Safety in KenyaKenya is always in the spotlight. Nairobi is one of Africa’s business and media hubs and a favourite posting for expatriates and journalists – but the news isn’t always good.
Know before you goAs you plan your trip, and before you travel, we recommend that you check the latest Foreign Office advice on the places that you're going to - regardless of where you are travelling to, or how you are travelling. See FCO’s Kenya advice here, or its info on other countries here. We urge you to do this, as we recommend that all our travellers keep themselves up to date with the current foreign office advice on their destination countries.
So what are the issues Kenya currently faces and do any of them have an impact on your visit?
SomaliaIn Kenya’s neighbour to the north-east, Somalia, there had been until recently no functioning government for most of the last two decades. An extremist group, Al-Shabaab, emerged there and took over large parts of the country. When, in 2011, two tourists were kidnapped and one killed in separate incidents (one at a private home on Manda island, the other at a remote beachfront lodge near Kiwaiyu island at the extreme northern end of the coast), the Kenyan army crossed the porous Somalian border. By the end of 2012 Kenya had occupied the whole of southern Somalia, while a new government was established in Mogadishu.
The two ransom kidnaps of 2011 had no connection with Al-Shabaab but brought about a security boost on Kenya’s north-east coast. British and American government travel advice not to visit the Lamu archipelago was lifted in May 2012 and hotels on Lamu and Manda reopened. Advice not to visit Lamu or Manda islands was later reinstated.
Al-Shabaab have been pushed into central Somalia’s rural areas, far away from the Kenyan border. In 2013 and 2014, there were a number of grenade and gun attacks in low-income districts of several Kenyan towns, and in September 2013, Al-Shabaab carried out a terrorist attack on a Nairobi shopping mall, killing more than 60 people. Despite the atrocity, official travel advisories, including that of the UK FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office or foreign ministry), continued to stress that most visits to Kenya are trouble-free and the vast majority of the country safe for travel, reflecting the widespread realisation that such outrages could be, and have been perpetrated in many big cities around the world. Hotel and shopping-centre security is high, with airport-style security checks in use.
The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advise against all but essential travel along the north Kenya coastal mainland between the Somalian border and the Galana/Sabaki river. There is no travel advisory for Lamu and Manda islands, where Expert Africa offers a range of delightful beach hotels.
We believe Kenya’s present troubles should be put in perspective: terrorism is an international phenomenon that claims a tiny number of lives in comparison with disease and traffic accidents; and on the political scene, with Kenya’s newly adopted constitution we believe the country is unlikely to suffer a repeat of the full-scale ethnic violence that erupted in January 2008.
Visiting Kenya in 2017There are currently plenty of good offers to be had on camps and lodges. Moreover, with relatively low visitor numbers because of the security fears that persist among mass-market tour operators, you can look forward to quieter parks and camps and even more attentive service. Finally, increased security – invariably carried out with an apologetic smile – means the streets are safer than they have been for years, so your ordinary security is likely to be enhanced. You should of course always be very careful about not displaying your valuables, as petty crime is widespread. Meanwhile, the welcome you’ll receive from Kenyans in these challenging times is as warm as you’ll experience anywhere in the world.
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