For most travelers, Kenya is a perfectly safe country to visit for a safari or business in Nairobi, but LGBTQ+ travelers should be wary of the country's harsh anti-gay laws and general intolerance. Additionally, Kenya has one of the most developed tourism sectors in Africa, but because of the country's unstable political situation, urban poverty, and border issues with a few of its neighboring countries, not everywhere in Kenya can be considered safe. Many western governments have issued travel warnings that specify the areas to be avoided (see below).
- Due to COVID-19, the U.S. State Department is advising against all international travel for the indefinite future.
- The State Department urges traveling with increased caution in Kenya due to crime, terrorism, health issues, and kidnapping and advises against traveling to the Kenya-Somalia border and certain areas of Turkana County. They also ask travelers to reconsider visiting the Nairobi neighborhoods of Eastleigh and Kibera.
- The Canadian government advises its citizens to avoid traveling to any county on the Somali border, in addition to the Kenyan borders with South Sudan and Ethiopia. In Nairobi, they specifically recommend against traveling to the neighborhoods of Eastleigh, Kibera, and Pangani.
Is Kenya Dangerous?
There are many areas of Kenya that are considered dangerous, but the country's main attractions, such as Amboseli National Park, the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Mount Kenya, and Watamu, are considered very safe. Safaris are generally very well run and the hotels are superb. Close-encounters with wildlife can be dangerous, but just be sure to follow the instructions given to you by your guides, drivers, and lodge staff and you shouldn't have any issues.
Many of Kenya's largest cities have a poor reputation when it comes to crime. As is true for most of Africa, large communities living in abject poverty inevitably results in frequent incidents including muggings, vehicle break-ins, armed robberies, and carjackings. However, while you cannot guarantee your safety, there are plenty of ways to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim.
Is Kenya Safe for Solo Travelers?
Traveling solo in Kenya is safe, and while it's possible to rent a car and drive through the wildlife parks on your own, it's not recommended. The best way to avoid getting lost or crossing paths with aggressive wildlife is to travel with an experienced and well-trained guide. Thankfully, solo travelers should be able to easily find a group or private tour operator for their safari. And while you're in the capital, know that Nairobi is an emerging hub for business travelers and is generally safe for solo travelers, so long as you don't go out alone at night and stick to getting around by cab.
Is Kenya Safe for Female Travelers?
Generally, Kenya is a very safe country for female travelers and many women report friendly and respectful encounters with locals. However, sexual harassment and catcalling does occur from time to time and women are advised to not walk around alone at night and to use their common sense. If you're visiting the coast, it's also recommended that women avoid walking alone on empty beaches.
Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers
Kenya ranks low on the Spartacus Gay Travel Index, as the country is rife with anti-gay laws including the criminalization of homosexuality. Homophobia is rampant in Kenya, so discretion is the safest option for LGBTQ+ travelers and public displays of affection are ill-advised. That being said, some tour operators in Kenya cater to LGBTQ+ travelers, promising tolerance and acceptance from crew members and hotel staff that you will encounter.
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
As an African country, Kenya is a very safe place for BIPOC travelers. While colorism does exist, in which a lighter-skinned person might receive preferential treatment, BIPOC travelers do not generally have to worry about being discriminated against in Kenya. While there is some ongoing tension between Kenyans and Chinese immigrants and investors residing in Kenya, it does not seem to affect the average tourist.
Safety Tips for Travelers
Here are some general tips for anyone traveling to Kenya:
- Avoid drinking tap water and take care when eating meat while in Kenya, as there might be unfamiliar bacteria that could make you sick.
- Before you leave for Kenya, you'll need to see your doctor for a prescription of malaria pills and you'll want to pack plenty of bug-repellant.
- As with most cities, crime in Nairobi and Mombassa is at its worst in the poorer neighborhoods, often on the city outskirts or in the informal settlements. Avoid these areas unless you're traveling with a trusted friend or guide.
- Never walk on your own at night. Instead, employ the services of a registered, licensed taxi. If you rent a car, keep the doors and windows locked while driving through major cities.
- Don't display expensive jewelry or camera equipment, and carry limited cash in a money belt concealed beneath your clothes.
- Be aware of tourist scams, including thieves disguised as police officers, vendors, or tour operators.
- Roads in Kenya are poorly maintained and accidents are common due to potholes, livestock, and people, so avoid driving a car at night when visibility is poor.
Human Rights Watch. "Kenya: Court Upholds Archaic Anti-Homosexuality Laws." May 24, 2019. Retrieved Jan 4, 2021.
U.S. Department of State. "COVID-19 Traveler Information." August 6, 2020.
U.S. Department of State. "Kenya Travel Advisory." August 6, 2020.
Government of Canada. "Kenya." August 21, 2020.
Lonely Planet. "Women Travellers in Kenya." Retrieved Jan 4, 2021.
Spartacus. "Gay Travel Index." March 3, 2020.