Kenya Traveler Information - Travel Advice
Travel Advice with a Travel Advisory overview from the US State Department. Here we cover Visa, Safety & Security, local Laws and Insurance in our Kenya Traveler Information guide.
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PASSPORT VALIDITY: 6months.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: 2pages.
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: Yes.
VACCINATIONS: Yellow Fever.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: None.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: 100,000 Kenyan Shillings.
Embassies and Consulates
United Nations Avenue
Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone: +(254) (20) 363-6451
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(254) (20) 363-6170
See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Kenya for information on U.S. – Kenya relations.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
Kenyan Immigration has instituted a strict visa policy whereby all visitors are strongly encouraged to obtain visas by using an online system, though visas are available upon arrival at international ports of entry including Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
- A passport with at least two blank pages, six months’ validity, and a visa are required to enter Kenya.
- Single-entry visas are available online and upon arrival at Kenyan airports; however, Kenyan Immigration plans to end visas upon arrival in the future.
- Multiple-entry visas must be applied for prior to traveling to Kenya.
- Obtain the latest information on visas, as well as any additional details regarding entry requirements, from the Embassy of Kenya, 2249 R Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 387-6101, or the Kenyan Consulates General in Los Angeles and New York City.
- You should have proof of yellow fever immunizations, or you may be denied entry.
- In December 2018, the Kenyan government announced a new work permit program that requires foreigners to apply for permits and visas from their country of origin. It is recommended that work permit applications be submitted 6-8 weeks prior to travel. People already in Kenya working on a permit should submit renewal applications at last 90 days before the permit expires.
For additional information on immunizations and detailed country-specific recommendations on vaccinations and other health precautions for travelers to Kenya, visit the CDC’s Travelers’ Health website.
HIV/AIDS Restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to, or foreign residents of, Kenya.
Safety and Security
You should review the Department of State’s Travel Advisory for Kenya before considering travel to Kenya.
Terrorism: Terrorist threats remain in Kenya.
Terrorist attacks in Kenya have cumulatively resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of people. Attacks have occurred in periods leading up to and during religious holidays and days of national significance. However, an attack is possible at any time. Please note these recent events:
- In January 2019, a small bomb exploded in Nairobi’s Central Business District, slightly injuring two people.
- In January 2019, a terrorist attack on the Dusit Hotel complex in the Westlands District of Nairobi resulted in the death of 21 victims, including one U.S. citizen.
- In November 2018, a 23-year old Italian national was kidnapped from a rural area in Kilifi County approximately 50 kilometers west of Malindi along the Kenyan coast.
Regions to avoid:
- The northeastern Kenyan counties of Mandera, Wajir, and Garissa (including the cities of El Wak, Wajir, Garissa, Mandera, and Liboi).
- All parts of the coastal counties of Tana River and Lamu, and all areas of Kilifi County north of Malindi.
- The road between Kainuk and Lodwar in Turkana County due to banditry.
- The Nairobi neighborhoods of Eastleigh and Kibera.
- Avoid using the Likoni ferry due to safety concerns.
The Peace Corps formally closed its volunteer activities in Kenya in 2018 due to security concerns.
Cultural Rehabilitation Centers: Some schools and other facilities acting as cultural rehabilitation centers are operating in Kenya with inadequate or nonexistent licensing and oversight. Reports of minors and young adults being held in these facilities against their wills and physically abused are common.
CRIME: Crime in Kenya is a regular occurrence and Kenyan authorities have limited capacity to deter and investigate such acts.
- Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including home invasions, burglaries, armed carjackings, muggings, and kidnappings can occur at any time.
- “Matatus” (privately-operated public transportation buses) tend to be targeted since they carry multiple passengers.
- Cases of violent street crime targeting Westerners occur in many seemingly safe areas of Nairobi, ranging from simple muggings to kidnapping and extortion, including attacks during daylight hours. U.S. citizens using off-the-street taxis have also been victims of robbery, kidnapping, and extortion.
Forced Marriage is known to occur in Kenya.
Sexual Assault is prevalent in Kenya and frequently goes unreported.
- Victims of sexual assault may have difficulty receiving adequate social or medical support.
- Sexual assault has largely been associated with women. However, the sexual assault of men has been a growing trend that often goes unreported because of the stigma associated with it.
Domestic Violence: The Kenyan government has laws that protect its citizens from domestic violence. You should contact your local police station if you feel unsafe or are a victim of domestic violence.
Victims of Crime: Report crimes to the local police station and then contact the U.S. Embassy during business hours at +254-(0)20-363-6451, or after-hours at +254-(0) 20-363-6000 in cases of emergency.
Please remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes. See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police.
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent.
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms.
- provide a list of local attorneys.
- provide our information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States in cases of destitution,
- help find temporary accommodation and arrange flights to a United States home residence.
- replace a stolen or lost passport.
Kenya has assistance programs for victims of crime sponsored by nongovernmental organizations. These programs include but are not limited to the following:
- Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC) has been providing specialized medical treatment and psychosocial support to low income survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
- Healthcare Assistance Kenya (HAK) offers a 24 hour Rapid Response Service to women and children survivors of Gender Based Violence at its Call Centre as well as a 24 hour toll-free hotline for sexual and gender based violence assistance.
Tourism: The Kenyan Tourism Regulatory Authority has oversight for the country’s tourism sector. The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities vary by region. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. Game parks and related safari tours with well-established operators have generally been reported to be safe. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in or near the major cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
- Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs in Kenya are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
- Kenya enacted strict legislation regulating the sale and consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.
- Penalties for possessing banned wildlife items under Kenya’s Wildlife Act include large fines and severe penalties, including life imprisonment.
- Violations of the Kenya Firearms Act are punishable from one year to life imprisonment. Possession of any amount of ammunition can incur a minimum seven-year sentence.
Arrest Notification: You should ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately if you are arrested or detained. See our webpage for further information.
Customs regulations on importing items such as antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency, ivory, rhino horn, and other wildlife products including hides, skins, and teeth into or out of Kenya are strict.
U.S. citizens have been detained and arrested for attempting to bring contraband into Kenya. Contact the Embassy of Kenya or one of Kenya’s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Alcoholic Drinks Control Act of 2010, which regulates when and where alcoholic drinks may be consumed in public, states that a person found by local law enforcement authorities to be intoxicated or disorderly in or near public areas, including some businesses, may be arrested without warrant and brought to court for trial.
- If convicted, the maximum fine is 500 Kenyan Shillings and/or imprisonment for a maximum of three months.
- If convicted three times of the same charge within a 12 month period, you will be required to participate in mandatory rehabilitation at your expense.
More information on this law may be found on Kenya's substance abuse website, NACADA.
Tobacco Control Act 2007 regulates public smoking and the marketing and sale of tobacco products in Kenya. In public places, smoking is allowed only in designated smoking areas.
Currency: You may depart the country with up to 100,000 Kenyan shillings.
- Destruction of Kenyan currency, even in small amounts, is illegal, and almost always results in arrest and a fine.
- You should ensure that your U.S. currency bills are relatively new, as banks in Kenya have been known not to accept older U.S. currency.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the governing body of Kenya’s national parks, requires all tour operators and safari lodges carry nationally-mandated insurance. You should:
- inquire whether prospective safari camps or tour operators are in compliance with this requirement;
- observe all local or park regulations and exercise appropriate caution in unfamiliar surroundings; and
- thoroughly check the qualifications and safety record of all tourist lodges and guides before engaging their services and venturing into the wild in their care.
Firearms: Import, possession, and use of firearms is governed by the Kenya Firearms Act.
- Import of all firearms, including sporting guns, is prohibited in Kenya except in accordance with the terms of an import permit.
- Possession of firearms while in Kenya requires a firearms certificate, which can be difficult to obtain.
- Violations of the Kenya Firearms Act are punishable from one year to life imprisonment. Possession of any amount of ammunition is punishable by a minimum seven-year sentence.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report – see country reports
- Human Rights Report – see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: Kenyan law criminalizes same-sex sexual activity.
- Kenyan penal code criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which is interpreted to prohibit consensual same-sex sexual activity, and specifies a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.
- A separate statute specifically criminalizes sex between men and specifies a maximum penalty of 21 years’ imprisonment.
- Police have detained persons under these laws, particularly suspected sex workers.
- LGBTI advocacy organizations, such as the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, have been permitted to register and conduct activities. However, societal discrimination based on sexual orientation is widespread.
- Female genital mutilation (FGM) and Cutting (C): This act is known to occur in Kenya. It is a federal crime to perform FGM/C in the United States on any minor younger than 18 years old, punishable by fines and up to five years in prison. It is also a criminal offense to knowingly take a minor younger than 18 years old outside of the United States for the purpose of performing FGM/C (so-called “vacation cutting”).
See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Although Kenyan law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, the Government of Kenya has not consistently enforced these provisions and implementation has been slow.
- Access to government or private buildings, medical facilities, restaurants, or other public or private facilities is limited.
- Accessibility to public transportation and taxis is limited. There is no functioning bus system in Nairobi, but rather an extensive use of vans (“matatus”) that travel along designated routes; taxis are also used, as are motorcycles serving as taxis (“boda bodas”).
- Public transportation and taxis do not accommodate wheelchairs; these vehicles are most often hailed from the side of busy roads.
- Footpaths along the side of roads are generally unpaved, bumpy, dirt paths, and road crossings are often unmarked.
Medical services are adequate in Nairobi for most medical conditions and emergencies. Health care outside of major cities (Nairobi, Kisumu, and Mombasa) is very limited.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Surrogacy: Surrogacy programs in Kenya are unregulated and families have reported difficulties obtaining required legal documentation from Kenyan authorities and taking children out of Kenya; difficulties may increase if a parent is single.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Government of Kenya to ensure that the medication is legal in Kenya. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.
The Government of Kenya requires proof of yellow fever vaccination for travelers who are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever.
The following diseases are prevalent:
- Traveler’s Diarrhea
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Road accidents are a major threat to travelers in Kenya. Roads are poorly maintained and are often bumpy, potholed, and unpaved.
- Traffic moves on the left side of the road, which can be very disorienting to those not accustomed to it.
- Beware of vehicles traveling at excessive speed, and unpredictable local driving habits.
- Many vehicles are poorly maintained and lack basic safety equipment.
- Heavy traffic jams, either due to rush hour or because of accidents, are common.
- Some vehicles will cross the median strip and drive against the flow of traffic.
U.S. citizens have been fatally injured in accidents involving long-distance, inter-city buses and local buses and vans called “matatus”. Matatus are commonly known to be the greatest danger to other vehicles and pedestrians. USG personnel are prohibited from using matatus.
Injuries and fatalities involving two-wheeled motorcycle taxis, called “boda bodas,” are equally common. Boda bodas often fail to observe basic safety precautions and ignore traffic rules. Inter-city night-time road travel should be avoided due to the poor road and street light conditions and the threat of banditry throughout the country. USG personnel are prohibited from using boda bodas.
During the rainy season, some unpaved roads are impassable even with four-wheel drive vehicles with high clearance. Travelers are urged to consult with local officials regarding road conditions.
Most passenger trains are considered unsafe, particularly during rainy seasons, because of the lack of routine maintenance and safety checks. The only approved train route for USG personnel is the SGR from Nairobi to Mombasa. However, passengers should ride only in the first class cabin to avoid pickpockets and facilitate a rapid exit if necessary.
Consider carefully whether to use the Likoni ferry in Mombasa due to safety concerns.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Kenya’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Kenya’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Maritime: Mariners planning travel to Kenya should check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts at the Maritime Administration (MARAD) website. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings website.
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
International Parental Child Abduction
Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Kenya. For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.