While Kenya is generally peaceful and friendly, crime and protests during elections can increase and travelers can get caught in the middle.
The best advice is to be an informed traveler. Check the news, websites and ask locals about any tension. Because like many things in parts of Africa, problems can escalate very quickly.
Plus having a good grasp of what's happening in the country you are traveling in can make your visit far more interesting.
Despite Kenya being a beautiful and exotic destination, crime is common in Kenya's urban centres, coastal beach resorts, northern Kenya (including the North East Province), the northern parts of Eastern, Coastal and Rift Valley Provinces and north of Malindi. But there's no need to be paranoid and change your travel plans, exercise some common sense and take precautions where possible to avoid crime as you would anywhere you travel.
There are some suburbs travelers should avoid as they tend to be crime hot spots. Most include slums, like Kibera which is the largest urban slum in Africa. Eastleigh, in Nairobi's east is considered a high risk area due to the number of terror related incidents which have occurred since 2012. Violent crimes have also been known to occur in Buruburu, Kasarani, Mathare, Pangan, South B and South C.
Bag snatching and other petty crime is common around transport hubs. Violent crime in Nairobi is increasing in some suburbs with armed carjackings, kidnappings and home invasions.
Compared to the capital Nairobi, Mombasa's crime rate is lower however it's still necessary to take precautions when out and about.
Travelers should be alert and take caution in the Old Town area of Mombasa and the Likoni Ferry. Avoid hanging out at the beach at night and take taxis wherever you need to go at night rather than walk.
Bandits or shiftas are an unfortunate problem in Kenya, with many originating from neighboring Somalia. The issue is widespread in Kenya which means you need to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions if you plan to travel beyond the urban centres. It's best to avoid traveling at night.
Tourists are rarely targeted in game reserves and national parks in Kenya but there have been past incidents involving tourists while on safari, even in the popular Masai Mara and Samburu reserves. Police and security forces are present in these areas and if your safari guides advise you to put your windows up, pack away your camera and other valuables while traveling through a village; listen to them. Aside from bandits, the occasional snatch and grab does happen.
Banditry, cattle rustling and ethnic clashes have caused sporadic violence in these areas. Travelers aren't always targeted but its better not to put yourself in a situation where you could be.
Travel advisories warn travelers not to travel to or around these border zones. All three countries are experiencing localized conflicts. Violence, such as armed banditry, violent cattle rustling, counter raids and tribal warfare, are common along the Kenya-Ethiopia border. Kidnapping, armed banditry and clan warfare occur along Kenya's borders with Sudan and Somalia. In November 2008, two Westerners were kidnapped on the Kenyan side of the Somali border and taken into Somalia. Somalia's border has long been a no-go zone for any travelers due its ever present internal conflicts and terrorism issues.
Anti Somali government extremist group Al Shaabab continue to threaten Kenya with attacks on shopping centres, foreign embassies and other spots where tourists frequent. Most government travel advisories indicate that travelers should exercise a higher than usual level of caution while in Kenya.
Kenya is targetted by Al Shaabab due to their military intervention in Somalia and highly developed tourism (which guarantees media coverage of their nefarious activities). Several of the latest terrorism incidents have occurred near the border with Somalia such as the 2015 Garissa University attack where around 150 people were killed and many injured. Attacks have continued in Garissa county and neighboring Lamu county.
In 2013, Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Centre was targeted. 67 people including foreigners lost their lives in a shooting carried out by Al Shaabab militants. The coastal town of Mombasa has also not been left untouched by terrorist activities with a police station targeted in a stabbing and petrol bomb attack by three assailants, leaving two police officers wounded.
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and it could land you in prison for up to 14 years plus financial penalties. Avoid public displays of affection as they are frowned upon and the locals can get hostile. People in positions of power such as government and numerous religious groups have often publicly denounced homosexuality which has continued to cultivate a culture of homophobia in the country. Attitudes are slowly changing thanks to local LGBTI services and advocacy groups however there's still a long way to go.
For the most part, female travelers to Kenya will have a trouble free time. The locals are friendly, respectful, hospitable and most speak English.
There have been some reports of women experiencing harassment by men trying their luck or prostitutes at the beach resort areas on the coast. Avoid hanging out at the beach or wandering around at night. Instead, take a taxi if you plan to head out at night, even if you are with others. Keep the beach wear at the beach and dress modestly when traveling around town. And as you would at home or anywhere else, avoid getting too intoxicated.
If you do decide to head to Kenya for a holiday, and there's no reason you shouldn't, then these tips might be helpful.
When traveling to any country, personal travel insurance is important. Not everyone travelling to East Africa will experience a violent crime, but petty theft is common and covering small possessions like cameras and jewelry is a good idea.
Choose a comprehensive travel insurance as travel can sometimes be a costly exercise and you don't want to be left short.
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