Our Nairobi city guide offers an overview of Kenya's dynamic capital city, which also functions as a major gateway to/from the entire East Africa region.
Getting There and Away
East Africa’s biggest airport and hub of transportation is Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya Airways has done a fantastic job of stepping up the safety of air travel and has put Kenya on the map as a real African flight center.
There are many connecting flights to other parts of Africa, and around the world, from Nairobi.
The airport is located on the outskirts of town, about 30 minutes from the center, depending on traffic. The easiest way to get to and from the airport is by taking an official taxi.
Depending on where you are going, it will cost anywhere from 1000 – 2000 KES ($10.96 – $21.93). It’s recommended that you use an official taxi company like Jatco Radio Call or Kenatco Taxis.
There’s no formal bus station in Nairobi. Buses regularly depart from their official office, which is most likely located around the River Road area of downtown Nairobi.
Here are a few of the bus companies:
- Akamba Buses
- Eldoret Express
- Easy Bus
- Coast Bus
- Stallion Bus
- Crown Bus
Taking buses to and from Nairobi is not always the safest option, but sometimes it’s the cheapest and most convenient way to travel.
Take note; the first-class buses aren’t quite as lavish as VIP buses in other parts of the world.
The central Nairobi railway station is located in a bustling area on the edge of downtown.
There are two main routes possible to travel by rail from Nairobi: Nairobi to Mombasa, and Nairobi to Kisumu.
Getting Around Nairobi
The development boom in Kenya has lead to a flood of cars being introduced into the streets of Nairobi without proper maintenance of the road infrastructure.
This has lead to some severe traffic conditions in Nairobi, as roads are often just single lanes, and there are very few highways.
The easiest way to get around Nairobi is to hop in an official taxi. There are plenty of unofficial taxis that you can take, but unless you know exactly where you are going and how to get there, you probably want to stick with a taxi company.
Find or call Jatco Radio Call, Kenatco Taxis or Jimcab for reliable service. It is best to negotiate a price for the distance you are traveling before taking the taxi.
Ask a local, or someone at your guesthouse to see what a fair rate would be for the taxi journey.
The local way to get around town is to hop on a Nairobi-style matatu.
These minivans are an iconic symbol of Nairobi, set up with Kenyan style, painted crazy colors, and often bumping hip hop or reggae tunes.
Rides usually cost 30 KES ($0.33) or more, depending on route and time of day. If you are interested in taking matatus, take a look at this guide.
The Kenya Bus Service is organized and runs bigger sized buses throughout Nairobi. Check out the Kenya Bus website for more information.
Where to Stay
Nairobi Youth Hostel (YHA Kenya): Ralgh Bunche Roard, Nairobi, Kenya P.O. Box 48661-00100. Nothing fancy, just hard bunkbeds at some of the lowest prices in town. Dorms are about $7 – $10, and private rooms cost $25 – $30.
Wildebeest Eco Camp: 151 Mokoyeti Road West, GPO Box 18209 Nairobi, Kenya 00100. Wildebeest eco-camp is clean and offers dorms, private rooms, and tents. Staying in the dorms is around $18.
Bush House: Silanga Road, off Langata Road, Next to Comboni Father Nairobi, Kenya PO BOX 10265-00100. Located in the suburbs of Nairobi in a quiet green area and offers self camping as well as dorms and private rooms. Self camping runs around $7 per person, dorm beds are about $12 per person, and private rooms are $25 – $40.
Short Term Accommodation
Renting fully furnished apartments in decent, secure locations of Nairobi might cost more than you expect.
You might be able to find a single room or guest house at another person's home for around $200 – $300 per month, but a furnished apartment will cost about $600 – $1000+ per month.
There's no real good Nairobi apartment rental website. You'll need to do some research, and read through forums, to find out about suitable apartments.
There is a small community of couchsurfers in Nairobi. I know there are organized CS meet-ups, activities and tours of Nairobi.
Many Kenyans on Couchsurfing are willing to offer advice and give you suggestions about visiting Kenya.
Things to Do and See
Nairobi National Park – Nairobi has its very own national park filled with wild African animals just on the edge of town.
Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage – Baby elephants and rhinos that have been orphaned are cared for at the Sheldrick orphanage. It's fun to see these animals up close and interact with them.
Giraffe Park Center – If you want to feel a giraffe and feed it, head to Nairobi's giraffe center where you might get licked in the face by a tall spindle-legged creature.
Nairobi National Museum – The museum houses displays of Kenyan history, ancient human discoveries and also has information about the country.
Kenya National Archives – For antiques and African artifacts, head to the national archives in downtown.
Shopping Around Nairobi – There's no shortage of shopping and tourist curio shops in Nairobi. Visit the Maasai Market held on Fridays at the Village Market or head to Westlands and check out Triangle Market in front of Sarit Center. For a local market experience, you might head to City Park Hawkers or Toi Market.
Food and Drink
Nairobi offers all the great Kenyan dishes like ugali and sukuma wiki but also hosts a significant range of international dining options. Indian and Ethiopian food are probably the best foreign foods to eat.
Burger Hut Nairobi – In the Westlands area of Nairobi. One of the best burgers in Kenya, and all of Africa!
The Smart Village – Located on Muringa Road, near Yaya Center. Some of the best Ethiopian/Eritrean food in Nairobi, served in a pleasant relaxing environment.
Diamond Plaza – Located in Parklands. An Indian shopping center that offers amazing Indian food and snacks.
Nightlife in Nairobi is widespread and popular. The central area to go out at night is either Westland's or select locations in downtown.
Bars and Clubs
Pavement Nightclub – Located in Westlands. Popular modern nightclub.
Klubhouse – Located in Parklands. A good place to hang out with a group, meet others, and grab a few Tuskers.
Florida Nightclub – Located in downtown Nairobi. If you want to take your partying to the crazy Kenyan level, head over Florida Nightclub (commonly known as Madhouse). Be warned that you'll get hit on by countless scantily dressed females.
Casablanca – Located near Yaya Center on Nyangumi Rd. Upper-class trendy restaurant and sheesha bar that turns into a club at night.
Last Updated on August 6, 2019 by Dave Lee
Mark was raised in central Africa before migrating back to the U.S. for University. After graduating, he decided to continue traveling the world. On Migrationology, he shares the cultural side of travel from a slow-paced local perspective that often revolves around his love for eating all forms of food. Join him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @migrationology.