Kenya Driving Guide
Kenya is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit
If you like the great outdoors, an African safari is an absolute adventure that you’d want to add to your bucket list. And where else to experience the best safari adventures than in the home of the “Big Five”, Kenya!
For those who do not know, the “Big Five” consists of the lion, the leopard, the rhino, the African buffalo, and the elephant. However, these are not all that make Kenya special. The country stands out as the third largest tea producer in the world, the site of the Great Wildebeest Migration, the home of the world’s fastest runners/athletes, the makers of M-Pesa (mobile money transfer service), and many more unique characteristics!
Kenya’s rich culture and biodiversity are supported by its diverse landscape, which is also what makes Kenya drives an excellent activity during your trip there. The question is, how do self-drive roadtrippers make a great experience?
How Can This Guide Help You?
This driving guide will help you navigate Kenya with ease. Kenya has an efficient road network that connects all 47 counties; however, this isn’t the only ingredient of a trouble-free driving experience. This guide will walk you through the requirements to enter Kenya, the driving licence requirements in Kenya, the valid documents for driving in Kenya, and essential road conditions, rules, and etiquette when driving in Kenya. Likewise, at the end of this guide, you’ll find some recommended road trip destinations and how to get to them by car.
Officially called the Republic of Kenya, this 580,367km2 country is characterized by a diverse topography from low-lying plains, to plateaus, to over 4,500-meter peaks. This divides the country into five (5) major basins namely: Lake Victoria Basin, Athi River Basin, Rift Valley Basin, Ewaso Ngiro Basin, and Tana River Basin. The basins give life to various types of ecosystems, generating local endemicity.
Kenya is located within the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. This zone is where the trade winds from the northern hemispheres and southern hemispheres meet and circle back towards the poles. The air in this part of the globe is heated by direct sunlight and warm ocean waters, creating the countries’ hot and rainy climates. With this, Kenya experiences three (3) seasons, with March and November serving as moderately rainy transition months. The seasons are:
- Hot-Dry Season - December to February
- Rainy Season - March to May
- Cool Dry Season - June to October
With regards to annual mean temperatures (AMT), inland highlands have an AMT of 18oC, while coastal lowlands can have AMTs between 26oC-30oC. With regards to rainfall, Kenya receives about 250mm to 500mm of rainfall per year. Western Kenya experiences the most rainfall, while northern and eastern Kenya receives the least amount of rainfall.
Due to topography, the country is also characterized by microclimates. In fact, even if the country lies along the equator, snow actually exists on top of Mount Kenya! So if you want to know when is the best time to visit the country, it is recommended that you check the microclimates of the region/county you are traveling to.
Kenya is located along the eastern coast of Africa. It straddles the equator with a maximum length of 1,131km and a maximum width of 1,025km. It is bounded in the north by Ethiopia, in the east by Somalia, in the southeast by the Indian Ocean, in the south by Tanzania, in the west by Uganda, and in the northwest by South Sudan.
It shares about six (6) inland bodies of water with Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia. For Tanzania, this includes Lake Jipe, Lake Chala, Lake Amboseli, Lake Natron, and Lake Victoria. For Uganda, this includes Lake Victoria. For Ethiopia, this includes Lake Turkana.
You will also find the Lamu Archipelago, where all the sought-after island destinations are located, on its northern coast. This includes Pate Island, Manda Island, Lamu Island, and many other smaller islands.
Kenya’s pre-colonial era was ruled by the Cushitic-speaking people from north Africa, the Nilotic people, and the Bantu People. Due to the country’s proximity to the Arabian Peninsula, trade soon began, connecting Kenya to the European market and opening it to western colonizers.
Kenya was first colonized by the Portuguese in 1498 and later on given to Oman until the 1600s. Before the dawn of the 17th century, Kenya was again infiltrated by the Europeans and became a British colony in 1920. It was through the 1942 Mau Mau Movement that Kenya started to fight for their independence. Ten years later, because of the intensifying uprisings of the natives and the extreme brutality towards African freedom fighters, Africans were slowly given a voice at the Kenya Legislative Council. It was only during 1963, Kenya gained its sovereign status with Jomo Kenyatta as its first Prime Minister.
The official language of Kenya is Kiswahili, which originated from both the Bantu and Arabic languages. It is the predominant language in East Africa, and it is the only African language recognized by the African Union. Almost 70% of Kenyans originate from the Bantu, 30% from the Nilotic, and the minority consists of European, Arab, and Indians.
The second most predominantly spoken language in Kenya is English. This can be attributed to the fact that Kenya was a British colony between 1920 to 1963. When you travel to Kenya, don’t be too surprised to meet Kenyan natives who speak very fluent British English.
The Republic of Kenya is a parliamentary democratic country that runs on a multi-party political system. Apart from the national government, each of the 47 counties has a local chief executive who works interdependently with the national government.
The national executive branch consists of the President, the Deputy President, and the Cabinet Secretaries. Both the President and Deputy President are elected by the people, while the Cabinet Secretaries are appointed by the President. The legislative branch (parliament) is divided into the Senate and the National Assembly, whose members are also elected by registered voters. The President, members of the Senate, the National Assembly, and the county governors all serve a five-year term.
In 2019, Kenya welcomed over 2,035,000 international visitors. This was an almost 40% increase from five (5) years before. Kenya has recorded a steady increase in visitors over the years, and this has been attributed to the safari tourism that had been becoming more and more popular.
Kenya has about 54 national parks. With this amount of wildlife havens and landscape ecozones, Kenya is nowhere stepping back from being one of the leaders in the global tourism industry. It is even the only city in the world that hosts a thriving game reserve and a national park within the same area, and moreover, near the city center!
If you visit Kenya, do not stay indoors or just within the city. The country has so much for you to see, and it is definitely the best place to go on a road trip!
There are different classes of driving licences in Kenya. However, for a foreigner drive, an International Driving License is vital as it allows you to drive legally in foreign countries. This does not replace your domestic driving license; however, it helps you explain your identity to concerned authorities who do not understand the language used in your native driving license. It is also used in some other countries to apply for a visitor’s driving license or a permanent local driving license (in the case of expatriates).
Do I Need an International Driving License in Kenya?
An International Driving License is one (1) of the valid documents for driving in Kenya. You can drive in Kenya as a foreign passport holder, but only if you have a valid domestic driving license from your home country and an International Driving Permit/License. For example, if you are a U.S. resident, you can go driving in Kenya with your U.S. license.
An International Driving Permit is most necessary in Kenya if your domestic driving license is not written/printed in Swahili, English, or Roman Alphabets. To add to your convenience, you can use an International Digital Driving License in Kenya if you don’t want to keep additional physical documents.
An International Driving Permit is also beneficial when you want to convert your native driving license to a Kenyan driving license. This applies to individuals who want/need to stay in Kenya longer than the allowed duration of the tourist visa. All you need to do is register/log-in to the National Transport and Safety Authority’s (NTSA) eCitizen portal, navigate to the “Application” tab, then “Driving License Application”, and finally, “Conversion of Foreign License Application”.
How To Renew My Driving License in Kenya?
For expatriates who have obtained a local driving license in Kenya, renewal of driving license is to be done every three(3) years. This applies regardless of whether you obtained your local driving license through a new application or conversion of your foreign driver’s license. Both applications for a new license and renewal of an old license can be made online at eCitizen.com.
On the other hand, for the renewal of the International Driving Permit in Kenya, you’ll need to follow the exact same process as when you applied for a new International Driving Permit. There is basically no renewal process, so once you’re IDP expires, you’ll have to submit a new application. If you want to have questions on renewing your driving licence in Kenya (IDP), you can ask the 24/7 live customer chat support of the International Driver’s Association.
Can I Use My Native Driving License in Kenya Without an IDP?
As mentioned, Kenya allows foreign nationals to drive in the country with their domestic driving license for a maximum of 90 days or as permitted by their visa. For example, you can go driving in Kenya with a U.S. license and not need anymore to secure a visitor’s driving license. However, as mentioned, if you’re driving license is not in English or Swahili, you’ll need to secure an International Driving Permit.
The International Driving Permit will not only help you explain your identity and driving qualifications to local authorities, but it will also allow you to rent a car in Kenya. Car rental companies require lessors to have third-party car insurance. An International Driving Permit will be a valid document to secure a car insurance policy.
Do I Need to Take a Driving Lessons in Kenya To Get an IDP?
If you’re only going to stay in Kenya for a short duration, and are qualified to use your domestic driving license and IDP, then you don’t need to take a driving test, let alone take driving lessons in Kenya to get an IDP. However, If it’s your first time driving in a foreign country and your first time driving on the left hand side of the road, it would be beneficial for you to take driving classes in Kenya.
There are a lot of reputable driving schools in Kenya. Here are some instructors/schools that you can check out:
- Heltz Driving Academy
- Seniors Driving School
- AA Driving School
- Kericho Driving School
- Petanns Driving School
- Wings Driving School
- Rocky Driving School
- Iqra Driving School-Hurlingham Plaza
- Karengata Driving School
- Glory Driving School
How to Get a New Driving Licence in Kenya for Foreigners?
Obtaining an International Driving License for Kenya only takes a few simple steps. However, one (1) of the most frequent concern is how long it takes to get a driving license in Kenya. Well, we understand the value of your time. For those who are constant travelers, convenience is a must. So If you’re going to secure an IDP with us, it will only take a few good 10-20 minutes of your time.
Moreover, for those who need an IDP in the soonest time possible, they can secure an international digital driving license in Kenya or choose the express shipping option. In case you want to know how to replace a lost driving license in Kenya (IDP, that is), you need to get in touch with the IDA customer support. IDA clients get to have a free replacement service.
If you are at least 18 years old and have a valid driving license from your home country, prepare your scanned driving license, recent passport-size photos, and credit card. Once you have the requirements ready, follow the steps below:
- At our homepage, navigate to “Start My Application”.
- Choose the IDP Plan that will suit your travel needs.
- Complete your personal information.
- Specify your delivery details.
- Pay for your IDP using a credit card or Paypal account.
- Verify your identity.
- Wait for confirmation.
Renting a Car in Kenya
The best way to experience Kenya is to explore it with your own car. Car rental companies offer different types of vehicles that can cater to every location. Nonetheless, the right car for you will depend on your itinerary and your budget. It would be useful to plan ahead your itinerary since car rentals are often cheaper when booked in advance.
Car Rental Companies
Most car rental companies are located in Nairobi. When choosing where to rent your car, make sure to research on two(2) or more companies and compare the following:
- Pricing (rental, administrative fees, insurance, maintenance, fuel, add-ons, extra-day charges, age-dependent charges, etc.)
- Pick-up and drop-off locations
- Vehicle conditions
- Customer reviews
- Company response rate
- Other company policies and promotions
You can start your research on the car rental companies listed here:
- enya Car Hire Services
- Hire N’ Drive Kenya Ltd.
- Kenya Cheap Car Hire
- Porto Car Hire Kenya
- Nairobi Car Hire Services
- Kenya Online Car Hire
- Elite Car Rental
- Metro Car Hire Services
- Market Car Hire
- Central Rent-a-Car
- Magnum Auto Rentals
- Jerry Cabs & Car Hire
- Car Hire Mombasa
- Homeland Car Hire
- Budget Rent A Car
- Apix Car Hire
It’s not that difficult to rent a car in Kenya. The process and policies are more or less similar to other countries. To rent a car in Kenya, you need to satisfy the following requirements:
- Valid driving license from home country
- Valid International Driving Permit
- Valid passport
A common question also asked by a lot of travelers is if there is a need to take driving classes in Kenya to rent be able to rent a car. The answer is no, it is not required. However, you are welcome to take lessons prior to renting if you want to ensure that you don’t put the vehicle to risk.
Best Driving Schools in Kenya
It is difficult to identify the best driving school in Kenya because driving schools offer different kinds of services that enhance their students’ learning experience. You can refer to the list of schools on the IDP FAQs section above. When choosing the right driving school, you have to look into the following elements:
- Customer satisfaction and reviews
- Waiting time
- Training duration
- Types of vehicles they train you in
Your domestic license and your IDP will dictate which cars you can legally use to go driving. Vehicle classes in Kenya are categorized as follows:
- A1: Moped
- A2: Light Motorcycle
- A3: Motorcycle Taxi (100 c.c.), Couriers (up to 100kg), and Three-Wheelers (can carry a passenger)
- B1: Motorcycle Taxi, Couriers, and Three-Wheelers (with higher capacity than A3 vehicles)
- B2: Automatic Light Vehicle (up to seven passengers)
- B3: Professional Light Vehicle
- C1: Truck
- C: Medium Truck
- CE: Heavy Truck with Trailer
- D1: Van
- D2: minibus
If you’re IDP says that your license is for light vehicles (Category B), you can rent sedans, SUVS, other types of cars. If your IDP indicates Class A vehicles only, then you can only rent motorcycles.
If you want to go on a safari adventure, 4x4 All-Terrain-Vehicles are recommended. You’ll need to book this with a tour operator because 4x4s usually come with an authorized driver.
Car Rental Cost
Car rentals in Kenya can go between USD30-USD200 per day. Mini cars that can accommodate only two(2) are the cheapest ones, while passenger vans and luxury SUVs are the most expensive. You may be able to find more economical rentals below USD30 but make sure that the company you are renting with is legal (with complete papers). In addition, you can also reduce your rental expenses by not upgrading, cleaning your own car, and booking in advance.
You must be at least 25 years old to rent a car in Kenya. However, some car rental companies allow people as young as 21 years old to rent, provided that they pay extra fees.
Younger people are believed to be more vulnerable because of lesser driving experience. If you are below 25 years old, having at least two (2) years of full driving experience might help you in some car rental companies.
Car Insurance Cost
The cost of car insurance depends on a number of factors. The reason why insurance companies send you quotations and not fixed-rate menus is because they need to calculate your premium first based on your age, your preferred policy term, and your preferred coverage.
Some car insurance companies also offer daily rates for some of the riders. If you’re going to rent a car in Kenya, you can expect that the car rental company might offer you additional insurance riders on top of their standard coverage.
Car Insurance Policy
Car insurance will protect you from any untoward incident and legal liabilities while using a motor vehicle. One of the most common questions that we get is whether foreigners can go driving without insurance in Kenya? Well, car insurance in Kenya is mandatory by law. All registered cars, or the drivers, should have car insurance before they go out on the road.
There are different types of car insurance products that you can avail of in Kenya. These include, but not limited to:
- Third-party accident cover - compensation for other people’s property or loss of life from an accident that you caused
- Theft policy - compensation when your car or its components are stolen
- Fire policy - compensation when your car catches fire as a result of accidents or malfunctions
- Terrorism cover - compensation for damages and losses as a result of third-party terrorism acts
- Excess Protector - removes “Excess” requirements when you make a claim
- Windshield cover - compensation for accidentally broken windshield
- Road rescue, towing & recovery benefit - rescue services in case of car damage, collision, car breakdown, and related incidents
When you rent a car in Kenya, you don’t need to scout for your own car insurance because car rental companies will prepare it for you already. You will still have to pay for it, though. You may also need to pay for additional coverage depending on the car rental company’s policy.
Some people may find car renting a bit troublesome because of the planning that it requires. However, renting a car in Kenya isn't really that bad. Here are some other facts that may help you decide.
What Is the Requirement to Get Car Insurance in Kenya
You can only use/rent a Kenyan-registered vehicle considering that you secure an insurance policy for yourself, specifically indicating the car rental unit under your policy. When you rent a car, the company shall place the policy under your name once you pay for insurance. Again, you cannot rent and go driving without insurance in Kenya.
The minimum motor vehicle insurance required by most counties is the liability coverage. This includes bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage. However, most companies will require you to have comprehensive car insurance coverage and collision coverage with car rentals.
his is when your International Driving Permit will be of use also. Car insurance companies require foreign drivers to present a valid IDP to be granted insurance.
Is Renting a Car Better Than Taking Public Transportation in Kenya?
Kenya has no organized mass transport system. You will, however, find buses, vans, motorcycles, bicycles, and tricycles that have served the commuting public since the 1950s. Unfortunately, these mostly run within the capital of Nairobi. With the implementation of clear, official routes only during the 21st century, the public transport sector in Kenya continues to face the following challenges:
- Overloaded vehicles
- Long queues in terminals
- Inefficient road utilization
- Low capacity public transits
- Lack of public transit
- Poor vehicle conditions
- Inadequate traffic management system and road desig
If your trip involves inter-county travel, your second best commute option is to hire fixed-rates taxis that can charge you a significant amount. With this, it is recommended that you go self-driving instead; and when you rent a domestic one-way car hire, make sure that the company is operating under legal standards.
The Road Rules in Kenya
In order to have a smooth travel experience in Kenya, it is important that everyone on the road stick to the traffic rules — be it in the centers of Nairobi and Mombasa, on the outskirts along the Serengetti, or on the shores of Lake Turkana.
If you do not follow the road rules, you may face corresponding consequences, including accidents, paying fines, imprisonment, and impounding your driving license. Nevertheless, as long as you put in mind safety and responsible driving, you should be alright.
Drinking alcohol will diminish your ability to concentrate, evaluate situations and respond quickly. This is most risky when you are driving alongside other vehicles, turning, stopping, reversing, parking, and doing other maneuvering activities.
Kenyan authorities do breathalyzer driving tests on suspected drivers, and it is against the law to refuse or not comply. If you get caught drinking and driving, the driving-while-drunk penalty in Kenya is a payment of not less than 100,000Ksh. Likewise, depending on the degree of violation, you can face imprisonment of up to two (2) years.
If you want to drink alcohol and still need to drive, make sure that you only drink a small amount. This is to ensure that you don’t go beyond 0.35g/liter of breath or 0.8g/liter of blood. Better yet, find a non-drinking driver to take you to your destination.
Kenya has strict local laws for parking. You should only park in designated parking spots/bays only, or risk paying a fine of up to 50,000Ksh, and imprisonment of up to three (3) months. To compensate for the growing demand for parking areas in beautiful cities in Kenya, the government even allows private entities to establish parking areas for the general public at a minimal price.
Vehicles exempted from this law are those in a state of emergency or vehicles responding to emergencies. If your car breaks down and you need to wait for rescue / towing services, make sure to place a triangle or any sign before and after your car.
Ensure Your Vehicle is in Good Condition
Before going out on the road, regularly check your vehicle’s condition. It has to be mechanically sound, and the exteriors (like mirrors, windshields, tires, lights, etc.) are not broken. If you’re driving a rental car, make sure to request safety and emergency gear from your car rental company. This may include a small fire extinguisher, warning triangle, first aid kit, a spare tyre, a jack, and a jumpstart cable, to name a few.
General Standards of Driving
If you skim through the Kenya Traffic Act, you’ll find that the policies are well designed to cater to the different road and vehicle conditions in the country (as it should be in all other countries as well). Although these standards are universal, what sets each country apart are the corresponding penalties. The provision below are what you’ll need to remember in Kenya.
When driving anywhere in the world, you should not drive too fast nor drive too slow. Driving fast may cause accidents, while driving too slow may cause inconvenience to other vehicles that are in a hurry. In Kenya, you should not drive above the following speed limit:
- Superhighway (motor cars) - 130km/hr
- Superhighway (public service vehicles) - 100km/hr
- Urban primary roads (trading centers, townships, cities, etc.) - 50km/hr
- Special zones (i.e., schools) - 50km/hr
- Rural Kenyan roads - 110km/hr
If you get caught violating the speed limits in general, you will be liable to a fine of up to 100Ksh. In addition, if you defy the rules within school zones, you will be liable to a fine of up to 20,000Ksh.
Kenya has plenty of roundabouts. With this, you have to know which lane you should be driving in upon approaching the roundabout. In addition, once you are inside the roundabout, and your exit is halfway around where you came from, you should maneuver to the right hand drive vehicles lane. On the other hand, if your exit is nearer (like the 1st exit), you should stay in the left-hand lane. Make sure to look out for directional signs when approaching roundabouts.
Driving Signs in Kenya
Driving signs in Kenya are divided into three (3) main categories: the regulatory signs, the guiding sign, and the warning signs. This shouldn’t confuse you because the standards are still similar to other countries. Triangle signs are for warning, circle signs are the regulatory signs, while rectangle signs are to give road users information.
- Speed bumps
- Uneven road surface
- Falling rocks ahead
- Blind curve
- Merging traffic
- Road construction ahead
- Narrow Kenyan roads ahead
- Other signs that warn users of potential danger
- No U-turn
- No parking
- No turning on red light
- Loading and unloading only
- Do not enter
- Keep right
- Other signs that instruct road users on what to do and what not to do
- his way to
- Street names
- H (Hospital)
- Pedestrian Zone
- Bike Lane
- 350 meters to
- Other signs informing road users of directions
Right of Way
The vehicles that are exempted from all local laws for traffic are emergency vehicles and those belonging to the presidential motorcade. Emergency vehicles include fire trucks, ambulances, and police vehicles. However, it should be good to note that such vehicles are only exempted when they are on official business. This means that they are being used to respond to an emergency or a road incident.
If an ambulance, a police car, or a fire truck is used not to respond to emergencies, it would be illegal for them to use their sirens, park in a non-designated parking space, and drive over speed limits.
Legal Driving Age
To drive a light passenger vehicle in Kenya, you need to be at least 18 years old. There are more than ten (10) classes of driving licence in Kenya, each permitting the driving of different vehicle classes in Kenya. As such, the legal driving will also depend on the vehicle class and license type. For example, 16-year-olds are allowed to drive but only using moped vehicles, with no passengers and no loads. Likewise, to drive a motorcycle taxi, a heavy truck with a trailer, and a large bus, you need to be at least 21, 28, and 30 years old, respectively.
For tourists who are just traveling for leisure, light vehicles are the most common type of rentals. Moreso, even if you are above 28 years old, you will not be allowed to drive other types of vehicles unless it is stated on your native driving license and your International Driver’s Permit.
Laws on Overtaking
Overtaking is one of the trickiest maneuvering skills that a driver can master. It is because you have to carefully estimate the speed of the vehicles you are overtaking whilst maintaining control of your own acceleration-deceleration rates and timing. Moreso, overtaking might be even trickier for people who are not used to driving on the left-hand side of the road. Hence, if you’re open to taking driving classes in Kenya, make sure that you really hone your overtaking skills.
Nevertheless, here are some points to remember when overtaking:
- Overtake from the right
- The road is clear enough ahead
- No vehicles are trying to overtake you
- Move quickly past the vehicle you want to overtake
- Signal when you maneuver out of your lane and before overtaking
- Overtake only in sections marked with a broken line
- Do not overtake at a junction
Driving Side in Kenya
The driving side in Kenya is on the left-hand side of the road. It is one of 13 African countries that drive on this side of the road. Foreigners who are not used to driving on this side of the road are encouraged to take lessons in registered driving schools in Kenya. If you are spending just a short time in Kenya and don’t have enough time for driving lessons, perhaps you can arrange with your school to have your practical lessons towards the different foreigner drive destinations.
Driving Etiquette in Kenya
Apart from complying with the road rules, proper road behavior is paramount to maintain peace and order on the road. There may be unruly drivers, so if you practice proper road etiquette, you may be able to steer away from untoward accidents caused by them.
Car breakdowns can involve deflation of tyres, empty fuel tanks, overheating, battery problems, and many more. If no other potential hazard has developed, like fire, maneuver your vehicle away from the middle of the road. If you can’t do it by yourself, try to find people nearby who can help you. In addition, you have to observe the following:
- Turn on your hazard lights even if the car is already on the side of the road
- Place a warning triangle at least 40m before and after your car
- Call your car rental company immediately for assistance
When traffic police randomly wave you over outside a checkpoint, slow down and come to a complete stop. Ensure that practice courtesy and behavior when talking to the police. Prepare your driving documents such as your license and car registration papers. As a precaution, make sure to lock all your car doors before you come to a full-stop. You also do not need to go out of your vehicle unless you are told to do so.
To avoid corrupt officers who charge you unfairly, make sure that you have the M-Pesa application. It is a mobile payment software where you can pay for your traffic violations instead of giving cash to the officers.
In case you find yourself lost while driving in Kenya, you can approach the nearest locals and ask them courteously. Make sure that you know the correct name of the place you are headed to and show them pictures or the map to help you. A lot of Kenyans understand English very well. But if you want to practice your Swahili skills, you can use the following phrases:
“Hello” - "Halo"
"Can you help me?" - "Unaweza kunisaidia?"
"Can you tell me where this is" - "Unaweza kuniambia hii iko wapi?"
"Where should I pass?" - "Nipite wapi?"
"Thank you very much" - "Asante sana"
"Have a good day" - "Kuwa na siku njema"
Kenya has plenty of police checkpoints, like sobriety checkpoints. These are usually marked with low spike strips across the road. Checkpoints are to ensure that you are legally driving and you are in a healthy state of mind and body (not drunk, in short). Even if the police do not wave you over, just reduce your speed if you come across checkpoints.
You may encounter plenty of unique road situations in Kenya. As long as you remember to consider the safety of other road users, you should be able to handle those situations well. Here are two (2) other tips when driving in Kenya.
How Do I Cross Kenyan Intersections?
Once you sit in the driver’s seat, you should have a full view of the road. This means that the windshield and glass windows are not broken for you to check both directions unrestricted. It is important to reduce your speed and look both ways, especially when you are at a busy intersection, to ensure that there are no emergency vehicles or other oncoming vehicles that you need to give way to.
Apart from that, looking both ways will ensure that you do not collide with other vehicles that are also crossing the intersection. You still need to maintain enough space, especially when you are turning a corner.
Are There Animals on Kenyan Roads?
When you’re driving out of the city and into the rural zones, you may encounter animals, both domesticated and wild. National parks and safari adventure areas in Kenya are rarely fenced, so the animals roam around freely.
With this, when you come across animals on the road, reduce your speed and leave room for them to pass. If the animals are crossing the road, wait for them to get off the road and do not sound your car horn or rev your engine. If there are other vehicles behind you, you can also signal to them that you are waiting for the animals to cross. This is for them to avoid scaring the animals also.
What Do I Do If I Cause A Road Accident?
If you meet an accident, immediately stop and do not speed away. You can be charged with a hit-and-run violation if you do so. You should also call the police right away.
If there are passengers or other road users who are injured as a result of the accident, try to administer first aid and call immediately for an ambulance. Help keep the victim/s calm and let them know that help is on the way. For the vehicles involved in the accident, do not move them away from the scene and take pictures right away if you have the means to. This does not provide evidence to your insurance company and have untampered evidence for the police.
Once the police arrive, you should provide all your necessary information. Failure to provide the police with the correct information will hold you liable for additional violations.
Driving Conditions in Kenya
If it’s your first time driving in Africa, know that it is one of the best places to go driving in the world because of its expansive natural parks. In Kenya, much like in other African nations, safari drives are the most popular. But does the 177,800km road network provide enough suitable conditions for safe driving in Kenya?
A study based on the road traffic accident data between 2015-2020 in Kenya showed that about 3,000 - 4,500 mortalities occur in the country every year due to road accidents. Specifically, the NSTA recorded a 46.5% and 26.31% increase in road injuries and fatalities, respectively. All these translate to a maximum of 8.7 deaths per 100,000 people. Moreso, this is even believed to be underestimates of the real situation in Kenya if you compare it to statistics of the World Health Organization.
The majority of road accidents in Kenya are of human origin. This includes drunk drivers, over-speeders, and other unruly drivers. Nairobi has the highest cases of both knock/down and hit/run incidents, so if you find yourself driving around the city areas (even in Mombasa), make sure to drive defensively. This means that you should look ahead and spot potential hazards before it turns into a disaster.
You can find common city vehicles in Kenya like sedans. But another very common type of vehicle in Kenya is the Safari Vehicle. It is still a general term that is used for vehicles used in safari tours; however, these types of vehicles are really built and designed to protect and give comfort to their users under intense safari conditions. Safari vehicles are either closed or open. Depending on your itinerary and area, you should consult first with your car rental company which type of safari vehicles would be best to use.
Toll roads exist in Kenya. You will have to pay between USD0.01 - USD0.03 per km if you traverse the following Kenyan roads:
- Nairobi - Nakuru - Mau Sumit Highway
- Nairobi - Mombasa Highway
- Nairobi - Thika Superhighway
- Nairobi’s Southern Bypass
- Mtwapa Bridge
- New Nyali Bridge
Toll roads in the Kenya maps are governed by the Public Kenyan Roads Toll Act. If you refuse to pay the toll fee, you can be liable to a fine of up to 5,000Ksh or imprisonment of up to six (6) months.
Out of over 63,500km classified main roads in Kenya, almost 48% are earth roads, 36% are gravel roads, and the rest are paved roads. According to the Road Inventory Data of the Kenya Roads Board, around 40.7% of paved Kenyan roads in the country are in poor condition, while 35.6% of them are in fair condition. For unpaved Kenyan roads, the majority of them are also in poor condition.
The paved General Kenya roads are within the Nairobi Business District, and these mostly come in two (2) carriageways with two (2) - four (4) lanes each. There are rarely any potholes within paved Kenyan roads; however, if you travel outside urban centers, you may need to watch out for potholes, especially during the rainy season.
Kenya still has a lot to improve when it comes to road safety. One (1) of the greatest challenges in achieving this is devising ways to discipline Matatu drivers. Sociological studies have noted that the lawlessness of local drivers, especially public transit drivers, roots mostly from economic necessity — that there is a need to hasten in order to incur more trips. This is inevitable wherever you go in Kenya. As such, it is recommended that you exercise patience at all times and avoid escalating stressful situations.
Things To Do in Kenya
Kenya isn’t only a great destination for safari adventures. If you’re interested in staying in Kenya for a longer-term than what is allowed by a tourist visa, you can explore the activities listed in this section.
Drive As A Tourist
If you’re just thinking about booking a safari tour package in Kenya, think again! Wouldn’t it be more exciting to go on a self-drive safari aboard the coolest safari vehicles in the world? You can always hire a tour guide that could ride along with you if you are not confident. But definitely include safari-driving on your Kenyan bucket list.
Work As A Driver
Driving jobs in Kenya are one of the most exciting, considering the booming safari industry.
Safari guides in Kenya can earn between USD5 - USD40 per day. If you become a safari guide who drives, you may earn much more than that.
Apart from being a tour driver, you can also explore working in the delivery and transport sector. According to Salary Explorer, people working in the courier/delivery/transport business earns about KES57,300 on average per month, with the highest being KES179,000.
Remember that when choosing a job in Kenya, you have to consider different factors like workplace proximity, work schedule, environment, and the like. You can find plenty of driving job vacancies in Kenya online, and you should always research more about the company you are applying for before accepting any offer.
Work As A Travel Guide
According to Salary Explorer, travel agents in Kenya earn about KES1,176,000 on average per year. The lowest yearly rate is around KES576,000. These rates also include transport, housing, and other benefits apart from the salary. For tour guides, you can find monthly salaries of around KES35,000.
The usual requirements and qualifications of travel guide jobs include:
- Driver’s license
- Proficiency in English
Apply for Residency
If you think you want to reside in Kenya, you can also apply for residency. People who are not planning on working in Kenya but want to reside in Kenya belong to class K. The requirements are:
- Duly filled and signed application Form 3
- Copies of passport
- Two (2) passport-size, colored photos
- Duly completed entry permit application
- Proof of income
- Pay the processing fee of KES10,000
- Pay KES100,000 yearly
If you’ve stayed in the country for three (3) consecutive years (with work or residency permit), or have held a work permit for at least seven (7) years, you will be eligible to apply for permanent residency. A tip is to be open to different driving job vacancies in Kenya, then just build up from there if you want.
Other Things To Do
If you don’t want to be engaged in official driving jobs in Kenya, there are still other significant things that you can do. Here’s what we recommend:
Would You Be Interested To Volunteer in Kenya?
If you have a heart for serving others, there are plenty of non-government organizations that you can volunteer to. However, Kenya doesn’t issue specialized visas for volunteers. You can apply for a multiple entry tourist visa if you wish to work longer than 30 or 90 days.
Some of the programs that you can volunteer in Kenya cover childcare, English tutoring, marine conservation, terrestrial wildlife protection, youth development, cultural preservation, community development, health, and many more. If you volunteer in Kenya, you will really be immersed in the culture and day-to-day life of the Kenyans, especially with organizations that partner with host families to accommodate their volunteers.
Here are some organizations that you can check out:
- Kenya Rocha Conservation and Hope
- Youth Alive
- Kenya Wildlife Society
- Volunteer HQ
- St. John Ambulance
- VSO International
- Kenya Museum Society
- SOS Children’s Villages
- United Nations Volunteer Programme (UNV)
- World Endeavors
- Moving Mountains
Would You Want To Start A Business in Kenya?
Foreigners can engage in business in the country provided that they secure a work permit. This work permit should be obtained from the Ministry of Immigration. Foreigners can set-up either a corporation, a branch, or a representative office. The requirements and laws also will depend on the industry you want to engage in. For example, if you want to start a telecommunications company, you need to have a Kenyan business partner who will own 30% of the shares, as well as at least three (3) directors and seven (7) other shareholders.
The legal costs of starting a business in Kenya will also depend on the structure of your business. For example, if you want to establish a branch, you’ll need to pay approximately KES8,600 to register; If you want to put up a corporation, you’ll need to pay additional fees.
Nonetheless, Kenya continues to be an emerging market with plenty of upcoming physical and social infrastructures. If Fortune 500 companies bet on Kenya, most likely Kenya has a very large potential on the global stage.
The Top Destinations in Kenya
Kenya has a lot of scenic driving routes. The landscape is just so breathtaking that even if you didn’t have a destination, the drive itself could already be your itinerary. Some of the best driving routes in Kenya include: the Nairobi to the Mara Intrepids route, the Nairobi to the Kisumu Impala Sanctuary route, and the Nairobi to Samburu National Reserve route.
Nevertheless, you can create your own road trip route, having in mind the recommended destinations below.
Various sections of Lake Turkana are sites of archaeological importance. Kobi Fora, an area on the northeastern side of the lake (near Sibiloi National Park), was where the first hominids were found — Paranthropus boisei, Homo habilis, Australophithecus anamensis, Homo erectus, and Homo sapiens.
However, climate change and unregulated human activities continue to threaten the lake. If you’re open to doing volunteer work in Kenya, you can find a lot of conservation initiatives that you can take part in at Lake Turkana.
Lake Turkana is approximately 600 km from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. It usually takes about 10-12 hours to drive to the lake without any stopover. If you’ll head straight to the lake from Jomo Kenyatta, it is recommended that you divide your trip and perhaps spend the night at a nearby town.
You can access Lake Turkana from three (3) counties: Turkana, Samburu, and Marsabit. However, the most accessible road from Nairobi is C77, which guides you to Marsabit County. From the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport:
- Exit the airport by driving west along the Airport Road.
- Turn right towards Mombasa Road / A104.
- Stay on A104 until your reach the town of Gilgil.
- Once you reach Shell Patrol Station - Gilgil, turn right towards C77.
- C77 will take you directly towards Lake Turkana.
Things To Do
Most trips to Lake Turkana are planned and done by safari tour operators. If you want to drive to the Lake yourself, at least hire a guide who would ride along with you. The route to Lake Turkana will take you through mountains and savannas, and guides will help you navigate the local situations with ease.
1. Go Fishing On The Lake
Lake Turkana is home to the Nile Tilapia, the Nile Perch, and over 58 more species of fish. About 16% of them are indigenous to the lake. You can bring in your fishing gear (or rent at the lake), ride a boat, and just spend the afternoon fishing.
2. Visit Crocodile Lake
Lake Turkana has three crater lakes. One of them is Crocodile Lake, which hosts the world’s largest population of crocodiles in the wild. The lake is located on Central Island, and you can actually camp out on the island.
3. Visit the Discovery Site of the First Hominids
Fossil remains of the early humans were discovered on Lake Turkana around the 1970s. You can ask your guide to take you to the northeastern shore for a tour of the exact discovery sites.
Town of Malindi
Prominent explorers have sailed to and visited the coastal town of Malindi as far back as the 15th century. With this, what was once a minute settlement quickly turned into one (1) of the busiest ports in East Africa. When you visit Malindi, you will be able to walk through its rich cultural heritage as preserved by old buildings that date as far back as the 16th century. Apart from that, you will be able to meet locals from different cultural backgrounds, including Asian and European.
The City of Malindi is about 685 km from the center of Nairobi. If you’re landing at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and drive directly towards Malindi, it will take you about ten (10) hours via A3 and B8.
From the airport:
- Make your way towards Mombasa Road by taking the Airport S Road exit.
- Keep to the right to merge with the northbound lane of Mombasa Road.
- Drive north along Mombasa Road.
- At the Haile Selassie roundabout, take the 3rd exit towards Haile Selassie Avenue.
- At the next roundabout, take the 2nd exit to stay on Haile Selassie Avenue.
- At the next roundabout, again, take the 2nd exit to stay on Haile Selassie Avenue.
- At the next roundabout, take the 2nd exit towards Ring Road.
- Once at the Kariakor Roundabout, take the 2nd roundabout towards Ring Rd Ngara.
- Then turn left onto Thika Road and onto Meru-Nairobi Highway and Embu-Nairobi Highway / A2.
- Continue to drive along A2, then turn left onto Garissa Road / A3.
- Turn right onto B8. B8 will take you directly towards Malindi.
Things To Do
When you visit Malindi, get ready to experience 16th century Kenya in some sites. But more than that, get ready to experience the potential of Kenya in the arena of wildlife conservation, architecture, sports, and many more.
1. Sail on a Sawa Sawa
A Sawa Sawa is a Mozambique-made dhow (traditional sailing vessel). When you go to Malindi, you’ll be able to meet locals who’ll offer you Sawa Sawa Dhow Excursions. When you visit the beaches like Watamu Beach and Che Shale Beach, apart from the exciting watersports, definitely experience riding a Sawa Sawa.
2. Visit the Sandstone Canyons of the Marafa Depression
Also known as “Hell’s Kitchen” or “Nyari” (a place broken by itself), the Marafa Depression is a very popular tourist destination in the outskirts of Malindi. To see the maximum beauty of the rocks, visit this area around sunset. Don’t worry; the area is gated, so you are safe with a guide.
3. Visit the Mysterious Gedi Ruins
The Gedi Ruins is believed to be a 13th-century town deep in the lush forest near Malindi. At present, you will be able to see the remains of what is believed to be a mosque, a palace, and numerous houses. What’s interesting about the Gedi Ruins is that the community had systems that were far beyond their time — running water, toilets, etc. Scientists even discovered artifacts that are of different international origins.
4. Visit the Ndoro Sculpture Garden
There are more than 250 sculptures at the Ndoro Gardens. The earliest sculpture date around the 1960s, and some of the artists have done art exhibitions around the world.
The term “Nairobi” is of Maasai descent. Specifically, it was taken from “Enkare Nyrobi”, which means cool water. Nairobi has ample water resources because it used to be a marshland, along with all other expansive wetlands surrounding it. At present, people call Nairobi as the “Green City of the Sun” because this is where the best of nature and city collide. Apart from having access to the nearby safari areas, Nairobi also hosts some of the world’s most progressive businesses like Fortune 500 companies.
One (1) of the major concerns when driving around Nairobi is the traffic. A normal 10-minute rush hour is experienced as a 78-minute rush hour in Nairobi, over two (2) - three (3) times more than what is experienced in London and New York.
The land area of Nairobi is about 696 km2; and while its road density is considered sufficient, the growing number of vehicles paved the (still) intensifying traffic build-ups in various sections of the city. With this, you are advised to plan ahead your destinations in Nairobi and research about which routes would save you more time.
Things To Do
As a capital city, Nairobi does not disappoint. Being around the city alone would give you loads of activities that could fill your days. Here are our most recommended activities in Nairobi:
1. Visit the Hippo Pools
If you want to see the majestic hippopotamus, go on a Nairobi Safari Walk around the Hippo Pools. You can also spend some picnic time nearby and just observe how the animals spend their day.
2. See the Towering Giraffes Upclose at the Giraffe Center
The Giraffe Center is home to the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife. It was established to primarily educate Kenyan school children about the importance of nature and wildlife; and, later on, welcomed guests from all around the world to interact with these animals in a safe and sustainable way.
3. Visit the Karen Blixen Museum
Karen Blixen is a famous Danish writer who lived in Kenya with her family. The museum is basically their colonial farmhouse near the Ngong Hills, and it is a popular site for destination weddings at present. If you visit the museum, you can opt for a guided tour or just go around by yourself.
4. See Live Cultural Performances At the Bomas of Kenya
The traditional music of Kenya roots from different ethnic groups. Considering traditional dances alone, there are over 50 of them! And you’ll get to see all of them when you visit the Bomas. While you’re in the area, try the dishes at Utamaduni Restaurant
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