Australian Government advice for Kenya
When travelling to Kenya, you should always get travel insurance in case the worst happens. To help you ensure you travel safely, we have included the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Kenya.
- We advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Kenya due to the high threat of terrorist attack and high level of crime. Kenyan authorities are at a high state of alert. Monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
- Kenya has updated its e-visa system and now has a dedicated e-visa portal for tourists and visitors. See Entry and Exit . Australian travellers will still be able to obtain a visa on arrival during the initial stages of implementation of the e-visa system.
Numerous terrorist incidents have occurred in Kenya in recent years, resulting in a large number of deaths and injuries. The Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab continues to threaten to attack the interests of countries such as Kenya that are contributing forces to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Safety and security: Terrorism
. On 3 April 2015, an attack at Garissa University in North-Eastern Kenya killed 148 people and injured a number of others.
- The terrorist assault on the Westgate Shopping Mall in the Westlands district of Nairobi in September 2013 resulted in 67 deaths, including one Australian.
- Kenyan authorities have upgraded security measures across Kenya. These include enhanced security checks at all Kenyan airports. Local authorities have advised travellers to arrive one hour ahead of the normal time (i.e. at least three hours before scheduled flight times) to complete security formalities.
- Violent crime against Westerners, including armed carjacking and home invasion, occurs frequently in and around Nairobi. There have been a number of home invasions in Nairobi targeting the foreign community that have resulted in the deaths of householders, including several Australian citizens. See Safety and security: Crime .
- We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Nairobi due to the threat of terrorist attack. Take particular care in the Nairobi suburbs of Buruburu, Eastleigh, Kasarani, Kibera, Mathare, Pangani, South B and South C, due to the threat of extremist attacks and violent incidents. See Safety and security .
- We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Mombasa and coastal parts of Kilifi and Tana River counties and all of Lamu county due to the high threat of violence and terrorist attack.
- We strongly advise you not to travel to the border regions with Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia due to the threat of attacks by armed groups, kidnapping, armed banditry, and violent tribal and clan disputes. This area includes all of Mandera and Garissa counties and that part of Wajir country extending from the town of Wajir eastwards to the border. It also includes the area north of Pate Island in Lamu District.
- There is an ongoing threat of kidnap to westerners in Kenya, including residents, tourists, journalists and humanitarian workers. The threat is particularly high in the regions bordering Somalia. See Safety and security .
- We advise you to reconsider your need to travel along the A2 highway from Isiolo to Moyale due to sporadic violent clashes that have resulted in a number of deaths and injuries.
- See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit
Kenya has recently updated its visa processes and has introduced a
dedicated e-visa portal
for tourists and visitors. In September, the Kenyan Government also announced that Australian travellers would be able to obtain a visa on arrival during the initial stages of implementation of the e-visa system.
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the Kenyan High Commission for the most up-to-date information.
All foreign residents are required to carry their current Alien ID card at all times. Failure to present proof of registration could result in fines or jail.
All foreigners working in the charity sector require a valid work permit issued through the Charity Register. Working or volunteering with a tourist visa or no visa is not permitted and could result in fines and or jail.
In an effort to prevent the spread of Ebola into Kenya, passengers travelling from or through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone may experience delays when entering Kenya. Health professionals supporting efforts to contain the outbreak and Kenyan citizens have been exempt from delays. For more information on the outbreak and other travel restrictions and preventative measures, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa travel bulletin.
Kenya is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that all travellers be vaccinated for yellow fever before travelling to Kenya. If you are arriving from a country infected with yellow fever you will be required to present a valid yellow fever certificate to be allowed entry into Kenya.
Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.
Kenyan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations on the temporary importation or export from Kenya of items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, ivory and currency.
Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.
Safety and security
Ongoing high threat of terrorist attack
The terrorist group al-Shabaab continues to threaten attacks against Kenya and other countries that have contributed forces to AMISOM. We continue to receive reports that terrorists may be planning attacks against a range of targets in Kenya.
A major terrorist attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in the Westlands district of Nairobi in September 2013 resulted in 67 deaths, including one Australian. Kenyan authorities implemented heightened security arrangements at public places in response to the incident.
Several terrorist attacks have occurred following the Westgate attack, resulting in a large number of deaths and injuries. Kenyan authorities remain at a high state of alert. Further attacks are likely.
You should evaluate your personal security situation in the light of the continuing terrorist threats and public warnings of possible attacks. Should you choose to visit public places at this time we recommend that you exercise heightened vigilance and closely monitor the local media for information affecting your safety and security.
Australians should be particularly vigilant in the lead-up to and during all religious festivals, including Christmas, Easter and Ramadan, and days of national significance as militants have used such occasions to mount attacks.
Locations that may be subject to terrorist attack
Kenyan authorities have encouraged extra vigilance against possible terrorist attacks on public places. Attacks could be indiscriminate and target Kenyan institutions as well as places where expatriates and foreigners gather. Attacks could occur at any time. You could be caught up in attacks directed at others.
Possible terrorist targets frequented by westerners include western embassies, UN premises, hotels, airports, shopping areas, markets, bars, sports bars and nightclubs, restaurants and cafes, tourist resorts (including beach resorts and beaches particularly in the region surrounding Mombasa), safari lodges, international schools, churches and other places of worship, commercial airlines and other places frequented by foreigners.
Other possible targets include Kenyan Government buildings, transport hubs and infrastructure, and refugee camps near the Kenya-Somalia border where western aid workers may be targeted.
Terrorist acts could include suicide bombings, kidnappings, roadside IED attacks, attacks on civil aviation and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports.
You should exercise particular vigilance if attending sporting events including football matches. You should also avoid public venues, such as sports bars, nightclubs and restaurants that broadcast sporting events, particularly international events, as well as public transportation to these events.
Recent terrorist attacks in Kenya include:
- On 7 July 2015, an attack on a village near Mandera town killed at least 14 people.
- On 14 June 2015, an attack on a Kenyan military base in Baure, Lamu County, killed at least 13 people.
- On 3 April 2015, an attack at Garissa University killed 148 people and injured a large number of others.
- On 22 November 2014, Al-Shabaab militants shot and killed 28 people travelling on a bus in Mandera District, near the border with Somalia.
Nairobi suburbs of Buruburu, Eastleigh, Kasarani, Kibera, Mathare, Pangani, South B and South C: Australians should take particular care in these areas of Nairobi due the threat of extremist attacks and violent incidents.
Advice to Australian officials : Due to heightened security concerns, staff at the Australian High Commission in Nairobi have been advised to exercise greater vigilance. Security measures have been increased, particularly for travel to Kenyan Government buildings, the CBD, and to Mombasa and outskirts. We advise you to do the same.
Mombasa, Lamu, Tana River and Kilifi counties : In mid-2014 violence in Lamu and Tana River counties on the Kenyan coast caused a large number of deaths and injuries. We now advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Mombasa, coastal Tana River and Kilifi counties and all of Lamu county due to the high threat of ongoing violence and terrorist attack. This area extends approximately 65 kilometres inland in Tana River county, and 20 kilometres inland in Kilifi county.
Border Regions : We strongly advise against all travel to Kenya’s border regions with Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan because of the extreme threat of kidnapping, terrorism and violent conflict. The border region with Somalia includes all of Mandera and Garissa counties and that part of Wajir country extending from the town of Wajir eastwards to the border.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.
There is an ongoing threat of kidnapping of westerners in Kenya. This threat is particularly high in areas close to the border with Somalia and northern coastal regions of Lamu county.
Threats to humanitarian workers : You should be aware that humanitarian workers and journalists in border areas may be targeted for kidnapping. Armed groups from Somalia have previously kidnapped western aid workers working in the Somalia border region.
Threats to tourists and residents : Tourists and residents in coastal resorts and towns in eastern Kenya have been kidnapped by armed groups based in Somalia in the past. In light of previous attacks on foreigners we strongly advise you not to travel to areas along the Kenyan coast north of Pate Island in Lamu District.
The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place. See our Kidnapping threat bulletin.
Civil unrest/political tension
You should avoid all political rallies and protests as they may quickly turn violent. In the event of violence or civil unrest you should avoid all protests, monitor the media and other local information sources for information that could affect your safety and security and follow the instructions of local authorities.
International events and political developments may prompt large demonstrations in Kenya. Demonstrations over high food prices, alleged corruption, controversial media and tax legislation have resulted in violence and arrests in the past.
There have been regular outbreaks of violence across Kenya in recent years, though these usually take place away from areas frequented by tourists Riots and clashes have occurred regularly in Mombasa, with riots in February 2014, March 2013 and August 2012. Further such events are likely.
A2 Highway from Isiolo to Moyale : We advise you to reconsider your need to travel along the A2 highway from Isiolo to Moyale, due to sporadic violent clashes which have resulted in a number of deaths and injuries. If you opt to travel along this road you should exercise extreme caution.
The level of crime in Kenya is high. Due to the prevalence of street crime you should avoid walking after dark and remain vigilant at all times. If you are attacked, do not resist. You should be aware of your surroundings and remain conscious of the high risk of crime at all times.
Crimes targeting the foreign community in Nairobi : In Nairobi, violent crime against Westerners, including armed carjacking, kidnapping for ransom and home invasion, occurs frequently and can be brazen and brutal. A number of home invasions in Nairobi targeting the foreign community have resulted in the death of householders, including several Australian citizens. We strongly recommend Australians living in Kenya invest in robust personal security measures and regularly review their personal security arrangements. Anecdotal evidence suggests that foreigners are increasingly being targeted in private homes, tourist areas and while travelling by road. A number of incidents have occurred at night where criminals lay in wait outside residential security gates. You should be particularly vigilant when waiting in a vehicle while gates are being opened.
Nairobi suburbs of Buruburu, Eastleigh, Kasarani, Kibera, Mathare, Pangani, South B and South C : Australians should take particular care in these areas of Nairobi due the high levels of violent crime.
Violent robbery, car-jacking and kidnapping throughout Kenya : The risk of armed banditry, violent robbery, carjacking and kidnapping has increased in recent years. Crimes of this nature are 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. If you travel to remote areas or border regions, you could be the target of attacks or kidnappings. The incidence of crime generally rises during the holiday periods.
Other crimes : Muggings and armed robberies are common, though victims are generally not harmed if they don't resist. Jewellery and bag-snatching from open vehicle windows frequently occur while motorists are either stopped at traffic lights or in heavy traffic. You should avoid displaying expensive items that can readily be stolen, including jewellery and watches, when travelling or in public. When driving, you should ensure that windows are up, doors are locked and valuables are out of sight. Be aware that groups of motorcyclists have been known to target pedestrians for bag-snatching and motorists for carjacking. If you are attacked, do not resist.
Due to the very high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.
Scams, whereby criminals try to extort money from travellers using fake police, hotel and government identification, are common. You should always ask to see identification in order to establish bona fides.
In Nairobi, confrontations between police and criminal suspects occur regularly. Bystanders have been wounded or killed as result of indiscriminate gunfire in crowded areas. We advise you to remain vigilant at all times.
National parks and game reserves : Serious security incidents in Kenya’s national parks and conservancies are rare. However, crime does occur and travellers should exercise caution in these areas.
Visitors to the Ngong Forest Reserve and Ngong Hills should get an armed escort from the Kenyan Wildlife Services (KWS) because of the risk of robbery. The Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) can provide advice on reputable travel firms and guides.
North, north-eastern and western Kenya : Banditry, cattle rustling and ethnic clashes have caused sporadic violence in north and north-eastern Kenya and in the Mount Elgon region of western Kenya. Australians could inadvertently be caught up in violence directed at others. We advise you to seek advice from the police and travel in convoys or with police escorts if visiting these regions.
Borders with Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia : We strongly advise you not to travel to the border regions with Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia because of the extremely dangerous security situation. Localised incidents of violence, such as armed banditry, violent cattle rustling and counter raids, are common along the Kenya-Ethiopia border and Kenya-South Sudan border.
Borders with Uganda and Tanzania : There have been reports of banditry and robbery at unauthorised border crossing points on the borders with Uganda and Tanzania and along the road from Nairobi to the Tanzania borders.
Money and valuables
ATMs that accept international cards are widely available in Nairobi and major towns. Australian currency is not accepted in Kenya. Travellers’ cheques are accepted at large banks and foreign exchanges, though are not widely accepted in hotels.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
Airport security arrangements: Enhanced security checks are in place at Kenyan airports. Local authorities have advised travellers to arrive one hour ahead of the normal time (i.e. at least three hours before scheduled international flight times) to complete security formalities.
Driving in Kenya is dangerous due to poor road conditions, poorly maintained vehicles and insufficient street lighting. Australians travelling by road should verify local security conditions beforehand. Travel at night on major highways in and out of Nairobi and on rural roads should be avoided. Travel at night to and from Nairobi’s international airports (JKIA and Wilson) should only be undertaken with a reputable tour or taxi company.
We recommend that in Kenya you only use radio taxis and only from official taxi stands or via callout.
Bus terminals and other gathering areas for public and private transport have been the target of terrorist and criminal attacks on a number of occasions in recent years. They remain vulnerable to attack and you should exercise particular caution in such locations. Public transport (primarily buses and minivans – known locally as ‘matutus’) is dangerous, as driving standards are poor and roads and vehicles are inadequately maintained.
For further advice, see our road travel page.
Passenger trains are considered to be unsafe, especially during the rainy season. Train services are unreliable. Theft is common on trains and there have been cases where passengers’ belongings have been taken from their compartments.
The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities such as diving, may not be of the same level as in Australia. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider.
Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of Kenya. There have been attacks by pirates against all forms of shipping to the immediate north of Kenya around Somalia's waters and the Gulf of Aden. Somali pirates, using motherships, have attacked shipping further than 1,000 nautical miles (1,850 kilometres) from the coast of Somalia. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website. See also our piracy bulletin for more information.
The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Kenya.
Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
You are subject to the local laws Kenya, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter . But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
Homosexual acts between men are illegal in Kenya and penalties may include up to 14 years imprisonment. Same sex relationships are frowned upon by some members of the community, and may lead to harassment by the public and or police. See our LGBTI travellers page.
Penalties for drug offences can be severe and include lengthy jail terms. See our Drugs page.
Travellers are not allowed to work in Kenya, even in a volunteer capacity, without a valid work permit. Offenders may be fined, deported or jailed.
Destroying Kenyan currency of any denomination is against the law.
Smoking in public places is banned. Offenders caught smoking outside designated smoking areas face a substantial fine and/or jail for up to six months.
It is illegal to take photographs of some official buildings. If in doubt, seek advice from an official before taking any photos.
Possession of ivory, even in the form of jewellery purchased outside of Kenya, is strictly prohibited. Offenders can be arrested, given heavy fines or both.
Distributing religious material in public without a licence is illegal.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Kenya, particularly in coastal and rural areas. You should take care not to offend.
During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.
Information for dual nationals
The new Kenyan constitution recognises dual nationality. However, this portion of the law has not yet been fully enacted, and may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Kenyan dual nationals who are arrested or detained. We recommend you travel on your Australian passport at all times.
Our Dual nationals page provides further information.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
The standard of medical facilities throughout Kenya varies. Medical facilities are adequate in urban areas, but may be extremely limited elsewhere. Public and private facilities will require either an up-front deposit for services, a guarantee of payment or confirmation of medical insurance before commencing treatment. In remote areas, air evacuation to a major city is sometimes the only option for medical emergencies. Costs for such an evacuation can exceed $A10,000.
A decompression chamber is located at the Kenyan Naval Base in Mombasa.
Kenya is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Kenya. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.
Malaria is endemic throughout the year in Kenya, except in Nairobi and at altitudes above 2500m. Other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, filariasis and African sleeping sickness Trypanosomiasis) also occur. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria, and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof, including with treated mosquito nets.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, meningococcal, measles, cholera and tuberculosis) are also prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Outbreaks of polio have occurred in Kenya. All travellers to polio infected countries should ensure they have completed a primary course of polio vaccinations and also need a booster dose prior to travel. If you are unsure of your polio vaccination status, check with your doctor or travel clinic, at least 6-8 weeks before you depart.
The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Kenya is very high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection. You can find out more information from the Department of Health .
Where to get help
Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.
If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.
A Safety and Communication Centre operated by the Kenya Tourism Federation provides tourist advice and help in an emergency. You can contact the Centre on +254 20 800100 or by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:
Australian High Commission, Nairobi
See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
If you are travelling to Kenya, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the High Commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
There are two rainy seasons, from October to November and from March to June, when flash flooding and mudslides are common. Roads may be impassable during these times.
Northern and eastern Kenya are currently experiencing a severe drought. There may be disruption to essential services and delays should be expected when travelling in these areas.
Kenya is subject to earthquakes. It lies on a fault line and tremors occur infrequently. Volcanic and seismic activity can also occur near Mt Elgon, on the Kenya-Uganda border.
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure .
Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service . If a natural disaster occurs, pay attention to warnings issued and follow the advice of local authorities.