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Kenya

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Kenya due to the high threat of terrorist attack and high level of crime. Monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Do not travel to border regions with Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia due to the threat of attacks by armed groups, kidnapping, armed banditry, and violent tribal and clan disputes.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to Mombasa, coastal parts of Kilifi and Tana River counties, and Lamu County south of Pate Island, due to high threats of violence and terrorist attack.
  • Reconsider your need to travel along the A2 highway from Isiolo to Moyale, due to sporadic violent clashes that have resulted in a number of deaths and injuries.
  • A terror attack could happen anywhere and at any time. Somali terror group Al-Shabaab continues to threaten to attack Kenya and neighbouring countries. Many people have been killed or injured in terror attacks in Kenya in recent years. Upgraded security measures are in place, including at all airports. See Safety and security.
  • An overnight curfew from 6.30pm to 6.30am is in force in Mandera, Garissa, Lamu and Tana River counties, following a series of attacks since May 2017. The curfew excludes the Islands of Lamu, Manda and Pate. See Safety and security.
  • Kidnapping is a threat, particularly for westerners including residents, tourists, journalists and humanitarian workers. The threat is highest in the regions bordering Somalia. See Safety and security.
  • Political tensions can lead to civil unrest. Avoid all demonstrations, protests and large public gatherings – they could turn violent. See Safety and security.
  • Following extensive drought, incursions and associated violence by herders onto private ranches and wildlife conservancies in central and northern Kenya has increased. See Safety and security.
  • Serious security incidents are rare in Kenya's national parks and conservancies but, in June 2017, tourists were robbed at gunpoint in the Samburu National Reserve north of Nairobi. Stay alert to possible security threats throughout Kenya. See Safety and security.

Entry and exit

You need a visa to travel to Kenya. Kenya has an e-visa portal for tourists and other visitors.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the Kenyan High Commission for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

You'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Kenya if you're arriving from a country where yellow fever is present. Yellow fever is endemic in Kenya. Some airlines won't let you board flights out of Kenya unless you have a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. Get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel.

More information:

Strict regulations apply to the temporary import or export from Kenya of certain items including firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, ivory and currency. More information: Kenyan High Commission

If you're a foreign resident  carry your Alien ID card at all times. If you don't, you could be fined or jailed.

Working or volunteering without a valid visa is illegal and can result in fines and or jail. To work in the charity sector, get a valid work permit through the Charity Register. 

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KES). Declare all amounts exceeding USD10,000 on arrival and departure. Travellers cheques are accepted at large banks and foreign exchanges but aren't widely accepted in hotels.

ATMs in Nairobi and major towns accept international credit cards. Take care when making payments with credit card or using ATMs. Card skimming incidents are increasing. Only use ATMs at large shopping centres or a banking facility. Check the machine for abnormalities before use. When you make a purchase, ensure your card is visible at all times. Contact your bank to ensure your cards will work in Kenya.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a significant threat in Kenya. An attack could occur at any time. You could be caught up in attacks directed at others.

A major terrorist attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in the Westlands district of Nairobi in September 2013 resulted in 67 deaths, including one Australian. Kenyan authorities strengthened security arrangements at public places in response to the incident.

Several terrorist attacks have occurred since the Westgate attack:

  • in September and October 2017, gun attacks in Kwale county on Kenya's South Coast resulted in fatalities
  • since the beginning of May 2017, more than 60 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Lamu, Mandera and Garissa counties
  • in October 2016, an assailant attacked a guard at the US Embassy in Nairobi in what was likely a terrorism-related incident
  • in October 2016, an attack on a guesthouse in Mandera town killed at least 12 people
  • in September 2016, an attack on Mombasa Central Police Station resulted in the deaths of three attackers.

Terrorist group Al-Shabaab continues to threaten attacks against Kenya and other regional countries. Kenyan authorities remain at a high state of alert. Further attacks are possible.

Kenyan authorities encourage extra vigilance against possible terrorist attacks on public places. Attacks could be indiscriminate or could target Kenyan institutions or places where foreigners gather. Terrorist acts could include suicide bombings, kidnappings, roadside improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and attacks on civil aviation.

Possible targets include:

  • western embassies, UN premises, international schools
  • hotels, shopping areas, markets, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes
  • tourist resorts (including beach resorts and beaches), safari lodges
  • churches and other places of worship
  • airports, commercial airlines
  • Government buildings
  • transport hubs and infrastructure
  • maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports
  • refugee camps near the Kenya-Somalia border, where western aid workers may be targeted.

In the past, militants have mounted attacks in periods leading up to and during religious festivals, including Christmas, Easter and Ramadan, and on days of national significance. But an attack is possible at any time.  

An attack could happen anywhere in Kenya but areas particularly prone to attack include:

  • Nairobi suburbs of Buruburu, Eastleigh, Kasarani, Kibera, Mathare, Pangani, South B and South C
  • Mombasa, Lamu County, coastal Tana River and Kilifi Counties – extending 65 kilometres inland in Tana River county, and 20 kilometres inland in Kilifi county
  • Kenya's border regions with Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan – including all of Mandera and Garissa counties and that part of Wajir country extending from the town of Wajir eastwards to the border with Somalia.

After a series of attacks since the beginning of May 2017, the Kenyan Government instituted a curfew from 6.30pm to 6.30am in Mandera, Garissa, Lamu and Tana River counties. This curfew excludes the Islands of Lamu, Manda and Pate.

Due to security concerns, staff at the Australian High Commission in Nairobi are advised to exercise greater vigilance. Security measures have increased, particularly for travel to Kenyan Government buildings, the CBD, and to Mombasa and outskirts. 

  • Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Kenya.  
  • Reconsider your need to travel to Mombasa, Lamu county, coastal Tana River and Kilifi counties.
  • Do not travel to Kenya's border regions with Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
  • Consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Avoid areas prone to attack.
  • Be alert to possible threats at all times, especially in public places.
  • Report any suspicious items or activities to police.
  • Be particularly vigilant if you attend sporting events, including football matches.
  • Avoid catching public transport to sporting events.
  • Avoid public venues that broadcast sporting events, such as sports bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so.
  • Avoid the affected area in the aftermath of an attack because of the risk of secondary attacks.
  • Don't gather in a group following an attack or if you're evacuated from a building for security reasons (such as a bomb threat).

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Kidnapping

There is an ongoing threat of kidnapping of westerners in Kenya.

Armed groups from Somalia have previously kidnapped western aid workers working in the Somalia border region, as well as tourists and residents in coastal resorts and towns in eastern Kenya, especially Lamu county. Humanitarian workers, journalists, tourists and expatriate residents face a particularly high threat of kidnapping in these regions.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers.

If you decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping:

  • seek professional security advice and
  • have effective personal security measures in place.

More information: Kidnapping

Civil unrest and political tension

Large demonstrations sometimes occur in Kenya in response to international events and political developments. Demonstrations over high food prices, alleged corruption, controversial media and tax legislation have resulted in violence and arrests in the past.

There have been sporadic outbreaks of violence across Kenya in recent years, usually away from areas frequented by tourists. Riots and clashes have occurred in Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu and other urban centres. Sporadic violent clashes along the A2 highway from Isiolo to Moyale have resulted in several deaths and injuries.

  • Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Kenya.
  • Avoid large gatherings, protests and demonstrations – they could turn violent.
  • Monitor the media for reports of planned or possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Follow instructions from local authorities.
  • Reconsider your need to travel along the A2 highway from Isiolo to Moyale. If you choose to travel along this road, be extremely careful.

Crime

The level of crime is high.

The risk of armed banditry, violent robbery, carjacking and kidnapping has increased in recent years. Crimes of this nature are common in Kenya's urban centres, beach resorts, northern Kenya, the northern Rift Valley and coastal regions north of Malindi. If you travel to remote areas or border regions, you could be the target of attacks or kidnappings. The incidence of crime generally rises during the holiday periods.

Muggings and armed robberies are common. Victims are generally not harmed if they don't resist. Jewellery and bag-snatching from open vehicle windows frequently occur while motorists are either stopped at traffic lights or in heavy traffic. Groups of motorcyclists target pedestrians for bag-snatching and motorists for carjacking.

In Nairobi, armed carjacking, kidnapping for ransom, home invasion and other violent crime occurs frequently, often targeting Westerners. A number of home invasions targeting foreigners have resulted in deaths, including several Australians. Anecdotal evidence suggests that foreigners are increasingly being targeted in private homes in Nairobi, tourist areas and while travelling by road. Several incidents have occurred at night outside residential security gates. There are particularly high levels of violent crime in the Nairobi suburbs of Buruburu, Eastleigh, Kasarani, Kibera, Mathare, Pangani, South B and South C.

Violent incursions by herders against private ranches and wildlife conservancies have become common in central and northern Kenya, following extensive drought. The herders are often armed. Incursions have involved violence against property, wildlife and, in some cases, landowners. Tourists have not been targeted but a dual British/Kenyan landowner was killed in March 2017 and a Swiss national in April 2017. The government has enhanced security in the area.

Banditry, cattle rustling and ethnic clashes have caused sporadic violence in north and north-eastern Kenya and in the Mount Elgon region of western Kenya. Armed banditry, violent cattle rustling and counter raids are common along the Kenya-Ethiopia border and Kenya-South Sudan border. There have been reports of banditry and robbery at unauthorised border crossing points on the borders with Uganda and Tanzania and along the road from Nairobi to the Tanzania border. The security situation is extremely dangerous in the region bordering Somalia.

Confrontations between police and criminal suspects occur regularly. Bystanders have been wounded or killed as a result of indiscriminate gunfire in crowded areas.

Scams are common. Criminals often try to extort money from travellers using fake police, hotel and government identification.

  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid displaying expensive watches, jewellery, phones and cameras.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Keep vehicles doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight at all times, including when moving.
  • Secure your accommodation against intruders, including when you're in it.
  • Avoid walking after dark.
  • If you're attacked, don't resist.
  • Be wary of demands for money, including from people purporting to be police or officials. Always ask for – and scrutinise – identification.
  • If you're living in Kenya, invest in strong personal security measures and regularly review your personal security arrangements.
  • If you're travelling to central and northern Kenya, get up-to-date advice on security and other conditions from your tour operator before you travel.
  • If you're travelling to north, north-eastern or western Kenya, first seek advice from police and travel in convoy or with police escorts.
  • Due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, if you are a victim of violent crime, including rape, seek immediate medical assistance.

Local travel

National parks and game reserves

Serious security incidents in Kenya's national parks and conservancies are rare but crime does occur. Visitors to the Ngong Forest Reserve and Ngong Hills face a significant risk of robbery. In June 2017, tourists were robbed at gunpoint in the Samburu National Reserve north of Nairobi.

If you plan to visit national parks or game reserves:

  • get up-to-date local advice on security risks, park fees and other conditions in national parks, before you travel
  • get advice on reputable travel firms and guides from the Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) – only use a reputable, registered tour operator
  • get an armed escort from the Kenyan Wildlife Services (KWS) for any travel to Ngong Forest Reserve or Ngong Hills.
  • follow all park regulations and instructions of local authorities including park wardens.

Tours and adventure activities

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators aren't always met, including for adventure activities such as diving. Recommended safety precautions and maintenance standards may not be followed. Safety equipment such as lifejackets and seatbelts may not be provided.

If you plan to participate in adventure activities:

  • first talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy
  • check operators' credentials and safety equipment before booking
  • use only reputable, registered tour operators
  • don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements
  • always use available safety equipment, even if others don't
  • if appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider.

Road travel

You're six times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Kenya than in Australia. Hazards include poor road conditions, poorly maintained vehicles and insufficient street lighting.

  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Get up-to-date local advice on road conditions, including security risks and road closures, before travel by road.
  • Avoid travel at night on major highways in and out of Nairobi and on rural roads.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in Kenya with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

 Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

 Taxis

Only use official taxis and limousine services, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

  • Use only radio taxis from official taxi stands or via callout.
  • When travelling at night to and from Nairobi's airports (JKIA and Wilson), always use a reputable tour or taxi company.

Public transport 

Public transport (primarily buses and minivans – known locally as 'matutus') is dangerous. Driving standards are poor and roads and vehicles are inadequately maintained.

Bus terminals and other gathering areas for public and private transport have been the target of terrorist and criminal attacks in recent years. They remain vulnerable to attack.

  • Avoid public transport, where possible.
  • Be particularly alert to possible security threats in bus terminals and other transport hubs.

Theft is common on trains and in some cases passengers' belongings have been taken from their compartments. Pay close attention to your belongings at all times.

Boat travel

There have been attacks by pirates against all forms of shipping to the immediate north of Kenya, around Somalia's waters and the Gulf of Aden. Somali pirates, using motherships, have attacked shipping further than 1,000 nautical miles (1,850 kilometres) from the coast of Somalia.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) issues piracy reports.

  • Do not travel in Kenyan waters within 1000 nautical miles of the coast of Somalia.

If you travel by boat in Kenyan waters despite the risks:

  • first check the IMB's piracy reports
  • take appropriate security precautions
  • be alert to threats.

More information: Piracy 

 

Air travel

Enhanced security checks are in place at Kenyan airports. Allow at least an hour for security formalities.

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Kenya.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences can be severe and include lengthy jail terms. More information: Drugs

Commercial Surrogacy

If you're visiting Kenya for commercial surrogacy arrangements, first seek legal advice in Australia and in Kenya. 

More information: Overseas births, adoptions and surrogacies

Other laws

Activities that are illegal in Kenya include:

  • homosexual acts between men - More information: LGBTI travellers
  • working or volunteering without a valid work permit
  • destroying local currency
  • smoking in public places outside designated smoking areas
  • photographing official buildings - seek advice before taking any photos
  • possession of ivory, even in the form of jewellery purchased outside of Kenya
  • distributing religious material in public without a licence.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

The 2010 Kenyan constitution recognises dual nationality. However, the law has not yet been fully enacted. The ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Kenyan dual nationals who are arrested or detained may be limited. Travel on your Australian passport at all times. More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Kenya, particularly in coastal and rural areas. Take care not to offend.

During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.

Same sex relationships and public displays of affection are frowned upon by some members of the community and can lead to harassment by the public and/or police. More information: LGBTI travellers

 

Information for dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a dated letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

Yellow fever is endemic. Malaria is endemic throughout the year, except in Nairobi and at altitudes above 2,500m. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, filariasis and African sleeping sickness Trypanosomiasis) also occur. 

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof, including with treated mosquito nets
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

HIV/AIDS

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Kenya is very high. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection. 

 

Polio

Outbreaks of polio have occurred in Kenya. Complete a primary course of polio vaccinations and a booster dose (if needed) before travelling. If you're unsure of your polio vaccination status, check with your doctor or travel clinic at least 6-8 weeks before you travel. More information: Australian Immunisation Handbook

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, meningococcal, measles, cholera and tuberculosis) are prevalent. More serious outbreaks occur from time-to-time.

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities throughout Kenya varies. Medical facilities are adequate in urban areas, but may be extremely limited elsewhere.

Public and private facilities require either an up-front deposit, a guarantee of payment or confirmation of medical insurance before commencing treatment.

If you become seriously ill or injured in a remote area, you'll need to be evacuated to a major city. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

A decompression chamber is located at the Kenyan Naval Base in Mombasa.

Natural disasters

Kenya can experience severe weather, earthquakes and tsunamis.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Severe weather

There are two rainy seasons, from October to November and March to June, when flash flooding and mudslides are common. Roads may be impassable during these times.

Northern and eastern Kenya are currently experiencing a severe drought. There may be disruption to essential services. Expect delays when travelling in these areas.

Earthquakes

Kenya experiences earthquakes. It lies on a fault line and tremors occur infrequently. Volcanic and seismic activity can also occur near Mt Elgon, on the Kenya-Uganda border.

Familiarise yourself with earthquake safety measures for each place you stay.

More information: Earthquakes

Tsunamis

Kenya is susceptible to tsunamis.

To receive tsunami alerts, register with the Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination System.

Move immediately to high ground if advised by local or regional authorities or if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea

Don't wait for official warnings. Once on high ground, monitor local media.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, tour operator, employer or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 999
  • Medical emergency: phone 999 or go to the nearest hospital
  • Police: phone 999 or visit the nearest police station
  • Kenya Tourism Federation (Safety and Communication Centre): +254 20 800100, operations@ktf.co.ke

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism products and services

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas. For consular assistance, contact the Australian High Commission in Nairobi.

Australian High Commission, Nairobi

Riverside Drive (400 metres off Chiromo Road),
Nairobi KENYA
Telephone: +254 20 427 7100
Fax: +254 20 427 7139
Website: kenya.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in East Africa

Check the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the High Commission in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources