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Moving to Nairobi

Nairobi is one of East Africa's most prominent cities. As Kenya's capital, the city is buzzing with residents who work hard and play hard: progressing in the business world and equally enjoying the active social scene, nightlife and cosmopolitan lifestyle. Expats moving to Nairobi will be excited by the prospects of living in the economic hub of eastern Africa.

The chance to experience a new culture and environment while enjoying a reasonable cost of living has attracted many expats to Nairobi. Families with kids can settle in a spacious home close to some of Nairobi's best international schools. Those with a taste for luxury (and a budget that allows it) can invest in palatial properties in the more exclusive areas and suburbs, such as Muthaiga – the 'Beverly Hills of Nairobi'.

Highly skilled expats and those with managerial positions working in Nairobi will be able to afford all these comforts. Unfortunately, the reality for many locals include massive issues such as the stark inequality and poverty, which in turn raise concerns of safety.

One of the many considerations of expats moving to Nairobi is personal safety. However, much of the crime tends to be opportunistic and housing in gated complexes comes equipped with reliable security systems. We recommend that expats stay wary of the possible dangers and take normal precautions against them.

Transport is another consideration where safety plays a role in Nairobi. Fortunately, expats will find a developing public transport infrastructure and many options for getting around in the city. The more new arrivals begin to explore the city centre, neighbourhoods and surrounding areas, the more they realise how much there is to see and do. From the safaris in Nairobi National Park and the arts and culture in the Nairobi Gallery to a trendy Blankets and Wine event or a fun night out on the town at some top restaurants and lively bars, there's plenty to do here.

There are many pros and cons of moving to Nairobi. Despite the cons, most expats happily agree that they are outweighed by the pros, particularly the wonderful quality of life. The warmth of the people and the climate have many expats falling hopelessly in love with Nairobi and choosing to settle for many years.

Pros and cons of moving to Nairobi

Expats moving to Nairobi will discover that there are both advantages and disadvantages of living in the Kenyan capital. Regardless of the good and the bad, expat life in this East African economic hub is nothing if not exciting. Here's our round-up of pros and cons of living in Nairobi.


Lifestyle in Nairobi

+ PRO: Relatively integrated expat and local society

Given the emergence of a large middle-class with disposable income and the fact that Kenyans are known to have a friendly and hospitable culture, the expat and local communities are quite integrated. Kenyan and expat parents mix freely at kids’ schools, country clubs, bars, shopping centres and local restaurants.

+ PRO: Pleasant weather

Nairobi enjoys a mild climate throughout the year and doesn't experience any extremes. The city is at a high altitude, with sunny days and cooler nights. No need for central heating or warm coats, ever. And thanks to the cool evenings, there are fewer mosquitos and a lower risk of malaria in Nairobi. Still, it's necessary to take similar precautions against malaria as elsewhere in the country.

+ PRO: Easily accessible holiday destinations

There are world-famous game parks right on Nairobi's doorstep, packed with incredible wildlife and scenery. Plus, the palm-lined, white sand beaches of the warm Indian Ocean make for lovely getaways. Expats will be able to snorkel on the coral reef or sail, fish and laze in the sun.

+ PRO: Expats lead active social lives

There are lots of restaurants and bars and a buzzing social scene in Nairobi. Many expats end up settling here because they love it so much.

- CON: Limited shopping opportunities

Clothes, shoes, electrical items and toy shopping are still best done back home since these are all more costly in Nairobi and there is limited choice. Alternatively, get creative. There are huge second-hand clothes markets that expats often use. While there are food courts in shopping centres, convenience foods and ready-made meals are hard to come by. Expats will need to do most of their cooking from scratch.


Culture shock in Nairobi

+ PRO: Locals are friendly and English is widely spoken

The Kenyan people are wonderfully friendly and tolerant of visitors. English is the lingua franca here, though most Kenyans are trilingual, speaking English, Swahili and an additional regional language too. This means that language barriers are greatly reduced, making doing business and going about one's day much easier.

- CON: Expats may take a long time adjusting

Many expats experience culture shock if they don't keep an open mind and aren't receptive to new experiences. Poverty is visible all around and expats may be approached by persistent hawkers. Rather than being fearful, keep smiling and say ‘no, thank you’.


Safety and security in Nairobi

- CON: Personal safety is an issue

Security is an issue in Nairobi, with incidents of car-jacking and theft not uncommon. However, expats aren't necessarily targeted in Nairobi. Most victims of theft are middle-class or poorer Kenyans who cannot afford good security. 

- CON: Dangerous driving conditions

Poorly maintained roads, heavy lorries that are not roadworthy and speeding public buses make roads dangerous in Kenya. Road accidents are fairly common. Expats are therefore advised not to drive themselves but rather to hire a local driver who can better navigate these dangers.


Working in Nairobi

- CON: Corruption affects business

Bureaucracy and corruption are rife in Nairobi. Many officials expect small bribes as a matter of course to move things along, which makes aspects of doing business difficult.


Cost of living in Nairobi

+ PRO: General expenses are affordable

Kenya's fruit and vegetables are delicious: organic, plentiful and cheap. This also applies to many of its meat products. Flowers are grown commercially here too, so roses, lilies and others are inexpensive.

- CON: Certain utilities are pricey

Whether living in a gated compound or a self-contained house, many expats are expected to chip in to pay for private security, which can be fairly costly. Electricity is also expensive.


Accommodation in Nairobi

+ PRO: Domestic staff are easy to find and affordable

Culturally, employing domestic staff is the norm and they can be a great asset to an expat's household. This may not be something that new arrivals are used to, but likely something they will soon accept.

- CON: Power and water supply issues

There are fairly frequent power cuts, although owning a small generator can be a huge help. Extensive blackouts are not fun, so it's important to be as prepared as possible, such as by carrying a portable phone charger. Water supply can also be an issue as Kenya often experiences drought. In these situations, expats may need to supplement their water supply by buying water tankers.

Working in Nairobi

Nairobi is one of the largest metropolises in East Africa and it serves as the main commercial centre of Kenya. Nairobi has a relatively well developed industrial centre and is home to the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE). As such, most expats working in Kenya will find a post in Nairobi, although some may settle for the coastal city of Mombasa, or other smaller cities and towns. 

Few expats working in Nairobi relocate without a job offer. Most come under the umbrella of an already negotiated contract, and in some cases, with a lucrative employment package.

To work in Kenya, expats must have a work permit, which companies apply for on behalf of their expat employees. Work permit applications are considered based on merit of the applicant, not on a quota system. However, skilled expats working in Nairobi may have a Kenyan citizen working as an understudy to them, gaining from the foreign employee’s expertise. Expats should not relocate until their permits and visas have been secured.


Job market in Nairobi

Nairobi hosts Kenya’s most diverse job market as the country’s capital city and the East African region’s economic hub. Many large multinationals have established their main offices in Nairobi and work opportunities are available in both small and large businesses. 

However, despite the gaps in the labour market, it can be hard to find jobs in Nairobi – for both expats and locals – and the coronavirus pandemic is likely to have a further negative impact, at least in the short term. 

Agriculture has traditionally been the driving force of the economy in Kenya, but the industry sector that is causing a lot of buzz is IT. Expats who would like to do business in Kenya should look for opportunities in this sector, as well as telecommunications, logistics and marketing.

As the city grows, construction and real estate jobs in Nairobi abound. There are also volunteer and work opportunities in the conservation-, relief- and development sectors, while start-ups are an option for entrepreneurs looking to run their own business.

Nairobi is home to most foreign consulates in Kenya, and many expats make up embassy staff. Several international schools serve Nairobi’s diverse population and, as such, teaching posts are frequently available. 


Finding a job in Nairobi

Most expats are brought to the city on pre-secured contracts or as intra-company transfers. These tend to be the more lucrative positions with decent salaries and employment contracts, such as those including accommodation and transport stipends or assistance. Employing companies will likely assist with work permit and visa applications too, as part of their relocation package.

For others, who haven't secured a job prior to arriving in Nairobi, the job search is likely to be a bit trickier. It's essential to start with a solid CV ensuring qualifications and relevant work experience.

In the past, it has been difficult to find formal job listings online and most post openings have been communicated through word of mouth. However, with the growth in IT and media, job listings abound across multiple online job platforms and classifieds portals, including BrighterMonday, MyJobMag, LinkedIn and PigiaMe.

Still, networking is important and it's advisable to join expat forums and, if possible, visit the country in person and attend meet-ups to get to know other expats in Nairobi. 


Work culture in Nairobi

Like elsewhere in Kenya, business hours in Kenya are typically from 8am to 4pm, or 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. 

Expats moving to Nairobi can look forward not only to a cosmopolitan lifestyle but also a work culture that mixes international business attitudes with Kenyan ones. It’s important to understand how things are done in the workplace, that punctuality is important and expected from expats, but business meetings should never be rushed, and building business relationships is fundamental.

Cost of Living in Nairobi

Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey for 2020 ranked Nairobi 95th out of 209 countries. Nairobi is far more affordable than European cities such as Rome and Vienna, as well as African cities such as Accra. On the other hand, though, Mercer's survey ranks the cost of living in Nairobi higher than Melbourne and Toronto.

Most expats working in Nairobi earn good salaries with employment perks for major expenses. These could include anything from a housing allowance, a company car and medical aid contributions, to education benefits, and visa and permit charges.

That said, don’t be misled into thinking that expat life in Nairobi is cheap. While it certainly is possible to live sparingly with minimal expenses, most Westerners prefer certain services and standards and these often come at a price.

As is the case with most destinations, an expat’s chief expenses in Nairobi will be accommodation, school fees, transport, food, clothes and utilities.


Cost of accommodation in Nairobi

The cost of accommodation in Nairobi depends on location, but good quality accommodation can be expensive. In many cases, employers offer to shoulder this expense. This offer can also include the required security deposit, usually the equivalent of two to three months' rent. Utilities, such as electricity, water and internet, are likely to be the expat’s responsibility. 

One accommodation-related expense which expats may not anticipate is provision for security measures. Expats living in gated communities find this is often included in the rental costs, but it's unlikely to be the case in standalone homes.


Cost of transport in Nairobi

Many expats prefer to own a car in Kenya, as it allows for more freedom. Depending on the model and condition, cars can be quite expensive in Nairobi, but once expats have purchased a vehicle they often opt to hire a driver too, as chauffeurs are said to be quite affordable and worth considering as navigating Nairobi's traffic can be stressful.

Renting a car is a cheaper alternative to buying and can be more convenient for expats who will only be in the country for a limited time. Some expats, especially those in top executive positions, will have a company car and driver provided for them.

The main means of public transport in Kenya is the matatu (a van or minibus with a fixed or semi-fixed route). This option is cheap, but the vehicles are often overcrowded and in many instances don't meet the required safety standards.

Taxis are also used often, but because there's no clear-cut billing method and vehicles don't have meters, expats are advised to research pricing and to negotiate an agreeable fare with the driver beforehand.


Cost of healthcare in Nairobi

The cost of private healthcare in Nairobi is roughly equivalent to rates in Western countries. Day-to-day treatment is relatively affordable, but health insurance is recommended, especially in case of emergency treatment or medical evacuation.

There are plenty of health insurance providers in Nairobi. Most expats have health insurance included in their salary package.


Cost of education in Nairobi

Most expats send their children to international schools, which can be mightily expensive. Apart from fees, there may also be additional expenses for registration, transport, food and field trips. Again, it’s common for employers to include some form of education allowance in an expat package, and if this isn't initially part of the offer, we recommend expats negotiate for it.


Cost of entertainment in Nairobi

Kenya has something for everyone's type of lifestyle, whether its nature, shopping or socialising in a bar. Nairobi National Park is located just south of the capital city and is a popular attraction among expats and locals alike. The national park isn't overly expensive, and shopping and dining in the city are relatively affordable too, but we advise expats to keep a close eye on their finances as costs can add up quickly.


Cost of living in Nairobi chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Nairobi in April 2021.

Accommodation (monthly)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

KSH 105,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

KSH 50,000 

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

KSH 47,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

KSH 20,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

KSH 160

Milk (1 litre)

KSH 100

Rice (1kg)

KSH 155

Loaf of white bread

KSH 50

Chicken breasts (1kg)

KSH 670

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

KSH 300

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

KSH 650

Coca-Cola (330ml)

KSH 50

Cappuccino 

KSH 280

Bottle of local beer 

KSH 250

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

KSH 3,500

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

KSH 3.40

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

KSH 6,000

Domestic cleaner (per hour)

KSH 460

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

KSH 4,700

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

KSH 200

Public transport fare in the city centre

KSH 100

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

KSH 110

Accommodation in Nairobi

Regardless of whether expats are planning to live in the suburbs in a freestanding house with its own private garden, in a townhouse that forms part of a complex or in an apartment, several things must be kept in mind when searching for accommodation in Nairobi. Considerations such as budget and cost of living, commute time and security should be at the forefront of the decision-making process.


Types of accommodation in Nairobi

In the city centre, most accommodation is in the form of apartments. Generally, the further outside of the city centre one moves, the more spacious living arrangements become. This includes standalone houses on large plots, complexes that are often made up of townhouses and semi-detached houses. 

Both furnished and unfurnished options are available across any type of accommodation, though unfurnished properties are often found easier and with lower rental fees. While furniture can be locally sourced for decent prices, some expats may consider shipping and removals as they prefer to bring over their pieces of home.

Freestanding houses

Expat families with children moving to Nairobi typically consider a freestanding house when looking for property to rent or buy. Both old and contemporary standalone homes can be found, though certain suburbs in Nairobi, such as Runda, boast more freestanding houses than other areas and expats should map out their housing options in relation to amenities and their workplace.

Apartment blocks

Nairobi breaks any misconceptions and stereotypes of an undeveloped city. High-rise apartment blocks are found across the city centre and surrounding suburbs. Some apartments have a swimming pool shared by its residents plus 24-hour security systems, putting an expat’s safety concerns at ease. Smaller blocks of flats and townhouses can also be found around the city.

Gated complexes and estates

One of the most common types of housing in Nairobi is a gated complex or estate. These may be considered neighbourhoods within neighbourhoods and offer houses, villas or apartments. Many expats find estates to be comfortable and modern, with strong security measures. A sometimes-negative image is painted of gated estates – isolating residents and keeping expats in a bubble. On the contrary, Nairobi’s estates offer great amenities, such as swimming pools and well-maintained gardens, that neighbours can share and socialise around.


Finding accommodation in Nairobi

When looking for a home in Nairobi, a real estate agent is likely one’s best bet. There are plenty of real estate firms and relocation companies in Nairobi, some are Kenyan-based and some operate internationally across the region. They can help organise accommodation, and many specialise in a particular geographical area. 

Expats should start looking for property in Nairobi using online portals as this will help in familiarising oneself with the different neighbourhoods, types of accommodation and price range available. Property24, BuyRentKenya and PigiaMe are useful online search portals as well as platforms on the websites of popular real estate agencies. Expat and accommodation pages on social media platforms have also proved helpful when finding property both from afar and within Kenya.

Locally, property listings in newspapers are another good source, as are noticeboards in upmarket malls.


Renting accommodation in Nairobi

Nairobi is one of the most expensive cities in Kenya in terms of rent and property prices, with some highly sought after and exclusive properties for luxury living. Expats should keep an eye on their budget when renting a home in Nairobi and be aware of all stipulations and conditions in their lease.

Leases 

Leases in Nairobi are typically a year-long, though they may range from three months to two years. We recommend expats inspect their leases and tenancy agreements with a fine-tooth comb for all they need to know on notice periods, early termination and lease renewals. Going through a real estate agency in Nairobi is advised as these professionals are familiar with the processes and property laws on renting property in Nairobi.

Many aspects of the lease may favour the landlord, although, expat tenants will be happy to hear that rent increases can only happen after 12 months of their stay has passed, or 12 months since their previous rental increase. 

Deposits

Deposits of one to three months' rent are often required. Deposits are refundable after the lease ends, given that the tenant has kept up their end of the bargain and have not caused damage to the property.

Utilities and security costs

Utilities, including electricity, water and internet, are not usually included in the rental price and are an extra expense for the tenant.

Additionally, security costs will need to be considered as home safety is a concern in Nairobi. In complexes or apartment buildings, security costs may be bundled in with the rental cost or may be shared between residents. If living in a standalone house, expats will need to make their own security arrangements – 24-hour guard services, which many local security companies offer, are highly recommended. Again, this is an extra cost that expats will need to budget for.

Areas and suburbs in Nairobi

The best places to live in Nairobi

Nairobi has a healthy assortment of friendly neighbourhoods for expats to make a new home in. New arrivals should familiarise themselves with the diverse areas and suburbs of the city in terms of housing, hospitals, transport and proximity to one's workplace and schools.

Some of Nairobi's neighbourhoods are more suited to families, while others lend themselves well to the lifestyle of a single expat – and some have a mix of both.

For those who can afford it, upmarket housing is available in attractive suburbs with all the facilities one could wish for. Expats with more modest incomes can equally find a great home in more affordable areas in Nairobi. Here is a list of just some key areas to consider.


Exclusive areas in Nairobi

Ruaka

Nairobi's most expensive areas tend to be those with top-class amenities and proximity to embassies and popular bars, restaurants and country clubs. The variety of accommodation options and accessibility to some of the highest-rated private and international schools mean these areas are in high demand among expats.

Lang'ata

Southwest of Nairobi’s city centre lies the residential suburb of Lang’ata (or Langata). Lang’ata’s secure gated compounds known as estates, as well as maisonettes and apartment blocks, are popular among middle-class expats as well as wealthier residents. Life in Lang’ata suits multiple needs. New arrivals, young and old, can appreciate the touristy vibe, with some recommended attractions close by, including Nairobi National Park, the Giraffe Centre, Bomas of Kenya and Uhuru Gardens, as well as live concerts at The Carnivore Grounds. Expat parents are also pleased with the proximity to private schools.

Karen

One of Nairobi’s most luxurious and exclusive areas is Karen. Well-off expats can find a multitude of upmarket properties to buy in Karen, including spacious townhouses with large gardens. Numerous private schools and kindergartens can be found here, and Karen’s golf course also makes the neighbourhood popular. Karen further offers modern shopping complexes and a range of fine dining options.

Runda

Runda is a self-contained neighbourhood north of the city centre which has a bit of a rural or natural touch thanks to the surrounding forests. The US Embassy and the UN complex are nearby, making this a convenient place to live for employees of these organisations. Accommodation in these areas usually comes in the form of large, modern houses on huge plots. Runda is popular with expats who have kids as there are several kindergartens, primary and secondary international schools nearby. The area is also accessible by both public and private transport.

Muthaiga

Muthaiga is often referred to as the 'Beverly Hills of Nairobi' as it is home to some of the richest Kenyans and most highly-paid expats. Most homes in Muthaiga are gated, so it is safe and secure with its 24-hour security patrol. Those with children appreciate living close to a selection of good international schools. Expats in Muthaiga also have access to great sport and recreation facilities at the area's country clubs.


Areas for young working professionals in Nairobi

Parklands

Suburbs closer to Nairobi's CBD offer housing preferred by single expats and young working professionals as well as students. City living comes with many of its own pros and cons, but expats can still have the best of both worlds of an urban lifestyle as well as a green living environment.

Parklands

Just north of Nairobi’s central business district is the mixed residential and commercial area of Parklands. Well connected to Nairobi’s amenities, many young expats and students find an apartment to call home. Some of the best hospitals in Nairobi are centrally located in Parklands, while the bordering Karura Forest provides hiking trails and refreshing picnic opportunities.

Westlands

Close to Nairobi’s city centre and a part of Parklands, Westlands is a convenient location for young working professionals looking to live close to their place of work. The area has plenty of shops, restaurants, nightclubs and bars to keep expats entertained. Spring Valley is the quieter part of Westlands where bungalows and large, detached houses are the norm, in contrast to the rest of Westlands which favours apartment blocks, fully-furnished, semi-furnished or unfurnished. Some of the housing in the area is gated and has security staff to monitor those who enter.

Kilimani and Hurlingham

A lot of the apartment complexes in Kilimani and Hurlingham are high-rise, and several come with swimming pools and 24-hour security. The better complexes have additional facilities such as gyms, saunas and health clubs. The area also has several international schools and plenty of entertainment options in the form of shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants and even a casino. Gated estates and both furnished and unfurnished apartments are available for rent and sale in Kilimani, while in Hurlingham, freestanding townhouses are popular.

Lavington and Kileleshwa

Many families with children find a home in Lavington or Kileleshwa, usually in bungalows with lush gardens or contemporary apartments. Several embassies can be found here along with private schools such as Nairobi International School. These areas are close to the city centre and offer a more cosmopolitan lifestyle that's also within reach of some of Nairobi’s best museums and galleries.

Healthcare in Nairobi

As is the case throughout the country, the standard of healthcare in Nairobi varies considerably depending on the type of treatment needed and the type of hospital one can afford. Healthcare in Kenya offers both public and private facilities, and expats generally opt for the latter.

There are plenty of private hospitals, medical centres and individual practices in and around Nairobi. The major challenge for expats will be to decide where to seek treatment. Expats moving to Nairobi will need to consider convenience and which facility best aligns with their priorities and health needs.

Pharmacies are easy to find in Nairobi. Most major hospitals have pharmacies attached to them, which are open 24/7. There are also privately run pharmacies that can easily be located in shopping malls as well as on major streets in Nairobi.

Below is a list of some of the city's most prominent hospitals.


Hospitals in Nairobi

Aga Khan University Hospital

Website: www.hospitals.aku.edu/nairobi
Address: 3rd Parklands Avenue, Limuru Road, Nairobi

Bristol Park Hospital

Website: www.bristolpark.or.ke
Address: Behind Tassia School, Outer Ring Road, Fedha Estate, Nairobi

Care Hospital Ltd

Website: www.carehospitalnairobi.business.site
Address: Muinami Street, Opposite Pumwani Maternity Hospital, Nairobi

Gertrude's Children's Hospital

Website: www.gerties.org
Address: 34 Muthaiga Rd, Nairobi

Kenyatta National Hospital

Website: knh.or.ke
Address: Hospital Rd, Nairobi

M.P. Shah Hospital

Website: mpshahhosp.org
Address: Shivachi Road in Parklands area, Nairobi

The Nairobi Hospital

Website: thenairobihosp.org
Address: Argwings Kodhek Rd, Nairobi

Education and Schools in Nairobi

Kenya is one of the most popular expat destinations in Africa. Many of those who relocate to Kenya do so with children and for these expats, finding a good school is a priority. Expats living in Nairobi will find a good selection of private and international schooling options for their children – however, school fees can be prohibitively expensive.

Many public schools in Nairobi are underfunded and poorly resourced, although those within cities are generally of a better standard compared to rural areas. Still, private schools hold more promise, especially for expat students from the UK as the academic system is similar to the British national curriculum. 

For many expats moving to Nairobi, the best option is one of the international schools as this typically causes the least disruption to the child’s studies, allowing them to continue with a familiar curriculum.


Public schools in Nairobi

Public schools in Nairobi follow the standard Kenyan education system, which consists of eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school and four years of university education. 

Tuition for both primary and secondary public education is free, though this leaves many schools underfunded and under-resourced. Still, Kenya's curriculum is relatively good, and students can attend academic or technical secondary schools. Universities are open to graduates of both types of schools.

The Kenyan curriculum for academic schools offers an extensive scope of subjects categorised into languages, sciences, applied sciences, humanities, creative arts and technical subjects. The core subjects are English, Kiswahili and maths, and English is the language of instruction. Alternatively, technical secondary schools give students a more practical approach to learning, preparing them for the workforce.


Private schools in Nairobi

Private schools in Nairobi are likely a preferred choice by expats and the curriculum and subjects available vary widely. As they are fee-paying institutions, children will receive a decent level of education and have better learning facilities than in the public system.

Many of Nairobi's private schools follow Kenya's national curriculum with a KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) and KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) at the end of primary and secondary school respectively.

International schools are a type of private school that follows curricula from around the world.


International schools in Nairobi

Nairobi is a big city with a wide variety of international schools that serve a large and diverse expat population. Due to the many options, expat parents must do their research before deciding which school is right for their child.

Most international schools accept new students year-round but it should be noted that some have a waiting list and there is no guarantee of acceptance. So it's best to start the application process as early as possible, especially if there is a strong preference for a particular school.

The major downside of international schools in Nairobi is the hefty tuition that expat parents will need to pay. Fees differ according to the school, age of the child and curriculum offered. Expats moving to Nairobi for work should try to negotiate the inclusion of an education allowance in their relocation and employment package.


Nurseries in Nairobi

Expat parents with young children in Nairobi will find many options for nurseries and daycare centres. Some kindergartens and nurseries are a part of larger international schools and many follow a Montessori-style approach, though bear in mind that some come with heavy fees.

As traffic in Nairobi can get chaotic, the location of the nursery is important, and how far away it is from the area and suburb where one lives.


Homeschooling in Nairobi

The law on homeschooling in Kenya is unclear, but many families opt in favour of it. Nairobi's mainstream education may not be suitable for everyone, being either largely under-resourced or overly expensive. Parents may also find the style of learning puts too much pressure on their children.

It is worth checking which international schools are also exam centres that allow homeschooling children to sit and write exams under their invigilation.

Expat parents can use social media and networks to connect with other homeschooling families in Nairobi. Social media groups are great for organising social activities and getting to know others in Nairobi's homeschooling community.


Tutors in Nairobi

Tutors in Nairobi are easy to find. International schools may connect students with tutors, while online platforms, such as TeacherOn and PigiaMe, are also helpful. Tutors specialising in British, American, Kenyan and other curricula can easily be reached in these ways to provide extra support to students.


Special needs education in Nairobi

Children with disabilities have a right to accessible and free basic education in Kenya. Unfortunately, many of Nairobi's schools do not offer extensive inclusive support to integrate these children in their mainstream classes. As such, there are specific public schools in Nairobi dedicated to providing special needs education.

Private and international schools may offer more inclusive services to integrate children with learning or physical disabilities into their mainstream classes. This includes schools such as West Nairobi School, the International School of Kenya and Lycée Denis Diderot (French School of Nairobi).

The level of support from each varies, so it's best to contact the school directly. Embassies may also provide lists of recommended schools in Nairobi for students with learning or physical disabilities.

International Schools in Nairobi

Nairobi has a wide range of international schools to serve the needs of the city's large, diverse expat population. There are international schools in Nairobi that follow the national curricula of the UK, USA, Sweden, Japan, the Netherlands, Germany and France. 

Expats who want their children's education to incorporate religious teachings will find a number of Christian international schools in Nairobi as well. Several international schools also offer boarding facilities.

Here is a list of the most popular international schools in and around Nairobi. Most of the schools are oversubscribed and have long waiting lists for admissions, so expats are advised to apply well in advance to secure their child a position at their desired school.


International schools in Nairobi

St Andrew's, Turi

St Andrew’s is one of the leading independent international schools in East Africa. Numbering approximately 550 boarding students and comprising both preparatory and senior schools, the school offers an outstanding education based on the British curriculum to students across the whole age range. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18

Banda School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 1 to 13
Website: www.bandaschool.com

Braeburn School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE, A-levels and BTEC
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.braeburn.com 

Brookhouse School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE, A-levels and BTEC
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.brookhouse.ac.ke

Deutsche Schule Nairobi

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: German
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.dsnairobi.de

Hillcrest International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE, A-levels and BTEC
Ages: 1.5 to 18 
Website: www.hillcrest.ac.ke

International School of Kenya

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.isk.ac.ke

Lycée Denis Diderot

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.diderot.ac.ke

The Netherlands School Society

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Dutch and International Primary Curriculum
Ages: 1.5 to 12 
Website: www.netherlandsschool.com

Rosslyn Academy

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 4 to 18
Websitewww.rosslynacademy.com

Rusinga School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE, A-levels and BTEC
Ages: 2 to 18
Websitewww.rusinga.ac.ke

Swedish School of Nairobi

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Swedish
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.ssn.or.ke

Woodland Star School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and Australian
Ages: 2 to 16
Website: www.woodlandstarkenya.com

Lifestyle in Nairobi

Nairobi is a vibrant city filled with plenty to keep anyone entertained in their spare time. Many of the expats who have relocated to Nairobi for work find that they can easily afford luxuries thanks to lucrative employment packages. There are excellent shopping malls, bars and restaurants to explore, not to mention the seemingly boundless natural wonders within easy reach of the city – all of which make for an enviable lifestyle in Nairobi.


Eating out in Nairobi

Populated by people from all over the world, all types of cuisine are offered in Nairobi. Luxury restaurants, bustling markets and small local eateries provide interesting dishes to suit any palate or budget. Some of the major multinational food chains can be found, along with restaurants serving up authentic Kenyan fare. Coffee houses are also becoming increasingly popular.


Shopping in Nairobi

Many new shopping malls have appeared in Nairobi in recent years, and some older ones have had upgrades to serve the growing middle-class and expat communities.

Multiple independent arts and crafts businesses offer an excellent selection of goods and buying from local artists is a good way to support the local economy. Local craft markets, such as the Maasai Market and Kariokor Market, offer an excellent choice of handmade items such as clothes, art, jewellery and footwear. Some of these areas are touristy, so be aware of potentially over-priced items.

Nairobi has numerous large supermarket chains and gourmet food shops, though don't overlook local produce markets for the best deals on fresh fruit and vegetables bought directly from farmers.


Nightlife and entertainment in Nairobi

There is always something new on the nightlife scene in Nairobi. Every neighbourhood has a local establishment or bar where people meet socially or for business, so regardless of where expats live in Nairobi, they won’t have to travel far to find a suitable drinking spot. 

Champagne and cigar lounges are popular and serve the growing affluent population of the city, while nightclubs are open until the early hours.

Most large shopping malls in Nairobi have cinemas and some even have IMAX theatres. Also on offer are art exhibits, concerts, live theatre and cultural events.


Sports and outdoor activities in Nairobi

Nairobi National Park is an excellent excursion for animal lovers, while Karura Forest offers various daytime activities and a large network of walking trails. The Nairobi Arboretum is a lovely forested area with pathways and trails for cyclists, joggers and walkers. Uhuru Park is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon and, come the weekend, fills up with families relaxing and enjoying picnics.

Kenya's capital city also affords several top-quality golf courses and societies, including Royal Nairobi Golf Club, Muthaiga Golf Club and Karen Country Club. Expats can enjoy these world-class golf facilities and participate in a competition or merely wind down and get some fresh air after a week's work.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, expats don't have to drive far for exquisite views of the Great Rift Valley. Day trips to Mount Longonot or Hell’s Gate National Park are popular with hikers and rock climbers, giving expats a chance to see the Kenyan countryside.

See and Do in Nairobi

In the last decade, Nairobi has become one of the top tourist destinations in Africa. Expats who get the opportunity to live in Nairobi will find there is no shortage of things to see and do in the city and exciting places to explore.

From game drives to hands-on encounters at animal orphanages to fascinating museums and local crafts centres, there is plenty to keep expats occupied in their spare time.


Recommended attractions in Nairobi

Bomas of Kenya

Expats interested in experiencing and learning about the rich local culture and history of the country should visit the Bomas of Kenya. Located in Langata, Nairobi, this tourist hotspot has traditional homes on display and offers cultural performances, conferences in a large auditorium and tasty local dining options.

David Sheldrick Elephant and Rhino Orphanage

Founded in the 1970s, this orphanage operates a rescue and rehabilitation programme, nursing sick elephants and rhinos back to health. While the orphanage is only open for one hour a day, visitors can see the baby elephants being fed and given a mud bath. 

Giraffe Centre

The Giraffe Centre was established in the 1970s by a married couple who famously raised two baby Rothschild's giraffes at their home in the Langata area of Nairobi, where the centre remains to this day. Visitors can even feed and interact with the centre's giraffes.

Maji Magic

One of Kenya's newest water attractions is Maji Magic, an aquapark perfect for families and kids looking for a bit of fun in the sun. Visitors can work their way through obstacle courses, try out stand-up paddleboarding or play in bumper boats.

Nairobi Gallery

Expats with an eye for art can always find something new at one of Nairobi Gallery's many temporary art exhibitions. This art gallery is one of Kenya's national museums and can be found right in the heart of the city, not too far a walk from Nairobi National Museum.

Nairobi National Museum

Promoted by Kenya Museum Society, the Nairobi National Museum offers lots of information about Kenya's history, culture, palaeontology and art. Once expats have had their fill of the museum, there is also a botanical garden, as well as dining and shopping facilities to while away another hour or two.

Nairobi National Park

It may surprise expats that there is a national park located in Kenya's capital city, just 4.3 miles (7km) from the city centre. Nairobi National Park was established in 1946 and offers great safari experiences, with Nairobi's skyscrapers making for an unusual game park backdrop. Interestingly, the park has a diverse ecosystem for its relatively small size. Lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, buffalo, giraffes and around 500 species of birds inhabit the park.

What's On in Nairobi

There's plenty on the Kenyan calendar too keep expats living in Nairobi busy throughout the year, from art and music festivals to safari rallies. Some happen on a monthly basis while others are looked forward to annually.

Here are some of Nairobi's not-to-be-missed event.


Annual events in Nairobi 

Blankets and Wine (monthly)

Music lovers from Nairobi and beyond converge in the city for this relaxed day-long outdoor music festival. With performances by top Kenyan musicians, DJs and bands, this is a great opportunity to check out the local talent.

Cake Festival (June)

Attendees of this event are in for a sweet day out as baked goods of all shapes and sizes abound here. Aspiring bakers can also check out live cake-decorating demonstrations, while little ones can attend a baking class just for kids.

International Puppetry Festival (September)

Here visitors get to experience traditional forms of puppeteering, and each year has a theme. It's a fun day out for the whole family, and the kids will enjoy the lively performances at what is a unique and interesting event.

Shaggy Dog Show (September)

Animal lovers come from all over to take part in this family-friendly day organised by the Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (KSPCA). Highlights include a fancy dress competition for both owners and their dogs, as well as awards for 'happiest dog', 'best-groomed dog' and, of course, 'shaggiest dog'.

Jamhuri Day (December)

On the 12th of December each year, Kenya celebrates its independence. Jamhuri is Swahili for 'republic' and as such Jamhuri Day commemorates the day Kenya become a republic in 1964. It is a national public holiday when everyone takes a day off work and relaxes. It is celebrated in style with dancing, feasts and parades.

Getting Around in Nairobi

Nairobi is a bustling city, and getting around can be a challenge due to the limited information available on the existing public transport system. There is some public transport in operation in the city, but due to insufficient infrastructure and a general disregard for traffic rules, the situation can get chaotic. 

Modes of public transport in Nairobi include matatus (shared minibus taxis), buses and trains. In general, expats don't use public transport in Nairobi because of poor safety records.

Driving in Nairobi can be dangerous too, and some expats prefer to hire a local driver who knows the area well and can negotiate the sometimes reckless driving habits of others in the city. Another possible solution is to use a ride-hailing app or local cab company.


Public transport in Nairobi

As in any major metropolitan city, expats who choose to use public transport in Nairobi should be aware of their surroundings and keep an eye on their belongings at all times.

Matatus

Matatus in Kenya are shared minibus taxis that can transport several people at one time. While the network of matatus is somewhat informal, they do cover a wide geographical area, operating in much of greater Nairobi and its suburbs.

Though travelling by matatu is not recommended, and expats who do decide to use them should be aware of the unruly and chaotic conduct of the drivers. Matatus are also frequently overloaded.

Buses

Several bus companies offer services in Nairobi, providing a good alternative to matatus. Bus routes in Nairobi converge in the city centre. There are a few terminals in the city, which serve as drop-off and pick-up points for passengers, and some bus stops and routes are indicated on Google Maps.

Expats should be aware that some bus companies in Nairobi are highly unreliable. Drivers may openly disregard traffic laws, making the journey dangerous for passengers. Besides, while bus fares are cheap, inner-city traffic often makes this a slow form of transport.

Long-distance, inter-city buses also run frequently providing transport across Kenya. Expats can choose from several operators, and buying a first-class ticket secures a more comfortable seat, sometimes with USB charger ports and electronic screens for watching films.

Trains 

The Nairobi Commuter Rail Service runs between the city centre and outlying areas, including Ruiru, Kikuyu, Embakasi and Syokimau. It may be of use as a means of travel in Nairobi between home and work, but can be unreliable and uncomfortable.

The new Madaraka Express along the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has connected Mombasa and Nairobi for a much faster commute, reducing the journey between these two large cities to only four and a half hours. Whether travelling for work or a weekend break, this train is a great option.


Taxis in Nairobi

Expats or travellers who are only in the city for a short time and do not have a company car will find that taxis are the most convenient and perhaps the safest way to travel around Nairobi. Taxis can be easily found near international hotels, at most tourist sites, in the city centre and near shopping malls. Expats should be aware that if there is no meter visible, they should agree upon a fare before getting into the taxi.

Ride-hailing applications such as Uber are also available in Nairobi. 


Driving in Nairobi

Many expats choose to hire a local driver with experience of local road conditions as they are better placed to anticipate the erratic behaviour of Kenyan road users. Bad driving habits are ubiquitous among local drivers and indeed many companies hiring expats will provide them with a car and a driver.

Kenyans drive on the left-hand side of the road. For new arrivals who choose to drive in Nairobi, a GPS is a good idea, given the lack of road signs. As a general rule, it's best to avoid taking shortcuts. Rather, stick to the main roads as some parts of the city can be dangerous. Expats who do decide to drive in Nairobi should do so defensively and be as wary as possible.

International car rental agencies operate in Nairobi and expats who stay long term often buy a car. Note that a foreign driving licence and International Driving Permit may only be valid for three months, thereafter, a Kenyan driving licence should be obtained.


Walking and cycling in Nairobi

Nairobi has been called a 'walking city' in that most residents walk wherever they need to go, be it to their place of work, back home, to friends and family or a market or shopping centre. That said, walking in Nairobi city centre can be chaotic, especially with the unruly and disorderly road traffic. 

Expats are advised not to walk or cycle in and around the suburbs of Nairobi alone or at night, due to various safety issues. Those that do choose to walk or cycle should be aware that there are high risks involved and should exercise special caution.

In 2018, a free bike-sharing scheme was introduced by the United Nations. Expats can find bike-sharing programmes and cycling groups easily, and there are several Facebook groups for cyclists in Nairobi.

However, there are still safety concerns to consider as well as a general lack of cycling infrastructure, meaning that cyclists will likely have to share the road with motorists.