Reconsidering Kenya

As unrest continues, travelers weigh their options…

Updated: January 29, 2008

The late-December upheaval in Kenya over a disputed presidential election left many travelers, including Fodor’s Forums users, with scheduled trips to the African nation in a quandary: Do I go or do I cancel?

The violence in Kenya, most of it centered in Nairobi and Mombasa, has left at least 300 dead in its wake. The Kenya Tourism Foundation was quick to announce that no tourists have been killed, and that casualties involved were villagers involved in ethnic clashes. Official government reports from Kenya, the U.K., and the United States corroborate that statement.

Still, on January 2, the British Government issued an advisory against “all but essential travel to Kenya,” and the U.S. State Department has been warning travelers since October 18, 2007 to give careful consideration to the risks of traveling to Kenya, citing “continuing terrorist threats and increasing incidents of violent crime.”

Violence continues to inflame the region, now even a month after the beginning of hostilities following the disputed election.

In recent weeks, many safari outfitters and tour companies have reacted to the situation by altering their itineraries to avoid the areas in Kenya most affected by the violence. “On the days when opposition rallies have been scheduled in Nairobi, we have taken the precaution of having travelers bypass Nairobi and proceed directly to the next game park on their itinerary,” says Dennis Pinto, managing director of Micato Safaris.

Other outfitters are avoiding Kenya entirely, choosing to re-route travelers to neighboring safari destinations, including Tanzania and Botswana. Some outfitters have canceled trips altogether and refunded or rescheduled booked safaris.

For many travelers, the situation in Kenya underscores the difficulties that are sometimes encountered when planning once-in-a-lifetime trips to destinations that may or may not be stable. Excerpts from the Fodor’s forums thread “Has the turmoil in Kenya affected your travel there?” illustrate the point handily. Member ICASH‘s trip to Kenya was canceled by his tour outfitter. Another participant, mydogspud, is grateful her trip is still on, but she’ll be headed to Tanzania, not Kenya. First-time safari-goer barefootbeach is headed to Kenya at the end of the month with some reservation: “I really am not comfortable going with the level of violence in Kenya right now, and would’ve preferred to change itineraries.” She decided to travel as planned when she learned that her safari outfitter would not allow for changes to the itinerary and because her travel insurance does not cover cancellations due to civil unrest.

Travel involves a certain amount of risk no matter where you are going, but some destinations are simply riskier than others, and not all travelers are up to the challenge of tackling them. Have you assessed the risks involved with traveling to your favorite destinations? Fodor’s Fear Factor can help you get a handle on what you need to know.

From the Forums: Kenya: Updates from the Ground
From the Forums: Just Arrived in Nairobi
From the Forums: Off to Kenya and Tanzania in 4 Days!
US Embassy Nairobi
British High Commission Nairobi: