will expect you to leave behind your glass bottles so they can return them to their distributors.

Sleep

Nairobi has a wide variety of tourist hotels, from backpackers' camp sites (Upper Hill camp site off Hospital Road) to five-star establishments such as the Norfolk Hotel. There are a number of other guesthouses that offer private rooms both with shared bathrooms and self-contained rooms for Ksh 1,000-4,000 per night. As long as you don't mind basic accommodations, there is no need to spend more than US$100 per night on a hotel or hostel. In less touristy areas, lodging can be found for as cheap as US$5 per night.In addition, the international Intercontinental and Hilton chains are also represented as well as a number of very highly regarded local chains (Serena and Sarova Hotels). Small boarding and lodging establishments are ubiquitous in central urban areas for low cost, although these are rarely safe as they are located in high crime areas.

Homestays are increasingly gaining popularity. Part of the reason is that one can experience Kenyan culture in a deeper and more meaningful way. Most homes charge about $20 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 US$150 per week, to privately arranged furnished apartments, US$50–100 pw, to 'local' style accommodation, usually unfurnished, in a price range from Ksh 5000-7000 per month with windows, water, electricity, down to Ksh 500 per month with no windows, no electricity, loud neighbours, mosquitoes, and 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.

Learn

There are many colleges offering secretarial and computer courses in the CBDs of Nairobi and Mombasa. There are also many universities, both public and private, and some participate in student exchange programs with international universities.

Work

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 are many international expatriates who work for non-profit agencies such as the UN 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 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.

Stay safe

Although Kenya is generally safe, it has had bouts of jihadist activities as well as the uncharacteristic post-election violence in January 2008 after a disputed presidential election result.

Stay alert when walking or driving through Nairobi. You should always be careful 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. Infrequently, 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. Particularly avoid walking after dark. Take a taxi if you can afford it, or a bus if you cannot, but care should be taken as most buses, even modern ones, tend to be overcrowded and can pose dangers from pickpocketing.

Avoid ostentatious displays of wealth and property, particularly tempting objects such as cameras, mobile phones, laptops, and MP3 players. The bus from the airport to downtown Nairobi 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. Like in any other city, it is perfectly possible to see, and enjoy, much of Nairobi without incident if you take sensible precautions.

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.

Stay healthy

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. If arriving from or travelling to other African countries, having a yellow fever vaccination certificate is typically mandatory. The vaccine can be administered at an affordable price at most reliable Nairobi clinics and hospitals.

Malaria medications are recommended if traveling to rural areas (Nairobi is not within the malaria zone). 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 and 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. Consult your physician and government health advisories for current advice.

If you get flu-like symptoms, including fever, joint aches and vomiting, 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 6.1% 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.

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. It is advisable to buy bottled water for drinking. It is available countrywide. 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, such places do not always have the highest sanitary conditions and stomach illnesses can result.

It is advisable to have travel and accident insurance.

Respect

Although Kenya is predominantly Christian and somewhat liberal, there are areas with major Muslim influence, such at the Coastal regions, where it is considered indecent to wear short dresses. This is true in rural Christian areas as well. The locals, however, are extremely friendly.

Beachwear is acceptable on the beach but not while strolling around town. Nudism as well as topless bathing is prohibited in Kenya. Even though some hotels allow topless or nude sunbathing, these are in restricted areas and not in public.

Kissing or heavy petting is frowned upon in public, even though Kenyan youth engage in both, liberally in night clubs.

Homosexuality is against the law but is practised secretly. Any overt displays of homosexuality (especially male to male relationships) may, at times, result in open hostility. Although violent reactions are quite uncommon, it is best to be discreet if engaging in any such activities with travel mates or locals. However, it is common to see people of the same gender hold hands while engaged in conversation.

Permission is required in order to take pictures of people, as a matter of etiquette. Photos of military and public facilities such as police stations, banks, ferries, etc are typically prohibited.

If you are invited to a Kenyan home, it is proper to bring a small gift according to the occasion.

Connect

Internet

Internet cafés are common throughout Kenya and usually offer decent link quality. Expect prices around 0.50c/1Ksh per minute. Most cyber cafes now charge Ksh 0.50 per minute.

Mobile providers

Safaricom, Airtel, Orange Telkom: After purchasing a starter SIM card you may access the net instantly, if you have an 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. For example in January 2016, a 2GB data bundle costs Ksh 1000 from Orange Telkom while a 3GB from Safaricom costs Ksh 1000. A SIM card costs between Ksh 50-100.

You will be required to provide valid identification as it is required by law that all SIM cards be registered.

You may purchase the bundles by charging your account with scratch top-up cards and then dialling *100# or *544# (Safaricom and Airtel), *124# (Orange Telkom). Be warned that once the data bundle is finished the Internet access will be done by a fallback method using your current account balance, which is much more expensive.

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Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Northeastern Kenya near the Somali border (see Advisory)

Avoid all travel to northeast Kenya within 150 km of the Somali border, including coastal areas North of Pate Island in Lamu District, and to Garissa district where there is a risk of kidnapping and attacks. On July 1, 2012, over a dozen people were killed and many more injured in grenade and gun attacks on churches in Garissa. Beachfront accommodations and boats off the coast are particularly vulnerable to attacks by boat. Although Kenya's border with Somalia has been closed since January 2007, Somali militias and bandit groups have carried out cross-border attacks against foreigners and humanitarian workers in this region. Some of these incidents have resulted in injuries and death. In the past year, there have been two attacks associated with kidnapping of humanitarian aid workers at the Dadaab Refugee Camp, 80 km from the Somali border. The risk of such attacks in the region remains extremely high.

There is a persistent threat of improvised explosive device (IED) or small-arms attacks by both militant and criminal Somali gangs along the porous border.  On July 27, 2011, a police officer was killed and three others wounded by an IED near Mandera in North Eastern province. In the same vicinity, four civilian passengers died when their vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on October 27, 2011. This threat of attack, and the ongoing security concerns over migratory movements connected to the continuing famine have prompted the government to deploy additional police and military.

Banditry is common throughout the Northeastern province in the area bordering Somalia. Attacks directed primarily at foreign aid workers and refugee camps, as well as disputes between Somali clans, make the region unstable and dangerous. Kenyan efforts to restrict Somali incursions and gun-running have curtailed travel to the northern areas near the Somali border.

Eastleigh neighbourhood of Nairobi (see Advisory)

There are heightened tensions in the Eastleigh neighbourhood of Nairobi, where a series of explosions have occurred in the area since late November 2012. Several people have been killed, and many more have been injured. 

Coastal areas

There have been occasional reports of violent demonstrations and rioting in Mombasa, most recently following a police raid on a mosque in Majengo district on February 2, 2014 that left at least two people dead. There were reports, on December 12, 2013, of an attempted grenade attack targeting the vehicle of two tourists in the Likoni area of Mombasa. On January 2, 2014, several people were injured in a grenade attack at a nightclub in Diani near Mombasa. Remain vigilant at all times, avoid large gatherings, monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities.

If you are planning to stay at coastal resorts located south of Lamu District, opt for resorts that provide professional security. On September 11 and again on October 1, 2011, armed men attacked beachfront properties in Lamu District, resulting in the death of one foreign national and the kidnapping of two others (one of whom has subsequently died while in captivity, and the other was released in March 2012). In November 2011, gunmen believed to be Somali pirates attacked a village near Malindi and abducted six fishermen.

Northern Kenya

The areas located north of the Kitale-Samburu-Garissa line in northern Kenya are considered particularly unsafe. The ongoing threat posed by terrorism is joined by various regional, tribal or clan-based conflicts involving land, cattle and water. Use armed escorts when travelling to or from this region. Escorts are available from local police stations and it is advisable to contact them before undertaking any journey. Avoid venturing away from tourist areas and refrain from travelling after dark.

Western Kenya

Violence has also regularly been reported in the Mount Elgon area of western Kenya. If you decide to travel to that region,  remain vigilant at all times. In March 2008, military troops were deployed in Mount Elgon forest to pursue the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militia, who are said to have killed hundreds of residents.

Terrorism

There is a heightened threat from terrorism throughout Kenya, including Nairobi and Mombasa. Regional terror groups, including al Qaeda and al-Shabaab, continue to threaten Western interests and other potential targets in Kenya. In recent years, terrorist attacks have occurred in busy public venues, including in places of worship. Terrorist attacks could occur at any time and could target areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

An explosion was reported at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi on January 17, 2014. An investigation is underway, and the airport has resumed operations. JKIA authorities recommend that travellers arrive at least one hour earlier than normal for outgoing flights to allow time for additional security checks. Be particularly vigilant at all airports.

For safety reasons, avoid all nightclubs, avoid visiting businesses during peak hours, steer clear of areas with large crowds and remain vigilant when in restaurants, shopping centers, airports and other transportation hubs and other public areas.

Be particularly vigilant during religious holidays and other public celebrations, as militants have used such occasions to mount attacks.

You should be very cautious if attending sporting events, such as football matches. Avoid public venues such as sports bars, night clubs and restaurants that broadcast these games, as well as public transportation, such as taxis, to and from the events. Be vigilant in crowded places and monitor local media.

Crime

There is a high crime rate in most regions of Kenya, particularly in major cities such as NairobiMombasa and Kisumu, and at coastal beach resorts. In recent months, foreign nationals have been the victims of daytime carjackings and kidnappings in neighbourhoods normally deemed safe during daylight hours.

The level of violent crime in and around Nairobi is generally high, with regular reports of carjackings, armed attacks, muggings, kidnappings, home invasions and burglaries. Incidents of breaking and entering have been steadily increasing in recent years. These attacks, which are becoming increasingly violent and often involve fatalities, can occur at any time and in any location. The situation tends to become worse in the period leading up to the Christmas holidays.

Be vigilant and avoid heavily populated areas of major cities to minimize the risk of being caught up in violent clashes, as well as isolated places where you may be vulnerable to a covert ambush. In particular, exercise extreme caution in the Kibera, Mathare, Kasirani and Eastleigh neighbourhoods of Nairobi

The potential for carjackings and robberies of tourists travelling to and from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and Nairobi, particularly at night, continues to be of concern. If arriving at JKIA, you should only use transportation organized by reputable tour companies or well-marked taxis. Currency should not be exchanged in the public areas of the airport. Checked luggage may be pilfered at the airport. Store valuables in securely locked hand luggage.

Petty crimes, such as purse-snatchings and robberies, occur frequently in other major towns (Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru) and coastal beach resorts. Criminals and swindlers have been known to impersonate hotel employees, police officers or government officials, so be sure to ask for identification. When you leave your hotel room, ensure that the door is locked and the “do not disturb” sign is displayed. Store your personal belongings in safekeeping facilities. You should absolutely avoid walking or travelling after dark, and exercise caution while walking during daylight hours. Avoid showing signs of affluence or carrying large sums of money.

In many rural regions of Kenya, including the Masai territory and the eastern and central provinces, conflicts over ethnicity, land ownership, cattle rustling and access to water continue to cause confrontations, attacks and unrest. The situation can also be tense in northern Kenya, which often experiences severe drought.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Avoid all demonstrations and public gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.

Women’s safety

Women travelling on their own should remain particularly vigilant, as attacks involving sexual assaults, including against foreigners, are regularly reported, even though Nairobi has an anti-rape awareness campaign. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

Foreigners volunteering with local NGOs have reported incidents of fraud, threats and mistreatment by local personnel. Other volunteers have been left stranded when the illegitimate NGOs they were working for closed.

If you are contemplating volunteer work with NGOs in Kenya, you should contact the National Council of NGOs before making any commitments and before departing Canada in order 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.

See the Entry/Exit tab for information on the work permits required to work for an NGO.

Road travel

Traffic drives on the left. Excessive speeds, unpredictable driving habits, lack of adequate street lighting and poorly maintained vehicles pose hazards. Road conditions are poor. During the rainy season, some unpaved roads are impassable, even with four-wheel drive vehicles. You should drive with doors locked and windows closed at all times. The road from Nairobi to Mombasa is congested and can be dangerous for tourists unfamiliar with local driving conditions. You should consider air travel. Use authorized border crossings when travelling by vehicle between Kenya and Tanzania.

Public transportation

Public transportation is unsafe. Long-distance buses have been involved in a number of serious accidents. Minibuses (matatus) are generally poorly maintained, recklessly driven and are often without adequate insurance coverage. Incidents of matatus being highjacked or passengers being robbed have been reported. Use only hotel taxis, and confirm the fare in advance. Passenger trains are not safe and are routinely late.

The ferry service that connected Mombasa with Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania is no longer running.

Consult our Transportation FAQ in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

National parks, safaris and reserves

Most visits to national parks, game reserves and other popular tourist destinations in Kenya remain incident free. However, foreign tourists, including Canadians, have been victims of crime, sometimes involving violence. On November 4, a tourist was shot and her Kenyan driver was killed in an armed attack on their vehicle near a game park north of Nairobi. Remain aware of your surroundings at all times. Avoid camping alone or without expert local assistance.

Tourist facilities are widely available in Nairobi, on the coast, in game parks and in wildlife reserves, but are non-existent in the regions bordering Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Visitors travelling overland to certain game parks and reserves have been attacked by armed bandits. Travel by road north of Isiolo to Samburu and Shaba/Meru/Buffalo Springs National Parks should be undertaken in escorted convoys only. The route from Malindi to Lamu can also be dangerous. Visitors to Lamu should travel by air. If road travel is necessary, it should be done in a convoy. Kenyan police organize daily convoys to and from these two points. There have been rare reports of attacks or robberies of travellers on the roads between Nairobi and the Masai Mara, Amboseli, Nakuru, Tsavo Game Parks/Reserves and Mount Kenya/Aberdares area. However, there have been periodic hijackings, robberies and attempted robberies on the main road between Nairobi and the Tanzanian border, a road that also serves as the route to Kenya’s Amboseli National Park.

There are inherent risks associated with viewing wildlife (both marine and on land), particularly on foot or at close range. Always maintain a safe distance when observing wildlife and avoid exiting vehicles unless it is deemed safe to do by professional guides and wardens. Use only reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens’ advice.

You can seek advice from the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi for information on tour companies operating in Kenya.

The Kenya Tourism Federation operates a Safety and Communication Centre, which provides the latest information on tourism and road conditions, and assistance in an emergency. You can obtain information by calling Nairobi 254-20-604-767 or 254-20-505-614 (24 hours), or tel/fax 254-20-604-730 (24 hours), or by emailing safetour@wananchi.com.

Piracy

Pirate attacks occur in coastal waters and, in some cases, farther out at sea. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.

Fraud

Cases of attempted fraud are frequently reported in this country.  See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.

General security information

The mail system can be unreliable, and credit cards and cheques are often stolen. International couriers should be used to ship envelopes or packages, and all objects of value should be insured.

Power cuts occasionally occur. Telephone systems are generally unreliable. Kenya Telephone and Telegraph has discontinued its collect call facility. 1-800 numbers cannot be accessed from Kenya. When making a long-distance call within Kenya, the area code must be preceded by a zero. For example, to dial Nairobi from elsewhere in Kenya, you must dial 020 followed by the local number.

Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times and in all places. Take appropriate security measures, particularly on the roads that link the city centre to residential areas, and refrain from travelling at night. Drive defensively, with vehicle doors locked and windows closed at all times. If stopped at a roadblock, verify the identification of police officers. Victims of attacks are advised not to offer resistance. Avoid travelling to low-income neighbourhoods in Nairobi, where a higher concentration of crime occurs.

Monitor local developments and remain in regular contact with the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Meningitis

This country is in the African Meningitis Belt, an area where there are many cases of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease (meningitis) is a serious and sometimes fatal infection of the tissue around the brain and the spinal cord. Travellers who may be at high risk should consider getting vaccinated. High-risk travellers include those living or working with the local population (e.g., health care workers), those travelling to crowded areas or taking part in large gatherings, or those travelling for a longer period of time.

Polio

There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination may be recommended depending on your itinerary.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in East Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Cholera

There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in East Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), Rift Valley feverWest Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in East Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Good medical facilities are available in Nairobi, but health care standards in other parts of the country may vary.

Health tip

Trekkers may experience acute mountain sickness (AMS) at high altitudes. AMS can be deadly. Carry travel and health insurance that includes provisions for helicopter rescue, medical evacuation, and treatment for accidental injury and medical emergencies.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and detention page for more information.

Smoking is prohibited in all public places. Convicted offenders could pay high fines or serve a jail sentence.

It is illegal to destroy Kenyan currency, even in small amounts. Violators may be arrested and fined.

You are forbidden from working in Kenya without a valid work permit. For more information on work visas please see the Entry/exit tab.

Permission to carry firearms must be obtained from local authorities prior to entry. Firearms are strictly forbidden in wildlife reserves and national parks.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Persons convicted of possession of illegal drugs, including marijuana, could receive a 10-year prison sentence.

Be aware that cases of “mob justice” are regularly reported, in which crowds lynch suspected criminals prior to police arrival.

Possession of pornographic material is forbidden.

Photography of official buildings or embassies may lead to detention.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Religious proselytizing is not permitted.

Culture

Common sense and discretion should be exercised in dress and behaviour, particularly in the coastal region where the majority of the population is Muslim. You should dress conservatively and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.

Money

The currency is the Kenyan shilling (KES). Many banks and hotels exchange foreign currency. Hotel bills are generally settled in U.S. dollars. Credit cards are widely accepted, and traveller’s cheques, preferably in U.S. dollars, may be exchanged at banks, hotels and foreign-exchange offices. Travellers who import the equivalent of US$5,000 or more must provide documentation stating the source and purpose of the funds. It is possible to convert Kenyan shillings into foreign currency at the airport upon departure.

Climate

Drought

Due to below-average rainfall over the last five years, many regions of eastern Africa, including Kenya, are currently afflicted by severe drought. Specifically, the northern and eastern areas of Kenya— including Marsabit, Moyale, Wajir, Garissa, Isiolo and Turkana—are affected. You should expect difficulties travelling overland. Local services and the availability of water and basic food may be affected.

Rainy seasons

There are normally two rainy seasons in Kenya: from October to November, and from late March to mid-June. Heavy rains have the potential to cause sudden flooding and mudslides throughout the country. Evacuations, casualties and damage to infrastructure have been reported. The damage could also affect the provision of essential services. If you reside in or are travelling to affected areas, exercise caution, monitor local news and weather reports, and follow the advice of local authorities.

Volcanoes

Natural disasters are possible due to regional volcanic activity. The Mount Elgon volcano, located 550 km from Nairobi, on the border with Uganda, has shown increasing signs of volcano and seismic activity. Pay careful attention to all warnings issued, specifically for this area.