Personal safety is most likely the greatest concern women have when traveling to Africa. Whether you’re a girl on vacation with your family, a woman enjoying an exotic honeymoon, or simply a solo female traveller, there are a few key things you need to know about traveling in Kenya. Read on to find out how to make the best of your stay.
1. Keep your sunscreen handy
The African sun is legendary and Kenya is no exception. While getting a nice tan may be on your vacation to do list, we’re sure being an angry, crispy, sun burnt red is not something you’d enjoy. While the risk of sun damage may be slightly higher in areas like the coast and less in the cloudier highlands, pack a little sun protection anyway. Better safe than sorry!
2. Stay Safe!
Kenya is generally secure, especially in areas where tourists would usually visit. It is, however, advisable to limit your very late night travel and activities to the area around your hotel. If you must go out late at night, bring a friend and enough cash for a cab if need be. During the day, you should keep an eye on your handbag and any valuables in your pocket, just in case.
3. Feel Free to Use Public Transportation
The main form of public transportation in Kenya is graffiti-fied vans and buses called “matatus.” These are safer than taking the unlisted taxis available all through the city, and will get you just about anywhere in Kenya.
Most parts of Kenya has a reliable electricity supply so you’ll likely have a place to charge your electronics and capture your Kenyan moments. You may have to bring an adapter though, as the current and type of socket may vary from what you have at home. For your phone, tablet, and laptop, you will need to be careful of sticky fingers in some of the seedier parts of the country — be discrete.
5. When it comes to accommodation, do your research
Kenya has a wide range of accommodation options suited for every pocket, but remember: if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. After finding your accommodation, research the area and see if there’s anything likely to ruin your stay: look out for extreme weather events, reports of crime and so on. Online reviews can also be a lifesaver – don’t be afraid to ask the management about any concerns.
6. Enjoy Street Food and Drink (within reason)
With street delicacies specific to Kenya, you are likely to be tempted to try something yummy from a street vendor. On this, trust your judgment. There a lot of treats you can indulge in. If you can see the preparation process and don’t trust the hygiene, you can pass, but most vendors do their best to make sure the food is fit for all tummies so feel free to take a bite.
7. Keep it covered up
Most of your fashion choices will go unnoticed, but you should carry some form of cover-up just in case. Short-shorts and low cut tops may be good for keeping the heat at bay, but folks in the more traditional parts of the country may frown upon too much exposure.
8. Personal Care Products
If there are specific products that you use for your hair or face, you might not find the exact same ones in Kenya, but you are very likely to find similar brands, so there is no need to stock up. Major brands of personal care products are available in Kenyan markets, and you’re sure to find something that suits you.
9. Leave lots of space for souvenirs
One great thing about Kenya is that you’ll be spoiled for choice of shopping spots when you’re out souvenir hunting. Locally produced art, jewelry, clothes, shoes and other keepsakes rooted in the African culture are readily available at friendly prices; you’d do well to haggle a bit for them! This is all part of the Kenyan experience.
10. You can make lots of new friends!
Most Kenyans are friendly and very willing to help you out in the event that you should need it. Do get to know people in social settings: you never know what you might learn from the locals to give your stay extra African flavor. Socialization between guys and girls follows essentially the same rules as most Western countries so you are unlikely to offend: get out there and make some friends.
11. Remove the bling
Kenya is overall a safe destination, but it is still wise to exercise caution. Don’t wear expensive jewelry out on the street. There are instances where jewelry is snatched. Don’t provide the temptation.
12. Look confident
General travel safety advice applies to Kenya. Try to appear confident, even if you’re not. Look as if you know exactly where you’re going. If you do need to consult a map, do so in a cafe, not standing on the street. If all else fails, ask for directions. Kenyans are generally caring and eager to help.
13. Use common sense
Most female travellers are used to exercising a degree of common sense. Try to ignore any whistles or comments. Don’t react angrily. Consider wearing sunglasses to avoid direct eye contact, or wearing a wedding band and pretending the existence of a husband (remember to include a photo!). Use your instincts: if you feel you are in danger, go to a public place or hook up with a family.
14. Personal hygiene
You should be able to buy sanitary items in large towns or in Nairobi, but if you’re going on safari, you’ll need to stock up. The heat may have other effects on your body as well, so consider bringing items such as cream for rashes or power for prickly heat. You’ll enjoy your time more if you’re not in agony from chafing! And if you use medication, it’s best to bring extra with you (consider also bringing a letter from your doctor).
15. Don’t be shy!
If you’re a solo female traveller, don’t hesitate to join other travellers or tours. You may find like-minded folk in your hotel, and be able to tag along with them for a few days or so, checking out the sights. And it might be fun to join others for a meal every now and then, rather than sitting by yourself.