There are countless natural areas to visit around Nairobi, if not just outside the city a bit. Tours and buses to places like Lake Naivasha, Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park and Uhuru Gardens are available and are all worth a visit. National parks tend to be within easy distance to do day trips from the city provided you set out early enough. If you like museums the Nairobi National Museum, National Railway Museum and Nairobi Gallery are all fantastic sites to check out. There is also a good memorial at the US Embassy to commemorate the deaths of 212 people killed in the terror attack in 1998 bombing here. Check out the Westlands area of the city by night for an impressive look at Nairobi’s nightlife, especially the ‘Treehouse Club’ for those who want a taste of the nightlife without too much veering into the local side of things – lots of expats go here.
Be sure to check out some of Nairobi’s fascinating markets, especially the Maasai market.
The best time to visit the city is in January or February, when rainfall is significantly less than November or December and March. The temperatures at this time are a bit warmer as well, more summer like, so you can enjoy doing more summer based activities. The nice thing about Nairobi si that even if it’s warm in the daytime, the temperature at night is typically nice and cool, so sleeping is rarely disrupted due to the heat. If you aren’t a fan of warmer temperatures, the other good times are July through to October, when daily highs range from about 18-25, but the rainfall is minimal when compared to other times of the year.
Taxis should cost around 1500ksh to get to the city centre from the airport. Avoid being convinced to go with your drivers recommendation of accommodation.
Generally speaking most taxis are expensive but decent ways to get around Nairobi, however some taxis can be unsafe. Stick with reputable companies or better yet, use an Uber, which has become increasingly used in Nairobi. Walking is pretty easy to get around, but should be avoided at night. Even in the daytime there are some areas foreigners should not go to. Try to avoid using motorcycle taxis – their driving can be unsafe on Nairobi’s very congested streets.
Renting a car is sometimes a better plan, but there are many police checkpoints to navigate. This is in your favour though. Car jackings used to be common throughout the city, but the heavier police presence has diminished this somewhat. Always lock your doors and don’t open them for anyone.
ATMs are common, but try to keep to using them inside hotels, airports and shopping centres. Stay vigilant, and carry money in hidden pouches and not wallets or bags. It’s a good idea for women not to carry purses. Unfortunately in order to avoid becoming the victim of scams – as with anywhere – try to avoid engaging people who engage you. Instead if you are looking for assistance consider approaching a shopkeeper or someone else yourself. Scams can be elaborate and can include numerous people working together. Try to stay in the city centre and limit your movements after dark. Avoid the areas north and east of River Road entirely as well as slums and Little Mogadishu. Aside from this, Nairobi is generally a safe and enjoyable place and any crime is usually a result of opportunists rather than targeting anyone specifically.
Health wise try to avoid uncooked vegetables that may have been rinsed in tap water. Instead look for peeled or cooked. Drink bottled water only, and make sure all typical vaccines such as typhoid, Hep A, Hep B, meningitis, diptheria and tetanus are boosted. Bring enough anti-malarials for your entire stay.
Internet cafes are widespread and are cheap ways to get online if you don’t have wifi at your hotel.
The name Nairobi comes from the Maasai words “Enkare Nyrobi” which means “cool water”. It was originally swampland and uninhabited until the Uganda railway used the region to build a supply depot for its rail line between Mombasa to Kampala. This supply depot was built by the British who chose the location because of its central location between the two cities. It also had a useful network of rivers that would supply the encampment with water and the higher elevation made it cooler for residential purposes, both for Indian workers for the rail as well as British settlers.
The city soon became the headquarters of the rail line and in 1900 was incorporated as the township of Nairobi. The town soon became out of control with bazaars, shops and other buildings being erected daily with no planning, there were no streets or roads, no conservancy, no refuse collection and no real plan in place for the development of the city. A committee was put in place to start drawing up plans with marked out plots and roadways, and obtained permission to build new shops and clear land for growth. By this time there was only one school in the fledgling city, but a Roman Catholic school was soon developed alongside a church.
The city suffered a few bouts of health issues and at one point was burned down to stop the spread of the plague. By 1905 the city had replaced Mombasa as the capital and tourism began to develop with the advent of big game hunting. Settlers were encouraged to stay and help grow the city and soon Nairobi developed into the city it is today.