As a former colonial country, you’ll find that Kenya drives on the left of the road. Currently there are several areas near the coast where it’s inadvisable to drive, especially near the border with Somalia.
You’ll find that road quality is good in and around the towns and cities although regularly jammed with traffic. Out of town, the road conditions gradually worsen.
The most popular reason for driving in Kenya is to enjoy a safari. Because of the dangers inherent in this activity, make sure you have a reliable vehicle, preferably a 4 x 4, take plenty of water, food and spare fuel with you and leave details of your route with someone before you set off.
Seat Belt Laws
Although many Kenyan drivers don’t bother with seatbelts, it’s a legal requirement for all drivers and passengers to wear one and, given the safety record of Kenyan drivers, it’s highly recommended too!
Drinking and Driving
For all drivers the legal maximum of alcohol in the blood is 80 mg per 100ml of blood. Above this and you will be taken to a police station or roadside court and charged, your car will be impounded and you will face a large fine.
Must Have Documents
The only must have documentation for drivers is a recognised driver’s licence but it’s worth having your vehicle registration document and insurance certificate to hand. It can be a good idea to have a copy of your passport details with you too for identification purposes.
The speed limits in Kenya are 50 km/h in town and 110 km/h outside of towns and cities. You should adjust your speed for the road conditions and the type of car you’re driving.
Minimum Driving Age
Kenya sets the minimum age for motorcycles at 16 and for cars, vans and trucks the age is 18. To hire a car you must be 23 years old and have held your licence for two years or more.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
It’s not illegal to use speed camera detecting devices at the moment in Kenya as speed cameras themselves are relatively new. The web is full of advertisements for such devices.
On the Spot Fines
To curb the huge amount of accidents on Kenya’s roads the authorities have set up makeshift courts with judges on the side of the road by checkpoints. If the police stop you and you are charged, you will be marched to the ‘court’ and tried and fined there and then.
Child Safety Rules
There are no specific regulations regarding child safety in Kenya. Half of the people killed in Kenya’s road accidents are children or young people and there is lobbying to change the law but until then it’s only advisory that children under twelve don’t travel in the front and that younger children have suitable seating.
You must have at least third party insurance on any vehicle driven in Kenya
Rules of the Road
Standard European driving laws apply with one or two exceptions.
• It’s illegal to leave your car unattended with the engine running
• Be aware that a large number of animal use the roads in Kenya and that there are specific laws regarding driving past them.
• All cars must carry fire extinguishers
• You must give way to people ascending a hill
• There are many rules relating to crossing bridges including a 10 mph speed limit and it’s not permitted to stop on a bridge.
Other than common sense rules, all cars being towed must display a large ‘T’ sign in a prominent position.
Speed Cameras are becoming very common in Kenya with mobile cameras being used increasingly. It’s not unusual to not be warned that you are entering a controlled zone so the best advice is to watch your speed at all times.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
You’re not allowed to use any mobile phones whilst driving unless with a hands free kit and passengers may not use devices which are likely to distract the driver.
In smaller towns you can park sensibly just about anywhere without charge. In the cities you’ll need to buy an all day parking permit to park anywhere in the city’s car parks. Without it you will be clamped.
Paid parking is only prevalent in the cities but you may find people will try it on wherever you park saying they own the land etc. You must buy an all day parking permit to park in municipal car parks in the cities and major towns.
Enforcement of parking is done by the police or by owners of private parking areas. There are no traffic wardens and there seems to be a prevalence of ‘freelance’ parking attendants who earn a commission from clamping and towing companies.
There are no specific parking spaces for disabled drivers in Kenyan car parks.
Motor Way Signs
There are no roads designated as motorways as yet although there are plans for building toll charging motorways in the next decade.
I have broken down – Mimi kuvunjwa chini
Where is the police station? – Kituo cha polisi kiko wapi?
I have a flat tyre – Mimi na tairi gorofa
I have been in an accident – Nimekuwa katika ajali
Where is? – Ni wapi?
Where can I buy petrol? – Ambapo naweza kununua petrol?
Traffic lights are generally found only in the cities and follow the UK system having mainly been installed during colonial times. Jumping lights is common and, despite it being against the law, many drivers will turn right on a light if the way is clear despite being on a red light. You will find junctions with missing traffic lights for theft of metal street furniture is a big problem in the country.
At the moment there are no toll roads in the country but recently the government has asked for tenders to maintain major roads in return for toll charges.
The emergency numbers in Kenya are 112 for the police and 999 for fire and ambulance.
What to do in an emergency
In an emergency, you are likely to be surrounded by a small crowd. If possible, call the police as soon as possible as others will try to ‘sort out’ the problem, usually in favour of a local. Insist that none of the vehicles are moved and if possible, photograph the scene as the police may take some time to arrive by which time some of those involved are likely to have driven off.