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Kenya Goes Visa-Free for Travelers – But There’s a Catch

Kenya Visa-free
Kenya Visa-free

Traveling to Kenya in 2024 seemed poised to become easier when the government announced that tourists would no longer require a visa. However, a closer look at the details revealed a twist.

While many international visitors would no longer need to purchase a visa, they must now pay $34 for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), including citizens of some countries that previously enjoyed free entry.

This move has sparked backlash, with social media users expressing their frustration, and some in the travel industry warning that it could adversely affect tourism at a time when Kenya is trying to attract more visitors.

Under the new policy, travelers must apply online at least three days before their trip and pay the $34 as a processing fee.

Kenyan President William Ruto has advocated for a borderless Africa, encouraging countries to eliminate visas and promote the free movement of people and goods across the continent. However, since the ETA policy took effect in early January, many have taken to social media to argue that it does the opposite.

Jones Ntaukira, a frequent business traveler from Malawi, expressed his surprise at the change, calling it “hectic.” He emphasized that the new rules are an unwelcome obstacle, especially for travelers who frequently visit Nairobi on short notice.

Rules Adjustment for Children

Some travelers are also concerned about new requirements for children. Previously, children under 16 from several countries didn’t have to pay for a visa.

Kenya’s tourism board aims to attract 5.5 million annual visitors in the next four years, but critics of the new policy are questioning its potential impact on arrivals.

Despite the Kenyan authorities’ assertion that the ETA is a step forward for the country, some believe that it represents one of the harshest visa regimes in Africa and could negatively affect Kenyan tourism in the long term.

Enhanced fairness, speed, and reliability

There are also concerns that the new system may lead to reciprocal visa requirements for Kenyan travelers by countries that currently offer them unrestricted access.

Kenyan authorities argue that the ETA will create a fairer, faster, and more reliable system while addressing security and strategic interests. Citizens of countries in the East African Community (EAC) regional bloc, who are exempt from ETA for the next six months, may soon be required to apply to travel to Kenya.

Muthuri Kinyamu, co-founder of Kenyan tour operator Turnup.Travel, believes that while the rollout of the new measures initially caused confusion, the overall spirit is to make Kenya an open and accessible destination by standardizing rates. The full effects on travel to Kenya and visitor arrivals are yet to be seen.

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