Road Conditions and Safety: Road accidents are a major threat to travelers in Kenya. Roads are poorly maintained and are often bumpy, potholed, and unpaved.
- Traffic moves on the left side of the road, which can be very disorienting to those not accustomed to it.
- Beware of vehicles traveling at excessive speed, and unpredictable local driving habits.
- Many vehicles are poorly maintained and lack basic safety equipment.
- Heavy traffic jams, either due to rush hour or because of accidents, are common.
- Some vehicles will cross the median strip and drive against the flow of traffic.
U.S. citizens have been fatally injured in accidents involving long-distance, inter-city buses and local buses and vans called ?matatus?. Matatus are commonly known to be the greatest danger to other vehicles and pedestrians. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from using matatus.
Injuries and fatalities involving two-wheeled motorcycle taxis, called ?boda bodas,? are equally common. Boda bodas often fail to observe basic safety precautions and ignore traffic rules. Inter-city nighttime road travel should be avoided due to the poor road and streetlight conditions and the threat of banditry throughout the country. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from using boda bodas.
During the rainy season, some unpaved roads are impassable even with four-wheel drive vehicles with high clearance. Travelers are urged to consult with local officials regarding road conditions.
Most passenger trains are considered unsafe, particularly during rainy seasons, because of the lack of routine maintenance and safety checks. The only approved train route for U.S. government personnel is the SGR from Nairobi to Mombasa. However, passengers should ride only in the first-class cabin to avoid pickpockets and facilitate a rapid exit if necessary.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Kenya?s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Kenya?s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Kenya should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website and the NGA broadcast warnings.
Please visit the Embassy?s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Kenya.
Medical services are adequate in Nairobi for most medical conditions and emergencies. Health care outside major cities (Nairobi, Kisumu, and Mombasa) is very limited.
For emergency services in Kenya, dial 999, 112, or 911.
Ambulance services are:
- Not present throughout the country or are unreliable in most areas except Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, and Eldoret
- Not equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment.
- Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance.
Surrogacy: Surrogacy programs in Kenya are unregulated and families have reported difficulties obtaining required legal documentation from Kenyan authorities and taking children out of Kenya; difficulties may increase if a parent is single.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor?s prescription. Check with the Government of Kenya to ensure the medication is legal in Kenya.
The following diseases are prevalent:
- Traveler?s Diarrhea
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Resources for Travelers regarding specific issues in Kenya.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business.
- Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs in Kenya are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
- Kenya enacted strict legislation regulating the sale and consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.
- Penalties for possessing banned wildlife items under Kenya?s Wildlife Act include large fines and severe penalties, including life imprisonment.
- Violations of the Kenya Firearms Act are punishable from one year to life imprisonment. Possession of any amount of ammunition can incur a minimum seven-year sentence.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Customs regulations on importing items such as antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency, ivory, rhino horn, and other wildlife products including hides, skins, and teeth into or out of Kenya are strict.
U.S. citizens have been detained and arrested for attempting to bring contraband into Kenya. Contact the Embassy of Kenya or one of Kenya?s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Alcoholic Drinks Control Act of 2010, which regulates when and where alcoholic drinks may be consumed in public, states that a person found by local law enforcement authorities to be intoxicated or disorderly in or near public areas, including some businesses, may be arrested without warrant and brought to court for trial.
- If convicted, the maximum fine is 500 Kenyan Shillings and/or imprisonment for a maximum of three months.
- If convicted three times of the same charge within a 12-month period, you will be required to participate in mandatory rehabilitation at your expense.
More information on this law may be found on Kenya’s substance abuse website, NACADA.
Tobacco Control Act 2007 regulates public smoking and the marketing and sale of tobacco products in Kenya. In public places, smoking is allowed only in designated smoking areas.
Currency: You may depart the country with up to 100,000 Kenyan shillings.
- Destruction of Kenyan currency, even in small amounts, is illegal, and almost always results in arrest and a fine.
- You should ensure that your U.S. currency bills are relatively new, as banks in Kenya have been known not to accept older U.S. currency.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the governing body of Kenya?s national parks, requires all tour operators and safari lodges carry nationally mandated insurance. You should:
- Inquire whether prospective safari camps or tour operators are in compliance with this requirement;
- Observe all local or park regulations and exercise appropriate caution in unfamiliar surroundings; and
- Thoroughly check the qualifications and safety record of all tourist lodges and guides before engaging their services and venturing into the wild in their care.
Firearms: Import, possession, and use of firearms is governed by the Kenya Firearms Act.
- Import of all firearms, including sporting guns, is prohibited in Kenya except in accordance with the terms of an import permit.
- Possession of firearms while in Kenya requires a firearms certificate, which can be difficult to obtain.
- Violations of the Kenya Firearms Act are punishable from one year to life imprisonment. Possession of any amount of ammunition is punishable by a minimum seven-year sentence.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report ? see country reports
- Human Rights Report ? see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: Kenyan law criminalizes same-sex sexual activity.
- The Kenyan penal code criminalizes ?carnal knowledge against the order of nature,? which is interpreted to prohibit consensual same-sex sexual activity and specifies a maximum penalty of 14 years? imprisonment.
- A separate statute specifically criminalizes sex between men and specifies a maximum penalty of 21 years? imprisonment.
- Police have detained persons under these laws, particularly suspected sex workers.
- LGBTI advocacy organizations, such as the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, have been permitted to register and conduct activities. However, societal discrimination based on sexual orientation is widespread.
- Female genital mutilation (FGM) and Cutting (C): This act is known to occur in Kenya. It is a federal crime to perform FGM/C in the United States on any minor younger than 18 years old, punishable by fines and up to five years in prison. It is also a criminal offense knowingly to take a minor younger than 18 years old outside of the United States for the purpose of performing FGM/C (so-called ?vacation cutting?).
See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Although Kenyan law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, the Government of Kenya has not consistently enforced these provisions and implementation has been slow.
- Access to government or private buildings, medical facilities, restaurants, or other public or private facilities is limited.
- Accessibility to public transportation and taxis is limited. There is no functioning bus system in Nairobi, but rather an extensive use of vans (?matatus?) that travel along designated routes; taxis are also used, as are motorcycles serving as taxis (?boda bodas?).
- Public transportation and taxis do not accommodate wheelchairs; these vehicles are most often hailed from the side of busy roads.
- Footpaths along the side of roads are generally unpaved, bumpy, dirt paths, and road crossings are often unmarked.
Safety and Security
You should review the Department of State?s Travel Advisory for Kenya before considering travel to Kenya.
Terrorism: Terrorist groups and those inspired by such organizations are intent on attacking U.S. citizens abroad. Terrorists are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack ? including knives, firearms, and vehicles ? to more effectively target crowds. Frequently, their aim is unprotected or vulnerable targets, such as:
- High-profile public events (sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc.)
- Hotels, clubs, and restaurants frequented by tourists
- Places of worship
- Shopping malls and markets
- Public transportation systems (including buses, trains, and scheduled commercial flights)
Terrorist threats remain high in Kenya. Terrorist attacks in Kenya have cumulatively resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of people. Attacks have occurred in periods leading up to and during religious holidays and days of national significance. However, an attack is possible at any time. Please note these recent events:
- In January 2020, terrorists attacked a U.S. Department of Defense facility on the coast, killing several individuals and destroying seven aircraft.
- In January 2019, a small bomb exploded in Nairobi?s Central Business District, slightly injuring two people.
- In January 2019, a terrorist attack on the Dusit Hotel complex in the Westlands area of Nairobi resulted in the death of 21 victims, including one U.S. citizen.
- In April 2019, two Cuban doctors were kidnapped from a rural area in Mandera County and were reportedly transported to Somalia.
For more information, see our Terrorism page.
Regions to avoid:
- The northeastern Kenyan counties of Mandera, Wajir, and Garissa (including the cities of El Wak, Wajir, Garissa, Mandera, and Liboi).
- All parts of the coastal counties of Tana River and Lamu, and all areas of Kilifi County north of Malindi.
- The road between Kainuk and Lodwar in Turkana County due to banditry.
- The Nairobi neighborhoods of Eastleigh and Kibera.
- Avoid using the Likoni ferry due to safety and security concerns.
The Peace Corps formally closed its activities in Kenya in 2018 due to security concerns and is currently in the process of reestablishing a presence in western Kenya, with volunteers projected in 2021.
Cultural Rehabilitation Centers: Some schools and other facilities acting as cultural rehabilitation centers are operating in Kenya with inadequate or nonexistent licensing and oversight. Report of minors and young adults being held in these facilities against their will and physically abused are common.
Crime: Crime in Kenya is a regular occurrence and Kenyan authorities have limited capacity to deter and investigate such acts.
- Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including home invasions, burglaries, armed carjackings, muggings, and kidnappings can occur at any time.
- ?Matatus? (privately-operated public transportation buses) tend to be targeted since they carry multiple passengers.
- Cases of violent street crime targeting Westerners occur in many seemingly safe areas of Nairobi, ranging from simple muggings to kidnapping and extortion, including attacks during daylight hours. U.S. citizens using off-the-street taxis have also been victims of robbery, kidnapping, and extortion.
Forced Marriage is known to occur in Kenya.
Sexual Assault is prevalent in Kenya and frequently goes unreported.
- Victims of sexual assault may have difficulty receiving adequate social or medical support.
- Sexual assault has largely been associated with women. The sexual assault of men has been increasing and often goes unreported because of the associated stigma.
Internet romance and financial scams are prevalent in Kenya. Scams are often initiated through dating apps, internet postings/profiles, or by unsolicited emails and letters.
Common scams include:
- Romance and online dating (Check this online dating scam infographic)
- Someone you have not met in person quickly offers friendship, romance, and/or marriage.
- Job solicitations asking for a processing fee in advance.
- A person asking for money to pay hospital bills, visa fees, or legal expenses and/or seeming to have many sudden problems overseas.
Elaborate scam business opportunities, including fraudulent government procurements. Please contact the Commercial section at Office.Nairobi@trade.gov for assistance verifying procurement opportunities.
With the use of social media and dating sites, one should utilize good judgement and caution. If you decide you must meet someone in person that you have met online, please be sure to set up the meeting in a safe and public place.
Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.
Report crimes to the local police at 999, 112 or 911, and contact the U.S. Embassy during business hours at +254 (0) 20-363-6451, or after-hours at +254 (0) 20-363-6000.
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- Help you find appropriate medical care
- Assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- Contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- Provide general information regarding the victim?s role during the local investigation and following its conclusion
- Provide a list of local attorneys
- Provide our information on victim?s compensation programs in the U.S.
- Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- Replace a stolen or lost passport
Kenya has assistance programs for victims of crime sponsored by nongovernmental organizations. These programs include but are not limited to the following:
- Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC) has been providing specialized medical treatment and psychosocial support to low income survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
- Healthcare Assistance Kenya (HAK) offers a 24-hour Rapid Response Service to women and children survivors of Gender Based Violence at its Call Centre as well as a 24 hour toll-free hotline for sexual and gender based violence assistance.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: The Kenyan Tourism Regulatory Authority has oversight for the country?s tourism sector. The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities vary by region. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. Game parks and related safari tours with well-established operators generally have been reported to be safe. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in or near the major cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu. First responders generally are unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
Please visit the Embassy?s COVID-19 page for more information on entry/exit requirements related to COVID-19 in Kenya.
Kenyan Immigration has instituted a strict visa policy whereby all visitors are strongly encouraged to obtain visas by using an online system, though visas are available upon arrival at international ports of entry including Nairobi?s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
- A passport with at least two blank pages, six months? validity, and a visa are required to enter Kenya.
- Single-entry visas are available online and upon arrival at Kenyan airports; however, Kenyan Immigration plans to end visas upon arrival in the future.
- Multiple-entry visas must be applied for prior to traveling to Kenya.
- Obtain the latest information on visas, as well as any additional details regarding entry requirements, from the Embassy of Kenya, 2249 R Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 387-6101, or the Kenyan Consulates General in Los Angeles and New York City.
- You should have proof of yellow fever immunizations, or you may be denied entry.
- In December 2018, the Kenyan government announced a new work permit program that requires foreigners to apply for permits and visas from their country of origin. It is recommended that work permit applications be submitted 6-8 weeks prior to travel. People already in Kenya working on a permit should submit renewal applications at last 90 days before the permit expires.
For additional information on immunizations and detailed country-specific recommendations on vaccinations and other health precautions for travelers to Kenya, visit the CDC?s Travelers? Health website.
HIV/AIDS Restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to, or foreign residents of, Kenya.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Kenya for information on U.S.-Kenya relations.