Driving in Kenya – So Much To See
Kenya is known as the ‘jewel of East Africa’ due to its white sandy beaches, superb scenery, magnificent wildlife, savannahs and national parks. It’s a country with over 50 reserves and parks and about 6 maritime parks so if you’re looking for a bit of excitement and adventure, this is the destination for you!
Kenya is bordered by Ethiopia and Somalia to the North and by Tanzania to the South. The country is split into two more-or-less equal halves by the equator, though most of the infrastructure and major cities are in the southern half. This half also has a coast line with the Indian Ocean. It’s a vast and diverse country with four distinctive regions: the north has deserts, the south has savannahs, highlands in the west and fertile lands along the coast and around Lake Victoria in the east.
While Kenya has endured much hardship in the past, especially since securing independence from Britain in 1963, the country is fast becoming a success story of Africa. Despite the strong economy the country is still very much a work in progress and many areas are still stricken with poverty.
Kenya Car Hire Tip: Being a former British colony, means that Kenya has inherited some of its old rules. The most important for drivers is that driving is on the left, so that is perfect for tourists from the British Isles and Ireland. You will probably need an international drivers license in Kenya so pick one up before you leave home.
The three biggest cities in Kenya are Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. These three cities are all situated in a line that runs parallel with the Kenyan border with Tanzania.
Kenya Car Hire Tip: The main road between these three cities is quite well maintained and if you only plan on travelling between these cities a normal car should suffice. But if you plan on going on any side trips or going to one of the many National Parks then it is recommended to hire a 4WD (4 Wheel Drive).
Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and the 4th largest city on the continent. If you want to do a safari – then you’ve come to the right place, as Nairobi is known as the ‘Safari Capital of Africa’. The city is surrounded by the Nairobi National Park, which is home to many African animals like lions, cheetahs, giraffes and rhinos. Within the city you’ll find plenty to amuse yourself such as the National Museum of Kenya, Rahimtulla Museum of Modern Art and the Mzizi Arts Centre.
Kenya Car Hire Tip: Try to avoid driving at/during the night as it’s hard to see potholes and if you’re not on the main highways you’re bound to come across quite a few of these!
There are three main self drive safari routes from Nairobi. The Northern Route is a 10 day tour and takes you up north to Buffalo Springs and Mount Kenya. The South West Route will take you to the Masai Mara – the most famous game park in Kenya. Or you could take the South Eastern Route which takes you to the coast passing lots of national parks and Kilamanjaro – Africa’s highest mountain.
Kenya Car Hire Tip: Make sure your vehicle is in good repair before you leave as you don’t want it breaking down in the middle of nowhere. Also remember to ask for 2 spare types in case of puncture, to get a good carjack and towrope. When you are fuelling up it might be a good idea to get a few cans of spare fuel just in case.
Heading up northwest you’ll come to Nakuru which is the 4th largest urban centre. It’s located near to Lake Nakuru which is one of the famous Rift Valley soda lakes and is part of the Lake Nakuru National Park established in 1961. The most notable feature of this area is the thousands (sometimes millions) of flamingos that call it home.
To get to Nakuru from Nariobi just take the A104 for about 156km north west.
Kenya Car Hire Tip: Road signs on your journey will be few and far between. Navigating can be detrimental to the inexperienced, so make sure you have all your maps, a compass and a GPS system before you leave.
Carrying on further west you will arrive at Kisumu which is a port city on Lake Victoria, the largest lake on the continent and 2nd largest fresh water lake in the world. The main attractions of this city are the Kisumu Museum, the Impala Reserve, Hippo Point, and the nearby Kit Mikaye. Also located close by is Ndere Island National Park.
If you were to carry on west you would eventually arrive in Kampala, the Capital of Uganda.
Just 40km north west of Nairobi on the A2 road, is the little town of Thika which is worth a visit to see the Chania Falls and Thika Falls. The Thika Falls have featured in films like Tarzan.
Kenya Car Hire Tip: If the weather turns bad during your journey, stay on the main roads as the rain can turn some of the dirt tracks into mud pits.
Continuing on the highway to Garissa you’ll pass by the Kisumu Impala Sanctuary, Meru National Park, Bisanadi National Reserve, Kora National Reserve and the Rahole National Reserve. Garissa is unusual in that it is basically a Somali town that found itself on the wrong side of the border when the lines were drawn on the map! The town is mostly Muslim and offers a fine opportunity to experience Somali life and living without actually crossing the border.
Kenya Car Hire Tip: Mombasa has its own international airport and makes for an ideal alternative starting point to Nairobi as several airlines flight into it from Europe and elsewhere.
Finally the 2nd biggest city Mombasa, lies on the coastline of the Indian Coast making it a huge tourist destination. Within the city there are some interesting things to see and do, such as visiting Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese or visit the Old Town which is in a slight state of disrepair but still has some excellent examples of Islamic architecture. The main attractions of the city are actually the many spectacular beaches including Diani beach to the south. Also located just outside the city you will find Shimba Hills National Reserve.
If you plan on moving around Kenya then hte most dependable method it to get a car. If you agree then you might want to have a look at our Kenya car hire homepage.
Hope you enjoy discovering wonderful Kenya by car hire. If you’ve tips/advise on driving in Kenya or if you’ve any questions to ask about car hire, just drop your comment into the box below.