Recent US travel Warning to Kenya

Nov 30th, 2004, 08:15 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 125
Recent US travel Warning to Kenya

Does anyone know if this is the SAME warning that was issued in May? On the website the link from May goes to the new warning issued yesterday.
We are planning to leave for an East African safari on Dec 16th but my family got wind of this new warning and are begging us not to go. Any thoughts?
Oh, we are using WildTrek in Kenya and Roy's in Tanzania...
2seeds is offline  
Nov 30th, 2004, 09:45 AM
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2seeds, this kind of question comes up again and again on the Fodors Africa forum. You can do word searches, and find the previous discussion threads, and you'll find that the conversations sound like a stuck record. The newbie comes along and asks a question about security in this or that part of Africa, and the experienced travellers respond with soothing messages.

Any topic that might be described as "emotional" tends to create controversy, which I don't particularly like. Consequently, when those topics come up, I try to stay out of the discussions or, if I contribute at all, I try to sound as reasonable as I can.

But I'm rather bored with keeping my lips zipped up on this point, so I'm going to open my big mouth and share an opinion with you. In my opinion, an Africa travel discussion forum is just about the least reliable place in which you can ask this question. Why? Because many of the posters who hang out here are safari addicts. (Sorry, guys.) If a person wants to ask about the wisdom of drinking alcoholic beverages, would he be well advised to walk into a bar and ask the people who are sitting there indulging in the very behaviour about whose wisdom he has some doubts? I personally do not think that would be the wisest place for our hypothetical person to pose his question.

Okay, all that said, I STILL would proceed with my trip if I were you, and these are my reasons.

Are you familiar with Rick Steves, the travel guide who has written the "Europe Through the Back Door" series of books, aimed mainly at budget-conscious travellers. Steves recommends that people stay in smaller, fairly modest (usually 2 star) hotels and inns. He cites a number of reasons for this. (1) It's more affordable. (2) According to Steves, it brings one into closer contact with "real" local people. (3) It's safer. Why is it safer? Because, if terrorists are going to blow up a hotel, they usually don't blow up Aunty Annie's 15-room, 2 star inn. They blow up a prominent, multi-national, landmark hotel.

I also read some security advice by some other supposed travel expert. I forget his name. Anyway, his advice was somewhat similar to Rick Steves' advice, only his advice was aimed at high end as well as budget travellers. He said travellers with generous budgets should stay at small, luxury, boutique hotels, and travellers with tight budgets should stay at small, modest hotels and inns. His rationale was exactly the same as Rick Steves'. Terrorists do not usually bomb small hotels at either end of the budget spectrum.

Now, in going on safari, you will be staying in what amount to boutique hotels. I mean that's how I view game lodges. The biggest private game lodge I've heard of accommodates 50 guests, and many of them accommodate as few as a dozen guests. Furthermore, they're situated in remote locations. All this suggests to me that Mr. Terrorist is not going to feel that he's going to get the biggest bang for his buck by schlepping out to some game reserve hundreds of miles from anywhere to harm a dozen or two tourists. Besides, you're going with safari companies that have good reputations, that have served many Fodorites well in the past, and I would have to think they are vigilent.

The latest U.S. government warning about Kenya states that the areas that are most suspect are Nairobi and the coast. I've followed your name to figure out your itinerary. If I've understood you correctly, you have only one night in Nairobi, at the Intercontinental Hotel. I've done an Internet search for the IH, and looked at a photo of it. IF you are in the least bit vulnerable, and I stress that that in itself is a huge IF, I think that is a potential Achilles Heel.

I've never been to Nairobi, and I know little about the accommodation that's available there. Indeed, I've never been to East Africa, except for refuelling at NBO on flights between South Africa and Europe. That said, just based on the logical arguments provided by Rick Steves and the other supposed travel expert, if I were you and if I felt inclined to change anything about my itinerary, it is the choice of the Intercontinental Hotel where I would focus my efforts.

Beyond that, for what my opinion is worth (since I too am a wild life lover and cannot be regarded as objective), I think the opportunity to visit the magical African bush outweighs what I believe is a very small risk in going there.

Hope that has helped.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Nov 30th, 2004, 01:24 PM
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2seeds -

Judy_in_Calgary stated it as it is. Most of us Africaphiles would say to chuck the warnings and go regardless; and I put myself in that category, having myself traveled when the warnings were high or do not go! But at Judy explained, with support from Rick Steves and, I believe the other being Peter Greenberg - they recommend staying at small, out of the way accommodations; avoid large cities; and crowds, but still travel.

I wouldn't surprise me that all East African outfitters were aware that these US warnings were coming, but I can tell you that both Wild Trek and Roy Safaris are on top of the needs and safety of their clients, always and foremost. With a combined total of about 50-years in business, neither company would ever put their clients in harms way.

Except for your arrival in Nairobi, you will be out in the Parks and Reserves of both countries in small accommodations - lodges/camps. If you are uneasy staying at the Intercontinental in NBO, which I pressume is only for 1-nt on arrival, you can ask Wild Trek to change your hotel to a smaller establishment - The Mayfair Court or The Jacaranda - but know that the security at hotels throughout NBO is, and has been, for many years, very high.

In the end, this is a "warning" not a "do not travel to" - basically, the same warning to American's traveling worldwide, especially with the coming Christmas/New Years travel period. Regardless where Americans (or anyone for that matter) will be traveling, all have to be aware is their surroundings, avoid crowds, don't show your money, don't wear flashy jewelry, and for American's don't wear USA-type t-shirts, caps, etc.

But in the end, the decision has to be yours.
Nov 30th, 2004, 03:41 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 65
Go on your trip. The travel warnings really haven't changed since the bombings in Mombassa. Go and enjoy. If you will be in Narobi, the security at the bigger hotels is very tight. We stayed at the Interconnential for 2 nights and never worried a minute
katj232 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2004, 05:51 AM
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Thanks to everyone who posted responses. As some of you know, we've spent a lot of time researching and planning this trip. Thanks to those who have helped us get to this point.
Becasue of this new warning, we have a very difficult decision to make. I'm just trying to have as much information as possible before we make a decision. On one hand I'd hate to cancel this trip but on the other, I don't want to feel unsafe I want to be excited!
Any other thoughts are welcome!
2seeds is offline  
Dec 1st, 2004, 06:03 AM
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2seeds - there are two travelers who recently returned from Kenya and Tanzania. You might want to post a thread direct to them and ask what the situation was while there were visiting during the month of November.

Title the Thread - "Steve007NY - Need Info re Safety & Security Kenya/Tanzania re: recent State Dept. Warnings"

then detail the warning and your concerns and ask your questions. I'd like to hope that Steve will reply.
Dec 1st, 2004, 06:08 AM
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Thanks Sandi! I'll do that!
2seeds is offline  
Dec 1st, 2004, 08:48 AM
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I have only been to Southern Africa - South Africa, Namibia and Botswana on 3 different trips so I know nothing of East Africa. However, my family and friends didn't want me to go at all (the second two times were solo). I agree with what the others are saying and also that after you get home you'll be so glad you didn't cancel your trip. It's so far away and you hear about the warnings and the crime and it is scary. After you have been there you will realize how isolated from everything you really are when you are on a safari and the warnings don't really apply to the type of travel you are planning.
sundowner is offline  
Dec 1st, 2004, 01:19 PM
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Please try to put anything about the advisories in perspective. Remember last year the terrorists were supposed to target malls. Did we forego holidayi shopping. No. Nothing happened. Then it was the train services that were supposed to be hit. Nothing happened, etc. etc.

Yes, there is a slim possibility that something could happen anywhere in the world but we are not going to stop living just because it "might".

The rumor is that the US is keeping these travel advisories up against Kenya because the US wants to open a military base and the Kenyan government doesn't want them to. Thus the advisories are a form of blackmail to try to get Kenya to see things our way.

I have traveled alone to Kenya six times since the advisories were intially placed and will be returning again in January. Yes, there is crime in the city (but what city in the US doesn't have it also?). Just relax around your city hotel and don't go wandering around on your own.

Once you get away from the city you will have the most marvelous time of your life.

Please don't let the advisory scare you. Continue with your plans. You have good travel companies who will see to your safety. If they feel something isn't safe, they will move you to another area.

JanGoss is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2004, 05:47 AM
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Would you travel to a city which has over 500 homicies a year? Would you travel to Chicago or New York?
NoFlyZone is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2004, 06:28 AM
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The crime rate really isn't the same thing as a government advisory or terrorist warning -- in general, murderers murder people they have something to do with, not random tourists. But terrorists DO kill randomly. I think 2seeds is smart to ask for information that will help put the govenment warning in perspective, and I think Judy in Calgary has summarized the situation very well.

In 2seeds' shoes, I would not cancel the trip. I'd go, enjoy every minute of it, and come home to regale the nervous relatives with the glories of it.
Celia is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2004, 07:48 AM
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We JUST (36 hours ago) got back from a 10 day safari and time in Nairobi and Mombasa. Frankly, i felt most vulnerable in the cab from JFK to our house in NY!!! Now, of course, NYC is more likely to be a terrorist target than ANYWHERE in kenya....

i've traveled from Afganistan to Zurich, so I may be considered 'counterphobic" but I'd worry more about being held up for jewelry than being killed by terrorists...anywhere!


Steve and John
Steve007NY is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2004, 02:44 PM
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Thanks Steve and John! I do have some questions though regarding anything specific you noticed that they are doing to be more secure. Also what safari operators did you use? What hotel did you stay in, in Nairobi?
How was the safety in Nairobi airport and the city itself, all in your opinion of course...
Lastly, if you just got back you must have been there when the warning got re-posted, was there any mention of it or any thing regarding it there?
2seeds is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2004, 04:30 AM
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We used Wild Africa from British Columbia- who, like most, subcontracted. We used Hilton points to stay at the Nairobi Hilton the first and last nights of the safari...they had tight security (metal detectors even for guests, blocked access for cabs. NBO security was MUCH tighter than even JFK or DCA (Washington DC) airport, with multiple xrays, pat downs of ALL passengers)etc.

Again, remember that, on average, more non-combatant Americans are killed by lightening than by terrorists.

Steve007NY is offline  

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