Kenya is a dream destination with an incredible mix of natural wonders. Aside from its natural parks, wildlife safaris, snowy mountains, endless grasslands, and gorgeous sandy beaches, Kenya, also has a reputation for traffic being chaotic and roads being full of potholes.
How much of that is true? Do you see yourself driving around Kenya? Should you venture Kenya traffic or hire a driver to take you around during your visit? Read our expert recommendations to find out whether you would like to get around Kenya by car.
But before you depart for this African nation, make sure to check whether travelers from your country are eligible to apply online for a Kenya eVisa. The simple online application requires just a few minutes to complete and will help you avoid waiting in line for hours to obtain a Kenya visa on arrival at border entry points.
How Are the Road Conditions in Kenya?
The primary roads around Nairobi are well-paved, despite some potholes. Tarmac roads outside Nairobi can conveniently lead you to your safari destination. Road conditions are constantly improving, so you may encounter some roadworks along the way.
The further you go from Nairobi, the more likely you will be to encounter more unsurfaced roads. While a few unsurfaced roads may be in good condition, most roads in Kenya are notorious for their large potholes, rocky surfaces and rivers overflowing over them.
Kenya Road Rules
Although they do exist, many of the locals do not really follow the traffic rules in Kenya. That, in and of itself may entice you to consider alternative means of transportation such as renting a car with a driver.
According to traffic laws in Kenya, the norm is to drive on the left-hand side of the road. However, many locals drive on the wrong side of the road whenever they encounter a pothole or an animal in their way.
Please note that foreign-registered vehicles with more than 6 seats are not permitted to enter into Kenyan national parks and reserves.
Kenya Road Hazards
Road conditions vary widely in Kenya, from flat, smooth highways around Nairobi to bumpy dirt tracks in its national parks. Although some unpaved roads may be driven in a 2 wheel drive vehicle, a 4 wheel drive would likely be a safer bet.
Beware of potholes on poor roads, livestock, pedestrians, and cyclists. Acacia thorns are a tire-piercing threat in certain rural areas. Certain roads have a reputation for bandits on the lookout so it is a good idea to seek local advice before driving around.
What precautions can I take when driving in Kenya?
Exploring the country by car can be incredibly rewarding, so here are a few Kenya driving precautions, should you choose to drive round:
- Drive below the speed limit (80 km/h or 49 miles/h on the highway, and 50 km/h or 31 miles/h in urban areas). Drive at a maximum speed of 40km/h or 24 miles/h when going off-road
- Watch out for unmarked speed bumps
- Drive defensively
- Avoid driving after dark
- Make sure to always carry drinking water, some cash, emergency food, a fully-charged phone and, spare fuel just in case
- If Kenyan police officers stop you by the side of the road, remain patient and friendly and show them your documents. Beware that some police officers ask for bribes so ask for an official receipt in order to avoid being taken advantage of
Gas stations are few and far between outside the capital, and gas prices can creep up to surprisingly high prices in more remote areas and inside national parks. Make sure to stock up and carry spare fuel if you are taking long trips and going off-road.
Driving in Kenya
Should you choose to bring your own vehicle to drive around Kenya, make sure you have all the paperwork at hand. If you are driving a car or motorbike, you will need:
- The vehicle’s registration papers
- Liability insurance
- Driver’s license: An International Driving Permit (IDP) is not necessary in Kenya (most foreign licenses are accepted)
- Carnet de passage en douane (a passport for the vehicle which acts as a temporary waiver of import duty)
Car Rental in Kenya
If you would like to hire a car in Kenya, make sure you are dealing with a reputable car rental company in Nairobi, Kenya and that the vehicle is in a good state. Remember to ask for insurance while renting a car in Kenya. Remember to check the brakes, tires, windscreen wipers and car lights before you leave the car rental company.
If you are an adventurous driver, hiring a sturdy 4 wheel drive can open up relatively inaccessible corners of the country. Kenya is not an ideal place for inexperienced or nervous drivers to get behind the wheel. If this is your case, you will probably be more comfortable renting a car with a driver, fortunately, this rarely costs a lot more.
Some car hire companies in Kenya require drivers age to be a minimum of 23 to 25 years old, as well as 2 years driving experience.
Reputable car rental companies in Kenya may deliver a replacement vehicle should you encounter a major problem with the car you have rented while others may leave you to repair the car and then claim a refund. Make sure to enquire about possible breakdowns and company policy in these situations.
Can I Cross the Border from Kenya?
Yes, crossing the Kenyan border into neighboring countries can be an exciting road trip. It is possible to cross the border from Kenya to Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda.
Certain car rental agencies will not allow you to cross the border from Kenya to South Sudan, Ethiopia or Somalia in one of their vehicles. Other companies will require an insurance extension to make sure you are covered everywhere should you choose to cross the border and visit more than one country.
Now that you know everything you need to know about getting around Kenya by car, you can get on with the more fun parts of planning your next vacation such as making a list of activities you would like to do there as well as natural reserves you don’t want to miss.
While planning your dream trip, make sure to check out whether you are eligible to apply for a Kenya travel visa. Applying is very easy and takes no more than a few minutes and can be done from the comfort of your own home or office.Kenya eVisa Application