Earlier this year, I announced to our friends and family that I would be taking my kids on an African safari through Kenya. The number one response was “Is that safe?”. The reality is that the world we live in and choose to travel in is quickly changing and safety concerns are valid. Here are some safety tips for traveling to Africa with kids that also apply to many other destinations.
Kenya is a country unlike any other I have seen. It is vast and green with giraffes and zebras freely strolling the land. Unfortunately, in the past year, there have been two mass shootings in Kenya and reports of general crime, particularly in Nairobi. To minimize our risk, we took a few calculated steps before arriving, once in Kenya and when departing the country.
Book With A Reputable Tour Company
There are a number of tour companies that now specialize in African safaris with kids. Do your research and find a company that has designed specific trips for children. We booked with Intrepid Travel and were impressed from the get-go by their knowledge and the safety precautions taken. Intrepid answered all our questions before the tour and ensured the places we were staying were safe for children. Our hotel in Nairobi had added security at the gate and our rooms were far from the main street. They took into account personal health issues like my daughter’s allergies and prepared specific meals for her. Our tour guide had all the needed information in case of an accident or emergency and each vehicle we entered on the trip had working seat belts. During our tour, we never felt unsafe as each stop and overnight stay was clearly planned, researched and tested before we embarked on the tour. When we wanted to go shopping, they found places we could do so safely that had existing security measures in place.
Plan Your Arrival Into the Country
Before arriving in Kenya, ensure that your tour includes airport pickup. If it does not, make alternative plans. We wanted to arrive a day before our tour began and arranged a stay at a luxury hotel outside of Nairobi. Before departing for Kenya, we contacted the hotel directly to ask for them to arrange an airport pickup. Upon arriving in Kenya, we were glad to have done so. Customs and Immigration at the airport was easy to navigate but once we exited the airport, we found a very different scene. Hundreds of drivers were lined up looking to provide transport into the city with no indication of who was a licensed taxi driver or transportation service. At the front of the pack, we saw a driver with a card identifying our names and flight number. He immediately showed us written instructions from the hotel we were staying at. He grabbed our bags and quickly navigated us through the crowd to an awaiting vehicle.
Vaccinate Your Kids
No matter what your stance on vaccinations, you will need to consult with a doctor and likely will need to vaccinate your kids before visiting Africa. I decided to vaccinate the kids for yellow fever, typhoid and traveler’s diarrhea. They also took malaria pills throughout the journey with no side effects. The reality is that health care is hard to find in Africa and minimizing your risk of needing a hospital is a necessity.
Curb Your Social Media Habits
We all love to share in real time. Through most of Africa, you won’t have the needed wi-fi to do so but when you do you may want to consider waiting. The reality is that worrying about social media is probably unnecessary but so is alerting people to where you and your kids are staying and traveling. Using hashtags like #Africa and #Kenya can wait a few days until you have moved to a new location. You’ll also enjoy the break from your phone.
Learn the Rules
To ensure your safety, it is also wise to inquire into the customs of the country you are visiting. If you are a smoker, smoking publicly in Kenya can lead to your arrest whether or not you are a tourist. If you are unsure of something, ask your tour guide.
Find the Easiest Way Out
When leaving Kenya, we learned that the safety procedures for the airport are much more stringent than in North America. You need to clear security in a car before even given access to the airport. Find out if hotel shuttles or tour group vehicles are given better security clearance before heading to the airport. We arrived at 11 pm and taxi cabs were being pulled over with travellers being made to wait in the dark in a line of over 100 people to be personally scanned. Our hotel shuttle instead was able to use a different lane and we were dropped off directly at our gate.
Safety Tips for Traveling To Africa With Kids
I never felt unsafe during my time in Kenya with my kids. In fact, it was the best vacation we have ever taken and one we will remember fondly for years. By following these safety tips for traveling to Africa with kids, I hope your journey is as easy and wonderful as our tour with Intrepid Travel.