Kenya is a country that features close to the top of any nature or wildlife lover’s bucket list. And this is with good reason. Home to around 60 National Parks and Reserves, beautiful beaches and world-renowned scenery, Kenya is a destination that can change a person’s perspective on the whole world.
Officially the Republic of Kenya, it has the largest economy in eastern and central Africa. Tourism is a major economic driver, along with agriculture, tea and coffee and a blossoming fresh flower export trade.
Sadly, Kenya isn’t without its troubles. It has a volatile relationship with its neighbour, Somalia, and the country’s crime rate, on the whole, is considered high. This does include attacks targeted towards tourists, particularly car-jackings and increasingly common ‘snatch and run’ robberies.
While this may seem concerning, close to 200,000 British tourists visit Kenya each year, with most leaving having had trouble-free and highlight-filled visits. Tourists from Germany and the UK are most likely to visit the country, and with tourism playing a key role in the country’s economy, it is in their interest to ensure these visits are safe and memorable for all the right reasons.
With some of the most incredible sights in the world, it is impossible to rule Kenya out. Instead, through simple adaptations, careful consideration and well-researched planning, you can organise a trip to Kenya that is not only mesmerising at the time, but life-enhancing moving forwards.
Health Concerns in Kenya
It is very important that anyone travelling to Kenya is aware of the health risks and the relevant vaccinations that will protect them during their visit. Checks should be made well in advance of your trip to ensure that sufficient time is available for immunisation jabs to take place.
A fantastic place to start looking when considering your trip and the requirements before you travel is the NHS-run Fit for Travel website. The site features a breakdown of different diseases, the risks associated with it and recommendations for how you should protect yourself.
Anyone travelling to Kenya should be up-to-date on immunisation for hepatitis A, polio, tetanus and typhoid. It is likely that you have already been vaccinated against some, if not all of these diseases, but it is vital that you check with your health advisor before your trip so that you can be confident that you are properly prepared.
Some travellers, depending on what they are doing or the specific areas that they will be travelling to, may require further immunisations. A comprehensive list can be found on the National Travel Health Network and Centre site. Suggestions include protection against cholera, hepatitis B, meningococcal disease, rabies, tuberculosis and yellow fever.
Malaria is a threat in Kenya and can be very serious, even fatal. While there is no vaccination, precautions can be taken to reduce the risk. It is spread by mosquito bites, so covering up skin with clothing or using insect repellent on exposed areas are essential measures. Sleeping under a mosquito net is a very sensible precaution. Seeking medical treatment swiftly is vital if symptoms do occur, and be aware that malaria can develop many months after exposure.
Travel Insurance that covers you in the event of an accident or illness in Kenya is vital. In major cities, private healthcare is well respected and reputable, so, if possible, find insurance that will cover you for this. It is also advisable that your insurance covers you for evacuation in the unlikely event that your health needs greater care and attention.
Food and Water
Irrespective of where you are travelling in the world, food and drink are a huge part of the experience and embracing the culture. Kenya is no different, and many traditional dishes will be commonly found wherever you are in the country.
Typically, Kenyans will eat three meals a day and break during the morning and afternoon for tea. Githeri and Ugali are Kenyan staples, while meat, stews and potatoes are also very common. More recently, cheese has grown in popularity in Kenya, predominantly among the middle-class people.
As with any country around the world, caution should be taken when it comes to eating and drinking. If you are planning on eating like a local or at unfamiliar restaurants, be sure to take care and do your research.
Make sure that food is well cooked and hot when you eat it. Fruit, nuts or vegetables with a protective layer that you can peel and prepare yourself are ideal. If you are eating out, make sure you are satisfied that any fruit or vegetables have been properly treated before your meal.
Stay clear of any food that you are unsure of its preparation or care, unwashed or unpeeled vegetables and unpasteurised dairy products. If in doubt of anything, it is best to show caution and choose something else, as illness from food can be extremely serious and will, at the very least, reduce the enjoyment of your trip.
It is always best to drink bottled water in Kenya (be sure to check the seal is unbroken). Tap water is unsafe and should not be drunk or used for brushing your teeth. If there is no alternative, make sure it is either filtered and treated, or boiled first and left to cool. Avoid unpasteurised milk and juices, and don’t drink beverages with ice in.
Most visits to Kenya are trouble-free and leave tourists with an enviable experience to cherish for life. However, it cannot be ignored that the country does have a high crime rate and that tourists can be a target for criminals.
Crime rates are high in all regions, but particularly in the larger cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa. Coastal beach resorts are also common areas for criminals to operate. Attacks can include car-jackings or bag snatches, while pickpocketing in populated areas like travel stations is rife.
Vigilance, self-awareness and blending in with the culture are effective methods to help avoid being a victim of crime. Always keep watch over your belongings and remain aware of your surroundings. Don’t wear expensive jewellery, or flash valuables. If possible, dress modestly like a local and avoid standing out as a tourist as much as possible. Avoid carrying large sums of money and, where possible, carry the money in different places, such as a concealed money belt and different zipped-up pockets.
Educate yourself prior to your visit on local police customs and be wary of thieves posing as police officers or security guards. Scams are common, so be cautious of people telling sad stories in an attempt to make you part with money. Although some may sadly be true, this is a common technique used by criminals. Never accept food or drink from a stranger, as druggings have been known to take place so that possessions can then be stolen. Do not walk around after dark and stay in well-populated areas. Trustworthy local people, such as hotel staff and police officers, can help with advice on keeping yourself safe in different areas.
Be sure to take out comprehensive travel insurance before travelling so that there is no need to resist an attack and put yourself at risk. If you are the unfortunate victim of an attack, do not resist. Sentimental or irreplaceable belongings are best left at home or in a safe place and not taken out during your visit.
It is considered very likely by the British government that terrorists will try to carry out attacks in Kenya. The heightened threat comes after a number of attacks over the last few years, with military bases, shopping malls and hotels among the places targeted.
Travel close to the Somalian border is strongly advised against. Much of the terrorist threat in Kenya is from Al Shabaab, a militant Somalian group opposed to the Somalian government. They have made threats against Kenya due to Kenya’s military interventions in Somalia.
Kenya’s authorities have increased security as a result of terrorist threats. Tourism is an integral part of Kenya’s economy and accounts for a significant percentage of jobs, so it is vitally important to the country that they make tourists feel welcome and safe.
Kidnapping and ransoming are techniques that have been used by terrorists in the country.
Following the most up-to-date advice and reporting suspicious activity to local police will help to make visits safer for tourists. Vigilance and avoiding known crime and terrorist hotspots are further safety measures. Large gatherings or protests should be avoided as these can quickly turn and are a clear target for people wishing to cause trouble or harm.
It is always good to be prepared for any possible issue, so make sure your travel insurance covers you for any eventuality and that you will be able to get home in the event that you are caught up in something.
Family Travel Safety (Kenya with Kids)
Kenya is an enthralling destination for travellers of all ages. Although it may not be one that jumps out straight away for families looking to travel, it is one that the children will certainly thank you for later.
A whole host of activities, from safaris to white water rafting, waterfalls to snorkelling, make the country an adventure-filled paradise where every minute can be covered with activities if that’s your wish.
Kenyans are well known for making their visitors feel welcome and this is especially true of children for whom they will often go out of their way to make feel special. Many destinations in Kenya, such as the Masai Mara or the Southern Rift Valley are used to having young visitors and are therefore set up to accommodate them. Be confident in that, wherever you head, the whole family will have a stunning experience from beginning to end.
Family Travel Safety (Kenya for Women)
Kenya is a safe place for female travellers, both in groups and individually, particularly in the common tourist hotspots such as safari regions. In day-to-day life, you are likely to encounter Kenyans who are respectful, friendly and helpful.
However, there are common precautions that should be taken. Taxis from trusted sources are an effective way of travelling around, and much safer than walking between venues at night. Avoid drinking alone in bars, as this can lead to persistent hassling. If this does occur, turn down and refuse all offers, and never accept a drink from a stranger.
Modest dress with shoulders and legs covered is advised. If you are a lone female traveller, avoid long stretches on the beach if you want to avoid hassle as this can attract unwanted attention.
Discrimination, around both gender and race, can be common in some areas of the country. It is always worth taking precautions and following advice from trusted sources in your local area as to local customs.
Tips for Staying Safe in Kenya
Buy the Right Insurance
Make certain that you have the right travel insurance for what you will be doing during your visit to Kenya. Some activities that are possible in Kenya, and that will truly enhance your experience, may not be covered by a standard insurance policy.
Check your policy carefully to see if there are any exemptions, such as places that will invalidate your insurance. If in any doubt, clarify this before you travel.
Make sure that you are covered for emergency evacuation should expert medical attention be required.
Learn the Language and Customs
Kenya is a very diverse country with many different communities and languages spoken. Because of this, it isn’t possible to learn everything about the country or language before heading on your visit.
However, learning a little bit of the local language for where you are staying will go a long way. Most people you encounter will speak English, but traditionally they will speak in their mother tongue in their communities. Making an effort to learn just a few phrases will show respect and consideration.
It is also important that you research what may or may not be acceptable in your chosen destination, as again this can vary across the country. Take care to show respect and modesty in your clothing and actions. Be sensitive to people’s religion and avoid political discussions. Even if you disagree with some of the traditions you encounter, ensure you are respectful at all times.
If you are ever unsure, seek advice from a trusted source. Hotel staff, tour operators and the police are usually good sources of information and can advise you appropriately. Remember to be vigilant and self-aware.
Stunningly beautiful and one of the main reasons to visit, but fiercely dangerous. Use reputable companies for tours and safaris, listen to instructions and abide by laws and regulations.
Under no circumstances should you take a risk for that perfect picture, or seek to create your own interaction with the animals. The rules are there because they protect lives.
Keep your wits about you as wild animals are found all around Kenya, not just in the parks. While most animals won’t attack unprovoked, it is not always possible to tell what might be spooking them, or what you may be standing between. Take great care where you go, and never swim in inland waters where crocodiles may inhabit the waters. Some areas may be designated as nature trails where you can leave your vehicle. If this is not the case, then do not leave the vehicle!
Remember also that many people’s livelihoods depend on wildlife in Kenya. Be considerate and respectful of this fact. Kind words, praise and a thankful attitude will go a long way towards showing them that their work is appreciated.
If you’re travelling to Kenya, then stay safe and give yourself peace of mind with a comprehensive travel insurance policy with Navigator Travel Insurance.