Foreign travel advice

Kenya

Summary

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to

  • areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border

  • Garissa County

  • Lamu County (excluding Lamu Island and Manda Island)

  • areas of Tana River County north of the Tana river itself

  • within 15km of the coast from the Tana river down to the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) river

The area to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel doesn’t include Kenya’s safari destinations in the national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies; including the Aberdare National Park, Amboseli, Laikipia, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Meru, Mount Kenya, Samburu, Shimba Hills, Tsavo, nor does it include the beach resorts of Mombasa, Malindi, Kilifi, Watamu, Diani, Lamu Island and Manda Island. Mombasa airport (Moi International Airport), Malindi airport and Manda airport aren’t included in the area to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel. If you travel to Lamu Island or Manda Island, you should do so by air to Manda airport and not by road.

You need a visa to enter Kenya. You can either get a visa on arrival at the airport, or before you travel. To minimise time spent queuing at the airport, get a visa before you travel. You can apply for single entry and transit visas on the evisas website. For other types of visa, apply at the nearest Kenyan High Commission or Embassy. For more information on different types of visas see the website of the Kenya High Commission.

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Kenya. The main threat comes from extremists linked to Al Shabaab, a militant group that has carried out attacks in Kenya in response to Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia. There have been a number of attacks in Kenya in recent years, particularly in Garissa, Mandera and Lamu counties and other mainland areas close to the Somali border.

In light of security concerns, the Kenyan government has imposed a a curfew in Mandera county and large parts of Lamu county, Tana River county and Garissa county for the hours 6:30pm to 6:30am. This curfew doesn’t apply to Lamu Island, Manda Island or Pate Island. Check local media before you travel.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attacks in Nairobi and the coast and resort areas of Mombasa and Malindi. The Inspector General of the Kenyan police has called on the public to adopt a higher level of vigilance and report any suspicious people or activity straight away.

The central county of Laikipia has seen numerous invasions by cattle herders onto privately held ranches and conservancies, in some cases leading to violence and arson. The security forces are seeking to enforce private property rights. Check the latest situation at your destination ahead of travel to the region.

Presidential, parliamentary, county and local elections took place on 8 August 2017. On 1 September, the Supreme Court ruled that the presidential election was invalid and should be repeated within 60 days. Protests are likely in this period and could turn violent. During this period you should exercise a heightened level of vigilance and take care in public places where people gather. Monitor local and international media to avoid any demonstration or disturbance taking place. Leave any area of unrest quickly and don’t attempt to watch or photograph it. You should consider making personal contingency plans in case of unrest. Keep up to date with this travel advice by subscribing to email alerts.

There are frequent incidents of violent crime including mugging, armed robbery and carjacking, particularly in the large cities.

There is a threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

100,000 British residents visited Kenya in 2015. Most visits are trouble-free.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

Crime

Bag snatching is common in transport hubs like bus stations, railway stations and airports. Mugging, kidnapping, car-jacking and armed robbery occur regularly, particularly in Nairobi, Mombasa and other large cities. Foreigners are not generally targeted, but incidents of violent crime have resulted in the death of several British nationals in recent years. Crime rates are higher in slum areas of Nairobi, the Old Town of Mombasa and on and around the Likoni Ferry (which links Mombasa and the southern resorts).

You should be vigilant at all times and follow any security advice given by your employer or your hosts. If you’re attacked, don’t resist. Avoid walking around after dark, especially in isolated areas like empty beaches. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and don’t wear expensive watches, jewellery or items of sentimental value. You must carry a form of ID with you at all times. A copy of your passport is normally acceptable, but recently some police officers have been insisting on the original document.

Beware of thieves posing as police officers or private Security Guards. Always ask to see identification. Don’t accept food or drink from strangers as it may be drugged.

Only stay in tourist camps with good perimeter security. If in any doubt, seek advice from your tour operator or the Kenya Tourism Federation (telephone: + 254 20 800100).

If you’re involved in any security incident, insist that the British High Commission is informed straight away.

Local travel

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border; to Garissa county; to Lamu county (excluding Lamu Island and Manda Island); to areas of Tana River county north of the Tana river itself and to within 15km of the coast from the Tana river down to the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) river.

The following areas aren’t covered by the FCO’s advice against all but essential travel: national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies; including the Aberdare National Park, Amboseli, Laikipia, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Meru, Mount Kenya, Samburu, Shimba Hills, Tsavo, as well as the beach resorts of Mombasa, Malindi, Kilifi, Watamu, Diani, Lamu Island and Manda Island. Mombasa airport (Moi International Airport), Malindi airport and Manda airport aren’t included in the area to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel.

For travel between Jomo Kenyatta Airport (JKIA) and Nairobi city you should use the Mombasa road. There is a higher risk of car-jacking on the old airport road (Airport South Road) and Jogoo Road.

If you travel to Lamu Island or Manda Island, you should do so by air to Manda airport and not by road.

The Mombasa road to JKIA can get very busy during rush hours, and check in can take several hours; you should allow plenty of time to get to the airport. A new vehicle security check outside JKIA has also added to journey times.

There were a number of violent incidents that resulted in fatalities in Coast Province in 2013. Although these were mainly against Kenyan police targets, you should take extra care in the coast area and be vigilant, particularly in public places.

Most visits to game reserves and other tourist areas are trouble-free. If you visit reserves, use reputable tour operators and arrive at your destination in daylight hours. Don’t buy safari tours from touts. Always follow park regulations and wardens’ advice.

There are risks associated with viewing wildlife, particularly on foot or at close range. Bathing in rivers and lakes is forbidden in National Parks and is best avoided elsewhere due to the dangers from both wildlife and water-borne disease.

Rural areas, particularly in the north and north eastern parts of Kenya, experience cattle rustling, banditry and ethnic clashes. Foreigners are not usually the target of localised violence and banditry, but you should take great care in the north and north east.

There’s been an increase in armed incursions by herders on to private farms and wildlife conservation areas in the county of Laikipia in central Kenya. Hotels and tourist lodges in the affected areas have been cancelling bookings made by clients. On 5 March a British national was murdered on his Laikipia ranch as he went to investigate damage caused by invaders.

On 7 March 2017 the government of Kenya declared that parts of Laikipia county were ‘dangerous and disturbed’ through a Special Issue Declaration under the National Police Service Act. Since then, security forces have been seeking to enforce private property rights with the result that the end of March has seen numerous armed clashes between herders and the police/Kenya Defence Force. Disturbances have been both localised and on private land. If you’re travelling to Laikipia then telephone ahead to your host to check the latest situation locally and travel in convoy of at least 2 vehicles. Monitor local media and take care in all remote areas.

Although the border with Somalia has officially been closed since 2007, crossings take place frequently. Landmines have been used in attacks around Moyale, close to the main A2 road south. Vehicles crossing the Kenya-Ethiopia border at this point should stay on the A2. Avoid staying at the rest house at Sololo – travel directly to Marsabit Town before breaking the journey.

As a result of previous armed clashes in the area of Mount Elgon in western Kenya next to the Ugandan border, a large security presence remains and further incidents are possible. Seek local advice before you set off.

A Safety and Communication Centre operated by the Kenya Tourism Federation gives up to the minute tourist advice as well as providing help in an emergency. You can contact the Centre on +254 20 800100 or by e-mail to: operations@ktf.co.ke

Road travel

You can drive for up to 3 months using a UK driving licence. For longer stays, you’ll need to get a Kenyan driving licence.

Only hire vehicles from reputable companies.

Road conditions and driving standards are often poor. Drive with windows closed and doors locked. When driving outside cities and in remote areas consider driving in convoy. Avoid driving at night wherever possible.

There have been a number of serious accidents involving long-distance buses. Vehicles are often poorly maintained and driven at excessive speed. Check the bus operator’s safety standards.

Though very cheap to use, matatus (minibuses) are notorious for being poorly maintained, badly driven and uninsured. There are frequent reports of matatus being hijacked and passengers being robbed.

On the spot fines are common, but not legal. If stopped by a police officer you should ask for the due process to be followed. The officer should issue you with a ‘receipt for cash bond’, a piece of paper telling you when and where you need to attend court to answer the charge against you.

Rail travel

Passenger trains run between Nairobi and Kisumu and between Nairobi and Mombasa. Doors can only be locked from the inside. Take care of your belongings while on the train and at railway stations. If you leave your compartment, take your valuables with you.

Air travel

There are some concerns about the lack of security arrangements in place at Wilson airport in Nairobi. The airport is mainly used for domestic flights, including charters. Be vigilant at all times when transiting airports.

If you plan to charter a private aircraft, check with the company’s Safety Pilot about the condition of the aircraft and runways to be used. If the company has no Safety Pilot, find another company that does.

Local rules and regulations prohibit photography at airports. You could be fined or imprisoned.

Sea travel

The threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains significant. Reports of attacks on local fishing dhows in the area around the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa continue. The combined threat assessment of the international Naval Counter Piracy Forces remains that all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the designated High Risk Area or face the risk of being hijacked and held hostage for ransom. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.

Registration with the British High Commission

The LOCATE system is no longer used for registering details of British nationals. You can keep up to date with this travel advice by subscribing to email alerts.

You can also subscribe to a new SMS alert system which the British High Commission use to alert British nationals to real-time incidents relating to safety and security. To subscribe for SMS alerts text ‘regv’ (for visitors) or ‘regp’ (for permanent residents) to +44 7537 404 755.

Read the FCO’s How to deal with a crisis overseas page for further information and advice.

Terrorism

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Kenya, including kidnapping. The main threat is from extremists linked to Al Shabaab, a militant group in Somalia opposed to the Somali government. Al Shabaab has issued public threats against Kenya due to Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia. The Kenyan authorities have increased security to counter potential reprisal attacks by Al Shabaab. There’s some evidence of growing support for Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) in Kenya.

There have been a number of attacks in Kenya in recent years, particularly in Garissa, Lamu and Mandera counties and other areas close to the Somali border, most of which were attributed to Al Shabaab. Armed militia groups operate within the Boni Forest and along the border between Garissa county and Somalia. Further attacks are likely. Methods of attack have included grenades, knife attacks, shootings and bombings, including car bombings, and improvised explosive devices. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to within 60 km of the Kenya-Somali border.

Since spring 2017, there have been multiple attacks in Garissa county and mainland areas of Lamu county involving improvised explosive devices, armed militia and fatal knife attacks. These have killed members of the Kenyan security forces and civilians. The Kenyan security forces have increased their presence in the affected areas.

Several terrorist attacks took place in Garissa county in 2015, including an attack on Garissa University College on 2 April 2015 in which at least 148 people were killed. In June and July 2014 attacks in Lamu and Tana River counties on the Kenyan coast are reported to have killed at least 85 people. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Six British nationals were killed in the September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attacks in Nairobi and the coast and resort areas of Mombasa and Malindi. The Inspector General of the Kenyan Police has called on the public to adopt a higher level of vigilance and report any suspicious people or activity straight away.

Attacks could be indiscriminate in places frequented by foreigners including hotels, bars, restaurants, sports bars and nightclubs, sporting events, supermarkets, shopping centres, coastal areas including beaches, airports, buses, trains and other transport hubs. Places of worship including churches and mosques have also been targeted. Be particularly vigilant in these areas.

Kenyan official buildings like government offices and law enforcement personnel or facilities have been targeted, and Somali government interests in Kenya may also be targeted. Take extra security precautions if you’re travelling to any of these places.

The authorities in Kenya have successfully disrupted a number of planned attacks and made a number of arrests in recent years. They have also provided extra protection including in areas near to the Somalia border and on the Kenyan coast. In September 2016 Kenya announced the launch of a National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Kidnapping

There is a high threat of kidnapping in the areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somalia border, in Garissa County and in coastal areas north of Pate Island. Westerners have been the target of kidnaps and further attacks in these areas are likely. Along these border areas there are also frequent incursions by Somali militants operating against Kenyan defence forces.

A number of kidnaps have occurred in Dadaab refugee camp in north east Kenya. British aid workers and others working at or visiting Dadaab refugee camp should satisfy themselves that those arranging their stay at the camp have sufficient security arrangements in place.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

The coastal areas are predominantly Muslim. Although there are no strict dress codes, you should dress conservatively away from the tourist resorts and hotels, especially in Mombasa town, during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

In 2018, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 15 May and finish on 14 June.

Smoking in all public places (except designated areas) is prohibited throughout Kenya. This applies to areas like hotel grounds, lounge areas and entrances. Smoking outdoors in any public street or on the beach is not banned, but check first and if in doubt don’t light up. Offenders can be fined up to 3 million Kenya shillings or imprisoned for up to 3 years.

The use and trafficking of illegal Class A drugs in Kenya carries heavy fines and jail sentences. The penalty for possession is 10 years in prison.

Taking photographs of official buildings, including Embassies, can lead to detention. If in any doubt, don’t photograph or film around them. Photography is also prohibited at airports.

You must get permission to carry any kind of firearm before you enter the country.

Plastic bags have been banned for environmental reasons.

It is illegal to destroy Kenyan currency.

Homosexual activity is illegal. Public displays of homosexuality like holding hands or kissing in public places could lead to arrest and imprisonment.

You must carry a form of ID with you at all times. A copy of your passport is normally acceptable, but recently some police officers have been insisting on the original document.

It is illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade any of its parts without a licence. Kenya is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) under which there’s a ban on the international commercial trade in ivory. Those caught purchasing or trafficking banned goods will be prosecuted and receive prison sentences and/or fines.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

You need a visa to enter Kenya. You can either get a visa on arrival at the airport, or before you travel. To minimise time spent queuing at the airport, get a visa before you travel. You can apply for single entry and transit visas on the evisas website. For other types of visa, apply at the nearest Kenyan High Commission or Embassy. For more information on different types of visas see the website of the Kenya High Commission.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Kenya. Make sure you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Kenya. ETDs must be valid for 6 months.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Work permits

If you are coming to live and work in Kenya, you should be aware that there can be delays in obtaining work permits. It’s illegal to work without a permit. This also applies to voluntary work and the self-employed.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Cholera, malaria and dengue fever occur in Kenya.

You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Don’t eat food prepared by unlicensed vendors.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Natural disasters

Kenya lies on an active fault line and tremors occur from time to time. The last significant earth tremor to affect the region was of magnitude 5.2 in 2007.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after and earthquake

Money

ATMs are widely available in Nairobi and the main towns and credit cards are widely accepted. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to exchange Scottish or Northern Irish banknotes in Kenya.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.