In recent years, there have been many reports in the news about terrorist attacks and incidences of violent crime and kidnapping that have taken place in Nairobi. These events coincide with the city’s growing reputation as a tourist haven. But is the Kenyan capital really as dangerous as the media would have you believe? While it is true that Nairobi (and indeed many areas of Kenya) experience high crime rates, you can still have an enjoyable tourist experience provided you take certain precautions to protect yourself. Here are some tips to help you:
When people go on vacation, it’s common to carry large sums of cash. Because Nairobi has higher rates of robbery and pickpocketing compared to most western cities, it is advisable to carry as little cash as possible. In its place, use a mobile currency called mpesa which is widely accepted throughout much of the country.
When you’re advised to dress modestly, it means not to wear very expensive clothing while you’re touring Nairobi. This could make you the target of thieves, as many locals believe westerners dressed in expensive attire are wealthy.
Going out at night
Here is where you will want to be extra careful. Many areas of the city simply are not safe after 6 pm, especially Koinange Street, which is known to be especially rough and dodgy. If you do venture out for an evening meal, you should be with a sizable group of friends.
Contrary to what many people will say, public transportation in Nairobi is safe provided you don’t have any valuables visible and do not sit next to an open window. It must be noted that pickpocketing does occur on public buses and matatu’s, so you must closely guard your possessions. If you want to explore the city and don’t know how to get around, it is recommended that you hire a taxi driver to take you where you want to go.
It is common for tourists to book through a tour operator. This way, they are assured to have a good hotel. If you do not want to go this route, your best option is to check reviews of hotels online as well as the locations before flying to the city. At the end of the day, it’s better to pay more to stay in a modern, safe hotel where many other tourists stay.
Other precautions to take
Anywhere you go in the world, there are people who will try to take advantage of you – and Nairobi is no different. There have been reports of strangers approaching tourists offering to help them. As it turns out, these locals were either robbers or scam artists. In a word, be polite and friendly to everyone you meet, but at the same time, keep your guard up.
As stated above, being out late a night can be a risky venture. Always employ situational awareness. If you want to experience Nairobi’s vibrant nightclub scene, you must stay in the area (preferably with friends) until the early morning.
Moi Avenue is a bustling area where the city’s main transportation hub is located. You’re advised to take extra precautions when traveling through there with bags and luggage.
One of the biggest tourist draws to the Nairobi area are the world-famous African safaris. And yes, just as there are many legitimate tour operators who you can pay to go on the safari of your dreams, there are also professional scam artists known as safari touts who entice you into an office. While there, they charge you exorbitant fees for safaris.
While Nairobi has certainly had its share of bad press, the city is generally no more dangerous than many others in Africa or the developing world. As to be expected, common sense is to be used at all times. Be careful and you will have a great vacation.
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