Nairobi, Kenya Report of what it's like to live there - 06/02/08
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. Mexico City, Aman, Tusla, Madrid
2. How long have you lived here?
3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
24 hours including time zone shifts (2x 9 hour legs plus lots of sitting for transfers).
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
I am assigned to the Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
The housing is a mix of stand-alone homes and compounds. All are very nice. Commute depends on the location of your housing. Traffic is always bad. Keep your road rage at home, everyone drives like an idiot. They can't help it, driving is a competitive sport here.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are expensive but you can get pretty much anything you want though it'll be a European brand probably. Everything is expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Quality furniture is hard to find. Get a Webber grill and bring it. Charcoal is plentiful and cheap for grilling.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Restaurants are very expensive. If you like wine, buy it at the diplomatic store and find restaurants with corkage charges. An average price for what would be a US$10 bottle of wine in the states, goes for US$50 in a restaurant. There is every type of food imaginable, but if you want quality you pay. Average dinner for two with wine and desert is over US$100.No wine but steaks or something nice will easily cost you US$50-70. You want a sandwich for lunch?? Average lunch cost is about US$15 per person.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Good luck. Everything gets stolen. Corruption in all service providers is prevalent. Use DHL if you can but even then, good luck.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheap. Prices vary and inflation from those expats who pay too much affect you but US$100-$150/month for a live in who'll work six days a week is common.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Some places take credit cards. Credit card fraud is lower now than a few years ago but it happens. Use cash. ATMs are everywhere but go down due to network and communications issues. Don't carry plastic with you because when you get caught up in a robbery etc. they'll want to take you to ATMs to empty your accounts. Carry enough cash for your daily errands/events. Never more.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
All denominations are here and in English.
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
The newspapers here are a joke. They're in English but the reporters make up facts and stories go on and on without saying anything. Real news from the internet is the best way.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Tons. Kenya is not easy to deal with normally let alone with a disability.
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
Drive on the left and you must have a right hand drive car. No exceptions. Cars are expensive. Old cars with high milage sell for more than you would think.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Affordable, yes, dangerous definately. Public transportation is a mess.
3. 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?
4x4, high clearance, good shocks to handle poor roads. Get a diesel with a turbo charger to get up hills and pass slow moving cargo trucks. Get an alarm, tint your windows and get an extra wheel if you like to do road trips. Parts etc. for the major brands, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Range Rover, Suzuki, Suburu are all available. Mechanics are cheap and plentyful. Good tires are expensive but tirerack.com and others ship to APO. Roads are dangerous and in poor repair. Lighting is non-existant. Driving is competitive and aggressive. Carjackings happen all of the time.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It's here but it costs anywhere from US$100-$250 depending if you go wireless etc.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Safaricom or Celltel. Buy an unlocked phone from Europe or Asia. Phones here are a bit expensive but they are unlocked. You can get the coolest most modern phone you've ever seen here but it'll cost. If you bring one, be sure it's unlocked. International phones from the states cost about $4/min for roaming. Use a local provider. They have broadband for laptops etc. too.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
Internet or mobil. The rates to use your mobile to call the states is about US$0.33/min. Not too bad.
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Tons and tons.
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?
It's hard to get a visa to work but if you get with a good NGO, the UN or the Embassy they can get you a visa. You want to do it on your own? Then be ready to pay bribes, large ones.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Work is business attire. You can wear business casual but the Kenyans wear business attire.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Moderate. When it rains the pollen comes out. Lots of agricultural fires and tons of diesel exhaust from cars/trucks.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Tons. Crime is insane. Had a couple of murders and shootings of Embassy personnel, both American and locals.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Better than in most parts of the third world. Aga Khan has sponsored many hospitals and most services are here. Do get Medivac insurance incase you're in the bush etc. Cost about US$100 bucks for a year. There are many service providers based at Wilson Airport in Nairobi.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Nairobi is beautiful. The coast and out west are hot as hades. Some people like that, others don't.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are several and they are very good.
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?
Yes plus nanny help is cheap.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
Very good. Folks here that stay, love it.
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?
Tons. Clubs, bars etc.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes - for families it's great. Singles, well for males you can find someone for the night but longterm will be hard. Everyone is after something due to economics. For single women it is very difficult. Couples, you can have fun but if you like to go out, girlfriends need to understand the women here will come up to you and your man with no concern about your relationship's status and try to get your man.
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?
This country is one of the most racist I've ever seen. During the post election violence women and children were murdered, set on fire etc. just because there were from a different tribe. Despite what the government says, it's all about tribes. Indian/Pakistani/Asians have a hard time here.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Safaris, the beaches on the coast, Lake Victoria, camping, movies, shopping, family events, rugby tournaments, rally racing, horse racing, horse riding, flying, sky diving, limited hunting of birds, rafting, day trips of all kinds, hiking. You can stay quite busy if you have that type of adventurous mindset.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Tons of African carvings etc.
9. Can you save money?
No way. This place is as expensive as Europe. Hard to believe. If you want to live in a tin shack and eat off the street, you may save money but you'll spend it in the hospital or give it up when you're robbed.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Sure. It's a great place to live for a little bit. It's easy to see why people come and stay but the government doesn't care about it's people only their own pocket books and the politicians always have their hands out from the international community.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Attitude about how messed up the country is. They know, complain about it but do nothing about it and get insulted if you mention it.
3. But don't forget your:
Sense of humor, and adventure. Got to have it to stay sane.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Everyone says Out of Africa or Constant Gardener. Forget about it. That's all fantasy. Come, see it for yourself and make up your own mind.
7. Do you have any other comments?
You'll have fun, just know it's dangerous. Tons of people say nothing has ever happened to me, and then it does. On the other hand don't let it keep you from seeing the country, but if a local says it's dangerous you better listen.