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Travelling around Nairobi, a couple of tips and advice

One of the few photos we took of Nairobi

One of the few photos we took of Nairobi

While we were planning our trip to Africa, I would always get the chills when thinking that our big entrance would be through Nairobi, one of the world’s most dangerous cities. In each blog I found on the internet, I would always read complaints and more complaints about each and every aspect of the city. That’s why, upon our arrival at Nairobi Airport, I was ready to go to war and on the defensive mode. However, after spending four whole days in Nairobi, I couldn’t avoid feeling a bit nostalgic when bidding farewell to the city and embarking on our next destination.

There are several things to consider on a trip to Nairobi, starting with security measures. There is no doubt that the city is a little dangerous, but not all of it. There are certain zones that must be avoided, and others that are quite nice and enjoyable. Because of this, it is important to take the following measures:

– A muzungu (“foreigner” in swahili) already stands out very much when walking in downtown Nairobi, surrounded by hundreds of locals, just because of the skin color, so try not to draw more attention by wearing a camera around your neck, using jewelry or fancy clothes. It is best to leave those objects back at the hotel, under lock and key. Women should avoid carrying a purse, because they are easy victims of grab-and-run theft; it is better to wear a small backpack on your front. This way, you will evade the criminals that cause so many headaches to Kenya’s newly arrived tourists.

– When you’re buying things on the street, or want to take out your cell phone, try to be very discreet, without everyone surrounding you knowing what you are doing. At most ATMs in the city there are security guards making sure that you have the safety needed for your transactions.  Avoid having all your money in one place (like your wallet); it’s better to have some bills in your pocket for your daily expenses, others in your wallet and most of it in a money belt. Most crime in Nairobi is of the snatch-and-run kind or pick pocketing. If you have your money stored in a money belt and your valuables at the hotel’s safe, you’ll avoid many problems.

A money belt and neck wallet (it should go under your clothing)

A money belt and neck wallet (they go under your clothing)

– Whenever you’re walking down the street, try not to seem lost because this will only make people know that you are not from around (many expats live in Nairobi) and you’ll draw unwanted attention. When we were in town, we always walked trying to look as if we had lived there all of our lives, haha. Even though we had no idea of where we were going, we always tried to appear calm and confident. Many times we were asked how long we had been living in the city, I think because of the confidence we radiated. It also helps to wear sunglasses when walking in Nairobi, as it covers part of your face and it is more difficult to read your expression.

– Choose a hotel in one of the safest neighborhoods of Nairobi, like Upperhill, Westlands or the Central Business District. If possible, avoid staying in the River Road area, because even though it has the cheapest accommodation options in Nairobi, it is one of the poorest districts of the city. Make sure that your room has a door with a lock or a safety box. We always left our belongings under a lock we bought. If you notice that your hotel is secure and you feel safe, you can also leave the bulk of your money and passport (under key and lock) whenever you go sightseeing; it is safer and in case of assault it won’t affect you that much.

If you follow these four tips, like we did, you will have no problem enjoying the dynamism of Nairobi. It is one of the most vibrant cities we have seen, and I think we didn’t have enough days to completely discover it. Something I will not miss about the city is its hideous traffic around the clock. There was one time when the matatu we were riding on only moved 20 meters (65 feet) in 30 minutes!

Rush hour in Nairobi

Rush hour in Nairobi

Lastly, I would like to share the nice experience we had staying with a family in Nairobi. We didn’t choose a conventional hotel, but went instead for an accommodation we found on a website called Airbnb, where local people rent a room or part of their house for tourists. On that website we found two sisters who rented the sofa bed in their living room. We liked it because it offered wireless internet –a real jewel in Nairobi- and because it was located south of Westlands, one of the safest areas of the city. I can’t complain about the price either, it was only 19 USD a night. The oldest sister, Paveen, was really nice and funny, and answered all our questions. The little sister, although more serious, was also very nice; we spent more time with her and even watched together a Mexican telenovela that is transmitted every night on the local TV (wow!).  With no doubt, Kenyan hospitality is first class.

Written by Daniel

Please leave a comment below 🙂

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2 comments on “Travelling around Nairobi, a couple of tips and advice

  1. Dr.Rohith Reddy
    July 24, 2014

    Thank you Daniel for the tips & the advices. Helpful and informative post!

    • mamaafricablog
      July 25, 2014

      Thanks Rohith! I wish you the best with your own travels in Bali 🙂

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This entry was posted on July 24, 2014 by in Kenya and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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