21 Best Things to do in Nairobi, Kenya

by wheretheroadforks

Nairobi is my favorite African city. When I arrived, my plan was to spend a couple of days exploring. I ended up staying for over two weeks. Unfortunately, Nairobi has a bit of a bad reputation. Many travelers pass through without even giving it a chance. They fly in and head directly to the Kenyan coast or toward the Maasai Mara for a safari without ever experiencing this exciting African capital. I think that’s a real shame. Here are the 21 best things to do in Nairobi, Kenya.

Downtown Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi CBD

Visit Karura Forest

Nairobi is an intense city. Between the pollution, traffic, and dense population, sometimes you just need to get out for a while to clear your mind. Karura Forest is the perfect place to go to catch a breath of fresh air. Best of all, it’s located conveniently within Nairobi city limits.

This 2500 acre forest contains over 50 km of trails to explore. Popular activities Karura Forest include:

  • Walking- Take a stroll and enjoy the trails and scenery.
  • Cycling- Bicycles are allowed on the trails. Rentals are available near the entrance.
  • Picnicking- Bring a basket of your favorite foods and enjoy them in one of the designated picnic areas. There is a 150 shilling fee to utilize the facilities.
  • Birdwatching- Over 200 species of birds call Karura Forrest home.
  • Running- Get some exercise while you’re there.
  • Visit the Waterfall- One of the most beautiful features of the park is the Karura Forest waterfall.
  • Wildlife Viewing- Several species of monkeys can be spotted in the forest including Colobus Monkeys. You may also be able to spot bush pigs, dik diks, porcupines, dukier, and more if you keep your eyes peeled.
  • Hiking- Most trails are pretty easy. A few more technical trails can be found throughout the park.

Unfortunately, in recent years, real estate developers have been trying to get permission from the government to use outer chunks of the park to build housing and shops. Nairobi is a rapidly growing city that could use the space, after all. So far, conservationists have been able to hold them off. Who knows what the future will hold for Karura Forest.

How to Visit Karura Forrest

Karura Forest can easily be reached by taxi, Uber, or Matatu (shared minibus.) Unfortunately, there is an entry fee. Non-Kenyan resident tickets cost 600 shillings (about $6). Children’s tickets cost 300 shillings. Karura Forest is open from 6 am to 6 pm every day.

For more info on visiting, check out Friends of Karura Forest.

Take a Stroll Around Nairobi CBD

Most African capital cities are very spread out have pretty much zero urban planning. Streets run in all directions and buildings are scattered randomly throughout. Nairobi is different. It is a surprisingly well-designed city. The CBD is compact and easy to get around. There is a grid pattern, more or less, which makes finding your way around the area pretty easy.

Taking a walk around downtown Nairobi is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The streets are crowded and active. Vendors sell everything from fruits and street to electronics on the sidewalks. The city is also surprisingly cosmopolitan. People from all over Africa call Nairobi home.

While you’re out wandering around, be sure to check out the parliament buildings, Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC), and Uhuru Park. 

If you get thirsty or hungry during your walk, there are plenty of nice bars and restaurants to pop into for a drink or a bite to eat. The best places are located to the north of downtown in a part of town called Westlands. The CBD also has some good options.

If you prefer a guided tour, one of the most popular options is to take a tour with the Nai Nami guys. These tour guides are former street children who grew up in Nairobi. They can guide you around the city to places that you probably wouldn’t find on your own. I haven’t been on their tour but I have heard great things about it. 

 Nairobi streets

Busy Nairobi streets

Tip: Be careful while taking photos. For whatever reason, taking photos of government buildings is not allowed in Kenya. You could get hassled or fined if you get caught by the police. 

Visit Nairobi National Park

Nairobi is the only city with a full-on safari park located within city limits. Located just 4 miles (7 km) south of the CBD, the Nairobi skyline can actually be seen from the park. In fact, it’s so close to the city that an electric fence is used to keep the animals from wandering into the CBD. you can drive there, go on a safari, and be back at your hotel in time for dinner. This makes for a really convenient and unique safari experience.

All of the animals that you think about when picturing a safari can be viewed in the park including giraffe, hippos, buffalo, black rhino, gazelle, zebra, cheetah, leopard, lion, wildebeest and more. An elephant conservatory is located within the park. See the next section for more info on that. Narirobi National Park is also one of the best places in the world to see the endangered black rhino.

Nairobi skyline from Nairobi National Park

The Nairobi skyline as vied from Nairobi National Park

Nairobi National Park Safari Options

Park entry for non-residents is 4300 shillings (about $43). You have several options for visiting the park including:

  • Self-drive safari- this is the cheapest option. If you have a car, you can simply pay for an entry ticket and drive yourself through the park to view the animals.
  • Book a Tour- for about $40-$45 you can book a spot in a group tour to Nairobi National Park. The price includes pick up and drop off at your hotel or the airport. This is a half-day tour. Expect to spend about three hours in the park. Morning and afternoon tours are available.
  • Hire a Taxi- Another option is to hire a cab driver to drive you to and around the park. Prices vary. Some drivers know the park better than others. This option allows for a bit more freedom than a group tour but will cost slightly more depending on how good you are at negotiating. Be careful which driver you pick as some will be happy to act as a tour guide and some will just go through the motions for the fare.

If you are looking for a more traditional safari experience, consider making a trip to the Maasai Mara. For a step-by-step guide on how to visit, check out my guide How to Safari in Kenya for less than $200: Maasai Mara on a Budget

If you are continuing on to Tanzania after you visit Kenya, you can check out my article: Maasai Mara vs Serengeti: Where is the Better Safari?

Visit The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT)

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is an elephant sanctuary located inside of Nairobi National Park. The DSWT works to care for and rehabilitate baby elephants that were orphaned due to poaching. They have been operating since the 70s.

After caring for the baby elephants for the first 2-3 years of their lives, are moved to a reintegration facility, also run by the DSWT, in Tsavo East National Park. Eventually, when the elephants are ready, they are returned to the wild.

Many consider the DSWT to be the most successful elephant reintegration program anywhere in the world. The same people also run a similar program for rhinos.

Baby elephant

Baby elephant

How to Visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Because the DSWT is located inside of Nairobi National Park, this is a great activity to pair with a safari. The DSWT is only open to the public for one hour per day between 11:00 am to 12 noon. This is the feeding and bathing time for the baby elephants.

Cost to Visit

The minimum donation is 7 USD or 500 shillings. You do not have to pay the $43 or 4300 shilling Nairobi National Park entrance fee when visiting the DSWT. There is a separate entrance to the DSWT so you can bypass the park if you wish.

Donating to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

If you become an elephant foster by making a minimum donation of $50, you can schedule an evening visit to see the elephants at bedtime. This viewing is less busy than the morning viewing which is open to the general public. 

For more info, visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust website here.

Visit Kibera Slum

This is a controversial one. Kibera is a division of Nairobi. It is considered the largest urban slum in all of Africa. Population estimates range from 170,000 to over a million people. Most living on less than a dollar per day. Kibera is also home to a large number of people living with HIV and AIDS. The area suffers from extreme poverty, poor healthcare, and high rates of unemployment. It is located about 4.1 miles (about 6.6 km) from Nairobi city center.

Street in Kibera

Street in Kibera

There isn’t really anything to do in the area. The draw for tourists is to experience the slum and see how others live. I’m not going to say whether or not this is ethical. That’s for you to decide.

You can get a good feel for Kibera in just a couple of hours. Take a walk up to the highest point and take in the impressive view of the sprawling slum. Walk through the dirt paths and winding streets and around the train tracks that go through the area. Consider buying a cold drink or some food from one of the vendors in the area to support a local family. 

You can visit Kibera independently for free. You can get there with an Uber, Matatu, or on foot. If you prefer, you can also book an organized tour for around $30. The only reason to maybe consider going on a tour rather than independently is for safety. I’m sure the guide knows the area well.

For a step-by-step guide check out my article: How to Visit Kibera Slum Independently Without a Tour.

Railroad tracks running through Kibera

Railroad tracks running through Kibera

Nairobi Mamba Village

This 30-acre farm houses about 70 Nile Crocodiles as well as a few ostriches and other animals. On the grounds, you’ll find a restaurant, lounge, and sitting areas where you can relax and enjoy the scenery. The property also features a man-made lake where you can enjoy a boat ride. 

The best time to visit is in the afternoon during feeding time. Watching the ancient species jump into the air to grab a big hunk of meat is a pretty impressive sight. 

How to visit Mamba Village

The farm is located about 13 km outside of the Nairobi CBD in the Karen suburb. The entry fee is 1,000 Ksh (about $10). The village is open from 9 am to 6 pm every day. Once you arrive, you can walk the grounds by yourself or hire a guide. For more info, visit the Mamba Village Facebook page.

Enjoy Nairobi’s Nightlife

Nairobi is a major business hub in Africa. That means there is money in the city. With that comes higher end bars and restaurants than you might find in other African capitals. Nairobi has some wild nightlife. Kenyans really know how to party. While visiting, be sure to try a Tusker, Kenya’s most popular beer. 

The Best Bars and Clubs in Nairobi

  • Brew Bistro Westlands- This is one of the best spots for nightlife in Nairobi at the moment. If you’re into craft beer, this place is worth a visit. They have happy hour from 5-7 and offer live music or a DJ. The atmosphere is laid back and chill. For more info, check out their website. 
  • The Alchemist- This popular bar offers an event space, live music, and a cinema. They are famous for their burgers. Check out their website for an event schedule and menu.
  • J’s Fresh Bar and Kitchen- This trendy hipster bar is popular among locals and expats alike. Here, you can enjoy live music and some great food. 
  • Havana Bar and Restaurant- This Cuban themed bar offers a good selection of local and international brands. Prices are reasonable and the food is decent. 
  • Klub House (K1)- This place is famous for their Thursday night reggae party. 
  • Gipsy Bar- This is a popular Westlands bar. 
  • Club Tribeca- This one is in the CBD. The crowd here tends to be a bit older.
  • Black Diamond- This Westlands bar is a great place for dancing. They play great music and offer affordable prices.
  • B Club- This Kilimani club is well known in Nairobi. Prices are on the high side here.
  • 1824 Whisky Bar- This popular bar is located on Lang’ata road. This would be a great place to visit after enjoying a dinner at Carnivore as it’s located just down the street. They offer an excellent selection of alcohol. Particularly whiskey as the name implies.
  • KIZA Restaurant and Lounge- This fine dining African-fusion restaurant is located in Kilimani. Here, you will meet Africans from all over the continent enjoying the classy atmosphere and excellent food. 
  • Simba Saloon- This is the club that is connected to Carnivore restaurant. This would be a convenient place to go after dinner. 
  • Sky Lounge Bar and Bites- I stumbled upon this place one day when I was walking around. It’s just a comfortable place for a couple of drinks in the afternoon. It is located pretty much dead center in the CBD. Check out their facebook page here.
  • Live at the Elephant- This live music venue in Lavington gets very busy.
  • 40Forty Lounge- This Westlands rooftop lounge offers excellent views of the city. The club is beautifully decorated. This place is upscale and expensive but offers great food and drinks.
  • Bao Box- This is a great choice if you’re looking for more of a chill-out place than a party. Here, you can choose from hundreds of board games to play at your table. You just pay $10 and can play for as long as you want. They also serve food and beer and wine. 

Most of Nairobi’s top bars and restaurants are located in Westlands. This is an affluent neighborhood with a large expat population. It’s an excellent place to bar hop. There are lots of bars and clubs in the same general area within a block or two of each other. The whole area is worth exploring, really. There are dozens of bars and restaurants to try out.

For more recommendations, check out this great list of Nairobi nightclubs. It was written by a Nairobi native.

A Few Things to Know About Going Out in Nairobi:

  • Many clubs have absurdly high age requirements to get in- It is common to see 25 and older signs posted outside of clubs. Surprisingly, these age requirements are enforced.
  • Drinks are more expensive than many other places in Africa- Expect to pay around 250-400 shillings ($2.50-$4.00) for a domestic beer in a club. 
  • Generally, the clubs have no cover charge- Some bars have a two drink minimum.
  • It’s pretty safe- The bouncers do a good job of keeping out anyone who is up to no good. I didn’t even see any fights. 

Visit The Nairobi National Museum

The Nairobi National Museum is a nice place to spend the afternoon learning about the region. The museum focuses on four main categories:

  • History- The museum covers the origin of man and the history of Kenya.
  • Culture- Learn about Kenyan and East African culture. Includes information on current and past cultures.
  • Nature- Learn about the local animals and plants native to Kenya as well as the geography of the region. 
  • Art- View some contemporary and traditional Kenyan artwork. The museum also has an auditorium where they occasionally show Kenyan films and local musical performances.

Within the museum compound, you can also visit the Nairobi Snake Park, botanical gardens, and the auditorium. You could easily spend a day exploring this beautiful part of the city.

How to Visit Nairobi National Museum

The museum is located about 10 minutes north of downtown in a part of the city called Museum Hill. From downtown, you can easily reach the museum by taxi, Uber, matatu (shared minibus), or even on foot. They are open 365 days a year form 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Entry Cost to Nairobi National Museum

Entry to the museum for Non-Kenyan resident adults cost 1200 shillings ($12). Children’s tickets cost 600 shillings ($6). The price is the same for the snake park. If you buy combination tickets to the museum and snake park, the charge is 1500 shillings ($15) for adults and 1000 for children.

For more info, visit the National Museums of Kenya website here.

Visit the Karen Blixen Museum

This popular Nairobi museum is located in the farmhouse where the famous Danish author Karen Blixen lived from 1914-1931. She wrote the book ‘Out of Africa’ about her experience living in Kenya. The book was made into a movie starring Merl Streep in 1985. It won the Academy Award for best picture that year.

The farmhouse has been turned into a museum to show how the author lived and what life was like in Kenya during that time period. During colonial times, the house was built on a farm well outside of the city. Now the city has spread all the way to the house.

How to Visit the Karen Blixen Museum

The museum lies about 10 km outside of the Nairobi CBD. It can be accessed by taxi, Uber, or matatu (shared minibus). The museum is open 365 days per year from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. Entry cost for non-Kenyan resident adults is 1200 shillings ($12). Children’s tickets cost 600 shillings. For more info, visit the National Museums of Kenya website here.

Try Some Kenyan Food

Nairobi offers a wide range of both African and international restaurants for you to try. Some popular Kenyan foods that are worth a try include:

  • Ugali- A cornmeal paste. This is a staple of East African cuisine.
  • Irio- A famous Kikuyu dish that is made of a mix of mashed peas and potatoes with corn.
  • Nyama Choma- Roasted meat. The most common are goat and beef. Chicken and fish are also popular.
  • Githeri- Boiled beans and corn. Sometimes mixed with some veggies.
  • Kenyan stew- Usually beef, goat, or chicken stewed with peas, carrots, and potatoes.
  • Chapati- A fried flatbread.
  • Mandazi- Kenyan doughnuts.
  • Mutura- Kenya sausage. Usually made from goat meat.
  • Kachumbari- Diced tomatoes, chiles, onions, avocado, and cilantro. This is usually eaten as a side dish.

Some Popular Restaurants in Nairobi Include:

  • Carnivore- This is probably Nairobi’s most famous restaurant. Carnivore is a safari-themed restaurant located in the Lang’ata suburb. The focus of the restaurant is nyama choma or roasted meat. They serve all types of exotic meats including crocodile, ostrich, and rabbit as well as the more common types such as lamb, chicken, and beef. The place is a bit kitschy and very touristy but it is also a lot of fun. The whole restaurant is built around a giant barbecue centerpiece where all of the meat is cooked on traditional Maasai swords over an open flame. Usually, around 10-12 different cuts of meat are available. They will keep bringing you meat as fast as you can eat it. The service is excellent. The only drawback is that this place is expensive. I paid about $30 for my meal. I went here for the experience and would say that it was worth it. For more info as well as a full menu, check out Carnivore’s website.
  • Karen Blixen Coffee Gardens- This popular restaurant is located on the historic former estate of Karen Blixen. They offer a mix of international and local dishes. This would be a convenient place to stop for lunch after visiting the nearby Karen Blixen museum. Check out their website here for more info.
  • The Thorn Tree Cafe- An open-air bistro that is famous for its makeshift mail system where travelers left their messages pinned to a tree trunk of a centrally located acacia tree. The Thorn Tree Cafe is located in the historic Sarova Stanley hotel in Nairobi CBD. Visit their website here. 
  • The Talisman- This is often considered to be Nairobi’s best restaurants in Nairobi. Here, you can try an interesting fusion of European, Asian, and African cuisine. Visit their website here. They are located in the Karen neighborhood.
  • Diamond Plaza- This is Nairobi’s little India. Here, you’ll find various Indian restaurants and shops.
  • About Thyme- This popular restaurant serves a mix of Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. They offer a nice outdoor seating area as well.
  • J’s Fresh Bar and Kitchen- This trendy bar and restaurant offers serves great food. J’s is popular among locals and expats for their live music and DJs. There are two locations. One in Karen and one in Westlands.
  • Burger Hut- This popular burger joint has been in business since the 80s. They serve some of the best burgers in Nairobi. 
  • Mama Rocks- This famous Nairobi food truck serves African inspired burgers. They are located at the Alchemist Bar. They now have a second location in Kilimani.
  • Nyama Mama- This popular Westlands restaurant specializes in Kenyan food. Particularly nyama choma.
  • Mama Oliech’s Restaurant- Another popular Nairobi restaurant. They are known for their fried fish from Lake Nakuru. They are located in Kilimani.
  • Kenyan local restaurants- These hole in the wall joints are located in estates all over the city. They are incredibly popular among locals. Here, you’ll see locals hanging around after work with friends and family. 
  • American fast food- If you’ve been traveling in Africa for a while, you may begin craving junk food. You can enjoy some of your favorite American fast-food chains in Nairobi including Dominoes, Subway, Pizza Hut, KFC, Burger King, and Hardees. You can also enjoy some international fast food chains such as Debonairs Pizza, Chicken Inn, Pizza Inn, and Spur Steak Ranch. No McDonald’s in Nairobi yet, unfortunately.

Take in the View of the City at the Top of Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC)

This 28 story tower located in the City Square of Nairobi is the 6th tallest building in Kenya. For a small fee, you can take an elevator to the observation deck on the 27th floor then walk up to the viewing platform. Here, you can catch one of the best views of the city. On clear days, you can even see Mount Kenya. The sunset view is also pretty spectacular. 

Security is pretty tight here and the viewing platform is not always open. You’ll have to leave your passport with security at the entrance to the building. 

Take a Stroll in Uhuru Park and Central Park

Uhuru or “Freedom Park” is a large city park located adjacent to Nairobi CBD. This park holds historical and cultural significance for Kenya. It is the site of many speeches and political rallies.

Uhuru is a nice place to go to get away from the pollution of the city and take a breath of fresh air. You can stroll along the paths, buy ice cream from one of the vendors, and relax on a bench overlooking the lake. It is a popular place for locals to hang out, particularly on the weekends. The park contains a man-made lake and skateboard park.

Located just across Kenyatta Avenue from Uhuru park is Central Park. Here, you’ll find a children’s playground, shade trees, and expansive lawns where you can picnic. There is also a large monument celebrating former president Moi. 

Admittedly, Uhuru and Central Park are not the most beautiful parks in the world. There are no botanical gardens or well manicured paths.  The grass is overgrown and infrastructure is in disrepair. Even then, they offer a nice place to spend a few hours and have a picnic. Entry is free. 

Visit the Giraffe Center

For the first time, giraffes recently reached ‘critically endangered’ status. This means that the world’s tallest species is at risk of going extinct. To read more about what this means, check out this interesting article from Smithsonian.com.

The Giraffe Center is designed to educate the public and help with conservation efforts. They care for some of the most endangered species of giraffes in Kenya including the Rothschild’s giraffe.

Admittedly, this place is very touristy. Kind of like a petting zoo. It would be a great place to visit with children. At the center, they allow you to feed and pet the giraffes. You can also handle some bones to learn more about the species.

For more info, check out the Giraffe Center website here.

A giraffe in Nairobi

Cost to Visit the Giraffe Center

For non-Kenyan resident adults, the entry fee is 1000 shillings or about $10. The entry fee for kids is 500 shillings or about $5.

Visit Bombas of Kenya

This village was set up by the government of Kenya in 1971 to educate people about the history of various Kenyan tribes as well as to celebrate and preserve their cultures.

Here, you can watch music and dance performances and visit exhibits displaying artwork, artifacts, and clothing. For more info, visit the Bombas of Kenya website.

Go Shopping

  • The Hub Karen- This is the biggest shopping mall in Nairobi. At The Hub Karen, you will find dining, entertainment, and all the shopping you could wish for. They have many of the most popular international chains as well as local shops and small businesses. The mall is located in the Karen neighborhood of Nairobi. They are open from 9 am to 9 pm. For more info including a store directory, check out The Hub Karen website.
  • Village Market- This is a large mall in Giriri neighborhood. Here, you can buy pretty much anything you need including clothing, souvenirs, and food. 
  • Yaya Centre- A large indoor mall in Kilimani. Here you can buy electronics, cosmetics, and clothing. They also have a supermarket and food court. 
  • City Park Hawkers- This is a great place to buy fruits and vegetables. Lots of locals shop here. Nearby, you can find some great local restaurants serving affordable Kenyan food. This place is located near Westlands and is also called City Park Market.
  • Sarit Centre- This is considered Nairobi’s busiest shopping center. This large mall features a large range of shops and restaurants.
  • Wasp & Sprout- This fair trade initiative sells all kinds of housewares l furniture, crafts, decorations, and fabrics. They also have a cafe where you can buy sandwiches, salads, breakfast, coffee, desserts, and soft drinks.
  • Kazuri Beads- This social enterprise employs women with disadvantaged backgrounds. They manufacture and sell jewelry, pottery, and handicrafts. These items make for great souvenirs. You can also take a tour and meet the women. The shop is located in Karen.
  • Marula Studios- An interesting shop that sells products that are made from recycled flip flops. They also sell pottery, clothing, and bags. This would be another great place to buy souvenirs. 

Visit the Nairobi Railway Museum

This interesting museum is located across the street from Nairobi Railway Station. Here you can view exhibits from the East African Railways including three steam locomotives that are still operational. Here, you can also view a few early passenger coaches as well as diesel locomotives.

For some more info about the museum, its exhibits, and East African rail history, click here. 

Visit a Maasai Market

This is a great place to buy colorful African artwork, handicrafts, clothing, jewelry, and wood carvings made by the Maasai people. This is the kind of thing that would make for an excellent souvenir. 

The market is held in a different location every day of the week. It runs from 8 am to 6 pm. The schedule is as follows:

  • Monday- No Market
  • Tuesday- Prestige Plaza along Ngong Road and Kijabe Street Park near Nairobi River.
  • Wednesday- Capital Center on Mombasa road.
  • Thursday- The junction Mall and Ngong road.
  • Friday- Langinton Mall and The Village market along Limuru road.
  • Saturday- Prestige Plaza along Ngong Road and The High court parking opposite Re-Insurance Plaza.
  • Sunday- Yaya Center in Hurlingham.

While browsing the market, keep your wits about you and try not to get distracted. Scammers and pickpockets like to work the area. They target tourists who are distracted by the pretty colors and large crowds at the market.

If you decide to make a purchase, be sure to negotiate hard. The vendors are friendly and polite but they love to overcharge if they can get away with it. Avoid acting overly interested and be ready to walk away if you can’t come to a deal. You can often find the exact same item at a nearby stall anyway. 

For more info, check out the Maasai Market Facebook page. Also, consider checking the market locations before going. They sometimes move. 

Maasai tribe

Maasai tribe

Drink Some Kenyan Tea and Coffee

One great tradition leftover from colonial times is afternoon tea time. Kenya is famous for its locally grown tea and coffee. Be sure to stop by one of Nairobi’s cafes to enjoy a cup of your favorite hot beverage. Some excellent places to go for tea and coffee include:

  • Java House- This popular coffee shop chain has 20 locations throughout Nairobi. They serve genuine Kenyan coffee and have won several awards over the years.
  • Gibson’s Coffee House- This brand has been operating in Kenya for over 50 years. Their Nairobi CBD shop is incredibly popular. They serve excellent coffees and teas.
  • Artcaffe- This coffee shop and bakery has a very popular happy hour. They offer several locations throughout the city.

As an American, I admit that I don’t know much about high tea so I’ll leave the recommendations to the experts on this one. If you’re looking for a luxury teatime experience, check out this great guide to afternoon tea in Nairobi. 

Ride in a Matatu to Experience Local Transportation

Matatus are colorful, private-owned taxis that run all over the city. They act as Nairobi’s public transportation system. A ride in one of these crazy shared minibusses is a great way to experience how the average Nairobian commutes.  

A matatu in Kenya

matatus run set routes throughout the city. When you want a ride, just flag one down going in your direction and hop on. Alternatively, you can find a stop where they wait for passengers. A few matatu trip tips include:

  • Avoid carrying valuables with you on a matatu- Pickpockets are common. My phone was pickpocketed on a similar minibus in Tanzania. Luckily, I was able to get it back. For more tips, check out my guide: How to Avoid Pickpockets While Traveling. 
  • Find out the price of your trip before accepting a ride- The attendants love to rip off foreigners. Ask a local how much the ride should cost and negotiate your fare before you get on.
  • Know where you’re going- It’s easy to get lost if you don’t know the route. Ask an attendant or a local and they will most likely be happy to help you find your way. 

Go Watch a Soccer Game

Watching a sporting event in a foreign country is always an interesting experience. It is a good way to spend an afternoon, drink some beers, and meet some locals. I’m not really into sports but I enjoy watching a game once in a while.

When I was in Nairobi, I decided one afternoon that I wanted to go see a soccer match. After doing some research online, I found that the Kariobangi Sharks were playing the very next day. The Sharks play in the top level of the Football Kenya Federation system. I thought that sounded like a pretty big deal so I decided to go check it out. The game was being played at Nairobi City Stadium.

The next day I took a taxi to the stadium with a couple of people from the hostel. When we arrived, to my surprise, there were only about 10 other people there. No one was selling tickets. We just walked right into the stadium.

I wondered if somehow I had misread the schedule, or maybe I was in the wrong place entirely. We sat down and watched the guys warming up on the field. About a half an hour later the game began. I’m still not exactly sure who was playing, but it was good fun to watch.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Nairobi

Even though the Nairobi doesn’t have a beach, mountains, or any truly major tourist attractions, it’s still well worth your time to visit. You can get a good feel for the city in just a few days. I was planning to just pass through the city on my way to the Maasai Mara but ended up spending 2 weeks there. Nairobi turned out to be my favorite city in Africa. I think you’ll like it too.

Have you visited Nairobi recently? Share your experience in the comments!

Getting out of Nairobi

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