With an average of one million tourists arriving every year, tourism is Kenya's number one industry, and vital to the nation's economy. However, the "Dark Continent" has a reputation: life is cheap, violence is brutal and the capital of Kenya is commonly known as "Nairobbery." But how accurate is this image? What is the reality for ordinary tourists visiting the main safari destination in the world? This article examines the security situation in Kenya and suggests practical measures that you can take to stay safe during your visit.
Theft and robbery are the main threats for tourists while traveling in Kenya (or Africa in general). The average salary across the continent is approximately one dollar per day. So, even if you consider yourself the backpacker with less budget and less money, your western possessions are often irresistible to people struggling to feed their families. Often, theft is not malicious, but opportunistic. So, the easiest solution is not to provide the opportunity; Don't tempt people neglecting things. Ways to do this include:
· Do not wear jewelry (watches, necklaces, earrings that can be easily grasped)
· Be sure to verify your change and save all your money safely before leaving the bank, the exchange office or the store.
· If you like it, block it. Hotels often have safe deposit boxes to store your valuables. So, if you don't need it for the day, keep it safely.
Harassment is another safety concern, not necessarily because you are in physical danger, but rather because it can make you feel uncomfortable and nervous. There is a market for young Africans to sell themselves basically to older foreign women. The woman will fall in love with this charming, handsome and charismatic man and soon she will find herself paying the tuition fees, buying her a car or maybe even a ticket out of her life and an elite western lifestyle in the woman's home. country. Sometimes it ends well (I can be as romantic as the next person!), But more often it ends in heartbreak. The result is that single white women are often the object of unwanted male attention. Be polite, but firm. Tell him that he already has a husband (however, this does not necessarily deter him, since the rules on promiscuity and faithfulness are a bit different between cultures). Walking alone at night should definitely be avoided. Always go out with two or three other people and take a taxi at dusk.
Scams can be a problem, as locals appeal to the understanding hearts of well-meaning travelers. They can assume the role of political refugees and request money for their family or they can pretend to be students who collect contributions for their schools. The use of common sense is your main weapon against such tricks. If you're not sure if you believe it, you're probably right and your money is better in your pocket.
Violent crime can be avoided simply by complying with the aggressor's demands. Most Kenyans have no animosity towards foreigners, so violence would not be their first preference, they just need money. Most of the violence and hate is directed between the different tribes that share this nation, and that is where most of the brutal stories originate.
Finally, corruption is a problem with which everyone in the country (both locals and visitors) must fight every day, particularly the police. Kenyan cops are underpaid and, therefore, are very susceptible to corruption and crime, and extortion and bribery are not uncommon practices. It has been discovered that the traffic police are the most corrupt people in Kenya. The best way to avoid becoming a target of corruption is to be aware of the law and make sure you do nothing illegal. Some laws of Kenya that may be different from your country of origin include:
· Homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya.
· Penalties for drug offenses can be severe and include long prison sentences.
· Travelers cannot work in Kenya, even as volunteers, without a valid work permit. Criminals can be fined, jailed or deported.
· Destroying the Kenyan currency of any denomination is illegal.
· Smoking is prohibited in public places (even while walking on the street). Criminals 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. When in doubt, seek the advice of an official before taking photos.
· The distribution of religious material in public without a license is illegal.
There are also local customs to consider. By observing how the locals behave, you can easily fit in, but a custom that is not regularly fulfilled, and that often causes offense, is clothing. There are conservative standards of dress and behavior in Kenya, particularly in coastal and rural areas.
So is it safe to travel to Kenya? The Australian government's travel advisory says it must "act with extreme caution," but it can still go. And that is my conclusion too. With common sense, knowledge of their surroundings and some street intelligence, their visit to Kenya should be smooth. That is not a promise! There are no guarantees in this game. All I suggest is that not all visitors to Kenya encounter difficulties and there is a very good chance that they will have an incredible trip.
In my next article I will examine the security of Kenya in the light of the March 2013 elections and how tourism can affect next year. And don't forget to register with the embassy or high commission of your home country in Kenya for the duration of your visit. This means that if a disaster occurs, they will know that you are there and can help you. For Australians, http://www.smartraveller.gov.au is the website to register your trip.