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 (224,081 sq miles).

Population

52,580,497 (2019).

Population density

79.2 per sq km.

Capital

Nairobi.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President William Ruto since 2022.

Head of government

President William Ruto since 2022.

Electricity

220/240 volts AC, 50Hz. British-style plugs with three-square pins are standard. The power plugs and sockets are type G, and the socket will only work with plug G.

Lions and leopards are just part of the landscape in Kenya, one of East Africa's favourite safari destination. More than 40 national parks and nature reserves are scattered between Lake Victoria and the Indian Ocean, covering every imaginable landscape and featuring just about every animal in Africa: from aardvarks to zebras.

As you might expect, wildlife safaris are the lifeblood of Kenyan tourism, and the infrastructure for travellers is impressive. Jeeps, buses and light aircraft fan out daily across the country to safari lodges and tented camps, some simple and rustic, others lavish and opulent. Refreshingly, you can enjoy close encounters with nature even on a budget, with walking safaris run by tribal guides and economic-tented camps that scrimp on creature comforts, but not on creatures.

Most people start their journey in Nairobi, Kenya's capital city, but few linger when there are more attractive cities strung out along the sun-kissed Kenyan coast and dotted around the Great Rift Valley. Whether you pick the interior or the coast (with its beach resorts and Islamic ruins), you can be sure to find a national park or reserve close at hand. Even Nairobi has a national park within the city limits, with zebras and giraffes just a stone's throw from the suburbs.

Kenya is also a great place for cultural encounters, with more than 40 different tribal groups, each following its own unique way of life. The semi-nomadic Maasai tribe, with their multi-coloured, bead-covered adornments, is perhaps the most obvious group, but visiting any tribal village is a fascinating and enlightening experience.

On appearances, Kenya would seem like the perfect holiday destination, but tourism has had its ups and downs in recent years, with political upheaval during elections and a string of high-profile militant attacks in Nairobi and along the coast.

These setbacks have made a noticeable dent in Kenya's tourist industry, yet travellers still flock to the teeming plains of the Maasai Mara and trek the slopes of Mount Kenya, and the biggest decision for most is not whether to go to Kenya, but instead, which wild animal to search for first.

Travel Advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Areas where FCDO advises against all but essential travel

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice.

Kenya-Somalia border

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to areas within 60km of Kenya’s border with Somalia.

Eastern Garissa County

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to eastern Garissa County, up to 20km north-west of the A3.

Mandera County

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Mandera County, excluding Mandera West subcounty.

Lamu County

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Lamu County, excluding Lamu Island and Manda Island.

Tana River County

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to areas of Tana River County north of the Tana River, up to 20km north-west of the A3.

Coast between the Tana River and Galana River

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to within 15km of the coast between the Tana River and the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) River.

Find out more about why FCDO advises against travel.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you: 

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications for Kenya when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Kenya set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Kenya High Commission in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

You do not need a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination to enter Kenya.

If you have flu-like symptoms when you arrive, you must take one or more COVID-19 tests at your own expense. If tests show you have COVID-19, you must isolate. For more information see COVID-19 travel requirements from the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Kenya, your passport must have:

  • an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive
  • at least 2 blank pages

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to. 

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

On 12 December 2023 the President of Kenya announced that Kenya would be visa-free from January 2024.

Visitors to Kenya are now required to apply online for an electronic travel authorisation in advance of travel. Some exemptions apply and can be found in full on the website of the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority.

Travellers who currently hold a valid visa can continue to travel using their visa until its expiry.

Further information on immigration requirements can be found on the websites of the Kenyan High Commission in London, the Kenyan Department of Immigration and the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority.

Vaccine requirements

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Kenya guide.

Depending on your circumstances, these may include a yellow fever certificate.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Kenya. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Drones

It is illegal to import or export drones without prior approval from the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA). Contact the KCAA well in advance of travel if you wish to bring a drone to Kenya.

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Kenya

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Kenya.

Beware there is a heightened threat of terrorism across Kenya. Attacks could target Westerners, including British nationals. These could occur at any time including religious events, public holidays or celebrations. Attacks are indiscriminate and could occur in places frequented by foreigners, including tourists, such as, but not limited to:

  • hotels
  • bars
  • restaurants
  • nightclubs
  • sporting events
  • supermarkets
  • shopping centres
  • beaches
  • safari parks
  • commercial and government buildings
  • places of worship

You should be particularly vigilant in these areas and where possible avoid regular patterns of movement and travel during daylight hours. You should consider whether there are effective local security arrangements in place (for example, bag searches, physical security, guards).

The main terrorist threat is from extremists linked to Al Shabaab – an Al Qaeda affiliated militant group in Somalia. Al Shabaab has issued threats and carried out attacks against Kenya, in part, due to Kenyan military intervention in Somalia.

Recent significant attacks affecting British nationals include:

  • in 2020 Al Shabaab conducted an attack on a military airstrip in Lamu County, killing 3 people
  • in 2019 there was an attack at the hotel and commercial complex at 14 Riverside in Nairobi, resulting in injuries and loss of life

There is some evidence of growing support for Daesh (formerly ISIL) in Kenya. On 4 January 2024 Daesh published a statement calling for a new global campaign of terrorism including a specific focus on western and Jewish targets. This statement and the ongoing conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories could increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks which affect British Nationals.

Travellers to Lamu Island and Manda Island should be particularly vigilant given the close proximity of these islands to the Lamu County mainland. You should only travel to the islands by air to Lamu airport (a civilian airport on Manda Island), and not by road. The only commercial option for air travel to or form Lamu Island and Manda Island is through Lamu airport.

Kidnapping

There is a high threat of terrorist kidnapping across Kenya. You should be alert to the heightened threat of terrorist kidnapping targeting Westerners, including British nationals, who are viewed as legitimate targets. Westerners have been the target of kidnaps in northern counties bordering Somalia and coastal counties. Further kidnaps are very likely.  

The long-standing policy of the British government policy is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Flooding

Kenya is experiencing heavy rains which are causing widespread flooding. The Government of Kenya has issued a mandatory evacuation order for people in flood-prone areas. You should:

  • follow the advice of the local authorities
  • avoid walking, swimming or driving through floodwater
  • plan your journeys carefully
  • consider contacting your accommodation or travel provider to check that access is possible

Consider following the Kenya Meteorological Department and the Kenya National Highways Authority on Twitter to receive weather advisories and information on road closures.

Political situation

There have been deaths and injuries at anti-government political demonstrations in recent months. Avoid political gatherings and large crowds, and follow local media coverage.

Crime

There are frequent incidents of violent crime including mugging, armed robbery and carjacking, particularly in the large cities. In Nairobi, the risk of these crimes is higher in Eastleigh, Central Business District, Mathare, Kibera and slum areas, but this risk remains high across the city, in the surrounding areas and elsewhere in the country.

In Mombasa, the risk is higher in the Old Town and on and around the Likoni Ferry (which links Mombasa to the southern resorts).

Although uncommon, violent crimes have resulted in the deaths of British nationals, including during daylight hours.

Avoid walking alone in isolated areas, including in daylight. You might be directly targeted by criminals so be aware of your surroundings and make sure people know where you are and when you are due to return.

Crime rates are often higher around the Christmas and new year period so take particular precautions at this time of year.

Protecting your belongings

Bag snatching is common in bus stations, railway stations and airports. Be vigilant at all times and take into account any security advice given by your hotel, employer or your hosts. If you’re attacked, do not resist. Avoid carrying large sums of money or wearing expensive jewellery.

Scams

Be aware of thieves posing as police officers and private security guards. Always ask for identification.

Drink and food spiking

Do not accept food or drink from strangers as it may be drugged.

Attacks and sexual assault

Sexual assaults are rare, but do happen, and can affect both male and female travellers.

In an emergency, contact the emergency services on 999 or 112.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

You must carry ID with you at all times. A copy of your passport is normally acceptable, but police officers may insist on seeing the original document.

Dress code

The coastal areas of Kenya are mainly Muslim. There is no strict dress code. Out of courtesy you should dress conservatively away from tourist resorts and hotels – particularly in Mombasa, during Ramadan or if you visit religious areas or buildings.

Smoking and e-cigarette bans

It is illegal to smoke in any public place in Kenya, except in designated smoking areas. If you smoke in a prohibited place, you can face a fine of up to 50,000 Kenyan shillings or up to 6 months’ imprisonment.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

If you use or traffic illegal drugs in Kenya, you can get a heavy fine and prison sentence. The penalty for possession is up to 10 years in prison. Individuals found to be trafficking illegal drugs can face life imprisonment.

Using cameras in secure areas

It is illegal to take photographs of official buildings, including embassies, or at airports. You could be arrested if caught.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex activity is illegal and not tolerated in Kenya’s conservative society. Showing affection in public could lead to arrest and imprisonment.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs

It is illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade any of its parts without a licence. Those caught purchasing or trafficking banned goods may face a fine or prison sentence. 

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Game reserves and national parks

Most visits to game reserves and other tourist areas are trouble-free. If you’re visiting game reserves, use reputable tour operators and arrive at your destination in daylight hours. Do not purchase 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. Swimming in rivers and lakes is illegal in national parks and is best avoided elsewhere due the dangers from wildlife and waterborne diseases.

Hiking and mountaineering

You may be required to hire a local guide when hiking in Kenya. Be conscious of the risk posed by wildlife and do not approach wild animals.

Altitude sickness is a risk when hiking in high-altitude areas, including on Mount Kenya.

Make sure your travel insurance covers all your planned activities.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Kenya, see information on driving abroad.

You need either a 1968 international driving permit (IDP) or a UK driving licence to drive in Kenya. The 1949 IDP is not accepted any more. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence in Kenya for up to 3 months. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence.

If you’re staying longer or living in Kenya, you’ll need to get a Kenyan driving licence.

Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as driving experience, age and holding an IDP. Only hire vehicles from reputable companies.

Road conditions and driving standards are often poor. Always drive with windows closed and doors locked. When driving outside of cities and in remote areas, consider driving in convoy. Avoid driving at night if possible.

Bus travel

There have been serious accidents involving long-distance buses and minibuses (‘matatus’). The accidents are often caused by poor maintenance and speeding. Often minibuses are uninsured. Check operators’ safety standards.

There are frequent minibus hijackings and robberies.

Driving fines

On-the-spot fines from traffic police are common but illegal. If a traffic police officer stops you, ask them to follow the legal process. The officer should issue you with a ‘receipt for cash bond’. This paperwork tells you when and where you need to attend court to answer the charge against you.

Air travel

If you charter a private aircraft, check with the company about the condition of the aircraft and runways. If the company has no safety pilot, find another company that does.

Rail travel

Passenger trains run between Nairobi and Mombasa. Take care of your belongings while on the train and at railway stations. If you leave your compartment, take your valuables with you.

Sea travel

Piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remain a significant threat.

For more information see piracy and armed robbery at sea.

Remote areas

Monitor local media and take care in all remote areas. The Kenya Tourism Federation Safety and Communication Center provides tourist advice and emergency help.

Extreme weather and natural disasters 

Earthquakes

Kenya lies on an active fault and tremors occur from time to time. The last significant earthquake 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 an earthquake.

This section has safety advice for regions of Kenya. It only covers regions where FCDO has specific advice.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice and safety and security advice.

There have been a number of terrorist attacks in Kenya in recent years. In particular, there are frequent attacks in the north-eastern border regions (Lamu, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera Counties), most of which were attributed to Al Shabaab. These have killed members of the Kenyan security forces as well as civilians. The Kenyan security forces have increased their presence in the affected areas. Armed militia groups operate within the Boni Forest and along the border with Somalia. Due to the terrorism risk, the FCDO advises against all but essential travel along the Kenya-Somalia border, and north-eastern coast.

Kenya-Somalia border

Due to on-going terrorism activity, FCDO advises against all but essential travel to areas within 60km of Kenya’s border with Somalia.

Eastern Garissa County

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Eastern Garissa County, up to 20km north-west of the A3.

Mandera County

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Mandera County, excluding Mandera West subcounty.

Lamu County

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Lamu County, excluding Lamu Island and Manda Island.

If you travel to Lamu Island or Manda Island, you should fly to Lamu Airport (a civilian airport on Manda Island). Do not travel by road.

Tana River County

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to areas of Tana River County north of the Tana River, up to 20km north-west of the A3.

Coast between the Tana River and Galana River

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to within 15km of the coast between the Tana River and the Galana (Athi-Galana-Sabaki) River.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Nairobi City

For travel between Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Nairobi City, you should use the Mombasa Road or the Nairobi Expressway. There is a higher risk of carjacking on the old airport road (Airport South Road) and Jogoo Road.

The Mombasa Road can get very busy during rush hour, and check-in can take several hours. Allow plenty of time to get to the airport. A vehicle security check outside the airport may add to your journey time.

North and north-east Kenya

In early 2024 there have been increased reports of criminal activity linked to cattle rustling and banditry in the area from West Pokot (in the northern Rift Valley) east towards Isiolo county. Foreigners are not usually the target, but you should take great care when travelling in the area. The Government of Kenya have announced an enhanced security presence in the area.

Turkana, West Pokot, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Baringo, Laikipia and Samburu counties

The Kenyan government has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in parts of Turkana, West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo, Laikipia and Samburu counties. Follow local security measures and use caution.

Kenya-Ethiopia border

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 before breaking the journey.

Mount Elgon

There is a large security presence in Mount Elgon because of armed clashes. Further incidents are possible. Seek local advice before you set off.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Kenya. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare facilities in Kenya

FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Kenya.

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Kenya.

COVID-19 healthcare in Kenya

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has information on COVID-19 testing facilities.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Kenya

Telephone: 999 (ambulance, fire, police)

Kenya Tourism Federation Safety and Communications Center

The Kenya Tourism Federation Safety and Communication Center provides tourist advice and emergency help.

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Kenya and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact British High Commission in Nairobi.

You can also contact FCDO online.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges.

Risk information for British companies

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.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.