Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and the largest city in the country.
The word Nairobi (pronounced /naɪˈrəʊbɪ/) derives from a water hole known in Maasai (an Eastern Nilotic language) as Ewaso Nyirobi, which means “cool waters“. Nairobi, which was a swamp area, was founded in 1899 and was first a railway camp for the Uganda Railway. The city became Kenya’s capital, which Mombasa was initially, and it also became the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate in 1905. With the spread of plagues in the early 1900s, the town was burnt down and had to be rebuilt. Having a railroad system in the system helped it to have drastic growth, becoming the second largest city in Kenya behind Mombasa. The city of Nairobi also grew due to administration and tourism businesses (mostly big game hunting). The British, who were one of Kenya’s colonizers, set up a port in Nairobi leading to the creation of big hotels primarily for the British hunters. Also, Nairobi has an East Indian community, who are the descendents of original colonial railway labourers and merchants.
Prior to entering Kenya, citizens of some countries have to have a visa before entry. These countries are Afghanistan, Jordan, Senegal, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Somalia, Armenia, Mali, Syria, Cameroon, North Korea, Tajikistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Australia and Stateless Persons. If one does not have a visa prior to arrival it can be purchased at the airport. A single Entry Visa costs US $50 valid for three months and a transit visa will cost US $20. If you are only traveling through the country via a connecting flight and will not leave the secure area of the airport you will not need a visa.
Regular flights are operated by Air Kenya and Kenya Airways (& KLM which partners Kenya Airways). KLM/ Kenya Airways offers a broad range of destinations in Africa and the world. Kenya Airways is the national airline for Kenya, and travels throughout Europe, America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. Nairobi’s main airport is JKIA Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (IATA: NBO), which is 15kms south-east from the center of the city. If taking a taxi from JKIA, use a reputable taxi, many are waiting outside for to give you conveyance, and the cost should be very near or on 1,000KSh ((or £8) to the city centre; Westlands or such places more west or north will be more. Use www.xe.com for exact & reliable cash currency transfer rate comparisons. When taking a taxi to your accommodation, do not be inveigled into taking their recommendation for accommodation although this is very at your own risk). There is also Wilson Airport, 11kms south from the city's center, that is for domestic flights throughout Kenya, more lighter, Cessna-type aircrafts can be seen there. The military/ government airport is in Eastleigh district (pron: "East-Lee"), a very large residential area of housing in the east/north-east of Nairobi, but the government airport is fenced around and does not handle civilian traffic.
The city is also accessible by trains, with daily arrivals and departures at the Nairobi Railway station.
Visitors can also enter Nairobi by road if they are coming from Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia. Immigration should be processed at the land border stations upon entering the country/city.
Kenya’s bus system is also reliable. There are many bus companies that have routes going to and from the country’s different cities, including Nairobi, which is the centre of the bus network.
Entry into Nairobi by boat is of course not possible, however one could certainly arrive in Kenya by boat via Mombasa or Lamu, proceeding by road, air or rail to Nairobi. Immigration should be processed at the port facility.
Be careful getting around Nairobi. Traffic is very bad like any other major city, but if you use common sense and a tour guide preferably you should be able to get where you want.
Taxis are not very cheap, but will make city life easier, and safer, at least at night. Prices should always be set before the trip, and paid afterwards. They can be found parked around hotels and tourist areas. The taxis tend to be marked with a yellow line on each side. Your best bet is to ask a local or at your hotel. Matatus (public minibuses/ commuter buses) are all right for traveling to the suburbs, but the best choice is probably the City Hoppa bus service and of late the revived Kenya Bus Service. Beware of traffic jams on the large motorways, not only in the rush hours.
Walking around Nairobi is fairly easy since the city is small and places are easy to get to. However, there are some areas within the city where tourists are not recommended to go.
Nairobi in recent past has had a severe car-jacking problem, but because of increased police check-points it is marginally safer these days.
Nairobi is known as the safari capital of Africa, however the city has still managed to keep up with modernization. Unlike other cities, Nairobi is surrounded by 113 sq. kms of plains, cliffs and forest that makes up the city’s Nairobi National Park. The city is filled with many things to do during the day and the night. Tourists can have their pick from numerous safaris (wildlife, cultural, sport, adventure, scenic and specialist), ecotourism tours, restaurants, culture, shopping and entertainment. While in Nairobi, tourists can also engage in numerous sports from golf, rugby, athletics, polo, horse-racing, cricket and football (soccer).
New Cultures in Kenya and how the Life style is. How families survive.
The two primary supermarkets in Nairobi are Uchumi and Nakumatt. For goods beyond supermarket fare, try either the Sarit Centre or Nakumatt Westlands, which are both located in the Westlands suburb.
The Sarit Centre will be recognizable to any Western traveller as a shopping mall, with an Uchumi supermarket inside. Clothing, shipping and internet are all available here. In addition, there is a small movie theater. Other malls in Nairobi include Yaya Centre near Hurlingham and The Mall in Westlands.
Nakumatt Westlands is a just finished competitor to Sarit Centre. It is a large building with many spaces for stores to move in to (they have yet to move in at the time of this writing, however the building is still unfinished). Currently, the primary occupant is the Nakumatt itself, which has modeled itself to emulate a Super Wal-mart type experience.
Any taxi driver will know these two shopping centers by name, so getting there is not a problem.
An additional smaller supermarket, catering more to expatriates, is located in ABC Plaza, along Waiyaki Way. Chandarana supermarket carries a wide variety of imported goods, Zucchini greengrocer is a highly dependable spot for clean and varied veggies, and Gilani's is a well stocked western style buchery.
For local curios and souveniers, the most easily accessible and tourist-friendly is the Maasai Market, held on Fridays at the Village Market, an upscale, open concept shopping center near the United Nations and American Embassy complexes. Barganing is necessary, and one should probably not spend more than $1000KSH ($20) on one item, except in extraordinary circumstances.
For slightly better prices, visit the Tuesday market in town, just down from the Norfolk hotel. This market is less secure, but is larger and offers more variety and oppourtunity for barganing.
Another Nakumatt is located at Nakumatt Junction, past Lavington towards the Ngong Racecourse (Horse Flat-Racing takes place 3 Sundays a month, and is a great way to spend an afternoon). The Nakumatt Junction shopping complex features a few more boutiques - one of note being Zebu, a store highlighting local Designer Annabelle Thom's leather bags and more, where you will find higher quality and higher prices for beautiful designs.
Biashara Street, located downtown, is the spot for textiles. Make sure you pick up at least one Kikoi (a traditional wrap for Swahili Men, predominantly at the Coast).
Nairobi has a fantastic array of mid-range eateries.
Java House, with quite a few locations, including The Junction, ABC Place, and close to the United Nations, features a western coffee house menu, from bagels to burritos, with excellent coffees and milkshakes, and a full breakfast menu. Prices average about 500KSH - 750KSH ($10-$15US) for a complete meal. Another popular coffeehouse is Dormans
Motherland, is an authentic ethiopian restaurant with great and affordable food (typical of ethiopian restaurants in nairobi!).
Village Market Food Court, Has an array of different ethnic cuisines, including Thai, Italian, Chinese and German, as well as a Mongolian Barbeque. Good prices as well, between $10-$20US for complete meals. Venture further into Village Market to find a good Japanese restaurant as well, though with slightly steeper prices. There are also food courts at other malls in the City.
Nairobi has a wide range of Indian restaurants that speaks to the significant South Asian community in Kenya. The city also offers other restaurants specializing in different European and Asian cuisins.
Common fast food restaurants include Steers, Debonairs, Wimpy, local favourite, Kenchic among others.
In addition, there are several local restaurants that cater to local cuisine like sukuma wiki (green spinach-like vegetable, 'Kale' in English), ugali (corn bread, ground maize flour and made to a tasty white bread/porrige form), nyama choma (lit: meat roast), chapati and other specialities.
The Carnivore, located just outside the city, close to the Uhuru Gardens, is a luxury restaurant famous for its meats. In 2006, the restaurant was listed as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Once seated, different masaai grilled meats will be carried around on sticks and carved to your plate at request. Very expensive by Kenyan standards, beware of additional taxes and catering levys. Reservations might be a good idea, ask at your hotel.
Furusato, located in Westlands, has fantastic Japanese food. For a price. Expect to pay $40 - $50 per person.
The Rusty Nail, in Karen, has been super in the past, but mediocre of late. No reason not to give it another chance. Approx. $20 -$40US per person.
The Lord Errol, past Village Market and into Runda, is said to have very good food, and is popular with the expat crowd.
Rusty Nail, Karen Things have improved dramatically, its a great place to have a sundowner, the gardens are simply beautiful with lots of different flowers and trees and abundant bird life. Susie and Clive Evans (Sister/Brother owners) make everyone feel welcome and are great hosts. The menu is varied and caters for everyones needs, if its not on the menu, they will try their utmost to provide whatever you wish, the sweets are to die for. The weekends are busy, buffets are an alternative, all in all they have managed to overcome previous bad reviews and are now producing top notch grub. They have recently built a separate pavillion which has been finished to create a wonderful setting to host functions, conferences, exhibitions, parties, weddings and sports. Its cosy with a large fire place and has high ceilings with cedar trusses, the walls made with wine bottles.All done to a high specification. The Rusty has become the "rugby bar" of Karen, large crowds gather to support their respective teams, its bustling and friendly Well done
There are very many internet cafés around Nairobi, but connection speeds and computers are not always super fast, but still you will manage to open your Gmail or YahooMail Beta even probably use a webcam or watch Youtube. Prices are usually at ranges from 0.5ksh/minute to 1ksh/minute, usually with a minimum fee of 5-20ksh. The more expensive internet cafés are rarely better and the best ones charge 1 ksh/minute with discounts for using the internet for longer. Most of the good cafés are found in Norwich Union which has quite a number just opposite Hilton Hotel next to Nandos while the expensive ones are found in malls in Westlands. Although it may be more appropriate for tourists to use the ones in Westlands since they are usually less crowded and are more exclusive but not necessarily faster or better in terms of equipment.
Nairobi has a reputation for thievery. Beware of snatch and grab, con artists, or groups of people following you. The best advice for a tourist is to stay in city centre, know where you are at all times, and pretend you know where you're going (even if you don't). Don't carry large quantities of money or passports on the street, and the general rule is that anyone trying to talk to you (there will be many) is up to no good. Scams abound. In recent years, crime has significantly reduced, though one should still be wary. Apart from the inner city centre, Nairobi dies out at night. Streets are mostly empty, and walking might be scary, but as long as one knows where one's going, things should be all right. The areas north and east of River Road should be avoided, especially if you're not a local!
It is recommended that before tourists come to Nairobi, that they should be vaccinated well in advance (6 weeks) of their trip. The most common recommended vaccines for people traveling to Africa are Tetanus, Diphtheria, Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Yellow Fever, Rabies and Meningitis.
Food and beverages
Be careful with the food that you eat. Before eating, make sure that the food is freshly and thoroughly cooked and served hot. Do not eat buffet, re-heated or food that has been exposed to flies. Also avoid seafood, and make sure that your fruits and vegetables have been properly sterilized in clean water. The safest fruits to eat are bananas and papayas. Do not drink tap water or brush your teeth with it. Only use bottled or canned drinks (especially popular brands). Also, do not use ice as it may also be contaminated water, and remember that alcohol does not sterilize a drink.
In Africa you are going to be exposed to yellow fever, dengue fever, other viral diseases, sleeping sickness, filariasis and malaria. When insects are biting you should cover up and wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers, socks and pajamas especially when night falls. It is best to use an insect repellent that contains DEET on your exposed skin and clothing. As for mosquito nets, it is best to use a permethrin-impregnated net along with an insecticide such a pyrethrum coils or an electric mosquito killer during the night. And remember to spray your hotel room every evening.
Heat and sun
Make sure to drink plenty of fluids (not coffee, alcohol or strong tea) to avoid dehydration. To know if you well hydrated, you body would always produce plenty of clear urine. For most people it takes them three weeks to become accustomed to the heat. Try to avoid plenty of physical exertion and try to stay in the shade and keep cool as much as possible. Increase the amount of salt intake in your food and water. Also, apply a lot of high factor sunscreen, avoid direct sunlight, and try to wear a hat and shady clothing.