If you are wondering whether Kenyan roads are good or bad, this guide will help with you all you need to understand to prepare for driving through Kenyan roads. One article I came across as I researched this topic had a title that “Driving in Kenya is a Hazardous Affair.” I couldn’t agree more but there are some factors that one should consider before arguing about the state of Kenyan roads.
The article’s main argument is that although the quality of the road surface in Kenya is consistently improving, it is still not advisable for first-time visitors to self-drive in the country. We are passionate about the self-drive experience our campervans provide, but we also offer car hire services with drivers in Kenya. This gives our clients the confidence to explore the rich and diverse landscapes and biodiversity of Kenya without the stress of navigating unfamiliar roads.
How are roads in Kenya?
The road network in Kenya spans 161,451 kilometers, encompassing 21,583km of trunk roads and valued at over a KES 1.5 trillion budget, as per the Kenya Roads Board (KRB). This means that Kenya has a good road network considering that the country is 47th largest by landmass globally. However, the situation on the ground may not reflect this fact.
Many road improvements have occurred in the last decade, particularly on major networks connecting different counties. However, numerous areas still suffer from inadequate infrastructure, particularly in rural and remote parts of Kenya. Disparities in road conditions between urban centers and rural areas are also significant.
Urban roads, particularly those in Nairobi and Mombasa, have seen significant improvements over the years with tarmacked highways and flyovers being built to ease traffic congestion. However, rural roads are still largely unpaved and in poor condition, making it difficult for visitors to navigate. These roads can be narrow, bumpy, and have potholes that make driving challenging.
Weather conditions also play a significant role in the state of Kenyan roads. The country experiences long rainy seasons from March to May and short rains from October to December. Heavy downpours can lead to flooding, making some roads impassable. During these periods, drivers must exercise caution and plan their routes as road closures are common.
Additionally, the issue of road maintenance poses a challenge for the Kenyan government. The Ministry of Transport estimates that over one-third of Kenya’s road network is in poor condition and requires urgent repair. Limited resources and inadequate funding for road maintenance have contributed to the slow progress in improving road conditions.
As Mrs. Rotich who is an American and a co-founder of Kambu Campers noted, “The state of the roads in Kenya is a major concern for car hirers. While some areas have good roads, others are difficult to navigate and can be dangerous for inexperienced drivers.” It is essential to research road conditions before embarking on a trip to ensure that your chosen routes are safe and suitable.
Drivers are a source of danger in Kenyan roads:
It is common to see drivers overtaking on the left side despite traffic rules prohibiting it. This behavior, combined with reckless driving and speeding, increases the risk of accidents on Kenyan roads. It is crucial to be alert and cautious while driving in Kenya to avoid these potential hazards.
If you choose to drive yourself, drive defensively as much as possible. Defensive driving techniques can help you anticipate and respond to potentially dangerous situations on the road. This includes maintaining a safe following distance, being aware of your surroundings, and anticipating the actions of other drivers.
Narrow roads and high traffic volume:
Another factor that affects road conditions in Kenya is the high volume of traffic. The country’s population continues to grow rapidly, leading to increased use of roads by both private and commercial vehicles. This high volume of traffic, combined with limited road maintenance, can lead to congested and poorly maintained roads.
Use Google Maps data:
To ensure a safe and smooth journey, it is essential to plan your route carefully. Use real-time traffic updates and maps to avoid roads that are known for congestion or poor conditions. It may be necessary to take longer routes to reach your destination safely.
I frequently need to take different routes when the Limuru-Mahiu-Mahiu road is blocked due to a major truck accident.
Motorbikes cross double yellow lines with impunity, and pedestrians also walk on busy roads as if they are sidewalks. Pedestrian safety is a concern in Kenya, especially at night when visibility is low. It is essential to be extra vigilant while driving in areas with high pedestrian traffic.
Avoid roads with common flash floods:
Roads in Masai Mara and the entire Narok County are prone to flash floods during heavy rains. It is crucial to avoid these roads during the rainy season as they can become impassable and hazardous. Google Maps can help identify areas that are susceptible to flash floods.
Weather is becoming unpredictable:
Climate change has resulted in unpredictable weather patterns, leading to severe storms, flash floods, and landslides. These extreme weather events can cause damage to roads and make them unsafe for travel. It is essential to check the weather conditions before embarking on a road trip and avoid driving during severe weather.
I recommend getting a 4WD vehicle for land transport around Kenya as the roads can get challenging to maneuver during and after heavy rains.
Keep an eye out for potholes:
Potholes are a common sight on Kenyan roads, especially in rural areas. They are caused by heavy traffic, poor maintenance, and extreme weather conditions. It is essential to drive cautiously and be aware of potential potholes to avoid damaging your vehicle or getting into an accident.
Beware of livestock:
Kenya has a significant population of livestock, and it is common to come across cattle, goats, or sheep on the roads. They are often herded by local communities, and drivers need to be cautious while passing through these areas. It is essential to slow down and give way to the animals, as hitting them can cause severe damage to both the vehicle and the animal.
Roadblocks are a common occurrence:
Roadblocks are frequent in Kenya, especially near major towns and cities. They are usually set up by police officers to check for valid licenses, insurance, and roadworthiness of vehicles. It is crucial to have all necessary documents ready when approaching a roadblock to avoid any delays or fines.
Use caution around speed bumps:
Many roads in Kenya have speed bumps, also known as “sleeping policemen,” to control speeding. They are sometimes unmarked and can catch drivers by surprise if they are not paying attention. It is vital to slow down when approaching a speed bump to avoid damaging your vehicle or causing an accident.
Be prepared for traffic jams:
Kenyan roads, especially in major cities like Nairobi and Mombasa, can get congested during rush hour. It is essential to plan your journey accordingly and be prepared for potential delays due to heavy traffic. It is also advisable to use navigation apps that can provide real-time updates on the traffic situation.
Consider All-terrain tires:
To easily navigate through different road conditions in Kenya, it is recommended to use all-terrain tires. These types of tires have a deeper tread and are more durable, making them suitable for rough roads and off-road driving.
How a Private Driver Can Help You in Kenyan Roads:
Hiring a private driver who is familiar with the Kenyan roads can be extremely beneficial. They have extensive knowledge of the road conditions, traffic patterns, and alternative routes to avoid potential delays.
Having a private driver means you do not have to worry about navigating unfamiliar roads or dealing with potentially dangerous situations on your own. They are trained professionals who can handle any road hazards and ensure your safety throughout the journey.
Driving in Kenya can be tiring and stressful, especially for visitors who are not used to the roads’ conditions. Hiring a private driver allows you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery without worrying about driving or getting lost.
With a private driver, you can make the most out of your time by focusing on work or leisure activities while on the road. This can be especially beneficial for business travelers who need to attend meetings or tourists trying to maximize their sightseeing time.
In conclusion, Kenyan roads can be challenging for potential car renters due to their varying conditions and traffic patterns. However, with proper preparation and a reliable private driver, you can have a safe and comfortable journey while exploring this beautiful country. So next time you plan to rent a car in Kenya, consider hiring a private driver for an enhanced travel experience. So why wait? Book your private driver today and enjoy the ride!