Travel Consideration: Kenya

Kenya Official Info


Details of Travel Consideration: Kenya, Kenya Official Info
Details for Travel Consideration: Kenya

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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.

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A passport is required. U.S. citizen tourists visiting Kenya for less than one month do not need visas. Business and other 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 business 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.



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Kenya became a multi-party democracy in late 1991, and its political institutions are still developing. From time to time, political or ethnic tensions erupt 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 they 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 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, which are 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.

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.

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.

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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 they can occur anywhere in the country. Approximately ten vehicles are stolen daily by armed robbers in the capital. Although the 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, because such food or drink may contain narcotics used to incapacitate a victim and facilitate a robbery.

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, which are remote and sparsely populated areas. 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 of Kenya.

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, but anything of value should be insured.

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Adequate medical services are available in Nairobi. There are frequent outbreaks of cholera, and malaria is endemic in Kenya outside Nairobi.

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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 street, which can be very disorienting to those not accustomed to this. Excessive speed, unpredictable local driving habits, poor vehicle maintenance and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are daily hazards on Kenyan roads. As a result, there are often fatal accidents involving either long-distance, inter-city buses or local matatu vans. Also, vehicle travel outside major cities at night should be avoided due to the poor condition of the roads and the threat of banditry. During the rainy season, many roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. 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. Some roads are still impassable. Travelers are urged to consult with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and local officials regarding road conditions.

Travel via passenger train in Kenya is unsafe because of the lack of routine maintenance and safety checks. In March 1999, a passenger train enroute from Nairobi to Mombasa derailed, killing 32 people, including one foreign tourist.

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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 street, which can be very disorienting to those not accustomed to this. Excessive speed, unpredictable local driving habits, poor vehicle maintenance and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are daily hazards on Kenyan roads. As a result, there are often fatal accidents involving either long-distance, inter-city buses or local matatu vans. Also, vehicle travel outside major cities at night should be avoided due to the poor condition of the roads and the threat of banditry. During the rainy season, many roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. 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. Some roads are still impassable. Travelers are urged to consult with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and local officials regarding road conditions.

Travel via passenger train in Kenya is unsafe because of the lack of routine maintenance and safety checks. In March 1999, a passenger train enroute from Nairobi to Mombasa derailed, killing 32 people, including one foreign tourist.

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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.

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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. 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 an hourly rate basis. Many hotels have facsimile machines, but they 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.

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S. citizens visiting or residing 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) (2) 537-837.

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 U.S. 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.

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As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor 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 telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/iasa.pdf. 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 the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.



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