Country profile: Kenya



Kenya is situated in the east of Africa with the equator running through it and is approximately two and half times the size of Britain. It has been described as ‘the cradle of humanity’. For a long time it has been an extremely popular tourist destination, in particular for the exotic reef-lined beaches on the Indian Ocean coast and even more so because of its famous wildlife reserves.

The wildlife is definitely its major attraction, with particular highlights such as the annual wildebeest migration (June – Sept.) in the Masai Mara National Park, where millions of wildebeest move north from the plains of the Serengeti to seek fresh grasslands. Visits to the dense forests, overflowing with the noise of many birds and insects, are then complemented in the north with the large expanses of desert, broken only by beauties such as Lake Turkana.

Nairobi, the country’s capital, is found in the highlands on the south-eastern edge but seems when you are there as if it is in the centre of the country with its bustling markets. Also the steamy historical city of Mombasa is an exciting place to spend time, situated further south of Nairobi. If you venture more off the beaten track into Kenya’s smaller towns and villages, you’ll find a great openness and warmth offered by the local people, living ever active lives within an endless landscape of farmland, or the contrasting more crammed array of wooden and corrugated iron shacks, with tea shops and lodging houses alongside busy streets full of wandering animals and small children, as well an endless stream of bicycles.

Recently, Kenya’s popularity as a tourist destination has been damaged through political instability and rising crime rates. Ethnic divisions seem to account for these and several other Kenyan problems. During the early 1990s, tribal clashes killed thousands and left tens of thousands homeless. Disputes over the elections held in December 2007 brought charges of vote rigging and unleashed two months of violence in which as many as 1,500 people died and 500,000 displaced. UN-sponsored talks in late February 2008 produced a power sharing accord. It is a good idea to check the latest travel situation with your Foreign Office before planning a trip to Kenya.

Update Nov 2014. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to:

  • areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border
  • Garissa District
  • the Eastleigh area of Nairobi
  • Mombasa island and within 5km of the coast from Mtwapa creek in the north down to and including Tiwi in the south (this area does not include Diani or Moi international airport)
  • Lamu County and those areas of Tana River County north of the Tana river itself.

Other Foreign Offices are issuing other advice. Students should check on the advice of their own country before travel.

Despite these troubles, Kenya can justifiably be described as one of the most beautiful countries in Africa and a highly satisfyingly and exciting place to travel. You will need a Visa, and women are advised to always cover up below the knee or lower.

Health system

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67 hospital profiles  
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Quick facts

Capital Nairobi
Population 39.8 million (UN, 2009)
Language English (official), Kiswahili (official), numerous indigenous languages
Literacy 85.1%
Timezone GMT +3
Telephone code +254
Currency KES (Shilling)
Growth 2.58%

Health data

Life expectancy M: 52 years    F: 55 years
No. doctors ca 4,600
Hospital profiles 67
Medschool profiles 2

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Electives with a difference

Fancy doing something a bit ‘out of the ordinary’ for your elective? Why not explore one of our electives with a difference in Kenya

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Student experiences in Kenya

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5 case studies about electives in Kenya

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