Nairobi travel guide
Nairobi is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kenya and it’s easy to see why. With its vibrant culture, beautiful scenery and friendly people, Nairobi is a great place to explore.
Nairobi, Kenya’s capital is a bustling, multicultural metropolis that is home to some of the most beautiful stretches of wilderness in Africa. It is also home to some of the city’s grittiest neighborhoods as well as modern skyscrapers and shopping malls.
The city was founded by the British in 1899 and from its beginning it drew its name from the nearby cool water hole called Enkare Nyrobi.
Today, Nairobi is a thriving metropolis with a rich history and a cosmopolitan culture that blends seamlessly with its gritty urban slums. The gateway to some of Africa’s most beautiful wildlife reserves, Nairobi never lacks tourists, who come to see everything from the Masai Mara in the west to beaches like Lamu and Malindi in the east.
Despite its many attractions, Nairobi has a few things working against it when it comes to being a top travel destination. First and foremost is the city’s crime rate, which is high by global standards. Violent crime, including robbery and assault, is common, and travelers should exercise caution at all times. Another issue is infrastructure: Nairobi is one of the most congested cities in the world, making it difficult to get around on foot or by public transport.
Things to do and see in Nairobi, Kenya
Our Nairobi city guide has all the info you will need in this bustling city where you’ll have countless opportunities to see wildlife in its natural habitat. Nairobi National Park is only a short drive away and offers a chance to witness some of Kenya’s most iconic creatures, like black and white rhinos. You can also explore the park’s lush forests and savannahs, and spot lions, leopards, buffalos, giraffes and more. From shopping at local markets, to sampling international cuisine, there’s much to enjoy in Nairobi – so start planning your adventure today!
The park is home to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Orphans Project, a sanctuary for baby elephants and rhinos that welcomes visitors once a day. If you’re looking to see some of Africa’s most beautiful creatures up close, make sure to visit the Giraffe Centre in Langata. There you’ll be able to learn about their conservation efforts and watch these majestic creatures up close.
The Top 12 Reasons to visit Nairobi
Its Lush Landscape
The Karura Forest Reserve is a beautiful place to visit, with an expansive bamboo forest, waterfalls, and trails. The Mau Mau caves are also a must-see, and provide stunning views of the city.
Safari in the Nairobi City
At the Animal Orphanage, you can get an up-close look at some of the most majestic animals in the world. The zoo has lions and crocodiles roaming free, while monkeys and baboons roam through the park. Plus, there are facilities dedicated to caring for giraffes (the giraffe centre), elephants (the elephant orphanage), and other large animals.
History and culture
The Nairobi National Museum is a great place to learn about Kenya’s history. There are exhibits on traditional culture, art, and crafts, as well as displays on the various tribes that make up Kenya. If you’re interested in performing traditional dances or listening to music from different parts of the country, Bomas of Kenya Limited is a perfect destination for you!
If you’re interested in learning about Kenya’s history and culture, the Nairobi National Museum is a great place to visit. There are exhibits on traditional culture, art, and crafts, as well as displays on the various tribes that make up Kenya. If you’re interested in performing traditional dances or listening to music from different parts of the country, Bomas of Kenya Limited is a perfect destination for you!
At Kitengela Hot Glass, you can turn old wine bottles into beautiful new pieces of art. From goblets to sculptures and jewelry, there are plenty of ways to use these recycled containers. All of the work is done by hand, so each piece is unique. The process starts with selecting a bottle and then cutting it into pieces. Then the individual components are reassembled and shaped into the desired form. Once complete, the glass can be finished in various ways, including painting, etching, and polishing. It’s an enjoyable experience to watch your bottle turn into a beautiful new creation. Plus, you’ll have a one-of-a-kind souvenir to remember your visit to Kitengela Hot Glass.
Delicious food and drink
Nairobi is a city with a diverse and eclectic food culture, which is reflected in the many international flavors that can be found here. With so many delicious options to choose from, you’re sure to find something to your taste in Nairobi. From street food like Viazi Karai (deep fried potatoes,) or chicken stew to fine dining, numerous Asian restaurants and Brazilian steakhouses, there’s sure to be something for everyone. So whether you’re looking for something light and savory or something more substantial and complex, Nairobi has it all.
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to food in Nairobi is that the prices are varying a lot. A meal at a casual restaurant can cost around $10-15, while fine dining can easily exceed $30 per person. However, there are many bargains to be found if you know where to look. For example, street food like Viazi Karai (deep fried potatoes,) or chicken stew can be had for just a few dollars each.
Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park is home to an astonishing array of large mammals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Its dense population of megafauna makes it a must-see for anyone visiting Nairobi, and its location just minutes away from the bustling heart of the city makes it an ideal tourist destination.
The Nairobi migration
The Nairobi National Park is home to a large population of wildebeest and zebra, which migrate from the south in July and August for good grazing. Until the early 20th century, these animals were able to migrate freely through the city of Nairobi and onto Mount Kenya. However, as the city grew, so did the barriers that blocked their path. The fences that now surround the park are a recent addition to protect both the wildlife and humans living within it. The migration has been disrupted by the growing city, but it is still a remarkable phenomenon to witness. Every year, thousands of wildebeest and zebra make their way from the south towards Nairobi National Park. The animals travel up to 100 miles and clamber over fences, roads, and even urban sprawl in search of better grazing and water.
The difficulties faced by the migrating animals have caused serious concern among conservationists. They worry that the migration could eventually become extinct if the barriers to the park are not removed or improved.
In recent years, the government of Kenya has taken steps to ensure the protection of the migratory route. Wildlife corridors have been created throughout the city and protected areas have been established. These efforts have allowed the animals to move more freely through the city and onto Mount Kenya, helping to preserve this unique phenomenon for generations to come.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust offers a unique opportunity to see staff caring for baby elephants and baby rhinos. Visitors can get up close and personal with the animals, which have been orphaned by poachers or lost or abandoned for natural reasons. During the hour-long open house, elephant keepers bring their juvenile charges up to an informal rope barrier where visitors can touch them and take photos.
After many years of trial and error, Sheldrick and her staff have become the world’s experts on taking care of baby African elephants. Sometimes from birth, they use a special milk formula for the youngest infants and assign keepers to individual 24-hour guardianship of their charges – a responsibility that includes sleeping in their stables.
Visit the Ngong Hills
If you’re heading to the Ngong Hills, be sure to stop by Ngong Town first. The town is 8km beyond Karen Shopping Centre, and after the police station on your left, turn right onto the main road. Bulbul is a beautiful Muslim village 4km down the road, and worth a visit if you have time.
The southern Rift Valley
As you travel south from Nairobi down into the hot, sparsely populated southern districts of the Rift Valley, you’ll first visit the prehistoric site at Olorgasailie. From there, it’s on to the dramatic salt lake of Magadi and finally to the Nguruman Escarpment and nature conservancy at Shompole. As you journey down into this beautiful area, the scenery opens out dramatically, with breathtaking views of the Ngong Hills and the escarpment below. If traveling by public transport, make sure to get a seat in front so you can watch giraffes and other animals roam free!
The Magadi Soda Company is an ICI business that operates a company town on a barren spit of land that juts out into the multicoloured soda. The company’s investment here is guaranteed – hot springs gush out of the earth’s crust to provide an inexhaustible supply of briney water for evaporation. The corporation has control over everything you see, apart from the homes of a few Maasai who reside on the shore. They live in a world where they are the only ones who can truly enjoy the scenery.
Olorgasailie Prehistoric Site
The Olorgasailie archaeological site is home to a range of stone tools that were used by early humans. Some of the tools were used for meat cutting, while others were more specialized and may have been used for digging. However, many of the smaller tools at the site seem impractical to use, which suggests they may have been made by young people learning their trade.
Eating in Nairobi
Looking for a unique Kenyan cocktail? Try a Dawa! This blend of vodka, sugar, and lime mixed with a honey-coated stirrer is perfect for refreshment on a hot day. Our guide to the city’s best restaurants will help you explore all the amazing food options Nairobi has to offer. You can sample traditional dishes like ugali (a maize-based dish), sukuma wiki (spinach-based stew), and kuku choma (grilled chicken). If you’re looking for something a little more modern, try one of the many fusion restaurants in the city.
For those who want to take their culinary journey further, there are plenty of cooking classes available in Nairobi. From traditional dishes to contemporary versions, you can learn how to make all your favorite meals at home. With its unique combination of flavors, textures, and spices, Nairobi is sure to have something to tantalize.
Local Kenyan Food
Kenyan chapatis are a popular choice for a quick and tasty meal, and they go great with beans and cabbage or sukuma wiki. Sometimes, you can enjoy roasted meat on the side too.
International Restaurants in Nairobi
There’s no better place in Nairobi for a delicious Indian meal than Diamond Plaza. The shopping center is full of restaurants, and the Indian food court has everything from tandoori chicken to samosas. Whether you’re looking for something light or hearty, Diamond Plaza has it all. So whether you’re craving some chicken tikka masala or chaat masala, be sure to visit Diamond Plaza and enjoy some of the best Indian food in town!
How to dress in Nairobi
While safari clothing and hiking boots are great to wear when on safari or hiking, we don’t recommend wearing them when exploring the city. Instead, we recommend wearing your regular travel clothes and leaving your safari gear in your suitcase. For shoes, you’ll likely be walking a lot so we recommend comfortable walking shoes.
For accessories, we recommend bringing a light jacket if it’s cold outside and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun. If it’s hot, bring a hat and sunscreen. If you want to blend in with the locals and avoid being hassled, it’s important to dress appropriately.
Is Nairobi safe for Tourists?
Many Nairobi travel guides mention that tourists should be alert of the environment around them when visiting Nairobi City, as there is a moderate criminality rate in the area. When walking around, it’s important to keep your smartphone in sight but not held out in your hand. If you need to check it, do so before you set off or when in a safe spot. And always make sure to have important information and photos saved elsewhere if your phone is lost, stolen, or damaged.
When night falls, be especially careful when walking in the city centre. Although the central business district in Nairobi is generally safe, avoid wandering beyond unless you’re well-informed. Some locals avoid walking there at all costs and taxi drivers often hesitate to take passengers beyond it.
When you go out with a group, be cautious of overstyling and choosing outfits that draw too much attention. Try to blend in and take photos inconspicuously. Don’t wear any valuable jewelry or carry a backpack when sitting, since this can make you feel vulnerable. Be confident and know your surroundings, avoiding unsafe areas.
If you’re planning on traveling to Kenya, remember to keep your big DSLR camera locked up in your hotel room along with excess cash, credit cards, and passports. Just carry the amount of money you need when going out during the day, especially at night.
Safari scams in Nairobi
It’s always a good idea to do your research before choosing an agency to work with. You can walk into several tour companies and compare their offerings to be able to learn about the different trips, food options, where you will be sleeping, and how many people could be in your jeep. This will make your trip smoother and less stressful.