Nairobi is a big city - with a very overdated road system.
It just can't hold the many cars - especially during rush hour in the morning (from 6 to 9?) and in the evening (from 5 to 8).
How bad that is you can see from that: To get from our hotel to the restaurant for our dinner (Hotel: Jakaranda, Restaurant: Carnivores) which is about 10km, we had to start at about 4.30 p.m. to get there for 6 p.m. ...
Just to be sure.
We were faster than expected - it took us only 1 hour.
If you can: Avoid Nairobi at rush hour.
If you can't: take a lot of patience with you.
Kibera, also called Kibich in Nairobi is the largest slum area in Kenya. 800000 people lives here. It is better than its reputation, but tourists should be careful to go inside the slum without a guide. Buses and matatus goes from downtown to Kibera many times an hour. A music bar called Big Five, located in the area of Forth Jesus on the outskirt of Kibera, is famous for playing Luo songs. The train from Nairobi to Kisumi goes through Kibera, a picturesque sight.
My guide, Pete Obiero, is a skilful guide in Kibera. He is also a swahili and Luo teacher if you like to learn the local language. Call him.
What you need to know is this, street smugglers in foreign currency do not exist in Kenya. If anybody, out on the street, will offer help regarding changing money do not trust him/her at all! Never showing up with the money, never showing in front of the locals how much of cash money you have in your pocket!
If walking alone in the streets during dark, even if streets in the city center, a car might stop and the girl from inside could offer a ride, suggestive saying that walking alone is very risky for a whites. It happened to me so many times but I was warned by my good local friends never to accept such a ride. When she got you in the car the girl will change the story and start seduction, offering drink in a nice quiet place. Relaxed atmosphere in a pub, good music and a pretty girl in your company will make you to become careless. She will grab a good opportunity to put intoxicating agent in your drink.
And when you wake up, somewhere out there on the street, you will find out that all your money is missing, along with cell phone, watch, credit cards etc. In case you report the theft to police, you run a risk that the rugged cops make fun of you.
Such an victim should blame himself only!
Comparing it with last 2006 year, Nairobi has changed. There are couple of new buildings in a city centre, more and better cars around especially 4x4 types, but most dramatic change happened regarding smoking. Nairobi city council decided to make it non smoking area. Those who smoke, and Im one of them, have to be very careful because there are only three smoking zones inside the town and couple of bars and restaurants where smoking is allowed. The smoking zone in Jeevanjee Park is probably the most convinient.
If cought in action, one can be fined 2000 ksh and put in a city jail!
I have just returned from my 6th trip to Kenya - all went brilliantly except for this one. On our second day of our 5 week holiday we were mugged. As normal we made sure we weren't being flashy and just kept a minimum of cash on us when we were walking through the streets.
On our way back to our residence we got stuck in the traffic (nothing new) and two men started circling our car. I presumed they were trying to sell something and just ignored them. Suddenly they started trying the car doors but they were all locked. My husband started screaming in Kiswahili and they seemed to have gone away. Two minutes later a brick is smashed through the back window and my bag was stolen. It was obviously an opportunistic approach as the car windows were blacked out.
Luckily the plain clothed officers saw this, caught them and I got my bag back with everything in it.
Anyway, my advice is just to be vigilant and don't drop your guard - we did everything right. The police said that as i was a mzungu I am a prime target for such an instance as the robbers think i am guaranteed to have a lot of money on me. Their advice for us if people start to surround our car is to hold down the horn constantly as it will alert other drivers and any police officers close by. It should make them run away also.
I have so far during my many visits to Nairobi walked in the downtown streets without beeing robbed or harassed. The area around Kenyatta ave and Moi ave are the places you find banks and offices. Normally a security guard sitting on a chair in front of the place, just sitting there to watch over the property. They can in many cases tell you where to go, where to eat and what to do in the night. They are your security and will see if somebody try to harm you in front of their places.
I have heard many stories about robberies and theft. And there are places you should avoid at night. Be careful when you approach the area around River Road.
Areas outside the downtown are not recommended to walk alone at night, and a taxi is recommended for even short trips. Downtown south and downtown west is more safe than downtown north and downtown east.
Some tips: Don't walk around with flashy stuff, cameras or watches on show. Don't flash your cash when paying for a drink. Keep out of dark and deserted streets and alleys. Stay in the main streets where there are people on the move. Don't trust unknown people. Get a local SIM card for your mobil phone and get friends you can trust.
some of the Nairobi streets are unsafe specially when walking at night during late time, take care when visiting Eastleigh, it has been cases of tourists being robbed of their money, above all police may harass you and ask you several questions , they are corrupted and will likely ask you for a bribe , take your identification all the time like a copy of your passport etc
When am reading other people warning or danger tips regarding Nairobi, all am asking myself is; were we visiting the same place?, or, is there more than one Nairobi?
I was reading recently on the net certain so-called "trip advising" sites and all of them look alike. If one follows all given advices and suggestions regarding "safety" in Africa, wouldn't dare to leave even own home! But the worst is that most of given warnings has been cut and paste from there to the pages of our fellow members on VT!!!
Come on guys, let us write our own experiences here, what we saw with our own eyes only. If one taxi driver, weiter or local travel agent have betraying us, it happened cuz we were too arrogant or too stupid to check the prices in advance! Suppose one is first time visiting my hometown of Zagreb, taxi driver will ask him/her 30 to 50 euros for a ride from the airport to town centre. Those who were here before know well that such a ride cannot cost more than 10 euros!
Fact is, and we all know it, dishonest people excisting everywhere in the world but one single bad experience shouldn't and musn't make a general rule!
Kenya straddles the equator, where (notwithstanding holes in the ozone layer) the sun is usually at its strongest. Furthermore, much of the country - including Nairobi - is located at relatively high altitude, where there is less filtration of harmful UV rays by the atmosphere.
First prize is to cover up exposed skin, wear a hat and sun glasses. Make sure that you apply lashings of sunscreen on the bits that are still exposed: I tend to use Factor 50 as I have a very fair Celtic skin, so tanning isn’t really an option for me. As you will probably also be sweating profusely in the heat, it makes sense to select a water resistant sunscreen that won’t be washed off if/when you sweat.
One last tip: make sure to wipe the excess sunscreen from your eyebrows after applying your sunscreen, as having sweat-mobilised sunscreen drip into your eyes is excruciatingly painful!
I was strongly adviced to avoid the downtown area of Nairobi, especially its part called Tea Room. My local friends told me it is not safe area, even for them, no matter if day or night time. Since I hate restrictions, of any kind, have decided to take a risk and go there.
Tea Room starts right behind the National Archive building, from the square where the biggest bus stop for outskirt areas is situated. I went down there, deep into the Tea Room, but was very careful observing guys around me who were all but friendly. I wasn't scared but very attentive and ready for eventually inconviniences I could meet. My experience learned me to watch that guys straight into their eyes showing no fear. They could see that I know very well who they are and that makes them confused and in a way insecure. I could hear certain comments after me but that was all.
Fact is, I had my very expensive camera around the neck although I was in the middle of area which is controlled by the mungikis (local bandits). Everobody was staring at my camera but nobody dared to do anything. On my way out of the area two guys have stop me and ask if I am a soldier, but I said no. They said I was marching through their territory in a very arrogant way, nad thats why they paid me respect.
Several other VT writers have noted that Kenyans are very religious people –and having now re-experienced Nairobi traffic after a gap of seven years, I can quite see why! For fear of being sacriligious, only people who have an absolute faith that there is a divine presence protecting them against their own stupidity (and that of other road users) would make some of the driving manoeuvres that are considered normal. In fact I would go so far as to say that the most dangerous thing you can do in Nairobi is to drive cautiously!
I have little doubt that much of the atrocious driving is provoked by frustration at Nairobi's paralysing traffic congestion as the road system is hopelessly underdesigned for the current volumes of traffic. 'Traffic calming' is achieved primarily by a series of roundabouts which are frankly useless once traffic significantly exceeds the design capacity, since the roundabout principle assumes that the traffic has somewhere to go once it exits. Nairobi in rush hour is proof positive that this simply doesn’t work given current traffic volumes and the congestion cascades back up through the system (sometimes as far back as the airport). For example, on a Thursday afternoon (depressingly, BEFORE the main 'peak hour' traffic) it took me 90 minutes to get from the airport to my hotel in Upper Hill, a distance of less than 10km. It is may also be disconcerting for more sensitive travellers to realise that many of the trees along the route into town are roosts for maribous storks - prehistoric looking creatures which live on carrion: perhaps the carcasses of timid commuters who've never managed to progress in the traffic? (see photo).
Things were apparently particularly bad when we visited, as it was the end of the month. We were told that over pay weekend, people can afford to put some petrol in their tank, and so the already overcrowded roads suffer an influx of yet more traffic.
So, what is my No.1 tip for surviving Nairobi traffic? Simple - make sure you visit the toilet before you set out, as it could be hours until you get the opportunity again!
On a more serious note, this congestion becomes an important consideration when you're planning travel times from - and particularly to - the airport to connect with flights. This may also influence your choice of hotel, especially if you're only staying overnight in transit, although be warned that there is only one major hotel near the airport - the Serena - and their tariffs confirm that they have not been shy to capitalise on this competitive advantage!
Many visitors don't realise until they arrive that Nairobi is located at an altitude of about 1,680m. This can initially present a challenge for those who usually live at sea level, as their bodies need to adjust to lower oxygen concentrations, although this should only take a couple of days. However, those with compromised lung function (such as asthmatics and those with emphysema) should take this into account and make sure that they seek their doctor's advice before they commit to travelling and (even if they are given a clean bill of health) travel with the necessary medication to counteract any possible side effects.
One further potential complicating factor is Nairobi's poor air quality. Smoke from wood burning in the shanty towns combines with the effects of terrible traffic congestion whose emissions have compromised the air quality along the major roads. If you're stuck in traffic on a hot afternoon, you might feel as though you're inhaling directly from the exhaust of the truck in front, so again, people with compromised lung function need to make sure that they have their medication to hand in case they react badly.
I just came back from a 5-day trip to Kenya, which included a 4-day safari and 1-day tour of Nairobi. The safari was great! The final 24 hours of my trip? Not so much. Like most of you, I am a seasoned traveler, so I make sure that I dot all of my I’s and cross all of my t’s before any trip, especially because I am a solo female traveler. Of course, I overlook some things from time to time, but I own my mistakes and the tour operators that I have worked with over the years have done the same. Cuz after all, we’re all adults, right?!
On this particular trip, I printed out all of the pertinent information that I would need so that I would be able to review what was planned and would also be able to identify any discrepancies in that plan. You can see where this is going…On the penultimate day of my trip in Kenya, which also happened to be my birthday, I returned to Nairobi from my safari and discovered that there was an apparent discrepancy/misunderstanding/miscommunication/etc. about what had been agreed upon before my arrival with regard to where I was going to be staying that night. While trying to sort this out with J. N. Njoroge, the man with whom I had been corresponding and collaborating about this trip from Day One through Wago Wago Car Rental and Safaris (a.k.a Wago Wago Safaris and Car Rental), he insisted that I did not ask him to book a hotel for my final night in Nairobi. Of course, this was the one piece of information that I had neglected to print out and bring with me, so I just decided to suck it up, salvage what was left of my b-day, and spring for a hotel on my own dime, primarily because I did not have conclusive proof to refute his claim…
The next day (my last day in Nairobi/Kenya), the driver came to pick me up for my city tour and HE asked ME where I was supposed to go!?! I referred to the itinerary that I had brought with me, told him what I wanted to do, and even eliminated one of the places because I had seen enough giraffes in the Masai Mara and was okay with not going to the Giraffe Center. So, the day was going along fine, and then when the tour was essentially over, I asked (again, cuz I had already asked in the morning and the driver said he’d have to check) how I was getting to the airport , and it finally occurred to the driver at that point to call Mr. Njoroge. He did and Mr. Njoroge proceeded to insist that I had not paid for transport back to the airport. Well, I had the print-out of that email in my hands (cuz in my past experiences, the one thing that tends to fall through the cracks is that pesky airport transportation!) and read it to him, but more importantly, why would I pay for transport FROM the airport (which was not a problem upon my arrival) and not back TO the airport?? Anyway, the long and short of it is that as I tried to explain to him that I had the email print-out that not only said that transfers were included, but also said that I was supposed to have had lunch at the Carnivore Restaurant (which didn’t happen, which disappointed me because I was looking forward to that), though that was a slightly-minor detail. As I was trying to explain all of this to him (in a calm, rational voice, cuz, as I mentioned above, we’re both adults, presumably…), he rudely barked, “don’t waste my time!”…and then he hung up on me…
I subsequently bought a phone card to try to call him back on the driver’s phone (so I wouldn’t have to use the driver’s minutes) and Mr. Njoroge refused to answer the phone. He called the driver back a few minutes later, refused to talk to me (even though the driver said he tried to encourage him to do so), and said that I would have to pay 1500 Kenyan Shillings (approx. $20USD) to be transported to the airport…well, the minute he told me not to waste his time and hung up on me, I decided that I was no longer his client, because that was completely unprofessional and I was not paying for verbal abuse. And I definitely was not giving him anymore of my money, so I had the driver take me back to town and I got a taxi to the airport for about the same amount.
Thankfully, the first 4 days of my trip went well and I enjoyed the planned activities that actually happened according to plan. But I should have known that something would go wrong, especially when Mr. Njoroge emailed me shortly after I sent him my deposit for my trip and asked if I would buy him a hat from a website (he sent me the link and his hat size) and send it to him and he would reimburse me. I don’t know this man, and even if I did, that is a highly unprofessional request for a complete stranger who is in a BUSINESS to request of his client! And while I stalled him about whether or not I could purchase the hat before my trip to Kenya, I obviously didn’t buy it for him. I never had any intention of doing so, but didn’t want my saying that I wasn’t going to buy it to affect my trip in any way. So I can’t help but wonder if this behavior towards me was in retaliation of my decision not to buy him the hat…if so, that’s reflective of the juvenile behavior that he displayed on that last day of my trip!
Anyway, I would highly encourage you to NOT use J.N. Njoroge's services and, by extension, Wago Wago tours, which provides tours throughout East Africa! I have included the website and email address below so you know exactly who to avoid!
Thanks for your time!
The Lake Victoria is the malaria capital of the world.
You might not have known that but it is true. Here the weather conditions are really difficult. It is hot and steamy, just the perfect conditions for the deadly anopheles mosquito, the carrier of malaria.
Of course this does not mean that people should avoid coming here.
On the contrary come, but take precautions. Don’t forget your medication
Because Malaria is probably Africa’s number one disease you have to take medial advice before going.
We stayed with locals in Nairobi and visited an orphanage in Kitengela most of the time, and pills were not needed because there were no mosquitoes in this area.
It is prohibited if you are out in the countryside especially near the Victoria lake.
Carry with you a mosquito repellent for any case.