Driving in Kenya: tips and information

Are you planning a self-drive holiday in Kenya? This guide contains essential information and 12 must-read tips for travellers renting a car in Kenya without a driver. 

Do you prefer a local guide to do the driving for you? We have gathered more information about knowledgeable driver-guides on this page, feel free to check it out!

How are the road conditions for driving in Kenya?

All primary roads leading to and from Nairobi are comfortable tarmac roads with excellent driving conditions. Do remember that the A109 highway between Nairobi and Mombasa is under construction often, and heavily used by cars, buses and slow-moving trucks. This can create delays in your itinerary.

Kenya's secondary ‘C’ and ‘D’ roads are usually unsurfaced, with various potholes or eroded surfaces. Usually, you can expect the last stretch of your daily trip to require some driving on these all-weather dirt roads. 

Inside the parks, you'll drive off-road on dirt roads most of the time. The conditions of these roads tend to vary from one season to the next and are most challenging during the rainy season. 

Roads to avoid

The below roads are currently in a bad state and should be avoided when driving in Kenya:

  • Amboseli Route - If you're planning a road trip to Amboseli National Park, Google Maps offers two options. Avoid the C103 route, branching off at Athi River and heading towards the Namanga border. This road is in a deteriorated state, causing damage to vehicles and significantly increasing travel time. Instead, continue on the Nairobi - Mombasa highway, branch off at Emali town, and follow the well-maintained C102 to Kimana town and the Kimana gate.
  • Masai Mara via Maji Moto - While most travellers enter Masai Mara via Sekanani gate on the fully tarmacked C12, be cautious if your route includes Maji Moto. Do not take the C11, as it is a rough road that can damage your vehicle and extend travel time. Stick to the recommended C12 route to Sekenani gate, then follow the signpost to Maji Moto Eco Camp.
  • Masai Mara - Oloololo Gate (C13) - The C13 road leading to Oloololo Gate of the Mara Triangle and the Musiara and Talek Gates of the Maasai Mara National Reserve is currently in poor condition and should be avoided.
  • Mombasa Shortcut (C107) - The C107 south from Mariakani to Kinango should not be considered a viable alternative to bypass Mombasa. This road is in a bad state and is not recommended for use.

When driving in Kenya, avoid taking shortcuts on secondary routes, as they may not be well-maintained. When you’re unsure about the best route for your self-drive road trip, don't start experimenting. Instead, contact the Roadtrip Africa team in Nairobi for advice. We are available 24/7 via WhatsApp for assistance. Your safety and a smooth travel experience are our priorities. 

How are the road conditions for driving in Kenya?

Do I need an international driving license in Kenya?

No, you don't need an international driver's license in Kenya. Your valid license from your home country is sufficient. Make sure to always carry your driver's license with you when driving. 

At what side of the road should I drive in Kenya?

Left. Driving in Kenya is done on the left side of the road. 

Is it safe to drive in Kenya?

Driving in Kenya is incredible and a self-drive roadtrip unforgettable. You should be safe driving in Kenya as long as you follow these rules and tips:  

  • Drive defensively and take it easy. Some parts of the A109 - from Nairobi to Mombasa and back - experience some congestion due to trucks. Besides being crowded, the road is full of potholes which makes overtaking dangerous. Instead of trying to overtake, it's better to take your time, not rush and join the traffic flow. 
  • Beware of unmarked speed bumps, which are plentiful in many parts of the country, especially at town entrances.
  • Beware of potholes. They damage the car if you hit them and can cause a flat tire.
  • Purchase a local SIM card with internet access. This way you can always connect to Google Maps and reach out to our team via WhatsApp if necessary. You can buy a sim card on arrival at the airport, or at any of the many shopping malls. Safaricom has the best coverage in Kenya. 
  • Lock your car when driving in Nairobi, Mombasa and bigger towns. Do not leave valuables in your car unattended.
  • Always park in a secured area. Should you be spending the night at a local town hostel, make sure they have a secure car park available on their property.
  • Avoid driving at night. Potholes are difficult to see in the dark and approaching traffic uses blinding high beams.
  • Always carry some cash, water, and a charged mobile phone to handle any situation.

As long as you adhere to the above rules and tips, you should be safe driving in Kenya. 

Are you not comfortable driving yourself and would you feel more at ease with a local driver by your side? Then book a car including a knowledgable drive-guide, and enjoy a more relaxing experience while discovering the beauty of Kenya.

Is it safe to drive in Kenya?

What are the speed limits in Kenya?

  • 80 km/hour on highways. This might seem limited but a Landcruiser packed with luggage and camp gear is a heavy vehicle. The police, therefore, classify safari vehicles as trucks, because of the longer brake distance. 
  • 40 km/hour when driving through towns. Note that the main highways also pass through towns, so make sure to reduce your speed. 
  • 35 km/hour inside the National Parks. Depending on the various tracks.

Our rental cars in Kenya are equipped with car trackers, and for your own safety, we receive instant notifications when our vehicles drive beyond the allowed speed limit. 

Can I cross the border from Kenya to Tanzania or Uganda?

We allow border crossings with our rental cars to Tanzania and Uganda

If you want to cross the border and do a multiple-country road trip, you do need to let us know in advance as we have to arrange a COMESA card, which is an extension of the car insurance for your vehicle. This is an option you can select in our bookings form. Without our consent, you are not allowed to cross the border and you are not insured for any damage. 

Border crossing to all other African countries, apart from the ones listed above, is not possible. 

Border crossings to Uganda - note that non-Ugandan registered cars incur a $150 fee to enter national parks (compared to UGX 30,000 for Ugandan vehicles).

Border crossings to Tanzania - Kenyan-plated cars are allowed to enter the national parks of Tanzania. However, note that some parks (such as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area) might charge more for foreign plated vehicles. There will be no need to arrange any park permits in advance.

Do you want to visit the Tanzanian Serengeti National Park? Although the Serengeti and the Masai Mara are part of the same ecosystem, they are separated by a land border. To enter the Serengeti, you must drive around both parks, using the Namanga, Isabania, or Loitokitok border. This detour adds at least 1,5 travel days to your journey. 

Can I cross the border from Kenya to Tanzania or Uganda?

Is insurance included with my car rental in Kenya?

Our rental cars in Kenya are comprehensively insured against damage due to accident or fire, and third-party liability due to a car accident. Personal injury and possessions are not covered and fall under your medical and travel insurance. 

Your insurance includes a maximum deductible of €250. Tires, underbody coverage, and windows are not covered by the insurance. The hirer is liable for any damage to the rental car and/or third-party property in the case of:

  • driving over speed limits;
  • single vehicle incidents or rollovers (these are considered a result of reckless driving);
  • damage to the vehicle caused by lack of proper care/maintenance of the vehicle;
  • driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • driving on restricted roads/areas.

Our full terms & conditions are included in the car rental agreement. You can also consult them here. 

Which Telecom providor to use in Kenya?

Kenya has several mobile network providers. Safaricom has the best coverage. 

Before you start your roadtrip, make sure you get a sim card and load it with sufficient data for internet and phone calls. You can easily obtain a sim card by bringing your passport to the Telecom company's service centre of your choice. Have you rented your car through us? Then our colleagues, who meet you at the airport or your lodge, can also explain to you where to buy a SIM card. 

How does it work with navigation in Kenya?

All our rental vehicles in Kenya come with a detailed road map of Kenya.

Besides Google Maps, we strongly recommend that you install Maps.me on your smartphone before travelling to Kenya. It's a free app that allows you to use GPS offline. We also recommend downloading the app iOverlander, which includes almost every campsite in the country.

When using navigation apps like Google Maps or Maps.me, increase the suggested travel time by roughly 30%. For more information on actual driving distances in Kenya, consult our driving times & distances table.

How does it work with navigation in Kenya?

What happens if I get a breakdown or accident while driving in Kenya?

Our rental fleet in Kenya consists of well-maintained, second-hand Landcruisers. Our team at Roadtrip Africa checks and services every car before they go out on a trip. Still, unexpected issues may occur when driving on challenging African roads. Breakdowns usually happen due to…

  • the condition of the car
  • the challenging road conditions (washboard ribbons, potholes, speed bumps, dust and mud)
  • driving behaviour
  • a dose of plain bad luck

Although we can only affect the first of these events, we shall help you to the best of our abilities, regardless of the reason for your breakdown. Our team is very experienced in troubleshooting along the way but do not forget that providing road support requires cooperation, flexibility, and patience from your side as well.

In our ten years of experience, we learned that many breakdowns on a self-drive trip are caused by driving behaviour, often infused by jam-packed itineraries leading to long driving days and speeding or fatigue. Hence, our most important piece of advice – make sure your travel plan is not too ambitious. Prevention is better than troubleshooting.

Most mechanical issues that happen on the way are minor things and the fastest way to get you on the road again is to provide help on the spot. We have a network of up-country bush mechanics to assist you in case of any issues, and we will either direct you to the nearest workshop or send a mechanic to assist you on the spot. If a car cannot be fixed on the spot within 24 hours, a replacement car will be provided so you can continue your journey.

Before renting a car in Kenya, be honest and ask yourself if you easily stress out or become agitated if something unexpected happens. If the answer is yes, then a Kenya self-drive trip is not for you. Getting stuck in the mud, dealing with a flat tire, or experiencing a mechanical issue along the way because of the bumpy and dusty roads are scenarios that can impact your travel plans for the day. 

When something happens, whether it's a mechanical issue or an accident, always contact the Kenya office first. Our phone number is available 24 h/day. 

For more information, please refer to our Terms & Conditions published on this website.

How do I deal with traffic police in Kenya?

Advice that comes in handy when dealing with any kind of government official in Kenya is to be respectful, remain patient and stay friendly. Greet them in Swahili (jambo!) make a joke, and you will be guaranteed a new friend.

Traffic police can pull you over to check:

  • If your car is insured;
  • If the tires are in good condition;
  • Or to check on your driver's license. Any valid driving license (even from your own country of residence) is accepted in Kenya.

If you've committed an offence (speeding, dangerous overtaking, etc.), you will receive a fine that needs to be paid via a bank deposit. You can always call our team at the Roadtrip office in Nairobi for assistance in this matter.

Where can I rent a car in Kenya?

Are you excited to start your roadtrip in Kenya? At Roadtrip Africa, we are happy to assist you with renting the vehicle that suits your wishes. 

We own all our rental cars and never subcontract from third parties. Our fleet consists of reliable and widely used 4WD vehicles - perfectly suitable for your adventurous Kenya roadtrip.

You are welcome to drive your vehicle yourself or hire a car with a local driver-guide. The driver-guide is there to facilitate and ease your travels, yet you remain in charge of your own holiday and itinerary. The costs for a driver are € 40 /day.

Ready to start driving in Kenya? Book your rental car today!