Kenyan Studies 002: Kenya’s Survival Guide

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From Manufactured In Kenya, you might think that Kenya is all about picturesque scenes such as silver sands, whispering palms, and green wildlife, but there is also a dark side to the Kenyan story; insecurity.

Insecurity is basically attributed to the fact that police officers aren’t paid well enough, so they take bribes to make up for their meager incomes. Bribing policemen has become so common that all that policemen have to do is stop a car (for any valid reason or not), and say, “TKK” (toa kitu kidogo = or give me a little, hint hint,give me some money ), or “Naskiya baridi” (I’m feeling cold, hint hint, give me money for tea), and never try to be cheeky and say, “You’re cold? Then wear a jacket”.

Given below are things to remember if you were to enjoy a vacation in Kenya;

1.Packing  Criteria: Take things that you don’t need so much so that if they were stolen you wouldn’t cry over them. Leave your iphone at home and get a Nokia 3210. Replace your Burberry hand bags with something cheap.

2.While driving in the city of Nairobi, keep all windows up, even if the AC is not working. Professional thieves start work during peak time to steal things like phones, the car’s headlights.  f someone comes to steal the mobile phone, then tell him, “Wait right here my friend, let me get you a charger,” then hit the accelerator. Also, avoid taking pictures, because the thieves will certainly want to assist you in taking those photographs.

3. Police moonlight as thieves as well, except that they’re legal. They do that by stopping people and asking to see all kinds of things from driver’s license to car insurance to ID, then charging you with TKK if you forgot anyone of them as a bribe. To avoid that, hang out with a local, or smile wildly at them and ask, “How is Kamau/Maina? He’s not on shift today?”

He’ll think you actually know his boss/partner and out of respect for his boss/partner, he might leave you alone.

4. Drive like you know where you are going. No cruising at 20 kph on the road, unless there’s a jam of course. Also don’t stop strangers to ask for direction, for obvious reasons, because if they know you are lost then they might help you find your way to… (you fill in the blank).

5. Do not order take-out food, someone might release an AK 47 from the pizza box.

6. Brothers going to the masjid, wear bata flip flops. Proper shoes and sandals could be stolen. Legend has it that a guy once tried to steal shoes from the masjid and he was caught by the mob justice crew, so trying to get out of trouble, he said, “I’m a Muslim.”

Someone told him, “Prove it. Say the testimony.”

He said, “Assalam aleikum.”  (I don’t know how true the story is but it was funny).

Flip Flop

7. When riding a tuktuk, pack panadol with you because the engine is so noisy. Funny enough, it goes something like tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk….and you’d be jumping around a lot especially since our Kenyan streets are generous when it comes to the number of potholes they have. If you were overweight, don’t b surprised if the driver tells you, “Mami, please get off, I want to take the corner and you’re way too heavy, the tuktuk might tip over.”


Don’t tell me you haven’t been warned. Yeah, and one last thing; Welcome To Kenya 😉



8 thoughts on “Kenyan Studies 002: Kenya’s Survival Guide

    Amina said:
    July 17, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Asalamu aliakum, AH!

    TEgypt, where I am from also has the bribes problem and we also switch to our really old mobiles when we’re here cause of ‘pickpocketers/thieves- but the rest of the stuff…

    I love all the little advice you give! I would NEVER have thought of the ‘wait for me to get the recharger’ or “where’s X- he’s not on shift today”, etc. Great advice! Will keep that in mind if I ever visit Kenya, hehe…

    OMG, I cracked up about the Tuktuk– thanks for the warning!

    Amina said:
    July 17, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    ^Sorry, I meant to write “Egypt”…not sure how the ‘t’ popped out in front of it 😉

    Khadra said:
    July 18, 2010 at 6:57 am

    i always heard that even in the airport random check and if u want everything to be quick bribe the security, yet again i blame the goverment for not enforcing and encouraging the policeforce and safety

    AH responded:
    July 18, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    @ All, thanks for commenting

    amira jj said:
    July 18, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Somethings never change… it..

    Tine said:
    July 19, 2010 at 6:56 am

    That’s scary… How long have you been in Kenya and you know all these things? I think people there are more desperate coz they steal whenever they can. Unlike here in the Phils. well… I haven’t heard any stories like those you have enumerated.

    tuk-tuk seems fun. i wanna try that and see the difference of what we have here… the jeppney. 😀

    aishah said:
    April 10, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    OMG!!!! its a very lovely piece….i laffed till i was in tears…..u r such a clown….nyc one there!

    Google A Heart’s Echoes « A Heart's Echoes said:
    May 30, 2011 at 8:40 am

    […] which leads to this, and Kenya’s Survival Guide which leads to the Kenya Studies 001 and 002. Only this morning, I received a viewer who searched for ‘Masdar Institute Blog site: […]

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