Nairobi, Kenya Report of what it's like to live there - 09/06/11
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?
No, I previously lived in Aarhus, Denmark.
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?
Washington DC, two flights and we went through Amsterdam.
3. How long have you lived here?
2 years from 2009-2011
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We lived in an excellent compound with an excellent school right next door.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
All groceries are available, mostly of European origin with some American brands and, of course, the local brands. Prices are high, Nairobi is not cheap living.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More paper goods (toilet paper, paper towels) and laundry detergent. American toilet paper is the best.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Little fast food is available but there are plenty of good restaurants. They aren't cheap though. Be prepared for San Francisco prices.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We had numerous ant invasions but our geckos took care of anything larger.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is easily available and quite affordable. However, be aware of thievery, remember you are fabulously wealthy compared to most Kenyans.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
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?
I used credit cards for eating out and shopping at the grocery store without any problems.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
We had several Catholic churches available.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Several and inexpensive.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Few accommodations are made for the disabled. However, household help is easily available and inexpensive.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are safe and relatively affordable. Matatus are not safe and even more affordable. I would choose the safe option.
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?
I brought a 4WD for safari driving and you will really use it.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes but can be pricey and not always high speed.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Safaricom is probably your best bet (80% of the market).
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Good vets are available.
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?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Nairobi is a dangerous city and one must be careful. Traveling outside of Nairobi was generally safe and enjoyable.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
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?
Air quality is not that great because the local gardeners are always burning their cuttings. Some days could be really bad.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Weather is perfect. Never too hot or cold, as the baby bear would say - just right.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Rosslyn Academy was warm, welcoming, and quite excellent. My three children enjoyed their experience there and were very sad to leave. My experience with ISK was less flattering as they did not seem particularly accommodating (a 15 minute examination of my children with a decision to hold them back a year - all because their appropriate classes were too full).
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?
My youngest attended the Montessori Plus school. She enjoyed her experience and her teacher seemed genuinely interested in her development.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
The schools offer sports programs.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
lots of expats. lots of missions. lots of NGO's. big UN presence.
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It can be a bit confining for families as you can't wander the streets and are restricted to malls and compounds. However, the schools are excellent.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not really, unless Kenya blows up again like 2008. If that happens, the next time could be really bad.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Visiting Masai Mara, spending time in Lamu.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The amazing safari opportunities are probably the highlight of living in Kenya. Also, the warm water beaches of the Indian Ocean are another special highlight.
11. Can you save money?
Not really - at least not much.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
patience, as getting things done takes longer but always works out in the end.