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Kenya

If you’re travelling to Kenya, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Security Status

  • Normal precautions
  • High degree of caution
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Do not travel
  • Overview
  • Safety and Security
  • Local Laws and Customs
  • Health
  • Additional Information
  • Embassy Contact

Overview

Overview

Security status

We advise Irish citizens travelling to Kenya to exercise a high degree of caution due to the heightened threat of terrorist attack throughout Kenya and the high rates of violent crime.

Avoid non-essential travel within 75km of the Kenya-Somalia border due to the very high risk of terrorist activity and kidnapping in the region.

There is an increased risk of terrorist attacks in Naivasha, Nanyuki, Meru, Narok and in coastal areas such as Lamu county and coastal areas of Tana River and Kilifi counties.

The Nairobi suburbs of of Buruburu, Eastleigh, Kasarani, Kibera, Mathare, Pangani, South B and South C have high rates of crime.

Terrorism

Terrorist attacks are a threat in Kenya, mainly from the terrorist group Al Shabaab. This group have carried out attacks across Kenya including in Nairobi.

Potential targets include areas where westerners gather such as hotels, bars, restaurants, sporting events, supermarkets, shopping centres, beach resorts, government buildings, airports, western embassies, international schools, buses, trains and other transport hubs.

The Embassy of Ireland advises citizens travelling to Kenya to register with the Embassy and exercise a high degree of caution while in Kenya.

On 8 January, Al Shabaab released a public statement ‘Kenya Must Take Heed’; stating their intention to attack tourists, including those on safari trips. The statement also referred to attacks on government buildings and military sites as possible targets.

January 15 will be the first anniversary of the Al Shabaab attack on the Riverside compound in Nairobi, which resulted in the death of 21 civilians and January 27, will be the anniversary of the Battle of Kolbiyow an Al Shabaab attack on a military base. Al Shabaab pay great attention to the symbolism of anniversaries and further attacks on these dates are likely. Exercise a heightened degree of caution at this time and throughout the coming weeks.

Crime

Incidents of violent crime are high in throughout Kenya, including robberies, carjacking, and kidnapping. We advise Irish citizens travelling to large cities such as Nairobi or Mombasa to be extra vigilant. Ask the Irish Embassy be informed if involved in any incident where a police response is required.

Law requires carrying ID at all times and police may request evidence of this. 

Emergency Assistance

We suggest you learn as much as you can about Kenya before your trip from travel agents, tour operators and guide books. The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, start by talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

You can contact the emergency services in Kenya by dialling 999.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and Security

Safety and security

Political Situation

Political violence can occur in the run up to elections in Kenya. If travelling before or during an election you should monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities. Always avoid demonstrations, as they may turn violent. 

Outbreaks of violence between tribal groups, usually around land or livestock disputes, can occur from time-to-time in rural areas, particularly in Western and North Western Kenya. Irish citizens are advised to exercise caution, to monitor the Embassy travel advice, and follow the advice of local authorities. 

Terrorism

There is a high risk of terrorist incidents within Kenya. A Somali terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, has carried out a large number of terrorist attacks in Kenya in recent years, which have targeted military, police and civilians and resulted in major loss of life. Most terrorist activity has centred on the North Eastern part of Kenya and the coastal area, but major attacks have taken place in Nairobi in the past and there is a risk of terrorist attacks throughout Kenya. There is an increased risk of terrorist attacks in Naivasha, Nanyuki, Meru, Narok and in coastal areas such as Lamu county. Potential targets include areas where westerners gather such as hotels, bars, restaurants, sporting events, supermarkets, shopping centres, beach resorts, government buildings, airports, western embassies, international schools, buses, trains and other transport hubs. Attacks can occur at any time, including during public and religious holidays

There have been a number of terrorist attacks in recent years: 

  • In January 2020, Al Shabaab launched an attack at a Kenya Defence Force Military Base in Manda May in Lamu County. This attack resulted in Lamu airport closing for a time.
  • In January 2019, there was an attack on a Hotel in the Riverside area of Nairobi resulting in loss of life.
  • In 2015, an attack on Garissa University resulted in the deaths of at least 148 people.
  • In 2013, an attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi resulted in the deaths of over 60 people, including foreign nationals.
  • In 2012, there was an attack at a sports bar in Mombasa.

We advise Irish citizens to remain vigilant in all public places, and in the event of an attack, to follow any alerts issued by the authorities, leave the area immediately if safe to do so, and avoid returning in the aftermath in case of a follow up attack.

Advice on what actions to take in the event of a terrorist attack is available on the UK’s Counter Terrorism Police website https://www.counterterrorism.police.uk/staysafe/

Kidnapping

Kidnapping is a risk throughout Kenya, particularly in areas close to the Somali border. There have been several cases of westerners’ kidnapped recently included two Cuban doctors and an Italian NGO worker. 

Crime

Violent crime is common in Kenya and perpetrators are often armed. You should be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you are a victim of a crime then we advise that you cooperate with all demands to avoid the risk of injury and report the matter to the nearest police station. When travelling in a vehicle keep doors and windows locked. Only travel by foot in areas where it is safe to do so and we advise against travelling by foot after dark. Most hotel rooms have a safe to store valuables.

The Nairobi suburbs of of Buruburu, Eastleigh, Kasarani, Kibera, Mathare, Pangani, South B and South C have high rates of crime.

Be extra vigilant in the Central Business District.

There is a danger of mob justice at the scenes of criminal activity before the arrival of the police.

Thieves may be disguised as police officers or private security and you should ask to see ID if approached.

Never leave drinks unattended, or accept drinks from strangers due to the risk they may have been spiked, putting you in danger of sexual assault or robbery. 

If travelling to and from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport it is advisable to use the Mombasa road due to the threat of carjacking on other routes. Allow plenty of time to arrive at the airport.

In the Mombasa area, avoid the area around the Likoni ferry after dark.

Home invasions are a risk for those living in Kenya. If you live in Kenya, you should ensure you have strong personal security measures in place.

It is important to seek a doctor immediately in the case of a sexual assault due to the high rates of HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

Driving

Road conditions and driving practices in Kenya can be hazardous, even in major urban centres. We strongly advise against undertaking long overland journeys, especially at night. If using a hire car or vehicle, you should ensure the roadworthiness of the vehicle and the reliability of the driver, before departure.

An international driving licence is required for overseas visitors.

Public Transport

Private licenced operators operate most public transport in Kenya. Vehicles can be in poor condition and accidents are common, which can result in serious injuries and fatalities. Matatus (public buses) and Boda boda (motorcycle taxis) can be especially dangerous.

Pick pocketing and theft on public transport is common. Pay close attention to belongings at transport hubs and on vehicles such as trains and buses.

Only use well-marked and reputable taxis when travelling in Kenya.

Border regions

Avoid non-essential travel within 75km of the Kenya-Somalia border due to the very high risk of terrorist activity in the region.

There is a risk of inter-tribal tensions at the northern borders of Kenya.

If travelling to Lamu or Manda Island you should travel by air rather than by road. 

Safari

If in Kenya on Safari, ensure you stay in camps with good perimeter security, seeking advice from the Kenya Tourism Federation (+ 254 20 8001000) or your tour operator if in doubt, and always follow any advice from park wardens.

There remains a serious threat of piracy if sailing in coastal waters off Somalia, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

Local Laws and Customs

Local laws and customs

Possession of ivory in any form, as well as other protected animal parts, is a crime in Kenya and can result in a large fine or imprisonment.

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Individuals are required by law to carry ID on them at all times and police may request evidence of this. Kenyan identification documents or passports should be carried at all times. You should keep a copy of the data and photo page of your passport in a safe place.

We advise caution if purchasing land or engaging in business ventures in Kenya as fraud is very common. Title deeds/certificates of ownership should be closely examined and verified with the authorities before any transaction takes place. Commercial disputes can take many years to resolve before the courts.

We advise caution if travelling to Kenya to meet an online acquaintance due to instances of fraud.

Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and public displays of affection could lead to arrest and imprisonment. More information for LGBT travellers is available at the following link dfa.ie/travel/assistance-abroad/lgbt/

Kenya has banned plastic bags for environmental reasons and you will be asked to leave any plastic bags on the plane before leaving the aircraft on arrival.

Kenya prohibits smoking in public places, except in designated smoking areas. If in any doubt do not smoke.

Many areas of Kenya are predominately Muslim and you should dress conservatively if travelling in these areas outside of resorts.

Photography is prohibited around many government buildings and facilities including airports.

If issued with an on the spot fine you should ask that the correct process is followed and that you are issued with the correct documentation.

Health

Health

Vaccination or prophylaxis for certain diseases is advised for Kenya, including malaria. Please consult your doctor well in advance of travel for advice on health care. A yellow health passport is required when travelling from some neighbouring countries and will be inspected on arrival in Kenya.

Pharmacies and medical centres are accessible in most parts of Kenya but the quality of medical care can vary. Ensure that you have an adequate supply of any prescription medications with you if travelling outside of the main urban centres.

Water quality can be poor in Kenya and outbreaks of waterborne diseases can occur.  Ensure that drinking water is safe before consumption.

Always ensure you have travel and medical insurance that covers all your planned activities while in Kenya. 

Additional Information

Additional information

Money

The currency in Kenya is Kenya Shilling and it is used for most transactions. Prices for hotels and safaris are usually quoted in US dollars but can also be paid in Kenya Shillings. US dollars are generally not accepted elsewhere.

ATM machines and currency exchange offices are widely available.

New banknotes have been introduced in Kenya and the older bank notes will not be accepted after 30th September, 2019.

 Visas

Irish passport holders require a visa to travel to Kenya. Please check with the closest Kenyan Embassy to you for details.

Tourist visas can be purchased on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi at a cost of USD$50. However, to avoid lengthy queues, it is advisable to secure visas in advance of travel.

E-visas can be acquired online from Kenyan Embassies before travel.

 

Dual nationality

Kenyan citizens must register their second nationality with the government. Please check with the closest Kenyan Embassy to you for details.

 

 

Embassy contact

Embassy Contact

If you require urgent assistance while the Embassy is closed, contact the Embassy Duty Officer on +254 (0) 716 353 999

Embassy of Ireland
4th Floor
Delta Office Suites
Manyani Road
Off Waiyaki Way
PO Box 30659-00100
Nairobi

Tel: +254 0205 135 300

Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm
Follow the Embassy on Twitter @IrlEmbKenya

Contact us