Nairobi National Park
Zebras at Nairobi National Park (Photo credit: iwanna)

Nairobi Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • The capital of and largest city of Kenya, with a population of about 3 million.
  • The only city in the world located right next to a major national park (Nairobi National Park).
  • Contains Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa (with over 170,000 inhabitants).
  • Nicknames: Green City in the Sun, Safari Capital of Africa, Nairobbery (in jest).

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Kenyan Shilling (Ksh or KES).
  • Spoken languages: predominantly English and Swahili. 
  • Best time to visit: from August to September (if you want to catch the wildebeest migration), or from December to February (the warmer, sunnier months).
  • Arrival via airport: The airport is located in the neighborhood of Yoff, toward the tip of the Cap-Vert peninsula.  It’s about a 30-minute drive to the city center, and taxis from the airport should run around 3,000 CFA.

WHERE TO STAY

The city offers plenty of accommodation options, including upscale hotels (e.g. the Sarova Stanely Hotel, Hilton, and Fairmount Norfolk), furnished and serviced apartments, and budget hotels (primarily around the main bus station).

GETTING AROUND

  • Public buses, mini vans (dubbed matatus), and taxis are the primary modes of transport. Taxis are available at designated areas in the city centre – all taxis (and matatus) have a yellow line painted across the middle.
  • There is also a train service from Nairobi to Mombasa, managed by the Rift Valley Railway company.

NAIROBI NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18, last call is 11 PM for bars (clubs close down at 4 AM).  
  • Hip/local scene: Bars along the Kimathi Street in the Central Business District (CBD).
  • Trendy scene: lounges/clubs in Westlands (e.g. Mercury Lounge, Galileo’s), the city’s main entertainment area. The neighbourhood is frequented by expats.
  • College crowd: bars along Kimathi Street in the CBD (e.g. Mojo’s, Giggles, Tribeca).

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • The Jomo Kenyatta statue at the Kenyatta international Conference Centre.
  • The Nairobi National Park and the Nairobi Animal Orphanage.
  • The Dedan Kimathi and Tom Mboya monuments.
  • Located off State House Road (3 km from the city center), the Nairobi Arboretum is a 30 hectare collection of different plant species. Established in 1907 for research and conservation purposes, the Arboretum is a living natural museum.
  • Various buildings along Kenyatta Avenue that include: Kipande house, Cameo Cinema, Standard bank building, the Macmillian Library, and Koja Mosque. These are some of the oldest and most historic buildings in Nairobi.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Uhuru Park is the city’s main leisure park. Go for a walk, take a boat (or camel) ride, or just have a picnic in the park.
  • Day trip idea: the Karura Forest is both a natural attraction and a historical landmark, having previously been the hideout for the mau mau in the pre-Colonial era. Go for a stroll (or jog with the locals), and you won’t be disappointed.
  • Located within the Oloolua Forest, the 5-km long Oloolua Nature Trail is a great chance to escape the bustle of the city. A favorite with visitors and locals alike, the trail is ideal for walking, picnicking, camping, and general sightseeing (you will see caves, waterfalls, and many different species of birds). The Institute of Primate Research is also located within the forest.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • Tip: Avoid carrying large sums of cash. Nairobi has plenty of international banks, where you can withdraw money or use the ATM. Many places also accept major credit cards.
  • Where to find good cheap eats: visit one of the city’s naymachoma bars/pubs, where you can sample Kenya’s trademark dish – the Nyama choma (roasted meat, typically beef short ribs). Kenyatta market, located in the Upper Hill neighbourhood, is one such location.
  • Dangerous areas to avoid: if you must visit the slum areas (e.g. Kibera), make sure that you have a guide. The slum areas are considered unsafe (even by local standards). Avoid back or side streets and ensure that you stay alert at all times. Avoid carrying your valuables or showing any displays of wealth.

RECOMMENDED NAIROBI GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days


SEE ALSO:
Nairobi Travel Guide was last modified: September 20th, 2016 by Nick
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