Eco-friendly travel guide to Nairobi advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Nairobi, Kenya.
- Air quality: 3 / 5
- Exploring by foot: 3.5 / 5
- Exploring by bicycle: 2.5 / 5
- Public transportation: 3.5 / 5
- Parks: 4 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 4 / 5
- Locals' English level: 4.5 / 5
- Safety: 3 / 5
- Accommodation: US$30 - $250
- Budget per day: US$100 - $500
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 How to Get There
- 11 Moving Around
- 12 Sustainable Shopping
- 13 Recycling
- 14 Work and Study Abroad
- 15 See Also
Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya. It is one of the largest and most developed cities in Eastern and Central Africa. For the eco-friendly, there are many ways to travel responsibly in the city. Listed below are some things that you can do:
- One of the easiest ways to get around the city is cycling. Since the beginning of 2020, the city authorities have embarked on a redesign of the city’s roads to incorporate lanes for cycling. This is not only an eco-friendly way to get around but also helps to reduce congestion in the city center.
- The other eco-friendly way to get around Nairobi is by walking. While the entire metropolitan area is almost 700 square kilometers, the city center and its immediate surrounding can be easily accessed by walking. In general, walking the main streets of Nairobi where the shopping centers and sites of interest are located during the day is pretty much the same as walking the streets in any large city. Walking is typically safe, but one should take care to watch the surroundings and keep valuables close. It’s best to avoid walking the streets at night if possible. After dark, it’s best to stick to registered taxis and travel in a group.
- Another responsible way to move around the city is by using public transport. Public transport in Nairobi is comprised of small vans carrying about 14 passengers (matatus), minibusses and buses carrying between 25 and 66 passengers. Almost all parts of Nairobi are accessed by matatus. However, matatus are known for their lawlessness such as speeding, overloading, and unruly crew. The bigger buses are better managed and are the preferred mode of transport for most of the locals.
- Closely related to public transport is the train service. Although it is a more reliable and affordable means of transport, it is only available in certain parts of the city. However, plans are at an advanced to improve on the existing lines and expand into other parts of the city.
Some of the ways through which one can have a responsible and enjoyable time while traveling are:
- Use shared transport when possible
- Use designated areas to throw trash
- Walk as much as possible
- Sample local foods
- Learn local culture
Air Quality and Pollution
Air pollution is a visible problem in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The city’s poor air quality is evident in its congested streets where passenger vehicles, trucks and motorcycle taxis jostle for space while belching clouds of black smoke. Nairobi’s construction boom and practices like burning of garbage only add to the levels of outdoor air pollutants. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that the level of fine particulate matter in the city’s outdoor air is 17 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). This is 70% above the recommended maximum level.
This figure could even be higher given the absence of a robust monitoring system. Outdoor (ambient) air pollution causes more than 3 million premature deaths globally each year and increases the risk of respiratory diseases and cardiovascular conditions.
What’s less discussed is the problem of indoor air pollution – the presence of air pollutants in homes, offices and classrooms. These could be gases like carbon monoxide and can come from various sources, such as fuels used for cooking and lighting. Indoor air pollution is not so visible, even though it’s estimated to cause 4.3 million premature deaths globally each year. Estimates of indoor air pollution levels in Nairobi’s households are hard to come by. This is partly due to the complexities of setting up monitoring devices in people’s houses.
The invisibility of the problem is exacerbated by the fact that it’s seen as a private problem because it happens in a household setting. But it’s an important environmental risk factor for our health given that we spend a large amount of our time indoors.
Respect the Culture
Kenya has one of the most rich and diverse cultures in the world. These cultures and traditions are a product of the 43 different ethnic groups that call Kenya home.
Primarily from the Nilotic, Cushite and Bantu linguistic groups each tribe or ethnic group has its own customs and traditions that define who they are including language, cuisine, clothing, traditional festivals etc. Some tribes have similar cultures and others are distinctly different.
Some are big, such as the Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo and Kalenjin and others like the Teso and El Molo are quite small. Even then, when blended they make Kenya what it is, a vibrant, well-woven tapestry of diversity that continues to amaze those lucky enough to visit.
One constant across the cultures is the spirit of hospitality and generosity that has come to define Kenya and its people, a fact that is immediately apparent to visitors touring different parts of the country. Despite the influence of globalization that threatens to erode many traditions, some festivals or celebrations continue to hold steady among all tribes due to their significance. Some of these include childbirth, initiation, and marriage and funeral rights.
As a foreigner, one must respect the shared traditions and beliefs that hold the country together.
Top 10 Places to Visit
As one of the most developed cities in the region with a long history going back almost one and a half centuries ago, Nairobi has many interesting places that one can visit. Listed here are some of the most interesting places:
- August 7 Memorial Park: Located on the edges of the central business district, the August 7th Memorial Park was set up in remembrance of the victims of a terrorist attack that took place in Kenya on August 7, 1998, against the American Embassy. The park consists of an outdoor green park and an indoor meeting room as well as a gallery showing the events and the pictures of the victims.
- Murumbi Gallery: The gallery is named after the second vice-president of the Republic of Kenya Joseph Murumbi. It is one of the largest art galleries in Africa and it contains ancient art collections from different regions and communities of Africa. The collected artifacts were acquired by the government of Kenya after a concessionary arrangement was agreed upon with Joseph Murumbi.
- City Market: City Market is located right in the middle of the city. The food market is popular for its butcheries selling fresh beef, chicken and fish. There are also several low-cost eateries that sell the meat and other local delicacies.
- Gikomba: Kenya's largest open-air market is the ultimate place for second-hand clothes. It is popular for aggressive hawking. The market has almost everything on sale albeit in different sections ranging from food, clothes, electronics, fashion accessories and even poultry.
- Bomas of Kenya: About 10 kilometers from Nairobi, Bomas of Kenya is a living museum celebrating the colorful tribes of Kenya. This is a great place to learn about the lifestyle, art, music, crafts, and culture of each tribe. The complex encompasses a recreated traditional village with homesteads or bomas, each one reflecting the culture of a major ethnic group.
- Ngong Hills: They are a popular place to visit close to Nairobi and provide a welcome respite from the city heat. The hills are the peaks of a ridge overlooking the Great Rift Valley, and many white settlers established their farms here in the early colonial days.
- Go-Down Arts Centre: The Go-Down Arts Centre, a converted warehouse in Industrial Area, contains 10 separate studios and is a hub for Nairobi's burgeoning arts scene, bringing together visual and performing arts with regular exhibitions, shows, workshops and open cultural nights.
- Parliament House: It is possible to obtain a free permit for the public gallery at Parliament House when parliament is in session. When parliament is out of session, one can tour the buildings by arrangement with the sergeant-at-arms.
- Maasai Market: Masaai market is a must-visit for handicraft shoppers. From the historic African paintings to amazing handicrafts, this endless market is all the more attractive because of its cheap rates. The moving market is located at a different location each day. The best days are weekends when it comes to the city center.
- Kuona Trust Centre for the Visual Arts: As much a studio for artists as a place for visitors to see art, this dynamic space hosts temporary exhibitions, artist workshops and seminars. It's found off Denis Pritt Rd.
East Africa's most cosmopolitan city, Nairobi is Kenya's beating heart, an exciting, maddening concrete jungle that jarringly counterpoints the untrammeled natural beauty to be found elsewhere in the country. Nairobi's polarizing character ensures that the city is reviled and loved in equal measure, and even those who love it might well admit that it's the kind of place many rave about only once they're away from it. For those who call it home, the city's charms include a vibrant cultural life, fabulous places to eat and exciting nightlife. Its detractors point to its horrendous traffic, poor safety levels and its less-than-gorgeous appearance.
However, with a fabulous national park on its doorstep, some wildlife-centric attractions, the excellent National Museum and a series of quirky sights, Nairobi's reality – like that of so many places with a bad reputation – will often come as a pleasant surprise.
- Nairobi Arboretum: This is one of the remaining green spaces in the city. The arboretum is a protected 30-hectare forest reserve with more than 30 species of indigenous and exotic plants, some of them labeled for educational purposes. It is also home to more than a hundred different species of birds in addition to butterflies and Vervet monkeys.
- City Park: This is a green space northeast of the city center. It is one of only a few remaining intact portions of the rich indigenous forest that once extended over much of greater Nairobi. City Park is endowed with a rich diversity of mammals (notably the Sykes monkey), over 100 different kinds of birds, rich natural vegetation, abundant insect life and numerous reptiles and amphibians.
- Uhuru Park: Uhuru Park is one of the city’s chief meeting places for locals to relax, filled with well-tended gardens and shady trees forming a green lung within a walking distance of the city center. There is an artificial lake in the park where many visitors like to take boat rides or walk over the foot bridges to the island.
- Central Park: Central Park is a very large space where you can walk and relax if you are tired of the daily routine. It is well-groomed and has been renovated to be more attractive and impressive than ever.
- Uhuru Gardens: These gardens derive their importance from the fact that this is where the first Kenyan flag was first raised and thus marking the very first year of independence on the 12th December 1963.
- Oloolua Nature Trail: The nature trail is part of the indigenous Oloolua forest that is also home to the Institute of Primate Research (IPR). The institute is run by the National Museums of Kenya which established the Oloolua Nature Trail in part of the forest, providing a refreshing environment away from the city’s hustle and bustle.
- Paradise Lost: Located in Kiambu town in Kenya, 14 kilometers from Nairobi, about 10 minutes’ drive from the city center is Paradise Lost Resort and park, a magnificent tourist attraction in Kenya that is an oasis in the middle of a coffee farm. The main attraction at Paradise Lost Resort in Kiambu which is a 54-acre farm is the Paradise Lost Resort caves in Kenya that are eroded by the nearby Gichi River in Kenya with their entrance screened by an impressive cascading Paradise Lost waterfall in Kenya.
- The Karura Forest Reserve: It is an urban upland forest on the outskirts of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. This natural resource is one of the largest gazetted forests in the world fully within a city. The forest offers eco-friendly opportunities to enjoy a leafy green respite from the hustle and bustle of the city to walk, to jog, or simply to sit quietly and experience the serenity of nature.
- Nairobi National Park: Welcome to Kenya’s most accessible yet incongruous safari experience. Set on the city’s southern outskirts, Nairobi National Park (at 117 sq km, one of Africa’s smallest) has abundant wildlife that can, in places, be viewed against a backdrop of city skyscrapers and planes coming in to land – it's one of the only national parks on earth bordering a capital city. Remarkably, the animals seem utterly unperturbed by it all.
The Kenyan capital does not border any large water body so there are no beaches around Nairobi. To get to a beach, one needs to travel to the coastal city of Mombasa some 490 kilometers southeast of Nairobi.
- Kenyatta International Conference Centre: The world-class Kenyatta International Conference Centre is best known for holding official gatherings, meetings and conferences. Magnificently tall and with amazing views from its balconies and terrace, the building is one of the most prominent landmarks in the city.
- The Ngong Hills Wind Power Station: This is a wind-powered station in Kenya, located in the northern foothills of Ngong Hills near Ngong town. The wind farm is a great place for those who want to hike and enjoy wonderful views, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
- Nairobi War Cemetery: This is one of the many World War graves spread throughout the world. It is the biggest war cemetery in Eastern Africa. Located about 13 kilometers from the Nairobi Central Business District, the Cemetery contains 1,952 Commonwealth war graves of which 11 are unknown. It also has 89 non-war graves.
- Eye of Kenya: The Eye of Kenya is Kenya’s largest observation wheel located at the Two Rivers Mall on Limuru Road. It is also Africa's tallest Ferris wheel, offering panoramic views of Nairobi. It is a 60-meter high wheel with 40 fully enclosed air-conditioned capsules that sits an estimated 6 passengers each.
- African Heritage House: Designed by Alan Donovan, an African-heritage expert and gallery owner, this stunning exhibition house overlooking Nairobi National Park can be visited by prior arrangement only. The mud architecture combines a range of traditional styles from across Africa, and the interior is furnished exclusively with tribal artifacts and artworks. For those with a bit of cash to spare, it’s possible to negotiate overnight stays, formal meals and luxurious transfers by steam train or helicopter. The house is off Mombasa Rd.
- Ivory Burning Site: This is one the most important landmarks in the annals of conservation: it was here that Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi made a dramatic statement to poachers by setting fire to 11 tonnes of seized ivory in 1989. The event improved Kenya’s conservation image at a time when East African wildlife was being decimated by relentless poaching, and it's widely credited as playing a role in turning the tide against poaching in Kenya. The site is just inside Nairobi National Park's main gate.
- Jamia Mosque: Amid the clutter of downtown, Nairobi’s main mosque is a lovely building in typical Arab-Muslim style, with all the domes, marble and Quranic inscriptions you’d expect from an important Islamic site, plus the traditional row of shops down one side to provide rental income for its upkeep. Non-Muslims are very rarely allowed to enter, but the appealing exterior is visible from the street.
- Karen Blixen Museum: A popular spot right on the foothills of Ngong Valleys, Karen Blixen Museum was once a house owned by Danish Author Karen and her husband, Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke. Just about ten kilometers from the main CBD, the Museum has all the collections symbolizing the remarkable Kenyan history of a different era.
- Nairobi National Museum: Kenya's wonderful National Museum, housed in an imposing building amid lush, leafy grounds just outside the center, has a good range of cultural and natural history exhibits. Aside from the exhibits, check out the life-size fiberglass model of pachyderm celebrity Ahmed, the massive elephant that became a symbol of Kenya at the height of the 1980s poaching crisis. He was placed under 24-hour guard by President Jomo Kenyatta; he’s in the inner courtyard next to the shop.
- Nairobi Railway Museum: Built in 1971, the world-famous Nairobi Railway Museum is a spectacular landmark promising to protect and showcase the precious antique records of the railways of East Africa. The museum has many galleries displaying the age-old collections of local trains.
One of the things you'll notice quite quickly when eating in Nairobi are the mixed cultures that contribute to creating the unique food culture of Kenya. On the coast of Kenya, like in Mombasa, you'll find a huge variety of seafood and Arabian and Indian influences to create the Swahili food culture. In Nairobi, you find less seafood, more meat (and lots of meat), and a prevalent influence of Indian food culture.
In Nairobi, local Kenyan food often includes ugali (the Kenyan staple of maize meal), sukuma wiki (a vegetable similar to collard greens), and often a type of meat stew or wet fry. Chapatis, beans, mung beans, maize, and kachumbari are also delicious additions to any Kenyan meal. One of the great things about eating in Nairobi is that it’s such an international city. You’ll find gourmet restaurants serving nearly everything from Italian pasta to Japanese sushi.
Traditional Local Restaurants
- Mama Oliech Restaurant: Mama Oliech Restaurant had the honor of hosting former US President Barack Obama. He stopped by to try their world-famous local ugali (cornmeal porridge) and tilapia, a delicacy from his father’s hometown roots. Mama Oliech Restaurant has grown into one of Nairobi’s hidden gems for locals craving cheap local delicacies. It’s a must-visit for fresh-fish lovers.
- Carnivore: Carnivore serves up Kenya's most famous nyama choma (barbecued meat) – it's been an icon for tourists, expatriates and wealthier locals for over 25 years. At the entrance is a huge barbecue pit laden with real swords of beef, pork, lamb, chicken and farmed game meats such as crocodile and ostrich. UK magazine Restaurant named Carnivore one of the 50 best restaurants in the world in 2002 and 2003.
- Roadhouse Grill: Out beyond Milimani in the west, Roadhouse Grill is widely touted by locals as the best place for nyama choma (barbecued meat). The meat (choose the goat) is prepared just as it should be: medium rare and perfectly tender. Order a side of ugali (a maize or cassava-flour staple) and some kachumbari (tomato-and-onion salsa), and you're halfway towards being Kenyan. It's a wonderful place at any time, but it's perfect for the after-nightclub munchies just before dawn. There are other branches around town.
- Al Yusra: Roast camel, fried goat and plenty of pilau rice dishes just like Somalis and like-minded Kenyans love them to make this busy 1st-floor place a hit, especially at lunchtime. The food is excellent (and halal) and also includes steaks, coconut rice with stew, Swahili fish curry and Ethiopian injera bread. Around since 2005, it's already a Nairobi institution.
- Olepolos Country Club: If one has a car and a taste for barbecued meat, take the road southwest out of Nairobi, past Kiserian on the road to Lake Magadi, to Corner Baridi, where this simple little place serves up roasted meat and roast chicken. Wash it down with cold Tuskers as gazing over the Rift Valley. It is around 34 kilometers southwest of downtown Nairobi near the town of Kisamis.
- Season’s Restaurant: The cafeteria vats here always brim with Kenyan favorites, which is probably why this local chain has a strong following. The buffet is small but (unusually for those who have been staying in safari lodges) entirely African in orientation. One can bring in their own booze, food or miraa (twigs and shoots chewed as a stimulant) for a 'corkage' fee.
- Nyama Mama: Nyama Mama is a small Afro-fusion restaurant chain, characterized by its colorful decor. This restaurant draws a young, urban clientele. Favorite dishes include goat curry with chapati, baked tilapia with sukumawiki (finely chopped kale) and lentil stew with coconut rice.
Vegetarian and Vegan
- Maharaja Restaurant: Maharaja Restaurant doesn't have much of an ambiance, but the food is incredible. Nairobi's best-kept secret promises that even meat lovers get to leave with sated taste buds and happy bank balances. They have quite a selection of dishes to choose from on the menu. The food is flavorsome and the portions are reasonable.
- Nook Café: Nook is a sweet little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, creating daily menus based on different themes and occasionally hosting special dinner events. It is run by Nicole McMahon of Pop-Up Nairobi, an organization that runs hospitality skills training and employment programs for youth and hosts an array of food-related fundraisers. Because Nicole is vegetarian, the menu always includes creative and delicious vegetarian options.
- About Thyme: About Thyme wins points for both its lovely garden setting and how many delicious vegetarian options it has. One can’t go wrong with any of their soups, halloumi with pomegranate – well, halloumi with anything – or the pumpkin and amaretto tortellini. Aside from their main menu and specials menu, they also offer quick lunch and brunch menus, and even a boozy brunch, featuring mimosas and cocktails.
- Chowpaty: Chowpaty opened in Diamond Plaza in the predominantly Indian neighborhood of Parklands and has since opened branches in Highridge and Westlands. It offers an entirely vegetarian – and yummy – menu, which includes both South and North Indian food, along with pizza and some Chinese dishes.
- Tin Roof Café: Tin Roof is a shabby-chic little café set in a garden within The Souk in Karen. The café offers a vegetarian-friendly menu and an amazing salad bar, while it also serves delicious coffee. Try one of their hot soups or healthy salads, and then pop into the boutiques, bookshop or Polka Dot Art Gallery that share the compound.
- Mutura: These are most common near butchers and local pubs in the estates. Mutura is a Kenyan sausage that is made with meat, spices and sometimes blood. It is roasted on a grill, with vendors preparing theirs in a variety of ways, to sell alongside bone soup, a favorite with many locals. The sausages are best enjoyed with some kachumbari (salsa).
- Kebabs (mshikakis): The nightlife scene in Kenya comes alive from late on Thursday to Saturday night. A common place to find kebab vendors is on Electric Avenue—an area where you find most clubs and lounges in Westlands, Nairobi—and outside clubs in the Central Business District. Some have vegetables, while others offer spicy meat on skewers.
- Mahindi Choma: Maize is a staple food in Kenya and before the maize dries completely on the cob while on the farm, it can be boiled or roasted on an open fire. It is best enjoyed with some lemon juice and pepper. It is to be found on the streets in the evening ostensibly to capture the traffic going home after work.
- Smokie and Mayai Pasua: Smokies are a type of sausage that is roasted over a simple grill. You will find smokie sellers dotted all over the city and in the estates, often selling boiled eggs as well. The food is best enjoyed with salsa (kachumbari), tomato sauce and hot sauce.
- Kibanda: In Kenya, makeshift outdoor eating joints are called kibandas. They often serve staples like githeri, ugali, chapatis and stews for people. You will find them near most areas around Nairobi, a few meters away from office complexes—they are an affordable option for locals and visitors on a tight budget.
- Chipo Mwitu: Kenyans love their potatoes. Chips mwitu are french fries that are made on the side of the road and are less expensive than normal restaurant fries. Bhajia and viazi karai both involve coating potatoes in differing mixtures of spiced batter before deep-frying them.
Western cafe culture has hit Nairobi and been seized upon enthusiastically by expatriates and residents pining for a decent cup of Kenyan coffee, most obviously at the now-ubiquitous Java House outlets (a popular Kenyan coffee house). All such cafes offer at least some form of food, whether it's a few cakes or a full menu, but none serve alcohol.
There are plenty of cheap but very rough-and-ready bars around Latema Rd and River Rd, although these places aren’t recommended for female travelers; even male drinkers should watch themselves. There are some safer watering holes around Tom Mboya St and Moi Ave, and some restaurants and hotels are fine places for a drink. Out in the upmarket areas of Westlands and Karen, the drinking scene brings in a lot more expatriates.
It has become a tradition for most Kenyans to start and finish off their nights in their local bars. This is mostly because the local bars sell beers at an affordable ‘Mwananchi’ (local citizen) price. No matter where you are, there is always one local bar that simply attracts every single resident in that area. All you have to do is find it. The thing about many of these local bars is that they offer everything that the big city clubs offer only at a cheaper rate.
Tap water in Nairobi, Kenya is not safe to drink without filtering or boiling the raw water. The government claims that water is safe. County water supplies water in many parts of Kenya. Most of this water may not have the purity levels required to protect you from stomach infections consistently. The quality of the water supply is usually inconsistent with the rainy season having the water with the most contamination.
Water and Sanitation in Nairobi face a problem that is common to a developing country that proliferates. The water supply is unable to meet fast-rising demand. Water is unstable even to the small majority who have a direct connection to tapped water. Different areas of the city receive water on specific days of the week, some for a few days and others for just a few hours.
As the capital city and the main town in the country, Nairobi has stood up to the task of catering for all segments of the population including those with a preference for organic foods. While they are not as obvious as the mainstream restaurants, Nairobi has several organic eateries:
- Bridges Organic Restaurant
- Tin Roof, Karen
- Hod House
- Boho Eatery
- Planet Picnic
Not only is Nairobi the capital city of Kenya but it is also the headquarters of many industries in the country including breweries. Some of the breweries in the city include:
- East African Breweries
- Keroche Breweries, Nairobi Depot
- Sierra Brasserie
- Sina Shaka Taproom
- 254 Brewing
- Brew Bistro
Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, shouts its beauty in evident elegance. It was voted Africa’s leading city for business meetings and conferences during the 2016/2017 edition of the Africa World Travel Awards. It is the only city with a national park – the Nairobi National Park – within its borders. The city is the perfect destination for leisure travelers visiting Africa for the first time. Within the borders of the Nairobi city, you will capture 4 of the big 5 (leopards, lions, buffalos and rhinos) in the Nairobi National Park. You will catch the 5th member (elephants) in the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage – also located within the city.
Nairobi has so many places to visit and activities to partake in. You do not have to drive out of town if you're looking to unwind. Whether you're into sports, arts or entertainment, there's something for everyone. For most Nairobians, weekends are all about relaxing after a long week of enduring traffic, work and the hustle and bustle of the city.
Yoga and Retreats
A wave is sweeping across Kenya and its name is yoga. Yoga retreats, studios and pop-ups are appearing all over the country. The teachers are experienced, the styles are diverse and the locations are – of course – stunning. Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. Yoga is one of the six Āstika schools of Hindu philosophical traditions.
Some of the Yoga Retreats in Nairobi are:
- Tigoni Yoga Brunch
- Silent Retreat, Manyika House, Thika
- Wild Rising Yoga Safari
- Watamu Treehouse Retreat
There’s certainly no shortage of places for accommodation in Nairobi. But finding the perfect place to stay can be frustrating, especially at that time of the year when everyone seems to be on the go. Sometimes the cheapest hotels don’t offer an incredible service and you’re left wondering what made you sign up after all. Before you book any accommodation in the city, it’s important to do a little due diligence to find out more about the space you are about to pay for. Will you be able to access public areas like a hospital, restaurants, or attractions in Nairobi if you stay at the hotel?
To avoid being scammed, do not pay anything before you arrive in Kenya. Unless you are using a large well-known realtor, do not pay landlords you find on Facebook or online as its likely going to be a scam and you'll never see that money or imaginary flat that looked so good in the photos. It is probably a scam if the landlord/agent /dealer is pressing you for payments before you can view the property.
As a destination known for its wildlife and scenery, it is logical for Kenya to embrace ecotourism to preserve its greatest tourist assets. Eco hotels represent a growing sector there, according to Ecotourism Kenya, an organization that promotes environmentally conscious practices in the tourism industry. To do your part to promote sustainability during your visit, patronize hotels committed to responsible waste management, the use of solar and wind energy, water conservation and cooperation with local communities.
- Serena Hotel: One of the hallmarks of Serena Hotels over the last 40 years is its Responsible Business Practices that are integrated into its daily interactions, operations and business processes. Responsible business and the broad spectrum of its eco-practices exist in its activities along the value chain to create shared value between its business and the communities/eco-system in which it operates. These help to stimulate local economic activity, development and growth around the area of its existence.
- Fairmont Norfolk Hotel: Operated by earth-friendly Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, this historic property subscribes to Fairmont's pioneering and extensive policies for environmental stewardship. It was nearly 20 years ago that Fairmont launched its Green Partnership to minimize the impact on the environment via waste reduction, resource conservation and community involvement. It champions what it calls eco-innovation (in Kenya this has meant fighting deforestation) and green meetings and conferences.
- Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence: The hotel also thrives on being eco-friendly with a focus of not only being in proximity to the Nairobi Arboretum Park but also offering a lot of green spaces around its premise. It has naturally aerated room corridors and is the first 5-star in the city with an apiary on the rooftop.
Hostels and Guest Houses
- Kibra Hostels: Located in Nairobi, 6.4 km from Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Kibra Hostels provides accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking, a bar and a shared lounge. At the hostel, all rooms are equipped with a balcony. Rooms come complete with a private bathroom equipped with a shower and free toiletries, while some units at Kibra Hostels also have a seating area.
- YWCA Hostels: Featuring a shared lounge and free WiFi, YWCA Kenya Hostels, Nairobi is located in Nairobi, a 12-minute walk from the city center. At the hostel, rooms include a closet. All rooms include a private bathroom, while some have a garden view. The rooms will provide guests with a shared bathroom.
- Global Village, Ladies Hostels: Featuring a shared lounge and free WiFi, Global Village, Ladies Hostels is located in Nairobi, around an 8-minute walk from Nairobi National Museum; the property is also close to Kenyatta International Conference Centre. Guests can enjoy city views. All rooms are equipped with a shared bathroom. A continental breakfast is served every morning at the property.
- Manyatta Backpackers: Offering a restaurant and terrace, Manyatta Backpackers is located in Nairobi, 1.2 miles from the city center. Free Wi-Fi access and private parking are available. Guests can choose between a Twin Room and a single bed in a dormitory room. The shared bathrooms have showers. Breakfast is provided every morning and room service is available upon request. Featuring a fireplace, the restaurant and bar is located outside and serves freshly prepared food. The backpacker also has a communal dining and living area.
When looking to rent, the amenities are an integral part of the search if one wants to get one’s money's worth. For instance, in Kenya, some places are known for perennial or intermittent supply lack of water. Or maybe you want a house with a pool. Before one decides to pay for any property, it’s wise to speak to the landlord if there are any concerns so that he can sort them out beforehand. It is also always important to inspect the entire house. Many people overlook this important step and look at it as a waste of time but in real essence, it will help to secure the deposit when it is time to move out. It is cheaper to stay in an apartment. Space is limited – as one doesn’t have a whole compound, garage or open area. The utility bills are cheaper because some of the meters are shared with other people in the apartment. Maintenance of the property is not left to one person.
Couchsurfing is yet to gain full acceptance in Nairobi. The thought of having a stranger sleeping in one’s house is enough to send shudders down the backs of many people. Even though the people of Kenya are known all over the world for their hospitality and welcoming nature, this does not translate to trust. In Nairobi, the chances of meeting someone who has a story about having being conned, deceived or an attempt having been made are high. This has made many Nairobians to be wary of letting anyone they do not know into their social circle. However, students in the numerous universities in the city are generally more likely to allow a stranger to share residence with them if the stranger is willing to pay.
When the weather is all warm outside and you are around family and friends, one of the most interesting outdoor activities that you can get into that would involve everybody is camping. Nairobi has many picturesque locations where you can go camping and enjoy great outdoor fun. Here are some of the amazing camping spots in Nairobi.
- Nairobi Tented camp: Situated at the Nairobi National Park, the camp has 8 tents for accommodations.
- Wildebeest Eco Camp: This camp is serene and would be great for a romantic getaway or timeout with family. The tents are well furnished for comfort and the foods offered are great. They offer a complimentary breakfast and serve drinks and beverages on request throughout the day. It is the perfect place to revamp from all the stress of city life as it's located in a secluded area in Nairobi.
- Mamba Village: Only 20 minutes from the CBD, Mamba Village in Nairobi’s sprawling Lang’ata suburb is the ideal destination for those who want to view crocodiles, ostriches and have some experience in upmarket tented camping.
How to Get There
The capital city of Kenya, Nairobi is located in the central part of Kenya at the intersection of two major highways; the Great North Road that runs from Cape Town to Cairo and the A104 that runs from Mombasa, Kenya to Lagos, Nigeria. Some roads connect the city to other parts of the country. Nairobi is served by civilian airports, a standard gauge railway line.
Nairobi is served by two civilian airports and one military airfield. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, located about 20 kilometers from the city center, serves as an important transport hub not just for the country but the whole continent. Many renowned international airlines fly into and out of the airport connecting the region with the rest of the world. Wilson Airport is located 10 kilometers from the city center adjacent to the Nairobi National Park. The airport is mainly used by local airlines and charters for domestic flights to different parts of the country. The airport is named after Florence Wilson who is credited with introducing commercial aviation in the country. In terms of eco-friendliness, admittedly most of the planes are not eco-friendly. As a relief, the roads from both airports to the city center are some of the greenest with trees and vegetation all along.
As the capital and biggest city in the country, most bus companies operate out of Nairobi. Since the public road transport in the country was liberalized, there has been an increase in the number of Saccos that transport people and goods in and out of Nairobi. While the liberalization was meant to ensure the high demand was met, it led to the loss of control as many companies are not able to assure quality. Before the enforcement of tough measures by the government, there were many accidents involving public transport buses. Some of the buses that offer the best services in terms of safety, comfort and reliability are Easy Coach, Mash Poa, Guardian and North Rift Shuttle. For group travel, albeit at premium rates, various tour companies offer hiring services that are billed per day or as agreed upon.
In 2013, the Kenyan Government embarked on an ambitious project to construct a standard gauge railway line to run across the country from the coastal city of Mombasa to the Ugandan border on the west through the capital. Currently, phase one of the project connecting Mombasa and Nairobi is complete and fully operational. Two commuter trains move between the two towns daily. The morning trains leaving both cities are inter-county, meaning that they have stops in different towns along the route. The afternoon trains travel nonstop between the two towns. In addition, an old line running from Nairobi to the interior part of central Kenya is being renovated to open up these regions and promote tourism.
While the locals are quite friendly and hospitable and hitchhiking is a common practice in many parts of the world, in Kenya, it is not a common occurrence to encounter hitchhikers. Most drivers are naturally wary of picking up strangers, fearing carrying robbers and carjackers. While there are exceptional cases of drivers who would be okay with offering one a lift, a majority of them would not, especially when driving at night.
As mentioned earlier, Nairobi lies along major international roads that pass through and connect different countries on the continent. As a result of this, some of the visitors who get into the city are long-distance adventures driving their cars or even riding motorbikes. The Cape Town to Cairo route is the more commonly traveled route for thrill-seekers.
While around the central business district, the easiest way to get around is by walking due to its relatively small area. However, according to official statistics, the Nairobi metropolitan area covers an area of almost 700 square kilometers. The easiest way to move around is by vehicles, public, private or hired.
Within downtown Nairobi or elsewhere for short distances, walking is the easiest way to move around. This is because walking is the most eco-friendly means of transport but also because of the traffic jam. As the city has rapidly grown, Nairobi has become known for its unending traffic jams. Despite numerous attempts to decongest the city including increasing the cost of parking in town and banning public service vehicles from accessing certain parts of the town center, the streets have continued to be congested. Away from the city and into the residential suburbs, Nairobi boasts of many trees along many avenues that provide shade and fresh air as you stroll along.
Being the capital of a developing country, Nairobi is home to many low-income earners employed as security guards and factory workers. Since this group is not able to afford public transport every day to and from work, many of them use bicycles to move around. The last few months have seen a campaign dubbed “Critical Mass” initiated to encourage the residents of the city to embrace cycling not just for cost reasons but also to conserve the environment. To support this move, the city government has redesigned some of the city streets removing motorized vehicles.
More than three million motor vehicles are driving on our roads on any given day, and with the rise of electric vehicles, the country is working to develop new standards for electric cars that are imported to make sure they are safe for the environment. The Kenya Bureau of Standards has stated that vehicles will only be allowed into Kenya if they emit no carbon monoxide or other poisonous matter. To help encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, the 2019 Finance Bill awaiting parliament's approval reduced excise duty on electric-powered vehicles from 20% to 10%. The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) has also adopted electric vehicle standards.
Public transport in Nairobi is comprised of small vans carrying about 14 passengers (matatus) and midibuses and buses carrying between 25 and 50 passengers. Foreign travelers would be very unwise to travel by matatu at all. The larger bus companies are organized mainly into franchised management companies, so don't own any assets. There are several main operators such as Kenya Bus Service and Citihoppa (light green) which, if you wish to travel by bus, stick to these companies and the bigger buses.
Even the smallest Kenyan towns generally have at least one banged-up old taxi for easy access to outlying areas or even more remote villages, and you’ll find cabs on virtually every corner in the larger cities, especially in Nairobi and Mombasa, where taking a taxi at night is virtually mandatory.
Tram, Train and Subway
The days are gone when Nairobi shopping was limited to crowded curio stalls, where endless bartering made patrons ask themselves just how much they wanted that little wooden statue anyway. Now a smattering of independent, eclectic stores provides a platform for the country's talented designers and artisans to sell items that truly represent and reflect the country's creative energy.
Whether you are visiting Nairobi for the first time, are a regular visitor, or if you are a Kenyan, then you will want to shop at some point or the other. Most tourists visiting Kenya and Nairobi in particular will often go for souvenirs, while the Kenyan locals will be spotted shopping for everything from clothes to toys to artifacts. Whatever the case, you will almost always find everything you want in this city where people do not sleep, and everyone is a hustler of sorts.
Nairobi is the melting point of many things Kenyan, not just because of its geographical location but also because of its place as the capital. The city has many food markets that serve an array of local dishes as well as exotic foods. Some of the renowned food markets in the city include:
- City Market
- Kenyatta Market
- Muthurwa Market
- Cianda Market
Nairobi has many flea markets that mainly cater to the low-income earners who are unable to afford items sold in exhibition stalls. Some of these markets have specific days when traders come and display their merchandise while others run throughout the week. Some of these markets include:
- Maasai Market
- Jericho Market
- Kariokor Market
- Uhuru Market
- Stage Market
Second Hand Stores
Popularly known as Mitumba, the trade of second-hand items in the country, especially clothes, has weathered my forms of opposition as it is blamed for the collapse of the country's manufacturing industry. In its defense, second-hand items are what most Kenyans can easily afford. Some of the second-hand markets and store in the city include:
- Think Twice Stores
- Toi Market
- Adam’s Arcade
A relatively uncharted area in the country eco-fashion is slowly gaining ground as an ethical way to engage in fashion as in an eco-friendly way. The following are some of the store in the city the offer eco-fashion products:
- Lilabare Sustainable Clothing & Jewellery
- Sarai Afrique Fashion House
- Bush Princess
- Green Fashion Business Center
- Deepa Dosaja Boutique
Uncollected solid waste is one of Nairobi's most visible environmental problems. Many parts of the city, especially the low and middle-income areas, don't even have waste collection systems in place. In high-income areas, private waste collection companies are booming. Residents pay handsomely without really knowing where the waste will end up. Nairobi has a vibrant recycling economy, albeit at a small-scale level, which could be built up to support the plan’s recommendations.
While many Nairobians understand the long-term ramifications of improper solid waste management to the environment, recycling has not caught on, particularly in middle- and high-income areas where recycled products generate income proportionately too minimal to consider pursuing seriously. These income groups already consume more and, therefore, generate proportionally more waste. Changing the behavioral habits of these groups will be instrumental to the success of recycling efforts in Nairobi.
A scientific investigation of Nairobi’s solid waste management situation in 2010 reported 2,122 tons of domestic waste and 999 tons of non-domestic waste produced per day, containing 51% of organics, 18% of paper, 16% of plastic, and two percent of metals and glass each. The reuse and recycling levels ranged at about one percent for organics, eight percent for paper waste, five percent of plastic waste, 100 percent of reusable metal scrap and an unknown part of glass recycled. In all 27% of the total generated waste was properly disposed of at the designated Dandora landfill, while 69% were improperly disposed of or handled.
Work and Study Abroad
Home to thousands of Kenyan businesses and over 100 major international companies and organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), Nairobi is an established hub for business and culture. It is this position that has seen Nairobi continue to attract many foreigners both as students and as expatriates. Foreign nationals wishing to work in Kenya are required to obtain a work permit.
Not only does Nairobi have many multinational corporations that attract many foreigners but it also has some of the best universities in the region. Every year, these universities attract many international students from all over the world. Some of the best and most prestigious universities in Kenya are:
- University of Nairobi
- Daystar University
- United States International University
- Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology
- Pan African Christian University
- Strathmore University
- Catholic University of East Africa
Kenya and Nairobi in particular are yet to accept the concept of au pair. Most Nairobians prefer getting their house help from their villages or a younger relative. The best chance to stay with some is if they like your company as a foreigner and let you in.
There are plenty of children’s homes, etc., in Nairobi that would probably welcome the help and which would probably not ask questions about your immigration status, especially for unpaid work, but it is important to be aware of the legal aspects. There are also a lot of NGOs and charities in Nairobi that are understaffed and need the qualified help, but a volunteer isn't valuable to an organization unless he/she has the right mix of passion, time and utility. In Kenya, volunteer work can be life-changing, whether you are a professional or just seeking to explore the world and other cultures.