Moving to Nairobi: foreigner guide to Nairobi

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Moving to Nairobi

You are likely to land at the NBO airport. You will need 50$/40€/30£ in cash to pay for a visa upon arrival. Once you are passed passport control and got your luggage, you’ll find several ATMs where you can withdraw cash with your Visa/Mastercard. Then, right outside the airport building, before the pickup area, there is a cafe where you can get water and WiFi to tell everyone you made it and to get a cab.

Install Uber and Taxify. Saves you the price negotiation and hailing cabs. When you just land, it will save you paying 3 times the price from the airport, because you are tired and just want to get in a cab and get it over with. Use the WiFi from cafe from point (2) to call one. There is a good chance the cab driver will ask you where it is, even though you entered the address. Don’t try to guess, just ask the to follow the map in the app.
Consider giving Boda-Boda a chance. Those are bikes you hail off the street and negotiate the price, but it’s so much fun. It’s also pretty dangerous because of reckless drivers, so have that in mind too.

Get an M-Pesa account, and deposit a high amount there, and bring your passport (not any other ID) to do it. Later on, every time you’ll want to add money you’ll need to show your passport (or Kenyan National ID). Other foreign IDs like drivers license don’t work.
Get a mosquito net or a plug-in mosquito repeller on day 1. Otherwise, even with windows closed you’ll get bitten, and who wants closed windows with such great air. Bring one from home if you won’t feel like going to the supermarket on day 1. You’d love a peaceful sleep on your first night after a long flight.

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Know your address. Make sure to find the location on Google Maps before you moved. You’ll need to put it as the destination address when you hail the cab from the airport. Pretty much all those apps are based on Google Maps so make sure that your address is there and it’s correct.
Plan your accommodation in advance. Not just the 4 walls, but also make sure you’ll have utilities set up: electricity (if the tenant before you didn’t pay – you’re gonna have a bad time), power generator (for water outages), have internet, water tank (for water outages) and a water filter set up in the kitchen, as tap water aren’t recommended for drinking. If this is not set up in advance – take in mind that utility providers take time to arrive and sometimes reschedule last minute. If it’s possible to have things arranged before you come, even at the price of a few days of you paying and not using – do it.

If you are moving into a house that already has people – make sure they know your arrival time, and that you have their number. If someone needs to meet you there – call them from the airport cafe.


Life in Nairobi

Be patient. Things here have their own pace. The cab driver will finish his conversation before hitting the road, the passport control staff will take people from the side of the queue even if you are next in line, the event you are attending is likely to start later than the mentioned hour, and the person with whom you have a meeting with is fairly likely to be late. A kindle is a great way to be good with that.

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Enjoy the amazing nature. You won’t get many chances in your life to be 45 min drive away from so many animals, make sure to visit them. There are many other places in Kenya to visit as well – the coast, the Masai Mara, Hell’s Gate, and many more.

Try local food. Maybe during your first few days you’d like to stick to cafes and chains just to be on the safe side, but at some point you have to try Ugali, Chapati and Kenyan tea.
Learn the culture. It comes with amazing music, language (it is structured in a way that makes lots of sense) and style (for both men and women). Go to music events and get some Masai items like sandals, it’s so colourful and happy.

Learn the history. Take a day for the Nairobi National Museum. You will learn a lot about the history of Kenya, understand why some things are the way they are. You can also see archeological items from the different ages. It’s mindblowing.


Remember this is the southern hemisphere, meaning July-August are the coldest and rainiest months, and January-February are summertime. Daylight hours are around 6:30am-6:30pm year round.
There is IMAX in Nairobi and you can buy tickets online! The ticket is 800KsH (~8$), 3D glasses are 300KsH and popcorn + coke are about 400KsH.

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There is online food delivery for lazy days. You can use yum or Jumia Food for that. Allow about 1h for delivery, and make sure your address is as detailed as possible. You are most likely to pay with M-Pesa/cash, as most places don’t accept cards yet.

Learn about the 42 tribes that make Kenya. This is such an interesting dynamic, and there is so much to learn. This will also help you understand some things here better. If you get invited to spend some time at a traditional village – go for it!

Check out the different meetups. From talk by political activists to tech-related events. There is so much going on that is unique to the continent, and you can be part of it. You can also find out why do thy call Nairobi the Silicon Savannah.

Most important – be positive and open minded. Regardless of where you come from, things are always different in a new country. Take the time to talk to people and make friendships. This is an amazing place with warm and friendly and interesting people.

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