and what I do instead for my safety
I am often asked: Is it safe to travel to Kenya? In my view, safety begins in my mind and here is my take on the topic:
Before I published this article for the first time, the UK embassy to Kenya issued an advice for their country people to avoid certain places along the Kenyan coast and in Nairobi. The advice followed several attacks and threats by terrorist groups like Al Shabaab. It had a tremendously negative impact on the region which highly depends on tourism.
The Kenyan authorities pleaded with the UK embassy and also the US embassy, who had issued similar warnings, to lighten them again. I have to say, I went to some places they had issued the warnings about, and I am still alive and kicking.
Then they lifted the ban.
Some warnings were still in place, but many locations didn’t have to be avoided anymore, according to the UK embassy. It all happened barely a week after an attack on a military base in Lamu, in which several militants, including a Briton, were killed.
This shows that such warnings are sometimes politically motivated or even random.
I used to be on the newsletter list from the German embassy, but I unsubscribed. Because I mostly got warnings and comments that didn’t apply to my daily life in Nairobi. Some examples:
- Don’t use matatus (public mini busses), they are dangerous. (Well, if I don’t want to sit in my house day in day out, I necessarily MUST use matatus because they are the only available means of transport.)
- Avoid crowded places. (Nairobi Downtown, where the end station of my matatu line is situated, is by default a crowded place which I have to pass through if I am going to the City Center.)
- Welcome to the Kenyan October Fest. (I don’t even go to the German one, so why should I join the Kenyan one? I hear last time they didn’t even have German beer. And besides, to get there, I would have to use several matatus and pass crowded places.)
What I do instead to keep safe:
- I am known in my street and interact a lot with people. They know that I am not a tourist anymore, but a resident of the area.
- I also have a lot of friends around who know me AND the town and who can estimate well how I should behave in order to be safe.
- If a Kenyan tells me, I should avoid certain places at night, I do.
- I usually walk with a Kenyan friend in town when it is dark.
- I never look lost, I always know where I am going.
- I don’t wear a money belt. I also try not to look like a tourist.
In that way I feel safe and comfortable. Much more than if I would follow the politically motivated or random advices from my embassy or others.