Visiting Kenya

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Going to Nairobi, Kenya for a month

Jan 2015

We have the opportunity to travel and live in Nairobi for a month in June and I am wondering how safe it really is. Our friends (who live there) insist it's no more dangerous than Oakland or San Francisco, but then advise that we hire a driver so we don't get lost in any bad parts of town. Any feedback/ideas/recent experiences would be very helpful! Thank you! Adventurous but cautious mama

I've been working in Nairobi over two-week stretches this year, and I'd generally agree with your friends. The main commercial center is a big, busy city, but generally pretty safe during the daytime if you're exercising good big-city safety precautions. There are certainly parts of the city that you wouldn't want to go, so the precaution of not driving yourself is probably a good one, and I generally wouldn't want to be out at night most anywhere. Taxis are abundant, relatively cheap, and seem safe, particularly if you're sticking with a company that is recommended. (One caveat - my general precaution is that driving in Africa is probably the most dangerous thing you can do, due to accidents. Fly within the country - to safari, trekking, etc., where possible) There is an expat community around the US Embassy that would be a fine place to live, and would be safe for your family. Paul

I used to live in Kenya for over 2 years. Granted, it was 8 years ago now and I lived in a small village 5-6 hours away from the city, but I think most of my experiences are similar to what goes on now (except it seems less safe now; all of my expat friends who had settled there 'permanently' have left mostly due to safety concerns).

You can be safe in Nairobi, but you need to be vigilant about your safety at all times and definitely don't go out at night (which is about 6:00pm-7:00am every day; living so close to the equator means the length of the day never changes). As an expat in Nairobi, you'd likely live in a walled/gated compound with a security guard. I know it's a common thing to say it's as safe as any big city, but I disagree. In the two years I lived in Kenya, I would say over 10 of my friends were victims of violent crimes, often carjackings or muggings involving machine guns and sometimes machetes, including one friend whose sister was shot in front of her because the sister couldn't get out of the car fast enough when they were carjacked. Even living here with friends in the bad parts of Oakland, I don't here similar things about Oakland as often as Nairobi (AKA Nai-robbery). And, being an expat in Kenya, you're part of a targeted group with 'Rich' written all over you. The primary concern in Nairobi is personal crimes (like muggings, carjackings), but there is an elevated chance of terrorism there, too.

Personally, I did live in Kenya and went to Nairobi often, and if I were a single person in their 20s or 30s, I may do it again. However, now that I have a family, I certainly wouldn't risk it with a child. I'd go back to Kenya in a heartbeat, but would only visit Nairobi when necessary.

Nairobi with a 6-year-old

Oct 2009

I am thinking of taking my 6-year-old daughter to Nairobi next summer, to visit friends who live there. I am a single mom, so she and I would be traveling alone. We'd be there for about 2 weeks, probably in June or July, and we'd stay with American friends. I'm curious about the most painless way to fly to Nairobi from the Bay Area, as well as sights and activities we shouldn't miss. The airfare will take most of our travel budget, so we can't afford any swank safaris. I spent much of my childhood in West Africa, but have no experience in East Africa! Lastly, is it a waste to take my daughter when she's 6? Should I wait another year? Mom has the traveling bug

Kenya is a fine fit for traveling with a 6 year old. My husband and I just got back from living there for sometime and it is a wonderful, safe place for children. The easiest way to get there is to fly via London or Amsterdam from SFO. Once there, it is quite easy and much less expensive to book a safari rather that trying to organize it from here which can be very $$$$! There is a wonderful giraffe refuge just outside Nairobi in Karen where your daughter can, for a few shillings, feed docile giraffes from her hand. Kids love the place. The beaches are not to be missed, with some of the more beautiful ones lying north of Mombasa near Watamu and most of the hotels dying for business and offering terrific deals. Lake Naivasha is nice, not amazing, but great spot to see hippos via motorized boat. Unless you are planning to travel to the coast or to Lake Victoria, malaria is not the concern it is in West Africa. The weather is generally very mild by African standards and it is, like all African cultures, a very child-friendly place. Also, Nairobi is full of all the amenities you would find in Europe or the States, even natural food stores, so should you need anything whilst there, you can pick it up at one of several western-style shopping centers. The health care is excellent as well. I can't really think of an easier place to travel with a small child in Africa except South Africa. Good Luck! michelle

Suggestions for a Trip to Kenya

Jan 2009

We may have the opportunity to travel to Kenya this summer, and would like to go on a budget safari-nothing fancy! Does anyone have suggestions? Also wondering if it's relatively safe to travel there in terms of crimes on tourists, malaria, etc.

Kenya is an absolutely beautiful destination. Not sure if you have travelled to Africa before, but Kenya is by far one of the friendliest countries and the most developed (behind South Africa). You will need malaria medication, we preferred the one that you take daily, you have to remember the meds, but they have less side effects. Also, you will need to get a yellow fever vaccination AND bring proof (a yellow card) that you got the vaccination. We were not aware of this and got stuck in the airport in Johannesburg for several hours waiting for someone to give us our vaccination-and they only took cash! Certain countries-like South Africa, do not allow you to enter if you do not have proof of the vaccine. Infants under 9 months and pregnant women are not allowed to get the yellow fever vaccine.

Kenya felt safe, we were there a couple months before the political turmoil and devastation happened. Nairobi is a large city and you should take precautions as you would in any large foreign city. We did not get a chance to go on Safari as we were there for work. Travel blogs are helpful to get a better understanding of what is going on right now and what experience people had with a specific outfitter. Ruth

Vacationing in Ethiopia and Kenya with a 9 year old

Jan 2006

We'll be vacationing in Ethiopia and Kenya this summer with our 9 year old daughter. We welcome any recommendations on things to do, places to stay, etc. Of course, we will be taking a safari in Kenya but have not yet decided on which company we'll use. Monika

I was in Kenya about 10 years ago, and one of the most memorable parts of the trip was a visit to Lamu, a little town on the coast. It's on an island and there are no cars, but lots of donkeys and cats. It's a muslim fishing settlement and has a very unique culture. It is also very quiet and relaxing. I couldn't recommend this town more. ED

we traveled in Kenya and Ethiopia before our son was born. Kenya was an ''easy'' trip especially if you join an organized Safari. Ethiopia is a different story. we traveled there alone and it wasn't easy. it wasn't easy to communicate, wasn't easy to blend in and not feel like a walking ATM machine. that said, we had a great time. Ethiopia is beautiful and very special country. the further you go from the big cities, the friendlier the people are.

At the time we were there (5 years ago) it wasn't possible to rent a car without a driver. so we found (through the travel agency) a guide/driver. he picked us up from the airport and we went with him south to the lakes. then we flew to Gondar and then to Lalibela. we didn't have enough time to travel to Aksum but I heard it is beautiful too. there aren't many tourist or hotels at every place, so just take what you find. sorry I can't be of more help recommending specific places, I can't remember the hotels we stayed in. have a great time! Roni

you will have a great time in Kenya with your 9 yr old In Nairobi I highly recommend the elephant orphanage and the giraffe center. I do not recommend the animal orphanage at the national park. For hotels, the Fairview is great for upscale, the Heron Court for budget. Out of Nairobi, I recommend Lake Nakuru, Lamu, Maasai Mara. The Mara Serena Lodge is expensive but wonderful for kids and parents too. deborah