Nairobi, Kenya Report of what it's like to live there - 05/11/15
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?
NJ, Stationed here until Jan 2017
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Family of Four: We spend US$60-$80 on fruits and veggies and around US$150 to 200 on meat. The quality of fruits and veggies is great. Fresh fish is of superior quality here. Beef is cheap while chicken is expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can get anything here in Nairobi. Ship peanut butter though.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
You can pretty much get anything you want here. The only American fast food is Dominos, Subway, and KFC. I recommend not eating those while you are here. Take advantage of all the great Indian Cuisine and other local resturants.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants are an issue in our house, but we have finally got them in control. During the rainy season, the flying termites are a sight to see. They come out of the ground and fly around for a minute or two before shedding their wings. I have seen thousands of them at a time fluttering around the house. In the morning there are thousands of wings on the ground. They are harmless and you can actually eat them if you want. They taste like lemon.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO is great.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Part time help: US$120 - Full Time: US$220.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy gym is fine. You can purchase a membership at the U.N. gym.
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?
Credit/Debit cards are taken at most locations. I do recommend using them. If possible cash checks at the Embassy or use the ATM at the Embassy for cash. You will need a VISA ATM card here.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None, but speaking Swahili to the locals will give you props.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
No. There are ramps, but they are more like steep hills. They do not cater to disabilities at all.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are safe. The embassy recommends Jim Cap. They are very cheap. You must negotiate the fare before leaving.
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?
We have a four door Nissan Xtrail. It is two wheel drive and we have had no problems taking it anywhere. The roads are terrible in places.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, faster than the states and cheaper. 10-50 Mbs ( US$40-60)
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
No, pet care is available and good.
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?
Yes, although is it hard to get a permit for work outside the Embassy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
More than enough....Local Schools/Orphanages are everywhere.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business, casual on Fridays
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
This is Kenya. Although security is a concern, you can easily become complacent here. This is paradise.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
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?
Dusty in the dry seaons, but not unreasonable.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Same as the U.S.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Weather is pretty much perfect. It is never too hot or too cold. The rainy season is a nice break from the dry spells. Pack summer/spring time clothing and a light jacket.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Schools are fine. ISK and Rossylen are the two schools of choice.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, the schools have everything and the embassy has several volunteer-run sports programs.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge expat community here. The American Chamber of Commerce holds weekly events.
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?
Camping, Hiking, good resturants and night clubs
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, nightlife is fun.
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?
Gender, but usually on Kenyans. It doesn't flow over to affect expats.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
City Park Market is a great place to shop for fruit and veggies. Prices are much better than the supermarkets around town. During the summer, you can buy fresh mangoes for around US$1 a kilo. Avacados are available year round and usually cost US$1-2 per kilo. The national parks are unbelievable. Take advantage of the area while you are here.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Karua forest, tea plantation, brown's cheese tour.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Cuture, Access to fresh fruit and veggies, saving money, Safari, weather.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
We like suprises, but be sure to give yourself ample time to buy a car and all the red tape that comes with getting Dip plates.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Your expectations. This place will blow your mind. It is paradise.
4. But don't forget your:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
7. Do you have any other comments?
Nairobi is just like any other big city; however, its infrastructure has not kept up with the growth. Traffic is bad when heading into or out of the city center. Going to or from the airport takes anywhere from 35 minutes to 2 hours. There is police corruption. Prices at any open air market doubles for white people and foreigners. You must bargain for everything. Cut the price in half and start from there. If you are stern and walk away, vendors will generally fold.