Nairobi is the capital and largest city in Kenya, known as the “Safari Capital of the World”. Visitors often use it as a place to stay before or after a flight without exploring the city itself due to lack of time or safety concerns.
However, Nairobi has many attractions including museums, wildlife, markets, parks, hiking trails, and dining options. It is also a city where you can learn about Kenya's history and modern life. This post covers the top things to do in Nairobi, tips for visiting each attraction, getting around, where to stay and eat, and how to stay safe.
Most international visitors reach Nairobi by flying into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, but there are also options to get there by train, car, or bus. Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya, and serves as the business, finance, and cultural hub of the country.
The main airport in Nairobi is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO). If you're arriving from within Kenya or East Africa, you may arrive at Wilson Airport. To get to your hotel or downtown, you can take a taxi, shuttle bus, Uber, or book a private transfer. It's recommended to book your transfer in advance for convenience. If you choose a taxi, agree on the price beforehand, or consider booking an Uber.
Kenya's railway system only connects Nairobi and Mombasa. Most travelers arriving in Nairobi by train are those who arrived in Mombasa by plane or ship. In the past, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya were connected by train, but the connections have been closed for many years.
Buses are the cheapest means of transportation in East Africa. Long-distance buses from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda arrive in Nairobi. Look online for options based on your location. MASH, Modern, and Tahmeed Express are some of the major bus companies that offer international routes in East Africa.
Port of Mombasa is Kenya's primary international seaport, the largest in East Africa. It also receives most international passenger and cruise ships. From there, you can reach Nairobi by train, bus, private driver or self-drive.
If arriving on a safari in Kenya from another country by driver or driving yourself, you may enter via land borders with Tanzania or Uganda. Keep updated on open borders and requirements. Check legal driving requirements for Kenya and ensure you have proper documentation.
Transportation options in Nairobi include taxis, matatus (minibuses), buses, and motorbikes. Taxis and ride-sharing services are generally safe and reliable, but can be expensive. Matatus are cheap and common, but can be crowded and unsafe. Buses are also a cheap option but can be unreliable and uncomfortable.
Motorbikes, known as boda bodas, are a fast and convenient way to get around but can be dangerous, so it's important to choose reputable operators. It's advisable to plan your route in advance and avoid traveling alone at night.
Taxis and ride shares are popular in Nairobi for transportation. Licensed taxis are either yellow or marked with a yellow stripe, but they may not use meters so agree on a price beforehand. Ride-hailing apps like Uber or Bolt provide a secure payment method and offer various ride options. Uber is a recommended option, especially at night.
Walking is a good option in the central parts of Nairobi due to many attractions being within walking distance and good sidewalks. However, in other areas, attractions are more spread out and lack good sidewalks, so taking a taxi, bus, or hiring a driver is recommended. Safety precautions should be taken when walking around the city due to pickpocketing and robberies. People may also approach you to sell things or ask for money.
Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, offers several forms of public transportation, including buses, matatus, tuk tuks, and boda bodas. Although most tourists prefer to use private transportation options, taking public transit in Nairobi can be a great way to experience local life while staying within your budget. However, keep in mind that public transit is not always the safest option, and prices can vary. Here’s a breakdown of the different options available:
The Kenya Bus Service and Citi Hoppa are the main bus companies operating city routes in Nairobi. Public buses are the safest option for tourists, and their routes are usually noted on the side of the bus. You can check out routes and get from one place to another using apps and websites like Moovit.
Matatus are privately-owned minibusses that can hold up to 14 passengers. They are the most common form of public transit used by locals in Kenya. These minibusses make stops along set routes, and the route is noted on the side of the bus. You pay the driver or conductor upon boarding in cash or by Mpesa. Although this is not a preferred option for tourists due to safety concerns and poor conditions of the vehicles, it is an inexpensive alternative.
The boda bodas, or motorbike taxi, is a common form of transportation in Kenya as the motorbikes are inexpensive and can navigate through traffic faster. However, they are not the safest form of transit, and accidents are common. If you want to try them out, use a ride-hailing app like SafeBoda or Uber to guarantee a licensed and safe driver. Helmets are essential, and it’s advisable to avoid using them altogether if you're not experienced.
A tuk tuk or auto rickshaw is a safer alternative to the boda bodas and mainly operates for shorter distances outside the city center. It's a great option for those who want a slower ride while exploring Nairobi.
In conclusion, public transportation in Nairobi is a great way to experience local life while keeping to a budget. However, safety should always be a priority, so choose your mode of transport wisely.
Driving can be a convenient way to get around Nairobi, but it's important to be knowledgeable about local driving rules and regulations. Additionally, secure and monitored parking is essential to ensure the safety of your vehicle.
Free parking is usually available at most major tourist attractions and shopping centers. However, parking in central areas may require payment. You can find more information about parking fees in Nairobi on the relevant website.
Due to heavy traffic, we generally don’t recommend driving in Nairobi if you can avoid it. The city is busy and congested, and traffic is often bad.
Most main roads are in good condition; however, roadwork is often underway. Some roads away from the city center may have potholes and other hazards.
Overall, while driving can be an option for getting around in Nairobi, it's important to weigh the risks and benefits and plan accordingly.
If you're visiting Nairobi and don't want to deal with public transit or taxi services, joining a tour or hiring a private driver can be a convenient way to get around the city.
There are many tours available that you can join to explore Nairobi's attractions. These tours typically include pick-up and drop-off from your accommodation and transport throughout the day. They're perfect for people who want a stress-free way to see the city. You can find a variety of Nairobi tour options on websites like Viator and GetYourGuide.
If you need a driver for multiple stops or want a more personalized experience, hiring a private driver can be a good option. This is especially true if you're celebrating a special occasion or have a planned itinerary for the day. You can easily hire a private driver through a tour company or directly from a driver.
If you only have one day to explore Nairobi, you can follow our 1 day Nairobi itinerary, which includes a number of small group and private tour options. Hiring a private driver for the day is also a good option to consider if you want to make the most of your time.
If you're planning a trip to Kenya, there are a few things you should keep in mind. From entry requirements to local customs, here are some essential travel basics to help you prepare for your trip.
Most international visitors to Kenya will require a visa to enter the country. To ensure a smooth entry into the country, it's important to check Kenya visa and entry requirements beforehand.
It's important to check the latest visa and entry requirements before traveling to Kenya, as they can change without notice.
Kenya is a country with diverse languages, but the two main languages are Swahili (Kiswahili) and English. Swahili is the most widely spoken language in the country, but English is also an official language and is widely understood. This is especially true in Nairobi, the capital city.
For tourists who do not speak either Swahili or English, it is common to hire a local guide who can speak their native language or hire a translator to help them communicate with the locals.
If you're planning a trip to Kenya, it's important to note that many drivers, guides, and small businesses use Whatsapp messaging as their primary means of communication. In some cases, it may be the only way to get in touch with them.
To ensure seamless communication while in Kenya, we highly recommend setting up a free Whatsapp account on your phone if you haven't already done so. During our trip, we found Whatsapp to be the most effective way to communicate with our guides and drivers.
So, be sure to download Whatsapp before your trip to Kenya to ensure a smooth and hassle-free communication experience.
Kenya's official currency is the Kenyan shilling (Ksh). Here are some important things to keep in mind about currency when visiting Kenya:
It is easy to find ATMs in Nairobi to withdraw local currency. However, we recommend using ones either at the airport or at a bank. Credit cards, as well as certain money transfer apps like M-Pesa, are also widely accepted.
Foreign currencies like the United States dollar, Euro, and British pound sterling are also regularly accepted in the tourism industry. The most accepted and most stable foreign currency in Kenya is the U.S. dollar. Many tourist activities are priced in US dollars, so it's a good idea to have some on hand.
It costs money for locals to exchange foreign currency into local currency, so it is better to pay smaller businesses and to tip local guides in Kenyan shillings if possible.
In Kenya, USD is generally used to pay for things at hotels and tourist attractions and for large tips (e.g., main safari guide or driver). Ksh is used to tip local guides and staff, pay at markets and local restaurants, or to buy souvenirs. So it is good to have some of both currencies on you throughout your trip.
Some attractions, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, started only accepting non-cash payments. However, a couple of places we visited only accepted cash. So it is a good idea to have both a credit card (or M-Pesa) and cash on you while in Nairobi.
If you're planning a trip to Kenya, it's essential to know the country's electrical specifications to avoid any inconvenience during your stay. The electrical supply in Kenya operates on 240 volts and 50Hz, which is different from some countries. Additionally, the Type G plug (three-prong one found in the UK) is used in Kenya, which may not be compatible with your electronics.
If you are coming from a country that does not use a Type G plug, you will need a travel adapter to plug in your electronics.
Travel adapters are essential when visiting a foreign country to ensure your electronics work correctly. If you're coming from a country that doesn't use a Type G plug, you'll need a travel adapter to plug in your devices while in Kenya.
Remember to choose an adapter that fits the voltage requirements of your electronics.
The average annual temperature in Nairobi is around 66° F (18.5° C). During the day, temperatures rarely drop below 50° F (10° C) or exceed 85° F (29° C).
Kenya has two rainy seasons, occurring from March to May and from October to December. The rainiest month is April, with a lot of rain also typical in May and November.
The hottest months in Nairobi are typically February and March, with an average temperature of 69° F (20.5° C). Meanwhile, the coldest months are July and August, with an average temperature of 62° F (16.5°C).
Nairobi is a city that can be visited at any time of the year. The weather is pretty temperate throughout the year, with warm days and cool nights. Most attractions in the city are open year-round to visitors.
If you're planning a trip during the rainy season, be sure to pack rain gear. Otherwise, you can expect comfortable temperatures and sunny skies.
Before traveling to Kenya, it's important to take precautions to stay safe and healthy. Here are some tips:
Consult a Travel Clinic: Talk to your doctor or go to a travel clinic to see what vaccines and medication are needed or recommended for your trip.
Avoid drinking untreated water and only drink bottled water or tap water that has been boiled, treated, and/or filtered. Take precautions when eating food, such as avoiding unwashed fruits and vegetables and unpasteurized dairy products.
There are a number of recommended vaccinations for travelers to Kenya, depending on what parts of Kenya you are visiting and what you plan to do there. Yellow fever and COVID-19 vaccinations may be required, depending on where you live and where you have traveled.
While the risk of getting malaria may be low in Nairobi, mosquito bites can transmit other diseases. Use insect repellent with DEET, wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, and use mosquito nets to prevent bites.
Nairobi is generally safe for tourists, but like any big city, there are risks you should be aware of and precautions you should take to ensure your safety.
Here are some tips for staying safe in Nairobi:
Overall, Nairobi is a fascinating and vibrant city to visit, but you should take the necessary precautions to ensure your trip is safe and enjoyable.
Determining how much time to spend in Nairobi depends on your interests and the length of your trip. Here are some tips to help you plan:
When it comes to choosing where to stay in Nairobi, it's best to consider the places you want to visit. Downtown Nairobi and western neighborhoods like Lang'ata or Karen are good options. Nairobi has a wide range of accommodation options, including hotels, hostels, apartments, and home rentals.
Mid-range accommodations are easy to find, but if you're on a budget, be sure to check recent reviews and confirm that the area is safe. We suggest booking accommodation with an on-site restaurant or cooking facilities for added convenience.
If you're planning a trip to Nairobi, the Downtown area or Central Business District (CBD) is a great place to stay, offering easy access to popular attractions like the Nairobi National Museum, City Market, and Jamia Mosque. The Westlands area, just north of the center, is also a good option and is popular with expats. Here are some lodging options to consider in both areas:
No matter what your budget or preferences, there are plenty of great places to stay in Nairobi's CBD and Westlands areas.
If you're planning to visit popular tourist attractions such as the Giraffe Centre, Karen Blixen Museum, or Nairobi National Park, then Lang'ata and Karen are both good locations to stay. In these areas, you'll find attractions like Uhuru Gardens, Carnivore Restaurant, Kazuri Beads factory, and Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage.
For those who want to stay between the Central Business District and Lang'ata/Karen, areas like Lavington and Kilimani are a great option. Here are some accommodation options in the western suburbs of Nairobi:
No matter your budget, there are plenty of options for accommodations near Nairobi's most popular attractions.
If you need to stay near Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), look for hotels in the residential Embakasi area. The closest options are Sheraton Four Points and Crowne Plaza. A budget option is Kozi Suites.
For Wilson Airport, the closest hotel is Weston Hotel, and the Tamarind Tree Hotel is also nearby. Pinkroses Garden Hostel is a budget option in the area.
Nairobi Tented Camp is the only accommodation option within Nairobi National Park. You'll feel like you're on safari, but note that you'll need to pay daily park fees in addition to lodging costs.
For a place away from the city, consider Ololo Safari Lodge or Nyati Hill Cottages on the south side of the park. They overlook the park's escarpment and offer wildlife sightings without leaving the property. Great for visiting the park but not downtown attractions.
If you are looking for a safe place to live in Nairobi, then Gigiri and Muthaiga are two northern suburbs that are often rated as the safest neighborhoods in the city. These areas are located close to Karura Forest, restaurants, and shopping, but are further away from most tourist attractions.
Are you planning a trip to Nairobi and looking for some fun activities to do? Booking tours can be a great way to explore the city and its surroundings. Here are some tips on how to book tours in Nairobi:
With these tips in mind, you can easily book tours in Nairobi and make the most of your trip!
Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is a vibrant city with a wide range of activities and attractions for tourists to enjoy. From wildlife encounters to cultural experiences, here are the top 24 things to do in Nairobi.
Take a city tour to see the best of Nairobi's landmarks and highlights, including the Parliament Buildings, City Market, and more.
Explore the rich cultural heritage of Kenya at the Nairobi National Museum, which features exhibits on history, art, and science.
Visit the Nairobi National Park, located just a short distance from the city center, for a chance to see wildlife such as lions, zebras, and giraffes in their natural habitat.
Get up close and personal with giraffes at the Giraffe Centre, where you can feed and even kiss these gentle giants.
Visit the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage to see baby elephants and learn about the organization's efforts to protect these majestic animals.
Shop for traditional Kenyan handicrafts at the Utamaduni Shops, which feature a wide selection of items including pottery, jewelry, and textiles.
Sample a variety of meats at the Carnivore Restaurant, a popular eatery known for its all-you-can-eat grilled meat buffet.
Explore Nairobi's many shopping options, including markets, shopping centers, and craft and souvenir shops.
Experience the bustling energy of Nairobi's markets, where you can find everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts.
Shop for international brands and designer fashions at Nairobi's modern shopping centers, such as the Westgate Shopping Mall.
Pick up unique gifts and souvenirs at Nairobi's many craft and souvenir shops, which offer a variety of handmade items.
Take in panoramic views of Nairobi from the top of the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, which features a rooftop viewing deck.
Explore Kenya's railway history at the Nairobi Railway Museum, which showcases a collection of vintage locomotives and artifacts.
Discover contemporary Kenyan art at the Nairobi Gallery, which features rotating exhibitions of works by local artists.
Relax and unwind in Nairobi's many parks and gardens, which offer a respite from the bustling city streets.
Enjoy a picnic or take a boat ride on the lake at Uhuru Park, a popular public park located in the heart of Nairobi.
Stroll through Central Park, another of Nairobi's green spaces, which features walking paths and a variety of plant and animal life.
Visit Jeevanjee Gardens, a peaceful park with a rich history and plenty of shade trees.
Pay your respects at the August 7th Memorial Garden, a tranquil space dedicated to the victims of the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Nairobi.
Take a stroll through City Park, which features a tranquil pond, walking paths, and a variety of bird species.
Discover the diverse plant life of Kenya at the Museum Botanical Gardens, which features a wide range of native and exotic species.
These are just some of the many amazing things to do in Nairobi. Make sure to add these to your itinerary and explore this vibrant city to the fullest!