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Nairobi, Kenya

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Mar 10, 2023

Summary: People describe Nairobi, Kenya as a vibrant, bustling city with a unique mix of cultures and a great nightlife. Expats love the city's diverse culture, the great food, the friendly people, and the many outdoor activities. The weather in Nairobi is generally warm and sunny, with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the mid-80s Fahrenheit. The average cost of living for an expat is around $1,500 to $2,000 USD per month. The cost of a one bedroom apartment is around $500 to $800 USD per month, while a two bedroom apartment can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,500 USD per month. The approximate population of Nairobi is 4.4 million people.

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What do I need to know about living in Nairobi?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Nairobi, they said:

"Before retiring in Nairobi, expats should research the cost of living and housing in the city. They should also familiarize themselves with the local culture and customs, as well as the language. It is important to understand the local laws and regulations, and to ensure that all necessary paperwork is in order. Additionally, expats should consider the availability of healthcare and other services, as well as the safety and security of the area. Finally, expats should make sure to have a valid visa and residence permit before arriving in Nairobi," said one expat in Nairobi.

"Do it! This is a great city. Ignore the reputation. Kenya does have some crime and social unrest issues but with care and caution these can be avoided. This is a beautiful city in a beautiful, friendly country," said one expat who made the move to Nairobi.

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What do I need to know before moving to Nairobi?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Nairobi, they said:

"Nairobi is a vibrant and diverse city, and expats should be prepared for a unique cultural experience. It is important to research the local laws and customs before moving to Nairobi, as well as the cost of living and the availability of housing. Expats should also be aware of the security situation in the city, and take necessary precautions to ensure their safety. Additionally, expats should familiarize themselves with the local language, Swahili, as it is widely spoken in Nairobi. Finally, expats should take the time to explore the city and its many attractions, from its bustling markets to its stunning national parks," wrote a member in Nairobi.

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How do I find a place to live in Nairobi?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"One option for finding a place to live in Nairobi is to search online for rental listings. There are many websites that offer listings of apartments, houses, and other types of rental properties in the city. Additionally, you can contact local real estate agents who specialize in the Nairobi area to help you find a suitable place to live. You can also ask friends and family who live in the city for recommendations. Finally, you can look for rental postings in local newspapers and on bulletin boards in the city," remarked one expat who made the move to Nairobi.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Nairobi?

"Expat homes and apartments in Nairobi are typically modern and spacious, with large windows and balconies that offer stunning views of the city. Many expat homes and apartments come with amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, and 24-hour security. Expats can also find furnished apartments with all the necessary appliances and furniture. Most expat homes and apartments are located in the city center, close to shopping malls, restaurants, and other attractions," wrote one member in Nairobi.

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What is the average cost of housing in Nairobi?

If you are thinking about moving to Nairobi, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The cost of housing in Nairobi varies greatly depending on the area and type of housing. Generally, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is around $500 to $700 per month, while a three-bedroom apartment in the suburbs can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,500 per month. Prices for larger homes and villas can range from $2,000 to $5,000 per month," said one expat who made the move to Nairobi.

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How do I meet people in Nairobi?

When we asked people living in Nairobi about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"There are lots of social clubs. A good place to start is the notice board in many of the city's main malls," explained one expat living in Nairobi, Kenya.

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What should I bring when moving to Nairobi?

People living in Nairobi were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"When moving to Nairobi, it is important to pack items that will help you adjust to the climate and culture. Bring clothing that is lightweight and breathable, such as cotton and linen, as well as a few warmer items for the cooler evenings. Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat are also essential for protection from the sun. Additionally, it is important to bring any necessary medications, as well as a first aid kit. To help you adjust to the culture, bring items that remind you of home, such as photos, books, and music. Finally, make sure to bring a valid passport and any other necessary documents," remarked one expat living in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Where should I setup a bank account in Nairobi?

We asked expats in Nairobi what banks they use and there advice about banking. They advised:

"Before retiring in Nairobi, expats should research the cost of living and housing in the city. They should also familiarize themselves with the local culture and customs, as well as the language. It is important to understand the local laws and regulations, and to ensure that all necessary paperwork is in order. Additionally, expats should consider the availability of healthcare and other services, as well as the safety and security of the area. Finally, expats should make sure to have a valid visa and residence permit before arriving in Nairobi," wrote a member in Nairobi.

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Will I be able to find a job in Nairobi?

When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Nairobi, they reponded:

"Foreigners often work in Nairobi in a variety of industries, including hospitality, finance, technology, and education. Many foreigners also work in the tourism industry, providing services such as tour guiding, hotel management, and transportation. Additionally, there are many opportunities for foreigners to work in the media and communications sector, as well as in the health care industry," explained one expat living in Nairobi, Kenya.

"NGOs obviously big business. Advertising, banking, tourism, agriculture. www.myafricancareer.com," said one expat in Nairobi.

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What is life like in Nairobi?

When we asked people living in Nairobi what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Nairobi is traditional work first. But there is plenty of fun to be had many people take advantage of the holiday homes that dot the country and the absolutely stunning beaches of Watamu, Lamu and Diani. The cottages are mostly second homes for old Kenya families and steeped in beauty with tumbling exotic flowers and large open spaces to inhale the views; www.holidayhomeskenya.com Kids are very treasured and there is plenty to do; Go to the National Park for a picnic catch sight of a lion or two. Splash and The Village Market have water parks that are wonderful. Paradise Lost is a large picnic site complete with boats and camels and ancient caves. www.kenyakidz.com," commented one expat who made the move to Nairobi.

"Kenyans are very family-centric and will be flattered if you show an interest in their home life. "Harambee" is the name of a family or community party which will require a small donation but is well worth attending. If you are invited to one by a Kenyan colleague, be sure to make a donation and attend, you won't regret it. Music and nightclubs, bars and fun carnivals are regular events," remarked one expat living in Nairobi, Kenya.

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What do expats in Nairobi appreciate most about the local culture?

"Expats in Nairobi appreciate the city's vibrant culture, which is a mix of traditional African and modern influences. They enjoy the warm hospitality of the locals, who are always willing to help out and share their culture. Expats also appreciate the city's diverse cuisine, which includes a variety of African dishes as well as international flavors. The city's nightlife is also a draw, with a range of bars, clubs, and restaurants to explore. Finally, expats appreciate the city's natural beauty, with its lush green hills and stunning views of the African savannah," wrote one member in Nairobi.

"Conservation has a new meaning to me. I am used to large game parks with big 5, but the abundance in the smaller game parks here surpasses what I have experienced in South Africa. I honestly thought that all the game would be eaten by now, but reality is that they are well preserved," remarked one expat who made the move to Nairobi.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"Expats in Nairobi often find the local culture to be quite different from what they are used to. The language barrier can be a challenge, as many locals speak Swahili and English is not as widely spoken as in other parts of the world. Additionally, the local customs and traditions can be difficult to understand and navigate, as they are often quite different from those of the expat's home country. Furthermore, the cost of living in Nairobi can be quite high, making it difficult for expats to adjust to the local economy. Finally, the traffic and pollution in Nairobi can be overwhelming, making it difficult to get around and enjoy the city," remarked one expat who made the move to Nairobi.

"A person learn to trust friendly people faster and tend to accept customs as a given. What caught me off guard is that the Kenyan culture has a very strong emphasis on good interpersonal relationships to the point where you will be extremely friendly with the person you are lying to and that you are in the process of deceiving. I found it difficult to learn not to trust a person just because he/she is friendly and apparently sharing as it took me a knock or two to realize the depth of receipt the friendly people are capable off. Corruption is everywhere and only power and money controls it," explained one expat living in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Is there a lot of crime in Nairobi?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"Nairobi is known to have a high crime rate. Violent crime, such as armed robbery, carjacking, and assault, is common in the city. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, is also prevalent. In addition, there have been reports of organized crime, including drug trafficking and human trafficking. The Kenyan government has taken steps to address the crime problem, but it remains a major concern for residents and visitors alike," said one expat in Nairobi.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Nairobi accepting of differences?

"People are very accepting but tough like New Yorkers they want to know what you are doing here and if it is deemed of true value. They are all very smart and take great pride in hard work and professionalism," explained one expat living in Nairobi, Kenya.

"This is an incredibly diverse city with tens of thousands of white, Indian, Chinese and other foreign residents. You might have to look hard to see them though as people tend to stay in their own locales," said one expat in Nairobi.

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What are the schools in Nairobi like?

"Don't If possible choose another school in Nairobi. Curriculum and IB-program at HS could be OK, but if you have younger children avoid this school," remarked one parent with kids at International School of Kenya in Nairobi .

"Braeburn Primary and High School on Gitanga Road in Nairobi has changed notably in the past 5 years. Originally very open to suggestions and comments on all aspects of the school environment, the school has increased in size and now rather fiercely resists any adverse comment. As there is a high teacher turnover with a large percentage of young teachers with short experience who are embarking on a round-the-world tour for a few years, this is leading to a weakening teaching environment. In recent years syllabus┬┤have not been fully covered to IGCSE, and students not been able to cover all ground before exams. The previous large expat element of the school clientele has declined notably, and the school is now predominantly new middle class African. If you are a parent who wishes to be close to your childs education, this school is likely to irritate you. Their open-door policy in practice means you can come and say anything, but do not expect anything to be taken on board. Further, if you come with anything even hinting at an adverse comment, expect the school to react negatively to you. The shutters have gone up against parental comment," explained one expat living in Nairobi, Kenya.

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What are the pros and cons of living in Nairobi?

Expats, digital nomads and retirees living in Nairobi responded:

"Expats and digital nomads living in Nairobi often appreciate the city's vibrant culture, diverse cuisine, and friendly people. They also enjoy the city's relatively low cost of living and the availability of modern amenities. On the other hand, some expats and digital nomads may find the city's traffic and pollution to be a challenge. Additionally, the lack of reliable public transportation can be a source of frustration," mentioned one expat inNairobi.

"Nairobi is a beautiful and dynamic city...full of contrasts and economic disparities. The weather and vegetation and fresh food/produce are amazing. Kenya is a young and youthful country teaming with potential and growing exponentially in development. It is also becoming more and more cosmopolitan. It s the tech hub for East Africa n a huge gateway city for the region. Touristy things to do are abundant and the country is diverse in people n landscapes and just stunningly beautiful. People are generally spite,warm and friendly...but some friendly folk are scammers, conpeople or will use friendship with expats for financial benefits. On the other hand poverty is rampant so one must be prepared to live more generously than we do in the west. Water, electricity n internet are not dependable but fairly doable overall...crime and corruption are rampant...there s a lot to learn in order to avoid them (hopefully!! But no guarantees). Traffic is AWFUL n unpredictable... it s good to live as close as possible to your work and all the adverts that say only 20 or 30 minutes from somewhere are false advertisements. 20 minutes on your best day can easily be 2 hours another day," commented one expat who moved to Nairobi, Kenya.

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What type of social life can someone expect in Nairobi?

When we asked expats and global nomads about their social experiences in Nairobi, they replied:

"Expats, retirees and digital nomads living in Nairobi typically have an active social life. There are many opportunities to meet people from all over the world, as well as locals, through various activities such as attending events, joining clubs and organizations, and participating in outdoor activities. Expats often join social networks and meet-up groups to connect with like-minded people and explore the city. There are also plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafes to enjoy with friends," said one expat living in Nairobi.

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"Nairobi is a vibrant city with a lively social scene. There are plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants to explore, as well as a variety of cultural events and activities. The city is also home to a diverse range of people, from locals to expats, making it a great place to meet new people and make friends. Nairobi is also known for its nightlife, with plenty of live music, DJs, and other entertainment to enjoy. Whether you're looking for a casual night out or a more upscale experience, there's something for everyone in Nairobi," said one expat living in Nairobi.

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What advice to expats in Nairobi have about housing?

"Expats in Nairobi recommend researching the area you are interested in living in before committing to a rental agreement. It is important to be aware of the security situation in the area and to make sure that the property is in a safe and secure location. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the property is well maintained and that the landlord is reliable. It is also recommended to visit the property in person before signing a rental agreement to ensure that it meets your needs. Finally, it is important to be aware of the cost of living in Nairobi, as it can be quite expensive," said an expat in Nairobi.

"It s best if your company or employer provides housing...if not gated communities are a safer idea," remarked one expat in Nairobi.

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What are medical services in Nairobi like?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Nairobi, they replied:

"Nairobi offers a wide range of medical services, including both public and private hospitals and clinics. The public hospitals are generally well-equipped and staffed with experienced medical professionals, while private hospitals and clinics offer more specialized services and treatments. In addition, there are a number of pharmacies and medical supply stores located throughout the city. Many of these stores offer a wide range of medications and medical supplies, as well as advice and assistance from trained pharmacists," mentioned one expat inNairobi.

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Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Nairobi?

"Healthcare and health insurance in Nairobi can be expensive. The cost of medical care and health insurance can vary depending on the type of care needed and the provider. Generally, private healthcare is more expensive than public healthcare, and health insurance premiums can be costly. Additionally, many people in Nairobi may not have access to health insurance due to the high cost," wrote one expat living in Nairobi.

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Is the cost of living in Nairobi high?

We asked people about the cost of living in Nairobi, they wrote:

"The cost of living in Nairobi is generally considered to be moderate. A nice 1 bedroom apartment in Nairobi can cost around $500 USD per month, while a nice 2 bedroom apartment can cost around $800 USD per month. Eating dinner at a moderately priced restaurant in Nairobi can cost around $10 USD per person," commented one expat living in Nairobi, Kenya.

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What are the visa & residency requirements in Nairobi?

"In order to visit or stay in Nairobi, visitors must obtain a visa prior to their arrival. The process of applying for a visa involves submitting an application form, a valid passport, two passport-sized photographs, and the applicable visa fee. Depending on the purpose of the visit, additional documents may be required. In order to apply for residency in Nairobi, Kenya, applicants must submit an application form, a valid passport, two passport-sized photographs, and the applicable fee. Additionally, applicants must provide proof of employment, proof of sufficient funds, and a valid medical certificate. Once the application is approved, the applicant will be issued a residence permit," remarked one expat living in Nairobi.

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Why do people move to Nairobi?

When we asked people why foreigners move to Nairobi, they responded:

"Nairobi is an attractive destination for expats due to its vibrant culture, diverse population, and exciting nightlife. The city is home to a wide variety of international restaurants, shopping centers, and entertainment venues, making it a great place to explore and experience new cultures. Additionally, Nairobi is a hub for business and finance, offering a range of job opportunities for expats. The city also boasts a pleasant climate, with temperatures rarely dropping below 20┬░C, and a low cost of living compared to other major cities. With its diverse population, vibrant culture, and exciting nightlife, Nairobi is an attractive destination for expats looking for a new home," said an expat in Nairobi.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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