This city on the Nairobi River is not only the largest and fastest growing in Kenya but one of the largest in Africa.
The word Nairobi is derived from a water hole known in Maasai as Enkare Nyorobi, which means "cool waters". Nairobi, which had been a swamp area, was founded in 1899 as a railway camp for the Uganda Railway. By 1905, the city had become the capital of Kenya (then the British East Africa Protectorate), supplanting Mombasa and Machakos, the previous capitals. With the spread of plagues in the early 1900s, the town was burnt down and had to be rebuilt. Having a railway helped it to grow rapidly, becoming the second largest city in Kenya behind Mombasa. Nairobi also grew due to administration and tourism businesses (mostly big game hunting).
The British presence led to the creation of big hotels primarily for the British hunters. Nairobi has an East Indian community, who are the descendants of the labourers who built the railway and the merchants who set up shop during colonial times. After independence, Nairobi airport became the principal entrance point to Kenya and it still is today, although it has lost some of its importance to Mombasa.
For general information about visas and vaccinations, etc., see the Kenya article.
Nairobi’s main airport is JKIA Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO IATA), which is 15 km (9 mi) south-east from the centre of the city. The main terminal building was destroyed by fire in 2013. Terminal 1A is the newly reconstructed section, and is linked to Terminal 1C by walkways both airside and landside. Terminal 1A has a small food court upstairs airside, and there is a Nairobi Java House between the two terminals airside. Terminal 1C has very little except for 10 small shops all selling the same souvenirs. Terminal 1A has a two small shops with a better selection of duty free and souvenirs.
There is also Wilson Airport, 11 km (7 mi) south from the city's centre, that handles some domestic flights and general aviation.
Kenya Airways (KQ) is the national airline of Kenya, and one of the largest and most reputable airlines in the Africa, provides extensive connections from international cities including, London, Amsterdam, Dubai, Mumbai, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Accra and a host of other countries around the world.
Other major commercial airlines to serve NBO include: Air Arabia, African Express Airways, Air Mauritius, Lufthansa, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, China southern airlines, Condor Airlines, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Fly Sax, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch, LAM Mozambique airlines, Jubba airways, Precision Air Tanzania, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, South African Airways, RwandAir, Swiss International Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
- If taking a taxi from JKIA, use a reputable taxi. Many are waiting outside to give you conveyance, and the cost should be very near Ksh 1,500 to the city centre; Westlands or places more west or north will be more. There is an official KAA taxi desk just after you exit the customs area, where you can buy a fixed-price voucher, and they will escort you to a taxi. When taking a taxi to your accommodation, do not be inveigled into taking their recommendation for accommodation.
- From the centre, you can take Airport Bus #34 for only Ksh 50, to the international airport, from in front of the Ambassador Hotel on Moi Avenue. 6AM-8PM. the bus can be unsafe so be careful.
There is no official taxi desk at Wilson, and each airline operates out of its own terminal. It may be difficult to arrange a reputable taxi on arrival, but there are plenty at the kerb.
Nairobi has become much more accessible by rail. Kenya Railways has opened a railway linking Nairobi and Mombasa, reducing travel time between the two cities to 4½ hours. The express train leaves daily at 9AM, a slower service is to be introduced during late 2017, stopping at more intermediate stations. Tickets cost Ksh 700 for 2nd class and Ksh 3,000 for 1st. The new terminal, 1 Nairobi Terminus is located 10 km southwest of the city centre. A connecting local train runs at 7:30AM from the old 2 Nairobi Central Station. However, as the new train is very popular it is recommended to buy tickets a few days beforehand.
The old metre-gauge railway run by Rift Valley Railways remains, however with no passenger service for the foreseeable future.
Nairobi is the centre of Kenya’s (mostly reliable) bus system. There are many bus companies operating to and from the country’s different cities.
- Mombasa (from Ksh 1,500) 8-10 hr by Mash Poa, Crown bus service (Oxygen). Most buses to Mombasa go from Accra road in down town Nairobi. Modern coast express departs Nairobi many times a day going to Mombasa with a fare of Ksh 1800-2200. Some buses have first class and VIP seats which are much more comfortable. These seats should be booked some days in advance, also online.
- Arusha in Tanzania (Ksh 1100) 5½ hr by Modern Coast. Riverside Shuttle,
- Kisumu, Eldoret, Kitale, Kericho by Easy coach
- Kampala (from Ksh 2000) 12 hr by Easy coach, Modern coast, Dreamline or Mash Poa.
Matatus (14-18 seater minibuses) and shuttles (6 seater cars) are convenient, inexpensive (and often the only) modes of public transport for connecting Nairobi with towns and tourist destinations in the Rift Valley and Central Highlands such as Naivasha, Nyeri, Nanyuki, Isiolo, and Thika. Matatus can be obtained from the River Road area. Extreme caution should be exercised in this area because petty theft is a major concern and valuables such as mobile phones and wallets should not be prominently displayed here, particularly after dark and even while in the matatu (see safety section below). The best method of connecting to a matatu is to arrange for a taxi to drop you off and pick you up directly at the location of the matatu that you are boarding or alighting from. If you're boarding a matatu from Nairobi, tell the taxi driver your destination and they will drop you off at the correct location. If you are being picked up, then tell the taxi driver the location you're coming from as well as the matatu company that you are using (your ticket should have the operator's name). It is best to arrange for a taxi from the hotel you're staying at. The price is dependent on the distance of travel.
- Prestige Shuttle, Dubois Road, has 10-seat vans going from Nairobi to and from Nakuru and Kisumu. Ksh 450/1000.
- North Rift Shuttle behind the Afya Centre has 10-seat vans going from Nairobi to and from Eldoret. from Ksh 700.
Entry into Nairobi by boat is not possible, however one could certainly arrive in Kenya by boat via Mombasa or Lamu, proceeding by road, air or rail to Nairobi. Immigration should be processed at the port facility.
Be careful getting around Nairobi. Traffic is very bad like any other major city, but if you use common sense and a local or guide you should be able to get where you want.
By hired car
Hiring a car is convenient as it allows you the freedom to explore Nairobi at your own pace. Most rental companies in Nairobi offer self-drive and chauffeured options respectively. You will find that a large fleet of cars available for hire are Japanese: Toyota, Nissan or Mitsubishi. You can hire both automatic and manual transmission. All rental cars are right-hand drive.
Car rental prices vary but as of April 2015 the going rates were as follows:
- Saloon car, e.g. Toyota Axio NZE, Toyota Fielder, Nissan Wingroad: (4 seater, under 1800cc, FWD) Ksh 4,000 per day.
- 4X4 compact car, e.g. Toyota RAV4, Nissan Xtrail, Suzuki Vitara: (4 seater, 4X4 2500cc. AWD) Ksh 8,000 per day.
- Large 4X4, e.g. Toyota Prado, Mitsubishi Pajero: (4X4 luxury, Jeep 3500cc, AWD): Ksh 16,000 per day.
- 7 seater minivans, e.g. Toyota Voxy or Alphard: (7 seater, 2500cc, FWD): Ksh 10,000 per day.
- Safari vans, e.g. customised Toyota Hiace with a pop out roof: (8 Seater, 2500cc, 4WD): Ksh 10,000 per day
- Safari Jeep, e.g. customised Toyota Land Cruiser J70 jeep with a pop out roof: (8 seater, 3500cc, 4WD): Ksh 14,000 per day.
The car rental rates are often determined by the number of days and estimated mileage per day. Some car hire companies will give you a rate that is 50% cheaper but either give you a contract with a clause limiting you to visit the specific locations, an old car or require a hefty deposit. The rates are cheaper if you are hiring the car for a week, a month or are looking for a lease. Most car rental rates include unlimited mileage, PSV comprehensive insurance, theft and damage waivers.
The Driver and fuel are charged separately with some companies requiring that you hire a driver if you are taking a large 4X4/4WD (e.g. a Toyota Prado, Land Cruiser j70, Range Rover, Land Cruiser VX, Land Rover discovery). The cost of a driver is Ksh 2500 per day inclusive of meals and accommodation (April 2015).
Although a good number of local car hire companies are reliable, you should either take photos of the car before the hire, or carefully note the dents or scratches on the car and agree. In addition, carefully read the rental contract to check for rules on insurance liabilities in case of accident or theft of the vehicle.
Here are some reliable car hire companies in Kenya:
- Nairobi Car Hire offer good services for 4x4 and other categories of cars.
- Central Car Hire are a reliable, trustworthy and helpful rental company based in Nairobi. Two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles are available and are well maintained.
- Nairobi Car Hire Services provided by Hire N' Drive Kenya Limited who are very flexible with their rental terms and reliable. They accept credit card payment online with a very credible refund processing system. They also have a wide fleet of cars available at all major airports in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret.
- Elite Car Rental Kenya although their offices are located in Kikuyu Town, they are a reliable car rental company and have been in operation since the mid-1990s.
Taxis are neither very cheap nor prevalent. Prices should always be negotiated before the trip, and paid afterwards (only cash is accepted, often with limited change available). This can be tricky as it requires you to be knowledgeable on the market rate price of the ride you wish to take. Typically, taxis can be found parked around hotels, malls, and tourist areas. The taxis tend to be marked with a yellow line on each side. Your best bet is to ask a local or enquire at your hotel.
Uber has become the hired car provider of choice among Nairobi's large expatriate population due to its convenience, cost competitiveness, and higher quality of service when compared to other taxi providers.
If you want a pre-arranged taxi with consistent pricing, you can try Davina Cabs. They have cab service in Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu and have recently opened an office in Eldoret.
By bus (matatu)
Matatus (public minibuses/commuter buses) are generally used for travelling between downtown Nairobi and the suburbs. Matatus vary in size, between the van sized 14-seat matatus and the larger 50-seat buses. While generally safe, matatus are involved in a high number of accidents every year. Matatus are often overcrowded with more people than seatbelts and therefore can be dangerous if involved in accidents. Because there are no licensing requirements, matatus are often poorly driven, with drivers passing on curbs, speeding, or passing in oncoming lanes while cars are oncoming. On each bus is a conductor who will hang out of the matatu and call out a price (usually Ksh 10-40) and location the matatu is driving. The government banned the 14-seat matatus inside Nairobi to reduce traffic and accidents in town. The best choice is probably the City Hoppa bus service and the revived Kenya Bus Service. Beware of traffic jams on the major highways, not only in the rush hours.
Walking around Nairobi is fairly easy since the city is small and places are easy to get to. However, there are some areas within the city where tourists should not go, and walking around at night should be minimised. Thugs are rampant in many areas. The city centre may be considered safe by some to venture on foot, but it can't be considered a pleasant experience. Expect to be approached by beggars, touts, etc.
Car hire from the airport is possible, and fairly painless with prices in line with other African countries. In the recent past Nairobi had a severe car-jacking problem, but because of increased police check-points it is marginally safer these days. Travelling during the day reduces your chances of getting car-jacked as most car-jackings occur after dark, but even so, carjacking can still happen at any time of day, even with a strong police presence. However, watch out for undisciplined drivers, as they take little regard for safety.
Nairobi is known as the safari capital of Africa, however the city has still managed to keep up with modernization. Unlike other cities, Nairobi is surrounded by 113 km² (70 mi²) of plains, cliffs and forest that makes up the city’s Nairobi National Park. The city is filled with many things to do during the day and the night. Tourists can have their pick from numerous safaris (wildlife, cultural, sport, adventure, scenic and specialist), ecotourism tours, restaurants, culture, shopping and entertainment. While in Nairobi, tourists can also engage in numerous sports from golf, rugby, athletics, polo, horse-racing, cricket and football (soccer).
- 1 Nairobi National Park (just outside Nairobi). This is home to large herds of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, giraffe, lion, cheetah, hippo, andbirdlife (over 400 species). Here you can also go on the Nairobi Safari Walk, an educational centre to make people aware of wildlife and habitat conservation. Also in the park is the Nairobi Animal Orphanage.
- 2 Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage (close to the Nairobi National Park), ☎ . 11AM. They take in orphaned elephants from all over Kenya, and keep them until they are able to survive in the wild. Visiting hours are daily at 11AM, so you should aim to arrive about 10 minutes before that time. You will be admitted and the elephants will be fed in two groups for around an hour. After than there is a brief time to shop and look around, and it closes again around 12:30PM. If you are willing to sponsor an elephant for USD50, you can make an appointment to see your elephant put to bed at around 5PM. These brief visiting times are to ensure that the elephants are not overly exposed to humans.
- 3 Giraffe Centre (in Lang'ata right outside of Nairobi). The Centre breeds the endangered Rothschild Giraffe and has conservation/education programmes for Kenyan children. It also has many warthogs and leopard tortoise. You can feed the giraffe, and get close enough to touch them. Ksh 1000 per person.
- 4 Kenyatta International Conference Centre (K.I.C.C) (Central District). The best place to get that far ranging view over the sprawling, congested metropolis that is Nairobi. You can go up to the saucer-shaped top of the conference centre's round viewing tower and depending on smog and fog, you might be able to see as far as the slums and the national park. Ksh 400, Ksh 200 reduced.
- 5 US Embassy Memorial Site (Central District). In 1998 a blast rocked downtown Nairobi. A truck had exploded next to the US Embassy building, reducing it to rubble and killing 212 people some on staff, most bystanders. On the same day, the US embassy in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, was also subject to a similar terrorist attack. 21 people have been charged with the crime, including Osama Bin Laden. The former embassy site today contains a memorial that can be visited. Ksh 30.
- 6 Nairobi National Museum, Museum Hill, ☎ . 8:30AM-5:30PM. Where visitors can learn about Nairobi, its history and culture. The museum was founded in 1910.
- 7 National Railway Museum. visitors can learn more about the history of Kenya’s railways and the Kenya/Uganda railway. It also houses some of the engines and rolling stock from the country’s colonial period.
- Nairobi Gallery, P.O.Box 40658-00100, ☎ . This is a museum housing only special exhibits, so the featured artwork is always changing.
- 8 Karen Blixen Museum, P.O Box 40658-00100, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. is based on Karen Blixen’s book Out of Africa. Her house is now the home of the museum. You have to be accompanied by a guide to visit the house, but you can walk around the gardens on your own. If you're not into the movie, and don't know the history of the house, then it may not be worth your while taking the hour or so it takes, and the price of admission. The house has little remaining original furnishings, but there are some of the props used in the movie here (although the movie wasn't filmed here - it was create on a set). It is on the outskirts of Nairobi (in the suburbs of Karen) and a taxi or bus can get you to the museum. It's not too far from the Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Centre, so these attractions can easily be combined in a single trip.
- 9 Bomas of Kenya, Langata/Forest Edge Road, ☎ . Portrays Kenya’s culture. Visitors can see exhibits of traditional Kenyan homes, artifacts, dances, music, and song.
- 10 Uhuru Gardens, Langata Road. Built in remembrance of the struggle for independence, which Kenya was granted in 1963. The monument is a 24-m (79 ft) high triumphal column supporting a pair of clasped hands and the dove of peace, high over a statue of freedom fighter raising the flag. The monument is surround by fountains and lush-landscaped gardens.
- 11 Westlands by night. Visit the bustling and hip Westlands district, which has turned into the new nightlife centre of Nairobi. Many restaurants and bars line the busy Woodvale Grove and Mpaka Road. A visit to 'Tree house' club is a must if you are looking for a spacious one and crowd outnumbered with expats, rather than the otherwise congested natives dominated ones. Traffic can become hectic, well into the early hours. Security is generally tight and the action spills out from packed clubs into the street.
- 12 Jamia Mosque (Central District). While Jamia Mosque is tucked away in between other buildings there are striking views to be glimpsed of its intricate structure from many different angles. Easily the most impressive religious structure in the capital, the interior is off-limits to non believers
- 13 Arbortum Park. Very nice park to walk and to relax from the hectic town. Because of entrance fee you will not be molested by beggars, sellers, etc.
- 14 Karura Forest. has an area of 1 063 ha, making it largest of three main gazetted forest in Nairobi. The others are Ngong Forest and Ololua Forest.
- 15 Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park (65km from Nairobi). Centred on a 2,146m (7,141 ft) mountain, this is mountain forests and plains, with a large population of Buffalo. It also serves as a refuge for Colobus monkeys, bushbuck, duiker, leopard, and a large variety of bird species.
- Tana River (An hour's drive from the city). White water rafting throughout cataracts, which leads to the 14 falls can be done here. The rafting trip also includes a full BBQ lunch.
- 16 Kiambethu Tea Farm, Limuru, ☎ . 11:00-14:30. A beautiful tea farm about 40 minutes away from the city centre of Nairobi. The farm house is set within beautiful gardens surrounded by acres of tea and indigenous forest - home to the colobus monkey and plenty of other wildlife.
- 17 14 Falls at Thika. 14 Falls are located 55 km from Nairobi close to the Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park near the town of Thika, one of the biggest suppliers of pineapples in Kenya. You will see the expansive plantations on your way to the falls. 14 small streams merge to form the big waterfall at the foot of the Kilima Mbogo Hills. These streams are part of the Athi River. At first glance the falls are magnificent; however, the river is strongly polluted by industrial waste and a foul chemical smell and reams of rubbish strewn across all the rocks really ruin the experience. Entrance fees are: US$15 per person, US$5 parking, US$5 per camera.
- 18 Kitangela Glass. In this imaginative place, beautiful art objects are made of recycled glass and exhibited in a lovely garden, In a shop different types of glassware are on sale. Guided presentations take place every 30 min.
- Go-Down Arts Centre (South of Centre), ☎ . A former warehouse turned arts centre - this has also happened in Nairobi and this spot allows you to get a glimpse of what contemporary Kenyan artists are up to, including exhibitions, performances and discussions.
- Kazuri Beads shop. Started in 1977 the workshop of beads is adjacent to Karen Blixen's Museum. Was started by an English woman to provide sustainable income to poor Kenyan women. Has beautiful jewellery created of clay brought from the areas surrounding Mt. Kenya.
- Oloo’s Children Center (OCC), Kibera, ☎ . Lend a hand at the volunteer-operated school, take a tour of Kibera, and have a cup of tea with the OCC Founder. The founder of the school lives in Kibera and works to provide children in need with education and meals.
- Try excellent food. Nairobi has a great variety of international food. For more information see the Eat section.
- Nightlife. Go dancing and be apart of Nairobi's excellent nightlife. For more information see the Drinking-section.
- Ice-skating. Go ice-skating at Panari.
- Village Market. Visit Village Market and Sherlocks.
- Maasai market, Slip Rd. Go to the Maasai market and buy keepsakes. On Saturday the market is at Nairobi High Court parking lot, village market on Friday, The Junction on Thursday, Capital Centre on Wednesday. Prepare to haggle and as a guide, pay about half to two-thirds of the asking price.
- Visit the slum. Do something different visit Kibera, the slums of Nairobi. Guided walks are arranged by Kiberatours.
- Hiking: there are several good hiking places near Nairobi too, e.g. in the Chyulu Hills or Ngong Hills. The Ngong Forest Reserve is located 25 km south west of Nairobi. Its a popular walking and picnicking venue. The walk is inbetween Ngong and Corner Baridi (Kiserian) and takes about 4 to 5 hours. In Ngong is a station where you have to pay the park entry fee and who likes also for a guide. There is only one way to go and you hardly can get lost. But also organized hiking tours are offered.
There are quite a number of networked banking machines in major shopping areas of Nairobi as well as the arrivals area of the airport. A Barlays ATM can be found near Gate 9 within the security area, easily accessible when arriving, and another one on the left side immediately after leaving the security area. Most transactions are cash only, so it is best to have enough cash on hand to pay for purchases and transport.
Major banks such as
- Kenya Commercial Bank
- Equity bank
- Guaranty trust bank
- I & M Bank
- C F C Stanbic Bank
- ECO Bank
- Standard Chartered Bank
- Barclays Bank of Kenya
give better exchange rates than any of the Forex bureaus. and also have Mastercard/Visa Card ATMs Independent machines such as PayNet have lower cash limits and may have a higher fee.
- there is no ATM fee for overseas visa or master cards at any of the Stanbic or Eco banks ATMs.
Cash is dispensed in units of Ksh 1,000. Many smaller businesses will not have much change, so before going shopping for curios be sure to have a good selection of smaller notes.
Forex Bureaus are located in many parts of the city where tourists are common. They will exchange cash of different currencies, and may also accept a personal cheque for Kenyan cash. They will want a photocopy of your passport before they exchange money. Rates are not bad, but will be worse than a banking machine will offer. Many exchange bureaus and hotels will not accept or exchange American currency printed before 2000. When the exchange bureaus do accept pre-2000 notes, they typically offer substantially lower exchange rates than for currency printed after 2000. Exchange rates are also typically lower for small denomination currency than for US$100 and $50 bills.
Credit Cards Many specialty stores will accept international credit cards, however they may charge a 5% fee for using them. The Nakumat and Uchumi supermarket chains accept credit cards without a surcharge.
This may also be a good place to repeat the warning about safety. Pickpockets are rampant in Nairobi and have been known to keep an eye on people getting cash from a machine. It is best to carry cash in a hidden pouch rather than a wallet. Men: do not carry your wallet in your back pocket, and women: do not carry your purse to your side or behind you, particularly in busy locations.
For goods beyond supermarket fare, try Yaya Centre on Argwings Kodhek Road in the Kilimani area, The Junction on Ngong Road, or the Sarit Centre in Westlands.
The Sarit Centre will be recognizable to any Western traveller as a shopping mall, with Clothing, shipping and internet are all available here. In addition, there is a small cinema. Other malls in Nairobi include Yaya Centre near Hurlingham and The Mall in Westlands.
The Westgate shopping mall was the target of a terrorist attack in 2013 that resulted in the destruction of a large part of the mall. It reopen in July 2015.
An additional smaller supermarket, catering more to expatriates, is in ABC Plaza, along Waiyaki Way. Chandarana supermarket carries a wide variety of imported goods, Zucchini greengrocer is a highly dependable spot for clean and varied veggies, and Gilani's is a well-stocked western style butchery.
For local curios and souvenirs, the most easily accessible and tourist-friendly is the Maasai Market, held on Fridays at the Village Market, an upmarket, open concept shopping centre near the United Nations and American Embassy complexes. Bargaining is necessary, and one should probably not spend more than Ksh 1000 on one item, except in extraordinary circumstances.
For slightly better prices, visit the Tuesday market in town, just down from the Norfolk hotel. This market is less secure, but is larger and offers more variety and opportunity for bargaining.
Nakumatt is located at Nakumatt Junction, past Lavington towards the Ngong Racecourse (Horse Flat-Racing takes place 3 Sundays a month, and is a great way to spend an afternoon). The Nakumatt Junction shopping complex features a few more boutiques - one of note being Zebu, a store highlighting local designer Annabelle Thom's leather bags and more, where you will find higher quality and higher prices for beautiful designs.
Biashara Street, located downtown, is the spot for textiles. Make sure you pick up at least one kikoi or kikoy (a traditional wrap for Swahili men, predominantly at the coast).
- Haria's Stamp Shop, ☎ , , e-mail: email@example.com. 8:30AM-6PM. One of the best selections of kikoy and other African fabrics and souvenirs.
- Naivas has 41 stores around Kenya. Has the best prices of any of the supermarkets.
- Tuskys has 44 stores around Kenya.
- Ukwala Choppies has 10 stores around Kenya. Part of Choppies Botswana.
- Uchumi has 25 stores around Kenya.
- Nakumatt Has 46 stores around Kenya.
- Game part of Wal-Mart USA. Has one store in Nairobi.
- Carrefour part of Carrefour France. Has two stores in Nairobi.
- Two Rivers Mall, off the northern bypass road (open October 2016). The largest mall in east and central Africa. Has the 1st Carrefour Hypermaket in East Africa.
- Garden city mall, Thika Super highway. has a Game Hypermarket owned by Wal-Mart.
- The Hub Karen Mall, on Dagoretti Road, Karen, has a Carrefour Hypermarket as its anchor tenant.
Nairobi is the capital of safaris in Kenya. There are tour operators from budget to world class all over the city. Yet it is not easy find the best fitting. Here are some options.
- Safe Ride Tours & Safari Ltd., Avenue House, Mezzanine II, Kenyatta Ave. Low-price operator with good 3-day safaris to Masai Mara National Park. Budget.
- Travel For Change Africa (Safaris & Volunteering), P.O BOX 10627, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Go on one of their sustainable safaris across Kenya, or volunteer with one of their partner organisations. They have fantastic options for both, and at a price that will suit every wallet, from luxury to budget. Great guys, very professional.
- K and A Coffee house and Cafeteria, Koinange Street, ☎ . 9AM-5PM. Sausage roll Ksh 80. Chips Ksh 80. Tea Ksh 50. Coffee Ksh 60. Cakes. Pies. A nice clean place to eat in downtown. Open since the mid-1990s.
- Roast House. In the city centre facing the matatu station on Tom Mboya Rd. Regular local prices with more selection, excellent food, friendly service. Very busy at lunchtime.
- Habesha. Near Yaya centre- great Ethiopian food for around USD5-6, although they serve Nescafé coffee rather than the traditional Ethiopian freshly-roasted beans.
- Smart Village. Southwest of Habesha on Elgeyo Marakwet gives an authentic Ethiopian eating experience, with fewer expats than the more-popular Habesha.
- Red Sea. An authentic Ethiopian restaurant located on the top floor of China Centre on Ngong Road near the Chinese embassy. Meals cost around Ksh 500 and the food is excellent, with nice traditional coffee ceremony.
Nairobi has a fantastic array of mid-range eateries.
- 1 Abyssinia Exotic Ethiopian Restaurant, Muguga Green, Off Brookside Grove, Off Waiyaki Way, ☎ . A delicious Ethiopian restaurant. Mains from Ksh 500-800.
- Java House. With quite a few locations, including The Junction, ABC Place, and close to the United Nations, features a western coffee house menu, from bagels to burritos, with excellent coffees and milkshakes, and a full breakfast menu. Another popular coffee house is Dormans. Ksh 500-750 for a complete meal..
- Trattoria. An Italian restaurant. Do not expect anything decent when it comes to the mains (all around Ksh 700). However, there is a fabulous and extensive dessert menu, including crepes, tiramisu, souffle, and a coffee granita with fresh cream (Ksh 250-500).
- Motherland. An authentic Ethiopian restaurant with great and affordable food (typical of Ethiopian restaurants in Nairobi!)
- Havana Bar, Woodvale Grove, Westlands, ☎ . Popular bar and restaurant with a laid-back Latin theme. Renowned for their sizzling fajitas, steaks and seafood dishes. Reasonably priced. The kitchen is open daily from noon until late.
- Village Market Food Court. Has an array of different ethnic cuisines, including Thai, Italian, Chinese and German, as well as a Mongolian Barbecue. Good prices as well. Venture further into Village Market to find a good Japanese restaurant as well, though with slightly steeper prices. There are also food courts at other malls in the city.
Nairobi has a wide range of Indian restaurants that speaks to the significant South Asian community in Kenya. The city also offers other restaurants specializing in different European and Asian cuisine.
Common fast food restaurants include Steers, Debonairs, Wimpy, Galito's, local favourite, Kenchic among others.
In addition, there are several local restaurants that cater to local cuisine like sukuma wiki (green spinach-like vegetable, 'Kale' in English), ugali (corn bread, ground maize flour and made to a tasty white bread/porridge form), nyama choma (literally: meat roast), chapati and other specialities.
- The Carnivore. Located just outside the city, close to the Uhuru Gardens, it is a luxury restaurant famous for its meats. In 2006, the restaurant was listed as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Once seated, different masaai grilled meats will be carried around on sticks and carved to your plate at request. Very expensive by Kenyan standards, beware of additional taxes and catering levies. Reservations might be a good idea, ask at your hotel.
- Furusato. Located in Westlands, has fantastic Japanese food. For a price.
- The Rusty Nail. In Karen, has been super in the past, but mediocre of late. No reason not to give it another chance.
- The Lord Errol. Past Village Market and into Runda, is said to have very good food, and is popular with the expat crowd.
- Moonflower. On State House hill at the Palacina hotel, a very upmarket bistro fusion grill restaurant in a lovely outdoor setting. Fantastic food.
- Pango Brasserie. At the Fairview Hotel it features upmarket French and continental dishes. Dinner begins in an underground stone wine cellar where the chef will send out complimentary tasters while you sip a bottle of wine of your choice.
- Alan Bobbe's Bistro (It is located at Andrew's apartments, at the end of Rhapta road near St. Mary's Shool). A venerable, legendary restaurant now located on Rhapta Road (near St. Marys School). Founded in 1962, the restaurant features French haute-cuisine at about a third of what you would pay in Paris!
- Florida 2000 (F2):. Located at Commerce House, Moi Avenue.
- New Florida Clubs (F1). The New Florida, locally known as Madhouse or Madi, is in the heart of Nairobi on Koinange Street.
- Pango (F3):, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Commerce House, 1st Floor. The latest addition to the Florida Group.
- Double Inn: Also out in Karen, they show rugby/cricket games and it's always full of expats and white Kenyans. The place to get hammered.
- Seven Seafood & Grill, ABC Place (ABC Place Waiyaki Way), ☎ . 24. Amazing seafood and spectacular decor a must visit. Ksh2000.
- Shooters & Dips Cocktail Lounge, 4372-00506 (Panari Sky Centre,Mombasa Road opp Simba Colt Offices,5km from JKIA), ☎ . 5PM. Handpicked music by the DJ. The bar offers a varied food menu along with a long list of signature cocktails, fine wines and liquors. Ksh250.
- Mercury Lounge ABC, ABC Place (Off Waiyaki Way), ☎ . 4PM-late. An upmarket modern cocktail and tapas bar. A delicious tapas and bitings menu, and the best cocktails and high end spirits array in Nairobi. All major imported and local wine and beers are available chilled to perfection. A popular hangout for expats, well to do locals and local business leaders. Ample parking and good security make this one of Nairobi's more popular spots. Shooters and cocktails range USD3-6 with shooters and high end, globally popular wines and spirits USD6-15. All major credit cards accepted..
- Mercury Irish Pub (The Last Drop), Junction Mall (Corner of Ngong and Kingara Rd), ☎ . 11:00. The pub specializes in steaks, a wide range of cocktails, local and imported beers, high end spirits and shooters and a superb wine list. Furnished in beautiful woodwork, leather seating, and with images of colonial Nairobi, it is located in the secure Junction Mall which has ample parking, good security and central location. Doubles up as a popular sports bar on the weekends with multiple screens. A popular expat hangout. A great balcony from which one can sip a cocktail while watching life pass by. Food prices from US$10-15, and all major credit cards are accepted.
- Club Soundd (junction of Kaunda and Wabera St), ☎ .
- Gipsy, Opp,Barclays,Bank Westland, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Klub House 2 (K2), Baricho Road. Industrial Area is home to K2 Klubhouse
- Choices, Majestic House, Moi Avenue, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Great place to watch Formula 1.
- Chillers, Anniv Towers.
- Black Diamond. Many expats and travellers and has a cover band that plays very good music. A lot of ladies of the night here, always after the expats.
- Havana:, ☎ . Its an expats' favourite on Thursdays nights. The live band on Saturdays attracts a good cosmopolitan crowd. Bar snacks available throughout the night.
- Apple Bees (Strip club). Located downtown and a branch in Parklands, next to the local Police Station.
- Annie Oakley's. Next to Milimani Backpackers, has pool tables, a descent menu, and a big screen with cable TV. another expats' favorite hangout.
- Cockpit. Langata Road opposite Uchumi Langata Hyper, not just popular with Wilson Airport pilots
- Barrels. Stripclub. Watch out for police raids
- Red Tape:, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Westlands, Mpaka Road, Bishan Plaza,
- Little Temple night club and bar, Tom Mboya Street. 8PM -till late. One of the few gay night clubs in Nairobi. A beer from Ksh 200. Soft drink from Ksh 150. No fee to go in..
The area around Tom Mboya Street has a lot of low cost hotels and is safe to walk around. Budget accommodation in Nairobi is from Ksh 1000 for a single room.
- 1 Wildebeest Camp, Mokoyeti West Rd, Langata. Wildebeest Camp has moved from its original location to Mokoyeti West Rd in Langata. It is a beautiful, clean camp with dorms, camp sites, permanent tents, and higher-end rooms. The common area has a comfortable TV room and a reasonably priced restaurant with an outdoor patio. What you get for your money is great -- breakfast is included, WiFi is extremely fast. The obvious downside is that it is very far from the city centre -- though that makes it easier to visit other sites like the Giraffe Center, Elephant Orphanage, and Nairobi National Park Dorm Ksh 1250 per person.
- 2 Milimani Backpackers & Safari Centre, Oldeani Crescent. Located on Oldeani Crescent Rd. During the day it's a safe 15-20 minute walk to the city center. It has internet, WiFi, hot showers, and bar. They offer dorms, doubles, singles, twins, camping space, permanent tents, and cabins. Milimani also offers safaris and other trips. Camping/dorm/single/double. Dorm/single/double/triple Ksh 1000/1500/2500/2700.
- 3 New Kenya Lodge, River Rd at Latema Rd. This cheap not so clean place in the city center attracts people from all around the world. The onsite office can arrange safaris for US$300 a day, and they often offer a few nights of free accommodation if you book one. Sometimes has hot water. 3 beds per dorm. or single rooms. The best priced dorms in Nairobi. Dorm Ksh 750 per person. Single room Ksh 1000. Double room Ksh 1500.
- 4 Upper Hill Campsite and Backpackers, Othaya road, Lavington (off Gitanga road near to Valley Arcade shopping centre), ☎ , (mob), e-mail: email@example.com. Provides a range of budget accommodation. Bringing your own tent is the cheapest way. If you are two people, try to go for a big hire tent which is the better deal than a dorm. A bit far from downtown. Dorm Ksh 1000 per person..
- Nairobi Airport Stopover House, Oluvimu raod, ☎ . 7-bed dorm with shared bathroom. Ksh 1200 with breakfast.
- Manyatta Backpackers, Milimani Road, ☎ . 6/8 person dorm. This backpackers is near downtown Nairobi 15 min walk. dorm bed Ksh 1500 per person..
- Karen Camp & backpackers, Marula road off Karen road, ☎ . Camping/dorm bed. Has Wifi. Ksh 700/1500.
- Destiny Hotel, Duruma Road (downtown Nairobi), ☎ . Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. Single room with own hot water bathroom nice hotel but not safe outside the hotel at night. Ksh 1000.
- Y M C A Hostel,, State House Road (300m from the Uhuru Hightway), ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 10AM, check-out: 10AM. Dorm beds in a six bed dorm, and single/twin rooms. Free breakfast. Has a swimming pool. Looks run down but near the downtown. from Ksh 1500 per person a night.
- Hotel Princess, 20 Tom Mboya street, ☎ . Single/double rooms with own bathroom. from Ksh 1400..
- Jungle Junction, Amboseli Road Lavington. (near Dagoretti corner.), ☎ . Camping, dorm beds, room with own bathroom. Camping Ksh 550, dorm Ksh 1000 per person.
- Arkland Palace Hotel, Junction of Tom Mboya and Ronald Ngala streets, ☎ . Check-in: from 6AM, check-out: 10AM. Big single or double rooms with own hot water bathroom. Cable TV. Breakfast from Ksh 300 per person. Right in downtown near airport bus 34. Ksh 1200/1400.
- 5 Nairobi Airport Homestay, Muthama Access Rd, Syokimau (off Mombasa Road), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 11:00, check-out: 10:30. In a quiet, serene and leafy suburb, 5 minutes from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). From Ksh 2500.
- Olive Gardens Hotel, Argwings Kodhek Rd, Hurlingham (Opposite Nairobi Women's Hospital), ☎ , . 62 rooms.
- 6 Ole-Sereni Hotel (Sarovar Hotels & Resorts), Mombasa Rd (5 km from Jomo Kenyatta international airport off Mombasa Rd opposite Zain offices), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Wildlife resort overlooking the Nairobi National Game Park.
- Country Lodge. On upper hill, the Country Lodge is aimed at the budget business traveller.
- Fairview Inn. Also on upper hill, the Fairview is a lovely old historic hotel, with beautiful grounds and several restaurants. It is quiet at night, a real respite from the city. Rates are relatively low, compared to many of the other hotels listed here. They also rent apartments.
- Savannah Sands Executive Apartments., ☎ . Located off Ngong Road, behind Nairobi Baptist Church. Features furnished and serviced apartments, as well as unfurnished and unserviced apartments.
- 7 DusitD2, 14 Riverside Drive, Riverside Woods (North West of city, near University of Nairobi Chiromo campus), ☎ . This is a stylish 4-star hotel. Thai restaurant on site, outdoor pool, gated secure compound.
- Holiday Inn Nairobi. Built in the 1940s as the Mayfair Court Hotel, this historic hotel has retained its charm even as it has joined the Holiday Inn family.
- InterContinental Hotel. Located 5 minutes from the city center and 15 min from the airport with views of the city.
- Nairobi Hilton. Part of the Hilton family of hotels and located near the city center.
- Nairobi Safari Club. Kenya's only all-suite hotel.
- Panafric Hotel. Located in the city centre, 20 minutes from the airport.
- Karen Blixen Cottages. Located in the suburb of Karen, 32 km (20 mi) from downtown, the cottages offer a unique change from the normal hotel fare.
- Nairobi Serena Hotel. Found in the middle of Nairobi's Central Park this hotel offers great convenience as well as a quiet place to stay.
- Norfolk Hotel. Opened on Christmas Day over 100 years ago, this hotel that has served many special guests is located only 30 min from the airport, and a short distance from the shopping district.
- Safari Park Hotel. Started as a retreat for British Army officers more than 50 years ago, this hotel is only 15 min from downtown.
- The Stanley Hotel. This over 100 year old hotel has be renovated back to its Victorian style. Located in the city's shopping and business district.
- Windsor Golf and Country Club. Located 15 min from the city center, 45 min from the airport. Features an 18-hole golf course on site.
- The King Post. Rhapta Road, Westlands, Nairobi. The King Post brings about a unique architectural synthesis between the East African coast and the lands across the Indian Ocean. it reflects the social and cultural interaction between the regions over more than 2000 years. Accommodation is in 1-, 2- or 3- bedroom apartments available on daily basis and long-term.The apartments are secluded but not isolated from the hustle and bustle of the city centre and the main roads being surrounded by peace, tranquility and security.
- 8 Giraffe Manor. The converted home of the founders of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, located a few kilometres from the city center, sitting on 57 ha (140 acres) of land. The giraffes can be fed at the front door or even from the second floor bedroom window!
- Ngong House. 30-min drive from the city centre and airport, the Ngong House is on a land that was originally part of a vast coffee estate. Located on the grounds are five traditional looking, yet elegantly decorated tree houses.
Nairobi has a reputation for thievery. Beware of snatch and grab, con artists, or groups of people following you. Scams are elaborate and can involve up to 10 or more people working together. The best advice for a tourist is to stay in the city centre, know where you are at all times, and pretend you know where you're going (even if you don't). If you find yourself in an unfamiliar area your best bet is to find a taxi (although you will probably pay dearly if the driver suspects a panicked westerner!). Don't carry large quantities of money or passports on the street, and assume that anyone trying to engage you is up to no good or trying to sell you something. If one stays smart and plays safe, without going around much after dark, Nairobi can be a safe place to stay. Most locals are honest people who will happily help you if you approach them. The areas where you have to take special care are: Globe roundabout, Archives, Ambassadeur, Muthurwa Market, around Nation Centre, Landies road, Nyamakima, Kirinyaga road, Uhuru
Kenyans are proud people and there is not a lot of begging like you find in some other countries. Some opportunistic people will hang around shopping centres and beg, but they will generally accept a simple 'sorry' and leave you alone if you do not give. Many of these 'beggars' are middle class kids or adults who have realised they can profit from exploiting white guilt, and should not be encouraged. If you are ever lucky enough to visit a slum as a local (not on some perverse tourist safari) you will discover the poorest of the poor do not even beg.
Outside of tourist and expat communities, young children will become excited at the sight of a white person and may come running towards you to try to shake your hand while yelling out 'mzungu' (white person) or 'how are you?'. Older kids are more reserved, and you should be wary of kids who are older than 9 or 10 who are trying to distract or get close to you.
Slums should be avoided by tourists as you will attract a lot of attention which can quickly turn into a dangerous situation.
Apart from the inner city centre, Nairobi dies out at night. Streets are mostly empty. Do not walk alone after nightfall. Always use taxis. The areas north and east of River Road should be avoided, especially if you're not a local!
Biashara Street is a safe shopping street due to the presence of 10-15 Maasai guards. A place to avoid as a tourist is the City Market; you could end up paying a much higher price than on Biashara Street.
If you are in a matatu and moving slowly through traffic, particularly after dark, you should keep your window closed if your valuables are in reach to prevent people snatching them from the outside (there are thieves who walk through traffic looking for such opportunities). Mobile phones and wallets should be securely kept and not displayed prominently during calls or cash transactions in the River Road area, particularly after dark.
Eastleigh (known as 'little Mogadishu') is an area near the city centre that is decaying due to years of neglect by the government (including the police). It is predominantly populated by Somalian migrants and refugees, and most Kenyans will not go there for fear of their safety. Tourists would be wise to avoid it day and night.
There have been several grenade attacks in the city for which Al-Shabaab have claimed responsibility. These are likely to be ongoing while the Kenyan army has a presence in Somalia. They are random and often fatal, and one should be wary and report any suspicious behaviour. Associated with the terrorist threat, you can expect to pass through security checkpoints with armed guards at most attractions, shopping malls and even on the streets. You can expect (at times) to have to have your bags searched, and car checked.
It is recommended that before tourists come to Nairobi, that they should be vaccinated well in advance (6 weeks) of their trip. The most common recommended vaccines for people traveling to Africa are Tetanus, Diphtheria, Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Yellow Fever, Rabies and Meningitis.
Food and beverages
Be careful with the food that you eat outside the more upscale establishments. Before eating, make sure that the food is freshly and thoroughly cooked and served hot. Also avoid seafood, except at upmarket restaurants and hotels, and make sure that your fruits and vegetables have been properly washed in clean water. The safest fruits to eat are bananas and papayas.
Do not drink tap water or brush your teeth with it. Only use bottled or canned drinks (especially popular brands). Also, do not use ice as it may also be contaminated water, and remember that alcohol does not sterilize a drink. The general rule of thumb is, the more high end an establishment is, the greater the safety of the food and drink within.
In Africa you are going to be exposed to yellow fever, dengue fever, other viral diseases, sleeping sickness, filariasis and malaria, although none of these diseases is a concern in Nairobi itself. When insects are biting you should cover up and wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers, socks and pyjamas especially when night falls. It is best to use an insect repellent that contains DEET on your exposed skin and clothing. As for mosquito nets, it is best to use a permethrin-impregnated net along with an insecticide such a pyrethrum coils or an electric mosquito killer during the night. And remember to spray your hotel room every evening.
Heat and sun
Make sure to drink plenty of fluids (not coffee, alcohol or strong tea) to avoid dehydration. To know if you well hydrated, you body would always produce plenty of clear urine. The average temperature is around 25°C (maximum might reach 30°C) throughout the year. People coming from Asian countries like India will not have much problem with the weather, in fact it would definitely seem pleasant all along the year. For people who are from cold countries it takes them three weeks to become accustomed to the heat. Try to avoid plenty of physical exertion and try to stay in the shade and keep cool as much as possible. Increase the amount of salt intake in your food and water. Also, apply a lot of high factor sunscreen, avoid direct sunlight, and try to wear a hat and shady clothing.
There are very many internet cafés around Nairobi, but connection speeds and computers are not always super fast, but still you will manage to open your email, probably even use a webcam or watch YouTube. Prices are usually at ranges from Ksh 0.5/minute to Ksh 1/minute, usually with a minimum fee of Ksh 5-20. The more expensive internet cafés are rarely better and the best ones charge Ksh 1/minute with discounts for using the internet for longer. Most of the good cafés are found in Norwich Union which has quite a number just opposite Hilton Hotel next to Nandos while the expensive ones are found in malls in Westlands. Although it may be more appropriate for tourists to use the ones in Westlands since they are usually less crowded and are more exclusive but not necessarily faster or better in terms of equipment.
Free wireless internet is available at Java House restaurants and Doorman's coffee shops in the city and malls. Some bars like Havana in Westlands also offer free wifi. The internet cafe in Sarit Centre also has wireless internet available at a good speed and a reasonable price.
Mobile Phones are ubiquitous in Kenya with fairly good coverage from all providers (Safaricom, Orange, Yu and Airtel) that extends to most populated parts of the country. Safaricom has the best national coverage especially if you are using 3G data. The phone system is GSM 900 and 3G 2100 (Asian and European standard) on Safaricom, Orange, Yu and Airtel. There is also CDMA2000 on Orange. Phones and SIM cards are available at many locations throughout Nairobi and the country including at the airport. Phone prices are very competitive and priced for average income Kenyans. A basic phone may be obtained new from an independent dealer for ~Ksh 2000. A vast majority of people use pre-paid phones with scratch-card top-ups available at a huge number of merchants across the country. Phones are sold "unlocked" by outlets for use on any network. Safaricom though does sell a number of phones locked to its network. Much business is conducted via mobile phone, so possession of one for even a relatively short stay in the country can be beneficial. Rates are extremely affordable with in-country calls at around Ksh 3 per minute. Overseas calls cost around Ksh 5 per minute to the United States (~USD$0.06/minute) and Ksh 3 per minute to India (~INR 1.80, USD 0.04) on the Airtel network.
3G data service is available in most coverage areas on Safaricom and is of a fairly high standard. The other networks have 3G in major population areas and EDGE/GPRS everywhere else. If you have a smart phone you should buy a data pack (200mb, 500mb or 1.5gb) or your credit will go down very fast!
Smoking is against the law out on the streets in the city center (the downtown grid area with numerous skyscrapers). There are certain smoking zones, and outside of the city center it becomes much easier to find locations where it is acceptable. However, a general rule would be to not smoke along the side of any roads or streets with pedestrians and/or vehicles. Be observant and take your cues from other smokers - if there are no smokers or cigarette butts on the ground, it is likely a non-smoking location.
Embassies & High Commissions
- Australia, Riverside Dr (400 m off Chiromo Rd), ☎ , fax: .
- Cyprus, International House 6th Floor, Mama Ngina St, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 09:00-16:30.
- Djibouti, Mama Ngina St, ☎ , fax: .
- Eritrea, 2F New Rehema House, Rhapta Rd, ☎ .
- Ethiopia, State House Ave, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Finland, Eden Square, Block 3, 6th floor, Greenway Rd off Westlands Rd, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Mo-Fr 9AM-noon.
- Japan, Mara Rd, Upper Hill, ☎ , fax: .
- Republic of Korea, 15F Anniversary Towers, University Way, ☎ .
- Spain, CBA Building, 3rd floor, Mara & Ragati Road, Upper Hill, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Upper Hill Rd, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: DLNairobi-CommerialSectionprotect@fco.gov.uk.
- United States of America, UN Ave, ☎ , fax: .
- Lake Naivasha is worth at least a day's visit and has enough to keep you occupied for two or three days. Lakeshore country clubs are a good place for lunch. You can take a boat ride on the lake to see hippos, go for a walk among zebra and giraffes on Crescent Island, ride thoroughbred horses among zebra, giraffes and wildebeest at the Sanctuary Farm, and ride bicycles among wildlife and dramatic scenery at Hell's Gate National Park.
- Nakuru National Park, although further afield, deservedly warrants a 1-night stay for a late-afternoon and early-morning game drive.