Tips for driving in Kenya
Important information for self-drive roadtrippers. Covered in this section:
- Road conditions in Kenya
- Driving precautions
- In case of a breakdown
- Mileage / fuel consumption
- Traffic police in Kenya
- Travel distance
- Border crossing
How are the road conditions in Kenya?
All the primary roads radiating out of Nairobi are tarmac roads, and will bring you comfortably to your safari destination. Road conditions are good by African standards, and ever improving, so expect to encounter some roadworks along the way. There are also unsurfaced roads. The so-called ‘C’ and ‘D’ roads are usually unsurfaced. Some unsurfaced roads are still in good condition, but most roads are notorious for their large potholes, rocky surfaces and river overflows. The roads listed below are in poor state and will greatly reduce your travel pace:
- The C107 south from Mariakani to Kinango: if you think think this road is a good alternative to bypass Mombassa, think again. It’s terrible.
- All the roads to the Masai Mara National Reserve; one of the worst roads in Kenya, not allowed with a Toyota RAV4.
- A109 Nairobi – Mombasa highway; ever under construction, this road has some bad parts, especially between Tsavo, Voi and Mombasa. Generally, it's a dangerous road with many (slow) trucks and cars practicing dangerous overtaking. Drive defensively!
What precautions can I take when driving in Kenya?
We have been exploring Kenya by road for many years. The experience is rewarding and safe, as long as you follow these precautions:
- Drive at or below the speed limit (80 km/h on the highway, and 50 km/h in urban areas). Drive at a maximum speed of 40km/h off-road.
- Beware of unmarked speed bumps, which are plentiful in many parts of Kenya, especially at the entrance of towns.
- Drive defensively.
- Kenyans are experts at dangerous manoeuvres - don’t copy their behavior by overtaking trucks at blind corners.
- Avoid driving after dark (6PM); the potholes are difficult to see and fellow drivers often uses blinding high beams.
- Always carry some cash, water and a charged mobile phone to handle any situation.
- Keep in mind that a flat tire is part of the adventure, as the road conditions are rough on tires. All our cars come with a jack, and any petrol station can fix small punctures.
- As you will discover soon enough, Kenyans drive on the left side of the road…
What happens in case of a breakdown?
We drive well-maintained secondhand cars. However, sometimes issues can occur and this is something you should take into consideration in general with hiring vehicles in countries where the roads are rough, as in Kenya. We suggest leaving enough time in your itinerary for the unexpected.
In case of a mechanical breakdown, please contact Roadtrip Kenya immediately.
We have a network of mechanics all over the country to assist you if needed. Our phone number is available 24 hours a day and we will try to solve the problem to the best of our ability. In case a problem with your car can’t be solved by our local mechanics within 24 hours, a spare car will be made available. Kindly note the spare car has to come from Nairobi. Depending on your location, it might take a while to receive the car.
In the instance of a flat tire, this is something you can change and get repaired yourself. The information booklet in the car provides more information on how to deal with a flat tire.
In case of an accident, please contact us immediately. We will probably advise you to contact the police. For insurance reasons, it’s important that you receive a police report. You will need to take pictures of the damage/situation. Kindly do not leave the vehicle unattended without our consent.
What is the mileage / fuel consumption?
Driving a Toyota RAV4 is very cost efficient; the Toyota Landcruiser a bit less.
Exact mileage / fuel consumption depends on the terrain and your driving behaviour, but is around 11 km per litre. Petrol typically costs between $1.10–1.30 per litre. Keep in mind that fuel is paid for in Kenyan shillings!
The Toyota Landcruiser is considerably less efficient, and its fuel consumption lies somewhere between 6 and 10 km per litre. It consumes diesel.
What happens if a traffic police officer stops me?
There are a lot of traffic police in Kenya. You can spot them from afar and they are usually set up close to major junctions. Traffic police will frequently pull you over to check if your car is insured, if the tires look okay, and to check if you're carrying the required fire extinguisher, triangles and a first aid kit. Of course, that will have been taken care of if you rent a car from Roadtrip Kenya. Remain patient and friendly, greet them in Swahili and be very polite. They will want to see your driving license. A valid driving license from your country of residence is accepted in Kenya. If you didn’t break the law (speeding, dangerous overtaking, etc.), there is nothing they can accuse you of. In our experience, traffic police are friendly and often just want to make chit chat. If you committed an offence, you have to pay the fine, which is usually around Ksh 5000 ($50).
How do I navigate my way?
We provide Garmin GPS systems with Tracks4Africa. However, the maps are not always adequate. Therefore we suggest to use your smartphone with the app Maps.ME. You can download the Kenya map (15Mb) in the app for offline use. These maps systems are much more detailed and have all major roads, most locations and places of interest plotted. There's also something to be said for going offline with a good old fashioned map on your lap. The roadmaps that come with your rental car are not very detailed, but all main roads are well highlighted.
How much distance can I cover in one day?
Although asphalt roads are in good condition, you generally don’t reach more than 60 km/hour, due to the many speed bumps, as you have to reduce speed when you’re passing through villages. On gravel roads, you reach an average of 25 km/hour. If you are trying to estimate your travel itinerary with Google Maps, we advise you to increase the suggested travel time by a third.
Can I cross the border?
Yes, it is possible to cross the border to Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda with a Roadtrip Kenya rental car. You are NOT allowed to cross to South Sudan, Ethiopia or Somalia. If you want to do a multiple country roadtrip, you will need to let us know in advance as we have to arrange a COMESA card, an extension of the car insurance for your vehicle. The insurance costs $75 and is valid for three weeks. Without our consent, you are not allowed to cross the border and you are not insured for any damage. Please contact us for more information.
The Nairobi - Mombasa Highway