Kenya - Consular Information Sheet
July 11, 2001
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Kenya is a developing east African
country known for its wildlife and beautiful national parks. The
capital city is Nairobi. The second largest city is Mombasa, located
on the southeast coast. Tourist facilities are widely available
in Nairobi, the game parks, the reserves and on the coast.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Visas
should be obtained in advance, although airport visas are available.
Travelers who opt to obtain an airport visa should expect delays
upon arrival. There is a fee for the visa, whether obtained in
advance or at the airport. Evidence of yellow fever immunization
may be requested.
Travelers may obtain the latest information on visas as well
as any additional details regarding entry requirements from the
Embassy of Kenya, 2249 R street, N.W., Washington, DC 20008, telephone
(202) 387-6101, or the Kenyan Consulates General in Los Angeles
and New York City. Persons outside the United States should contact
the nearest Kenyan embassy or consulate.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Kenya became a multi-party democracy
in late 1991, and its political institutions are still developing.
From time to time, political or ethnic tensions boil over in outbreaks
of civil disorder or political violence. Student demonstrations
in Nairobi have become increasingly common. Ongoing electricity
outages and water rationing may elicit further demonstrations.
In the lead-up to the next national election in 2002, political
meetings, demonstrations, and strikes are likely. These are often
spontaneous, unpredictable, and sometimes violent. They are normally
localized but could affect tourists. Travelers should follow the
printed and electronic media to keep abreast of where and when
any political rallies and demonstrations are likely to occur,
and of the potential for confrontation. U.S. citizens should avoid
large public gatherings, political rallies and street demonstrations
and maintain security awareness at all times.
The area near Kenya's border with Somalia has been the site of
a number of incidents of violent criminal activity, including
kidnappings. In a late 1998 attack by armed bandits at a resort
in the Lamu district near the border with Somalia, U.S. citizens
were identified as specific targets, although none were present.
There are some indications of ties between Muslim extremist groups,
including the Usama Bin Laden organization, and these roving groups
of Somali gunmen. Recent information about possible targeting
of Americans for kidnapping or assassination in this same area
has heightened the Embassy's concern. In March 1999, a U.S. citizen
was killed, reportedly by a Somali national, on the Somali side
of the border area.
The sparsely populated northern half of Kenya is an area where
there are recurrent, localized incidents of violent cattle rustling,
counter-raids, ethnic conflict, tribal or clan rivalry, and armed
banditry. Over the last several years, incidents have occurred
in the Keiro Valley, Northern Rift Valley sections of Laikipia
and Nakuru Districts, and other areas north of Mount Kenya. A
number of incidents have also occurred near the game parks or
lodges north of Mwingi, Meru, and Isiolo frequented by tourists.
The precise areas tend to shift with time. For these reasons,
U.S. citizens who plan to visit Kenya are urged to take basic
security precautions to maximize their safety. Travel to northern
Kenya should be undertaken with at least two vehicles to ensure
a backup in the case of a breakdown or other emergency.
Villagers in rural areas are very suspicious of all strangers.
There have been several incidents of violence against Kenyan and
foreign adults in rural areas who are suspected of child stealing.
U.S. visitors to rural areas should be aware that close contact
with children, including taking their pictures or giving them
candy, can be viewed with deep alarm, and may provoke panic and
violence. Adoptive parents traveling with their adoptive child
should exercise particular caution and are urged to carry complete
copies of their adoption paperwork with them at all times.
On August 7, 1998, terrorists bombed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi,
killing 213 people and injuring many more in and around the Embassy.
The U.S. Embassy subsequently relocated to a different location.
CRIME INFORMATION: There is a high rate of crime in all
cities, particularly Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and at coastal
beach resorts. Reports of attacks against tourists by groups of
two or more armed assailants have increased significantly throughout
the country. Pickpockets and thieves carry out "snatch and
run" crimes on city streets and near crowds. Visitors have
found it safer not to carry valuables, but rather to store them
in hotel safety deposit boxes or safe rooms. Walking alone or
at night, especially in downtown areas, public parks, along footpaths,
on beaches, and in poorly lit areas, is dangerous.
Thieves routinely snatch jewelry and other objects from open
vehicle windows while motorists are either stopped at traffic
lights or in heavy traffic. Armed vehicle hijackings are common
in Nairobi, but can occur anywhere in the country. Some nine or
ten vehicles are stolen by armed robbers in the capital every
day. Although these attacks are often violent, victims are generally
injured only if they resist. There is also a high incidence of
residential break-ins. Thieves and con artists have been known
to impersonate hotel employees, police officers or government
officials. Thieves on buses and trains may steal valuables from
inattentive passengers. Passengers on inter-city buses should
not accept food or drink from a new acquaintance, even a child,
as such food or drink may contain narcotics used to incapacitate
a victim and facilitate a robbery.
Many scams, perpetrated against unsuspecting tourists and foreign-looking
residents on foot, are prevalent in and around the city of Nairobi.
Many of these involve persons impersonating police officers and
using fake police ID badges and other credentials. In one of the
latest scams, a tourist was stopped by someone who appeared to
be a beggar telling a "sob story." The tourist agreed
to purchase a cup of coffee for the beggar. The tourist was soon
after approached by "police officers" who told him that
he was seen talking with a drug dealer/counterfeit suspect. The
"police" demanded money from him. American visitors
and residents should be alert to these kinds of scams and immediately
contact the U.S. Embassy if they think they are being or have
Highway banditry is common in much of northeastern province,
significant portions of Eastern Province, the northern part of
Coast Province, and the northern part of the Rift Valley Province
- areas that are remote and sparsely populated. Incidents also
occur occasionally on Kenya's main highways, particularly after
dark. Due to increased bandit activity, air travel is the recommended
means of transportation when visiting any of the coastal resorts
north of Malindi. Travelers to Garissa and Lake Turkana should
travel with the police escorts or convoys organized by the Government
There have been recent attacks on ships in the vicinity of Kenyan
waters, in particular near the Kenya-Somalia border. Mariners
should be vigilant.
The Kenyan mail system can be unreliable and monetary instruments
(credit cards, checks, etc.) are frequently stolen. International
couriers provide the safest means of shipping envelopes and packages,
although anything of value should be insured.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or
consulate. The pamphlets A
Safe Trip Abroad and Tips
for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa provide useful information
on personal security while traveling abroad and an on travel in
the region in general. Both are available from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC 20402, internet address http://www.access.gpo.gov/su
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Adequate medical services are available
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges
Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior
to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas
and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical
evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs
incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage
is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do
not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.
However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance
plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including
emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans
should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require
payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical
evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured
travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme
difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your
trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare
provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses
you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric
treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available
via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202)
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: There are frequent outbreaks
of cholera, and malaria is endemic in Kenya outside Nairobi.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be
obtained from the centers for disease control and prevention's
international traveler's hotline at telephone: 1-877-fyi-trip
(1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-faxx (1-888-232-3299), or by
visiting the CDC
internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Kenya is provided for general reference only
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of public transportation: poor
Urban road conditions/maintenance: poor
Rural road conditions/maintenance: poor
Availability of roadside assistance: poor
In Kenya, one drives on the left side of the road, which can
be very disorienting to those not accustomed to it. Excessive
speed, unpredictable local driving habits and manners, poor vehicle
maintenance and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles
are daily hazards on Kenyan roads. When there is a heavy traffic
jam either due to rush hour or because of an accident, drivers
will drive across the median strip and drive in to oncoming traffic.
There are often fatal accidents involving long-distance, inter-city
buses, or local buses. Also, vehicle travel outside major cities
at night should be avoided due to the poor road and street light
conditions, and the threat of banditry.
During the rainy season, many unpaved roads are passable only
with four-wheel drive vehicles with high clearance. Severe storms
and heavy rains in late 1997 and early 1998 led to extensive flooding
and critical damage to roads and bridges, making travel and communications
difficult in many parts of the country. Although the government
repaired many of the damaged roads and bridges, some are still
impassable. Travelers are urged to consult with the U.S. Embassy
in Nairobi and local officials regarding road conditions.
additional general information about road safety, including links
to foreign government sites, see the Department of State,
Bureau of Consular Affairs' website at http://travel.state.gov/road-
safety.html. For specific information concerning Kenyan driving
permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance,
contact the Kenyan National Tourist Organization offices in New
York at telephone 212-486-1300 or in California at telephone 310-274-6635.
RAILWAY SAFETY: Travel via passenger train in Kenya is
considered unsafe because of the lack of routine maintenance and
safety checks. Over the last two years there have been several
accidents, including a passenger train derailment between Nairobi
and Mombasa, which resulted in the deaths of 32 people, including
one foreign tourist. Several trains derailed in 2000.
The Kenya Railway service has been reduced from seven days to
three days per week. The service from Nairobi to Malaba is now
only a cargo service and no longer a passenger service.
AVIATION SAFETY: As there is no direct commercial air
service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to
operate such service, between the U.S. and Kenya, the U.S. Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Kenya's Civil Aviation
Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit
Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S.
Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air
carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Kenyan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Kenya are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences
and heavy fines. The penalty for possession of illegal drugs,
including marijuana, is 10 years imprisonment, with no option
of a fine.
CURRENCY REGULATIONS: Up to 100,000 Kenyan shillings may
be taken out of the country. Destruction of Kenyan currency, even
in small amounts, is illegal, and almost always results in arrest
and a fine.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For
information on international adoption of children, international
parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement
issues, please refer to our internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's
issues.html or telephone 202-736-7000.
GAME PARK SECURITY: There has been an increase in armed
banditry in or near many of Kenya's national parks and game reserves,
particularly the Samburu, Leshaba, and Masai Mara game reserves.
In response, the Kenya wildlife service and police have taken
some steps to strengthen security in the affected areas but the
problem has not been eliminated. Travelers who do not use the
services of reputable travel firms or knowledgeable guides or
drivers are especially at risk. Safaris are best undertaken with
a minimum of two vehicles so that there is a backup in case of
mechanical failure or other emergency. Solo camping is always
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Local tap water is not potable.
Sealed bottled water is safe to drink and can be purchased in
hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores.
Kenya Telephone and Telegraph has discontinued its "collect
call" facility. 1-800 numbers cannot be accessed from Kenya.
Use of international long-distance calling cards is very limited
in Kenya. International long-distance costs from Kenya are significantly
higher than corresponding long-distance rates in the United States.
Several local companies offer computer Internet access, including
on an hourly rate basis. Many hotels have facsimile machines but
often limit their access to guests; some facsimile services are
also available at office supply shops. Travelers are urged to
consider their method of maintaining contact with family and friends
when making their pre-travel preparations.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S.
citizens visiting or resident in Kenya are encouraged to register
with the U.S. Embassy, where they may obtain updated information
on travel and security within Kenya. Biographic information,
passport data, and itinerary may be faxed to the U.S. Embassy
at (254) (2) 537-810; or directly to the consular section at (254)
The Embassy is located on Mombasa Road, Nairobi, Kenya; telephone
(254) (2) 537-800; facsimile (254) (2) 537-810. In the event of
an after-hours emergency, the Embassy duty officer may be contacted
at (254) (2) 537-809. The Embassy's international mailing address
is P.O. Box 30137 Nairobi, Kenya. Mail using U.S. domestic postage
may be addressed to Unit 64100, APO AE 09831.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated February 9,
2001 to update sections on Crime, Medical Insurance, and Railway