Top events in Kenya

November
01

A high-profile international seven-a-side rugby tournament, offering the chance to see the national team in action.

November
07

The highlight of this annual festival in Kenya’s main port town is a colourful parade that starts in Moi Avenue and ends outside historic Fort...

December
12

The country's most important festival commemorates Kenya's independence from the United Kingdom on 12 December 1963 and its establishment as a...

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
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Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

© 123rf.com / Deborah Benbrook

Kenya Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

580,367 sq km (224,000 sq miles).

Population

44 million (2013).

Population density

75.9 per sq km.

Capital

Nairobi.

Government

Republic. Gained independence from the UK in 1963.

Head of state

President Uhuru Kenyatta since 2013.

Head of government

President Uhuru Kenyatta since 2013.

Electricity

220/240 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are UK-type square three-pin.

Kenya is the ultimate safari destination, hosting a variety of wild and untamed landscapes that range from the open savannah of the Masai Mara to the glistening, snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya.

National parks and reserves cover one-tenth of Kenya's surface area, spanning desert, grassland, mountain forest and acacia-studded plains. The country’s finest reserves – Amboseli, Masai Mara, Samburu and Tsavo – abound with wildlife, including lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, hippos and crocodiles. Then there’s the birdlife – more than 1,000 bird species have been recorded here, ranging from colourful parrots to the world largest bird, the flightless ostrich.

Kenya's human population is equally fascinating: around 40 different ethnic groups live in the country, including the Kikuyu of the central highlands, the Luo of the Lake Victoria Basin, and the iconic Maasai, who lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle of cattle-herding along the southern border.

The country’s ethnic variety is most striking in the north, where the Maasai-affiliated Samburu people live alongside the Turkana, Borena and El-Molo groups. Yet as a counterpoint to all this traditional variety, the city of Nairobi stands as the archetypal modern African capital – a cosmopolitan buffet of contemporary influences bustling with all manner of commercial activity.

By contrast to the wildlife-rich interior, the main attraction of Kenya's long and balmy Indian Ocean coastline is its magnificent beaches – long palm-lined arcs of white sand that still retain a relatively untrammelled character, certainly by comparison to their counterparts in Southeast Asia or Caribbean. Offshore, a succession of pristine coral reefs reliably treat snorkelers and scuba divers to swirling schools of multicoloured reef fish, and frequent encounters with submarine giants such as turtles, dolphins, rays and sharks.

Steeped in maritime trade history, the key ports of the Swahili Coast – Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu – were founded in Mediaeval times and today support a unique blend of Arabic, African and Asian culture and architecture. Even today, romantic dhows (sailing boats) built to a design unchanged in centuries still ply these waters, while magnificent ruins such as Gedi and Manda provide a glimpse of what the Swahili Coast looked like in its Mediaeval pomp.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 20 October 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

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

  • areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border

  • Garissa District

  • the Eastleigh area of Nairobi

  • Mombasa island and within 5km of the coast from Mtwapa creek in the north down to and including Tiwi in the south (this area does not include Diani or Moi international airport)

  • Lamu County and those areas of Tana River County north of the Tana river itself

If you’re currently in an area to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel, you should consider whether you have an essential reason to remain.

There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. 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.

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 has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

There has been a spate of small-scale grenade, bomb and armed attacks in Nairobi (especially the area of Eastleigh), Mombasa, and North Eastern Province. On 16 May, there were explosions at Gikomba Market on the edges of the Eastleigh district in Nairobi. Further attacks are likely.

You should take care in public places where people gather, and exercise a heightened level of vigilance. Monitor local and international media and keep up to date with this travel advice by subscribing to email alerts.

The death on 1 April 2014 of a prominent cleric in Mombasa has led to unrest and increased tension in the area. There is a possibility of further disturbances in the Mombasa area, particularly on Fridays after prayers. You should follow the local news, remain vigilant at all times, and avoid demonstrations and large crowds.

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.

185,967 British nationals visited Kenya in 2012. Most visits are trouble-free.

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.

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