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Nairobi, Kenya

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Feb 02, 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.

What are the pros and cons of living in Nairobi?

Expats, digital nomads and retirees living in Nairobi responded:

"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," said one member in Nairobi.

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What advice to expats in Nairobi have about housing?

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

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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, it is important to research the cost of living in the city. You may also want to consider saving up a retirement fund in advance, as standard of living is relatively high for many expats in Nairobi. Additionally, health care within the city is known to be inefficient, so you may want to look into taking out international health insurance. It is also a good idea to brush up on the basics of Kiswahili, as the official language of Kenya is a Bantu language. Finally, research the cultural norms, as some traditions like handshake greetings and dress codes may be different from one's home country," explained one expat living 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 another expat in 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:

"Before moving to Nairobi it is important to familiarize yourself with the climate and culture of the city. Research the cost of living and the types of housing available in order to have an idea of what your expenses will be. It is also important to learn some basic Swahili words and phrases in order to more easily interact with the locals. Knowing the policies and procedures of visa, work permits, and residency documents is also essential before relocating to Nairobi. Lastly, make sure to plan out your transportation ahead of time as Nairobi’s traffic can be congested and chaotic," explained one expat living 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:

"Firstly, research the various areas of Nairobi to gain an understanding of which areas are most suitable for your needs. Explore websites like Airbnb, houses.co.ke and jumboproperty.co.ke where you can browse a range of accommodation listings such as houses, apartments, and condominiums. You could reach out to a local real estate agent to help you locate the right property once you narrow down the suitable locations within Nairobi. If you know someone who lives in Nairobi, ask them for advice and referrals. Lastly, make sure to inspect the property and its surrounding environment properly before making any decisions," said another person in Nairobi.

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

"A typical expat home or apartment in Nairobi can be quite luxurious, with large rooms and open living spaces. Many expats choose to rent modern apartments with reliable security, supply of electricity, and adequate air-conditioning. Furnished homes may be available in gated communities where there are beautiful gardens, pools, and secure areas. Unfurnished homes may be found in different areas of the city, depending on the budget of the expat. Many of these apartments may offer amenities such as balconies and patios, as well as access to other leisure activities such as golf, squash, and swimming," explained one expat.

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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 depending on the type, size, and location of the property. Generally, mid-range properties such as apartments and townhouses can cost around 25,000–50,000 Kenyan Shillings per month, with luxury properties sometimes reaching up to 100,000 or more per month," said another expat in 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:

"You can meet people in Nairobi by attending social events, cultural gatherings, festivals and taking part in leisure activities such as nightclubs, cinemas, pubs, theatre and sport. You can also join local clubs, religious or cultural organisations and make friends within your network. Furthermore, there are numerous online communities, volunteer opportunities, online forums and social networks where you can connect with people in the area. Making use of existing networks, such as family and friends, or joining expat or professional groups can also help you meet people in Nairobi," remarked another in Nairobi.

"Nairobi is one of those rare places where you may be as invisible as you wish. It has this vibe where many people disappear home with their families not to be seen for months; they are chilling out, watching their gardens, writing books, taking their kids to the cinema, being romantic old fashioned families. Schools are a main socializing point its very old school and traditional. Malls and gyms provide many points of contact. We have harriers, which I hear is a great way to meet people. Java coffee shop with its world famous coffee and cuisine is also a fine way to meet up. There are wonderful art galleries such as Ramoma. The Alliance Francaise has film festivals and very good exhibitions and plays. Nightlife and Eating out we have a wide array of wonderful places to eat check out; http://www.eatout.co.ke such a lovely array of wonderful places to eat. Nightlife = www. xpatlink.info," explained one expat.

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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:

"Essentials for moving to Nairobi would include clothes for all weather conditions, personal toiletries, bedding, towels, and kitchen items. Additionally, you should bring basic medical and first aid supplies, mosquito repellant, portable water purification equipment and/or water bottles, a flashlight, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, and any important documents or identification. You may also want to research and bring local adaptor plugs and electrical items. Finally, make sure to bring enough USD and/or Kenyan shillings in cash to cover your first few weeks in the city," explained one expat.

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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:

"Local banks that are well-established in Nairobi include Equity Bank, KCB Bank, Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered, Co-operative Bank, NIC Bank, and DTB Bank. Additionally, international banks such as Citi Bank, Credit Agricole, and Bank of China also have branches in Nairobi," replied an expat 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:

"There are many job opportunities in Nairobi, and the job market is quite competitive. However, there are a wide range of industries and job types available, from start-ups to multinational corporations. With the right qualifications, determination and strategic job search, you should be able to find a job in Nairobi," added another person living in Nairobi.

"NGOs obviously big business. Advertising, banking, tourism, agriculture. www.myafricancareer.com," explained one expat living 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:

"Living as an expat in the area can be a rewarding experience due to the vibrant culture and diverse communities. Being an expat in this area offers numerous opportunities to explore different cultures and make new friends. There are lots of cafes and restaurants in the area which provide excellent cultural cuisines and the many international festivals held during the year are great for those wanting to get a taste of the local culture. Additionally, the transportation links are good and make it easy to get around, while the healthcare system and access to education is of a high standard. The cost of living can make living in the area expensive and there can be challenges with bureaucracy and language barriers, but overall living here as an expat can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience," replied an expat in Nairobi.

"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," remarked another in Nairobi.

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

"Expats in Nairobi appreciate the vibrancy and diversity of the city, which is a melting pot of cultures, religions, and languages. They also enjoy the warm hospitality and friendliness of the local people, which ensures them a warm welcome each day as they explore the bustling city. Nairobi also offers an exciting nightlife, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and music venues to explore. Expats are also drawn to Nairobi's rich history and culture, including African traditional music, art, and crafts. The many parks and natural reserves in and around the city also provide a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, allowing visitors to relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery," said another person 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 another expat in Nairobi.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"Expats may find adjusting to living in a different culture, learning a new language, and missing home comforts to be some of the more challenging aspects of the expat experience. Other difficulties can include finding suitable accommodation, dealing with unfamiliar systems of taxation, adapting to a new climate, and sorting out visa requirements. Expats may also have difficulty with being away from family and friends back home, as well as feeling isolated and not having a sense of belonging in their new location," said another expat in 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," added another person living in Nairobi.

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Is there a lot of crime in Nairobi?

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

"Yes, there is a lot of crime in Nairobi. Crime in Nairobi includes theft, assault, and occasional armed robberies, as well as larger organized crimes, including human trafficking and terrorism. The city has seen a recent uptick in terrorist activity, including bombings, kidnappings, and threats against foreign embassies," explained one expat.

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

"Nairobi is a vibrant and diverse city, with people from all backgrounds making up its population. Despite a history of racism, Nairobi is generally a very open and accepting city. People come from different ethnic and social backgrounds, and their acceptance of each other is clear in the way that they mix and interact in the city's many bars, restaurants, and other places. In Nairobi, differences in beliefs, cultures and religions can be seen, respected and celebrated. All are welcome and Nairobi's people have a strong sense of unity and pride in their city's diversity," said another expat in Nairobi.

"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," added another person living in Nairobi.

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What are the schools in Nairobi like?

"Nairobi has some of the most recognized schools in the world. Some of the most prominent schools include St. Mary's School, Braeside School, Giraffe School, German School of Nairobi and American School of Nairobi. These schools offer a wide range of educational opportunities to students, from educational programmes ranging from traditional curriculum to blended learning, and from primary to tertiary level education. Additionally, these schools also offer extra-curricular activities such as sports, music and art lessons, along with foreign language programmes. Moreover, many of these institutions offer international baccalaureate programmes as well as specialised courses and programmes tailored to the interests and needs of the students," remarked another parent with kids at in Nairobi.

"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," explained one expat living in Nairobi , Kenya.

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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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