Nairobi Travel Blog: Table of Contents
Nairobi on C&C
Best Time To Visit Nairobi
Where to Sleep
Let’s Go For a Drink
What to See and Do
Tipping in Nairobi
Common Scams & What to Avoid
C&C’s Google Map of the City
Nairobi Travel Blog: Where, How?
Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa, Africa.
Population: 3,375,000 (2009)
Currency: Kenyan Shilling
Airport Notes: Nairobi’s airport is not the best if you compare it to European or Asian standards, but then again, you shouldn’t compare anything in Africa with Europe or East-Asia! Of course, security is almost nonexistent and touts and scammers hang out in and near the arrivals terminal, but the biggest crime at this airport is probably the croissant made with salty margarine I ate at the café there. Green-face emoji.
IMPORTANT NOTE – When you come to Nairobi and expect to use the visa-on-arrival option (depending on your country of origin), you need to pay your visa in cash. If you don’t have the exact amount, there are a few ATMs available for you to use. I IDENTIFIED 2 FAKE ATMs BEFORE FINDING AN AUTHENTIC ONE. Be extremely careful of possible card cloning at the airport’s ATMs.
Transportation to-and-from the airport: There are taxi services that you may use to and from the airport. Though there are buses as well, it is safer to find a reputable taxi service.
Matatus and buses are the main means of transport in Nairobi. They are preferred by most because they are cheap and ply almost all routes. If you are looking for safety and convenience though, an Uber is best.
Note on Taxis: Always opt for an Uber. Because the fares are calculated automatically on the app, the cab driver is unable to overcharge you. Other taxi drivers may extort you just for being a foreigner. If you don’t already have an account, use this link and get 15 dollars off your first ride!
Westlands is Nairobi’s party district. It is littered with nightclubs. There are plenty of malls and posh hotels there too. Neighborhoods such as Lavington, Runda, Kileleshwa and Karen are home to a string of embassies and are therefore favored by expats. Moreover, they are more secure and a lot less congested than other neighborhoods like Eastlands.
Navigation Tips: If you are strolling around the town center and are having trouble finding your way, landmarks such as Uhuru Park, KICC and the University of Nairobi could come in handy. Better yet, you could use Google Maps. It works better and is more reliable. If you are driving, use your GPS, because the road signs will not help much.
Best Time To Visit Nairobi
Average Monthly Minimum And Maximum Temperatures
Average Monthly Hours Of Sunshine
Average Monthly Rainfall Or Snowfall
Nairobi Travel Blog: Personal Notes
What’s This Place About?
Nairobi is the capital and the largest city in Kenya. It is one of the most important cities on the continent. The airport is quite busy. There are many connections to be had, whether internationally or on the continent itself. It’s a great place to begin if it’s your first trip to Africa. It’s also the point of departure for trips and safari in the region. There is a downtown core that’s quite gritty and the bus station is at the center of the downtown core. If you get outside of the downtown core, the city changes considerably from there.
Nairobi Travel Blog: What’s Great and Fun?
There are neighborhoods outside of the downtown core. One of them is called Westlands. It’s the expat/nightlife neighborhood of the city, so it’s a pretty fun place to go to.
There is a safari inside of the city at Nairobi National Park, which is a national park just on the outskirts of the city where you can see most of the Big 5. It’s a spectacular place as you can see the skyline of the city in the background.
There are a few interesting restaurants, but the most interesting ones are the local restaurants where most of the food is served from hot tables. There are lots of stews and other foods prepared with long cooking processes in these restaurants. It’s pretty much the same recipes every time.
Some of these restaurants offer awesome local music. There are live bands very often playing local music that is everything that any tourist would want it to be.
It’s also the departure point for the Masai Mara National Reserve, which is one of the most important parks in the world.
I was lucky enough to do a safari at the Nairobi National Park where I saw a lioness attack a zebra. I had been driving pretty much all day with my driver and a friend that I met in Nairobi, and we managed to snap a lot of very nice pictures. I saw a lot of the Big 5 and had a lot of fun doing so.
Towards the end of the day, we stopped on a road close to a pond and our driver pointed to a bush and said, “That looks like a lion.” So we stopped the car and all three of us stood still. Then we saw the blonde head of a lion popping out from the bush. The lioness was obviously lying down and we saw her head staring in the direction of the water. We then saw, between us and the lion, a zebra trot by.
At first, the zebra seemed to be by itself, but then we saw several more zebra trotting in the same direction. We then saw a fifth zebra trotting, but this one turned left and went toward the pond to drink. The lioness stood up immediately and started slowly going towards the zebra. Then we saw two more lionesses stand up from the same spot as the first one and all three started slowly approaching the zebra that went to drink. After maybe a minute, our driver called all the other drivers and told them that there was a lion at our location. So four or five other trucks similar to the one I was in popped up immediately.
Now there were five trucks of people snapping pictures and watching the lion slowly making its way toward the zebra. At one point the lion decided to attack and charged, but the zebra managed to flee. It was a crazy race. Then the lioness looked back toward her two lioness friends, panting, and slowly walked back into the shade, past all of our trucks that were parked there to see what was going to happen next.
Nairobi Travel Blog: Best Places to Visit in Nairobi
There are plenty of hotels, motels, campsites and guest houses around Nairobi. What you get is mostly dependent on how much you are willing to spend.
There are far too many options on best places to visit in Nairobi. All you have to do is keep eyes and ears open.
I really enjoyed my time at Manyatta Backpackers. It’s dusty and rickety, not very clean, full of mosquitoes, but the atmosphere of the place is tough to beat. I guess you have to be in the right frame of mind!
Accommodation ranges from budget guest houses like Upper Hill Campsite and Backpackers to mid-range clubs like the Windsor Golf and Country Club. If you are willing to splurge however, go all out at the dreamy Villa Rosa Kempinski. It will definitely be worth your while. This is perhaps the best answer to the question of best places to visit in Nairobi.
Nairobi Travel Blog: Let’s Eat!
Nairobi Travel Blog: Famous Foods and Specialties
- Ugali – a thick block made of cornmeal pulp
- Nyama choma – meat roasted over a grill
- Pilau – rice cooked in a spicy flavorful broth
- Sukuma wiki – kale/ collard greens
- Chapati – crispy and doughy flatbread
- Matoke – cooked plantain bananas
Nairobi Travel Blog: The Best Drunk Food
- Fries and chicken
- Smokies and eggs stuffed with kachumbari (a raw vegetable salad that consists of chopped up onions, tomatoes and chili peppers)
Our Suggestions – Dishes And Restaurants
Sonford Fish and Chips and Altona Fish and Chips are part of a fast food chain in downtown Nairobi. You won’t miss at least one every few meters you walk. Very basic deep fried chicken and fries are their specialty. They are my personal favorite after a night out in the town. What’s more they are very cheap (you won’t feel a pinch), and are therefore the best for those munchies.
Don’t look for best places to visit in Nairobi far away from a good restaurant and dining options.
The stuffed smokies and eggs are basically street food. They are found by the roadside though it depends on where you are. They are an essential part of Nairobi nightlife. For me the night is not complete if I don’t snack on these.
If you want to try local delicacies though, K’Osewe Ranalo Foods is the go-to place in Nairobi.
Try upscale restaurants like the Nairobi Java House if you crave something familiar.
Carnivore restaurant is a very popular restaurant with tourists, but remember that what they charge are extreme prices compared to the rest of the restaurant landscape of Nairobi. One more thing: they haven’t served any wild meats for years. It doesn’t mean it’s not a good place… But you need to know what you’re getting into!
Nairobi Travel Blog: Let’s Go For a Drink
Nairobi Travel Blog: What Do the Locals Drink?
Vodka, Whiskey, Gin, Keg, anything they can get their hands on!
Drinking in Public
Though drinking in public can attract a fine, the authorities are not strict on this rule.
When the weekend sets in, Nairobi’s revelers come out to play. Most prefer to rave outside the city center. That is where all the most popular nightclubs are situated.
Our Suggestions – Bars and Pubs
Brew Bistro and Lounge. Found along Ngong’ Road, this is one of the few bars in Nairobi that brews its own beer and keg. It has beautiful aesthetics and the DJ has the best music selection. On the days he isn’t on the decks, there’s an equally amazing band playing or it’s a themed night. What’s more, there’s happy hour between 5 pm and 7 pm.
When you decide on best places to visit in Nairobi, keep in mind the bar and beverage options available.
Galileo Lounge. Found just outside the CBD on your way to the club district, Westlands, Galileo is a great place to start the night off. If you want to get good parking space and a seat in a spot you’ll like, make sure you arrive early. It gets really packed during the weekends.
Bacchus Lounge. This nightclub is located in Westlands and is frequented by expats and business people. Its crowds tend to alternate between it and Havana Bar and Restaurant that’s right next door.
As regular readers of this column know, I don’t know anything about clubs. Sorry!
Nairobi Travel Blog: What to See and Do
The Nairobi National park is separated from the city by a mere electric fence. And no, you will not encounter giraffes crossing the road! The Animal Orphanage and the Nairobi Safari Walk are housed in the same compound. You can therefore kill not two but three birds with one stone.
A few meters away at Carnivore, a hearty meal awaits you in the form of an assortment of meat referred to as the ‘Ultimate Feast of Beast’.
Don’t look for best places to visit in Nairobi too far away from a happening tourist attraction.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and be one with nature. Take a walk through the Karura Forest and get your blood pumping.
Stop by the American Embassy Memorial Garden as you explore the town center. Found in Nairobi’s CBD, it is the site of the infamous 1998 terrorist bombings.
Blankets and Wine is a music festival held every first Sunday of each month. If you are a music lover, be sure to mark these dates on your calendar. You are guaranteed nothing short of the best in entertainment.
The Kenyatta International Convention Center was until recently the tallest building in Nairobi. Atop it, is a helipad which is the ideal spot to look down at the city.
Literature meets film and history at Karen Blixen’s House & Museum where the author of the book cum film Out Of Africa lived from 1914 to 1931.
For an additional lesson in Kenyan history, visit the National Museum on Museum hill and cast an eye over its wide array of cultural and natural history exhibits.
Experience Kenyan music and culture first-hand at Bomas of Kenya by joining the resident artists in dancing to Swahili taarab music and Kalenjin warrior dances.
If you are creative and artsy at heart, the Go-Down Arts Centre is just the place to get a glimpse of Nairobi’s budding art scene.
Your trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to The Maasai Market. It is an open-air market where you would be able to find handmade trinkets and souvenirs to take home with you.
Tipping in Nairobi
Just like in most of Africa, tipping is not expected but it is a nice gesture, especially since workers are paid low wages. If you’d like to tip, 7-10% of the total cost of the bill is a good amount.
Nairobi Travel Blog: Common Scams & What to Avoid
You will hear a lot of sob stories from people telling very sad tales in order to get money. I have to admit, it’s one of the only times in my life that I did give something to someone. I went into the supermarket and bought a big bag of rice for someone that told me their story. He was a refugee from South Sudan, which made sense, because it is a bordering country.
There are incredible amounts of beggars and panhandlers, and some of them are very aggressive. It is Africa, and that’s the way it is on most of the continent.
When you decide on best places to visit in Nairobi, be sure to avoid these places.
There is a danger of snatching, so if you have a camera around your neck, a purse on your shoulder, or anything of value, be careful. Be especially cautious after dark, as you never know what could happen.
I haven’t had any issues with taxis, but I still suggest you use Uber. Regular cautions apply.
How to Stay Safe: Tips and Tricks
READ MORE: Travel Canada Advisory for Kenya