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Nairobi

Travel Guide Africa Kenya Nairobi

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Introduction

Nairobi in the Distance

Nairobi in the Distance

© All Rights Reserved A.D. Lanza

Nairobi is the capital and largest city in Kenya. It has about 3 million inhabitants, 4 million if you add the total metropolitan area, making it the fourth largest city in Africa. It is just over 100 years old and became the capital in 1905, before which Mombasa hold this title. It is located in the southern central parts of the country, roughly between the coast and Uganda, at an elevation of almost 1700 meters. Although it is the political and economical hart of the country, the city hasn't got that much to offer for travellers. Most people stay here before starting their safari to world famous parks like the Masai Mara or fly back home from Nairobi. Just outside the city however is Nairobi National Park and the sight of zebras with high rise buildings in the back is rather unique.

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Sights and Activities

engage in numerous sports from golf, rugby, athletics, polo, horse-racing, cricket and football (soccer).

  • Nairobi National Park (just outside Nairobi) - This is home to large herds of Zebra, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Giraffe, Lion, Cheetah, Hippo, Rhino and even birdlife (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.
  • Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage (close to the Nairobi National Park) - This orphanage takes in elephant calves and rhinos from all over Kenya which were orphaned by poaching.
  • 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.
  • 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, August 7, 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.
  • Nairobi National Museum - 8:30am-5:30pm. Where visitors can learn about Nairobi, its history and culture. The museum celebrated 100 years in 2010.
  • National Railway Museum - Visitors can learn more about the history of Kenya’s railroads and the Kenya/Uganda railway. It also houses, some of the engines and rolling stock from the country’s colonial period.
  • Nairobi Gallery - ☎ +254 20 216566. This is a museum housing only special exhibits, so the featured artwork is always changing.
  • Karen Blixen Museum - ☎ +254 20 8002139, e-mail: karenblixen@museums.or.ke. is based on the Karen Blixen’s book "Out of Africa". Her house is now the home of the museum. It is on the outskirts of Nairobi and a taxi or bus can get you to the museum.
  • Uhuru Gardens - Built in remembrance of the struggle for independence, which Kenya was granted in 1963. The monument is a 24-metre-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.
  • 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

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Events and Festivals

East African Arts Festival

In March each year, Nairobi hosts the East African Art Festival, the biggest of its kind in the region, which attracts competitors and spectators from around the world. The three-day event showcases art, music, theater, music, fashion, literature, architecture, sculpture and traditional crafts. It is hosted by the Kenyan National Museum.

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Weather

Because of its elevation, it is never too hot in Nairobi and even during the warmest months of January to March, temperatures are around 25 °C during the day. April and May are the wettest months, with over 200 mm of rain in April. In winter (July to September) it can get chilly at night, but it rarely freezes.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max24.5 °C25.6 °C25.6 °C24.1 °C22.6 °C21.5 °C20.6 °C21.4 °C23.7 °C24.7 °C23.1 °C23.4 °C
Avg Min11.5 °C11.6 °C13.1 °C14 °C13.2 °C11 °C10.1 °C10.2 °C10.5 °C12.5 °C13.1 °C12.6 °C
Rainfall64.1 mm56.5 mm92.8 mm219.4 mm176.6 mm35 mm17.5 mm23.5 mm28.3 mm55.3 mm154.2 mm101 mm
Rain Days459161353447158

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Getting There

By Plane

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), located 15 kilometres away from the city centre, is home to Kenya Airways. It's the busiest airport in East Africa and the 6th busiest in Africa.

Some of the national carrier's destinations include Accra, Addis Ababa, Amsterdam, Bangkok, Cairo, Dar Es Salaam, Dakar, Dubai, Entebbe, Guangzhou, Harare, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lilongwe, London, Mumbai, Seychelles and Zanzibar. Several dozens of other airlines serve Nairobi, mainly from other African and European cities.

Taxis and car hire facilities are conveniently situated at the arrival areas. A scheduled bus service to and from the town center is available as well.

By Train

Nairobi is also accessible by rail, with three times a week arrivals and departures at the Nairobi Railway station. At this time, trains only go east to Mombasa. Trains are often a more comfortable and safer way to travel than buses because of bad roads, as well as bus mechanical issues.

There are 3 classes: First, Second, and General. General class gets very overcrowded and not all participants always have seats: It is the least expensive and comfortable mode of travel. First and Second classes are sleepers. First class has 2 seats in a cabin, while Second class has 4. In Second Class, genders are separated unless you purchase the entire compartment of 4 seats. First class costs vary depending on location and costs 4405 Kenyan Shillings to Mombasa, but are all inclusive: bedding, breakfast, dinner; Second class costs vary depending on destination. It costs 3385 Kenyan Shillings to Mombasa, all inclusive. Both can be purchased without bedding or food. Tickets have to be booked through the office on Station Road in south-central Nairobi, or on the railroad's website. Online booking may be more expensive than in person. A 3rd class seat from Nairobi to Mombassa costs 680 Kenyan Shillings. A 2nd class sleeper car without dinner and breakfast is 2335 Kenyan Shillings, which is two times the cost of the bus.

By Bus

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.

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.

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Getting Around

By 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.

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.

By Public Transport

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, you should be aware that 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 between KES10 and KES40) and location the matatu is driving. Recently, the government has decided to ban the 14-seat matatus inside Nairobi, effective January 2011 in hopes of reducing traffic and accidents in town. The best choice is probably the City Hoppa bus service and of late the revived Kenya Bus Service. Beware of traffic jams on the major highways, not only in the rush hours.

By Foot

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.

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Eat

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.

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Sleep

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.

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Bermuda HotelSoitololo Road off Forest Road p.o. box 17278Hostel61
Bush House & CampP O Box 10265GUESTHOUSE89
Hibiscus Guest House195 Kirichwa Road P.O. Box 47663GUESTHOUSE-
Jobcamp House557-00300Hostel-
Kikuyu Lodge HotelPO Box 1199 KikuyuHotel74
Meridian Court HotelMuranga Road P.O.BOX 30278Hotel91
Milimani BackpackersDead end of Dennis pritt road, P.O Box 21005HOSTEL-
Mooreland HotelP.O. Box 74588-00200 Korobot Road, Off Limuru Road, Opposite Stima plazHotel48
Nairobi International Youth HostelRalph Bunche Rd, Po Box 48661Hostel-
Supergolf & Sports HostelsP.O Box 63035 Muranga Road-NairobiHOSTEL-
The Kivi Milimani HotelP.O.Box 20681 00100Hotel-
Wildebeest Camp151 Mokoyeti Road West LangataCampsite-
Margpher Guest HouseP.O. Box 11698Guesthouse-
Khweza Bed & BreakfastPO Box 56480-00200GUESTHOUSE84
Mvuli House-NairobiPO Box 12181Guesthouse-
Windsor HotelRidgeways Road, off Kiambu Road,Hotel-
Sentrim 680 HotelKenyatta AvenueHOTEL65
Ceola Apartment Kilimanip.o box 18589-00100 Kilimani, NairobiApartment-
Cottage Nairobi3rd Right, Kitale Lane, Off Dennis Pritt Rd, CaledoniaGUESTHOUSE77
YHA KenyaRalgh Bunche RoardHostel-
Ole Sereni HotelMombasa road Opposite Zain offices Parkside towersHotel-
Sindoma Nairobi AccommodationArgwins Kodhek Roed HurlinghamGuesthouse-
Sochati House HotelGitanga Road opposite Braeburn SchoolLavingtonHotel-
Godials B&BP.OBox 76314-00508 P.O. Box 50323- 00200GUESTHOUSE-
Graphics Guest ResortP.O. Box 51920-00200 Nairobi, Kenya.Hostel-
Daisy HomeHse 2 Daisy Drive, GigiriGUESTHOUSE-
Jimlizer HotelMumias road, BuruburuHOTEL-
The Strand Hotel - NairobiNairobi West, Gandhi Avenue P. O. Box 9081 - 00300 NairobiHOTEL-
Hadassah Girls' Hostel NairobiP.O.BOX 7130-00300HOSTEL-
Nairobi Airport Stop Over House16173-00100Guesthouse-
Ushirika Guesthousep.obox 26233Guesthouse-
Holiday At A Home1155-00618GUESTHOUSE-
Embakasi BedroomsNyayo Estate EmbakasiGUESTHOUSE-
House Finesse13235-00200HOSTEL-
Havilla Accommodation & SafarisKamuthi Drive, Kahawa WestGUESTHOUSE-
Fortmount ApartmentLangata Road 50 meters North of T MallAPARTMENT71
PrideInn Hotel & Conferencing, Westlands Road.Westlands Road Box 66969- 00200HOTEL-
Mirema Service HotelP.O. box 65143HOTEL-
The PrideInn Raphta RoadBox 66966-00200HOTEL-
Lavington Luxury ApartmentP.O. Box 610-00200APARTMENT-
Mdawida Homestay727-00517, LangataHOSTEL-
Abbey Comfort InnGaberone RoadHOTEL-
Bush Bed and Breakfast & SafarisKaren/Langata Road Kamuthi/Kamiti Road Kahawa AreaHOSTEL-
Qwehu BackpackersMagadi Road Ongata RongaiHOSTEL-
Sarova Stanley - HotelKimathi AvenueHOTEL-
Kipepeo Hotel - NairobiRiver RoadHOTEL-
Gona SuitesP. O. Box 51736 off Kitengela RoadGUESTHOUSE-
West Breeze HotelMasaba Road, Off Bunyala Road Past NIC Bank, UpperHOTEL-
New Mates GuesthouseOld Donholm along Outer Ring RoadGUESTHOUSE-
Milimani Bed & BreakfastNairobi South C Area Ole Shapara RoadGUESTHOUSE-
Aquarium Guest ResortWestlands Road Next To Stardard Chardard Head OfficeGUESTHOUSE-
Delta Hotel NairobiUniversity way 1740HOTEL-
Accommodation Bushcamp KarenSilanga Avenue Fair Acres road off Karen/Langata roadHOSTEL-
Hotel EmbassyTubman Road, Opposite City Market P.O Box 47247HOTEL-
Fahari Guest HouseRhapta Road, Westlands P.O Box 470016GUESTHOUSE-
Bethany Garden HouseMukuyu RdApartment-
Eden Gardens26 Convent Drive LavingtonHOTEL-
Downtown Backpackers NairobiMakutano Building Dubois Rd, Off Accra RdGUESTHOUSE-
Osoita LodgeP.O. Box 15648 MbagathiHOTEL-
Blue Hut Hotelp.o.box 31223-00600 Park Rd. Ngara NrbHOTEL-
Dafam Budget Hotel & SafarisRed Cross Road South CHOTEL-
Kingdom Gardens Guest House1 Muthaiga Rd, Opp. Mobil Pl. P.o Box 64553GUESTHOUSE-
3Butterflies GuesthousePO box 716 Ongata RongaiGUESTHOUSE-
Oryx HotelJogoo Road junction with Hamza RoadHOTEL-
The Clarion Hotel - NairobiJunction of Moi Avenue and Muranga RoadHOTEL-
LaJardine Hotel NgaraP.O.Box 5687 NgaraHOTEL-
Bees-Park GuesthousePO Box 6596GUESTHOUSE-
Bush Camp Hotel Nairobi1 Silanga Close Fair acres roadHOTEL-
Mkenya Backpackers3818CAMPSITE-
Muso Guest HouseOle shapara AvenueGUESTHOUSE-
The Nest HotelPopo Road off Mombasa Road, Bellevue South C P.O.BOX 59495HOTEL-
Hope Guest HotelGogo lane, off Gogo RoadHOTEL-

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Keep Connected

Internet

As far as communication technology is concerned, Kenya has gone through a tremendous modernization. Nowadays visitors to Kenya can carry their portable digital devices, ease of use is guaranteed with the advent of wireless (hot spots) environments within upmarket tourisms resorts. In some restaurants, a cup of coffee can allow you the use of the free hot spot for your laptop. However in most places the bandwidth is severely limited. Internet cafés are common throughout Kenya and usually offer decent link quality. Expect prices around 1KSh per minute. Most cyber cafes now charge 0.5KES per minute.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Kenya boosts a number of good mobile phone operators like Zain, Safaricom, Orange, Yu and Telekom. Roaming is easy with most European contract mobile phone tariff plans. Prices can be high though, so try and get a local SIM card or avoid data roaming.

Post

The National Postal Company offers services throughout the country and abroad. Prices are reasonably but services, although better than in the past, are still not very good. It is pretty slow and not always reliable. If you want to send a package, you'd better use international companies like DHL, TNT, UPS or FedEx, as they are not much more expensive yet reliable and fast.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: -1.2762
  • Longitude: 36.7965

Accommodation in Nairobi

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Nairobi searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Nairobi and areas nearby.

Contributors

as well as Hien (2%)

Nairobi Travel Helpers

This is version 15. Last edited at 10:19 on Nov 14, 16 by Utrecht. 70 articles link to this page.

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