Kenya
Sep 2023
1 month

Nairobi

Africa's silicon valley - with plenty of monkeys and coffee.

[Local Time}
{Temperature}
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[Description}

Kenya's capital serves as one of East Africa's economic and cultural hubs.

Founded in the late 19th century as a colonial railway settlement, today the city offers a unique blend of historical landmarks and a gateway to Kenya's vast natural wonders.

Verdict:
Highly recommended

If you're seeking to experience modern life in a bustling African city, I don't think there are many better options on the continent. If that isn't something that explicitly interests you, then it's not worth the visit.

🌎
Verdict:
Highly recommended

If you're seeking to experience modern life in a bustling African city, I don't think there are many better options on the continent. If that isn't something that explicitly interests you, then it's not worth the visit.

Verdict:
Highly recommended

If you're seeking to experience modern life in a bustling African city, I don't think there are many better options on the continent. If that isn't something that explicitly interests you, then it's not worth the visit.

👎
Verdict:
Highly recommended

If you're seeking to experience modern life in a bustling African city, I don't think there are many better options on the continent. If that isn't something that explicitly interests you, then it's not worth the visit.

🛫
Kenyan Shilling (KES)
4.3 Million
💰 Great value
🥇 Top rated
🧳 Would like to return

Summary

A friend's upcoming wedding in Cape Town provided a great reason to head down to Africa for a prolonged period. Flying in and out of Cape Town however felt like it could give something of an incomplete picture of the continent.

After much research, Nairobi looked to provide a good mix of adventure whilst being a seemingly reliable place to work from.

Accommodation
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

The city has a great range of accommodation options from numerous hi-spec new build apartments to garden style bungalows - whatever you are looking for you should be able to find.

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New legislation
Recent changes introduced by the Turkish government has made short-term rentals for under 100 days more restricted. Keep an eye on Reddit threads for up-to-date assessments of how the new legislation is impacting short-term rentals in practice.
Places to work
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Nairobi has an enormous selection of great quality coworking options, with offices dotted across the city.

Given how bad the traffic is in the city and how early it get's dark in the evenings, picking one in close proximity to your accomodation definitely helps.

Value
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

If arriving from Europe, you are likely to find food and drink in regular restaurants and bars are all of great value in the city. 

More refined options are available with prices closer to what you would expect in Europe. Taxis are an inevitable part of life in the city, but even with a tip included, they are inexpensive.

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The yen is currently at a 34-year low
While this is undoubtedly a negative for the Japanese, it makes for an exceptionally good time to visit Japan from abroad. Although this trend is unlikely to reverse significantly in the short term, it's still worth checking before visiting.
Read more
View the cost of living
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Working hours
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Kenya follows East Africa Time (EAT), placing it 1 hour ahead of Central European Time (CET) during the summer months of the year. Throughout winter this extends to 2 hours.

Nairobi CBD - a hectic and wild urban environment.
Nairobi CBD - a hectic and wild urban environment.
Karura Forest is an ideal place to run on the weekends with numerous well mapped out routes.
Karura Forest is an ideal place to run on the weekends with numerous well mapped out routes.

Where to stay

Whilst researching where to stay on this trip, I struggled to make any sense of the cities layout. I'd plan in advance where you intend to work from and pick an area that will be conducive to a hassle free commute.

Would avoid
Recommended
Ngara Road
Situated between the hectic CBD and the nightlife in Westlands, Ngara West is a convenient base which allows you to get to most places on foot. Safe to walk during the day time, but would avoid after dark.
Would avoid
Recommended
Lavington
More peaceful and quieter than the other neighbourhoods, Lavington provides a more peaceful alternative. You will likely be dependent on Ubers or a car.
Would avoid
Recommended
Westlands
A hub of nightlife within the city with several malls throughout. Pretty hectic and busy throughout the week.
Would avoid
Recommended
CBD
There is absolutely no reason I can think of why you would to stay in the Nairobi CBD. Worth visiting to experience and then get out of immediately.

Where to work

Ikigai - Riverside
Top Choice
☕️ Good Coffee
📍 Top Location
🥗 On Site Cafe
🧍Community Focused
⭐️ Quality Fit Out
🌳 Outdoor Space

I visited 5 different coworking spaces in Nairobi before settling on this particular branch of Ikigai. Around a 30 minute walk from the centre of Westlands, the space covers the third and fourth floor of the Merchant Square development with each floor consisting of permanent offices and spaces for hot desking. Each floor has an outdoor balcony and as a monthly member you get 24/7 access to the space as well as access to the other 4 locations across the city.

The onsite cafe 'Roasted Truth' did some of the best coffee I had on the entire trip, with lunch options provided by a rotating kitchen operator. The immediate area is something of a peaceful oasis compared to the hectic nature of Westlands & the CBD, with grocery shops available within a 10 minute walk.

Plenty of phone boots and meeting rooms should you need them and the staff make it a pleasure to visit everyday.

Remote work visa

No remote work visa
Remote work visa available
Remote work visa coming soon
If staying for a prolonged period, you may want to consider a dedicated visa for this destination.
This country is actively working on a visa support for remote workers.
Check your government website for details of how to obtain a tourist visa.
View full details
To the best of my knowledge this information was correct as of 27th April 2024. If you notice something has changed drop me a message and I'll update it!

Citizen Remote is a great source of up to date knowledge for everything to do with remote work visas.

Safety

  • Be ultra cautious in the CBD.Travel in a group if you can, it is a hectic, intense environment where pick pocketing is common. Plan a rough route of where you are going before hand to avoid getting your phone out every few moments.
  • Download Uber, Bolt and InDrive. All are great options for getting across town.
  • Keep your headphones in your pocket. Parklands, Westlands & Lavington all felt safe to walk around during the day time, but you would still be best advised to be fully aware of your surroundings.
  • Street lighting can be inconsistent or non existent. I kept any walks after dark to an absolute minimum.
  • Be aware of beggars near the Sarit centre.This is less problematic during the week where it is busier, but you are more isolated on a quieter Sunday.

Off-work

Take a safari in Nairobi National Park

Without doubt the most convenient safari in the world? Less than a 20 minute drive from the centre of Nairobi, the park is home to 4 of the big 5. No elephants, but plenty of zebras, rhinos and the occasional lion. I booked an early morning tour with a guide named Legendre who I would 100% recommend.

Learn more
Spend the afternoon at the Organic Farmers Market

Hidden away in the residential suburb of Karen, this lively farmers market has a wide range of local and international street foods on offer with live music and drinks.

Run or cycle in Karura Forest

An urban forest only 10 minutes from the hub of Westlands, Karura is an ideal place to go running over the weekend. Plenty of well marked trails as well as designated areas for biking. Be sure to check out The River Cafe for a refuel.

Hike in the Ngong Hills

An hours drive from the centre of Nairobi, they are a formation of 7 hills continuous hill tops, an ideal day trip for hiking or trail running. Get a taxi to the south gate and walk back north to the town of Ngong. There are security concerns in the area, so you are best advised to travel with a group or guard.

Explore the CBD

One of the most intense urban environments I can recall being in. A frantic, rowdy and intoxicating hub of activity. Head down on Saturday, leave your valuables at home, keep your phone in your pocket and embrace the madness.

Spend the afternoon at the Organic Farmers Market

Hidden away in the residential suburb of Karen, this lively farmers market has a wide range of local and international street foods on offer with live music and drinks.

Take a safari in Nairobi National Park

Without doubt the most convenient safari in the world? Less than a 20 minute drive from the centre of Nairobi, the park is home to 4 of the big 5. No elephants, but plenty of zebras, rhinos and the occasional lion. I booked an early morning tour with a guide named Legendre who I would 100% recommend.

Run or cycle in Karura Forest

An urban forest only 10 minutes from the hub of Westlands, Karura is an ideal place to go running over the weekend. Plenty of well marked trails as well as designated areas for biking. Be sure to check out The River Cafe for a refuel.

Hike in the Ngong Hills

An hours drive from the centre of Nairobi, they are a formation of 7 hills continuous hill tops, an ideal day trip for hiking or trail running. Get a taxi to the south gate and walk back north to the town of Ngong. There are security concerns in the area, so you are best advised to travel with a group or guard.

Duration & season

To make the most of a trip to Kenya, plan around the two rainy seasons when your ability to explore the outdoors may be limited. These generally occur from mid-March to May, and towards the end of the year from October to December.

During my stay in September, there were only a few instances of rain, while most days remained pleasantly warm yet persistently cloudy.

Food & drink

Karura Forest
·
Run
A protected forestry site within a 10 minute drive of the CBD, there are numerous running trails to be explored.
Ngong Hills
·
Walk
A challenging hike over a series of hills situated out of the city, popular area for trail running. It is best done as a group for your security, I did individually and saw no issues but there have been reportings of theft.
Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary
·
Run
Less well marked than the Karura forest, the Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary has a plethora of routes to be explored both on bike and on foot. Accessible in about 20 minutes via Taxi from the city centre.

People

One of the last highlights from the trip was the distinct warmth and friendliness of the Kenyan people. The widespread use of English makes it easy to get around and some well rehearsed phrases in Swahili will always get a positive reception.

The city boasts a sizeable expat community, particularly noticeable at venues like the NSK. Most individuals I came across were employed by NGOs, while a few remote workers also favoured it as their home base.  Due to it's strong regional reputation with the tech industry, it also draws talent and entrepreneurs from neighbouring countries in East Africa

Exercise

Karura Forest
A protected forestry site within a 10 minute drive of the CBD, there are numerous running trails to be explored.
keyboard_arrow_down
Ngong Hills
A challenging hike over a series of hills situated out of the city, popular area for trail running. It is best done as a group for your security, I did individually and saw no issues but there have been reportings of theft.
keyboard_arrow_down
Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary
Less well marked than the Karura forest, the Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary has a plethora of routes to be explored both on bike and on foot. Accessible in about 20 minutes via Taxi from the city centre.
keyboard_arrow_down
Karura Forest
A protected forestry site within a 10 minute drive of the CBD, there are numerous running trails to be explored.
Ngong Hills
A challenging hike over a series of hills situated out of the city, popular area for trail running. It is best done as a group for your security, I did individually and saw no issues but there have been reportings of theft.
Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary
Less well marked than the Karura forest, the Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary has a plethora of routes to be explored both on bike and on foot. Accessible in about 20 minutes via Taxi from the city centre.

Verdict

Positives
  • Super friendly people.Kenyan's are incredibly welcoming with lots of positive interactions throughout the day.
  • Lots of western standard amenities.Street food markets, high end restaurants, craft beer bars and malls are all at a standard you would expect elsewhere.
  • Fantastic coffee.Even though coffee has generally been more exported than consumed domestically, there is a burgeoning speciality coffee scene in Nairobi.
  • Great value.If you are bringing $,€ or £, they will generally go a long way.
  • A national and regional hub for tech.People are drawn to Nairobi from all over the region making it an easy place to meet entrepreneurs.
Negatives
  • It get's dark early year round.There isn't a tonne of street lighting either, so you ideally don't want to be walking anywhere too far after 18:00.
  • The traffic can be abysmal.Nairobi's streets weren't designed for the influx of cars that are now in the city. A 10 minute drive can take an hour between 16:00-20:00 making any form of motorised commute unnecessarily painful.
  • Road infrastructure is poor.Aside from the main roads and in some nicer neighbourhoods, the quality can deteriorate rapidly. Pavements can disappear at a moments notice.
Tips
  • Get an M-PESA account and local sim card.Most places do accept card, but if you are staying any longer than one week, M-PESA has universal applicability and the preferred method by locals.
  • Don't be alarmed if taxi drivers ask you for directions.Sometimes infuriating, occasionally hilarious, there appears to be some distrust in the Uber map (which is in fact always correct). It doesn't harm to have a rough idea of where you are heading to.
  • Kenyan's are early risers.If you want to be part of the natural rhythm of the city,
  • Sundays are quiet.The roads have a fraction of the amount of traffic on the roads, making it easy to get from A-B.
  • Get a yellow fever vaccine.If you stay in Kenya more than a couple of weeks, your onwards destination may require a yellow fever vaccine. Plan ahead. (I didn't)
  • Book train tickets a couple of weeks in advance.I missed out on visiting Mombasa as booked the dates too too late.
  • Allow for plenty of time to get into Jomo Kenyatta Airport security.Bags need to be checked before even arriving in the terminal building which can be up to an hour in busy periods.
  • Top up on sun cream.Even at comparatively low temperatures, the UV levels are super high.

Planning a trip?
I loved everything about this trip to Japan. I've put together some thoughts on my entire stay in the country, which may come in handy if you are planning a visit soon.
One of the largest Rhinos currently in the Nairobi National Park safari.
View looking south from Ngong Hills. Popular for hiking and trail running.
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