Nairobi - Post Report Question and Answers

What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The US Embassy is trying to consolidate housing for security purposes, and many families live in one of two government compounds that are close to the Embassy. The older compound is primarily townhomes and single family homes, and the recently completed compound is primarily apartments with a few townhomes. It seems that most families were less than pleased to move from single family residences into apartments. The apartments are modern and have things like air conditioning and screens on the windows (which the remaining single family homes in the housing pool do not) but it has been a struggle to find ways to provide privacy and quiet when people are basically on top of each other. I lived in a single family home on a small compound and thankfully did not have to move, but had my fair share of housing issues. Not having mosquito screens or air conditioning was a huge problem. The master bedroom had a ceiling fan in the center of it, which prevented installation of a mosquito net around the bed. I literally slept every night covered in DEET and with a fan blowing on my face to try to keep the mosquitos away. It wasn’t until I left Kenya that I realized how poorly I had slept for the 2.5 years I was there. One was not allowed to have more than one mosquito screen installed per room on any single family homes. In addition to the mosquito problem, my house routinely ran out of water and would simultaneously flood. No number of requests solved the issue in my opinion. Management and facilities local staff were pleasant, but whenever major repairs or upgrades needed to be done, the landlord would not be accountable to get it done, and they wouldn’t do it themselves. - Aug 2023

Housing is mostly in compounds, though they are getting rid of most single family homes and putting families into 3/4 bedroom apartments (and a few town houses) that are currently being constructed. Comments times should be better, but can vary especially when there is a UN event. Something to note: there are no public playgrounds and no sidewalks, so one must drive everywhere. After the move, most embassy people will live on one of the two large housing compounds. - Mar 2022

There are all kinds of housing from stand-alone houses, to compounds, to apartments, to villas. The commute is a huge deal as traffic is a nightmare. Basically, find out where you will work and then make sure to live on that side of Waiyaki Way, the major highway that more or less splits Nairobi. - Aug 2021

I did not have Embassy housing. My partner and I rented a big beautiful apartment in Westlands, 20 minutes from the Embassy with no traffic, but a good 45 minutes most weekday mornings ($1000 rent/month unfurnished). - Apr 2021

Housing is good, big houses with nice yards. - Nov 2020

Most housing for us is either large single-home housing or at Rosslyn Ridge compound with smaller houses (more of the "compound" feel that some families with small kids like). We are in a single-family home and have loved it. Large backyard and more privacy is always nice. Occasional issues with the house, and dealing with repairs can be an issue, but all in all not bad. - Dec 2018

Housing is nice. We live at a compound not far from the U.S. Embassy in Gigiri, and it's certainly the most desired location in the housing pool. Our compound has a market, a restaurant, tennis and basketball courts, a soccer pitch, a playground for the kids, a dog walk and more. It's really a nice place to live.

As for our residence, we are in a townhouse that suits my wife and me. It's plenty big and roomy, and when properly decorated, it can feel really cozy. The property has it's issues, as ceiling leaks are notorious, as are the light fixtures.

Even without air conditioning or proper heat, it's a very nice place to call home. A quick word of advice: use your home improvement allowance to install more window screens. It helps keep the mosquitoes out. - Dec 2018

We have a very spacious and beautiful home that is three stories tall. The highlight of our house is our yard which is massive. Embassy workers may also live on the compound which has nicely-sized homes with smaller yards, as well as access to the playground and pools. If you live in a single home, you can expect a decently-sized house. - Jun 2018

We have a stand-alone house in a compound. Houses and apartments are generally on the large size and are in several areas of the city. Commutes are always longer than you'd expect, given the "wild west' mentality of Kenyan drivers. There are no traffic laws, merely suggestions. Also farm animals and wild animals are frequently sharing the roads. - Jul 2016

Housing is OK. All variety of houses and apartments is offered. Very expensive as well and security is an issue. - Sep 2015

Many compounds near the Embassy and some stand alone houses. Most people can get to the Embassy and UN in about 5-20 minutes. Commuting across the city can take a very long time, but most people live close enough for this to not be a problem. You need to have your own car. - Aug 2015

Most Embassy housing is located close to the Embassy, from 5 - 20 minutes away. You must drive; there is no save public transportation. Coming from farther away, if you don't leave super early in the morning and get off early, you can face a commute of 1-2 hrs on an average work day. The commute from the airport in the evenings (which is when most international flights arrive) is over 2 hours (in fact 2 hours is good). - Jul 2015

Housing is great. I recommend living off the compound. The housing is much better and you will have a very large yard to take advantage of the outdoors. The compound is nice, but housing is small and yards are non-existent. Our home sits on a little over half an acre and is around 4500 sq ft. - May 2015

Ranges from houses with garden to apartments. Commute varies depending on location of office. If working for the U.N., a lot of housing options are located near the office (Runda). - Dec 2014

Houses are pretty nice and some are close to the Embassy so the commute isn't too bad. However, traffic in Nairobi can be a nightmare so the further away you live, expect to sit in more traffic for a while. - Jun 2014

Big very nice houses, lovely yards with gardens and copious flowers year round. Commute to embassy can be between 5-20 mins. The embassy is out of town so traffic is not bad for us. - Jun 2014

It depends. Nairobi's traffic is just getting worse. The "Ridge", the main housing compound, is about 5 minutes from the Embassy. Stand-alone houses in Runda are huge and also close to the Embassy. Some personnel are in the Westlands area and can face commutes of an hour or more. - Mar 2014

Great housing. There is one large embassy housing compound (that everyone wants), a few smaller ones and stand alones. The large compound homes are a good size and more "American." The others are large and quirky but they mostly have large yards and all have fireplaces. Commutes vary from 2 minutes to upwards of 30. - Jul 2013

There are a few compounds and lots of stand alones. I think it can range from a 5-minute commute to about a 20-minute commute. - Jun 2013

Housing is the best thing about Kenya after the weather. Very spacious single family homes, townhouses, and apartments, located on or off-compound. Most come with servants quarters for live-in staff. All have fireplaces that are the main source of heating in the cold months -- no A/C or central heating here. Everything grows in Kenya, so the gardens get to be lush and fragrant. I love my house and garden and will definitely be what I miss most when I leave post. It's really made all the difference in what could otherwise be a very dirty, stressful environment. - Dec 2012

There are apartments, stand-alone houses, and compound houses (townhouses and single-family). There are 2-3 compounds and more on the way. Stand-alone houses tend to be larger and have yards. Compound houses usually have 3-4 bedrooms, and some are on 1/4 acre lots. Most houses are relatively near the embassy, a 5 to 30 minute commute by car. Some of the housing furthest away may be phased out. - Aug 2012

A mix of compounds, stand alone homes and apartments. Commute time can be 10-45 minutes depending on traffic and where you live. Be advised - most people ask to live on Rosslyn Ridge, which can house about 1/5 of Embassy/AID families, so adjust your expectation that you can ask for and receive Rosslyn Ridge. We are in a different compound that we like better for its location and because we really like our neighbors, but there are people that are super bitter about not being on Rosslyn Ridge. Housing is at a premium here - if you arrive during peak season you may be in temps for awhile. Sorry to say, but no one seems to be minding the store at GSO housing, so I'd try to keep in touch as much as possible. The 2011 rotation was atrocious and I heard some stories that would have put me back on a plane, quite frankly. - Dec 2011

We lived in embassy-provided housing. There are a few compounds, but mostly stand-alone houses. Most housing is spacious with lovely yards. Currently there is a housing shortage, so many people are in temporary housing for awhile. Most housing is within a 15-minute drive from the embassy. Some residences are about 20-30 minutes normally. Traffic can be insane. - Dec 2011

We lived in an excellent compound with an excellent school right next door. - Sep 2011

There are two American compounds, but it seems like less than half of tbe embassy lives on them. The rest are spread out in different neighborhoods. The housing tends to be spacious. - Dec 2010

There are decent apartment buildings and housing compounds. Most expats I know live in a decent-size to spacious house with a large garden. - Dec 2009

For embassy folks there's the big compounds, which are nice, with the usual drawbacks of living with people whom you work with. We have a great house; it's huge and well laid out. - Jul 2009

The housing is a mix of stand-alone homes and compounds. All are very nice. Commute depends on the location of your housing. Traffic is always bad. Keep your road rage at home, everyone drives like an idiot. They can't help it, driving is a competitive sport here. - Jun 2008

Very nice. Coming from India (our last post), housing choices in Nairobi are simply amazing. There are typically more houses than apartments (though this is changing with all of the apartment construction); a few townhouses are also available in which there is a set of 4-6 attached homes in one compound. Houses tend to be rather large with a lot of land (0.5-1.5 acres). Modern apartments (what we live in) are available and quite reasonably priced for the amenities you get (new kitchens, gym and pool on-site). In most expat areas, rents average about: US$700-$1,100/month for a newish 3-4 BR; townhouses: $1,100-$1,500/month for a 4-BR; houses: $1,000-$2,000+, depending on size, location, and amount of land. You can certainly get cheaper than that, but it may not be as modern. All places have a high boundary wall around them and apartments come standard with 24/7 security on-site (one day guard and two night guards). For houses, you generally have to hire a service; we’re not sure on the cost, but my husband’s work provides an allowance of up to $1,000/month if that’s any indication. There seem to be four main areas where expats reside. To the far north of Waiyaki Way (the main thoroughfare) are the areas of Gigiri, Runda, and Muthaiga which is where the UN and a number of embassies (including the U.S.) can be found. This area is obviously quite close to work and nearby Village Market, a shopping mall that could be right out of Orange County (thankfully no Mischa Barton sightings!), with nice stucco-and-tiled shops, a bowling alley, and waterslides. Almost everything here is houses. Nearby, but closer to Waiyaki Way, are the neighborhoods of Spring Valley, Nyari, and Loresho, which are similar. On the other side of Waiyaki Way are the neighborhoods of Westlands, Kileleshwa, Lavington, and Kilimani, which are farther from the embassies but closer to town, where NGOs and other organizations are located. Properties here are a mix of apartments, houses, and townhomes. There’s also the choice of living in Karen or Langata, which are slightly out of town, but very pretty with lots of big houses with a lot of land. Of course, commute times will be longer (at least 30-45 minutes to the UN/Embassy area, depending on traffic). - Feb 2008

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