2017 Kenya

Kenya, sadly, is #8 on the list of the 2017 List of 10 Most Dangerous Countries for Women Travelers due to the level of terrorism and violent crime. US State Department says: Avoid travel to the border area with Somalia due to threats from Al Shabaab. In 2016 there were many terrorist attacks (shootings, grenades or other explosive devices) with 122 fatalities. Terrorist targets have included Kenyan and foreign government sites, police stations and vehicles, hotels, public transportation and other infrastructure targets, nightclubs and bars, religious and academic institutions, and shopping areas.  Examples of attacks include one on September 11, 2016, where three women purportedly attacked a police station in Mombasa with knives and petrol bombs, wounding two Kenyan police officers. The next month, on October 27, 2016, an assailant with a knife attacked a police officer guarding the U.S. Embassy compound.

Rating: Dangerous

Violent and sometimes fatal crimes, including armed carjackings, muggings, home invasions and burglaries, and kidnappings can occur at any time. U.S. citizens and U.S. Embassy employees have been victims of such crimes in the past.

Okay, sure, but what about tourist places like wildlife refuges? Although tourists tend to think of wildlife when they think of Kenya, the most lethal predators are  human and create danger in the form of terrorist activities, sexual assault, grenade attacks, and violent crime. Sadly, there also is increased violence at some wildlife preserves associated with drought.

The US State Department’s warning is due to continuing attacks by Al Shabaab  and armed carjacking, grenade attacks, kidnapping, etc. particularly in Nairobi and Mombasa.  The Aussie’s suggest exercising a high degree of caution throughout Kenya, reconsidering the need to travel in the coastal area and on the A2 Highway from Isio to to Moyale, and not travelling to the border regions with Ethopia, Somalia and Sudan.

In and around Nairobi, the issue is terrorism by Al Shabaab, carjackings and home invasions. The Kiwis write of an extreme risk in the border areas, high risk in some areas, and suggest using a high degree of caution elsewhere. The Canadians concur and additionally warn against any travel to the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi due to recent attacks there. Tourists are being sexually assaulted, kidnapped, and robbed.

Kenya sets itself off from the other top 10 worst places for women tourists in that it has Al Shabaab and grenade attacks to contend with as well as the usual carjackings, kidnappings, etc.  Native women across the spectrum of class, age, urban, rural, etc. are subjected to attacks, too.

Although Kenya has troops in Somalia fighting Al Shabaab to stop their cross-border attacks, avoid the war zone like border region as attacks continue into 2016.  For example, there was a cross-border attack into the Coastal Lamu County in January 2016 that killed three Kenyans. Now an investigation links the Kenyan army to Al Shabaab.

The transportation sector, like planes or ships, is being attacked, resulting in travel disruption and danger to travelers.  Additionally, it’s very dangerous to drive in Kenya due to the condition of the roads and really amazing traffic issues (such as very poorly maintained roads, general disregard for traffic laws, few traffic signals, etc.)

In the event of trouble, the criminal justice system is not helpful. Instead contact your country’s embassy for help.

If you want to go to Kenya or must go:  The Masai Mara and many of the major animal reserves are relatively safe because of increased security and are still great places to see wildlife, spectacular landscapes and fascinating culture. Use extra care getting there.

Perhaps you are thinking it would be better to go where a woman can travel freely and safely, if so, please refer to our 10 Safest Countries for Women Travelers, Best Countries in Africa, Best Places in Oceania, and Best Countries in South America.

Photo credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic via Quartz Africa: Kenya’s tourism industry & conservation efforts are being threatened by drought-induced violence

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