Many people traveling to Kenya use Nairobi only as a fly-in hub to get to the national parks or the beaches. Great as they may be, still I think you’re missing something if you don’t spend a few days in Nairobi as well.
It’s a huge cosmopolitan place with a lively cultural scene, great shopping, a lot of good hotels and restaurants, a killer night life, and many sights of interest. Besides, it’s the only city worldwide with a full wildlife resort just outside the city borders.
Tours of Nairobi
You can arrange a tour of Nairobi through most travel agents or tour groups, or even your own hotel can help set you up. Professional tours are usually held in shuttle buses, but there are some places that offer group walking tours of the city too.
Plan to see the National Museum, the Parliament buildings, the Karen Blixen museum, the Watatu art gallery, the Bomas village, the Solar ice rink and Carnivore restaurant.
Walking is possible to many of the sights right in the city center, but you might need to find a cab or a matatu to get farther a field. Taking a matatu, which is a shared shuttle bus, can be an experience in itself.
Nairobi National Park
Who can talk about Nairobi travel tips and not mention the famous Nairobi National Park? Only a short cab ride away from most of the hotels in the city, this full game reserve can provide you with a great safari experience without days of driving through the wilderness to get there. Perfect for the first-time adventurer.
Entry to the park will cost you around $40US and the park is easy to navigate with marked roads and walking trails, or between US$55 and US$75 if you go with a tour operator.
Add a picnic, and you have a full day ahead. You’ll almost definitely get to see rhinos, lions, giraffes, zebras, and more African wildlife. No elephants though.
Staying in Nairobi
There are a number of high-quality and luxury hotels in Nairobi for comfortable accommodations, although they aren’t cheap by comparison.
My personal favorites are the two oldest Nairobi hotels – the Norfolk and the Stanley Hotel-, the Fairview Hotel, and, for the best value for money, the Terminal Hotel. All of them are conveniently located in the city center and perfect for Nairobi travel.
Nairobi has a bad reputation regarding crime. Personally, I think it’s exaggerated. I never felt unsafe in the city. The city is full of askari’s (guards) and mid-price and upmarket accommodations are usually fenced with guards.
When going out after dark, it’s advisable to take taxis. Furthermore, tourists should simply take the same safety measures as in big cities everywhere, and nothing unpleasant is likely to happen.
Seeing Kenya from Nairobi
Located in the south-central part of Kenya, Nairobi is ideal as a hub or starting point for any further exploration of the country. There are two airports in the city, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (used for intercontinental flights) and the Wilson Airport (for domestic flights and to neighbouring countries). You can fly to most tourist destinations in Kenya, including most of the national parks, from Wilson Airport.
And you can’t forget the train. Nairobi was originally founded in 1899 as the headquarters of the Ugandan-Kenyan railway company. You can get to most bigger cities in the southern part of Kenya by train.
Especially the night train between Nairobi and Mombasa is a special experience and a very cheap way to get to the beach resorts in the Mombasa coast region. All in all, there are many ways to experience Nairobi travel.