Nairobi, Kenya Report of what it's like to live there - 06/01/14
Personal Experiences from Nairobi, Kenya
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington, D.C. Quite a long time I would imagine, but I haven't flown there yet from here.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
US Government work.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get everything, but nothing in Kenya that an American would want is cheap. Add about 50% to the price of everything. Milk is around $4 per 3 liters. Meat is expensive. Beef and lamb is not as high but chicken and pork are at least $5 a pound.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I have pretty much everything I need and what I don't have I can order through DPO.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
KFC is the only fast food and it does have a Kenyan twist. I love it. Good restaurants are everywhere. Not cheap but very good. Probably around $15-25 per person to eat out.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants, swarms of them!
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
The going rate is 10-12000 ksh for house help. (Approx $120-150 per month full time six days a week) However, most Americans at the embassy pay around 20000-25000 ksh because they don't realize that and by the time you've worked that out you have usually hired someone! Gardeners, housegirls, cooks, etc are everywhere.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
I use the UN which is expensive, but nice. The embassy has a little free gym if you aren't picky.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Write a check at the embassy for cash. Everything is cash based, I've never had a problem with ATMs, but there is a worry with mugging at ATM machines so I haven't used them much.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
All sorts of Christian and Muslim services.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None. Locals appreciate a little Kiswahilli, but everyone speaks English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
You pretty much drive everywhere, so it should not really be a problem.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I've never used them. Buses are mini-buses jammed with a bunch of people and are notorious for their dangerous driving. Taxis are safe but not cheap.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
You have to buy at post or import from Japan. It seems like a complicated experience. Try to buy from a departing family and get a car that can handle dirt roads. Don't buy a fancy car! Car jackings are frequent.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, $60 per month is what we pay and it is fine for us.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use safaricom pay as you go. It is cheap and I am happy with it. It usually costs me around $10-20 a month for data and phone calls. I surf the web a lot on it too!
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There are some opportunities. A lot of spouses have jobs outside the embassy, working for NGOs, schools, charities and other stuff.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Lots of orphanage help, working in the slums. If you have a skill like nursing or something then I bet there is a lot you can do to help.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Public it is pretty much the same as America. Embassy, business.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes! It's the one drawback to living on Nairobi. Armed invasions happen here, Westgate terrorist attack is still firmly in the front of everyone's mind and terrorist threats are constantly being reported. Security is the only bad thing I can find about Kenya though. The embassy provides 24 hour guards and other security measures for houses. In spite of these things, for the most part I feel safe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No malaria, amoebas are common, it's not bad though. They medivac to South Africa.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Absolutely perfect. It's 70-80 F. every single day. I didn't know there was such a perfect place weather wise! The winter (July to August) can be chilly but it heats up to about 70 during the day. During rainy season it seems to rain mostly at night so no big deal.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are lots. We use ISK which everyone seems very happy with. Roslyn also has great reviews and Braeburn which follows the British curriculum and Peponi are also very popular. I haven't met anyone who is not happy with the choice of schools.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
ISK has some help for mild problems; it is ok not great. If there is a severe problem, you might need to hire a tutor. ISK has been very helpful in helping us find a tutor too.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, soccer, baseball, tennis, probably more if I looked into it too.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
It's huge. Moral is great.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Restaurants, parties at houses, movie theaters, malls (if you dare go after Westgate). There are nightclubs in town too.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it is great for all.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There are a lot of tribal prejudices between the Kenyan people, but not towards foreigners. Kenyans seem to love Mzungus (foreigners). The people seem to be very accepting of all religions although they are primarily Christian and Muslim.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Safaris in the Masai Mara. Weekends at the Indian Ocean, flying on tiny little 8 seater planes.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Safaris, day trips to Naivasha, adopt an elephant, kiss a giraffe at the giraffe center, shopping in Karen, visit a bead factory, ride an osterich, visit a slum, go to the horse races, visit a tea farm, visit a coffee farm, visit a cheese farm, walk in Karura forest, drive to the Nairobi park.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
All kinds of Afri-crap. Baskets, wooden carvings, soap stone stuff, local fabrics, bead jewelry, tanzinite, tsavorite.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Fantastic weather pretty much every single day, wonderful housing, "the trip of a lifetime" safaris all the time!
10. Can you save money?
Probably you can, but not as much as you would think living in a third-world country unless you want to eat nothing other than maize meal and spinach. Also, safaris are super-expensive here, but also super worth it, get over the sticker shock and do it anyway.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How expensive everything is here, but you get what you pay for. Kenya is beautiful!
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your: