While Nairobi is often in the headlines for the wrong reasons, including crime and terrorism in the past, the situation isn’t as grim as some tourism guides and travel warnings paint it. However, it’s normal for tourists to ask – Is Nairobi safe?
In reality, property crimes constitute most offenses. Which is hardly a shock in a city where there’s a yawning gap between the rich and the poor. In fact, poorer Nairobians who can’t afford to protect themselves are more susceptible to crime than those with their own security and driver.
Personal experiences in Kenya’s capital can be starkly different. Some tourists have reported losing all of their credit cards and cash to pickpockets. Conversely, aid workers visiting the slums of Nairobi report meeting poor families who want to have dinner with them to thank them for the medical services they’ve rendered.
For the most part, tourists are more than likely to meet friendly locals than get caught up in sticky situations.
Take your time getting acquainted with the following safety tips when visiting Nairobi. Hopefully, this advice should act as a guide until you’ve settled in, not make you paranoid. Although the city has been nicknamed Nairobbery by some, in the end Nairobi is a friendly city to visit!
Robbery in Nairobi: Pickpockets and the streets of Nairobi
Once you’re in Nairobi, be wary of pickpockets across the city, particularly on public transport.
Armed robbery occurs frequently and bags are often snatched. While travelers aren’t usually targeted, cases of violent crimes against foreign tourists have been reported.
One of the most common criminal activities against foreigners is mugging and petty theft, which most often occurs at budget campsites and hotels. Make the most of your hotel’s security and never leave your possessions exposed.
While walking around Nairobi’s streets, don’t carry anything you’d not want to lose. In fact, as an additional precaution, only carry cash in your wallet and hide your bank cards and credit cards elsewhere.
If you need a taxi, be sure to pick one that’s registered, and don’t take rides from strangers. If you’d like to explore Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, don’t go there alone. Make use of guides so you can explore the area safely.
If possible, it’s advisable to avoid walking Nairobi’s streets at night. After dark, you should use registered taxis and not travel by yourself. Leave your possessions in your hotel room, instead of carrying them around.
Nairobi traffic situation
Nairobi is a fast-growing large city, and the road network hasn’t kept pace with the increase in population. As such, you might experience awful traffic, especially during the rush hours of 6am to 9am and 5pm to 8pm.
If you must drive through Nairobi traffic at rush hour, be ready to spend a significant amount of time in gridlock. Be patient, too. But if you can, organize your outings outwith rush hours.
Nairobi traffic safety
When traveling around Nairobi, you need to know that Matatus — the minivans that people shuttle around Nairobi in — are regularly stopped by thugs.
If you opt to ride in them, also keep in mind that Nairobi has atrocious traffic, since there are too many vehicles on the city’s roads and not enough road signs. The best way to get around Nairobi is to use a licensed taxi, as walking is generally considered dangerous for foreign travelers at times.
It’s almost inevitable that at some stage during your stay in Nairobi, you will be approached by safari touts on the street.
Most of these pesky guys aim to lure you into a tour operator’s office, hoping to earn a small commission.
A note of caution though – a few of them will aim to dazzle you with their shiny brochures and deftly pinch your wallet in the process.
Is Nairobi safe from terrorism
While terrorism is a global threat, the probability of experiencing a terrorist attack in Kenya isn’t high. However there’s always the threat of an Al Shabaab terror attack, and many attacks have occurred in Kenya in recent times.
The risk of Al Shabaab terror attacks has increased due to Kenya’s strong military presence in neighboring Somalia. In fact, one of the deadliest attacks in Kenya took place at Westgate Shopping Center in 2013, claiming 67 lives and injuring dozens of people.
Bombings and grenade attacks on buses and police vehicles, mainly in Eastleigh estate, have also claimed several lives.
Since then, however, a crackdown on alleged terrorists as well as tightened security across Nairobi has kept things under control, bringing down the threat of terrorism as a result.
The police are always patrolling Nairobi and they’ve managed to prevent many attacks. Typical targets include places like mosques and churches, so always be wary and alert the police if you see any suspicious behavior.
Is Nairobi safe for female travelers
Women aren’t totally safe in Nairobi as numerous cases of sexual violence against women have been reported.
It’s best to follow stringent safety precautions and steer clear of dangerous areas, particularly at night.
Natural Disasters’ Risk
When it comes to natural disasters, Nairobi is a city with very few dangers, if any.
However, the rainy season may cause flooding. Earthquakes may also occur in Nairobi, but they’re negligible at best.
One of the biggest risks in Nairobi – Sunburn!
Nairobi lies on the equator. Naturally, it’s hot and humid like most places on the equator so be prepared. Carry lots of sunscreen and apply it before you walk on the streets. Pick a waterproof variety, since you’ll most likely be sweating.
It’s also important to bring sunglasses and a brimmed hat to shield you from the sun, as well as wear long-sleeved dresses or shirts to protect your shoulders and arms. Make sure to pick breathable materials that allow sweat to get away from skin.
Police stations in Nairobi
There are numerous police stations littered around the CBD, including off Haile Selassie Avenue and on Harry Thuku Road, as well as in the Milimani and Karen area.
In addition, there’s a tourist helpline to bail out tourists in trouble, for free. It’s got a good countrywide network and works hand-in-glove with the local authorities and police.
What to do if you’re attacked in Nairobi
- If you’re ever a victim of theft, burglary, or carjacking, don’t resist. Simply hand over your possessions instead. In most cases, your attacker will quickly flee the scene, so don’t give them any excuse to attack.
- If you get into an accident, contact the police right away and wait for their arrival.
- The general number for emergencies is 999. Also, make sure you have the phone number of the nearest police station.
- Once you arrive, make sure to register with your consulate immediately. Always find out the current level of risk for terrorist attacks from your embassy. In case of any serious incident, the embassy will know you might need their assistance, or they can at least get in contact with your family back home.
- Whether you’re registered with your embassy or not, it’s highly recommended that you get the contact details of your embassy.
Is Nairobi safe from scams? Well, Nairobi has a few active confident tricksters who seem to depend on the same old tales for years, so it’s usually easy to identify the cons once you’ve heard about them a few times.
You may not come across beggars, but some individuals will try to chat you up, distract you and nick something from you.
In general, always be careful when talking to anybody on Nairobi’s streets. While there are good genuine folks out there, the truth is that foreign travelers are often the target of scams.
Is Nairobi safe? Last words
Being prepared for the potential security risks of Nairobi can help you ensure that your travel to Kenya’s capital city is enjoyable and incident-free.
As long as you follow our advice, your stay in Nairobi should be pleasant and trouble-free.