Motoring Discussion > Driving in Kenya Miscellaneous
Thread Author: PeterS Replies: 13

 Driving in Kenya - PeterS
I’m in Kenya at the moment...I felt the need to do something to occupy myself, and the opportunity came up to do a bit of work out here for a few months. It’s a similar time zone to the U.K., so easy to keep in touch with friends and family, which is important to me right now, and also easy enough to fly back every few weekends (the flight times make it easy to have a weekend in the U.K. without taking more than a couple of days off).

I’m staying in a very nice hotel, and I’ve got a driver. But, it’s a bit restrictive having to rely on someone else for transport all the time. I’m not in Nairobi, but up near Mount Kenya. Sometimes I’ll go to Lake Naivasha. Maybe only 100 miles, though likely 4 hours given the state of roads out here off the main ones. I’ve got the general vibe of driving here, which is to say use whichever bit of the road is least potholed, and when overtaking people ‘make room’ for an extra couple of lanes. So it doesn’t bother me, and I’d consider myself an more observant than most kind of driver, and a pretty good judge of risk. But I wouldn’t drive in India, despite having been there plenty of times.

So the question is, am I letting my frustration at being ‘constrained’ and my desire to be in control overrule common sense! If I do drive I’ll be provided with either a Nissan Patrol or Toyota something or other. So not a rickety cobbled together 15th hand poorly maintained ex Japanese import. A driver will still be available to take me to Nairobi and the airport and so on. So what would you do? Continue to be driven, or drive yourself?
 Driving in Kenya - Bromptonaut
First of all I hope working out there does what you hope it will for yourself.

On the driving two thoughts:

(1) Is your employer OK with you driving? I guess if there's a Nissan or Toyota in decent shape available then answer is yes but I've spoken to ex-pats for whom it was an absolute no no

(2) What about the driver? if his position is economically precarious, and the article posted eleswhere in here discussing the Kenyan stowaway who fell to earth in Clapham suggests it may be, is he paid less if you drive yourself?
Last edited by: Bromptonaut on Mon 18 Nov 19 at 17:30
 Driving in Kenya - PeterS
Thanks - I’ve been here a couple of weeks, and it’s working okay so far. Popping home at the weekend. A few poignant moments though..the sudden realisation at times, while going for a walk along the farm tracks round here, that no one in the world actually knew exactly, or even roughly, where I was...

Nairobi is a ‘No’ form a driving perspective, but I’m four hours (by car) from there at the moment. Getting back to Nairobi is most likely to be by small plane (which is probably at least as dangerous as driving!!) or being driven. Driving locally is ok. Good point on my driver. He’s an employee, but I have to admit I haven’t established if he’s paid by the hour or salaried. I’ll see if I can find out what the deal is. He took me to the local shopping centre earlier...frequented by plenty of British army people...we seem to have a base round here. Was entertained to discover the grapes for sale came from Spain!!
 Driving in Kenya - sooty123
I'd drive whilst over there and not think much about it tbh. If you want to do it then do it.

The base nearby will be BATUK, British Army Training Unit Kenya, been there years.
Last edited by: sooty123 on Mon 18 Nov 19 at 18:59
 Driving in Kenya - James T
It's been 20 years since I lived in Kenya, but my wife and I drove ourselves everywhere. Nairobi, Mombassa, Samburu, Masai Mara.

We had a driver for the first week, but then decided it was easier just to do it ourselves. And that was before the rise of mobile phones, satnavs, etc - I'm sure it will be easier now - our biggest issue was getting lost.

We escaped a couple of attempted hijackings, but nothing too serious. Just keep an eye on your mirrors so you're prepared if anything happens. At the time there was a huge trade in stealing LR discovery diesels in Nairobi and taking them to Somalia.

Make sure your car has a decent spare wheel, jack etc.
 Driving in Kenya - Runfer D'Hills
It's a lifetime ago now, but I was charged with setting up a supply line for a previous employer of goods from factories in rural southern Brazil. Similarly, at first I relied on hiring a car and driver but soon tired of the inconvenience.

I was given strong advice by the locals not to buy a new or premium car, ( even though my employers would have funded it ) but instead to choose something anonymous and have it done up and mechanically fettled while preserving its outer patina.

There was a fair old possibility of being hijacked or robbed at gunpoint in some of the dodgier areas if you looked like you might have any money and it was a sensible precaution to blend in a bit. Couple that with some of the roads being just compressed dirt and it made a lot of sense to have something more robust than luxurious.

Once I had my car ( an old Ford Landau that ran on sugar cane alcohol ) I soon got the lie of the land and didn't personally run into any bother in the five years or so I was there on and off, although I knew of others who did, and indeed witnessed it happening from a distance to some Americans I knew in another car. I also bought an old off road motorbike from a guy who was leaving the country and had a bit of fun with that.

The trick really was not to stand out from the crowd, which in such a multicultural place was fairly easy to achieve.

The Ford had, at the beginning of its life, been a bit of a luxury model by the standards of the day and the place, but by the time I had it, it was looking careworn enough not to draw unwanted attention. It looked a bit similar to a New York taxi cab apart from being black with a black vinyl roof.

I remember the first time I sent an expenses claim relating to it back to the UK, and apparently, ( this predates mobile phones and the Internet ) giving some accountant apoplexy when I submitted a bundle of receipts each representing 60 or so litres of alcohol. That was the fuel for the car of course but I think he thought I'd developed a serious drink problem !

Good for you Peter, I hope the job and change of scene prove both rewarding and cathartic. I'm sure many of look forward to hearing how it's going for you from time to time.

 Driving in Kenya - PeterS
Thanks - will keep you posted! Maybe here, maybe in non motoring. Depends what happens ;)
 Driving in Kenya - No FM2R
When I've lived in dodgy places I have always driven. I don't enjoy having a driver.

However, I have always made a point of driving a rickety old POS. don't want to look like you're worth stopping or your car worth stealing.
 Driving in Kenya - Runfer D'Hills
Tee hee! You put it so much more succinctly!
 Driving in Kenya - PeterS
>> When I've lived in dodgy places I have always driven. I don't enjoy having a
>> driver.
>> However, I have always made a point of driving a rickety old POS. don't want
>> to look like you're worth stopping or your car worth stealing.

That’s a fair point, though the Toyota Hilux or equivalent is everywhere round here - a large number of agri businesses drives this I imagine. Plenty of Range Rover, Mercs and BMWs too, so I reckon a grey Hilux is unobtrusive enough. I like to just explore when living or staying overseas, and that’s difficult with a driver. Can’t really just say, let’s go for a drive! Let’s see what they say in Nairobi when I go to the office there tomorrow...
 Driving in Kenya - James T
>> However, I have always made a point of driving a rickety old POS. don't want to look like you're worth stopping or your car worth stealing.

I always thought that. All of our friends driving discoverys were released unharmed. The only friend who was shot was driving an old peugeot 504. I put it down to different gangs targeting different vehicles.

It started becoming dangerous when a local company started offering immobilisers which cut the engine after 20 minutes unless a specific action was taken. Initially it seemed great - you got the car back. But then the hijackers started taking the occupants with them, and only letting them out of the car 30-40 minutes later, miles from home. Often with no wallet and occasionally without clothes.
 Driving in Kenya - four wheels good...
In a previous life many moons ago we were driven from Niarobi to Nanyuki after taking the train from Mombasa. On the way we passed through several police check points. At each one our driver shook hands with one of the police and we carried on with no problems.

In the door pocket was a bunch of screwed up shilling notes which were passed to the police via the handshake.
 Driving in Kenya - Falkirk Bairn
One of my boys was offerred a secondment to SE Asia, based out of Djakarta.

Usual thing - house, car, house staff, 2 x UK salary + driver & security guards.

Attractive as 2 x salary was he did not fancy being dependent on a local driver/guard - given they would be poorly paid locals and not ex - UK army type it was too risky. He turned it down - 2 weeks later a UK national was kidnapped & released after a week when the money had been paid.
 Driving in Kenya - James T
When the police broke the crime ring operating in our area of Nairobi, they found that the gun being used was owned by our local police officer. He was renting it out each evening. Apparently the going rate was £5 a night, plus £1 for each bullet used.

One of my staff was offered an AK47 for £10 (this was the late 90s). He turned it down because it had a rope strap. He wanted one with leather.

I was taken to court after overtaking on a double yellow line (uk equivalent = double white line) and refusing to pay the bribe. I can't remember what the fine was, but do remember that if I didn't pay I was in line for 30 days in jail!
Latest Forum Posts