Nairobi, Kenya Report of what it's like to live there - 08/03/15
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?
2nd, previously in South Asia
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?
Midwest, it takes a long time to get to the U.S. because layovers tend to be long through Europe (London, Zurich, Amsterdam). Last trip home was Nairobi-London-Charlotte-Louisville and in total took 24 hours of travelling including a 5-hour layover in London and delay in Charlotte. Perhaps going to a larger city direct from Europe would be quicker.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Produce is cheaper than in the U.S. or on par. Meat and cheese are much more expensive, 1.5 to 2 times as much as the U.S. Household supplies are reasonably priced as long as you are fine with local brands.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Tires for our car, but we got them shipped just fine. I wish I had brought a trampoline in our shipment because we bought one for our kids locally and paid at least double. Clothes and shoes!!! They are poor quality and too expensive here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Fast food-Dominos, KFC, Subway, Cold Stone. Costs are comparable to the U.S., maybe a bit more, but not prohibitive. There are tons of very good restaurants of all price ranges.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes are pretty bad and risks of malaria exist outside of Nairobi (Nairobi is malaria-free thanks to the elevation). Ants can be annoying in kitchens.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the Embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We have a full-time person clean our house and be available for our older children five days a week for about US$300 a month. A gardener/carwasher comes once a week for about US$10 a week.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
I think the UN and Embassy have some, but I don't use them so I don't know anything much about them.
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?
We use the ATM at malls where there are armed guards and haven't had any problems. We always have the server bring the credit card machine to the table and it is common practice. Never had any problems of being overcharged. Most large stores take credit cards, but sometimes their machine's network is down, so having cash is helpful.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are several to choose from
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None, but it helps if you know some. The locals will be happy with you!
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be a challenge, but possible. Most Western-oriented buildings and shopping centers have ramps and elevators, but getting around day to day would require a car to get you right to those places.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Only taxis are recommended as safe. They are affordable if you use them every once in a while.
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 4 wheel drive because we like to self drive in the parks. You could get by with something without 4 wheel drive, but having a higher wheel base is important because there are tons of speed bumps and those with regular cars drag over them or have to go sideways over them.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, we pay for a 3G service with Orange and it is US$30 a month. It works pretty well and we can stream movies most of the time.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Any unlocked cell phone you like will work and the prices are decent for service. I think I pay less than US$20 a month for data and calling/texting.
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?
Don't know about quarantine, but I don't think they do. There are several vets that are recommended and we have one that makes housecalls and is reasonably priced.
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, at the embassy and some NGOs. Many people find jobs by word of mouth and by networking.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Many at orphanages from what I have heard
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual at work, some wear suits and ties. Women wear more conservative western wear (I wouldn't recommend short shorts or mini skirts, but not uncommon to see), tank tops are fine
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes. Carjackings and robberies are heard of, but haven't been experienced first hand. Scattered terrorist problems in areas that are in the north about 6 hours drive away. Checkpoints/searches of people and cars are common at malls, compounds, schools, diplomatic areas. We feel pretty safe, but understand you cannot prepare for every situation. Many people go to either extreme in their feelings about safety here. We are probably in the middle and go out sometimes at night, but not too far from home. Treat living here like living in any big city and try and take precautions. We are not allowed to go to the coast because of security risks, unfortunately.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Some bleach produce, some wash in distilled water only. Malaria if you leave Nairobi or not on Mt. Kenya is a risk. Tap water is not safe to drink.
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?
Great unless you are in traffic or heavy traffic areas.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Wonderful! Pretty consistently 70-80F degrees probably due to a combination of elevation and proximity to equator. During the fall months it gets chilly at night and in the shade, and during the summer months it is rainy. In the sun it can get very warm/hot because of the proximity to the equator and being on a small mountain.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
ISK and Rosslyn Academy. Rosslyn has a very nice campus, a nice close community feel, strong academics and is close to the main housing compound (you walk through a gate between them) and has AP for high school. I don't have experience with ISK, but the campus is lovely and I have heard great things.
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?
A lot at the schools and the Embassy tries to organize baseball and dodgeball periodically.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Very large and very good morale for the most part. A few people are not happy, but they probably wouldn't be anywhere.
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?
Going out to dinner, movie theaters, dinner parties, softball, football (soccer), hangout at the embassy pool/restaurant/bar, hiking/biking in Karura Forest right by the Embassy
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for all, plenty for everyone to do.
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?
I haven't experienced anything personally, Kenya is predominately Christian, but I haven't observed any open hostility towards other religions.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Getting out of the city regularly to experience wildlife, we're never bored!
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Great food choices, textile crafts are beautiful and unique, beads. There are very easy day trips or weekend trips to experience--elephant orphanage, Nairobi National Park, Lake Naivasha, Hells Gate, Sanctuary Farm. Karen is a great area for exploring shops and restaurants. All the Kenyan National Parks are amazing and the amount and variety of wildlife is once in a lifetime, but you can see it whenever you want if you live here.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
textiles, wood crafts, beads
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Very modern city, great weather, can find anything you want here (if you are willing to pay for it). Safaris and self-camping opportunities exist and the diversity of flora and fauna are amazing.
10. Can you save money?
If you don't do a lot of the higher-end safaris or eat out all the time
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That it got chilly at times and there is no heating in the houses, especially coming from a very hot South Asian country where I got used to very hot weather.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
In a heart beat!!!!
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Sense of adventure
4. But don't forget your:
Camping gear, bikes, sunscreen, bugspray