Nairobi – East Africa’s most cosmopolitan city and Kenya’s beating heart!
When people say Kenya, we immediately think safari, right? Or perhaps some romantic movies that have made us dream come to our minds. But dismiss both stereotypes and you will quickly fall in love by East Africa’s most cosmopolitan city. Nairobi is the youngest, the most modern, and the fastest growing place in Africa. It’s Kenya’s beating heart, a giant melting pot of locals, tourists and expats simply trying to find their way round this hectic but exciting concrete jungle. Nairobi is a city that demands your attention, and if you are not well prepared you might be surprised and not ready for all its challenges. To help you, we have compiled in this Mini Guide to Nairobi the essential you need to know before heading off.
Best time to visit
Nairobi can be visited at any time of the year, but you may want to avoid the rainy seasons from mid-March to late May (long rains) and from late October to December (short rains), as the roads in rural areas can become flooded, making travel out of the city difficult and time consuming. The best times of the year to visit are between June and October (when it is dry and cool) or January and February (when it is dry and hot); however, these are the times when safaris are most expensive. To avoid paying premium prices, think about visiting in the shoulder season when both the prices and the weather are more reasonable.
Highlights in Nairobi – don’t miss them! 💥
- Nairobi’s National Park, the world’s only wildlife capital! Just seven kilometers from the city center, you will spot everything from antelope, to buffalo herds, lions, zebras and hyenas on the prowl.
- Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an Elephant Orphanage.
- Giraffe Centre, a conservation and breeding center with feeding platforms and a 94-acre forested nature park.
- Bomas of Kenya, an open-air museum featuring traditional tribal villages with indigenous crafts, performances and music.
- If you are a fan of the movie or book “Out of Africa”, then Karen Blixen Museum will be a treat.
- Nairobi National Museum, which celebrates Nairobi’s culture, nature, and contemporary art.
Photo: © alexstrachan/pixabay
Amazing places to stay 🤩
- Giraffe Manor, an exclusive boutique hotel with probably the most unforgettable bucket-list breakfast in the world.
- Villa Rosa Kempinski, a 5 Star hotel offering the perfect fusion of European luxury and Kenyan hospitality.
- Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence Nairobi Arboretum. Enjoy stylish retreats for business and leisure in this beautiful, green and safe space.
- City Lodge Hotel at Two Rivers, which provides a tranquil home away from home. Decor reflects the lush vegetation of Kenya.
Photo: © alexstrachan/pixabay
Restaurants with delicious food
There are plenty of great restaurants in Nairobi where you can find all sorts of amazing cuisine from all around the world. Some of the best restaurants are:
- CJ’s, a fully fledged restaurant specializing in delivering a relaxed and memorable dining experience.
- K’Osewe Ranalo Foods for good, honest local cuisine. Fish is the speciality here, true to the restaurant’s Luo roots in western Kenya. The coconut fish stew with ugali or rice is also a popular choice.
- Kulan Cuisine and Coffee, a great place with excellent food and relaxed ambiente.
- About Thyme Restaurant, “eat, drink and don’t think”. Late-night food, great cocktails and outdoor seating.
- The Alchemist Bar is great for both food, drink and live music. Outside is the Mama Rocks food court, serving up a variety of delicious African-inspired gourmet burgers.
- Mama Oliech Restaurant. Wildly popular, the restaurant is considered one of Nairobi’s best – the sort of place that locals take first-time visitors to the city.
- For a great view of the city: Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). Take the lift (and stairs) up to the helipad. It is also a nice place to watch the sunset in the city.
- For a glimpse of Nairobi’s nightlife, join J’s Fresh Bar and Kitchen for some live music (every Thursday) or if the timing is right, to the Wasp & Sprout for a lively pub quiz.
- Or you can try Brew Bistro and Lounge, famous for its excellent craft beers (but they do lots of other drinks too).
- Find yourself a bargain at one of the Maasai Markets. The Maasai Market takes place at a different location around town each day, selling all kinds of African trinkets.
- If you are looking to get into the Nairobi vibe, plan your visit to coincide with the fabulous Art Nouveau Festival, which takes place in February.
Ocean Sole Africa: unique and sustainable souvenirs!
If you are looking for something truly unique to remember your time in Nairobi, pick up a handcrafted item from Ocean Sole Africa, a Nairobi-based social and sustainable enterprise that turns old flip flops into colorful pieces of art.
You can see a part of their great work in the photo below. Keep up the good job, Ocean Sole Africa!
Photo: © OceanSoleAfrica
Best Day Trip from Nairobi
A few hours outside of Nairobi you will find one of the world’s most visually iconic safari destinations: Amboseli National Park. This park is famous for having one of the healthiest elephant populations in Africa. And if you are lucky and it is a clear day, you should see Kilimanjaro as well.
Photo: © jonny_joka/pixabay
Practical Advice ℹ️
International flights land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Some hotels and most safari companies offer a free airport pick-up service. If not, before leaving the arrivals hall, pay for a pre-booked taxi service!
Wilson Airport, in the city, offers domestic services and charter flights.
Don’t miss the incredible experience of getting on a matatu which provides access to the suburbs. It feels like a nightclub on wheels.
Alternatively: On the app you can pick from UberX, Chap Chap (smaller vehicle, slightly cheaper) or Boda (a motorbike, cheaper still but not always the safest – road safety isn’t always a priority here).
Kenya shilling (KSH) is the official currency. Bring US dollars along as well because many hotels and larger restaurants tend to quote prices in US dollars. Money is easily available throughout the city from guarded ATMs accepting international credit and debit cards.
Visitors are required to pay 50 USD for a single entry visa that lasts up to three months. If Kenya isn’t your only destination in Africa, you can opt to apply for an East Africa Tourist visa for 100 USD, which will allow you to travel between Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda for up to 90 days.
- Check out Fit For Travel or NATHNAC for advice, which is used by GPs to assess health risks abroad.
- Make sure your hepatitis A, typhoid, diphtheria and tetanus jabs are up to date, while immunisation against yellow fever is recommended.
- Malaria is widespread, so antimalarial tablets are essential, and an insect repellent containing DEET will help keep mosquitoes at bay.
- Drink only bottled water.
Photo: © ninastock/pixabay
If you think, something is missing in our Mini Guide to Nairobi please feel free to share your tips with us and we will be happy to add them!
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