What You Need To Know
Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. It is famous for having the Nairobi National Park, the world’s only game reserve found within a major city. The city and its surrounding area also form Nairobi County, whose current governor is Evans Kidero.
The name “Nairobi” comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to “cool water”. The phrase is also the Maasai name of the Nairobi River, which in turn lent its name to the city. However, it is popularly known as the “Green City in the Sun”, and is surrounded by several expanding villa suburbs.
Area: 268.7 mi²
Population: 3.138 million (2009)
The Kenyan Shilling is the currency of Kenya. Our currency rankings show that the most popular Kenya Shilling exchange rate is the USD to KES rate. The currency code for Shillings is KES, and the currency symbol is KSh.
The Kenyan Shilling is the currency. The currency code for Shillings is KES, and the currency symbol is KSh.
Nairobi has a subtropical highland climate (Cfb/Cwb). At 1,795 metres (5,889 ft) above sea level, evenings may be cool, especially in the June/July season, when the temperature can drop to 9 °C (48 °F). The sunniest and warmest part of the year is from December to March, when temperatures average the mid-twenties during the day. The mean maximum temperature for this period is 24 °C (75 °F).
Swahili’s flexibility is also evident in a new urban “language” that is spoken in Kenya’s cities, especially in Nairobi. Swahili, English, and other ethnic languages are combined into a new language called Sheng.
By Taxi: Due to the danger of hiring taxis off the street and the high prices of corporate taxis, most taxis users in Nairobi develop long-term relationships with a few trusted taxi drivers who are based around their home and office. They’ll call them for everything and if he’s not available, he’ll send one of his trusted colleagues serve them. The challenge is what to do if you don’t have a trusted taxi or know who to ask. Taxis are not very cheap, but will make city life easier and safer, at least at night. Always set and agree on prices before the trip, and pay afterwards. You can find taxis parked around hotels and tourist areas though they’ll often charge exorbitant prices. The taxis tend to be marked with a yellow line on each side. You can also hire a taxi for the full day if you are making multiple stops either for business or tourism.
By bus (matatu): A matatu (public minibuses/commuter buses) is typically used for traveling between downtown Nairobi and the suburbs. Matatus vary in size, between the van sized 14 seat Matatus and the larger 50-seat buses. While generally safe, you should be aware that matatus are involved in a high number of accidents every year. Matatus are often overcrowded, with more people than seatbelts and therefore can be dangerous if involved in accidents. Because there are no licensing requirements, matatus are often poorly driven, with drivers passing on curbs, speeding, or passing in oncoming lanes while cars are oncoming. On each bus is a conductor who will hang out of the matatu and call out a price and location the matatu is driving.
By foot: Walking around Nairobi is fairly easy since the city is small and places are easy to get to. However, there are some areas within the city where tourists should not go; minimise walking around at night. Thugs are rampant in many areas.
- Nairobi has a reputation for thievery. Beware of snatch and grab, con artists, or groups of people following you. Scams are elaborate and can involve up to 10 or more people working together. The best advice for a tourist is to stay in the city centre, know where you are at all times, and pretend you know where you’re going (even if you don’t).
- If you find yourself in an unfamiliar area your best bet is to find a taxi. Kenyans are proud people and there is not a lot of begging like you find in some other countries. Some opportunistic people will hang around shopping centres and beg, but they will generally accept a simple ‘sorry’ and leave you alone if you do not give. Many of these ‘beggars’ are middle class kids or adults who have realised they can profit from exploiting foreigners, and should not be encouraged.
- If you are in a matatu and moving slowly through traffic, particularly after dark, you should keep your window closed if your valuables are in reach to prevent people snatching them from the outside (there are thieves who walk through traffic looking for such opportunities). Mobile phones and wallets should be securely kept and not displayed prominently during calls or cash transactions in the River Road area, particularly after dark.