Safety in Kenya

Safety in Kenya is a concern for many expats moving to the country. Crime is an issue, especially in Kenya’s larger cities of Nairobi and Mombasa. However, with the necessary precautions and a bit of common sense, expats should be able to live a relatively peaceful day-to-day life in Kenya.

The greatest concern for most expats living in Kenya is safety on the roads. The behaviour of local drivers is often reckless and traffic accidents are common.

In many cases, expats who are aware of safety issues in Kenya can take the necessary actions to limit the danger and have a comfortable expat experience.

Crime in Kenya

Crime rates are high in Kenya’s major cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. Expats living in Kenya will usually hire security guards for their homes or opt to live in secure, gated housing complexes. 

Car-jackings, muggings and petty theft also occur on Kenya’s city streets. Expats should be vigilant, keep valuables out of sight and avoid carrying large sums of money. It's also best not to walk around the city centre at night. Foreigners in Kenya are likely targets for criminals who pose as tour guides and police officers.

Scammers will also engage foreigners in conversation and tell them stories about being a refugee or having sick relatives, simply to get some cash. In most cases, this is more of a nuisance than a real danger, and such individuals will usually give up once they've been told 'no'.

Terrorism in Kenya

There is a risk of terrorism in Kenya. The main threat comes from extremists linked to Al Shabaab, a militant group in Somalia which has issued public threats against Kenya because of its military involvement in Somalia.  

Terrorist attacks in Kenya are usually indiscriminate and targets vary from government offices and schools to shopping centres, markets, bars and nightclubs. Places of worship have also been attacked in the past.

Many governments advise their nationals to avoid travelling close to the Kenya-Somalia border, particularly Garissa county. 

Road safety in Kenya

Driving in Kenya can be dangerous as road conditions and driving standards are poor. Most expats will be provided with a company car and a local driver, which is perhaps the safest option when it comes to getting around Kenya.

Those who decide to drive in Kenya should always do so defensively and be vigilant. Due to the risk of car-jackings, especially in Kenya’s bigger cities, it's essential to have windows and doors locked at all times. Be especially careful when driving outside cities and avoid driving at night as this is when most of Kenya’s road traffic accidents occur.

Be cautious of travelling in long-distance buses at nighttime as there have been a number of serious accidents involving intercity buses in Kenya. Opt to travel with a reputable bus company as some smaller operations use poorly maintained vehicles, which are often driven recklessly.

Travelling by matatu isn't recommended as they're notoriously badly driven and uninsured. There have also been reports of matatus occasionally being hijacked and the passengers being robbed.

Political instability in Kenya

In the past, Kenya has faced considerable flare-ups of violence, often as a result of ethnic tensions.

While expats are unlikely to be caught up in this type of civil unrest, they're advised to stay away from any political demonstrations or protests that could turn violent. Major protests usually take place during election campaigns, and there have been some incidents of violence during past elections.

Health hazards in Kenya

It's essential to visit a healthcare practitioner for information on which vaccinations are necessary before moving to Kenya. Malaria, cholera and dengue fever are health risks in Kenya. Expats should take the necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent and mosquito nets at night. Expats moving to Kenya should also consider taking a course of anti-malarial tablets.

Another safety risk for expats in Kenya is the heat. It's important not to become dehydrated, to limit time in the sun and to drink filtered or bottled water, as the quality of tap water in Kenya isn't always reputable.

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