Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including armed carjackings, grenade attacks, home invasions and burglaries, and kidnappings can occur at any time and in any location. U.S. citizens, including U.S. Embassy employees, have been victims of such crimes within the past year. Crime is high in all regions of Kenya, particularly Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and at coastal beach resorts. There are regular reports of attacks against tourists by groups of armed assailants. Pickpockets and thieves carry out "snatch and run" crimes on city streets and near crowds. Visitors have found it safer not to carry valuables, but rather to store them in hotel safety deposit boxes or safe rooms. However, there have been reports of safes being stolen from hotel rooms and hotel desk staff being forced to open safes. Walking alone or at night, especially in downtown areas, public parks, along footpaths, on beaches, and in poorly lit areas, is dangerous and discouraged.
Nairobi averages about ten vehicle hijackings per day and Kenyan authorities have limited capacity to deter and investigate such acts. Matatus (public transportation) tend to be targeted since they carry up to 14 passengers. Although these attacks are often violent, victims are generally not injured if they do not resist. There is also a high incidence of residential break-ins and occupants should take additional security measures to protect their property. Thieves and con artists have been known to impersonate police officers, thus U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to ask for identification if approached by individuals identifying themselves as police officials, uniformed or not. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to such crimes within the past year. U.S. citizens in Kenya should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security, particularly in public places frequented by foreigners such as clubs, hotels, resorts, upscale shopping centers, restaurants, and places of worship. U.S. citizens should also remain alert in residential areas, at schools, and at outdoor recreational events.
Thieves routinely snatch jewelry and other objects from open vehicle windows while motorists are either stopped at traffic lights or in heavy traffic. Vehicle windows should be up and doors locked regardless of the time of day or weather. Thieves on matatus, buses, and trains may steal valuables from inattentive passengers. U.S. citizens should guard their backpacks or hand luggage and ensure these items are not left unattended. Purchasing items from street vendors is strongly discouraged – visitors should only use reputable stores or businesses. Many scams, perpetrated against unsuspecting tourists, are prevalent in and around the city of Nairobi. Many of these involve people impersonating police officers and using fake police ID badges and other credentials. Nevertheless, police checkpoints are common in Kenya and all vehicles are required to stop if directed to do so.
Highway banditry is common in much of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, and northern Tana River counties, as well as Turkana county. These areas are remote and sparsely populated. Incidents also occur occasionally on Kenya's main highways, particularly after dark. Due to increased bandit activity, air travel is the recommended means of transportation when visiting any of the coastal resorts north of Malindi. Travelers to North Eastern Kenya and the North Rift Valley Region should travel with police escorts or convoys organized by the government of Kenya.
There have been reports of armed banditry in or near many of Kenya's national parks and game reserves, particularly the Samburu, Leshaba, and Masai Mara game reserves. In response, the Kenya Wildlife Service and police have taken steps to strengthen security in the affected areas, but the problem has not been eliminated. Travelers who do not use the services of reputable travel firms or knowledgeable guides or drivers are especially at risk. Safaris are best undertaken with a minimum of two vehicles so that there is a backup in case of mechanical failure or other emergency. Camping alone is always risky.
The Kenyan mail system can be unreliable and monetary instruments (credit cards, checks, etc.) are frequently stolen. International couriers provide the safest means of shipping envelopes and packages, although anything of value should be insured.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
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