Nairobi has positioned itself on the world map as an ideal travel destination. Having started as a railway depot in 1899, the city has grown in leaps and bounds and is now home to over four million people. Famous for its unique attraction sites, diverse cultures, thrilling events, and buzzing nightlife, you’re in for a moment of a lifetime in the city.
Being Kenya’s capital, it’s a tourist, administrative, and commercial hub. Tourists in the destination visit attraction sites such as Nairobi National Park, The Maasai Market, Bomas of Kenya, and Karen Blixen Museum. For more tips and tricks about this buzzing city, continue reading this informative travel guide to Nairobi, Kenya.
Things to Do in Nairobi
Nairobi, being one of the liveliest cities in East Africa, has plenty of things to indulge in. Some adventures are only experienced in the capital and not anywhere else in the world. Below are the top enjoyable things to do while visiting the city.
– See wild animals at Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park is a unique park as it’s located in the capital city. Since its founding in 1946, the park has been home to wild animals and birds such as cheetahs, gazelles, African leopards, and ostriches. To add to the park’s charm, it’s only minutes away from the city center and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). You also see Nairobi’s skyscrapers from the national park.
– Feed giraffes at Giraffe Center
Giraffe Center is a conservation park tucked in a quiet location. It’s home to some of the world’s endangered rare, giraffe species. Get up close with the giraffes and feed them with pellets that they enjoy chewing. Pass by the facility’s gift shop for lovely souvenirs as well.
– Buy handmade artifacts and souvenirs at Maasai Market
Many tourists pass by this market to buy authentic artifacts made in Kenya by creative Kenyans. These art pieces range from jewelry to carvings. Visit the market and buy something that will remind you of your tour to Nairobi.
– Take a nature walk at Nairobi Safari Walk
Nairobi Safari Walk has a raised walkway that’s used by visitors strolling around the establishment. Go for a leisure walk around the facility, seeing wild animals such as monkeys, giraffes, antelopes, and hyenas in their natural habitat. Guided tours here let you learn about the establishment and its inhabitants.
– Visit the Kenya Museum Society
A tour around the museum is fun and informative at the same time. You learn about local history and see unique pieces of art. Well-preserved guns, bows, and arrows used during Kenya’s colonial period are displayed. To top it all off, pass by the museum’s snake park and see caged snakes found in Kenya and beyond.
– Learn local history at Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service
If you’re in search of a place with pictures, publications, and paintings portraying Kenyan history, then Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service will not disappoint. Apart from being an important landmark in Nairobi, it’s used to store historical scripts. As it’s in the heart of the capital, the establishment is easily accessible.
– Enjoy a bird’s view of Nairobi from the Kenyatta International Conference Center (KICC) rooftop
See Nairobi and its environment atop one of the tallest skyscrapers in the city — Kenyatta International Conference Center (KICC). From the rooftop, you see some of the city’s places of interest such as Uhuru Park and City Park. Carry your camera with you to capture stunning views.
What and where to eat
Food in Nairobi, Kenya is as diverse as the city’s residents. Local and international cuisines are served in eateries across the beautiful city. Read on below for details about local foods to try out in some of the city’s food joints.
– Nyama choma at Njuguna’s Place
Grilled meat, also known as nyama choma, is a common delicacy in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya. The nyama choma is best eaten with Ugali. To sample finger-licking nyama choma in Nairobi, make your way to Njuguna’s Place. Njuguna’s Place is along Waiyaki Way and is open daily. Besides charcoal-grilled meat, the eatery serves beers and other alcoholic beverages.
– Chicken wings at CJ’s
Eat deliciously cooked chicken wings at CJ’s, a fully-fledged restaurant with an array of tasty menu items. It has branches in various parts of the city, including Village Market and Kilimani. Chicken wings at CJ’s are not only delicious but also served in large portions. Aside from the delicious cuisine, the carefully selected theme and customer service add to the eatery’s charm.
– Fish at Mama Oliech Restaurant
Mama Oliech Restaurant is famous for its fried fish. It’s an open-air eatery serving authentic Kenyan food. Fish lovers who visit the joint choose how they’d like their fish prepared, either deep fry, boiled, or wet fry.
Here, fish is served with kachumbari, traditional vegetables, ugali, or rice. To wash it down nicely, order a soft drink or milk. In 2016, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, visited this fish joint and was served fish and ugali.
– French fries at Azuri Restaurant and Café
Located in Nairobi’s central business district (CBD), Azuri Restaurant and Café prides itself on serving tasty meals at pocket-friendly prices. One common meal in this eatery is French fries or chips, as commonly referred to by locals. The meal is prepared using locally sourced ingredients and by skilled personnel. While visiting the food joint, sit on the outdoor veranda and have a view of the busy street with people going about their businesses.
– Chapatis at Hot Dishes Restaurant
With three branches in Nairobi; Kimathi Street, Kaunda Street, and Gaborone Road, Hot Dishes Restaurants have positioned themselves as premier eateries for delicious African cuisines. Enjoy unleavened flatbread (chapati) that’s prepared with customers in mind. In the yesteryears, chapatis were mostly eaten during the festive season. Nowadays, they’re a common meal among locals.
– Samosas at Talisman Restaurant
Talisman Restaurant is a classic food joint that never disappoints. It’s popular for serving tasty meals and drinks worth trying out. Visit the restaurant and enjoy finger-licking Feta and Coriander samosas. The samosas go well with any other meal of choice. Apart from the food, Talisman Restaurant has a welcoming ambiance and nice outdoor seating.
It’s worth noting that the eateries above serve a variety of meals. So, if you’re looking to sample more than one meal in the city, the food joints are good for you.
Things to buy
When visiting a tourist destination, it’s always good to buy items that remind you of the place. That said, Nairobi has many things for you to buy as gifts or souvenirs. Here are some fantastic items for you.
– Maasai jewelry
The Maasai community of Kenya is known to make creative pieces of art such as bangles, necklaces, and earrings. Shop for these products and carry home something that reminds you of Nairobi.
– Hand-carved wooden sculptures
Sculptures are some perfect items for decorating your home. The good thing is you have a chance to customize some Kenyan sculptures. As they vary in size, shape, and color, it’s easy to get a pocket-friendly one.
– Kenyan t-shirts
Most Kenyan branded t-shirts on sale have something Kenyan on them. Some t-shirts have a Kenyan flag, a native message such as ‘Jambo’, or a picture of a celebrity or prominent person placed on the front or back part.
– Khangas and kikois
These cotton fabrics are worn around the waist by both men and women. You’ll have various khangas and kikois to choose from, as they come in different prints, sizes, and textures. The fabrics are also used to make clothes such as skirts, shirts, and shorts.
A kiondo is a handwoven handbag that’s locally used by women to carry their personal effects. The handbags are made from sisal fibers and come in different sizes. Instead of carrying your leather handbag to work daily, try out the kiondo that works perfectly well and is long-lasting, too.
Where do you buy the above items?
Buying these items in Nairobi shouldn’t be a hassle. Visit establishments such as The Maasai Market, Utamaduni Craft Centre, Village Market, and City Market for the above items, and more. While at these markets, enquire if the price is negotiable. By doing so, you might pay less for a quality product.
Where to stay
Nairobi, Kenya is awash with accommodation facilities. Holiday homes, cottages, hotels, and serviced apartments are some accommodations available. So, whether you’re looking for a luxurious or budget-friendly boarding facility, the city has got you covered.
Websites such as Booking.com, Agoda, Expedia, and, Airbnb are perfect for looking up an accommodation facility. Go for an establishment that is in a safe and convenient location. You can check out the boarding facilities below.
Giraffe Manor is in Lang’ata, one of Nairobi’s leafy suburbs. The 5-star hotel sits on 12 acres (4.9 hectares) of private land with Rothschild giraffes. For a restful forest stay within Nairobi, make your way to this establishment. One exciting activity carried out in the hotel is feeding the giraffes that frequent the hotel’s premises. There are also game drives around the extensive land. Rooms have a private balcony and seating area for you to spend time outdoors.
For whatever reason you’re in Nairobi, ibis Styles Nairobi Westlands is out to make your stay pleasant. As it’s in Westlands, many entertainment joints, shopping centers, and international organizations are within easy reach. Furthermore, Nairobi’s central business district is 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) away. Rooms in this 3-star hotel come equipped with a walk-in shower, desk, air-conditioning, and flat-screen TV, among other amenities. What’s more, you enjoy magnificent city views from the rooftop.
If you’re in search of a hotel that’s far away from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi city yet minutes away from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), then consider choosing Boma Inn Nairobi. You enjoy amenities such as high-speed Wi-Fi, free parking, and complimentary breakfast while staying in the facility. On top of that, airport transfers are offered, so you don’t have to go looking for a taxi elsewhere.
Are you looking for a budget hotel in Nairobi’s central business district (CBD)? If yes, make Kenya Comfort Hotel a priority. This 2-star hotel is ideal for people looking to explore the capital’s nightlife as it’s minutes away from popular entertainment joints. It’s also great for people wanting to run errands in the CBD during the day. Aside from the hotel’s central location, it has friendly staff, clean rooms, and tasty meals.
This budget-friendly hotel is in Ngara, near Globe Roundabout. As it’s located a short distance away from the Thika superhighway, the hotel is perfect for people looking to visit towns such as Nyeri, Meru, and Thika. From the facility, it’s easy to explore beautiful destinations such as Mt. Kenya National Park, Aberdare Range, and Ol Pejeta Conservancy found outside the city.
Additionally, access to taxi services such as Uber, Bolt, and Little Cab Kenya is easy as the hotel is along a busy road. You are treated to a sumptuous breakfast in the morning and served by helpful staff throughout your stay as well.
How to get there
Nairobi is endowed with different modes of transport, ensuring the easy movement of people and goods. These modes of transport include road, rail, and air. Consider going with the options below if you’re planning on visiting the city.
– Fly to Nairobi
There are direct flights to Nairobi from different destinations around the world. From these destinations, you alight at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), the biggest airport in Kenya. Besides Kenya Airways, many airlines fly to Nairobi. American Airlines, Air France, British Airways, Etihad Airways, and Emirates are some examples. Upon arrival at the airport, you can travel to other parts of the city with ease. There are airport taxis and rental cars for you to use.
– Via Wilson Airport
You can access Nairobi through Wilson Airport. Unlike Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which serves both international and local flights, Wilson Airport caters to domestic flights. You can fly to Nairobi from destinations such as Diani, Lamu, Eldoret, and Mombasa. The small airport is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from Nairobi’s central business district and is good for budget-friendly airlines such as Safarilink Aviation, AirKenya Express, and Skyward Express.
– Travel by car
Kenya takes pride in having a developing road network. For that reason, it’s possible to access Nairobi by road. What’s good about traveling by car is that you’re treated to magnificent landscape views along the way.
– Travel by train
Rail transport is fast improving in Kenya. The country now has a working Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Mombasa to Nairobi. You can travel by train to Nairobi from Mombasa in the morning, afternoon, and night. By using the train, you’re treated to scenic landscape views as the rail route cuts across magnificent Kenyan terrain.
You’ll alight at Nairobi SGR Terminus in Syokimau then proceed to other destinations using public transport such as bus, motorcycle, taxi, or the old train. Plus, you’re also directed on where to go to access the various means of transport at the terrain station. Book a seat online using this link.
Getting around Nairobi, Kenya
On arrival in Nairobi, you’ll also need to move around. There are various ways to move around to your destination of choice. Below are a few options at your disposal.
– Taxis and hailing apps
With technological advancement and the ever-changing Kenyan innovation scene, you can now hail a taxi at your convenience in Nairobi. Taxi-hailing apps such as Uber, Bolt, and Jimcab Services Ltd. are popular with both locals and tourists. The best thing is to compare prices before starting your journey by checking out different apps.
Some taxi companies such as Delight Cabs Limited and Absolute Cabs don’t require booking before your trip as their services are easily acquired within the city. If you want to enjoy your ride and avoid things such as being over-changed and rowdy matatu/bus interactions, taxis are the best way to go. It’s good to use a taxi that’s fairly priced and well-kept. Prices are likely to change depending on the company of choice and distance traveled.
– Rent a car
You can also move around Nairobi using a rental car. Luckily, there are many car rental companies and agencies in the city such as Hertz Car Rental and AVIS offering car hire services. These companies have different types of cars, ranging from vans to buses. Other than visiting physical offices to hire a car, you can use online platforms such as Kayak. Pricing depends on the car type, duration of hire, time of the year, and age of the car.
If you’re driving yourself around Nairobi for the first time, it’s advisable to use the Global Positioning System (GPS) for directions. You don’t want to get lost in unfamiliar territory.
Hire a driver
Other than driving yourself around Nairobi, you can hire a driver. Where do you get professional drivers? Most companies offering car hire services have skilled private drivers that can drive you around the city. Additionally, check out sites such as Viator for chauffeur services by top Nairobi private drivers.
A matatu is a mini-bus (most privately-owned) ferrying people to different locations in Nairobi. You can use a matatu to travel to various parts of the city such as Lang’ata, Westlands, and South B. The fares charged depend on the distance traveled, time, and the type of matatu. During on-peak, most matatus in the capital hike their fares. Cash is the most common method of payment.
Be extra cautious while boarding matatus as some are prone to theft such as pickpocketers and phone snatchers. Carry a few variables while traveling in matatus if necessary. Although they’re pocket-friendly and fast means of transport, the matatus have their challenges.
Currency: Kenyan shilling (KES)
Official language: English, Swahili
Greetings: ‘Jambo’ / ‘Mambo’ means hello. ‘Ahsante’ is Swahili for thank you.
Calling code: +254
Driving side: Left
Carry warm clothes
The months of June and July are the coldest, so remember to carry warm clothes. Bedcovers and heaters come in handy during those chilly nights.
Like any other buzzing metropolis, Nairobi has its fair share of shortcomings. There are areas in the city, including downtown Nairobi, that are prone to crime. Avoid such areas whenever necessary, especially if you’re alone. Walking in groups and being vigilant are always advisable. Avoid wearing flashy items such as gold watches or carrying expensive electronics while visiting crowded places.
Nairobi’s traffic is sometimes a mess. You might be stuck on the road for some time before reaching your destination. Most roads in the city experience rush hour in the morning, from 7 am to 9 am, and in the evening, from 5 pm to 8 pm.