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  • Writer's pictureTravel Guide

Prepare for your travel to Nairobi with these must-know tricks for an epic journey

Updated: Mar 6

Welcome to Nairobi, Kenya's vibrant capital and East Africa's economic hub. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, a culture buff, or an adventure seeker, Nairobi has something special in store for you. In this comprehensive guide, we'll equip you with 20 essential tips and tricks to ensure your travel to Nairobi is as smooth as it is unforgettable. From navigating local customs to exploring the city's iconic landscapes and wildlife, get ready to immerse yourself in the heart of Kenya.


Content

  1. Entry Requirements

  2. Currency Exchange

  3. Vaccinations

  4. Local Languages

  5. Transportation Options

  6. Traffic Awareness

  7. Safety Precautions

  8. Dress Respectfully

  9. Accommodation

  10. Local Cuisine

  11. Hydration

  12. Vaccination Records

  13. Malaria Prevention

  14. Local Customs

  15. Wildfire Safaris

  16. Souvenirs Shopping

  17. Internet Connectivity

  18. Sun Protection

  19. Be Wary of Scams

  20. Heath Facilities


1. Entry Requirements

Before setting off on your Nairobi-bound adventure, it's paramount to meticulously address the essential entry prerequisites. This encompasses the acquisition of the mandated visas promptly, meticulous confirmation that your passport maintains a validity of no less than six months beyond your anticipated departure date, and thorough verification of precise visa and entry prerequisites contingent upon your nationality and the purpose underlying your visit. By assiduously tending to these formalities, you'll be well-prepared for a seamless and pleasurable sojourn in Nairobi.


2. Currency Exchange

Upon arriving in Nairobi, it's a wise move to exchange your money or use the readily available ATMs to acquire Kenyan Shillings (KES). This local currency will be essential for various transactions during your stay. While credit cards are widely accepted in Nairobi, particularly in major establishments, having some cash on hand is prudent, as not all places may offer card payment facilities. This will ensure you're well-prepared for the varying financial needs you might encounter during your time in the city.


3. Vaccinations

Your health and safety are paramount when traveling to Nairobi. To safeguard your well-being, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider well in advance of your journey to receive guidance on the recommended vaccinations and health precautions needed for your visit. Depending on your travel history and individual health status, your healthcare provider can provide valuable insights on vaccinations against diseases such as yellow fever, typhoid, and hepatitis. Taking this proactive step will help ensure you have a healthy and enjoyable experience during your time in Nairobi.


4. Local Languages

Nairobi, as a diverse and culturally rich city, offers a blend of languages, with English and Swahili being the most commonly spoken. While you can often communicate effectively in English, learning some basic Swahili phrases is a great way to show respect for the local culture and enhance your interactions. Kenyans generally appreciate the effort when visitors try to converse in Swahili, and it can make your stay more enjoyable and immersive.


Swahili in dictionary

5. Transportation Options

Navigating Nairobi's urban landscape is facilitated by an array of accessible transportation choices. Among these, matatus, resembling minibus-style vehicles, emerge as a cost-effective and favored means of conveyance. Alternatively, taxis and ride-sharing services stand as convenient and abundant options for seamless mobility. Acquainting yourself with this spectrum of choices ensures your adept navigation through the city, be it for your forthcoming exploration of local attractions, an evening of entertainment, or a visit to one of Nairobi's illustrious markets.


6. Traffic Awareness

Nairobi, like many major cities, contends with heavy traffic, particularly during peak hours. It's essential to plan your travels with these considerations in mind to avoid unnecessary delays. By adjusting your schedule or using alternative routes during rush hours, you can ensure your experiences in the city are smooth and punctual. Staying aware of Nairobi's traffic patterns will help you make the most of your time and minimize the time spent in transit.


7. Safety Precautions

Nairobi, the vibrant capital of Kenya, is known for its generally safe environment, but like in any urban destination, it's wise to exercise basic safety precautions. While petty crimes can occur in crowded areas, staying alert and keeping a close eye on your belongings can significantly reduce the risk. These measures are especially relevant when venturing out at night. By maintaining situational awareness, you can confidently explore the city and enjoy its various attractions without undue concern.


8. Dress Respectfully

Embracing the local customs and respecting traditions is an essential aspect of responsible travel. In Nairobi, as in many other places, it's considerate to dress modestly when visiting religious sites, conservative areas, or rural communities. This simple act of cultural respect can enhance your travel experience and foster positive interactions with the local population. So, when packing your attire for the journey, it's advisable to include clothing items that cover your shoulders and knees as a gesture of reverence.


Rural area in Nairobi

9. Accommodation

Nairobi caters to a diverse range of travelers, offering a variety of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets. Whether you seek the indulgence of luxury hotels or the camaraderie of budget-friendly hostels, the city has you covered. However, especially during the peak tourist seasons, it's advisable to book your accommodation in advance to secure your desired stay. Nairobi's popularity as a travel destination has made pre-booking a smart approach to ensure a comfortable and memorable visit.


10. Local Cuisine

One of the highlights of any trip to Nairobi is undoubtedly the opportunity to savor authentic Kenyan cuisine. In local eateries and street food stalls, you'll find a delectable array of dishes waiting to tempt your taste buds. From nyama choma, succulent grilled meat that's a national favorite, to sukuma wiki, a delectable dish of collard greens, and the staple food ugali, a maize porridge that pairs well with various accompaniments. Eating locally not only delights your palate but also immerses you in the vibrant culinary culture of Kenya.


11. Hydration

Nairobi's unique combination of high altitude and abundant sunshine gives the city a climate worth preparing for. The altitude can enhance the sun's intensity, making dehydration a potential concern. To stay at your best during your explorations, it's advisable to carry a reusable water bottle with you. Access to clean drinking water in Nairobi is readily available, and staying hydrated will ensure you're ready for whatever adventures the city holds.


12. Vaccination Records

Kenya, like many travel destinations, may require you to present vaccination records for specific activities or when visiting national parks. It's a prudent practice to keep copies of your vaccination records handy, ensuring you're prepared for any requirements that may arise during your journey. Whether you're planning wildlife safaris or venturing into remote areas, having your vaccination records at your disposal will help streamline your travel experience and ensure you can make the most of your time in Nairobi.


Person getting vaccinated

13. Malaria Prevention

Nairobi, like many parts of East Africa, is located in a malaria-prone region. To protect your health while visiting, it's highly advisable to take precautions against malaria. This includes consulting with a healthcare provider before your trip to discuss anti-malarial medication. While in Nairobi, consistently use mosquito repellent, especially during evening hours when mosquitos are most active. It's also a wise practice to sleep under mosquito bed nets, which are commonly provided in many accommodations. By being proactive about malaria prevention, you can relish your Nairobi experience without unnecessary health concerns.


14. Local Customs

Immerse yourself fully in the Kenyan culture by being respectful of local customs and traditions. One simple yet effective way to do this is by greeting people with a warm "Jambo" (hello), which is not only appreciated but showcases your respect for the local ways. When interacting with locals or in rural areas, it's courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of individuals. This respect for their personal space and privacy fosters positive connections and ensures you leave a favorable impression during your stay in Nairobi.


15. Wildlife Safaris

One of the standout attractions near Nairobi is the opportunity to embark on exhilarating wildlife safaris in nearby national parks and reserves. If you plan to partake in these memorable adventures, it's crucial to do your homework. Research reputable tour operators in advance, considering factors such as their experience, the quality of their guides, and reviews from fellow travelers. This meticulous preparation will not only ensure the safety and enjoyment of your safari but also help you make the most of your Nairobi visit.


16. Souvenir Shopping

Nairobi offers a treasure trove of handmade crafts and unique souvenirs that can make your visit all the more memorable. When you venture into local markets, you'll find a rich tapestry of items, from intricate beadwork to traditional Maasai handicrafts. One thing to keep in mind is that haggling is a common and expected practice in these markets. Bargaining can be an enjoyable cultural experience and an opportunity to secure a better deal, so don't be shy to negotiate prices. By engaging in this friendly exchange, you not only get a chance to bring home authentic Kenyan keepsakes but also contribute to the local economy.


Souvenirs at a market in Nairobi

17. Internet Connectivity

Staying connected while exploring Nairobi is quite convenient. The city boasts good Wi-Fi coverage in many cafes, hotels, and public spaces. Additionally, mobile data services are widely accessible, offering reliable connectivity. To maximize your online accessibility and stay in touch with friends and family or navigate the city with ease, consider purchasing a local SIM card. Local providers offer a range of data plans to suit your needs, ensuring you're never far from a reliable internet connection while enjoying your Nairobi adventures.


18. Sun Protection

Nairobi's unique geographical position at a relatively high altitude means the sun's UV rays can be surprisingly strong. While the weather might be mild and pleasant, it's essential to protect your skin from sunburn. A sunburn can not only be uncomfortable but can also put a damper on your explorations. Be sure to apply sunscreen with a high SPF rating, wear sunglasses to shield your eyes, and consider donning a wide-brimmed hat to keep cool and comfortable. These simple precautions will ensure you can make the most of Nairobi's outdoor attractions without unnecessary sun-related concerns.


19. Be Wary of Scams

Just like in any bustling city, it's crucial to remain vigilant against potential scams when visiting Nairobi. Avoid engaging with street touts or accepting unsolicited offers, as these can sometimes lead to fraudulent schemes. While exploring markets or making purchases, it's a good practice to research typical prices for goods and services, and don't hesitate to negotiate when shopping in local markets. Bargaining is a customary practice and can often lead to fair deals while giving you a glimpse into the local culture. By being cautious and informed, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to Nairobi.


20. Health Facilities

Your health and well-being should always be a top priority during your travels. Familiarize yourself with the locations of the nearest hospitals or clinics in Nairobi in case of unexpected medical emergencies. Being prepared ensures that you have a plan in place should you require medical assistance. While Nairobi has a range of medical facilities, knowing their locations can save you valuable time in critical situations. It's also advisable to have any necessary health insurance or documentation readily available, making your visit to Nairobi as smooth and worry-free as possible.


Front sign of a hospital

Conclusion

As you bid farewell to Nairobi, you'll carry with you the memories of its lush landscapes, bustling markets, and warm hospitality. Whether you explored the city's rich culture, delved into its wildlife wonders, or simply savored its unique cuisine, Nairobi's spirit will stay with you. Remember, this vibrant city is always ready to welcome you back, offering new adventures and discoveries with each visit. Until then, kwaheri (goodbye), and safe travels!

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