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Staying safe in Kenya

Kenya has certain laws that you may not be used to, and it also has crime risks you must be aware of. Read our guide to both.

If you don’t want a fine or even a custodial sentence, it’s wise to observe local laws in Kenya. Here are some you should be particularly aware of:

  • You’re not allowed to smoke on the street in the country, although designated areas do exist. If you break this law you can face a fine of Khs 3 million or you could get a three-year prison sentence.
  • Plastic bags have been banned in the country, this is an easy one to forget, especially if you brought any with you in your suitcase.
  • If you’re gay, don’t hold hands or kiss in public as Kenya does have laws against homosexuality. If you are concerned about your situation in Kenya Equaldex may be able to help.

Kenya is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which means you must not kill, buy or sell any protected wild animal without a licence. Anyone caught breaking this law will be fined and imprisoned.

  • Class A drugs, including heroin and cocaine, are banned in Kenya, as is cannabis. If you’re found in possession of a Class A drug, you could face up to 10 years in prison.
  • Be careful where you are taking photographs as this is forbidden in certain places. Airports are a definite no-no, so is the taking of snaps that show public buildings and embassies.

Always carry your ID, a copy of a passport used to be acceptable, but reports from Kenya reveal that police stopping people in the street have been asking for original identification. Ensure that you’re always carrying your Alien Card.

Keeping your home and yourself safe

Make sure that your house has intruder alarms, and you live in an area that has security guards, as recommended by the expat blogs. Kenya might be one of the most developed of all of the African countries, but there’s also a lot of poverty. Of course, poverty doesn’t necessarily equate to crime, but Kenyan crime statistics for Nairobi do rate the level of crime as high. Just be careful and take some precautions for your personal safety.

Steer clear of townships and any areas that are poorly lit.

  • The north-eastern part of Kenya shares a border with Somalia, which is home to Al Shabaab, the terrorist organisation responsible for a deadly attack on Kenya’s Lamu Island in 2014. The same group also killed 148 people at Garissa University in Kenya in 2015. Again, it’s a good idea to check with your embassy for the latest threat level reports as well as keeping up to date with the local news.
  • Before going on an expedition to any rural areas check with your embassy about the security of the region.
  • Invest in a four-wheel drive, these are the safest cars to own in Kenya, and they’re also excellent if you’re thinking of going on your own safari.
  • For your own comfort, always make sure that you have plenty of torches and candles – the Kenyan electricity supply can be temperamental.

Foreign Offices across the world warn about the dangers of terrorism and Kenya. As Somalia borders Kenya in the north of the country, and is home to Al Shabaab, the Kenyan police has called upon the public to be extra vigilant. Places of worship, including temples, mosques and churches are all at risk from a terrorist attack, so look out for suspicious activity, abandoned bags or packages.

The Kenyan government is taking the terrorist threat extremely seriously, and in 2016 the National Strategy to counter Violent Extremism was launched. This will co-ordinate anti-terror forces across Kenya, and promote the rehabilitation of former members of Al Shabaab.

Kidnapping is also on the increase, especially along the Kenya/Somali border. If you’re going to work in a refugee camp you should always ask about security before setting off to start your work. Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya has seen several kidnappings.

Learn the best parts of living in Kenya in our guide to lifestyle and culture in this exciting destination.

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